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Kiszla: 70 points will leave scar on Broncos that can only be erased by cleaning house

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Like a tattoo in the shape of an “L” on everybody’s forehead, 70 ugly points are going to leave a mark that these pathetic Broncos can’t erase.

During the entire 64-season history of pro football in our dusty old cowtown, nothing has been a bigger joke, including the hilariously hideous vertically striped socks of the 1960s. The Broncos have now played 969 regular-season games, and this was the absolute worst:

Miami 70, Denver 20.

“That was embarrassing,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said Sunday. “Tough to watch.”

His team is worse than its rock-bottom 0-3 record in the standings. A once-vaunted defense is broken. And the Broncos are an emotional wreck. Denver gave up 10 freakin’ touchdowns during one miserable and muggy afternoon in Florida.

“Tired of losing,” Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles said. “I’ve been here seven years, and all I’ve ever done is lose.”

Where to start with what’s wrong here? Well, although the $245 million contract given Russell Wilson is among the worst in league history, the quarterback is now among the least of the Broncos’ problems.

“0-3 doesn’t feel good, but the reality is we’ve got 14 games left and you’ve got to put your blinders on,” said Wilson, after Denver became the fourth NFL team ever, and the first in 57 years, to surrender at least 70 points in a game.

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, center, looks over at his teammates Denver Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry (79) and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (69) as they take on the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sept. 24, 2023. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, center, looks over at his teammates Denver Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry (79) and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (69) as they take on the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sept. 24, 2023. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

The hot mess that is this Denver team has the fingerprints of Payton all over it. He walked into Broncos Country without a clue that his weak Bill Parcells imitation won’t cut it, because nobody cares how tough a coach acts if he can’t deliver victories.

The Big Dictator Energy that Payton exudes has gone flaccid, even when he barks “Next question!” to avoid discussing the ugly details of an autopsy conducted on a defeat so bad it would shame Nathaniel Hackett.

The Broncos aren’t getting better. The buzzkill of losing the season-opener at home to the hated Raiders was trumped by an epic collapse against Washington.

But those two embarrassments were put to shame by Miami coach Mike McDaniel, whose every stroke of offensive genius reminds us of Mike Shanahan. The Dolphins gained more than 350 yards both on the ground and in the air against a Denver defense that lost all interest in tackling and quite frankly looked as if it quit.

Miami Dolphins running back De'Von Achane (28) runs past members of the Denver Broncos defense heading to the end zone at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sept. 24, 2023. The Miami Dolphins become 3-0 as they beat the now 0-3 Denver Broncos 70-20 in their NFL Week 3 matchup. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)
Miami Dolphins running back De’Von Achane (28) runs past members of the Denver Broncos defense heading to the end zone at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sept. 24, 2023. The Miami Dolphins become 3-0 as they beat the now 0-3 Denver Broncos 70-20 in their NFL Week 3 matchup. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

“When someone runs the ball up and down the field like those guys did and throws it up and down the field, it’s not acceptable,” said Payton, whose loud ire at the Broncos couldn’t be contained by the walls of the visiting locker room in Hard Rock Stadium.

It would be madness for Denver to go on this way. Although the massive problems of a team whose culture carries the stench of six straight losing seasons are bigger than any one scapegoat, the work of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has been so inept it would be hard for players or fans alike to take the team’s commitment to accountability seriously if he isn’t fired.

The league trade deadline isn’t until the end of October, but it’s not too early for Denver to begin exploring ways to add draft capital for what now feels like an inevitable rebuild.

Trading receiver Jerry Jeudy was a move Payton probably should’ve given a green light before his first practice in training camp. Now, with rookie Marvin Mims Jr., whose 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was among the few images worth saving from this debacle against Miami, emerging as the playmaker we all hoped Jeudy could be, what’s stopping the Broncos from making a deal now?

After dumping Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, then trying to reconstruct a pass rush with Randy Gregory and Frank Clark, who have a grand total of one sack between them in three games, is it fair to ask: Why is general manager George Paton still here?

I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my 40 years of covering sports at The Denver Post, but have never witnessed the back-to-back thumpings of the Buffs and the Broncos. During a span of 24 hours, I traveled all night to chronicle blowouts in Oregon and Florida, a journey of 3,276 miles, or roughly the same distance I watched the Ducks and Dolphins gain through the air this weekend.

“This,” Broncos offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, “can’t be who we are.”

While denial might help the Broncos sleep at night, it won’t keep them from getting trounced by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed. But to change the culture, Denver needs to start getting rid of everybody, from Joseph to Jeudy to Paton, with the shape of an “L” on his forehead.

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