Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Archive for April, 2009

Broncos Draft Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 29, 2009

I waited a few days after the NFL draft to post my thoughts on how the Broncos did because I needed time to digest their selections and determine whether or not I truly liked the moves the team made.  The truth is, like with every draft, it will be a minimum two seasons and probably three before we can really assign a grade to this or any team’s draft, so any opinion expressed now is really a shot in the dark.  For example, it looks like the Broncos’ draft of 2008 is good for the time being, as Ryan Clady and Eddie Royal both had outstanding rookie seasons.  We still need to wait another year or two however before we can truly evaluate that draft as a whole.  That said, I have a few thoughts on the Broncos’ selections from last weekend:

The Good:

– I really like Knoshawn Moreno.  A lot.  I know running back was not necessarily a need area with so many bodies on the roster already (including free agent signings Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington and LaMont Jordan), especially in light of the money committed to that position already in the offseason, but I think Moreno could make an immediate impact for the Broncos.  I think a lot of times teams make a mistake of reaching for a position of need (more on that in a moment) and often pass up on special talents that could actually make the team better over the long haul.  I think Moreno could well be the offensive rookie of the year, for he possesses tremendous speed, breakaway ability, and ability to break tackles.  I watched enough Georgia games last year to see that Moreno is the real deal.  The other thing I like about him is he didn’t come from one of these spread offenses you see in college.  He actually learned how to pass block and be effective as a receiver out of the backfield.  If all goes well, Moreno could be the Broncos’ starter week one.  I don’t think there is any question he was the best back on the board and certainly a big playmaker.  Let’s face it, the Broncos haven’t had a consistent tailback since Clinton Portis, so it would be nice to have a consistent running game to rely on again.  Too many times last year the Broncos were unable to convert on 3rd and short, and it really cost them.  If Moreno can move the chains on 3rd & 3, it will not only  help the offense be better, but it also means less time the defense would be on the field.  That could be a win-win for the Broncos.  I really think Moreno could end up the offensive rookie of the year.

– The Broncos I think got an steal with the 18th pick in defensive end Robert Ayers of Tennessee.  Denver will be switching to a 3-4 defense under Mike Nolan, and Ayers is one of the few defensive ends in the draft that could actually fit well in that scheme.  Ayers will have a lot of pressure on him to perform since he’s the only defensive front seven player the Broncos picked, but he also shouldn’t have much competition to beat out for the job.  If the coaches are to be believed, he definitely has the skills to rush the passer and cause havoc.  

– I think the Broncos got first round talent when they selected Alphonso Smith, cornerback at Wake Forest in the second.  He seems to have great instincts and has an ability to intercept the ball.  He may be undersized at 5-9, but he makes up for it with great cover speed and his ability to make plays.  He can also contribute in the kick return game.  Coupled with the signings in free agency, the Broncos secondary should be vastly improved from a year ago.  

– I think the Broncos really made an effort to get guys who can help on special teams.  In addition to Smith, they took Notre Dame’s David Bruton in the fourth round.  The reports on Bruton say that he is a real player on special teams.  Texas Tech’s Darcel McBath has a reputation for being a special teams gunner too.  This could be very key for the Broncos being that they ranked dead last in starting field position for opposing teams last year.  If other teams start at say, their own 20 instead of the 35 or 40, don’t you think that will make a huge difference for the defense?  I think the importance of this is not to be underestimated and is really being overlooked by those who are blasting the new regime.

– I’ve had a chance to see the press conferences of each of the picks in the first two rounds, and have sat in on teleconferences with the remaining picks, and I have been extremely impressed by the demeanor of all of them.  Not to say that character necessarily will win you games, but it is really nice to see the Broncos picking quality kids.  Too many times at the end of the Shanahan era, you’d see players have issues off the field.  I have a feeling that won’t be an issue with any of these guys.

The Questionable:

– I think it is fair to wonder why the Broncos didn’t really address the defensive front seven.  This was clearly a need area and was seemingly ignored, save for the selection of Ayers.  I do think if B.J. Raji was there at 12, the Broncos might have taken him and hoped Moreno was there at 18, but Raji was long gone when the Broncos’ turn came.  It does seem a little odd on the surface to spend free agency resources on running back and secondary and then double up on those areas in the draft.  The optimistic side of me says that the Broncos think they need rebuilding everywhere and took the best players available regardless of position.  On that note, why reach for defensive linemen if you don’t think one is there that is worth taking?  The 2007 draft, which featured defensive linemen Jarvis Moss, Tim Crowder and Marcus Thomas, hasn’t exactly paid off, so perhaps McDaniels and his staff would be equally ripped for taking guys at that position that didn’t pan out.  I do wonder what the Broncos can expect from the current defensive front seven, although the hope is that guys will be healthier than last year.  I think the front seven is a question mark, and it would have nice to see the Broncos address it, but perhaps they will be proven right in their belief that this draft wasn’t deep in that area and that they would have been reaching for guys with lower value than what they selected.  Time will tell.

– I found the trades the Broncos made in the draft to be curious.  They surrendered a first round pick in 2010 for the right to pick Smith in the second round.  If the Broncos struggle again as they have the past two years, this has the potential to be a top 10 pick next year.  Of course, it is very laughable to be able to claim to know where the pick will be a year from now.  I have heard form too many idiots who are convinced the Broncos dealt away a top 5 pick.  Like anyone really knows, especially being that we’re coming off a season where Arizona made the Super Bowl.  I am generally not one for trading a first round pick for a second rounder, so I am skeptical about that part of it, but if Smith turns out to be a major impact player, than the trade would be worth it in the long run.  

– The Broncos also traded two 3rd round picks to move up into the second round, which isn’t necessarily bad on the surface, but they used the pick on North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn.  Quinn caught a total of 12 passes in his career at North Carolina, and while he is a fantastic blocker, doesn’t seem to be worth a second round selection.  I visited with a former scout at Broncos headquarters on Sunday who said he had Quinn rated as a fifth round prospect.  The knock here is not in any way on Quinn, who seems like a great kid, seems like a perfect fit for Josh McDaniels’ system and could really provide some tight end depth, but rather on the Broncos taking Quinn in that spot.  It seems like the Broncos could have selected Quinn with one of the third round picks they traded to move up to that spot, or maybe even later in the draft.  Josh McDaniels did say that he wasn’t even remotely concerned with where other teams had players rated, and like I said he seems to be a great kid, but was he worth trading two picks for?  

Overall, I think the Broncos’ draft did not go as anyone really expected.  They took three secondary players, and actually spent more picks on offense than they did on defense.  Perhaps it was shocking also that McDaniels took a quarterback in the sixth round with the initials T.B.  It is also ironic that Tom Brandstater of Fresno State has an identical size and weight to McDaniels’ protege Matt Cassel.  Something there tells me that we may in fact see this kid taking snaps for the Broncos around 2012.  In fact, it will probably be 2012 before we can really assign this draft a grade.  I am frankly sick of Broncos fans bashing McDaniels, even though a lot of it is still remnants from the Cutler trade.  I say let’s give him a chance.  Give him a chance to build a roster, and let’s see if we’re winning games again this year or maybe even next.  I think we might just be surprised.  I’m not saying playoffs or Super Bowl, but I know it’s no sure bet that Denver’s pick that they traded next year will be in the top 10.

Just remember, the first game is against Cincinnati.  That should be at least one win right there.

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The Nuggets? Maybe, Just Maybe

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 24, 2009

I have to admit that I am starting to become a believer in the Nuggets for the first time in a really long time, probably dating back to before I was in high school.  Even as they tied a franchise record for wins this season, I remained very skeptical throughout.  Heck, the one Nuggets game I attended at Pepsi Center this season, I watched them get run out of the gym by LeBron James and company to the tune of a 30-point defeat.  For years I had soured big time on the Nuggets, and really the NBA as a whole, for a variety of reasons that I have discussed in past posts.  Frankly, it’s taken until this point, two games into the playoffs, for me to turn the corner on this team.  In a nutshell, I generally find the NBA to be a much more boring version of the college game.  The reason why I might be getting interested again?  Two words: Chauncey Billups.  He has really breathed some fresh air into the Nuggets after coming in a trade for Allen Iverson.  It seems that Billups has really made everyone on the team better, and his performances the last two games against the Hornets in particular (67 points in two games) have been outstanding.  If Billups keeps playing like he has, the Nuggets might actually have a shot to not only win playoff series for the first time since, well before I was in high school, but they might have a shot at going deep in the playoffs.

Billups epitomizes what the Nuggets should be about, and what they haven’t been about for more than a decade prior to this year.  For starters he plays defense.  I mean, real genuine defense, something that has not been present in Denver for a very long time.  Not only does he play defense, he demands that his teammates do the same.  It says a lot about Billups’ character and leadership ability that the other players actually listen to him and follow his example.  In addition to defense, Billups has a reputation from his days with the Pistons that earned him the nickname Mr. Big Shot.  Billups stepped up big time for the Pistons and made seemingly every big shot when they won the NBA title in 2004.  his ability to perform in the clutch gives the Nuggets an ingredient that has been missing in the past five years when they’ve been unceremoniously bounced from the first round each year.  His numbers in the first two playoff games against New Orleans have been terrific, but it’s been the stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score that has really made the difference for the Nuggets.

From what I’ve seen of Carmelo Anthony this season, he really seems to be much more of a team player.  In retrospect, I think his experience in Beijing at the summer Olympics really helped him mature and become more of a team player.  This season he has seemed much less of a selfish player and much more apt to play within a team concept.  Witness his 13 point effort in game one.  Despite the lack of a big scoring game from Anthony, the Nuggets still benefited from a big night on the boards from him, good rhythm within the passing game, and thanks in large part to Billups a stellar effort on defense.  It appears that Anthony may be finally starting to show the maturity of his fellow draft classmates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.

When the Nuggets gave away Marcus Camby in the offseason, I thought it was a dumb move of epic proportions.  I didn’t see how they were going to be able to replace his shot blocking ability.  Turns out I was really wrong.  Little did I know that the addition of Chris Anderson, who had been out of the league for two years due to major drug issues, would more than solve the shot blocking problem.  Anderson has been in many ways the best hustle player the Nuggets have.  In addition to blocking shots he rebounds, and most of all he plays with such a burst of energy every time he’s on the court it really has a contagious effect on the rest of the team.  I really think he should have won the league’s sixth man of the year award this year.

The other role players on the team have certainly done their parts too.  Kenyon Martin has been much more impressive this year on both ends of the court.  Nene is a much different player now that he’s fully recovered from knee issues.  Guys like Dahntay Jones and Anthony Carter have stepped up big as well.  Considering the Nuggets have won exactly one playoff series in the past 20 years (the 1994 upset of Seattle), it is a very good feeling that they have managed to take a 2-0 lead on a very talented New Orleans team.  I know I’ve said this before, but the Nuggets are trying to win me over again.  If they manage to win this series against the Hornets, and especially if they can keep going beyond that, I might just be a believer again.  Heck, I might even watch their games on a more regular basis.  To be honest, I still don’t think they have the horses to compete with the Lakers or the Cavaliers, but hey, you never know.

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Schedule Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 15, 2009

It says something about the popularity of the NFL that the release of the schedule is now a two hour prime time event.  I somehow feel less stupid knowing I can’t possibly be the only one who eagerly anticipates the release of the schedule.  If nothing else, it’s nice to know what it is so I can plan around it.  For instance, I know that the Broncos will be playing on Thanksgiving night, so my family will know they shouldn’t plan to see me, things like that.   At any rate, my initial thoughts on the Broncos’ 2009 slate:

– Somehow it seems ridiculous that the Broncos will be opening on the road for the fifth straight year and the seventh season in the past eight.  That being said, the reason for this is actually relatively simple.  CBS always has the final round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament during week one of the NFL season, and they always air the men’s final in the late afternoon slot where the second wave of games normally takes place.  Since the Broncos will never be required to have an 11 a.m. home kickoff, the only way they could open at home would be if they host an NFC team on Fox (which was actually thought to be taking place this year, since sources had speculated the Broncos would host Dallas in week one), or if they hosted a Sunday or Monday night game.  Since the Broncos aren’t an elite team these days, the latter option is clearly out, and since the league put Cowboys-Broncos in week four, you’ve got Denver on the road in an early game again.  But hey, at least it’s in Cincinnati against the hapless Bengals.

– It is imperative that Denver gets off to a fast start, since they open with the two Ohio teams (both of which figure to be down again, at least the way things are looking now) and the Raiders.  If the Broncos start 1-2 or 0-3, they will be in huge trouble.

– That’s because the Broncos have a very rigorous five game stretch after that.  They have two home games against Dallas (who could be an elite team without the distraction of Mount TO) and New England (certainly a tough chore since Bill Belichick figures to have an idea of how to slow down Josh McDaniels’ offense).  After that is a Monday nighter in San Diego, a place where the Broncos have been soundly humiliated each of the past three seasons, not to mention a place where the host Chargers will be really fired up for a prime time national audience.  After that game, the bye could be a huge help for the Broncos, because they will then deal with a trip to Baltimore (where the nasty Ravens D awaits) and then a Monday night home game against defending champ Pittsburgh.  If the Steelers are as good as last season, the home field edge may not be much help if the Broncos are banged up heading into that game.

– The Broncos do not have a division home game until late November.  In fact, four of their final seven games will be against AFC West opponents.  The good news is three of those four games will be at Invesco Field at Mile High.  If the Broncos are stumbling midway through the season, they will have a chance to pick up ground in the division late.  On the flip side, the Broncos can’t afford to stumble late this year even if they do start fast out of the gate.  

– Both meetings against Kansas City will be in the final five weeks, so we’ll have to wait to see what happens when McDaniels coaches against former protege Matt Cassel.  It will be interesting to see how that matchup unfolds considering that McDaniels tried to acquire Cassel in late February.  

– The Broncos have two very difficult December road trips to Indianapolis and Philadelphia, not to mention the trip to Arrowhead Stadium is also in December.

– I for one am excited about the Thanksgiving night home game against the Giants.  I think it could be one of the most electric atmospheres the Broncos have experienced since moving into their new digs in 2001.  When the Broncos played a Thanksgiving night game in Kansas City in 2006, it was clearly a playoff atmosphere.  If the Broncos are going to play on Thanksgiving with a short week, they might as well reap the benefits of playing at home while the other team is the one dealing with travel and less time to rest and get ready.  I realize that many people don’t think games should be played on holidays at all, but I’m not one of them.  I think it’s a great idea that fans all around the league, not just those in Detroit and Dallas, can now experience Thanksgiving football.  

– It’s nice to see the Broncos get a little prime time love, with two Monday night games and the Thanksgiving game.  

– A couple of members of the Broncos’ secondary can look forward to some reunions.  Champ Bailey will play his first game in Washington since being dealt from the Redskins to the Broncos in 2004 (the Broncos will also see old friend Clinton Portis).  Brian Dawkins will make an eagerly anticipated return to Philadelphia in week 16, and I suspect he should get a very warm reception from the Eagle faithful that never wanted him to leave.  

– It is unknown at this time which two games will feature the Broncos in their 1960 throwback unis, but I am actually looking forward to seeing the ugly mustard jerseys with brown pants and the vertical striped socks.  It should easily be the most unusual of the eight original AFL teams that will don throwback unis this season.  I would suspect the throwback games will be games within the division since all four AFC West teams are original AFL clubs.  

I say throw out winning percentages from 2008 when looking at the schedule.  Those will mean nothing, and have no impact on how good a team will be in 2009.  Considering this bit of information, it is impossible to truly evaluate how difficult the schedule could be, but it certainly seems on paper that the Broncos will have a difficult slate in 2009.  Of course, the fortunes of many teams will change on draft day in two weeks, and it’s safe to say that many teams will have a very different look when they actually take the field in week one.  Regardless, it’s fun to see what the schedule actually looks like, especially for those of us who are going through football withdrawal these days.

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Note to Broncos Fans: It’s Not As Bad As You Think

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 6, 2009

I am really getting tired of hearing all the whining from my fellow Broncos fans in the past few days.  Look, I wish the Jay Cutler saga had never happened same as you.  It is really unfortunate that the relationship between Cutler and Josh McDaniels deteriorated so severely that the team had no choice but to deal him.  Part of me does shudder at the thought of Kyle Orton running the Broncos offense.  I do wonder sometimes if it was really the best thing for the Broncos to fire Mike Shanahan in the first place, hire an offensive mind to replace him, and then unload the 25-year old franchise quarterback.  Despite all that, a little digging is all that needs to be done to see that things are not always as they seem.  In fact, the Broncos may just be a better football TEAM than they were last season.

It seems appropriate to start with Shanahan since it was really his firing that started this mess in the first place.  While I’m not sure firing him was the answer, it is easy to see why the Broncos did it.  Shanahan was amazingly successful in his first four years, compiling a 54-18 record in those four seasons, including two Super Bowl championships.  Of course Shanahan also had Pro Bowl talent at seemingly every position on offense (including John Elway, Terrell Davis, and Shannon Sharpe just to name a few players) and an excellent defense during those four years.  After Elway’s retirement, Shanahan won just ONE playoff game during a ten year period.  The Broncos actually in fact missed the playoffs during 6 of Shanahan’s final 10 seasons in Denver.  In each of the four years the Broncos did make the playoffs during that time, they got blasted out of the wild card round three times by an average of 25 points a game, and then lost at home to Pittsburgh by 17 points in the 2005 AFC title game.  Shanahan’s tenure also became littered with increasingly poor personnel moves, including Dale Carter, Ashley Lelie, Javon Walker and Travis Henry just to name a few.  Not only were the players Shanahan brought in largely unproductive, many of them were also thugs off the field.  It seemed as though the longer Shanahan’s playoff woes continued, the more desperate he got in terms of personnel.

After the AFC title game loss to Pittsburgh, it was clear that for whatever reason Shanahan decided he could not win a championship with Jake Plummer.  This despite the fact that it was Denver’s defense that couldn’t get the Steelers off the field on third down, and despite an offensive line that got whipped all day by the Steelers’ front seven.  Enter Jay Cutler.  Shanahan selected him with the 11th overall pick (after trading up to get him), so it was clear to everyone that he would be Denver’s starter eventually.  The next season the Broncos started 7-2, despite Shanahan really scaling back the playbook for Plummer and not giving him freedom to do much of anything.  In the 10th game, the Broncos held a 24-7 third quarter lead against San Diego only to see the Chargers roar back to win 35-27 in Denver.  If you connect the dots, it is easy to see that Plummer was not on defense allowing a career day to LaDainian Tomlinson.  Nevertheless, word leaked that Plummer was going to be benched, which he was after a loss in Kansas City.  Mind you, Plummer’s career record in Denver is 39-15, which is certainly not in any way bad.  Cutler started the final five games, going just 2-3, and the Broncos missed the playoffs.  

So why do I bring up all this?  Well for starters I believe Denver would have easily made the playoffs that year had Shanahan stuck with Plummer, but that’s not really the point.  The point is I believe the benching of Plummer in favor of Cutler at that time signaled the beginning of the end of Shanahan in Denver.  I believe Shanahan made that move knowing that there was little to no chance he would be fired.  He knew that even if Cutler tanked in those final five games, that he would still be safe for multiple seasons to come.  While Cutler actually fared well in those five games at times, the team ultimately missed the playoffs in part due to very poor red zone execution against a very poor San Francisco team in the season’s final game.  The next two seasons the Broncos went just 15-17.  The Jay Cutler-led Denver offense had the following doozies over those two seasons:

– A woeful 10 point performance in a 2007 home loss to Jacksonville in which the Broncos mustered less than 250 yards of total offense

– A 41-3 home loss to San Diego in week 5 of 2007

– A 44-7 loss at Detroit in 2007

– Another three point effort by the offense in a Monday night loss at San Diego in 2007

– A four turnover performance and 19-point showing in a loss at Kansas City this season, one of only two wins recorded by the Chiefs.  This against a Chiefs defense that routinely got lit up for 30, 40 (and sometimes 50!) points.  

– A 41-7 thrashing in New England on Monday night (not coinciedently, McDaniels coached against Cutler in that game, more on that in a moment)

– An absolutely pitiful 10 point performance at home against an awful Raiders team

– A three game collapse to cap 2008, in which the Broncos gave away the AFC west.  This was capped by an extremely embarrassing 52-21 defeat in San Diego.  

The point here is that Shanahan was fired largely because the Broncos had slipped into mediocrity.  The numbers even prove it, for the Broncos have gone just 24-24 over the past three seasons (17-20 since Plummer was benched for Cutler).  That is, the entire team slipped into mediocrity.  By the end of 2008 the defense had just two players who would be a guaranteed starter for most teams: Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams.  The offense certainly looked flashy, ranking second in the NFL in yards, but it ranked much, much lower than that in points (try 16th in the league).  Consider that the Broncos had 17 drives in the final two minutes of either half last season that resulted in a total of one field goal.  How about the constant failure to score touchdowns in the red zone?  Keeping in mind that the Broncos really did not have a running game due to all the injuries at running back last season, there were still too many drives that should have resulted in points and didn’t, or drives that should have netted seven points but only got three.  The point is that the Broncos’ offense really wasn’t as good as the numbers made it out to be.  They certainly got yards between the 20s, but didn’t score enough points to even rank in in the top half of the league, let alone the top five.  So really, Jay Cutler made the Pro Bowl for his performance between the 20s.  In fact, if the voting was conducted after the season instead of finishing in week 14, I’ll bet you a year’s worth of pizza that Philip Rivers, not Cutler, would have gotten the trip to Hawaii.  Couple this offensive inefficiency with a defense that couldn’t tackle anyone, and it resulted in Shanahan’s dismissal.  

Enter Josh McDaniels.  I mentioned the Broncos’ 41-7 loss in New England this past season.  It is fitting that the Broncos ended up giving their future coach a first hand demonstration of EVERYTHING that was wrong with the team.  The Patriots were coming off a 30-10 loss in San Diego, and really few people were taking them seriously at that point with Matt Cassel under center.  The Broncos were favored to win the game in large part because of Cutler and the offense.  The Broncos’ offense ended up committing five turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by Cutler.  Cutler had a very pedestrian effort in that game, throwing for just 168 yards.    The only touchdown the Broncos scored came in garbage time in the fourth quarter after it was 34-0.  Throw out the meaningless stats the Broncos accumulated inthe second half, and it might well have been Denver’s worst offensive performance of the entire Shanahan era.  The defense certainly had its faults in the game too, surrendering a staggering 257 yards on the ground (including a career high 138 by Sammy Morris (who hit the century mark by early in the second quarter) and another 65 to BenJarvus Green-Ellis (who I had never heard of until that game).  This is not to say that one game made the season or that McDaniels has based his dealings in Denver on what he saw that night, but it does show that the Broncos were flawed in multiple areas before McDaniels took over.  His job is to improve the team.   By any means necessary.

McDaniels has certainly gutted the defense and brought in new blood, and figures to add some more defensive presence in the draft.  The addition of Brian Dawkins alone will have a monster impact not only in the secondary but also in the locker room.  The addition of Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator I believe will make a bigger impact than most people realize.  Nolan’s no nonsense approach has proven successful in the past when he has been a coordinator.  McDaniels hasn’t touched the offensive line, which has two future perennial Pro Bowl tackles in Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, and came close to setting a record for fewest sacks allowed last season.  He’s not making many changes to the receiving core, save for adding Jabar Gaffney, whose presence will come in handy if Brandon Marshall misses a lot of time due to suspension.  He elected to retain running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Rick Dennison, which means the Broncos’ running game should be able to return to past success if they can keep a back healthy.  Overall the changes McDaniels have made are certainly sweeping, but it’s obvious that he’s been addressing areas of need.  

Which brings us back to Cutler.  Most Broncos fans hitting the panic button right now seem to be forgetting that one player, and specifically a quarterback, does not win games by himself, no matter how talented he is.  For example, I love Drew Brees, but how many games did the Saints win last year?  How about the Cowboys and Tony Romo?  How many playoff games has Cincinnati won with Carson Palmer under center?  Does any Broncos fan remember 1998, the year of the second Super Bowl victory?  Does any Broncos fan remember that John Elway missed four games that year due to injury, in addition to parts of three others?  Does any Denver fan remember the Broncos going 7-0 in those games thanks to the play of Bubby Brister?  

The point is that a good quarterback can help you win, but there are many different ways in which that can happen.  Jay Cutler is talented no question, and certainly the Broncos are losing a signal caller who talent wise is a top five QB.  Cutler’s leadership qualities however really have to be questioned.  Not just because of the past month, but because of what happened in the games I mentioned above and in other Denver losses.  How many great quarterbacks do you know who have a hard time keeping their composure?  Can you imagine Tom Brady throwing a hissy fit when a receiver drops a pass to the point where he’ll force a pass into triple coverage on the next play?  Can you imagine Peyton Manning crying like a baby because a touchdown got called back due to penalty?  Is it possible to imagine Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers ducking the media after every loss?  Can you imagine any of these great quarterbacks pouting every time they are criticized?  To the contrary, a great quarterback has the ability to remain in control at all times, to not be affected by adversity, to be able to tell his teammates that the job will get done no matter the situation.  A great quarterback is a true leader, someone who commands respect and exudes confidence in himself and his team.  Now I ask any of you: has Jay Cutler really shown any of these qualities at any point in his young career?  

Enter Kyle Orton.  Not I’m not saying that Orton will come to Denver and be the answer to all of Denver’s problems, but already the attitude is a vast improvement over Cutler’s.  Less than 24 hours after being dealt to the Broncos, Orton had lengthly phone conversations with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, and both receivers came away excited.  This is quite the contrast from Cutler ignoring his teammates’ calls for the past month in addition to those of the coaching staff and owner Pat Bowlen.  Orton has already dived into the offensive playbook, and is showing a willingness to work hard that frankly was hard to see in Cutler.  If Cutler really wanted to stay in Denver, don’t you think he would have shown that by at least studying the playbook?  So far, I detect from Kyle Orton a really positive vibe, and I think he is a quarterback his teammates will respect when they are 10 down in the fourth quarter.  Did you realize that Orton was on track for a Pro Bowl year last year before hurting his ankle midseason?  In 2005, the Bears won eight games in a row with Orton under center.  His career record is 21-12 as a starter.  Think about it.  Does that sound so bad?  

The Broncos are certainly going to have a different look this season no question.  Heck, the team is even busting out the really ugly 1960 brown and mustard throwback unis, vertical striped socks and all, for two games this season. I have a feeling though that Broncos fans will like what they see.  Keep in mind that McDaniels comes from an organization that has been the league standard for the past decade.  Keep in mind that Orton might just be a good fit in his system, or have you already forgotten that Matt Cassel came out of nowhere last year, or even that Brady was a complete no name until Drew Bledsoe’s injury?  Keep in mind that much of the other offensive talent is still in place, that the defense is well in the process of being retooled, and that quick turnarounds are indeed possible in the NFL.  I ask you: if the Broncos go 10-6 and are a wild card team, is that not an improvement?  What if they win a playoff game in year two, and maybe a Super Bowl in year four?  I’m not saying that’s necessarily how it’s going to go, but what if that’s how it does?

To those who want McDaniels fired: shut up.  The coach will not be fired before he coaches a game.  Let’s at least wait and see what happens when actual games are played before we get really stirred up about Cutler’s departure.  I think you might just find that you like these new look Broncos better.  Remember, it’s about winning games, not flashy stats and rocket arms.  

To those who cancel their season tickets and/or jump off the bandwagon: keep walking and don’t come back.  There is nothing I can’t stand more than a fan who bails on his team at the drop of a hat.  If you leave the team now, you shouldn’t be allowed to return when things are good again.  Being a fan is about staying with your team through thick and thin, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their direction.  Being a fan is easy when times are good, but the true fans are the ones who are still fans at times like this.  Just remember that things are not always as they seem, and the 2009 Denver Broncos are not as doomed as you think they are.

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Good Riddance Cutler!

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 3, 2009

The deal is done.  Jay Cutler is now a Chicago Bear, traded for two first round picks, a third round pick and Kyle Orton.  While a large part of me is still disappointed that the Broncos are trading away a 25 year old franchise quarterback with a rocket arm, the other, increasingly larger part is surprisingly ecstatic with the haul the Broncos have gotten in return for Cutler.  The two first round picks alone are a hefty price to pay, but throwing in a third, and an established starting QB (albeit one who is not a Pro Bowler and one who does not have the raw talent of Cutler) means the Broncos might have actually gotten away with highway robbery.  Consider that the Chiefs only surrendered a second round choice for Matt Cassel (and got Mike Vrabel in the deal as well) and it really seems the Broncos might have made out like bandits here.

I’ll admit it will take a lot of getting used to Kyle Orton perhaps now being my favorite team’s starting quarterback.  I’ll admit that I have not necessarily been Orton’s biggest fan, but then again I don’t get very many Bears games out here so I can really count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually watched him play with a close eye.  I was surprised to realize that he actually threw for over 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Bears last season.  This while he was playing behind a very mediocre offensive line and not having prime weapons to throw to.  I am optimistic then that he will greatly benefit playing behind the Broncos’ offensive line that gave up one of the lowest sack totals in the NFL last year.  He will also benefit from having Brandon Marshall (if he’s not suspended too long), Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler.  It also seems that Orton was actually what sold the deal for the Broncos, that Josh McDaniels really has wanted him since he decided to really try to trade Cutler.  I actually have confidence that Orton will be a good fit in McDaniels’ system because he is a guy that seems to be smart and able to make good decisions on the field.  Regardless, it should be an interesting battle between Orton and Chris Simms (and perhaps a rookie?) for the starting quarterback job.

The draft pick haul from the Bears will really allow the Broncos a lot of draft flexibility.  Denver now has two of the top 20 picks in the draft, which they can use to get some much needed defensive help, or perhaps they could hope that Mark Sanchez falls.  They also have an extra third round pick, which gives them the option of adding another player or packaging several picks if they are interested in moving up on the board.  The extra first round pick in 2010 is also a really nice bonus in this deal for the Broncos, since they will also have two first round picks in that draft.  The extra picks do in a way make this draft even more important for the Broncos, for they do need to get some young blood especially on defense.  If the Broncos can draft well this year and next, the deal for Cutler could end up looking very good indeed in a few years.

The Bears of course have to be ecstatic to get Cutler, for they really haven’t had a top tier quarterback since Jim McMahon, and you might even have to go back to the days of Sid Luckman.  I think it is fair to ask from a Chicago perspective if they paid too much though to get him.  Three high draft choices and a serviceable quarterback is a pretty high price to pay for a quarterback with a career record under .500 who has shown tendencies to fold under pressure both on and off the field.  Now Cutler obviously has more talent than Orton, I’m not about to try to dispute that.  From a pure talent standpoint Cutler is a clear top 10 QB and probably right on the border for top 5.  I was among those that was really upset that the Broncos were trying to deal him in the first place.  I think it is fair though to look at Cutler’s behavior since Mike Shanahan’s firing and wonder if he really has what it takes to lead an NFL team.  Cutler is clearly trying to save face by claiming that McDaniels and Pat Bowlen never tried to call him, and his comments to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazier that he never wanted to be traded really ring hallow.  Rumor has it (from someone who saw Cutler at the UFC fight in Nashville where he talked to Glazier) that Cutler is roughly 20 pounds overweight and may not have even been working out for several weeks.  If that is true, than it begs the question of Cutler’s true commitment to be successful.  

I think Cutler still has an opportunity to get things together, but it is not by any means a sure thing.  A new start could be good for him, and perhaps the change of scenery will give him perspective over the long haul.  Cutler grew up in rural Indiana rooting for the Bears, so he has to be happy with where he ended up from that standpoint.  It is conceivable that he figures things out and leads the Bears to numerous playoffs appearances and maybe even a Super Bowl or two.  It is also equally conceivable that he doesn’t figure it out, continues to post good numbers, but can’t quite figure out how to win games in the clutch or handle things when they start to go wrong.  I have a feeling that he might end up missing Ryan Clady and the rest of the Broncos O-line by November, and that he might find things more difficult without great receivers.  It in undeniable that many of Cutler’s turnovers last season came when he was getting frustrated and was trying to force things.  The fact that he only talked to the media after wins is another indicator of not handling pressure well.  The demanding Bears fans also won’t make things easy for him if he gets off to a slow start.  Cutler will have to ultimately prove he can handle pressure if he wants to truly be a great quarterback.

Time will tell who got the better of this deal, but I am actually pleased with Denver’s haul of three high draft picks and Orton.  Regardless, it will be either be Cutler or McDaniels who gets the last laugh in the end.  It’ll probably be at least two seasons and probably more before we know for sure, for it remains to be seen how the Broncos use the draft picks and whether they develop into great players.  It also remains to be seen whether Orton has success in Denver and whether Cutler gets things together in Chicago.  One thing I know for sure: I will be tuned in on Aug. 30.  That is a preseason game between the Bears and Broncos, at Invesco Field at Mile High to boot.  It is fitting that NBC had previously selected this preseason game for a national telecast, for it will undoubtedly be the most anticipated preseason game in Broncos history.  You don’t think Cutler will get booed by the Broncos faithful do you?  Let’s just say that seats behind the visiting sideline will likely fetch big bucks that night.

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Cutler Staying Was Wishful Thinking

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 1, 2009

I guess I should have known that the Broncos keeping Jay Cutler was wishful thinking.  

In some ways I can’t say I’m surprised.  I’ll admit I was hopeful that Jay Cutler would come to his senses and realize that he could still have a future in Denver, but it seems as though the relationship between him and Josh McDaniels is so tarnished that it really is beyond repair.  Tonight the Broncos issued the following statement:

STATEMENT FROM BRONCOS PRESIDENT & CEO PAT BOWLEN ON QB JAY CUTLER       

“Numerous attempts to contact Jay Cutler in the last 10 days, both by Head Coach Josh McDaniels and myself, have been unsuccessful.

A conversation with his agent earlier today clearly communicated and confirmed to us that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos.

We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded.

I’ll let the statement from owner Pat Bowlen speak for itself.  It seems as though the Broncos have tried mightily to reach Cutler, to try and talk to him, to attempt to reassure him.  It also seems that Cutler is so dead set in his position and his feelings are so hurt (justified or not) that he won’t return calls even from the team owner.  I’m sorry, but if your boss, or in this case your boss’ boss, tries to call you, you had darn well better answer that phone.   It is very clear that Cutler does not want to be in Denver, and it seems as though the Broncos are tired of trying to deal with him.

 Frankly, I still say wait until the first mandatory minicamp April 17-19, which is one week before the draft, and see if Cutler shows up for that.  Its entirely possible he could come to his senses by then, report, and be a professional like he’s supposed to be.  Or, he could show up, complain the entire time, not participate willingly, and in general be the ultimate distraction.  Either way, that minicamp would go a long way toward telling the Broncos what they need to do.

Of course, if Cutler arrives and is a big time distraction, it could potentially drive down his trade value, which is probably what the Broncos are afraid of if it is indeed true that they are once again entertaining trade offers for the Pro Bowl quarterback.

Right now the Broncos are hopeful that if they do trade Cutler that multiple teams would be interested, and that it could result in a big time bidding war among them for Cutler’s services.  The longer this drags on, and the more teams know that Broncos have to dump Culter, they will know they may not have to give up as much to get him.  Right now, Cutler’s trade value is such that no shortage of interested teams should be willing to pony up for his services.  In fact, your team may in fact be wondering if they should get in the sweepstakes, particularly if they feel they are close to making a Super Bowl run.  

Regardless of what the Broncos get in return, it will be interesting to see what they end up doing at quarterback should they deal Cutler.  Cleveland has said they are keeping both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn so that no longer seems like an option, and the Redskins said last week they were not interested in Cutler.  I can’t imagine that whoever they get back in a trade would be a serviceable QB, because any team that would want Cutler figures not to have a starting quarterback they can trade in return. 

That being said, I present an interesting scenario.  Make a deal with the Cowboys, Jay Cutler for Tony Romo straight up.  Both guys seem to be in need of a fresh start, and it would allow the Broncos to get a legitimate starting quarterback in exchange for giving up their Pro Bowl signal caller.  Dallas has already shown a willingness to make changes by releasing Terrell Owens, and getting Cutler could further help clean up the lazy attitude in Big D.  The Broncos could easily sell Romo on throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, and getting someone like him would be a much easier sell to fans than getting Kellen Clemens from the Jets.  In additon, it would make Dallas a much more likely landing spot for Mike Shanahan in 2010.  If Cutler was there, Shanahan would drool at the chance to coach him again.  Plus, it would create a tremendous subplot, since reports have leaked that Cowboys-Broncos is very likely to be the season opener at Mile High.  Think Cutler would get booed?

I still hold out faint hope that this will somehow get worked out and that Cutler will still be the Broncos quarterback this season.  I am also realistic enough to realize the odds of that happening are not much better than zero.  If Cutler is dealt, I just hope the Broncos get fair value in return.  Franchise quarterbacks are very difficult to find, and the Broncos thought they had one in Cutler.  I guess I can look at it this way: if this saga is reflection of Cutler’s true attitude and an indicator of his true leadership abilities, than maybe he isn’t the franchise quarterback the Broncos are looking for.  At least I can tell myself that, and hope he doesn’t win multiple titles with Mike Shanahan in Dallas while the Broncos are firing another coach in three years and still looking to return to the playoffs.  

Oh well, at least I got to enjoy my alma matter make the Elite Eight this year in the NCAA tournament.  What do you mean Mike Anderson has an offer of $2 million a year from Georgia???   Ugh, at least the Nuggets have a chance in the NBA playoffs.  

You’re right, that’s probably wishful thinking too.  

 

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