Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘Denver Broncos’

Broncos Hire John Fox

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 13, 2011

John Elway just announced a few minutes ago that former Panthers coach John Fox has been hired as the new coach for the Denver Broncos.  Fox beat out four other candidates for the job, including longtime Bronco player and assistant Rick Dennison, who was considered to be the favorite. 

My gut reaction to this choice is that I love it.  I know Carolina had a horrible year this year, but Fox had built a team there that sustained great success for a number of years.  The Panthers were 1-15 in 2001 the year before Fox took over, and in 2003 they were in the Super Bowl, and only an Adam Vinatieri field goal prevented them from winning the thing.  That’s not to say the Broncos will be in the Super Bowl in 2012, but Fox has turned teams around before, so that gives me confidence that he’s capable of turning around the mess that’s surfaced in Denver. 

The other reason I like the choice is that Fox is an excellent defensive mind.  The Broncos have dealt with serious defecencies on defense for the past five seasons, and Fox is exactly the type of guy the Broncos need to generate improvement on that side of the ball.  He is an experienced coach, which the Broncos need because the roster is a mess.  I think it will take time to turn this team around, but I like this choice.  Now the Broncos can begin the process of rebuilding trust with the fan base and moving forward.

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Josh McDaniels Fired

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 7, 2010

A number of Broncos fans think this is a great day.  I do not think this is a great day.

The Josh McDaniels firing was unexpected that’s for sure.  Today was supposed to be about the CU Buffs and their new coaching hire, Jon Embree.  I really bad for Embree, who accepted his dream job today, and found himself relegated to the back page.  From I what I saw today meeting him for the first time, I think he will be very successful as CU coach, and he’s not the type of guy who cares about whether he is in the spotlight or not.  I just think he should get his due.

Now, to the other matter at hand.  I know many Broncos are doing cartwheels today.  I’m not one of them.  Of course I am upset that the Broncos are 5-17 in their last 22 games dating back to last season.  Of course I’m not happy that the Broncos have been associated with Spygate II or whatever the official term is for the videotaping incident.  Of course I’m not thrilled about some of the personnel moves that have been made.  Despite all that, I find the timing of the Josh McDaniels firing to be puzzling in a number of ways.  Why now?  Why not wait to see what happens in the last four games?  Better yet, why not give him a chance to see what happens next year with a healthy roster?  As I said last week, by making this move at this time, when McDaniels has coached just 29 NFL games, you’re basically saying you’re going to start over again.

I’m certainly not saying that I don’t understand the Broncos’ point of view here.  I know Pat Bowlen looked at the sea of empty seats at the last home game against St. Louis and was fearful of the attendance numbers at the final two home games.  I know Bowlen was embarrassed to have the Broncos be associated with a cheating scandal, however remotely.  I’m sure Bowlen is also very aware of fan feedback, and the fact is most fans wanted McDaniels fired.  In fact, most Broncos fans hated him from the word go.  People say the Broncos have fallen from the elite and that they aren’t one of the league’s prime teams anymore.  That all is true, but they were headed that direction before McDaniels came on board.  Remember, they missed the playoffs in six of Mike Shanahan’s last 10 seasons, and every time they made it in those ten seasons they got blown out by vastly superior teams.  Given that, you certainly can’t blame the Broncos for making a coaching change.

I guess what upsets me so much is I don’t feel that anyone even gave McDaniels a chance.  He was roasted universally for his handling of Jay Cutler, yet Kyle Orton has proven to be better (Besides, Pat Bowlen is the one who ordered that Cutler be traded).  He was roasted for his handling of Brandon Marshall, yet the Broncos don’t miss him either because Brandon Lloyd has been outstanding.  I agree that the Peyton Hillis trade was bad, and some of his other personnel moves were bad, but Mike Shanahan made his series of horrible moves too.  Dale Carter.  Travis Henry.  Benching Jake Plummer (who I still say got a really bad rap and deserves a lot more credit for the work he did here).  First round busts Marcus Nash, George Foster and Jarvis Moss.  Maurice Clarett in the third round when every other team agreed he shouldn’t have been drafted at all.  I could go on but you get the idea.  The point is that McDaniels isn’t alone in making personnel errors.  I will also point out that Shanahan is 5-7 in his first season with the Redskins and I think they are clearly worse than they were last season, so the grass isn’t always necessarily greener on the other side.

Frankly I am pretty certain that things are not going to get better overnight for the Broncos.  In fact, they might get worse before they get better.  I think the new coach could well come in and decide he needs to start over.  For starters, it will be interesting to see what happens with Tim Tebow.  McDaniels made him the face of the franchise and the future, but most teams weren’t so high on him.  Many teams had him rated as a fourth round pick or below.  It stands to reason another coach may not think he is the answer and then there would be another wasted draft pick.  In any case, I think it will take a long time to turn this around with a new coach.  I’m not saying McDaniels would have taken them to the playoffs next year, but as I said last week I think he deserved a chance to see if things could work with a healthy roster next season.

Since the Broncos will likely be paying three coaches next season (unless they fire McDaniels for cause because of the videotaping incident), it is unlikely they will be able to afford a big name like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.  Our trustworthy insider Adam Schefter mentioned two names: Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier and Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun.  The first one I think is unlikely because I think Minnesota will want to retain him.  The second I think could be a real possibility because Calhoun was a Broncos assistant once upon a time.  I’ll also throw out Gary Kubiak, who will likely be fired by the Texans at the end of the year unless they turn it around.  Regardless of who it is, that person will have a big chore ahead of them returning the Broncos to prominence.

I just have one plea for my fellow Broncos fans: give this next coach a chance.  Don’t roast him from the moment he walks in the door.  I’m not going to say McDaniels did a great job, but you don’t know how next year would have turned out.  With a healthy roster next year, who knows they might have been a playoff team.  In fact, I guarantee McDaniels will someday be an outstanding coach with another team (It’s happened before, look at Bill Belichick now after he was run out of Cleveland in the mid 90s).

Unlike most Broncos fans, I do not find this to be a great day.

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What Now Broncos?

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 1, 2010

By now I certainly don’t have to tell you that I bleed orange and blue.  I’ve been a die hard Broncos fan since I’ve been seven years old.  In that time, I have only seen four sub-.500 seasons, and this is roughly my 25th season of watching the Broncos with a fine tooth comb every Sunday.  With those numbers it’s certainly fair to say that us Broncos fans have had it pretty darn good compared to a lot of other franchises. That time span (since 1986, the first season I even was aware of who the Broncos were or what football was) has seen five Super Bowl appearances with two wins, and 12 playoff appearances.  Simply put, we’re used to seeing the Broncos succeed, or at the very least be in position to compete for the playoffs every year.  3-8 is uncharted territory for the Denver Broncos and is frankly not acceptable.  The last time they started a season this bad was in 1990, and from what I remember it was because the team was littered with injuries that season.  They made the Super Bowl the year before and the AFC Championship game the year after, so clearly 1990 was an aberration.  This feels different, this feels worse.  I look at the current Broncos and find myself realizing what fans of the Lions and other such teams have been feeling for many years.

The negativity toward Josh McDaniels is absolutely staggering these days, and frankly it’s not hard to see why.  He is just 5-16 in his past 21 games, his 6-0 start last season long in the rear view mirror.  The videotaping incident in London certainly only adds fuel to the fire (For those unfamiliar, McDaniels and the Broncos were fined a combined $100,000 for illegally taping a 49ers walkthrough the day before the game.  The person who shot the video has since been fired).  For now, I believe the Broncos when they say the tape wasn’t viewed, but I am very skeptical as to why it wasn’t reported sooner and I am also fearful of connections to Spygate.  After all, McDaniels was New England’s offensive coordinator during that time.  While it seems as though the Patriots’ transgressions in 2007 constituted much more blatant cheating, the fact that the Broncos might have engaged in anything even a little wrong is very disconcerting .  I just hope that we don’t see any new, worse evidence coming to light on this. If we don’t, I’m willing to give McDaniels the benefit of the doubt that it was an honest mistake.

Getting back to the team, the on field product is getting so bad that I sometimes wonder if it’s not worth just blowing the entire thing up and starting over.  This doesn’t all fall on McDaniels, for I documented a number of embarrassing moments late in the Mike Shanahan era as well when he was fired.  Unfortunately, the trend of embarrassing losses has continued.  In two of the past three home games, the Broncos gave up a franchise record 59 points to the arch rival Raiders in three quarters, and then trailed by 20 to the hapless Rams a few weeks later.  I know the Rams are improved, but come on, there is no occasion when it’s even remotely acceptable to trail them by 20 in your own house, ever.  My question is though, is this just a rogue bad season, or are the pieces there for the future?  In an effort to assess the team, I offer a position by position breakdown:

Quarterback: This to me is not the problem.  Kyle Orton is having a Pro Bowl season.  His red zone passing numbers have been particularly outstanding (only one red zone interception as a Bronco in two years).  I’m still not sure what Tim Tebow brings long term because we haven’t seen much of him, but he has been productive in the red zone as well.  I do not think Orton deserves to be benched, but in some ways I wouldn’t mind seeing if Tebow is going to be a bust or not.  Brady Quinn is useless right now and that is proving to be a horrible trade (more below).  While many people still grill McDaniels for trading Jay Cutler, I think Orton is actually better.

Running back: I really like Knowshon Moreno, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.  When he’s been in, he’s been effective when he’s had room to run.  After him there is nothing whatsoever, which is part of the problem.  Correll Buckhalter is considerably slower than last year.  Lance Ball?  I’m not sure how many other rosters he would make.  Laurence Maroney?  I think he might benefit from a change of scenery, but it’s clear now we lit a draft pick on fire by acquiring him.  The Broncos need some depth so Moreno doesn’t have to do it all by himself.  Meanwhile, Peyton Hillis is the toast of Cleveland and has outrushed the entire Broncos backfield by himself.  This after McDaniels stubbornly refused to use Hillis last season.  Hillis for Quinn has be in consideration for worst trade in Broncos history doesn’t it?

Wide Receiver: Again people roast McDaniels for trading Brandon Marshall, but the Broncos’ passing game is thriving just fine without him.  Brandon Lloyd is a sure fire Pro Bowler and All-Pro selection for the season he’s having, and Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal are catching their share of passes as well.  Demariyus Thomas is a real talent and made a number of terrific plays, but he continues to be plagued with a foot injury he suffered in college.  I do think the tight ends on this team are way too absent.  Daniel Graham is way too talented to not be more involved, and I do not understand the obsession with Dan Gronkowski.  Gronkowski was acquired from Detroit for Alphonso Smith, which has to rank as another boneheaded trade (more on Smith in the defensive backs section).  Overall I think this position is fine, but I would like to see more from the tight ends.

Offensive Line: This is where the problems lie on offense right now.  The unit has frankly been terrible in every game this season except for a couple.  This is why the running game is the worst in the league.  People bag on Moreno constantly, but it’s not his fault he’s continually dodging defenders before he gets to the line of scrimmage or doesn’t have holes to run through.  Ryan Clady is a Pro Bowl left tackle, but even he hasn’t performed to his full ability this year, partially due to the fact he tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game in April.  Ryan Harris is a solid right tackle, but he has been beat up as well and wasn’t in the lineup most of the first half of the year.  There are two rookies on the interior of the line, left guard Zane Beadles and center J.D. Walton, which explains a lot.  At some point though, the Broncos need to find out if they are answers long term or not.  This is the area on offense where the most improvement is needed.  It’s also the area that was never a question under Mike Shanahan.

Defensive Line: This unit has been mediocre at best.  The Broncos are running a 3-4 scheme, which should play to their advantage considering their linebackers, but the linemen up front have largely been dominated in their battles with opposing offensive lines.  This unit was a major question mark for years under Shanahan as well, with numerous wasted drafted picks, so this is not completely a new phenomenon on the new staff.  Still the acquisitions they’ve made, specifically Jamal Williams and Justin Bannon, have not worked out.  The defensive line to put it simply needs a major upgrade, and this area has not been addressed even remotely in either of Josh McDaniels’ first two drafts.

Linebackers: The talent is here for this group to be very good.  D.J. Williams is one of the best tacklers in all of football, but had a DUI a few weeks ago and could face a league suspension next season.  Robert Ayers has made significant improvement over his first season, but like many other players has not been able to stay on the field due to injury.  Mario Haggan is one of the few McDaniels additions on defense that has worked out, for he has been very active and his enthusiasm spreads to the rest of the defense.  Elvis Dumervil is one of the best pass rushers in the league, but the Broncos lost him on the first day of training camp.  If this group returns healthy next season, it’s the one area on defense that doesn’t need a lot of tinkering.

Defensive backs: Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins are two great players who have been around for a long time, but both are entering the twilight of their careers.  It’s hard to believe that this is Bailey’s seventh season with the Broncos after being acquired via trade for Clinton Portis.  The Broncos have certainly gotten used to him being back there, but his interception numbers have really tailed off the past few seasons, partially because he has lost a step but more so because the Broncos have been unable to find a complement on the other side of the field.  Other teams are having a field day throwing towards rookie Parrish Cox, and there were others before him (Dre’ Bly anyone?).  As for Dawkins, he is a great leader in the locker room, but he is not the same player as he was even last year.  He is just not getting to the ball and making tackles the way he used to.  I do like Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill, and Darcel McBath I think has the talent to eventually make an impact as a safety.  I mentioned Alphonso Smith earlier, for this is a player the Broncos drafted in the second round last year (after trading a first round pick the next year to move into that slot), and then the team gave up in him before this season started.  Smith has five interceptions for the Lions this season and seems to be thriving there.  This is just another example of a move that hasn’t worked out.  In short, I think the secondary could need major retooling soon, unless the aging veterans find the fountain of youth in the offseason.

Special teams: Kicker and punter are fine.  Matt Prater is largely accurate and has a good leg, while Brittan Colquitt has been one of the few bright spots this season.  The Broncos have a number of guys with potential to return kicks (Royal, Thomas, Cox), but so far no one has made a major impact there.  By and large I don’t feel this has been a major issue, but there is always room for it to be retooled and improved.

I know a lot of fans really want McDaniels fired and think that will automatically make everything better.  I will admit that it is becoming harder for me to back him, but I want to believe he can turn this around.  Let’s not forget the Broncos fired Mike Shanahan because he missed the playoffs in six of his final 10 seasons, including his final three.  Shanahan is 5-6 in Washington right now, so it’s not like he’s going gangbusters there.  Josh McDaniels has come in and has basically retooled every area of the team in his image.  Similar to a college program, I think it’s fair to give him time to see if it will work once everything is in place.  This team has been decimated by injuries, and some of his moves can’t be judged until the rookies get more experience.  The Hillis and Smith trades were awful no question, but you can’t deny that he made the right call trading Cutler and Marshall.

I just worry that if Pat Bowlen fires McDaniels after this season, what happens if a new coach wants to come in and start from scratch with his guys?  Will we be waiting another two years from him to get his team in place?  Does Bowlen even have a name in mind if he does make a coaching change?  I say unless Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden is in the bag, we’re in deep enough with McDaniels at this point that we might as well give him another year to see if it works.  Let’s see what happens with a healthy O-line and Elvis Dumervil back.  I will say these final five games could be telling.  It may sound crazy, but a positive end to the season can have a carryover effect into next year.  If we don’t win another game the rest of the way?  Well then I might change my mind, especially if the Broncos continue to get blown out each week.  But if they show some fight, are competitive, and can even steal a couple, than I’m willing to roll the dice and see what this regime does in the third year.

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Where was THAT all season?!?

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 17, 2010

 

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

 

First I’m going to one more plea to Pat Bowlen: please dispense with the blue jerseys once and for all.  The Broncos belong in orange.  The biggest mistake the Broncos owner has made has nothing to do with coaching changes or player personnel.   It was switching to those blue jerseys in the late 90s.  Orange is the true Broncos color.  The fans want it.  It is time to make the switch back and correct the error.

Secondly, I was going to spend a significant amount of time bashing Chiefs coach Todd Haley for his refusal to shake the hand of Josh McDaniels after the game.  Since Haley has now apologized, I’m not going to waste a significant amount of time on that issue.  I do think it goes without saying that Haley was 100 percent wrong, regardless of anything he thought the Broncos might have done late in the game.  Besides after seeing the lead CU blew against Kansas, I’m willing to say that no lead is ever really truly safe anymore.

Now, as far as the state of the Broncos, it is amazing to think that they are just two games out of first place in the AFC West despite their 3-6 record.  Well, maybe amazing isn’t the right word.  What’s a one word description for “most mediocre division in NFL history”.  Considering the Broncos have four games remaining against division opponents, the optimistic side of me is not ready to write them off just yet.  What we saw Sunday from the Broncos was exactly what we needed to see: a running game that actually gained more than one yard per carry.  The running game was so effective that Knowshon Moreno had a career high rushing day.  It’s no coincidence that this is the first game that featured a healthy offensive line.  The return of Ryan Harris at right tackle was especially critical.  If the Broncos can continue to run with that kind of effectiveness, it is easy to get really excited about the prospects of the offense as a whole.  The way Kyle Orton is throwing and the way Tim Tebow has proved effective around the goal line are all positives, but the running game remains the biggest key.

Defensively, the numbers are a little misleading.  Matt Cassel did have a career high passing day yes, but most of that came during garbage time when the Chiefs were throwing the football on every play.  The important numbers for the Broncos lie in their rushing defense, where Denver held the Chiefs to just 51 yards rushing on 22 carries.  Kansas City came into the game ranked number one in the NFL in rushing, while Denver’s defense ranked 31st.  The Broncos stepped up and held Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to a combined 2.2 yards per carry.  Mario Haggan also registered three sacks, including one that resulted in a fumble return touchdown by Jason Hunter to give the Broncos an insurmountable 35-0 lead in the second quarter.

The bottom line for the Broncos is that the bye week really did them a lot of good.  They were somehow able to shore up their two biggest areas of weakness, running the football and stopping the run.  Granted, it’s only one game, and we may see the ugliness rear its head again next Monday night in San Diego, but at the very least it allows the Broncos to begin the second half of the season on the right foot.  Is this a Super Bowl contender?  Certainly not.  Are they a playoff team? Highly doubtful.  Only one 2-6 team has rebounded to make the playoffs in NFL history, and that was back in 1970. What I’m hoping is that the Broncos can continue to show improvement each week.  This win against a very good Kansas City team showed what the Broncos can be capable of.  Now, let’s see if they are able to keep it up.

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Bad Football in London

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 1, 2010

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

I know I’m in the minority on this, but I think the NFL London game is just a really bad idea.  I think it’s absolutely unfair to team giving up the home game, and I just think it’s a real distraction for both teams.  Road trips in the NFL are hard enough without adding several thousand miles to them, not to mention jet lag.  If the NFL wants to play preseason games overseas, fine, no problem, but I think it’s too much to ask teams to fly to England in the middle of October to play a regular season game, even if they do get the bye week after to recover.  Of course it’s inevitable the games will continue. Every game over there has gotten huge crowds, and Roger Goodell is strongly considering playing more than one game a season in England.  What I can’t believe is that the league would be foolish enough to put a franchise in London.  The travel just wouldn’t make any sense for anyone.  The bottom line is the league needs to do a better job taking care of its fans at home, particularly with a lockout looming and frequent non-sellouts around the league.

I do think the 49ers handled the situation much better than the Broncos.  San Francisco flew out immediately after their loss to Carolina.  They had a full week to acclimate and get adjusted.  The Broncos waited until Thursday afternoon to leave Denver, asking players to sleep on the plane Thursday night, and not arriving in London until Friday morning.  I’ve never traveled overseas, but everyone I’ve talked to who has says you need to several days to get used to the new surroundings.  I had one person tell me the third day is always the worst.  The Broncos’ third day in England was game day.

Perhaps the fatigue of travel was one reason the entire first half was frankly a display of bad, boring football by both teams.  The 49ers’ offense looked lost most of the half with Troy Smith under center, and wasn’t helped when star tight end Vernon Davis left the game due to injury.  The Broncos offense was even worse, settling for a punt in each of their five first half possessions.  I’m sure NFL didn’t have a 3-0 halftime score in mind when they picked this matchup to export to London.

Now that we got that out of the way, I want to make it clear I am by no means using this as an excuse for the Broncos’ loss.  For starters, the Broncos had two touchdowns wiped out by penalty.  The first one was a chop block called on Knowshon Moreno that ruined a perfect flea flicker touchdown to Jabar Gaffney.  The second was a block in the back that nullified an Eddie Royal punt return TD.  I can’t honestly say that I have an issue with either call, although Moreno didn’t have any intent whatsoever to chop block.  Unfortunately, intent isn’t part of the rule, and the officials did call it correctly.  This is a reflection of something that has plagued the Broncos all year: bad mistakes at critical moments in games.  The Gaffney TD would have given Denver a 14-3 lead.  Instead, they ended up settling for a field goal.  San Francisco went on to score a touchdown and tie the game on the ensuing drive, completely seizing any momentum that the Broncos would have had.

The Broncos also shot themselves in the foot on other occasions.  A Kyle Orton fumble in the fourth quarter led to a short field for the 49ers and what proved to be the winning touchdown.  A missed extra point by Matt Prater didn’t help matters when the Broncos were trying to mount their comeback in the fourth quarter.  Once again the Broncos were unable to get their running game going.  Moreno led the way with just 40 yards on 11 carries.  The Broncos ran the ball only 17 times compared to 40 pass attempts.  That kind of ratio is never a good idea for success.  The 49ers on the other hand continued to hand off to Frank Gore, and it paid off for 118 yards and a touchdown.  Orton ended up throwing for 369 yards for the Broncos, but in the end the lack of a running game proved to be fatal again.

The Broncos are now 2-6 at the bye week, the worst they’ve been at the halfway point since the dreadful 1999 season, which happened to be the first year post-Elway.  The Broncos ended that year 6-10, but they will really have to pick up the pace to even hit that mark this season.  During the bye week the top priority has to be figuring out the running game.  I’m not going to put all the blame on the backs, for the offensive line has been mediocre at best all year as well.  Without a running game, it really doesn’t matter what kind of passing numbers Kyle Orton puts up.  The defense has actually been ok most of the season, the Raiders game notwithstanding.  Josh McDaniels’ job is safe for now, but that could depend on whether or not the Broncos are a much better team in the second half of the season than they were in the first.

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Worst. Loss. Ever.

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 24, 2010

 

Photo by Jack Dempsey, Associated Press

 

Broncos fans deserve better than this.  The headline is not an exaggeration.  This has to rank as the worst loss the Denver Broncos have ever had.  59-14?  At home?  Against your division rival?  Against a team that came in 2-4?  A team that scored nine measly points last week against the previously winless 49ers?  Sure, the  Broncos have had some doozies over the years (the playoff losses to the Colts and the disastrous Super Bowls of the 80s come to mind), every team has, but this was catastrophic.  The Broncos gave up 59 points THROUGH THREE QUARTERS.  They were down 38-0 with 7:58 remaining in the FIRST HALF.  Some other numbers that tell the story:

– The 59 points represent both the most points scored in Raiders history and the most points allowed in Broncos history.

– The Broncos allowed a staggering 508 yards of total offense, including 328 on the ground.

– Darren McFadden rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, which is bad enough.  He averaged 10.3 yards a carry.  Think about that.  That means he was on average getting a first down every time he touched the ball.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  This thing was an avalanche coming down the mountain from the word go.  A 43 yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller.  A 30 yard interception return by Chris Johnson on Denver’s first play from scrimmage.  A fumble by Demariyus Thomas on Denver’s second play from scrimmage.  One thing led to another before anyone could blink the game was over before it began.  Watching this game, it was easy to Denver’s confidence deflate.  There was no emotion on the sideline from anyone, coach or player.   What we ended up with was a rivalry game where one team didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

My biggest question is how does something like this even happen?  NFL defenses don’t give up 59 points in three quarters of play, they just don’t.  If this were a high school game a running clock would have been instituted.  The Raiders pulled their starters after three quarters, otherwise I’m pretty sure they could have taken a good stab at the NFL record of 73 points (Chicago Bears – 1940 NFL Championship).  This brings up a side question: WHY did the Broncos leave their starters in the entire game?  This made zero sense considering risk of injury in a meaningless situation by the fourth quarter.  Despite leaving starters in, the Broncos gave up an embarrassing amount of points to a team that’s not even good.  The Raiders are under .500.  They are not considered to be a contender in any way.  This a game where if the Broncos had given the same effort they did last week against the Jets, they would have won, perhaps handily.

This game reflects a big problem for the Denver Broncos.  Since starting 6-0 last year, the Broncos are a pathetic 4-13.  What we saw today was a lack of preparation, lack of intensity, lack of attention to detail, and pretty much a lack of anything.  For the Broncos to come out at home against a division rival, in a game they had to have, and give that kind of embarrassing performance, it has to speak to larger problem at hand.  I have been a defender of Josh McDaniels (one of the few), but even I can’t find any way to justify this.  I’m not sure if the large problem at hand is a personnel issue, play calling issue, weekly preparation issue or something else.  All I know is Broncos fans expect and deserve better than this.

This performance was so bad that I would have shut the game off in the second quarter if I wasn’t getting paid to watch it.  It would have marked the first time in my life I would have turned the Broncos off by choice.  I have sat through blowouts and bad losses, some of them in person, and have never left the stadium early or shut off the television, no matter how bad it got.  I remember sitting in the south stands at old Mile High Stadium with my dad in 1994, watching a similar contest that the Broncos lost to the Raiders 48-16.  In that game the Broncos wore throwback uniforms from the mid-60s and played at a level matching the 60s Broncos.  Today the Broncos managed the same feat without the 60s attire.  Wade Phillips was the head coach that day in 1994.  The fans threw things at him as he left the field after the game.  He was fired at the end of the season, having lasted just two years.  To my knowledge no one threw anything at Josh McDaniels today, but with the Broncos at 2-5, we might see another Broncos coach canned after two seasons if this doesn’t turn around.  I’ve been behind him since he’s been here, but this is unacceptable.  The honeymoon period is officially over Josh.  You need to fix this.  Now.  I don’t care how, just fix it.  Broncos fans deserve better than this.

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Broncos are Playing Well Despite 2-4 Record

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 19, 2010

Photo by Jack Dempsey, Associated Press

First a couple of quick housekeeping points:

– My plea to the Broncos: Go back to the orange jerseys full time.  Please.  Orange will always be the true identity of the Broncos.  I never did like the blue jerseys.  Trust me, most Broncos fans want this.

– The pass interference call was legit in the sense that Renaldo Hill did grab the face mask.  However, Santonio Holmes was pushing off as much as or more than Hill.  The bottom line is you rarely see that penalty called on a desperation heave like that.  Yes a penalty should have been called, but in my opinion the correct call would have been a face mask, which is a 15-yard penalty, instead of the pass interference spot foul.

– Congratulations to Tim Tebow on his first touchdown.  More on this below.

– I completely agree with Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla, who says this year’s 2-4 Broncos team is better than the one that started last year 6-0.

Look, I know Broncos fans are still frustrated with Josh McDaniels.  I know people don’t like some of his personnel moves.  I personally believe that Kyle Orton is a better quarterback than Jay Cutler.  He makes better decisions, he’s more accurate, and he doesn’t throw dumb interceptions in the red zone.  I also think that Brandon Marshall’s production has been more than replaced by Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and an improved season from Eddie Royal.  Look, I know the Broncos’ record isn’t great, but their schedule has been incredibly difficult, and it’s not as if Mike Shanahan is tearing it up in the nation’s capital.  People keep pointing to his “success” but he’s 3-3, including a blowout loss to the Rams.  Let’s not anoint him king of the NFC East just yet.

I actually thought the Broncos played a very good football game against the Jets, it just so happened that Rex Ryan’s crew was a little bit better.  The Jets are proving that they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.  They play tough defense, and they have somehow found the fountain of youth or a sorcerer’s stone for LaDainian Tomlinson, who looks like the LT of five years ago.  On Sunday, the Broncos defense did step up to the plate, forcing three turnovers.  However, the offense were victimized by some uncharacteristic mistakes.  A horrible snap by Lonnie Paxton cost them a field goal.  Another bad snap by J.D. Walton ended their final drive.  Knowshon Moreno fumbled in the first quarter when the Broncos had momentum going their way.

On the positive, the running game resurfaced, thanks in large part to hard running by Moreno, who finally looks healthy again after battling hamstring injuries.  Kyle Orton continues to play well.  Tim Tebow even got in the game and contributed, scoring his first touchdown (no doubt selling another 2,000 jerseys with that run).  I don’t mind the idea of Tebow as a change of pace, so long as he’s not keeping Orton off the field for extended stretches.  When Tebow was in the game, Orton stayed in as well, splitting out as a receiver.  On every single play Tebow was in, he kept it either on a draw or an option.  I would like to see the Broncos have Tebow throw a pass at least once, just to keep the defense off balance so they’re not expecting a keeper every time he’s in there.  He also at some point needs to involve Orton on the play, either by throwing to him or having Orton come back around and take a pitch, something again to keep the defense off balance.  Perhaps these things could be in play down the road.

I know 2-4 is not what the Broncos had in mind, but I think they are moving in the right direction.  The schedule does get a lot friendlier coming up.  The Broncos host the Raiders next week and then play the 49ers in London before the bye.  Certainly these should be two winnable games for Denver.  In the second half the Broncos do have five division games plus dates with the Rams and Cardinals.  Kansas City is not exactly invincible at 3-2 in the AFC West lead, so the Broncos are still more than capable of getting into the division race.  If the return of the running game and aggressive defense are not flukes the Broncos will be fine.

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Trouble on the Horizon

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 12, 2010

 

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images

 

Honestly I really could just cut and paste my post from last week about the running game.  The only difference this time is, the Broncos did not win the game.  Last week the Broncos beat Tennessee despite rushing for just 19 yards.  On Sunday, the Broncos actually doubled their rushing output, posting 39 yards on 13 carries as a club.  In the second half, the Broncos called just three running plays totaling just one yard.  By contrast, the Ravens carved up 233 yards on the ground on 47 carries, an average of five yards per carry.  From those numbers even a football novice should be to tell who won the game.

Sure, Kyle Orton threw two more touchdown passes and continued to pad his stats with another 300 yard passing effort, but it has been long proven that passing numbers don’t tell the whole story.  I am definitely on the Orton bandwagon and he is rapidly becoming a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl, but he can’t do it all by himself.  The Ravens game proved that the Broncos can’t win every week being a one dimensional team.  At some point they are going to have to establish some kind of running game in order to sustain success.  If they don’t, defenses know they don’t have to respect the running game.  The Broncos rank dead last through five games with just 259 yards rushing as a team (this even ranks behind eight teams who have had a bye and have played one fewer game), and they are averaging just 2.3 yards per carry.  Every other NFL team is averaging at least 3.0 yards per carry.  Even the winless 49ers are averaging 3.7 yards per carry.  Needless to say, the Broncos are threatening to be the worst team running the football in NFL history.

What’s worse than the numbers is the fact that the Broncos offensive line got completely dominated along the line of scrimmage against the Ravens.  We know that Baltimore has long been one of the more physical teams in the NFL and they wear down a lot of teams.  That said, the way the Broncos got physically manhandled Sunday was alarming in more ways than one.  I realize they are battling injuries along the line and they are starting several rookies, but Josh McDaniels has talked about building a physical team ever since he got here, and on Sunday the Broncos were anything but physical.  I have been perfectly willing to give McDaniels the benefit of the doubt, but he’s going to have to start getting results soon to avoid the wrath of Broncos fans who are watching Mike Shanahan get surprising wins with the Redskins and are getting ever the more ancy about McDaniels’ personnel decisions.  McDaniels does seem to know football and many of his decisions have worked out, especially in the passing game.  It remains to be seen however if he can truly build a successful franchise over the long term.

The Broncos schedule is still very rocky coming up.  Next week they host the Jets, who have not lost since week one.  The good news is standout cornerback Darrelle Revis may not play due to injury.  The bad news is five Broncos defenders, including Brian Dawkins, have been declared out.  The Jets defense did a very nice job last night against Adrian Peterson, so I shudder to think what they will do against the Broncos’ running game.  The good news is the AFC West is still there for the taking, with the Chiefs leading the way at 3-1 and everyone else coming in at 2-3.  If the Broncos can figure out the running game, the passing attack is more than good enough to put points on the board.  Knowshon Moreno is getting much closer to returning and could be activated on Sunday so that will help, but the much bigger issue is the offensive line.  Here’s hoping that next Tuesday I’m not writing about the running game for the third week in a row.

 

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Where Is the Running Game?

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 5, 2010

I know the Broncos won in Tennessee, and it was a very nice win at that.  Anytime you pull out a victory on the road, you are doing something right.  Kyle Orton has performed amazingly well (so well that his 1,485 yards passing is the second most through four games in the NFL modern era, trailing only Kurt Warner).  I’m not going to say I told you so about Orton and the Pro Bowl.  The special teams came up with a huge turnover late, and the defense did a phenomenal job shutting down Chris Johnson.  The Broncos even got a couple of red zone touchdowns (although they still settled for too many field goals and misfired another time on downs).  At 2-2, they are certainly in the pack in the AFC West.

It is amazing really that the Broncos won on a day when they provided one of the worst rushing outputs in franchise history.  The Broncos as a team rushed for just 19 yards on 20 carries.  For those of you who are math challenged, that’s an average of less than one yard per carry.  What’s worse is that 11 of those 19 yards came courtesy of Orton, which means they came on scrambles and not on designed runs.  Taking out Orton’s rushing totals, Correll Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney combined for 8 rushing yards on 16 carries.  Needless to say, the running game simply did not work.  The Titans are an outstanding rushing defense, but even against a great team you obviously need your running backs to rush for more than eight yards.  Through four games, the Broncos have yet to have any rusher collect more than 60 yards rushing in a game, and as a team the Broncos are averaging just two yards a carry through the first four games.  No other team is averaging less than three yards a carry.  The Broncos also rank dead last with 220 rushing yards through four games.

The fact that the Broncos rank first in the league in passing offense through four games has so far compensated for their lack of running game.  (That point makes me feel rather strongly that Kyle Orton is in fact a better quarterback than the one he was traded for, Jay Cutler, but that’s another discussion).  The Broncos in fact did not call for a single rushing attempt in the final ten minutes of the game against Tennessee.  Eventually, this will stop working if teams don’t feel need to worry about the Broncos running the football.  Even the great passing teams of NFL history have had some small semblance of a running game to keep the defense off balance.  I have no doubts that Orton will continue to pass the ball well and spread it around to different receivers, but if the Broncos don’t start running the ball, it won’t matter how well they are passing it, especially in short yardage and goal line situations.

It should help that Knowshon Moreno will return to the lineup soon after missing time with a hamstring injury.  He might even be ready to return Sunday in Baltimore.  While his presence will help, it is clear that the offensive line still needs a lot of work.  The Broncos made a real point of addressing the line in the draft, but it is clear that the rookies still are trying to get acquainted with playing at NFL speed and learning the game.  All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady is still recovering from his offseason knee injury, and Ryan Harris has missed time at the other tackle spot, although he did return to the lineup against Tennessee.  The bottom line is the Broncos will need the line to play with a lot more consistency if they are to figure out how to run the football.

The Broncos rigorous stretch of their schedule continues the next two weeks with dates at Baltimore and at home against the Jets.  After that, it does get a little friendlier, although the London trip will be brutal, even if that game is against the highly disappointing 49ers.  I think given the way the AFC West has unfolded so far, it is not unreasonable to think the Broncos can find themselves in the division race in December.  Kansas City is certainly not going to stay undefeated, and the Chargers have been up and down through their first four games.  If the Broncos can figure out how to run the ball, they can be in the race.  If they don’t, their season will end up looking a lot like last year or worse.

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Positive Signs Not Enough

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 27, 2010

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Broncos certainly tried their best to honor Kenny McKinley as they battled the Colts in an upset bid.  I have to admit that Denver actually played much better yesterday than I thought they would against league juggernaut Indianapolis.  The defense in particular was outstanding considering the amount of time they had to spend on a short field following turnovers.  Sure, Peyton Manning threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, but it was a quiet 300 yard day if there is such a thing.  The Broncos were able to get good pressure on Manning most of the day and he had to work to get his completions.  The Broncos completely shut down the Colts’ running game, holding Joseph Addai to just 29 yards on 13 carries.  Considering the positions the defense ended up in, I think they did an outstanding job against Manning and company.

Offensively, Kyle Orton passed for a whopping 476 yards, the second highest single game total in Broncos history (trivia question: can you name who is number one on the list? You might think it’s easy but you would be wrong, answer below).  Jabar Gaffney caught 12 balls for 140 yards, his second game with more than 10 receptions as a Bronco.  Brandon Lloyd made several big plays, finishing with 169 yards on six catches.  All told, nine players caught a pass from Orton in the game, so he did a terrific job distributing the ball.  No one with a sane mind can question that Orton has a complete command of this offense.  His 48-yard touchdown pass to Lloyd was a thing a beauty.  The problem for the Broncos was the running game.  It was obvious that they really missed Knowshon Moreno, who sat out with an injured hamstring.  New acquisition Laurence Maroney rushed for just 24 yards on 12 carries (although he did have a 28 yard catch), while Correll Buckhalter rushed for 12 yards on four carries.

It is easy to point the finger at the backs, especially after former Bronco Peyton Hillis ran all over the powerful Ravens defense to the tune of 140 yards yesterday, but running the football is about more than the backs.  The Broncos still have offensive line problems, owing mostly to the fact that three rookies are starting along the line these days and the fact that All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady is still not quite healthy from his offseason knee injury suffered back in April.  Running the ball requires cohesiveness from the backs and from the line, and right now the Broncos don’t have it from either.  I say it every week, but Denver is going to have to figure out how to run the football, or it won’t matter what the passing game does.

The Broncos also have the same issues in the red zone as last season (and it seems for five seasons or so).  All told, the Broncos had four trips in the red zone and came away with six points on two field goals.  The Broncos turned it over on downs twice, once in the second quarter when an apparent Maroney touchdown was reversed by replay and again in the fourth quarter when and Orton and Lloyd weren’t on the same page on a 4th and 3 play.  It goes without saying that good teams execute in the red zone and convert their touchdown opportunities.  This goes back to the lack of a running game, because yesterday the Colts defense had the luxury of defending the pass when backed up in the red zone and didn’t really have to worry about Denver’s non-existent running game.

It’s not a secret that you need to plan on scoring at least 24 points to even have a chance of beating the Colts.  Manning is just too good for even the league’s best defenses to hold down for an entire game.  The Broncos moved the ball well enough offensively to be able to compete with the Colts, but red zone failure and an inability to establish a running game doomed them in the end.  Still, they had plenty of chances to make plays, and the fact they were even in the game against one of the league’s elite teams in the fourth quarter was a shock to many.  Obviously there are no moral victories in the NFL, and certainly the Broncos are in an early hole with a 1-2 record and difficult schedule ahead, but there are positive signs from the passing game and the defense.  I think the Chiefs’ 3-0 start in the AFC West won’t last, so the Broncos still have plenty of opportunity to be a player in the AFC West before the year is over.  If Denver can solve the running game problem, things could get much better for the orange and blue in the coming weeks.

Trivia answer: Jake Plummer, who threw for 499 yards against the Falcons in 2004.

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