Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Posts Tagged ‘Josh McDaniels’

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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Broncos-Patriots Preview & week 5 picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 9, 2009

CORRECTION Broncos Draft Football Before we get into this matchup, take a good look at the photo.  That is what the Broncos will be wearing on Sunday: 1960 throwback uniforms.  This has to be without question one of the ugliest jerseys in the history of sports, not to mention the vertical striped socks (photo below).  The socks were so hideous at the time that there was a huge ceremony to burn them all (well most of them, a pair does hang in the Pro Football Hall of Fame).  This ensemble, the original uniform of the Broncos, was literally all the Broncos could get at the time.  They were second hand because the owner at the time couldn’t afford anything else.  Needless to say, they were scrapped very quickly for the orange the blue the team has worn for a vast majority of their history.  A large part of me says it will actually be very fun to see the broncos in action wearing these uniforms on Sunday.  Just don’t try to adjust your TV set when you see them.  The Patriots will also be wearing throwback uniforms featuring Pat Patriot circa 1963 (In their case I much prefer the classic uniform to their current one).  Their the same ones (except an away version) that they wore in week one against the Bills.

Now, as for the game, this should be a great one.  It will be even better now that the forecast has greatly improved over the past 24 hours.  Yesterday they were calling for temperatures in the 20s and snow.  Now, the forecast calls for temps in the 50s and sunny skies (but don’t get too excited just yet, this is Colorado, and that means the forecast will likely change again).  At any rate, what we have here is a good matchup that is very compelling because you have student against mentor.  Josh McDaniels had great success as offensive coordinator of the Patriots under Bill Belichick, and now is he the head man of the Broncos.  Many of Belichick’s former assistants have gone on to head coaching positions, although it’s a stretch to say any of them have had real success.  McDaniels has started out his career 4-0 after a tumultuous offseason in which he completely revamped the team on both sides of the ball.  Belichick of course has a very proven track record of success, winning three Super Bowls with New England as well as numerous division titles.  It will be interesting to see if either side has an advantage in terms of knowing the other, because McDaniels and Belichick worked together for eight seasons, with McDaniels serving as an assistant on both sides of the ball at various times during his tenure.  It seems clear that McDaniels has modeled a lot of what he does after Belichick, so many ways the philosophies of the two coaches are similar.  Regardless, the mere fact that these two are coaching against each other will make for great theatre.

imagesThe biggest thing I’m curious to see in this game is how Denver’s defense performs against the New England offense.  the Patriots offense did suffer a disastrous blow this week with news that Fred Taylor will be sidelined due to right ankle surgery.  The good news for New England is they don’t expect it to be season ending, but they will definitely not have him available for this game.  That means they will rely on the trio of Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris.  Morris did torch the Broncos for 138 yards by halftime last year, but that was against a completely different defensive unit.  In any case, Taylor has been the Patriots’ best runner by far in the first four games, and missing him could be bad news against a Denver unit that has been extremely stingy against the run.  The Broncos held Dallas to 78 yards rushing last week after they had gone for 200 in each of the previous two games, so indications are that the Broncos have an advantage against the run in this game with the Patriots beat up.  The key here though could end up being the Patriots pass offense.  Tom Brady is definitely looking more comfortable in the pocket and has shown he can take hits when necessary.  He is also developing more of a chemistry with Randy Moss again and Wes Welker is back to help stretch the field as well.  The Broncos have gotten pressure on opposing QBs so far this year, so the key could be how much pressure they can get on Brady, especially with Elvis Dumervil.  If they can get pressure on Brady, it could play into the hands of Denver’s improved secondary.  If not, then it could be real fun to watch Moss against Champ Bailey, while the rest of the secondary tries to contain Welker and Benjamin Watson.

The Broncos offense hasn’t been at all flashy, but they will need to put up some points to help take some pressure off the defense.  The Patriots defense has been quietly effective the last two weeks against good offenses in Atlanta and Baltimore, so it could be a challenge for the Broncos to get some points on the board.  Correll Buckhalter is out with an ankle injury, so it will be up to rookie Knowshon Moreno to carry the load in the running game.   Buckhalter’s absence will also be felt in the receiving game, as he has been a favorite weapon out of the backfield for Kyle Orton.  A key for Denver offensively for this game as well as the rest of the season will be getting more production in the passing game.  Brandon Marshall stepped up big last week, but the Broncos will also need Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley, who missed the last two games due to injury, to produce as well.  The Broncos may also need a big game from former Patriot Daniel Graham, who has emerged as a reliable target for Kyle Orton in the early going.

This is another big test for the Broncos, certainly their toughest of the season to this point without question.  The Patriots are 3-1, and when you look at their team it’s easy to wonder why anyone is saying there are problems up there.  It is interesting to note that the Broncos are the only team in the NFL with a winning record against the Patriots since 2001 (5-2).  However the Patriots blasted Denver last year 41-7.  The national folks certainly are expecting a good one Sunday, as CBS is sending its top crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to do the game.    This is a difficult one to pick, because the Patriots seem to be their usual selves, and while the Broncos have played so well so far they have done it against non-elite competition (no disrespect intended to the Cowboys, who I don’t think are a playoff team right now).  The Mile High crowd will be rocking, and the Broncos will have most of their famous alumni present as they are honoring their 50th anniversary team.  The Patriots are always tough on the road, so something has to give.

Who to pick???

thinking…..

thinking….

thinking…..

(after agonizing and hair pulling)…what the hell, I’ll take the Broncos to get it done at home.  I think the Broncos defense will come up with a huge play to swing a tight game in the fourth quarter.  That is provided the Broncos don’t play at a level matching the 1960 team whose jerseys they will be wearing.

The Pick: Broncos 21 Patriots 17

Now to the rest of the picks:

Last week: 11-3 Season: 47-15.  Honestly I should just quit while I am ahead.

– Bills over Browns: Needless to say this is not the game of the week.  I take the Bills mainly because they are at home.  Both teams have been major disappointments.

– Ravens over Bengals: The Ravens are out for blood after a loss last week in New England.  Cincinnati has a talented offense, but I don’t like their odds on the road against the Ravens D.  Baltimore’s offense should also rebound at home in this one.

– Steelers over Lions: Pittsburgh still doesn’t look entirely right, especially on defense, but they have found their running game.  That will be enough against Detroit, although this game will be competitive.  It will be a de facto home game for the Steelers with more terrible towels in the seats than Lions fans.

– Cardinals over Texans: Arizona has had a bye week to regroup, and their offense should have a field day against a Houston defense that has not really stopped anyone yet.  Houston might score enough to keep up and make this entertaining, but in the end the Cards will prevail at home.

– Jaguars over Seahawks.  Jacksonville really showed something last week against the Titans, dominating the action on both sides of the ball.  The way Seattle has underperformed and is once again battling injury, I like the Jags in a road mini upset here.  Matt Hasselbeck may be back and Seattle needs him.  In any case my pick of the Seahawks to win the NFC West is looking really stupid right now.

– Cowboys over Chiefs: I am shocked that national people are picking the upset here (I have seen more than one pick for KC).  I know the Cowboys haven’t been great, but they are better than the Chiefs.  Arrowhead is no help when the home team is this poor.

– Giants over Raiders: This is the blowout of the week.  Even if Eli Manning is hobbling it won’t matter.  The Raiders are such a mess that a trip east is the last thing they need.  The Giants continue to prove that people (including me) underestimate them in preseason every year.

– Eagles over Buccaneers: Another blowout of the week.  McNabb and Westbrook are back for Philly, and the Bucs are still a big mess in absolutely every way.  If the Phillies end up losing to the Rockies in the playoffs, this will be a good way for Philadelphians to feel better.

– Panthers over Redskins: two disappointing teams go head to head.  The Redskins are fortunate to have ugly wins against the Rams and Buccaneers, while Carolina is still looking for a win.  They should be able to get it at home, and maybe save Jake Delhomme’s job for another week.

– Vikings over Rams: Another blowout, this time for the visiting team.  The Rams might just be the worst team in the league, while the Vikings bring Adrian Peterson, a great offensive line, and great defensive front seven, and oh yeah that Favre guy.

– 49ers over Falcons: This should be entertaining.  I should point out I picked the Niners to win the west LAST YEAR, and then naturally underestimated them this season.  I still think Atlanta will be a playoff factor in the NFC, but the Niners have mojo right now and the home field will sway them in this one.

– Colts over Titans: These are two teams going in opposite directions.  The Titans are desperate for a win, and they’ll have a Sunday night crowd behind them, but Peyton Manning is not going to feel sorry for Jeff Fisher and company.  The Colts smell blood in the division, and that’s usually bad news for opponents.

– Jets over Dolphins: Miami is a home in the Monday nighter, and thus I am tempted to say the Wildcat will carry the day, but I think the Jets have something to prove after losing on the road last week.  Braylon Edwards makes his debut after being acquired in trade from Cleveland, and I think he will make an impact in new surroundings.

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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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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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Two Words For Jay Cutler: GROW UP

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 16, 2009

So apparently Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler finally met face to face this weekend.  They did not follow my advice of having the meeting be just the two of them, but rather were joined by Cutler’s agent Bus Cook and general manager Brian Xanders.  As usual we have two different interpretations of how the meeting went down.  Now, I have not trusted Chris Mortensen as of late because of his tendency to jump the gun (especially when he was convinced Mike Shanahan was going to Kansas City when everyone knew that would never happen), but in this case it seems he tracked down both Cutler and McDaniels, so we are able to draw our own conclusions without need for his analysis.  

Basically, Cutler will not show up for team’s “voluntary” meeting tomorrow meeting.  In fact it seems as he has once again left Denver altogether.  I use voluntary in quotes because while the start of any team’s offseason program is technically voluntary according to the collective bargaining agreement, every player knows these types of things are anything but voluntary if they actually want to make the team and be on good terms with teammates and coaches.  In Cutler’s case, any time at the team’s facility should be absolutely necessary for him because he is learning a new offense that is radically different from Mike Shanahan’s system.  Furthermore, it is clear that Cutler and his agent have requested a trade.  Now, this does not mean the team is required to grant the request, and based on statements made by the team they haven’t and don’t plan to.

Cutler has two years remaining on his contract with the Broncos, and Denver technically controls him for a third year as well because they could choose to use a franchise tag on him and keep him around another year.  The Broncos if they choose could not grant the trade request, and if Cutler declines to show up for required team activities, they can start fining him.  If Cutler’s not careful, and the Broncos choose to play hardball this way, Cutler could find himself a) out of a lot of money and b) so far behind in learning the offense that if he does show up in say, August, he will be declared not ready to start and could find himself watching Chris Simms from the bench.  In addition, Cutler will rapidly fall out of favor with his teammates, if he hasn’t started to already.  If the Broncos go this route, they could end up with a very rocky distraction throughout the season dealing with a quarterback who doesn’t want to be there.  It’s no secret that this is no way for a team leader to behave.  Personally, I hope new addition Brian Dawkins gets ahold of Cutler so he can knock some sense into him.  

I’m on record saying that the Broncos would have been crazy to deal Cutler for Matt Cassel.  I think it would have been a very foolish move on Josh McDaniels’ part.  We may never truly know the real extent of those negotiations.  Was Cassel dangled in front of McDaniels and the coach said no thanks?  Or did McDaniels actively try to get Cassel, only to jump in the fray too late?  As I said, we may never know.  Regardless, at this point the equation has definitely changed.  I still think Cutler can be a great quarterback in this league, but the more I’ve seen of his attitude in the past two weeks, the less I’m sure if he really has the tools besides raw talent to be successful in the long run.  I still think he’s clearly getting bad advice from somebody, but in the end he’s a big boy and makes his own decisions.  I really hope the Broncos and Cutler can still work this thing out, because I think if Cutler gets his head on straight, he might find that McDaniels’ offense would suit him extremely well.  As a fan I want them to work this out, and I want Cutler to continue playing quarterback for the Broncos.  After all, how many teams have continually searched for talented quarterbacks only to never find one?  However, if they can’t work this out by say, draft day, and they decide they don’t want to hold pat and keep him essentially locked in Denver for two years against his will?  As much as it pains me to say this, I say deal him to Detroit, a place where Cutler has said he doesn’t want to go.  If the Broncos do that, I promise you that around midseason Cutler will realize too late what a good thing he had in Denver, and perhaps he’ll be able to learn a lesson.  To be frank though, the available options at quarterback for the Broncos are not good.  The Broncos could go with a journeyman veteran like Jeff Garcia or Byron Leftwich, or they could draft a quarterback and start over.  Perhaps they deal with Cleveland and get Brady Quinn, who is familar with McDaniels’ offense having run it under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.  Either way, it’s a significant downgrade talent wise from Cutler no question, but at some point, is the 5-year old attitude worth the trouble?  

In the end Cutler needs to grow up.  The biggest problem right now is Cutler’s attitude is not acceptable and frankly if he doesn’t want to be here, I say don’t let the door hit you on the way out pal.  Because if Cutler keeps going this route, it doesn’t matter how much potential he has.  For all he knows, he might just be another Jeff George, someone with big potential and a rocket arm, but a really poor attitude that keeps getting in a way and keeps holding him down in mediocrity.

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Cutler Follow Up

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 4, 2009

Perhaps this story is finally showing signs of having a resolution.  Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels have scheduled a meeting, presumably one where they will try to iron out their differences and move forward.  The Broncos have once again made it clear that they have no intention of trading Jay Cutler.  Their unequivocal statement coming from owner Pat Bowlen himself should put any other silly rumors to rest (including one I saw today that had Cutler and a draft pick going to Cleveland for Brady Quinn and Shaun Rodgers.  Please).  What we’ll never know is how serious the Broncos actually were in making a run at Matt Cassel, and whether they initiated the discussions or considered a move after another team proposed it.  Whether or not they considered it or discussed it should be completely irrelevant.  The point is the deal for Cassel was not made for whatever reason, and the Patriots sent him to Kansas City instead.  The only reason this became a story is Cutler’s reaction.  If Cutler hadn’t complained to the media about his feelings, this would be a complete non-story.  The fact that Cutler got wind of the discussion means that someone leaked the details of the talks to him, but he should realize it’s not unusual for any player’s name to be bantered about in talks.  Just because a player’s name comes up, it does not mean a deal is around the corner.  

It seems as though what we have here is a situation that happens more often than is actually reported in sports. Team A calls team B to talk trade.  Team B listens.  Team A says it wants team B’s star player.  Team B counters with what it would take from team A to make that happen.  Team A dangles a player that it knows will be enticing to team B.  Most of the time these discussions are very cordial and very rarely get serious.  The players never hear about it.  If they did, every player on every team in every league would be stressed out every day about potentially getting dealt.  In this case, the Broncos cannot be faulted for exploring any option to make their team better.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs in three years and blew a three game lead with three to play last season, so no one on the roster can really be considered safe.  In the end, they decided that the offers on the table were not worth pulling the trigger on, so that’s what Cutler needs to realize.

Cutler has a 17-20 career record as a starter, so he hasn’t yet proved himself a consistent winner, but you certainly can’t deny his arm and potential.  I think in the end the Broncos realized you don’t trade a Pro Bowl quarterback for one who had one good year or one who is unproven that they could get in the draft.  This is what Cutler needs to realize.  It is understandable that he would be upset if he indeed thought the Broncos didn’t want him and were actively looking to deal him.  That being said, he isn’t showing much leadership ability by whining and cowering and pointing fingers.  To be quite frank, Cutler has a ways to go if he wants to be a true leader.  Last year he only spoke to the media after wins, not after losses.  The quarterback MUST make himself available after every game, no exceptions.  He can’t keep getting flapped when things aren’t going well, and this goes for on and off the field.  He has a tendency to make bad throws when he gets frustrated, and he also has a hard time dealing with reality off the field when something is going against what he thinks should be happening.  Part of this is a natural adjustment to a young player taking a leadership role, but a lot of it is common sense that he needs to understand.  

I don’t mean to completely rag on Cutler here.  It goes without saying that the Broncos would have been completely nuts to trade him for Cassel.  His progression in many ways isn’t that much different from any other quarterback who has finished his third year.  He is without question a top 10 QB in the league (as Cassel cannot be considered yet), and he should be a top 5 one by the time his career his done if he continues to improve.  His arm strength and ability to grasp playbooks and read defenses are off the charts.  He has a will to win and a drive to be successful.  He certainly can’t be faulted for the team’s atrocity on defense the last three years, including a franchise record rushing day allowed to San Diego in the finale last year.  (I am amused when the defense has blown several games the past few seasons and all anyone wants to talk about is Jay Cutler, and before him Jake Plummer.  Cutler certainly isn’t blameless for the team’s collapse, but he’s not out there missing tackles either.) With the tools the Broncos have on offense, the team has a chance to be even more successful on that side of the ball this year with McDaniels offering his proven fresh ideas.  

Hopefully all parties learned something here.  Hopefully McDaniels learned as a young coach that talks can’t ever be trusted to be kept private, especially if they start to turn serious.  Hopefully Cutler can realize that he needs to show maturity in these situations and realize that no player is ever untouchable.  In the end, I really think the two sides will be able to put things aside after Monday’s meeting and work together to try and win football games.  I think the two sides have no choice, considering Cutler has two years remaining on his deal, and the Broncos don’t have any remotely serviceable options at quarterback out there to even look at should they deal Cutler.  McDaniels realizes Cutler’s talent gives him a great shot to win, and I think Cutler will eventually see that McDaniels’ offense will have a lot to offer.  

Of course, the Broncos now have another issue looming, and that’s how many games Brandon Marshall might miss after being involved in another altercation in Atlanta.  We all know Roger Goodell is not kind to repeat violators of the league’s personal conduct policy.  More on that coming soon.

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A New Era in Broncoland

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 13, 2009

So the Broncos haven’t taken very long to move on from the Mike Shanahan era.  In less than two weeks, the Broncos have found his replacement: Josh McDaniels, previously offensive coordinator for the Patriots.  McDaniels had to be impressive in his interview considering the Broncos talked to seven guys, most of them with background on the defensive side of the ball.  I was of the thought that a defensive guy would probably make the most sense to replace Shanahan, considering that was the area where the Broncos have clearly fallen to the bottom of the league and needs the most attention.  Considering that Jay Cutler had specifically requested to keep the offensive assistants, specifically play caller Jeremy Bates, I thought for sure owner Pat Bowlen would get Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator of the Giants, or one of the other defensive assistants he interviewed.  I was particularly excited about what I was hearing in regards to Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Buccanneers defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.  In the end though it is McDaniels.  I have to admit I am more encouraged about the hire after seeing the introductory press conference today.  McDaniels clearly handles himself well, and exudes a confidence that you expect out a head coach.  

McDaniels is only 32, which makes him easily the youngest coach in the NFL, so that alone gives some pause.  It is however interesting to note that Don Shula was only 32 when he was hired to coach the Baltimore Colts, and he’s one of the best coaches in NFL history, so it is not unprecedented for a young coach to take over a team.  John Madden was also head coach of the Raiders when he was 32 years old.  In fact, McDaniels started as an assistant on the Patriots when he was just 24, and quickly ascended the ranks on Bill Belichick’s staff.  Belichick wouldn’t allow just anyone to rise through the ranks on his staff that quickly without merit, so it is clear that McDaniels is bringing something to the table.  McDaniels also does have experience on both sides of the ball, for he was actually a defensive assistant with the Patriots during his initial time there.  That is very encouraging considering the Broncos will need help everywhere.  The word is also that McDaniels will bring in former 49ers coach Mike Nolan to be his defensive coordinator and may also bring along Dom Capers in some capacity.  Nolan and Capers are both really good defensive coaches and I will be very pleased if they end up in Denver on McDaniels’ staff.  

Perhaps the biggest plus McDaniels will bring to the table is his ability to work with quarterbacks, and that could provide a tremendous boost in the development and maturity of Jay Cutler.  It will be interesting to see how Cutler responds to McDaniels considering the young quarterback wanted the previous offensive staff retained, but once any initial tension is gone, I expect Cutler to really benefit from the relationship.  McDaniels of course worked with Tom Brady in New England, and also helped Matt Cassel lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record this season, even though Cassel hadn’t started a game since high school.  Cutler clearly needs some help in a lot of areas, for he is talented, and has a great arm, but has yet to take the next step in his game to become a great leader.  Cutler still tends to force the ball a lot, especially when things aren’t going well, and sometimes his attitude does not reflect what you would want from a team leader.  It remains to be seen whether McDaniels will accommodate Cutler’s request of keeping Bates and whether the new coach and Cutler’s favorite play caller could even coexist, but either way Cutler should benefit.  McDaniels has clearly shown an ability to work with quarterbacks, and perhaps the biggest reason he was hired to help Cutler hone his game and become the team leader he needs to be.  It is interesting to note that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who himself was a finalist for the head coach position, interviewed today with San Francisco to replace Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator, so it is definitely not a given that Cutler will get his wish about McDaniels keeping his favorite assistants.  

Obviously the success or failure of this hire cannot be judged immediately.  I believe it will take a minimum of three seasons before we see the true impact of this move on the organization.  I’m still not convinced that firing Shanahan was the right move, but McDaniels is in charge now.  I think a lot of times a change of scenery can be a positive, and hopefully that will be the case here for the Broncos.  Regardless of who the coach is, you cannot win in the NFL without good players, and it is clear Denver is lacking in defensive talent.  It is imperative that the Broncos have a good draft in April, and that they acquire defensive talent.  Offensively, the Broncos must build on a unit that finished second in yards but only in the 20s in points scored.  Having healthy running backs will help, and McDaniels’ track record indicates that he has a good chance to help straighten out the team’s red zone inefficiency and inopportune turnovers.  The hope is that McDaniels follows in the wake of John Harbaugh, Tony Sparano and Mike Smith, all first year coaches whose teams made the playoffs this year.

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