Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Shanahan’

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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The Shanahan to KC (Just Kidding!) Saga

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 27, 2009

Last week was crazy for me for so many reasons, but I do have to recap some of my work week last week though.  It was hilariously entertaining (thanks to some REALLY boneheaded reporting by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen in particular). 

It started Wednesday night, when the NBC affiliate in Kansas City reported that the Chiefs were negoitating with Mike Shanahan and that he could be named Chiefs coach “within 48 hours”.  I was immediately skeptical about this when I was researching it that night and Thursday night because no other media outlet anywhere was reporting it.  Not ESPN, SI, or any of the other KC media outlets or Denver media.  Being that the Kansas City Star and Denver Post both completely ignored the story in their Thursday morning editions, I was 100 percent not worried. 

I get to work on Thursday morning, and I receive the following google chat message from one of my best friends who is a die hard Chiefs fan: “One Bronco fan on the Chief board said he bumped into Shanahan’s son at a mall in Denver, and his son said he would be coaching in KC.”  My immediate reaction to this is that if the source is a fan message board, it’s automatically garbage.  Mind you also, at this point Herm Edwards wasn’t fired yet, so the whole thing seemed very sketchy at best.  Nevertheless I figure it can’t hurt to check it out, and I quickly find that there is no truth to that rumor.  It seems as though Mike’s son Kyle, who is offensive coordinator of the Texans, is not even in Denver these days, so there is no chance anyone could run into him in a Denver mall.  Further, the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter informs me in an e-mail that there has been no contact whatsoever between Shanahan and the Chiefs.  Later that afternoon we put him on our show (he is a regular contributor for us during the season) and he makes it clear that there has been no contact and that Shanahan will not coach the Chiefs in 2009.  At this point I’m very convinced that this story is done and doesn’t have any legs, even though the NBC affiliate in KC stands by its report that night that Shanahan will be the coach. 

Last Friday is when things started to get really interesting.  Right before we go on the air for our show, we see that the Chiefs fire Edwards.  We thought nothing of it because it seemed to be a matter of time.  Roughly half an hour later, my email starts to blow up with notes from Kansas City:

“The ESPN ticker is saying that Shanahan is the new KC head coach!”

“KC radio stations are reporting it too!”

“Shanahan to KC likely.  It’s showing up on the ticker!  They got the KC media guy on saying that he knows this has been in the works!”

“It’s being reported by Chris Mortensen, wow!  He really knows his stuff this is freaking happening!”

Now, I don’t get ESPN news at work, so I’m puzzled by these reports I’m getting, being that there is no mention whatsoever on actual ESPN.  Sure enough though, the phones start to ring on the call in line: “Is there any truth to the report? Is Shanahan going to the Chiefs?”  It starts get crazy, so I email our trustworthy insider Schefter.  He emails me back one word, “FALSE!!!!”.  He offers to come on the air and explain.  He starts his comments with “ESPN is wrong”.  He clarifies for us that he had just talked to Shanahan’s agent, and that even at this point there has been zero contact between the two parties.  He once again makes it very clear that Shanahan will not coach the Chiefs in 2009.  At this point we have a full blown NFL Network vs. ESPN battle, because ESPN is now blowing up Mortensen’s report, saying that Shanahan and the Chiefs are “close to a deal.” 

We were very pleased to see very quickly that Schefter owned Mortensen on this story from the word go, because it wasn’t long before Mort had to embarrassingly backtrack on air.  The language in the ESPN story changed from “close to a deal” to “the Chiefs are targeting Shanahan.”  That is a HUGE difference.  To say the Chiefs are “targeting” Shanahan only means they are interested, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the interest is working both ways.  The story even backtracked more later on from “targeting” to “eyeing”.  Mortensen even later admitted on air that his original source eventually told him there had been no contact.  So how could the sides had even been close to a deal? 

Needless to say it was very entertaining to see Mortensen stumble over himself while trying to recover from the embarrassment of being so blatantly wrong on the story.  It was very comical to see big bad ESPN be so wrong, and to see them try to cover up their mistake with creative language for the rest of the night.  On the flip side, I really have to give kudos to Schefter, who was spot on in his reporting the entire time and has been tremendous in that regard his entire career.  Schefter told us from the beginning that the Chiefs and Shanahan were never in contact, in spite of rumors to that effect for at least a week, and he was absolutely correct.  Needless we are extremely pleased to have Schefter as a regular contributor on our radio program, and I would like to take his opportunity to thank him for his wonderful and accurate reporting.  I also don’t mean to completely bag on Mortensen, who has given years of good reporting to ESPN, but he really messed this story up.  Schefter did not.  I’m still extremely perplexed at who may have given Mortensen his information that was so clearly wrong. 

For me personally, the idea of Shanahan coaching the Chiefs would been gut wrenching.  While I am optimistic about Josh McDaniels, I’m frankly still not sure if the Broncos made the right move in getting rid of Shanahan.  The idea of Shanahan enjoying great success in Kansas City would be very difficult to process, so I am glad that Arrowhead is not where he is going.  I want to root for Shanahan at his next coaching stop, for I will always appreciate the two Super Bowl wins  he helped lead the Broncos to, but that would not have been possible for me if he went to the rival Chiefs. 

My Super Bowl pick is coming later this week.  I’m honestly not sure who is going to win yet, and I need to think about it a little bit more.

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Shanahan Follow Up

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 5, 2009

I have now had a week to digest the idea that Mike Shanahan is no longer the Broncos head coach.  I have to admit I am still torn on whether or not this is the right move for the Broncos in the long run.  In many ways, it seems hard to justify dismissing a coach who is in the top 15 all-time in wins and who has won two Super Bowls.  On the other hand, Shanahan has not come close in the past decade to duplicating his early success with the Broncos.  I think ultimately the change of scenery should end up benefiting both the team and Shanahan.  It is a guarantee that Shanahan will coach again, if not this coming season than definitely in 2010, and it is inevitable that new surroundings will motivate Shanahan to prove he can still coach at a high level.  It also stands to reason that new blood in the Broncos coaching staff should provide an energy boost heading into next season as well.

So far I am actually mostly pleased with the Broncos’ list of candidates that they have come up with.  I am somewhat disappointed that Bill Cowher wants to stay with CBS, but realistically he wasn’t going to coach that far away from his family in North Carolina anyway.  I like the idea of a defensive coach, mainly because that side of the ball has continued to slip drastically for three years.  I think Steve Spagnuolo is my clear cut first choice right now.  He would certainly bring an aggressive defensive philosophy with a proven track record for success, having brilliantly come up with a scheme to slow down the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl.  He has the type of personality and philosophy that would represent the kind of change Broncos owner Pat Bowlen seems to be hoping for.  Not surprisingly, Spagnuolo is being targeted by seemingly every team with a head coaching opening, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he elected to stay closer to the east coast. 

One reason why I think a defensive coach makes a lot more sense for the Broncos is that Jay Cutler has openly expressed a desire to keep the offensive side of the Broncos current coaching staff, including play caller Jeremy Bates.  An offensive coach would naturally want to take over that side of the ball, and I think the transition would be smoother if Bates was allowed to be retained.  That being said, Cutler does not run the team, and it certainly seems as though he could sometimes use an attitude adjustment when things aren’t going his way.  I think if Spagnuolo ends up staying closer to New York, I am very intrigued by the idea of today’s interviewee, Raheem Morris, recently promoted to Buccaneers defensive coordinator.  Other options I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to include Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who has reportedly said he expects to be a head coach somewhere in 2009, or Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.  All of the defensive  names mentioned have strong personailities and I think that is what the Broncos could use right now.  The Broncos wouldn’t be allowed to interview Ryan until Baltimore’s season is over, and that could end up being after the Super Bowl, so something tells me the Broncos will have a decision by then.  If they don’t, I would love to see Ryan on the radar screen.

As for Cutler and the offense, that area could use some tweaking too.  The Broncos finished second in the league in yards but more in the middle of the pack in points.  The Broncos’ red zone failure has been a big problem in recent years, so perhaps an offensive mind could be the answer to help those offensive shortcomings.   It has been long rumored that Bowlen would like have John Elway involved in the organization in some capacity, either in the front office or on the coaching staff.  While I certainly wouldn’t advocate Elway for the head coaching position (the track record throughout sports of superstars as coaches is not good),  I do think his presence in some capacity as a mentor/tutor for Cutler could be huge plus.  While Cutler had a great year statistically, he frankly did not make the leaps in terms of leadership and clutch play that was expected from him in his third season.  Cutler definitely has the tools be a great quarterback, and who better than Elway to help show him the way?

All told, I still think a defensive minded head coach would be better for the team as a whole.  The offense if nothing else will have the stable of running backs healthy again next season, and that will help a lot.  Plus, everyone will have another year of experience.  If a defensive coach is hired and the current offensive staff is retained, it could actually help preserve some continuity on the offensive side of the ball while working to fix the defensive shortcomings.  I really hope it’s Spagnuolo, but I’m not optimistic about that if the Broncos end up in a bidding war with the Jets for his services.  Regardless, I hope the new coach will bring energy and will work to turn the team around.

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Broncos Fire Shanahan

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 31, 2008

I was going to write a quick post today about my first college bowl game experience in person, having attended the Alamo Bowl last night in San Antonio, won by Missouri (my alma matter) over Northwestern (my sister’s alma matter) in overtime.  I was also going to offer my picks for wild card weekend before heading out of town again for New Years (quickie picks still offered below).  Those thoughts have been very quickly derailed by the news that the Broncos have fired Mike Shanahan after 14 years.  This is a move that I have very mixed feelings about, and probably won’t have a true concrete opinion about it for several more days while I wait for the shock and numbness to settle in, but here are my quick hit thoughts:

– The Broncos would not have won the two Super Bowls they have if not for Shanahan.  He’s the one that brought in Terrell Davis, he’s the one that gave John Elway the tools around him (Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey), he’s the one that brought in the defensive personnel at the time to make that work.  His game day play calling in

those seasons was extraordinary.  The Broncos and their fans know that the team would probably still have zero championships if not for Shanahan’s time here, so let’s not forget that before we start congratulating Bowlen on a good move.

– That being said, the Broncos have won just one playoff game in 10 years since Elway’s retirement.  They have been embarrassed every time they’ve made the playoffs since Elway has departed, getting clobbered in playoff games in Baltimore and Indianapolis, and losing a rough AFC title game at home to Pittsburgh in convincing fashion.  All told, the Broncos have actually missed the playoffs in six of the ten years post-Elway, including the past three.  This is simply not acceptable.  I appreciate the two championships, believe me.  I realize we may never get another one.  I know it is hard to make the playoffs and win that time of year in the NFL, but too many times the Broncos have collapsed late in the year after a hot start.  The Broncos have not been one of the league’s elite for the better part of ten years.  

– On the other hand, the Broncos have only experienced two sub-.500 seasons under Shanahan: 1999 (the first year post-Elway) and 2007.  Shanahan was 138-86 in his 14 years with the Broncos, which is a much higher percentage than a majority of coaches in the league.  I guarantee every team with a coaching vacancy has already called Shanahan’s agent to inquire about his availability.  In fact, your team’s brass may be wondering right now if they need to fire their coach so they can make a run at Shanahan.  I’m also wondering if a college program may target Shanahan, although there aren’t many openings left there.  Don’t think I’m not trembling at the thought of Shanahan on the Browns sideline next season when Cleveland comes to Mile High.

– Frankly Shanahan has run out of people to blame.  He has run off countless defensive coordinators during his tenure, and has had three coordinators since 2005 alone (Larry Coyer, Jim Bates and Bob Slowik).  He also ran off the head of personnel, Ted Sunquist, before this season.  Ultimately, the team’s recent failure has to fall on Shanahan, especially considering the team’s tackling against San Diego was the worst I have seen in my 20 years plus of watching Broncos football since I was a kid.  

– I hope Pat Bowlen knows what he’s doing.  I struggle to name many coaches in the football world right now that would be an improvement over Shanahan.  Bill Cowher would be one of the few, but does he even want to return to coaching?  Is he the name that Bowlen has in mind?  Cowher has turned down the Browns job and is apparently interviewing with the Jets, but Denver would be far away from his family in North Carolina. Is Bowlen going to try to pry Bill Parcells away from Miami?  I would love it, but I can only see Parcells in a GM capacity right now, not as a coach.  Would either one of them even be interested in the Broncos?  I honestly can’t come up with another name that I would like.  Eric Mangini? Romeo Crennel?  Mike Martz?  No, no and hell no.  One name I would go for is Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, but I doubt the Eagles would be dumb enough to let him get away.  Same with Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator of the Giants.  Perhaps there is a young unknown out there that would be a good fit, I don’t know, but whoever they hire will stepping into enormous shoes, so they’d better be up to filling them.  

– Honestly, I’m still not sure how I really feel about this.  I really think I will need more time to see how I really feel about the Broncos dumping their long time coach.  A lot of it may ultimately have to do with who the replacement ends up being.  It comes as a complete shock, mainly because Shanahan has been the coach of the Broncos since I was in high school.  I thought up until two weeks ago that this was one of his best coaching jobs this year keeping the team together in light of too many injuries to count.  Ultimately though, the Broncos collapse from the AFC West lead to the 12th overall pick in the draft is too drastic to not hold someone accountable for it.  The Broncos were an 8-8 team this year, which is not going to cut it.  They are 24-24 over the past three seasons, and that won’t cut it.  It has been ten years since the Broncos won the Super Bowl, and while they have two more titles than many other franchises, ten years is a long time to not experience playoff success.  I just hope this doesn’t become a case of the Broncos not realizing what they had in the coaching department until it’s too late.  If Shanahan turns another franchise around and the Broncos continue to flounder, I will be sick.  If the Broncos do turn it around under someone else, than it will be lauded as a great move, even if Shanahan finds success elsewhere.  Only time will tell.

Wild Card playoff picks:

– Falcons over Cardinals: Neither team expected to be here.  I like Michael Turner and the Falcons running game to outscore the Cards’ high powered passing game.  

– Colts over Chargers: Two of the league’s hottest teams collide. Peyton Manning outduels Philip Rivers.

– Ravens over Dolphins: Baltimore won handily during the season.  Chad Pennington will play better this time, but I like the odds of Baltimore’s defense enjoying success in the playoffs.

– Vikings over Eagles: Minnesota has not won a playoff game in a long time.  The Metrodome will be rocking, and Adrian Peterson will have a big day.

Last Week: 13-3 (.812) Regular Season Final Record: 160-96-1 (.622)

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I’m Glad I was Wrong

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 7, 2008

I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.  I honestly didn’t believe the Broncos had much of a chance to win in Cleveland on a short week going into the game, let alone when they trailed 23-10 in the second half, missing ALL of their tailbacks due to injury, struggling to get pressure on Brady Quinn, and reverting to giving up big plays in the running game.  What resulted is one of most exciting games I have ever seen, maybe exciting enough to go in the top five, but for sure in the top ten.  I’m not sure what I’m most excited about.  I could give accolades to Jay Cutler for his 447 yard, three touchdown effort that ranks third in Broncos history.  (Trivia question: can you name the two quarterbacks who posted the highest single game yardage efforts?  Hint: neither one is John Elway.  The answer is at the end).  I could praise Eddie Royal for his 164 yard effort, including a 93 yard TD that completely changed the momentum, that resulted in a Broncos rookie record for reception yards in a game.  I could talk about Brandon Marshall, who stepped big with the clinching touchdown, or Tony Scheffler, who had 92 yards receiving despite playing with a groin so sore he didn’t think he was going to play when conducting his own pregame interview on the Broncos radio network.  There’s also Ryan Torain, who ran hard before injuring his knee in the second quarter, and even Selvin Young, who tried so hard to tough it out when he was literally the last running back standing, even though he himself was nursing a groin injury such that Mike Shanahan was hoping not to have to use him.  Even the much maligned defense stepped up when it mattered, forcing a key fourth quarter fumble and coming up with the fourth down stop to preserve the win at the end.  

Truth is, everyone mentioned played a critical role in this win for the Broncos.  I realize that sounds cliche, but it’s the only way they could have come back and won a game where everything seemed lost.  How many teams do you know that would be even remotely effective offensively when they’re down to their fifth running back?  On that note, let’s not forget about Peyton Hillis, who kept the game alive with a critical conversion on fourth and 1 with the Broncos trailing 30-27 and time rapidly ticking away.  This is type of clutch play the Broncos have been missing the past few weeks.  It is this type of unsung play, which won’t get a lot of notice in the box score, that separates winners from losers.  A key play for sure, one that the Broncos couldn’t have won without, and one that wouldn’t have had a chance to happen at all if not for a real gutsy play much earlier in the game.  

It is amazing in a way that the Broncos were able to keep it together.  They had lost four of their past five, they continued to lose guys to injury, they had no running backs left, they were down by 13 on the road, and they had no momentum against a Browns team that was starting to look like it was getting new life on a lost season.  Even looking at the body language of the players on the sideline, it didn’t look like the Broncos were going to come back.  Somehow, the defense was able to force a punt, a victory in itself for a unit that was missing several of its top players and had struggled to stop the Browns most of the night.  That’s when Jay Cutler proved that he has the gusto to be a great quarterback in the NFL.  The Broncos faced the prospect of starting their drive at their own 7 yard line (Does this evoke memories of The Drive anyone?).  Most teams are scared to take a shot down the field when they’re backed up that deep, but Cutler took the chance.  Despite a dropback that practically took him to his own goal line, he launched a perfect strike down the sideline to Royal, who caught it perfect stride, left a gambling defensive back grasping for air, and was off to the races.  This play changed the momentum so dramatically that the body language on each respective sideline changed.  The Browns players were the ones that had looks of shock of despair, and the Broncos players were rejuvenated, and it showed in their play the rest of the night.  Plays like the 93 yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Royal can define a season, and in this case it may have quite literally saved the Broncos season in more ways than one.

It should be noted that not only did Cutler show a lot of guts to make that throw in that situation and field position, but Mike Shanahan and his staff should be credited for calling that play in that situation.  Maybe they would have run the ball if Torain or Young was healthy enough to do so, and we’ll probably never know for sure, but in any case, Shanahan deserves credit for rolling the dice and dialing deep when most coaches would go the safe route.  There are a lot of Broncos fans calling for Shanahan’s head, mainly because the Broncos have won just one playoff game since John Elway’s retirement.  I have long argued that the Broncos would never have won a Super Bowl in the first place if not for Shanahan, and it is easy to forget that he has won 150 career games, no small achievement.  If Shanahan were to leave the Broncos, odds are your team would be among the first in line to hire him.  It is easy to forget that Shanahan is not the one on the field turning it over or getting beat deep.  I challenge you to tell me another coach that could have kept his team together in a situation like the Broncos had in Cleveland, and of course there are others, but tell me someone out there and available who would be better than Shanahan.  The answer is no one.  

I believe the Broncos saw a very impressive glimpse into their future tonight.  When clicking, the offense is as good as any in the NFL right now, and that’s with most of the key players having three years or less experience in the league.  As they continue to play together and mature together, things will only get better.  Jay Cutler is indeed the real deal, having shown ability to lead his team from behind.  A win like this not only gives a team hope, but it gives them confidence even when things aren’t going well.  Frankly, things didn’t go well tonight for Denver for the most part for three quarters, but when push came to shove, they managed to pull a win out of nowhere.  Now, they have a game and a half lead over San Diego in the AFC West, and suddenly the next game at Atlanta doesn’t appear to be the guaranteed loss it seemed to be 24 hours ago.  (Side note: the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter told us tonight that Champ Bailey will play against Atlanta.  If that’s true, it will be another huge boost for the Broncos).  Suddenly, the Broncos actually winning the AFC West with an actual winning record doesn’t seem so impossible. Sure, the defense could still use some work, but they stepped up when it counted, and all things considered continue to show improvement.  Let’s not forget also the offensive line has only allowed five sacks this year, which is truly amazing especially with a rookie left tackle (Ryan Clady) who has been nothing less than terrific and doesn’t get a lot of press for it.  It’s really amazing how one game can really change your picture on things.  There is still obviously a lot of season left, but one thing is for sure: the Broncos are not left for dead yet, and will be a major player in the AFC race.

Trivia answer: Jake Plummer (499 yards vs. Atlanta in 2004), and Gus Frerrote (462 yards vs. San Diego in 2000).

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