View Full Version : It's a Brave New World in Denver [2009 Denver Broncos Preview]

09-08-2009, 02:20 AM
Friends, Q’ers, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury the 2009 Broncos, not to praise them.

Okay, I am being a wee bit too dramatic and overly pessimistic, but upon review of my comments on the Q you will know that I am All-World when it comes to being a pessimist, along with being a bit goofy. So I will try to present to you a preview of the 2010 season. I hope it is to your liking; now if this preview gets long-winded, perplexing, and too hysterical I would not hold it against you if you moved on.
So please keep your hands, arms, and free agent wide outs inside the car at all times.

Well even if you have been living in a cave since December you know that there has been a shakeup in the Mile High City. A shakeup that went beyond Katherine Hepburn on an espresso bender. It appears to be more like putting a soda can in a paint mixer for a couple hours kind of shakeup. A seismic shift that began in December when the Broncos went from 8-5 and one game away from an AFC West Title to suffering a tire-iron beating from the Chargers, which ended the 2008 season in a incredibly disappointing fashion.

Not only did that drubbing end the season, but it ended the Shanahan Era in Denver. An ending that stunned Broncos fans and many across the NFL.

To understand the 2009 Broncos lets us look at consequences of the 2008 Denver Broncos wroth.

The End of Zombie Shanahan

When Mike Shanahan took the Broncos job in 1995 it looked like a match made in Heaven. Shanahan was coming back to an organization where he made his name and to the future Hall Of Fame QB he mentored. After the Broncos’ lack of direction the prior years it appeared to be a perfect match. From 1996 thru 1998 the Broncos went 39-9 with 2 Super Bowl wins.

But after John Elway rode off into the sunset in 1999, the Broncos could not return to those lofty heights. From 1999 until 2008 Mike Shanahan only had two losing seasons, but having only 4 playoff appearances and just 1 playoff win to show for it definitely takes some of the shine off the Shanahan Era. The problem was not Mastermind the Coach, but it was Mastermind the GM. It seemed that Shanahan became too entrenched in his own ways. Stefan Fatsis of A Few Seconds of Panic puts it best,

“Players and executives griped about Shanahan’s omnipotence, about his entrenched habits and routines, but I never once heard anyone question his abilities as an organizer and a coach.”

The 2008 season was a microcosm of what has been wrong with the Broncos since 1999. You saw Shanahan display some of his best game planning and in game coaching last season, all the while doing it at time with a depleted and underachieving roster. A roster built by Mike. Like his game planning, Shanahan never shied from being aggressive with trades and free agent signings, but too many of his “all-in” roster moves left the Broncos empty-handed. Now it is not that Shanahan was clueless when it came to building the roster. He found late-round talents, made good trades, uncovered great undrafted free agents, and also brought in quality free agents. However, nearly every positive addition he made had a negative to cancel it out. For every Rod Smith there was Wesley Duke. For every Al Wilson, D.J. Williams, Jay Cutler, and Ryan Clady there were Marcus Nash, Willie Middlebrooks, Jarvis Moss, and George Foster. Now do not get me started on the some of the free agent signings. Even today I still have to spit when I think about Dale Carter, Daryl Gardner, or any Cleveland Browns defensive lineman.

So last December after the Charger loss, Bowlen finally took off the orange-colored glasses and saw it was time for change. I know it has been reported that Bowlen approached Shanahan about firing then Defensive Coordinator Bob Swolik. Allegedly, Shanahan refused to do so, and that’s what led to his dismissal, but that just does not sound right. I feel that Bowlen asked Shanahan to step down as GM and Shanahan refused. Shanahan had gone through three defensive coordinators in the past three seasons so it seems improbable that he was going to take a bullet for a guy who ran the 29th ranked D, even if he had compromising photos. So the Mastermind’s firing began the winter of the Broncos’ discontent. This has lead to a Spring that sprung a trap, and then a Midsummer’s training camp comedy, a series of events that make me fear the coming of a Free Fall.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

So after 14 years Pat Bowlen was again looking for a new head coach, and a new GM to run the Broncos. The Broncos looked at the likes of Steve Spagnola, Jason Garrett, Rahem Morris, Bob Stoops, and Leslie Frazier. The Broncos may have also sent a spiral-cut ham to Cowher to see if he would bite. So what was the the result of the search? The Broncos tapped the young hotshot offensive coordinator from New England, a man who has a lot of Shanahan-like qualities. In his tenure at New England he went from coaching assistant to position coach to offensive coordinator. He called the plays for the most prolific offense in NFL history. Now many can look at the squad and say, well it is easy to put up points when you have the likes of Brady, Moss, Welker, and the rest. Remember, however, that last season McDaniels effectively handled the potential crippling loss of Tom Brady, all the while using a player who had not had a meaningful snap at QB since high school. So by the end of the 2008 season he had gone from hot potential coaching commodity to a white hot prospect.

When the newest sapling of the Belichick coaching tree was hired I know some of the Broncos fan base was non-plused. Some felt this team, because of the woes on the defensive side of the ball, needed a defensive mind to be at the rudder. Some were not happy to see the team handed over to a first-time coach. Many had fears of Lane Kiffin redux (those fears may unfortunately prove to be true). There was a portion of the fan base that was excited since here is a young offensive-minded coach from a winning organization coming to a team that was on the cusp of the playoffs with a loaded offense. Along with Bowlen filling the head coaching position, he elevated Assistant GM Brian Xander to GM. Xander should be a good fit in trying to establish the “Patriot Way” in Dove Valley since he has also spent time in New England. However, in making this selection, Bowlen removed Jim and Jeff Goodman, who were looking to stay on with the organization. These two were the architects behind the Broncos 2008 draft, which was the kind of draft Shanahan needed more of during his tenure. With the old swept out and the new brought in you would expect that new coaches and front offices get a honeymoon period, right? As has been well documented, the honeymoon went by faster than Usain Bolt in the 100.

Where Did the Love Go?

When the Broncos made a break from Shanahan and brought in a new man who looked like a good fit to work with their All-Pro QB, little did we know what was going to come next. Well even at the start there were some storm clouds. Jay was not happy that Shanahan was fired and that he was not contacted about it until after the fact (Rocky Mountain News). It appeared to me to be smoothed over until the outbreak of McJaygate when the free agent window was opened. I think there have been a couple of articles here on the Q and elsewhere but here is a quick timeline of events (Denver Post). These events led to a trade of a QB with a Million Dollar Arm and $2 haircut for some draft picks and a QB with a Thousand Dollar Arm and bad facial hair.

Here are this bitter Broncos fan’s opinions on this matter:

· In this PR nightmare that may haunt this team for a long time, I still hold “the QB who I have to resist putting an N in his last name” and his agent Bus Cook primarily responsible. I feel they saw an opportunity to try to exploit a situation to get the Broncos to pull up the Brinks truck, or allow the QB to escape from Denver.

· Thanks to the bungling of McDaniels and the Broncos front office, the new administration picked the wrong time to fall down on the job. In retrospect, the Broncos could have and should have done a little more ass kissing, even more than I would have been willing for them to do at the time. They let Cook and the “Man from a Town Without a Santa Claus, Indiana” get out in front of the story. Even when Cook and his minion looked dumb, they still held the higher ground. It moved to the point where the owner felt that they needed to send Number 666 elsewhere. Here the brain trust did recover to some degree with the trade, since the Bears did come and offer them a potentially great deal. However, they may have squandered that, but I will get into that later.

· The infamous trade phone call - The incident that was the flashpoint to start McJaygate. Now I could be wrong, but the Broncos were approached about Mr. Nutler. They were not actively shopping “the man who was wearing Bubby Brister’s number”. They did not trade him, so how could “the number 6 who would never greater than Number 7” be so bent out of shape about this and that this was disrespectful and that the Broncos should never, ever consider even the thought of trading? Just like it is not wrong for a player to get paid, a team should not be faulted for trying to look at everything and anything that could help improve the organization. Yes, franchise QBs are rare, but until you hear every offer and look at every possible scenario a team would be doing itself a disservice by not looking to improve itself short term and long term.

As mad and vengeful as I feel toward Bad Comb Forward QB I know that he has a million dollar arm and still has a ton of upside. He is not a dumb guy, Vanderbilt is not for intellectually challenged, but Jay’s problem is that he has no filter on his mouth. He will tell you what he thinks no matter how his words will be taken. He is honest to a fault, well expect when it came to trying to communicate with the Broncos during the whole mess. Jay loves being a QB and to be a good one you have to have an a-hole gland. A glad that makes one have to bruise some egos for the greater good. Sadly Jay has a hyperactive a-hole gland and does not realize when it is best to use a little more tact. That hyperactive gland also leads in my opinion--and I am not doctor but I saw a documentary about the medical students in Grenada during the Cuban Invasion in the 80s--to very thin skin. The last issue I see with the Mutler is his blind faith in his abilities, to the point of arrogance. He has a cannon for an arm, but too many times he tries to force things that are not there. If the newest Bear can grow up and they can give him some weapons the Bears will be extremely pleased.

Well, the McJaygate drama ended as we all know with a trade. The Chicago Bears, who have been desperately seeking a top flight QB since Sid Luckam, stepped in and played the role of willing trade partner. The Broncos traded the Vandy Villain and their 2009 fifth rounder to Chicago for the 18th and 84th picks in 2009, Chicago’s first-round pick for 2010, and the infamous Neckbeard. It’s a trade that I was okay with since I saw this team had so many holes that these picks would help fill. Since the draft that has changed. So let us look at the comings, goings, and 2009 draft for the Broncos.

Arrivals and Departures

Say Hello

QB – Kyle Orton – (Trade) Old Neckbeard--the effective game manager (21-12 in 33 starts) without spectacular measurables and bad facial hair, but a good locker room guy--now gets thrown into the fire. We will see how much of an offensive guru McDaniels is by how much he can get out of Orton.

QB – Chris Simms – (FA) Simms was brought in before the trade. He’s QB that intrigues many and has potential, but has never lived up to that potential and has been saddled with the label of not being a good big game QB.

RBs – Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan (FA) Last year the Broncos went through 394 running backs, so they went out and gathered up a couple more with the hopes they will fit into McDaniels system, as the Broncos are shifting away from their Zone run game scheme.
WR – Jabbar Gaffney (FA) A New England castoff who was brought in because of his familiarity with the system and was expected to contribute especially with issues with Brandon Marshall, but is currently on the shelf due to injury. WR – Jabbar Gaffney (FA) A New England castoff who was brought in because of his familiarity with the system and was expected to contribute especially with issues with Brandon Marshall, but is currently on the shelf due to injury.

WR – Brandon Lloyd (FA) This signing does not fill me with great excitement. Has the appearance of skills, but those skills can not be confirmed.

OL – Ross Hochstein (Trade) Another ex-Pat acquired to provide line depth.

S – Brain Dawkins (FA) This was a great pickup, if it was 2000. The guy can still play, but has a lot of mileage on the odometer. However, Dawkins could provide some leadership that has been missing.

S – Renaldo Hill (FA) He will not make me forget the likes of Steve Smith, Steve Atwater, Billy Thompson, Tyrone Braxton, or even Steve Foley. However he will help me forget Marquand Manuel and Marlon McCree.

CB – André Goodman (FA) Another Miami castoff who will start the season opposite Champ Bailey.

LB – Andra Davis (FA) I thought we were done with Cleveland castoffs? Andra does fill a need at the LB spot, especially with his experience in the 3-4.

DT – Ronald Fields (FA) Any team that wants to run a 3-4 needs a great nose tackle; Fields is not one of those, but is better than what the Broncos had on hand.

DE – Darrell Reid (FA) Another body to help with the defense change.

DE – Le Kevin Smith (Trade) A 3-4 end who is not a star but was a decent wave player in New England. Currently he is dealing with an injury that is keeping him sidelined. We will see if he can handle the expanded role. Also I loved his film Le Clerks.

DE – Vonnie Holiday (FA) A very late addition, the 38-year-old 3-4 vet was snatched up at roster cut down. The Broncos feel they need an experienced hand to help with the transition, but like the signing of Dawkins this is a great pick-up if it was 2000.

Wave Goodbye

Outside of Bratty McBrat Pants the ones shown the door at free-agent time should not be considered a surprise.

09-08-2009, 02:21 AM
The Draft

The Broncos came into the Draft with a lot of excitement (not a lot of it good) and expectation. Were the Broncos going to move up and take a QB? Would they trade down? Could they find players that could have impact on Defense? Well the Broncos zigged when everyone expected them to zag. The Broncos brain trust made some bold picks and some interesting decisions.

2009 Draft Class

1. Knowshon Moreno – RB UGA (12) (from the Bears)

1. Robert Ayers – OLB/DE Tennessee (18)

2. Alphonso Smith – CB Wake Forrest (37) (from the Seahawks)

2. Darcel McBath – S/CB Texas Tech (48)

2. Richard Quinn – TE North Carolina (64) (from the Steelers)

4. David Burton – S Notre Dame (114)

4. Seth Olsen – G Iowa (132) (from the Steelers)

5. Kenny McKinley – WR South Carolina (141) (from the Browns through the Eagles through the Patriots through the Ravens–has this pick missed anybody?)

6. Tom Brandstater – QB Fresno State (174) (from the Lions)

7. Blake Schluter – C TCU (225)

Okay, here is a quick rundown of my thoughts. I was first taken aback over the pick of Moreno, but after some time and some breathing into a paper bag it makes more sense to me now. Yes, they needed defensive players; there were still a number of good DEs and LBs available. However Moreno is a back who should fit this system and I know the Broncos loaded up in the off-season on RBs, but the team felt he was too good to pass up. Then the team addressed its defensive needs with Robert Ayers, who will be playing on the edge, either at DE or OLB. Ayers is player who scouts felt had the attributes, but they questioned his ability to play up to them. It was Ayers’ play at the end of 2008 that propelled him to the first round. The Broncos took three players in the second round, which they did some wheeling and dealing to achieve. It was from that this point the Draft got a little dodgy for me. The players taken I do not think were worth the price they cost.

The Broncos’ first move was trading with the Seahawks their first-round pick of 2010 to nab the Alphonso Smith from Wake Forest. Smith was a ball hawk with big play ability, but at 5-8 in a division with Vincent Jackson, Derrick Bowe, and other big wideouts roam it just appears that the negatives outweigh the positives. Although the Broncos had the luxury of having two picks (theirs and Chicago’s) for next year’s draft, they gave Seattle their pick, which has a good potential to be a single-digit pick. But that Bears pick will be probably somewhere in the 20s. But again I am not a draft expert with crazy hair so I could be wrong.

Now I have no qualms with the McBarth pick and the secondary needs an infusion of youth, but I am also not wowed by the pick either. Then the Broncos ended Day 1 of the draft by trading up a couple of picks for a blocking TE who only caught 11 passes in his college career. Unless he can drive block a mountain range then I feel this too was a reach. Even with the McDaniels philosophy of using TEs to be more of a blocker in his scheme it still feels like a bad pick. After that, the Broncos took a couple of linemen for depth and a wideout from South Carolina who with the current injury situation may have to contribute very early. Also the Broncos moved up to get Tom Brandstater, a QB with the physical tools and measurables, but a player who did not produce big numbers.

Remember When Summer Camp Was Fun?

I know what you are thinking: Boski, haven’t you forgotten about someone? Well, just when you thought it was safe to go back into the orange water, Hurricane Baby T.O. blew through the Rockies. Prior to camp, star wideout and Roger Goodell’s speed dial #5 Brandon Marshall began to make noise about a new contract. It was confluence of things that led to the situation:

· Brandon did not like seeing Cay Jutler leave

· The Broncos Training Staff giving him a wrong diagnosis on his hip, in 2008, which would lead to off-season surgery

· The end of the CBA. Like others around the NFL Brandon wanted to try to get new deals before the “uncapped year” and the possible new rules that come with that. Brandon felt that his value had gone up since he would be needed even more in the new offense

The Broncos informed Brandon that they were not going to extend him in the immediate future. The organization felt that even if found innocent in court he could face action from Roger Goodell and the Hammers of Hell. The team also needed to see how he would rehab from his hip injury. Those factors made it too much of a risk to offer an extension. Not happy with that answer, Brandon wanted a trade out of Denver. He even spoke to Bowlen about his wish to leave, which Bowlen said they would try to accommodate. When a trade failed to materialize quickly, Brandon set about executing a plan to possibly help his plight. This Marshall Plan however is not going as well as the one to rebuild Europe after World War II. No, it was a plan executed in a Britney Spears media circus manner. He has continued his demands to be traded, stating “his head is not in it” about camp, and he was not up to speed/not studying his playbook. And how can we forget his delightful petulant child routine that lead to his suspension by the team until September 6? Now the Broncos have not helped the matter in that the P.R. staff screwed up after Marshall’s trial, and then having him report with the rookies may have bruised his ego a bit. Marshall would have been better served just sitting out than coming into camp and acting like a knucklehead, since the other 31 teams see this petulant behavior and it does not make them want to slap down some big hay. So Brandon has now painted himself into a corner where he is making it even harder to get out of Denver before the end of his contract.

So what happened at training camp besides the Marshall fiasco? The team saw Moreno hold out, but sign before the first preseason game, where he got dinged up. A QB battle almost broke out after Orton threw three picks against the 49ers. The next week during a sloppy affair at Seattle Simms suffered a high ankle sprain that ended any chance of being the starter Week 1. Simms’ injury was not the only one; the Broncos also saw injuries to Le Kevin Smith and Jabbar Gaffney. Week 3 the NFL world turned away from the Favre circus to watch the Bears visit Mile High. Even though only a preseason game you would have thought it was a playoff game at the beginning. The Broncos had a couple of good moments early on, but “The One Who Jilted the Broncos” methodically chewed them up on a 98-yard drive. To make things worse, Kyle Orton suffered a finger injury. It’s an injury that is being played down but concerns me, especially since Simms is gimpy. So the Broncos may have to go to a rookie for the opener. The final week of the exhibition season the Broncos had a positive performance on both sides of the ball in their blanking of the Cardinals. During camp the Broncos did make two low-level deals with the Patriots, adding a couple more pieces that should help with the transition to the “Patriot Way”. So as September 13th rapidly approaches what can we say about the Broncos?


QBs - Kyle Orton, Chris Simms, Tom Brandstater (R)
The Broncos brought in two players to battle to replace “His Whininess”. Those players were Kyle Orton, who was a part of the megadeal, and Chris Simms who was acquired as a free agent signing. With Orton you have a game manager with an average arm who is 21-11 in his starts. Simms is the more physically talented QB, but just seems star crossed, never really living up to his billing. He also has the dreaded rep of not being a “big game QB”. His comeback from his scary spleen injury has been a bit slow. Coach McDaniels decided early that he was going to go with Orton as the #1. Orton then proceeded to reassure the fans about that decision by throwing three picks in his first preseason start. Even though McDaniels was not looking to make a change, Chris Simms was mounting an effort to win the job, but that was derailed when he suffered a high ankle sprain against Seattle. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he stayed healthy with Orton suffered an injury to his throwing hand that has potential to be serious? Right now it is expected that Orton will be back Opening Day, but do not bet the house on that. Actually the injury situation right now makes things interesting for September 13 because the Broncos could be forced into starting rookie Tom Brandstater. He showed some potential in the second half of Week 3 of the preseason and in the final preseason game against Arizona, but he is a rookie and is still too raw to make an impact. The one blessing all the QBs have is that they only have to fill the shoes of #6 and not have to worry about trying to be the next Elway.

Position Rating: C-

Running Backs - Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, Payton Hills (FB), Knowshon Moreno (R)

The Broncos running game since 1995 has churned out 1,000-yard rushers like an assembly line. Last year the Broncos averaged a running back a yard as injuries decimated the back field. As mentioned before, the organization was bringing in a variety of parts to construct the backfield. At final roster cut the Broncos chose to go with four backs. The Broncos’ change in philosophy also will have a running attack that will not use a fullback and instead make more use of TEs in that role. Moreno’s injury has prevented previewing what kind of back he will be at this level. Jordan’s performance this summer actually put him on the bubble. Buckhalter has been solid and the coaching staff is intrigued by what Hillis has to offer. With the offseason changes and new QB and now a wideout corp that could be shorthanded it will be vital that the Broncos establish a consistent running game.

Position Rating: C
Wideouts & Tight Ends - Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, Jabbar Gaffney, Daniel Graham (TE), Tony Scheffler (TE), Chad Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Kenny McKinley (R) Richard Quinn (TE) (R), Brandon Marshall (but for how long?)


09-08-2009, 02:34 AM
Don't forget to get on that bandwagon that Popps has rights to...