|12-22-2006, 09:44 AM||#1|
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Article: Year End Evaluation: The Offensive Staff
Orange Mane's Year End Evaluation: The Offensive Staff
Dec 21, 2006, 05:11
As the 2006 regular season comes to a close, the Broncos find themselves battling for a wild card spot with two games to play. Over the course of the year, much ink has been spilled over how the Broncos got to this point, although the discussion has mainly focused on criticism intertwined with praise of the players themselves and head coach Mike Shanahan.
One group that is somewhat ignored in these discussions are the coordinators and to a greater extent the position coaches, whose weeklong work, collectively, is perhaps the key factor in determining who wins and loses on Sunday. As we come to the end of the regular season (and possibly the season as a whole), it is time to assess the work of the coordinators and position coaches that comprise the Broncos staff. This week, I focus on the offensive staff.
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/ PASSING GAME COORDINATOR MIKE HEIMERDINGER
The return of the ďDingerĒ to the Mile High City has unfortunately not been all peaches and cream. His transition to Gary Kubiakís former role (albeit with a different title) has certainly not been as seamless as Bronco fans had hoped. As the assistant most responsible for the development of the Bronco air attack, Heimerdinger definitely deserves some scorn for a passing game that has been anywhere from mediocre to dormant this season. On the year, Denver ranks 25th in passing yards per game, 28th in completion percentage, 22nd in yards per attempt and 24th in quarterback rating, a collection of numbers that is nowhere near up to snuff.
Unlike his predecessor, Heimerdinger rarely could find the right mix of passing plays to make 2006 another successful season for the sometimes mistake prone Jake Plummer. Heimerdinger also deserves poor marks for the planning of Jay Cutlerís development. While he deserves a share of credit for Cutlerís rapid improvement on a game to game basis thus far, Heimerdinger made a critical error in denying the rocket armed youngster more than a mere smidgen of reps in practice before he unseated the veteran incumbent, a fact that the prodigy from Vanderbilt bemoaned several times in the month leading up to his promotion. With a more balanced allocation of practice repetitions with the offense, perhaps Cutler would have been more comfortable in his shaky debut against Seattle, a loss that might end up haunting the Broncos come seasonís end.
QUARTERBACKS COACH PAT MCPHERSON
The son of former 49ers assistant and Patriots head coach Dick McPherson also had a mixed record in í06. While Heimerdinger deserves most of the blame for Plummerís failures from a play selection and gameplanning point of view, the quarterbacks coach, who is the teacher on a day to day basis, also must bear some criticism for Plummerís collapse. McPherson also failed to adequately develop Bradlee Van Pelt into the type of sufficient backup quarterback who could perform competently in Denverís offense, after trying for the final time throughout the summer OTAs and fall camp. Denverís quarterbacks coach does, however, deserve a good deal of credit for helping to quickly assimilate Jay Cutler into the scheme.
RUNNING BACKS COACH BOBBY TURNER
Turner, who is perhaps Denverís finest position coach, acquitted himself very well in 2006 with another year of grinding out very solid production from a somewhat ordinary stable of backs. With the possible exception of fullback Kyle Johnson, every returning Bronco back displayed marked improvement from their respective 2005 campaigns.
Turnerís work with 3rd year back Tatum Bell is most notable, as the former Oklahoma State Cowboy has improved his vision, consistency and between the tackles game under Coach Turnerís guidance. Fullback Cecil Sapp also is developing into a nice blocking fullback who can start in the NFL and be a jackhammer if needed in the run game.
Turnerís eye for backs continued with the signing of UDFA Mike Bell, who showed good vision and power as a rookie. Former Tennessee Titan Damien Nash also looked good in limited duty almost immediately after being taught the key aspects of the scheme by Coach Turner. While none of the backs exploded into a truly elite runner, given what he had to work with, Bobby Turner definitely gets full marks.
WIDE RECIEVERS COACH STEVE WATSON
Former Denver Bronco Steve Watson had another subpar season as the teamís wide receivers coach. Watsonís chief project going into 2006 was to help talented 3rd year man Darius Watts find a much needed consistency catching the football. Watson failed miserably, as Watts was released before camp. Watson also failed to turn what seems to be a now unending parade of journeymen into a viable No. 3, trying his hand at David Terrell, Todd Devoe, Charlie Adams and David Kircus, although the latter has been productive only in small spurts this year. This long standing problem and Watsonís inability to develop players was exacerbated this year as Father Time finally seemed to be catching up to veteran Rod Smith.
Rookie Brandon Marshall has definitely been a nice surprise, especially in the latter half of the season, and Watson deserves some credit for getting the youngster ready to play, but from the comments of various observers and none other than Champ Bailey, it would appear that Marshall is effective primarily because he was an impressive product from the word go. Watson also deserves some credit for helping to make Javon Walker comfortable in Denverís scheme, although any kudos in that department is definitely limited, as Walker arrived in Denver as the type of receiver (when healthy) who can succeed in just about any offense.
TIGHT ENDS COACH TIM BREWSTER
The fiery former San Diego assistant did a very solid job in his second year with the club. Losing Dwayne Carswell and Jeb Putzier this offseason, Brewster was left with a group of right ends that many believed to be in the bottom 5-10 in the league. While he started slow, Brewster has helped to turn rookie Tony Scheffler into a weapon that is beginning to consistently notch 50-60 yards per game, while also improving his play at the line of scrimmage. Brewster also helped to turn Chad Mustard, who had bounced around on practice squads and in the National Indoor Football League, into a very good blocking tight end, who has been especially solid in goalline situations. Veteran Stephen Alexander, who is definitely on the downside, still had a very solid season under Brewsterís guidance. The development of the oft-injured Nate Jackson still remains a work in progress, however.
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH/ OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR (IN TITLE) RICK DENNISON
Rick Dennison, promoted to offensive coordinator (in title) this past offseason, grades well, but short of outstanding for 2006. His work with second year former free agent Erik Pears has been exemplary. The young former Colorado State Ram has been solid, on balance, at the difficult left tackle position and Dennison deserves a great deal of credit for averting the disaster that could have ensued after the loss of Matt Lepsis in Cleveland. Cooper Carlisle remains solid, but not special, in his second year as the starter.
Dennisonís work with the young Chris Kuper is also to be lauded, as he helped the powerful but raw rookie make the leap from Division II football to being seriously considered for a starting assignment at midseason. From various reports, 2nd year backup Chris Myers also seems to be progressing nicely. Dennison also deserves props for helping to get Adam Meadows back into the swing of things after a lengthy absence from the game.
Dennisonís glaring flaw in 2006 was his failure to revive the play of George Foster after it had slipped in 2005. The huge athlete from Georgia definitely has the ability to start and dominate in the NFL and the failure of Dennison and the Broncos on this front is significant. Veteran Ben Hamilton, while still solid, at times seemed to be pushed around more in 2006 than before, as well.
|12-22-2006, 12:16 PM||#3|
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Join Date: May 2001
You bring up some food for thought, but an underlining premise in your article is flawed. The positive side, coaches do have an impact on the game and it can even reflect in a teams performance. However, I pick up on something here that it is somehow a coaches fault when a player doesn't live up to his potential. Football is no different than the people around you on your job. You can give some individuals all the tools in the world but in the end they just don't measure up to an acceptable level of performance. Is it the bosses fault, you know it isn't unless the lack of performance goes unchallenged. This does happen on the job due to a lack of courage of supervision. Let me tell you about Mike Shanahan (I really don't need to if you listen to the players), the players know if their performance is up to par and feedback doesn't lag in coming.
I can't comment on Dinger yet although I am trying to see his imprint on this team. You absolutely cannot make a negative comment about McPherson or Watson. What insider are you getting this from. From a casual personal observation? Players have to step up. If you think McPherson had control of Van Pelts performance you are crazy. He couldn't make a Joe Kapp type thrower into a Tom Brady. Van Pelt to a certain degree is what he is. The game never slowed down for him. You could see that in his decision making under pressure. As for Jake Plummer, he was a 10 YEAR VET. You are crazy to blame anyone but Jake for throwing into double coverage. You might even question the playcalling but the last time I looked McPherson was not on the sideline holding the playlist.
The inability of Watts to perform in no way is Steve Watsons FAULT and Darius Watts would tell you that himself. If it was he would be on somebody else roster right now like a diamond found in the rough. This type of thinking is a cancer in our society today -- that someones lack of performance is somehow not their fault.
I am not a great Dennison fan as an OL coach. George Foster is George Fosters problem. Watch the game, see the effort. The praise of Dennison for Kuper and Myers is totally unfounded. They are not playing, you have no feedback or evidence. As for Pears, you see potential but he is not YET performing at a level that I would want for a starting OL tackle. His play shows signs of potential, but like every young OLineman, it is still INCONSISTENT
Finally, do I want to leave the impression that Coaches have no accountability for a teams performance. Absolutely Not. Do I think Shanahan treats his underperforming coaches any different than his underperforming players, Not in a heartbeat. Take it to the bank, Shanahan will get rid of them and quickly. You can't look at an individuals performance and confidently make a general statement that an assistant coach is the reason the player isn't getting it done. If the lack of performance is seen in all the OL, all the TE's, all the special teams (hmmm), all the RB's then you might be onto something. Players play.
Last edited by dsmoot; 12-22-2006 at 12:24 PM..