|06-05-2009, 03:31 PM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2001
Kush & Irsay
USA Today : "As Broncos move forward"
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After the Denver Broncos failed to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season and then saw longtime coach Mike Shanahan fired, they knew they were in for some changes.
New coach, new system, new players — especially on defense, where the Broncos were embarrassingly bad last season.
Yet they couldn't have anticipated the change sure to get the most scrutiny: new quarterback.
Shanahan's firing — after 14 seasons that included two Super Bowl victories — was merely the prelude to the marquee melodrama of the NFL offseason: a weeks-long standoff between new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, ignited when Cutler discovered McDaniels had discussed a trade for then-New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel.
The ensuing soap opera, fueled by miscommunication and, at times, a total lack of communication, ended in April, when the Broncos sent Cutler and a fifth-round draft pick to the Chicago Bears for quarterback Kyle Orton, two first-round choices and a third-rounder.
"Making the ultimate decision to move on, that was a decision we felt was in the best interest of our football team at the time," says McDaniels, 33, who became the NFL's youngest head coach when the Broncos hired him from New England. "We're very comfortable with where we're at now."
The Broncos are in a state of flux at key positions on both sides of the ball, with Orton competing for the starting job with free agent signee Chris Simms and a passel of mostly unproven players jostling for playing time on a revamped defense.
"It's just like every year in this league; you've got to compete with somebody," says Orton, who battled with Rex Grossman in Chicago. "You don't shy away from competition. It makes everybody better, and the best players are going to play."
Orton, 26, doesn't have Hall of Fame stats, but he is 21-12 as a starter. Simms, 28, has 15 starts on his résumé, with little game experience since having emergency surgery to remove his spleen in 2006.
Whichever quarterback emerges as the starter, he will have to weather comparisons to Cutler — whose arm the Broncos rode to victory more than once last season — as well as deal with the inevitable echoes of John Elway, who led Denver to its Super Bowl wins under Shanahan.
"I try to win football games, put the team first and do whatever it takes to win," Orton says. "I think anybody can respect that. I'm not going to go out there and try to make somebody like me. I'm going to play my game."
Making it easier will be the supporting cast on offense, including top-flight receivers and a line returning five starters from the NFL's No. 2 offense (395.8 yards a game), a unit further bolstered in the draft.
The choice of tailback Knowshon Moreno in the first round (and the Broncos' draft overall) ran counter to expectations, which were rooted in the belief that McDaniels would look primarily to bolster the defensive front. Instead, the Broncos took one defensive lineman.
"We're looking for players that are going to come in here and help make our football team better and not make everybody else just feel comfortable that we drafted a defensive player," McDaniels says.
No one was comfortable with Denver's defensive performance last season. The Broncos ranked 29th in total yards allowed (374.6 a game). They managed 13 takeaways and gave up 52 points at the San Diego Chargers in their season finale, a game they needed to make the playoffs.
One of McDaniels' first moves was to hire former San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan as his defensive coordinator. Nolan is overseeing a shift from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4.
It's unclear who will anchor the new scheme at nose tackle or which players will man the front seven.
"It's the area where you're going to know the least until you get to training camp," McDaniels says. "We have a number of players that are going to be playing in this system either for first time or haven't played in it very long."
Cornerback Champ Bailey, the defensive star the past five seasons, has hope the new defense will turn Denver's fortunes. "On paper it looks great," he says. "It's probably one of the best schematic defenses I've been involved with. If we play smart, we're going to do some great things, because this defense has been successful in a lot of places."
The Broncos spent the most free agent dollars this offseason, acquiring players to team with Bailey in the secondary. They added safety Renaldo Hill, cornerback André Goodman, and, most notably, seven-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins.
Bailey compares Dawkins' intensity and leadership abilities to former Broncos safety John Lynch.
"Without overstepping my bounds, I want to help as many guys as I can and help this organization get to the playoffs and beyond," says Dawkins, who was lured by the prospect of playing under Nolan in "a very aggressive, smart, turnover-oriented defense."
If the Broncos can play that type of defense, it will take pressure off the quarterback. But in a city where Elway laser-focused attention on the position, where in this offseason developments in "McJaygate" overshadowed all else, the man under center for Denver this season will undoubtedly be under fire.
The best way to insulate his quarterback from that, McDaniels knows, is to resolve the uncertainties hanging over the team and to win.
"We're not going to live in the past," he says. "We're going to move forward. And we're going to do everything we can to win every week.
"Believe me, I've been on teams that people didn't have great confidence in, and I know this: There's a way to win with whatever team you have. It's our job to find that way."
|06-05-2009, 03:49 PM||#2|
®WOOOOOO so close you can
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Broncos Video Vault
|06-05-2009, 03:55 PM||#3|
Living the Dream
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Boulder County
|06-05-2009, 10:45 PM||#4|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Aug 2006