Jack Del Rio, far better than many coaches, understands the value and responsibilities of a strength and conditioning coach. Most fans couldn’t name three of them around the league, but it’s a position that carries with it enormous responsibility and a potential benefit that is rare - the ability to increase the effectiveness of the players’ efforts and to simultaneously reduce the number of their injuries.
Del Rio had been a linebacker and a very good one. He’d become a consensus All-American in his senior year with the USC Trojans at the position. He was immediately drafted by the New Orleans Saints, made the All-Rookie Defensive Team, and was named the team’s most valuable rookie. Often on the move from one team to another as a player, Del Rio was voted to the Pro Bowl after the 1994 season, and he credited that in great part to the ferocious attitude that he’d always brought to his own conditioning. It was an attribute that others noticed.
Del Rio retired after the 1996 season, but a lunch with Tony Dungy resulted in an offer from New Orleans head coach Mike Ditka for Del Rio to bring his knowledge to the Saints as their strength and conditioning coach. It was an entry level position for Del Rio, who was promoted to linebackers coach the following year, but his work in that role showed the kind of commitment that Del Rio expects from the players under him. It also explains why, when Del Rio went to Arizona to see the trainer that his players were raving about despite the vast changes and improvements that were and are sweeping through that field, JDR understood enough of what Luke Richesson was doing to make sure that the Jaguars made him an offer that brought him first to Florida. After seeing the results he got over three seasons, JDR has now brought him to Denver.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! The last time we were graced by Woody's mailbag, he told us that too many people were coaching up Tim Tebow, and the solution was to add Sean Salisbury to the mix. We also learned that Mr. Paige had coined the brilliant acronym EFX™. What might he have for us today? How about we start with some caponomics? Or not...
I don't know cap space from my cap size. Honestly, each season I look at the Broncos' salaries, plus bonuses paid to free agents and rookies, and do my own audit to see if the Broncos are keeping up with other teams and aren't short-changing the fans. I know that's not scientific and not completely accurate, but I have a life, and also I am covering about 15 teams and/or sports in the state.
Silly reader. Woody has not time for your trifling questions. HE'S GOT A LIFE, not to mention the three jobs, and he is covering JV basketball at the other corner of the state, the presidential election, and the events in Syria. Why don't you go ask Legwold?
According to Jeff Legwold of The Post, who is accurate about such things, the Broncos have $91 million committed in salaries for next season.
Yes, Captain Accuracy is our preferred fact finder, never mind claims last offseason that Denver was entering the draft with five picks (they had seven). I'm actually sending my taxes to Legwold, and will be expecting a MEGA REFUND.
Wyoming senior linebacker Brian Hendricks understands the odds. He knows that he’s at best likely to be a late pick or an undrafted free agent, but he also knows that NFL teams place additional value on athletes who have the basic skillset that can be developed into a particular position or function in football. He’s always been athletic, and he’s channeled that athleticism into football for the last four years. It’s where he wants to have a career. But like a lot of young players, he doesn’t have top and elite skills - yet. But Hendricks believes that with time, constant effort and training, he can contribute to a team. The question is going to be whether one of the 32 NFL teams believes that enough to take him on and give him a shot. If one does, it will be because that organization believes that he can be developed enough to be a regular contributor to the team.
Teams are looking for a lot of different things from the players that they take, but there are certain things that the teams tend to have in common. Every team wants a player who has a history of making key plays at important times. Hendricks, for example, made a touchdown-saving stop at the two-yard line (one of his nine tackles that day) against Colorado State in Fort Collins for the final regular season game of his college career. The tackle led to a chance for the Cowboys to make an interception in the endzone two plays later, saving a touchdown and helping the Cowboys to a 22-19 victory. The performance earned Brian his second Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week award. Those kinds of plays never hurt. Players who come up big with something on the line are essential to the team that wants to win the close ones - as Denver often did during the middle of 2011.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Naturally, there's plenty of reaction to Brady Quinn's quotes from Mike Silver's GQ article, which Quinn foolishly tried yesterday to portray as a misrepresentation of his words. Silver, being the pro's pro that he is, told Mike Florio he's got a recording of the entire interview, and that Brady has a copy too.
Doug Farrar, Barry Petchesky, and Christmas Ape offer their takes; Woody Paige doesn't really see anything over the line in Brady words, and he says Quinn is a class act; Demaryius Thomas doesn't believe in luck.
Meanwhile, Jeff Legwold thinks Sage Rosenfels and Byron Leftwich are legitimate veteran options to sign and compete with Tebow. Yikes.
The 2011 Denver Broncos were really bad at protecting the Quarterback, whether it was Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow. Part of that was on the QBs themselves – Orton lacks escapability, and Tebow was extremely conservative about throwing against tight coverage, and often held the ball too long. But most of the issue was the play of the individual protection players, and some questionable scheming.
LT Ryan Clady had a down year, which still put him in the top 10 or so of players at his position. His foot quickness has never gotten back to what he showed in his first two seasons, and sometimes he gets beat with quickness. LG Zane Beadles and C J.D. Walton don’t anchor well enough, and both need to get significantly stronger as their careers progress. RG Chris Kuper was the best of the bunch, but he’s coming off of a broken leg, which is a significant injury. Finally, RT Orlando Franklin buried guys in the run game, but his foot quickness needs a lot of improvement if he’s going to play outside.
The good news is that this is a group of five players who are all still in their 20s and showed a high degree of durability. I’ve said this before, but for an offensive lineman, durability is a skill. Teams tend to carry only eight of them, so if a player gets hurt a lot, he’s a liability. Linemen get hit a lot, but they tend to be lower-impact close area hits, where the guy they’re colliding with doesn’t have much of a running start. You have to be able to take 1,000 or so of those hits and play every snap while managing some aches and pains and avoiding ankle sprains and the like.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Klis had a sitdown at Dove Valley yesterday with John Fox, who had the following to say:
Nothing particularly new or surprising, but we'll take what we can get for the middle of February.
(Note: This is the fourth part in
an Epic a mini ten-part series on the Worst Moves of 2011; we'll also be doing a ten-part mini on the Ten Best Moves of 2011. If you want to see #10: Trading Jabar Gaffney, click here; #9: The Duke Takes on Twitter, click here; #8: Fox "screws" Tebow, click here.)
It's hard to fault the Broncos for the way they handled their tight ends in 2011. In theory, the plan they had was sound enough. First, they avoided paying a $1 million roster bonus by letting hometown favorite Daniel Graham go before the season began. Then they signed serviceable veterans Daniel Fells and Dante Rosario to one-year deals. This would allow the Broncos a year to bring along and develop the raw but deadly pass-catching talents of Julius Thomas and Virgil Green.
It's this context in which the Broncos should be judged. Obviously, the Broncos made the playoffs. So the natural instinct is to say "scoreboard" and be done with it. When you're conducting a year-end review, however, you've got to apply a different standard--a standard that draws heavily from the reality of what actually happened. Call it hindsight bias (which it is); call it unfair (certainly); call it impatient (yeah, I want my sugar now). Just recognize that the Broncos didn't get what they wanted from the tight end position last year.
That makes it our seventh-worst move of 2011.
Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! As we learn more about the effects of head injuries on football players during and after their playing careers, the future of the sport itself continues to come into question.
First there was Malcolm Gladwell's article in the New Yorker which likened football to dogfighting, Jeanne Marie Laskas's GQ piece focusing on the NFL's blackballing of CTE researchers, and her subsequent story on former Vikings star Fred McNeill. More recently we heard from Tony Dorsett about the ghastly treatment of his head injuries by the Cowboys medical staff, and a pair of economists writing for Grantland laid out their vision of how football will someday lose its standing as America's favorite sport.
Fans and even ex-players have begun to question whether they'd allow their own children to play the sport they spend so many hours watching on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays, not to mention reading and writing about it on blogs like this one. Countless NFL retirees have filed suit against the league for having turned a blind eye to their concussions and resultant health and cognitive problems.
Now add to the mix a Hall of Famer and three-time SB champion who is one of the faces of the league - FOX's current lead football analyst Troy Aikman, whose own playing career was shortened by the effects of the head injuries he suffered.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his Sunday column, Dan Pompei examines the trend around the league of teams blocking assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions elsewhere. Not that long ago, coaches were allowed to speak with other teams as long as they were being considered for promotions.
But prior to the 2000 season, the NFL did away with a rule that had allowed teams to protect only one defensive coach and one offensive assistant from departing. As Pompei tells it, thinking was that too many coaches were changing jobs, and that teams would not stand in the way of their assistants landing big promotions and the chance to double or quadruple their salaries.
Unfortunately it hasn't worked out that way, as new Bucs coach Greg Schiano was denied the chance to interview at least six assistants, including former Denver secondary coach Ed Donatell, who was blocked from pursuing multiple gigs.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! We're just days away from the 2012
Cattle Call Combine, which means we're in for a deluge of meaningless quotes from EFX™ courtesy of NFLN. Well, meaningless except for the unintentional comedy they will surely provide. Chris Farley Brian Xanders is already obliging us:
We plan to be aggressive and smart at the same time and try to get some good signings in here, some valued signings that help contribute to wins. We also have to address signing our own unrestricted free agents, and we also have the free agency market. So we will have a plan for that. We have a long term vision, too.
Of course, as long as he keeps drafting guys like Von Miller and uncovering gems like Chris Harris, we'll happily take the X-Man's malapropisms.
* EFX is the intellectual property of Woody Paige, who also happens to have been a co-inventor of the internet along with Al Gore