Groping in the dark

I spent part of yesterday morning going through the tweets that have come out of Dove Valley this week, and it left me with a single, concise conclusion: It may well be worse than even the most devoted of the fans thought. After listening to as much of the Ellis presser as my digestion could stand, I was starting to disbelieve what I was hearing.

I’d sent an email to Ted Bartlett regarding his (very good) column yesterday on OneManFootball.com, and I talked a bit about the history that’s led up to this week’s events. Ted had noted that Mike Shanahan started burning through defensive coordinators in 2006, which is undeniable. In my own eyes, the problem began back when Shanahan promptly made sure that Greg Robinson, the defensive coordinator of his two Super Bowl champion teams, had to go following the team's playoff loss in the 2000 season.

At the time, I was stunned. You just don’t fire the guy who ran your defense during a three-season stretch in which the team went 39-9 and won consecutive Super Bowls. In the 1998 playoffs, Robinson's defense held Miami to just a field goal in the divisional round and allowed only a single offensive touchdown each to first the Jets in the AFC title game and then the Falcons in the SB - the former after a blocked punt and the latter coming long after the outcome was decided. Getting rid of Robinson smelled of scapegoating, whether that was in intention or not. This, after it was the offense that could manage only 3 points against the eventual-champion Ravens, not to mention that Robinson was given a starting secondary of Ray Crockett, Terrell Buckley, Eric Brown and Billy Jenkins to work with.

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The Dude’s Mail Revue: The GM search, the great white receiver, and The Curse of Kern lifted

Dude's Mail Revue 400x145

Fat Man blogger TJ “The Dude” Johnson posts The Dude’s Mail Revue on Thursdays, in which he takes your questions and gets your opinion about the state of the Denver Broncos.

You wanna roll your way into the semis? 

Drop TJ a question: tjthedudejohnson@gmail.com.

(NOTE: No marmots were harmed in the writing of this revue)

TJ, I'm glad the Broncos rid themselves of McDaniels.  Guy had a huge Napoleon complex, and further, his hair cut was atrocious.  He deserved to get canned for the hair alone.  Dude could have used a short spiked look with the ends razor cut to add some texture.  He could have combined this with just a little facial hair as well.  I had been thinking of a slight pencil mustache.  But what do I know?   Let me ask you the right question.  It's obvious we need a new GM before we get a coach, so who should the GM be?

--Johnny Antin, Los Angeles, California 

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Shiny Happy Players Lard 12-9-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans. Brian Dawkins, Demaryius Thomas and Spencer Larsen have already been declared out for Sunday's game. Andre' Goodman and Darcel McBath were limited participants in yesterday's practice, the first run by new interim coach Eric Studesville. Apparently Studesville is more of a motivator type than Josh McDaniels, and he extended an olive branch to the players yesterday by having them practice without pads.

Has anyone noticed that of Denver's 9 losses, 8 of them have come at the hands of teams that currently have 6 wins or more? On Sunday, the Broncos will face the worst team they've played all year in the Cardinals, and a fifth-round rookie QB in John Skelton. So if Denver wins, surely it will be because Studesville took the pads off, because he smiles more than McDaniels, and happier players are better players?  Sounds like a neat little DP narrative...

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In which I rip The Denver Post

Last week I ripped the Broncos fan base for being spoiled, and I included myself in that cohort.  We are exactly that, because in team history, it has never rebuilt.  It initially built for a long time, did well for 30 years, faded, and now needs to be rebuilt for the first time ever.  We’ve covered this, and I feel like my continually talking about the perils and stupidity of unannounced rebuilding has spread the word to others, who are also talking about it.

I believe that Monday may have been the darkest day in franchise history.  That occurred to me within minutes of learning of the firing of Josh McDaniels, and I’ve now spent over 24 hours considering whether I’m being overly hyperbolic.  As I said on Twitter Sunday, my words count in perpetuity, so I’m careful-ish of what I say.  I don’t think I am overdoing it, friends.  Let’s consider what really just happened.

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Where to now? Part II - Players, coaches and defense

Yesterday, we talked about the state of the offense - what the new coach will have to work with, and areas where we might be strong or weak. Today, I’d like to talk for a moment about defensive concepts and options, and then take a look at our players and consider what might need to be done. 

I’ll come clean - I love the tales of offensive strategy,  and learning its history. Stories of the birth of formations and systems that are often a century or more old -- and yet are new again, rearranged, adapted and yet vital and still effective  -- are a pleasure to learn. It’s a long series of remarkable lives, about men who changed the game and the sagas of so many great legends:  both those among the living and those who came before.  The stories never cease to amaze me. There’s really nothing like it, with the endless competition, the human interest, the quest for mastery in every season and the constant drama. It’s a game that has a certain percentage of outcomes within a mathematical certainty that people like TJ and Doug can quantify, yet carries with its outcomes an endless percentage of disciplined chaos that changes, puzzles and constantly entertains me. At its heart, it’s still a more civilized form of unarmed territorial warfare. It’s not a coincidence that they refer to the contest in ways that connote battle.  

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A question of timing, or ten

Broncos COO Joe Ellis on Tuesday said of the prior day's coaching change that "Our goal is to finish the year on a promising note and make our fans proud of our team. That's what we intend to do...(Studesville) will do his best to make this organization proud, to make our team, our town proud over the next four weeks."

Chew on that for a moment, if you will. What could the Broncos possibly accomplish over the next four weeks to make Denver proud? Is Eric Studesville going to lead the Broncos on a four-game winning streak? If so, does a four-game audition prove that someone who's never been more than a position coach is qualified to become the next steward of the Denver Broncos Football Club? One would have to imagine the answer to all of those questions is "No." Granted, Studesville is merely the interim coach of a franchise now in disarray - expectations will be low, and moral victories will surely be touted in the DP after close losses under Josh McDaniels meant he was a failure.

So what did Ellis mean? Were those just the canned words Denver's PR department put together for him? Four weeks is nothing in NFL terms, certainly not when viewed through the prism of a man's career or the wellbeing of a franchise. Yet Pat Bowlen and Ellis felt they couldn't afford Josh McDaniels but four more weeks to finish out his second season as the Broncos' head coach. There's been a lot to think about since Monday evening, but one question keeps coming up - "Why now?"

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The Daily Lard 12-8-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans. Two fine writers shared their thoughts on the McDaniels firing:

Not sure if Mike Lombardi is interested in getting back into the player evaluation business, but he wrote another column yesterday that just shows he "gets it" more than anyone else in the national media (is that a backhanded compliment?). I could point to about eight different paragraphs, but this one stands out...

In any sport, losing is extremely difficult -- it's hard on the mind, body and spirit. It challenges every prior belief an organization holds true, forcing constant evaluations of the path, the direction and the journey chosen for the organization. It is human nature to second-guess every move on a losing path. Few, in most sports, are willing to brave the losing, the criticism of the media, or the wrath of their fans. Believing in principles and having the courage to stand alone is a rarer quality than bravery in battle or superior intelligence. Yet it is the one essential for teams that desire to win Super Bowls.

Ted Bartlett examines the role of the Denver Post in Josh McDaniels' firing and says the future doesn't look so bright for us anymore...

The Denver Broncos entered into a full-scale reconstruction of the franchise in January, 2009.  Literally everything changed, much of it for the better.  The Broncos built a systematic approach to scouting, for the first time in memory.  They rid themselves of me-first players, and actively sought out team-first guys.  They ignored conventional wisdom, which over a long enough timeline, is always a good thing to do.  But they didn’t communicate that they were rebuilding, or ask for patience, or probably even admit to themselves what the situation really was...There are no shortcuts to setting yourself up to be good even on a mediocre day.  It’s a long process, and it never stops.  The Patriots continue to set the standard in that way.

Okay, enough with all that reason and clear thinking. Let's get to the silliness...

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Where to now? Coaches, players & schemes

Well, whatever else may be the case, the Josh McDaniels era is over in Denver. Left in its wake is a team in the middle of a multi-year rebuilding process that has been interrupted for a second time, a process that could create as many issues as it solves. I watched Eric Studesville’s press conference, and while I’m uncertain that he could be a long term solution (I believe that a coach with experience is essential), he’s an engaging and obviously bright, passionate individual.  I enjoyed watching him.

When the news came down, I found myself more interested in the future than the past. There are no shortages of articles from every conceivable viewpoint on what McDaniels and Brian Xanders did - and didn’t - do over the past 21 months; the members have done a remarkable job of putting together the history of the events accurately. Rather than chewing old soup, I’d like to talk about some basic issues for the future. Where the team goes from here is going to be dependent on going on from here to developing success.

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Gut Reactions: Action without action

Forgive me if I'm not blown away by Joe Ellis' press conference today.

Although I understood the words that were coming out of his mouth, I ended up missing most of the meaning.

Let me see if I can get this straight.  Ellis admitted that the organization burdened Josh McDaniels with too much responsibility;  he admitted that the organization had not intended to give McDaniels so much power, but that it somehow had "evolved" to that point;  he admitted that McDaniels would end up being an excellent and successful head coach in the league; he admitted that McDaniels was in the top of the league in game-planning; he admitted that the organization needed to do more to help McDaniels with all the responsibilities that came with being a head coach.

So the best course of action was to send the guy packing.  

I guess Ellis was correct when he said, "We don't have a plan for moving forward."

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Joe Ellis/Eric Studesville presser Open Thread

Joe Ellis and Eric Studesville will meet with the press today at 1PM ET/11AM MT. Watch and listen live at the official site; discuss it here.