"Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men." Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 B.C.E.-65 C.E.
The Denver Broncos are off to as fast a start as anyone could have predicted. The new management has done a remarkable job in finding players that fit the scheme, looking for leadership qualities as well as playing skill and suitability, drafting the exact players they needed and instilling both scheme and attitude to win games right away. This weekend will bring about a contest that Broncos fans everywhere look forward to - going into the Black Hole to fight the Raiders in an old grudge match that's one of the great rivalries in the NFL. It's a great weekend for football!
Sunday's game was a coming out party of sorts for Elvis Dumervil. the 5'11", 248 lb outside linebacker for the Denver Broncos. "Doom" was an undersized defensive end for the past two seasons. While his production at that position was nothing to ignore, Dumervil wasn't able to fend off the tackles, shed the blocks and bring down the bball carrier in the running game. He was a sack master, but tended to be a one-trick pony. He has incredibly long arns, though, and Josh McDaniels and Mike Nolan decided to win the game by changing the rules. Doom was going to become an outside linebacker, dropping into coverage as needed, sealing the edge agsinst rushers and always, to his delight, getting a chance to chase down quarterbacks.
20 points to ponder...
1. They didn't do enough with the front 7
2. They've got too many running backs
3. Orton can't play this game
4. The offense will have to keep us in the games.
5. We can't score without Brandon Marshall
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." -- Teddy Roosevelt at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
Those who watched Brian Dawkins exhorting the Denver Broncos on the sideline before the game got a brief glimpse into one of the best reasons that the Broncos defense on Sunday looked anything but similar to the group of lost travelers that inhabited Broncos uniforms during the last 5 games of 2008. Dawkins screamed, cajoled, entreated and demanded from them their own best efforts. He waved his arms, and slapped his hands against his own helmet in a berserker's rage. They would take the game into their own hands. Nothing else would do, no other outcome was acceptable and in his mind it was clear that he would never, ever, under any circumstances permit the team to give up. The irony of the day was rich. By never giving up, the rote formality of a second receiver following the play in case of a tipped ball was the difference between winning and losing. Sometimes, a refusal to surrender can create victory, regardless of circumstances.
It was everything we didn't really expect. After the victory against AZ, you had to be willing to consider that the defense has come light years since the wrenching dives of the last 5 games of 2008. Much as many on MHR has said, this is NOT the 2008 defense. Given the tools that Cincinnati has and the effectiveness that they can bring, the Broncos had to really step up to finalize this incredible, shocking victory. In the final analysis, they did. What a change from last season! We showed a dominating D, an offense that was out of kilter and out of rhythm and special teams that aren't special yet.
Question - Is Mario Haggan an ILB, an OLB or a coach? Answer - he sure is. And that explains a lot. It explains why the Broncos were glad to give him a contract extension on Wednesday and why he was also announced as a team captain on the same day.
He is a product of relative poverty, a man who knew that sports were a way upward in his life. Mario Marcell Haggan was born on March 3, 1980, in Clarksdale, Miss. He comes out of the Deep South, a man who went to college at Mississippi State following an All-American status while at Clarksdale High School. While there, he was named first-team all-state by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and played in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game... Mario also led his team to the state Class 4A championship in 1997. As a senior, he recorded 158 tackles with three fumble recoveries. He also earned All-American status with USA Today. Even so, the offers to play in college didn't exactly roll in, but he found interest from a few. As is his way, Mario wanted to stay near home.
As the glow from Thursday's game starts to fade every so slightly, and the nervous anticipation of opening the 2009 season on the road in Cincinnati begins to build, it seems appropriate to take a few moments to look back at the path taken and the job done by rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater - his background, his performances and his development. I think that despite the widely differing opinions that folks have as to the path the Broncos have taken to get here, and the variance between our visions of the future, there are probably relatively few Denver fans who don't recognize that they have caught a glimpse of a team as it could be. The aggressive defense, the excellent TO ratio, the high caliber play from the first string and the third and the play of a rookie quarterback who seemed to play with ice in his veins and passion in his heart, who made passes at all levels, moved well and showed how quickly he picks up the new scheme rang in a harmonious chord.
"The true test of an organization is not how it fares one year. It's building a competitive team year after year and competing for championships. It's what Indianapolis, New England and Pittsburgh have done. It's not one year of glory. We will see how Atlanta and Miami do this year. They started fast, but can they sustain success? That is the most difficult thing to do in this business." Anonymous Head Coach, August 2009
It may surprise the folks who adamantly believe that the people on staff of MHR are a monolithic whole and that all of us are a group of choate positivists, but that's really not the case. As a single example, I don't have any sense that the Broncos will be a team to beat in 2009. I don't even worry about whether we will reach .500 this season. We might, I hope that we do, but it isn't a concern to me. I think that there is a bigger issue.
We interrupt the ongoing claims that Kyle Orton can't play football to bring you a different perspective. Sports Illustrated ran a sensible article today, courtesy of Jim Trotter. Here's a partial quote:
"Kyle Orton's biggest adjustment since his arrival in Denver five months ago in the Jay Cutler trade hasn't been to learn a playbook that's thicker than Paula Deen's Southern twang. No, the former Bear's biggest adjustment has been to ignore the stopwatch in his head each time he drops back to pass."
One concept that you hear being thrown around a lot by folks who know what they're saying, those who don't know any better or those who should is "They run a West Coast Offense, you know...", with the suggestion that this has a specific meaning that everyone should understand. My experience has been that this is only partly true. The term WCO has several meanings, depending on who is using it.
Even among those who agree on its derivation, there are extensive variations on the theme. Let's look at some uses of the term in modern times and then go over the things that Bill Walsh used to create his system. Finally, we'll talk about some modern examples that are considered WCOs and see how they match up.