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.
Whatchall know about that scrilla? I decided to follow the front page of the IAOFM site from Monday, and play off of the article that Doug referenced yesterday that put the Broncos on $50 million of cap room. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Broncos' finances lately, and some other tangential thoughts. It’s all part of being a football-thinking accountant, I guess.
Let’s start out with a provocative thought, right off the top. It’s unquestionable that the Broncos were better off making the playoffs in 2011 than not. I know that some of you disagree with that, and I’m here to tell you, you’re wrong. That doesn’t make you a bad person, and in recognition of that fact, I’m going to explain what I mean by “unquestionable.”
First, let’s do away with the Draft Fallacy. That’s the one that says that because the Broncos were 12th out of 12 playoff teams in talent, that they handicapped their future by making it too soon. You see, say these people, the Broncos would have picked 17th in the Draft, and by making the playoffs, the best they could do was 21st. By winning a playoff game (the horror!) they ended up at 25th.
Howdy, friends. In case you hadn’t noticed, I decided to take a little unannounced break from writing about football. (I figured if I announced it that people might think that I’m full of myself, or something.) Today, I decided to return, because I think that we’re on the precipice of a very interesting offseason as Broncos fans, and that it’s time to start putting some words to it, and while I’m at it, even some sentences and paragraphs.
Today, I’m going to start where Broncos conversation always seems to start, and that’s with Tim Tebow. I’m doing so, because I’m pretty sick of talking about him personally, and I consider this to be the act of getting something important out of the way, and then moving on from it until games start happening, and there’s something new and substantial to discuss.
As I’ve been saying for years, I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business. After long consideration during my quiet break, I’m strengthening my resolve on that front. I’m not going to be arguing with anybody about Tebow or anything else, because it’s just going to irritate me, and make me want to take a forever break from writing about football. (I can think of some of you who’d like that, and you can feel free to start a blog about it or something, if you didn’t know deep down that nobody would ever read it.) I say what I think, and that’s that, and I’ll be right or wrong based on the extent to which I know what I’m talking about, and how well my powers of educated guessing work. You dig?
Happy Friday, friends. I’ve spent all week (9 to 5 every day) in an SAP workshop that’s part of my MBA program, and it’s had me busy day and night. (I don’t know why I expected different, but I did.) As such, I haven’t had much time to write or watch film lately. I haven’t seen any Patriots stuff since they played the Broncos, so I don’t have any great new insight to offer on that front. What I was thinking I’d do is share some strategy thoughts for tomorrow night’s game, heavily leveraging what I saw four weeks ago and what I’ve seen lately from the Broncos. Something is better than nothing, right? For more detail, you can refer to my Digesting piece from a month ago.
The Broncos finally hit some throws against heavy boxes against Pittsburgh, and it won them the game, obviously. I didn’t expect Pittsburgh to play the Broncos any differently than they play anybody else, but they did. They played a lot of nine in the box, and they played their CBs in man coverage, which isn’t their strength. I don’t think that Dick LeBeau had a particularly good plan, and I think that Mike McCoy had a very good plan.
So, um, yeah. How about them Broncos? I’ve been thinking for the last few days about how to strike the right tone with regards to Tim Tebow. As most know, I’ve been saying that the guy will win Super Bowls in the NFL since he was a sophomore in college, long before he was ever drafted by the Broncos. Having now seen Tebow play great in his first NFL playoff game, I feel like I should revisit that. I don't want to be a gloater, and I definitely don't want to call out anybody personally who has disagreed with me.
Despite being both a longtime Florida Gators and Denver Broncos fan, I’m not emotionally invested in Tebow’s success. I made an evaluation of the guy years ago, have basically stuck to it, and I still think I’m right. Honestly, the Kansas City game made me wonder if the guy wasn’t as fearless as I’d always thought. Maybe I’d misevaluated that – it happens, right? If a QB is afraid to throw to a small window against tight coverage, he can’t play in the NFL. With more evidence of that deficiency, I’d have completely supported a change.
I’ve said this before, but I don’t care about whether I was correct in the past, I care about being correct right now. Being a good analyst is kind of like playing Cornerback; you have to forget the times you got burned, and be ready to dominate on the next snap. I'm right a lot more often than I'm wrong, and I have years of archives to back that up. As they say, tape don't lie.
Happy Friday, friends. I’ve been sick lately with a cold for the last few days, so I decided that going a little light today was better than nothing, since I wasn’t able to go heavy. On Sunday afternoon, the Broncos play the Pittsburgh Steelers. I respectfully dislike the Steelers, but I disrespectfully hate their idiot fans. You probably know a few, but I know a lot of them, living two hours from Pittsburgh, and they’re just insufferable. The Steelers fan knows nothing about football, and all they can say is “Six rings.” Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of the yahoos will be at the game on Sunday, due to some piker Broncos fans selling off their tickets (to a playoff game!!!!!!!)
I don’t really love the Broncos’ chances in this game, but making the playoffs is an accomplishment worthy of using your tickets on. I don’t know, I’m the guy that says you should support your team even if you don’t like a specific player or a coach, and around here, I feel like that makes me old-fashioned sometimes. In fantasy football, we can all pick which players to like! <vomits/>
We decided not to do Chewing the Fat on Sunday, as New Year’s Eve recovery efforts remained underway at 4:15 PM ET. I went out of my way not to overdrink on Saturday night, so I’m pretty spry, and I decided to do a running diary of both the Broncos game and the one between the Raiders and Chargers. I’m hoping for simultaneous excitement that comes across as compelling writing. If the games disappoint, at least you’ll get my on-the-fly thoughts on both games.
Step into my man-cave:
Happy New Year’s weekend, friends. Today, we re-digest the Kansas City Chiefs, hoping to avoid the rare situation of going 3-0 on the road in the AFC West, and 0-3 at home. Everybody knows this, I think, but if the Broncos win on Sunday, they’ll be division champions. If they lose, and the Raiders lose to San Diego, the Broncos would still back into winning the division. We shouldn’t be counting on that to happen, though, because the Raiders have a habit of beating San Diego, having taken 3 in a row from the Chargers. It’s a tough matchup for the Chargers, and it served as the first hint that their grip on the AFC West was slipping.
The Broncos, however, match up very well with Kansas City, and these matchup situations are a big part of what makes the AFC West interesting and competitive. (No, dumbass ESPN people – having a dominant team, two average teams, and a hopeless loser isn’t more interesting than having 4 closely matched teams in a division race, even if none of the closely matched teams are likely to compete for a Super Bowl. First things first.) The Broncos are a craptastic performance by Kyle Orton from last December away from having won 3 in a row against the Chiefs. The Broncos defend the Chiefs well, and their running game works really well against the Chiefs defense too.
Happy Tuesday, friends. I have limited time today, due to a confluence of continuing holiday activities and the continuation of my year-end financial close, so I’m just going to share some observations from my fantastic trip to Buffalo on Saturday.
a. It’s really pretty funny, but Tim Tebow looked great in warmups before the game, and during the game. Whenever he was just making throws in non-game situations, the throws were perfectly on-target, and his delivery looked excellent. Didn't his reputation used to be that he couldn't make a throw in warmups? Maybe it was bizarro Tim on Saturday – good in practice, shaky in the fourth quarter of actual games?
Seriously, though, of the interceptions I witnessed in person, there were three flavors of them. The first one was a good decision and a very good job extending the play, but a terrible overthrow of Demaryius Thomas. The second pick was a case of staring down Eric Decker and not looking off a Cover-1 Safety; Tebow needs to get better at looking away from the intended receiver, because Decker had his corner beat, and the throw was good, if Jairus Byrd isn’t able to jump it.
Happy Friday, friends. Today, we digest the formerly ascendant Buffalo Bills, who have lately been pretty descendant. In fact, they’ve lost seven in a row and are 5-9. They've won two blowouts, lost four, and are 3-4 in close games. It’s been a weird season.
Really, the 5-2 start was the case of a team with below-average talent and no depth overachieving on the strength of excellent coaching and good early health. The good health significantly disappeared, some marginal players had to play, defenses started playing to take away the short passing game, and the overachievement ended. After the jump, we’ll explore the Bills in detail.