Ted's Analysis

How good are the 2011 Denver Broncos?

I think that predicting specific sports outcomes is a useless filler exercise, and I say that as a guy who does a good amount of forecasting in my day job.  As a controller, a revenue forecast helps you work back to figuring out the costs of the inputs needed to make the forecasted revenue, and it can/should illuminate opportunities to achieve cost savings.  It’s a value-adding exercise, and like painting a ship, it never really stops.

Predicting the outcomes of games, or the record of a football team in August really adds no operational value to anything.  Once the actual event happens, the prediction work that you did becomes entirely useless; nobody would ever refer back to it for any reason, so why would you have it in your archive?

There’s been a lot of talking lately about what the Broncos’ record will be this season, and I don’t really want to speculate on that specifically.  Having seen two preseason games, though, I am ready to say that I think this looks like the best Broncos team since at least 2005, and I’m ready to discuss the reasons why I think that.

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Pregame Thoughts: Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos

Happy Friday, friends.  With Game 2 of the preseason happening tomorrow night, I decided to share some thoughts on what I’ll be looking for in the game.  I think we learned some stuff in Game 1, at least at a cursory level, and that we’ll have a good opportunity to learn and evaluate more tomorrow.

1.  Does personnel grouping on offense still seem to follow the QB?  Last week, Kyle Orton played with a lot of 21 and 22 personnel, while Tim Tebow had a lot of 11 personnel, and Brady Quinn had a lot of 12 personnel.  It will be interesting to see if those concepts continue.

The implications are that when Orton is on the field, the offensive staff sees itself as a running/play action operation, and that to some extent, Quinn follows that.  Tebow’s typical package places more of a premium on spreading out the defense with the formation, ostensibly to create running lanes for Tebow, and angles for the kinds of throws that he makes the best.

Tebow has a different skill-set than Orton or Quinn, so it’s no surprise that they’d have different play-calling.  I wonder if this recent media push to claim that Quinn is #2 stems from thinking within the coaching staff that any in-game change at the position is best handled by a player who is more well-suited to running the same game plan as the starter.  In that case, I could still see Tebow getting some snaps in games using specialty packages, even as the nominal #3 QB, while Quinn sits behind Orton, waiting for an injury or ineffectiveness in a game.

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Defensive alignment concepts from the Broncos’ preseason opener

Happy Tuesday, friends.  As expected, I had a crazy two-wedding weekend, and it just ended around midnight Tuesday morning.  I caught the garter at the Cleveland wedding, because I catch a disproportionate number of garters at weddings, and I now have a Cleveland Browns garter on my man-cave bulletin board, next to the other two I’ve gotten in recent years.  People sure love their football.

Logistically speaking, I watched the Thursday night game live and participated in the Chewing the Fat discussion that you read a couple days ago.  That ended around midnight ET, and I had to be up 4.5 hours later for a 6 AM flight on Friday morning.  There was another early morning flight Saturday morning, hustling to get to the second wedding, a drunk/disheveled wakeup in a hotel Sunday, marked by explaining why my drunk friend got mad and punched the glass out of a picture that was in a room under my name and credit card (accident, of course!), followed by recovery, and then an opening-to-closing visit to Cedar Point amusement park on Monday.  It was a really good weekend.

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Thoughts on the Broncos’ QB situation

It seems to be sucking all of the oxygen out of the room lately, so I decided to weigh in on the Broncos' QB situation.  Another voice in the crowd sounds off, right?  So why even bother to do it?  I’m doing it because this is IAOFM, and we’re here to produce the best Broncos content in the world.  We’re not going to beat other sites on quantity, but we’ll crush them on quality every day.  Today is Friday, so here goes.

I have some thoughts about this whole holistic Orton-Tebow discussion that I’m simply going to lay out by number and discuss.  From the department of analysis in the face of sucky journalism:

1.  Quarterback competitions are stupid, and this is not a quarterback competition that's going on in Denver.  There’s an old football adage that if you have two QBs, you have no QB.  Inept teams allow themselves to be in this situation, and I don’t think for a second that this football management team in Denver is inept.

A team’s direction at the QB position is a key organizational decision.  It’s not something that should be left to who looks better in practice, or in some preseason games.  To do that is to idiotically behave as if there is nothing more riding on the decision than a subjective value judgment of on-field aesthetics, or some stats on a piece of paper.  There’s simply a lot more to the decision than that.

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Reviewing the DT marketplace

Happy Friday, friends.  We’re now a couple days into the free agency and trading period, and the Broncos haven’t done too much yet, except sign their own draft picks, trade Jabar Gaffney, and haggle with the Dolphins about the price for Kyle Orton.  I’ve observed some angst about the pace of things in our comment threads and on Twitter, and I wanted to address that today.

I think most of us would agree that Defensive Tackle is the primary need area for the Broncos, and the good news is that not very much has happened there yet.  It seems that the market for that position group is waiting for a big deal to pave the way for others to come, but the only two major agreements among the “big defensive linemen” group were with Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen - both going to Washington - and neither was an outlandishly-priced contract for their production.  It’s interesting with so many Eric Weddle Specials flying around, how none have hit this cohort.

To start out, I want to talk about “big defensive linemen” briefly, and what I mean by that.  Simply, I mean that there are certain players who can play DT in an even front and DE in an odd front (especially one-gap versions) interchangeably.  These tend to be guys who are in the 6-2 or 6-3, and 285-300 pound size range.  Taller guys tend to specialize as DEs in 2-gap odd fronts, and stouter ones tend to strictly be Nose Tackles.

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A final reflection on the labor negotiation

I’m the kind of guy who has a large social circle that’s comprised of a roughly equal number of men and women.  It’s a function of being a fraternity man, and also of relentlessly attending various networking events in the Cleveland area.  I like to attend every event that I’m invited to, if possible, and when I’m there, I maximize the social opportunity.  All the people I know tend to overlap in various ways, because Cleveland isn’t a very big city when you filter it down to young professional types.  There are probably less than 500 or so who fit a similar profile to me.  (I’d define that roughly as unmarried, younger than 40, college-educated, active, extroverted, and possessing a white collar job with an income above the median, mainly in the downtown Cleveland area.)

I realize that not everybody socializes like I do, but try to picture this.  You have two friends of roughly equal stature in your loyalty hierarchy, one man and one woman.  (I can think of a few of you who’d accuse me of making a political statement if I made it two people of the same gender.  Yawn…)

The man and the woman (let’s call them Tom and Mary) become involved, and eventually, you and your significant other hang out with them a lot.  They become your go-to friends, and you even go on vacation together.  It’s funny how these things work, but the chemistry is just there, and it’s a really value-adding relationship.  This goes on for years, and everything is great.

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NFL players are a scourge on this great nation

I can’t believe these greedy, ungrateful players!  They’re just willfully holding this thing up.  The owners have given them a great proposal, and these guys say they need more time.  Why can’t they read 500 pages in an hour?  Is it because most of them can’t read?  I’m not saying, I’m just saying…  Have you ever read their twits on that Twitter thing?  Umm… hello?  English class… you should try it sometime.  And some of them even use profanity.  Don’t they know that their most important purpose in life is being role models to children?  They should be talking about Jesus and tax breaks and preventing Muslims from opening mosques or gays from getting married.  You know, positive stuff that promotes a stronger America, where everybody who deserves it can enjoy apple pie, and watch football, and those who don’t should just work harder, and maybe it happens for them next year.

Look, the owners have worked hard to create a product that people want to see, and these players should be happy just to get to attach themselves to the genius of these 32 American heroes and benefit from it.  I don’t have a pension, and neither does anybody I know.  Why should these guys get one?  This is America, and we’ve all unanimously decided to accept a lower quality of life than our parents had.  That’s democracy, and the majority rules.  It’s the greatest country in the world, and these players don’t understand that.  They should call me when they get serious about capitalism, democracy, and the Constitution.  Let’s practice – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that employees should be happy to have jobs, and should thank the benevolent job creators for their generosity.  Four score and seven years ago, the young NFL almost folded, but thanks to the white protestant tenacity of men like George Halas, Curly Lambeau, and Ronald Reagan, it grew and thrived, and now these guys that couldn’t get a job in my family’s snack bar want to make millions of dollars off of the sweat of those visionary entrepreneurs and their heirs.  John Quincy Adams and our other Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves, because those people clearly don't know the Constitution.

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More thoughts on the CBA

Happy Tuesday, friends.  I have fairly limited writing time today, so I am going to write something that is the length of a standard blog post.  There has been some hand-wringing the last couple days about the CBA negotiations, despite the fact that nothing seems to be likely to hold up progress on a deal. 

Doug shared a link in today’s Lard indicating that teams are already advising players to show up on Friday and Saturday, which is the surest sign yet that a deal is inevitable, and will happen very soon.  Yet, for some reason, on Sirius XM NFL Radio, the topic of the last couple days has relentlessly been something like What If Vincent Jackson/Logan Mankins/Osi Umenyiora blow(s) up the deal for reasons of personal gain?

It’s making some people nervous, along with reports that the players are still trying to get more money from the owners, to wit, the $320 million of foregone benefits from 2010.  Given that there are still so many owner fanboys (that article endlessly cracks me up, so I keep linking it) out there, many of whom have a skewed perception of how negotiations work, with the problem being exacerbated by NFL reporters who really are missing and misunderstanding a lot, I decided that I’d address this with a few thoughts.

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Implications of a cash basis salary cap

Happy Tuesday, friends.  I’m encouraged by the latest progress that’s been reported on the NFL’s labor negotiations, and I decided that I would re-engage on the topic today, for the first time in awhile.  A particular reported topic in the impending deal has actually inspired me to break my recent silence.

It’s been reported in a lot of places that a salary cap will likely return, and also that the distance between the salary floor (which has always existed since 1993), and the salary cap will diminish.  That’s interesting, and it’s a victory for the players, by virtue of guaranteeing that more money will be injected into the overall operating environment.  In 2009, the salary cap was $128 million, and the floor was 87.6% of that number, or $112.1 million.  If the 2011 cap number is about the same, which is likely, but the floor is 93%, that’s theoretically an extra $224 million that has to be spent league-wide on player salaries.  (I say theoretically, because the reality is that many teams are way over the floor annually, and the increase doesn’t affect their spending.)

Even if that $224 million is more like $75 million, which is likely, we’re actually dealing with something there called a cap number.  Many of you know what that means, but for those who don’t, a cap number is an artificial measure of salary expense within a given period, which is generally comprised of a base salary, a prorated portion of a signing bonus, and incentive payments which are earned, or deemed likely to be earned.  That sounded complicated to read, I know, so an illustration is in order.

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Mike Brown and Ralph Wilson can feel free to shut up

I have absolutely no sympathy for Ralph Wilson or Mike Brown as the rumors fly that they don’t appreciate the direction that the Brady vs. NFL settlement talks have been taking in putting together a new CBA.  Neither man is a quality NFL owner or shows the slightest desire or ability to make his team a consistent winner.

Wilson, who is 92 years old, seems to be playing out the string of his life.  He pays lip service to wanting to keep the Bills in Buffalo, but he clearly recognizes that the viability of western New York as an NFL home continues to diminish as its historically blue collar labor environment is marginalized, and the population resultingly diminishes.  Buffalo is the worst market in the NFL, and when the team is sold upon Wilson’s death, I’m pretty sure the new owner will be looking to Toronto or Los Angeles.

As for Brown, he’s the son of Paul Brown, who founded the Bengals back when you didn’t have to really be all that wealthy to start an NFL team.  Paul was a successful coach of the Browns for many years, and it sure helped to have Hall of Famers like Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Lou Groza, and Jim Brown.  Upon founding the Bengals, the Brown magic never returned.  Mike Brown is not the football man his father was, and he's also the cheapest owner in the NFL.  He hires the assistant coaches - with the Head Coach having little to no say in the matter - and pays them the lowest salaries in the NFL for their peer groups.  He also has always maintained the smallest scouting staff in the NFL, and the senior front office people are a bunch of Browns and Blackburns.  They’re the only mom and pop team in the NFL, and that’s the biggest reason that they can never establish a consistent winning program. 

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