The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 1-23-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Two hard-fought, physical games ended with special teams gaffes last night, first the Patriots surviving a last-minute drive by the Ravens after Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard FG which would have sent the 23-20 game into overtime. Only moments prior, Ravens WR Lee Evans had a potential game-winning TD catch knocked out of his mitts; he actually had the ball with both feet on the ground, but Sterling Moore knocked it away at what was probably the last possible instant before the play would have been ruled a catch.

New England's opponent in the Super Bowl will be the Giants, who defeated the Niners 20-17 in overtime after being given the ball on the 49er 22-yard line when Kyle Williams fumbled a punt return for the second time in the game.

It will be the first Super Bowl rematch since the Cowboys pummelled the Bills in Supes 28 and 29, and the two teams got there in much the same manner as when the 10-6 Giants took down the 16-0 Patriots four years ago. These overdog Patriots won 13 games and took home-field advantage, while the Giants again overcame a sluggish start to their season and rumors of Tom Coughlin being on the hot seat before taking down both of the NFC's top seeds. However, this time the Pats open as three-point favorites instead of the 12-point line which preceded SB 42.

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The Daily Lard 1-22-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his column today, Woody Paige revisits his relationship with the late ex-owner of the Broncos, Edgar Kaiser Jr. It's an interesting read, especially when noting how the NFL has changed in the past thirty years, from what sounds like a whimsical hobby of billionaires to the serious moneymaker it is today. As Kaiser told Paige, his purchase of the franchise from the Phipps family was completed "in a matter of hours," and then-Colts owner Robert Irsay apparently chose Denver as John Elway's trade destination because Irsay had befriended the young Broncos owner.

Franchises swapping hands and moving cities on flip decisions, owners agreeing to trade star players and directing their GMs to do so; sure, it all seems quite haphazard in retrospect - but will the game ever be as fun as it was back then?

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The Daily Lard 1-21-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! By now, everyone knows that Mike McCoy lost out in his bid to become the head coach of the Dolphins, who instead chose Packers OC Joe Philbin. And while a certain segment of the fan base thinks they could do a better job of calling plays than him, there is no doubt that retaining McCoy is the best thing for Tim Tebow's future as a quarterback and with the Broncos. Unless he suddenly becomes a candidate for the Tampa or Indy job, or Reggie McKenzie overlooks McCoy's snub from earlier in the week, the former QB will be entering his third season as Denver's OC.

Just as was the case heading into the 2011 season, nothing could be more important for Tebow's development than continuity. Denver call-in shows have likely spent the week suggesting candidates to replace (and upgrade over) McCoy, but we should all be letting out a big sigh of relief. McCoy understands Tim's strengths and weaknesses and how he learns, and he's seen them on display everyday at Dove Valley for the past two years. He's already shown a willingness and commitment to adapt his playbook for Tebow in a way most OCs likely would not; can anyone imagine Mike Shanahan doing such a thing? Mike Martz? McCarthy? Payton? Think any of those offensive geniuses would take over the Broncos if they were forced to have Tebow as their starting QB?

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The Daily Lard 1-20-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel says the Dolphins are expected to announce their head coaching decision this morning, with Mike McCoy still considered the frontrunner by several sources. As Jeff Legwold notes, superagent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents several Dolphins, hit the airwaves yesterday saying he believes McCoy will be the choice. Meanwhile, Dave Hyde is reminding Miami fans that the team's most high profile coaching hires haven't worked out, so he suggests that hiring a lesser known coach like McCoy or Joe Philbin is perhaps preferable.

As for the Broncos, it will be interesting to see how McCoy structures his staff should he get the gig; usually departing coordinators are allowed to take an assistant or two from their old team with them. This is pure speculation, but one might figure the guys John Fox brought with him from Carolina would stick around, while any of Brian Callahan (quality control, offense), Clancy Barone (tight ends) or Eric Studesville (running backs), who were all hired by Josh McDaniels, could be more likely to go with McCoy. We've already heard that QB coach Adam Gase would likely become the new OC, with Buffs assistant Rip Scherer taking the QB coaching spot.

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The Daily Lard 1-19-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Word is that Tim Tebow's injuries from Saturday night would likely have kept him out of the AFC title game had the Broncos won; Barry Petchesky considers how Tebow and the Broncos should deal with this going forward. There were some comments yesterday noting that Tebow's injury occurred in the pocket, and so his being a running QB shouldn't mean he's more prone to injury than any other QB. But this is about Tim's style of play inviting more contact than other QBs take, because he is more often a runner without the in-the-pocket QB protections. He's just going to take more hits than other quarterbacks. Add in the ridiculous hype that surrounds him, and just like guys supposedly want to play harder for him? His opponents surely relish taking him down too - they also have extra motivation. Obviously, his size, strength and toughness help, but eventually the multitude of hits he takes will cost him.

What about Cam Newton? Well, the same can be said for him too, although Cam has a much better chance of success should the Panthers ever decide to put a rein on his running. And, who cares? Whatever the Panthers do with Cam Newton has nothing to do with whether Tebow can can survive the punishment.

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The Daily Lard 1-18-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! According to Jason La Canfora's latest update, Mike McCoy and Miami interim coach Todd Bowles are the finalists for the Dolphins head job, although Adam Schefter is hearing that Packers OC Joe Phlbin will also get a second meeting (and interview with the Bucs too); Bengals DC Mike Zimmer had been in the mix earlier. Additionally, John Clayton says the Colts will look to hire an offensive-minded HC after firing Jim Caldwell yesterday, and he says McCoy could be a candidate for Indy. Of course, McCoy will also meet with new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie today, as will Dennis Allen.

Now, the Broncos offense next season will probably be dissimilar to the one we saw this year with Tim Tebow; not only did opposing defenses appear to figure out the zone read, but the big hits on Tebow seemed to multiply with each passing week - and as Phil Simms pointed out, the defenses that saw Tebow a second time this season didn't have trouble containing him. As has been mentioned countless times, most notably by John Elway, Tebow is going to have to learn to win games from the pocket, and that is likely to be reflected in the offensive structure going forward. And as Ryan Wilson notes in his final Tracking Tebow column of the season,

If the organization is truly committed to him (and we're not convinced they are long term) then that means building the entire offense around one person, right down to a backup quarterback proficient at running Tebow's brand of option football.

If it seems extreme, think of it this way: what happens if Tebow goes down? Denver's offense suddenly reverts to its pre-Tebow playbook? And the remaining starters -- all of whom have spent months practicing the option offense, will suddenly be expected to run a conventional offense? In the middle of a game? That ain't happening.

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The Daily Lard 1-17-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! By now, everyone knows John Elway stated yesterday that Tim Tebow will be the Broncos starting QB entering training camp; the Worldwide Leader probably still has this breaking "news" in its crawl right now. Of course, they won't mention that it was a choice between Tebow and Adam Weber, who spent the season off the 53-man roster (instead on the practice squad, where any team could have nabbed him) and was signed to a future contract yesterday.

Dave Krieger agrees that John Elway struck the proper tone with his lukewarm endorsement of Tebow, and he sees a man in Elway who's the right man for the job of running the Broncos. Les Carpenter thought Elway was praising Tebow through huge, clenched teeth, while Doug Farrar oddly accepted it all at face value and thinks Elway has found a kindred spirit in Tebow.

But Will Brinson has it right: who on Earth will choose to sign with Denver with the intention of winning a QB competition, especially since he'd be shackled with "the most unfriendly homefield circumstances in NFL history" were he to win the job? After all, the drumbeat in Denver for Jay Cutler and Tebow reduced Jake Plummer and Kyle Orton to mistake-prone klutzes, respectively. What, Matt Flynn or Jason Campbell is going to hold up better? About the only guy who might be available and could withstand Tebowmania is Peyton Manning.

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The Daily Lard 1-16-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Chris Mortensen is reporting that with Jeff Fisher having chosen St. Louis over Miami, the Dolphins today will interview Denver OC Mike McCoy, who joins Miami interim HC Todd Bowles, Packers OC Joe Philbin, Bengals DC Mike Zimmer, and Bears ST coach Dave Toub on their list of candidates. Cue the "we need a better play caller who understands Tim Tebow anyway" music...

Meanwhile, it's expected that in a news conference today John Elway, Brian Xanders and John Fox will declare that Tebow is their starting QB for 2012. But considering that Brady Quinn is an unrestricted free agent and Adam Weber is on the practice squad, there's not really anything else they can say, no matter their intentions - Tebow is the only quarterback under contract for next season. Even if they do plan to build around Tebow and are fond of Weber, the team has to acquire two quarterbacks between now and the beginning of training camp, whether via free agency or the draft. And anything but outwardly unequivocal organizational support for Tebow for at least the next six months would be shock-inducing foolishness on the FO's part - so expect plenty of Tebow certainty out of EFX until camp begins. It's their only option.

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The Daily Lard 1-15-12

Good Morning/Afternoon, Broncos fans! There are a few enduring truths about the 2011 New England Patriots:

  1. They score points in piles: 32.1 per game prior to last night - and against everyone: at least 30 points 12 times in 16 games.
  2. They do so by amassing tons of yards: 428 per game - also against everyone: at least 362 yards 15 times, the only exception being the stingy Steelers defense.
  3. It also happens that they give up a whole lot of yards: 411.1 per game - to everyone: at least 361 yards 15 times - everyone except the anemic Jets offense.
  4. Prior to last night, it was stressed that the Pats had no quality wins; 12 of their 16 prior opponents had scored at least 20 against them; even the Colts, Jets, Dolphins (twice) and Redskins had done so

Given these facts, there was one thing the Broncos needed to do last night more than anything: score points, and a whole lot of them. They were going to get their yards, that was a certainty. Only, they didn't. Six days after hanging 447 yards and 29 points on the Steelers (175 more than the season average they'd allowed prior), the Broncos scratched out just 10 points and 252 yards - and 139 of those yards came on their last three possessions, when they were already down by five touchdowns - in a 45-10 thrashing at the hands of a coldly efficient Tom Brady (six TD passes, 363 yards, zero sacks).

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The Daily Lard 1-14-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been exactly six years since Denver last played in a divisional playoff game - Saturday, January 14th at 6pm Broncos Time, also against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and the New England Patriots. Hopefully tonight will be just like that magical one:

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