The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Tebow microcosm? Lard 1-3-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday's loss to San Diego locked up the 2nd overall pick in April's draft for the Broncos. While a last-second victory on a Hail Mary yesterday would have been exciting, quite frankly it would have been disastrous for Denver in terms of the draft - the Broncos would have slipped all the way to 5th overall. Instead, Denver will have their pick of the defensive litter should Andrew Luck enter the draft and go first overall to Carolina (or another team in the event of a trade). With Miami's loss yesterday, it appears Denver will enter the draft with three choices among the top 47 - (2, 34, 47). Correction: Denver's top three picks are at 2, 36 and 46

Tim Tebow finished with 285 yards of net offense on 52 chances, bringing his QB rating (77.8), average per throw (8.0) and per offensive chance (7.1) down a bit. However, this wasn't a huge shock with the Dolts and their top-rated defense in town. Still, Tebow's average throw and chance over his three starts were each almost a full yard higher than Kyle Orton's, and his total offensive TD rate of 5.93% is exceptional - for perspective's sake, Tom Brady's rate was 6.8%, while Philip Rivers' was 4.9% and Orton's was 3.7%. Tebow's rate stats are quite similar to those of Michael Vick, who has averaged 8.1 yards per throw, 7.5 per offensive chance and an identical 5.93% offensive TD rate.

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Season finale Lard 1-2-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Klis has apparently squeezed an extra day out of Brian Xanders PR Week™. Heck, why not? After all, the guy got his PhD in football from Dan Reeves. Xanders strangely talks about the Broncos' "history and heritage" of running the ball well. This is concerning - running a sports team is about looking forward rather than into the past. Winning in the NFL is about passing - passing to set up more passing, and running to keep defenses honest. We've been over this before, but it cannot be overstated - successful passing correlates to winning; successful running does not. Yet, Klis states that one of Xanders' missions for the Broncos is to balance out their pass/run ratio. Hopefully Xanders understands that a more even pass/run ratio should result from offense efficiency (by passing), rather than an expressed goal of running the ball more.

Now, I've certainly been critical of the blatant PR push for Xanders this week, but please don't confuse that with me calling Xanders incompetent. Surely I don't believe that Josh McDaniels was responsible for every smart decision during his tenure and Xanders for every poor one, nor do I believe the opposite. Like most things, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. But this week has felt like a snow job, and frankly it's insulting to the collective intelligence of all Broncos fans, even if some of them are buying it (you know where to find those folks). Yet, the way Xanders sounded on the radio on Monday and is now citing the Broncos' history as a reason to run the ball more aren't making me feel so great about the guy...

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Happy New Year! Lard 1-1-11

Good Morning, Dear Readers - and Happy 2011 to you and yours! Thank you so much for being here - without your remarkable support, TJ, Emmett and I would just be three guys emailing each other about the Broncos from our moms' basements (in our underwear, of course). Granted, some visitors may view us as doing precisely that, but it is your loyalty that has given us the confidence everyday to write about our favorite team, and hopefully to improve continually. Thank you for sharing your opinions, for challenging us, and for your suggestions. IAOFM is growing faster than we had ever envisioned, and that is undoubtedly a result of your endorsements.

We resolve in 2011 to bring you the finest and most thorough Broncos analysis and commentary around, and we resolve to do so while making you think, smile and laugh in the process. Sadly, our offseason arrives tomorrow evening (although in some senses it began the day Josh McDaniels was fired), and there will be plenty to ponder: a new head coach with new schemes, a new CBA (hopefully), and of course the 2011 NFL Draft. We have several exciting ideas to help enrich the IAOFM experience, and we look forward to sharing them with you. Again - thank you for your readership, and may the new year bring you great health, happiness and fortune.

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If not Kubes → Fassel? Lard 12-31-10

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Mike Lombardi is hearing that if Gary Kubiak does not become available, then Denver's next choice for head coach may be former Broncos OC and Giants HC Jim Fassel thanks to his strong relationship with John Elway. Fassel had been an assistant coach at Stanford while Elway was there, and Fassel's 1993 arrival in Denver led the QB to a much higher level of efficiency, which Elway would carry through the rest of his career. Fassel is known as a quarterback guru, primarily for his work with Elway and for helping revitalize the career of Kerry Collins with the Giants - but most of his NFL career was spent coaching QBs who are towards the end of their primes, including Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason and Steve McNair. Still, if Tim Tebow is the future (and he sure looks the part), bringing in a head coach with plenty of experience working with QBs makes sense - especially one with the wisdom to hire John Fox as his first defensive coordinator.

Although Fassel led the Giants to SB XXXV (where they lost to Baltimore), his tenure in New Jersey was one of wild inconsistency; in seven seasons, Fassel's G-Men made three playoff appearances but also had three losing seasons and blew a 24-point third-quarter playoff lead in San Francisco in 2002. Most recently, Fassel has coached Las Vegas to two UFL titles.

Friends, have fun ringing in 2011 however you celebrate; be safe, and if you're drinking, please don't drive!

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Xanders PR Week Lard 12-30-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Apparently it's Brian Xanders PR Media Tour Week, or didn't you hear? First, Xanders goes on radio with Vic and Gary Monday and says he got his PhD in football from Dan Reeves, that he spends 90% of his time scouting, that he's more than a cap guy, and finally he issues a "no comment" on the Peyton Hillis trade. Next up, an article on MileHighSports.com that repeats those first few points verbatim and then completely disavows Xanders from the Hillis trade by stating that Josh McDaniels went rogue on that one. It's a very fluffy article, one that reads to me like a PR piece - spoon fed perhaps by the guy with 'marketing and media relations' in his job description - Joe Ellis.

It sure makes Xanders out to be a swell guy - he's hard-working, started at the very bottom, and has Charley Casserly (who has been media guy for over 4 years now and works for NFLN) and an anonymously-quoted agent vouching for him. The article not only disconnects Xanders from several of the most controversial moves the Broncos have made over the past two years, but it goes so far as to say that Xanders was either vehemently opposed, was left out of the process entirely, or had much better ideas that lost out (like drafting Clay Matthews Jr.). Heck, it even paints him as partly responsible for the Falcons' best decisions (hiring Tom Dimitroff and Mike Smith, signing Michael Turner and drafting Matt Ryan).

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BLloyd Pro Bowler; Champ snubbed Lard 12-29-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Brandon Lloyd got a much-deserved nod yesterday from his peers with his first Pro Bowl selection. His conference call (linked below) with reporters was a gem, and he continues to show himself to be a humble and well-spoken guy.

Unfortunately, Champ Bailey did not make the Pro Bowl, which would have been his 10th selection. I should correct myself for suggesting last night that he was not snubbed in getting beaten out by Devin McCourty for the roster. It was one of those things I thought was a bit iffy when I typed it, and after more thought it was pretty dumb. McCourty getting chosen over Champ is clearly about stats, more specifically the stats that the fans see (interceptions) and what shows up on the weekly highlights. This is the same manner in which our old friends Deltha O'Neal and Tory James made it to the Pro Bowl, and frankly it sucks. I'm not equating McCourty's play with that of those two overrated guys, but his selection over Champ is an example of what's wrong with the Pro Bowl.

Usually the problem is guys getting in on their name and popularity; this time it was an unimportant statistic. Quite simply, interceptions are not the measure of a great cornerback. In fact, this season Nnamdi Asomugha has zero INTs, Darrelle Revis has zero INTs, and Champ has just two. But please don't use this as fodder for the "Stats are Meaningless" argument. Stats can tell you almost everything you need to know - it's a matter of finding the right ones...

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The Daily Lard 12-28-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Eric Studesville confirmed the worst-kept secret in Denver yesterday - that Tim Tebow will start the season finale against San Diego. Again, this points to some disrespectful handling of Kyle Orton, who deserved better than being left to make that same announcement himself last week.

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First comeback Lard 12-27-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver won yesterday for just the fourth time all year, breaking a five-game losing streak as Tim Tebow earned his first NFL victory, fourth-quarter comeback and 300-yard game. The Broncos overcame a 17-0 halftime deficit and trailed the Texans 23-10 as the final period began - Denver dominated the fourth quarter as Tebow threw for one touchdown (a 23-yard catch-and-run by Correll Buckhalter) and ran the game winner in from six yards out with 3:11 remaining. Tebow finished the game with 308 yards passing and 27 yards rushing to go with the two touchdowns and an ugly first-drive interception in the Texans' endzone. Over the course of his first two NFL starts, Tebow has put forth an impressive 93.4 QB rating with an eye-popping 9.9 YPA while generating an average of 8.7 yards of adjusted total offense per chance*, along with a TD on 6.1% of his chances. By comparison, previous starting QB Kyle Orton has averaged 7.2 YPA and 6.2 yards adjusted total offense, and a 3.6 TD% passing and rushing over the past two seasons.

Small sample? Yes, of course. Stats we'd never have considered pre-Tebow? Absolutely. But that's the point - Tebow brings a different dimension to the Denver offense via his ability to make plays on the run. So, is it more fair to compare Tebow to Jay Cutler, Orton's predecessor? Cutler averaged 7.4 YPA, 6.2 yards adjusted total offense and scored a TD 4.1% of the time as Denver's starting QB - numbers very much like those Orton has produced as a Bronco, and also significantly less productive than Tebow. Again, small sample. But these are the numbers that matter, if you're in the business of trying to win football games.

* I've taken PFR's Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt (which factors in TDs and INTs) and also added in rushing stats. Chance = Pass Attempts + Sacks + Rush Attempts

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What to root for Lard 12-26-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! With Arizona's last-second win last night, the Broncos are now assured a top-3 pick if they should win exactly one of their remaining games. If they lose both games, Denver will get a top-2 pick, and if Carolina also beats Atlanta next week, the Broncos would pick 1st overall. Two wins by Denver would bring several other teams into the equation and could drop the Broncos to as low as the 8th pick.

In other words, it would be disastrous for the Broncos to win their last two games. They will have lost 11 games, gotten their head coach fired, enraged fans and become the butt of jokes nationwide, only to be picking perhaps 8th overall. This scenario would likely preclude Denver from the ability to select one of the top defensive linemen or cornerbacks who are expected to enter the draft (without trading up to do so).

Now, obviously it is very difficult to root against one's own team. In fact, I find it pretty much impossible myself. But our current situation allows us to not get too upset when a play goes badly, ie. a Bronco drops a pass or the Texans score, get mad for a second and then think "Top-2 Pick". Really, we need it. Whether it's for the chance to draft Andrew Luck or trade him for a bounty of picks, or to take someone like Da'Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, or Prince Amukamara, going 1-1 or 0-2 between today and next Sunday is crucial. As an aside, how neat would it be to have a pair of starting cornerbacks next season named Champ and Prince? So, of course - root for the Broncos to win and for Tim Tebow to show progress, but if/when they lose, don't sweat it. We'll be right where we want to be...

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The Daily Lard 12-25-10

Good Morning, Broncos fans! To those of you who are celebrating today, we here at IAOFM would like to wish you a Merry Christmas! Enjoy the day, eat well, be safe and please don't drive drunk. As always, thanks so much to all of you for being here - we appreciate your readership.

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