Happy Monday, friends. We’re on the other side of the Pro Bowl now, with only a who-gives-a-damn Super Bowl left to go. For today, I decided to start putting together some salary cap and free agency ideas, so we can all start getting our minds around what’s to come. There’s already a bunch of speculation out there about who the Broncos should sign or trade for, and most of it is silly.
Today, we’re going to be serious, and we’re going to dismiss all of the delusions of grandeur that a lot of fans and reporters have. A football team has to plan for both the short term, as well as the long term, and the long-term planning that the Broncos face doesn’t allow for the big splash signings that get people excited.
Let’s start by doing some math, and by understanding how the Broncos currently sit structurally within the constraints of the salary cap. The cap in 2013 is expected to be around $121 million, and the Broncos currently look like they’ll have $18.5 million at the beginning of the NFL year. It’s easy to think that they can just go out and spend $18.5 million in average annual value on free agents, but it’s not that simple.
I’m a pretty calm guy, which is a development that’s taken place in my 30s. As a kid, I had an extremely bad temper, and even into my 20s, it persisted to some degree, and I was prone to outbursts, and door slamming, and the like. Around the time I got separated and divorced in 2007 and 2008, maybe somewhat as a byproduct of the whole failed marriage experience, I started to evolve into a more levelheaded person, and it’s a change I’m very pleased with.
In 2008, I also started writing about football at MHR, mostly because I had a lot of time on my hands. When I joined the staff, there were only four people on the masthead. Two of their then-writers are kind of emotional guys, given to rants and kneejerk reactions. The other two stayed more separated from what happened in the last game, or the least series, and didn’t really come from the place that a fan came from.
In fitting into that mix, one of the directions my writing took is that I’ve always tried to be dispassionate, and not let how I feel affect what I think, and what I say. I make a lot of real-time statements and observations, but they’re never emotional. You’d never see me suggest that Champ Bailey needs to retire, because he had one bad game, as a commenter or two did Saturday. There are times, when all hell breaks loose, when a voice of reason is needed, and I decided to be that guy.
To answer some questions that were in the comments of today's Lard, the Broncos play a hybrid defense, which is more akin to a 3-4 than it is to a true 4-3. You can think of it as a 3.5-3.5 if you’d like. The discussion was around whether the Broncos have featured an adequate interior pass rush from its defensive tackles, and whether the scheme actually calls for them to really rush the passer.
The Broncos use three 300-pounders on their base defensive line, in Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson, and Justin Bannan. That’s why I say it’s more like a 3-4 than it is like a 4-3, because in the base running scheme, the defense is asking those three players to two-gap, and to effectively control six of the eight gaps. That’s a challenging task, and the front three for the Broncos has been consistently up to the task this year.
The two edges are manned by SLB Von Miller and open-side DE Elvis Dumervil (or Robert Ayers). Eight gaps are accounted for by five players, and that allows the ILBs (two from among Wesley Woodyard, Keith Brooking, D.J. Williams, and Danny Trevathan) to read the run play, and flow to the action. It also allows them to briefly maintain their initial depth, and avoid biting on play action.
Happy Tuesday, friends. After the shellacking that the Patriots put on the Texans last night, it’s time to take stock of both teams, since it’s likely that the Broncos will play at least one of them in the playoffs, and maybe both.
There were some noticeable things on display in the game that will be of interest to us in the coming weeks.
Here are five for each team:
Happy Wednesday, friends. Yesterday, a decent brouhaha erupted in my former stomping grounds of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s pretty widely assumed that, with the change in ownership, head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert will be let go at season’s end.
New owners like to do their own thing, and when Jimmy Haslam hired Joe Banner to be team president, he brought in a guy who is going to certainly change the structure of the organization.
Banner was very successful in Philadelphia as the guy who ran the business end of things, and who oversaw contracts, financial, and cap strategy. I would expect that will be his role in Cleveland as well, and I'm interested to see how he comes out on Shurmur and Heckert, both of whom he knew from Philadelphia. If the Philly rumor mill is to be believed, the organization wasn't all that sad to see Heckert leave for Cleveland when he did, and that would seem to match the color of the smoke that's now coming out of the chimney.
Happy Thursday, friends. In typical salaried-employee fashion, as I prepare to go on vacation Friday, I’m scrambling to do eight days of work in four days this week. As such, my writing time has been a bit limited, but I want to share some quick thoughts today about team expectations and the stupidity of reporters.
One of my favorite drums to beat is that the NFL is a complex and dynamic system, where the facts of yesterday become the “not so much” of today. I laugh every year as the John Claytons of the world, and also his imitators, attempt to forecast the NFL in the preseason.
Usually, this takes two forms: the dumber ones, like Clayton himself, will tend to predict that about 10 of the 12 teams that made the playoffs the year before will do so again, and that two other teams which had hyped draft or free agent classes will also get into the mix. The smarter ones will note that on average, only 7 of 12 teams tend to make the playoffs in back-to-back years, and they’ll try to find the 10 teams that they think are mostly likely to move up and down in class.
When it comes to football, and other activities conducted by public figures, it’s easy to think that you know better, or would do better, than the people who are doing the actual jobs. I live in an upscale apartment complex in Tallahassee, and I always laugh when I see maybe the worst-looking truck in the whole 300-unit place, and it’s got a sticker on the back window that says INCOMPETENT, with the familiar Obama "O."
You may not agree with things that the President does, or says, or believes, but if you’re driving that broke-ass truck, I’m pretty sure you’re not qualified to judge a president’s competence. Your personal worldview isn’t, and can’t possibly be, a reasonable litmus test for competence, which simply means ability to complete a specific task.
It was really easy for people of my worldview to perceive George W. Bush as being stupid, due to the way he spoke, and to conflate that perceived stupidity with incompetence. The evidence was that he did a lot of things we didn’t like, okay? I know that I am smart, and I wouldn't do what he did, so he must not be smart. Only smart people can be competent. Therefore, George Bush isn't competent. It was easy for liberals, with their highfalutin college degrees, and ability to correctly pronounce polysyllabic words (such as polysyllabic) to make this logical leap.
Happy Tuesday, friends. I wanted to take a few moments today to evaluate the overall state of affairs for the 2012 Broncos. When you’re a fan of a team, it’s easy to watch a few losses, and take them hard, and get all emotional about them. It can seem like all is lost, and that this guy should get benched, and that guy should get fired, and that if you were the GM, things would be different.
I’m a professional analyst, and a key part of the analyst skill set is the ability to be dispassionate, and just try to see things for what they are. I work with a guy who is a Steelers fan, and he keeps his security badge on a Steelers lanyard, and he has Steelers crap on his car, and in his office. That’s not the kind of Broncos fan I am. I’ve owned two Broncos jerseys in the last 10 years or so, and they’re both useless now. (Catler and Teebs, if you must know).
I’m not a fanatic – I started out being one as a kid, but in the course of becoming a widely-read writer about the Broncos, my approach to fanhood became kind of professional and dispassionate. This is like a job, and today, I’m going to do my job, and tell you what I think is going on with the Broncos without emotion.
Happy Thursday, friends. I’m back from my trip to Cleveland, and I’ve dug out of the two-days-away hole at work, so I decided that it was time to get back on the horse. So have you seen any cases of simultaneous possession lately? I saw one on Saturday night at a wedding reception.
The bride tossed the bouquet, and the maid of honor and my girlfriend both caught it. They both held it for a few seconds, before Laura deferred to the MOH and let it go, which was the right call. The MOH was actually really gracious about the whole thing, and let Laura have the bouquet, which was cool until she left it in a hotel in Charlotte on Monday morning.
As for the garter, who do you think caught it? I got my fifth one in my last seven weddings attended (starting in 2009). I think we can safely say that I have elite garter skills. To wit:
Happy Friday, friends. As you read this, it’s likely that I’ll be in the air headed to Cleveland, but I wanted to give you a little something, since I’ll be off the grid for a few days. I’ll be attending a wedding, and then driving back with my girlfriend to move her down to Florida.
I’ve occasionally mentioned over the years that I’m an alumni member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and by number of chapters, we’re the biggest Greek letter organization in the world. Among our football-related members are Terry Bradshaw, Phil Simms, Marv Levy, and Aaron Rodgers, and that’s not even getting to guys like Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley, and many other famous people.
I bring this up, because fraternity men have a tendency to drink adult beverages (responsibly, of course) and sing songs with vulgar lyrics and subject matter. At my chapter at Cleveland State University, we have a song called Godiva, and we always dedicate the last verse to a brother. It goes: