And so it begins….

Kaptain Kirk, Brian Shrout, Lebowski and the Bear were kicking around the last of the year's gamebooks and talking about the changes that have already begun for this off-season's personnel changes and the shakeup of the Denver Broncos. It looks like the housecleaning has begun early, and the Broncos are off to a quick start to the offseason, before the mathematical possibility of the playoffs is even fully past. Something has happened that has set off a quick change reaction that may bring some order to the Broncos.

Having Marshall sit out of a game (possibly for injury, which would be no big thing) and Scheffler essentially be handed his conditional walking papers - they'll find a way to make him valuable to them in trade, but he's done as a Bronco - was quite the beginning to the New Year. Welcome to the turn of the decade, my friends. Apparently, one current set of myths is that we only have until 2012 before the earth disintegrates. I'd like to win the Lombardi before that happens...and for that to happen, there have to be a lot of changes. That being the case, it's in our best interest to make a few good ones while there's time. It's too early to tell if these two are good ones or not. 

The news today and late yesterday were filled with stories that do not bode well for the Denver Broncos. Or, taken from a slightly indifferent viewpoint, they bode very well for the housecleaning that started last year when Josh McDaniels came onto the team as Head Coach. It's time to get the players that aren't really giving their best and give them a taste of the reality that faces them - moving vans and new cities, players and schemes.

If Marshall is really too injured to go, there seems to be some doubt in Coach McDaniels mind:

 "There's a number of factors that go into that, but there's a lot of players that will play with things that are probably more difficult to play with than what he has."

For Marshall's part, he tossed out there, "I don't think coach ever played in the NFL, so for my hamstring to be feeling the way it felt, it's tough for me to go out there and expect to play at a high level", as if whether or not McD every played in the NFL has anything to do with the situation. 

All of us had our own feelings on this. He also added, "If he decides to take some personal shots because of the way the season is unfolding, it's not my fault." Nice one, Brandon. McDaniels' response? "The word for the week is accountability." Brandon's final word was,

"Accountability and injury are different. Accountability and injury are different. I wouldn't say pulled my hamstring-it's definitely not that bad. It's tough." And I have no idea what that is supposed to mean."

McDaniels' discussion of the situation hints that there is a definite problem that goes well beyond the hamstring in McD's mind. Marshall was trying to keep the problem to the injury. They aren't on the same chapter, perhaps not in the same book, much less page.

"A little Revolution every now and then, is a good Ryan?" --- Marko Ramius

Perhaps there is a little revolt brewing. If so, it really shouldn't surprise anyone that this is happening. This is merely Chapter 2 in the vision that Josh McDaniels and Brian Xanders has in store for the Broncos. The "Amoeba" is mutating and another 15-20% roster turnover will take shape as the higher life form that becomes the 2010 Broncos. Change is inevitable, and will become an annual occurrence to improve the team. Those holdovers from the Shanahan era will adapt to the "Team" concept and be accountable, or become like many of last years cuts; Unemployed. Of the players that got the axe in 2008, you can count on one hand those who are currently on an NFL roster. The fanbase may have gotten past McJaygate and the Shanahan firing, but there are still those that haven't accepted Pat Bowlen's choice of leader for HIS team. I'll tell you what though. Josh McDaniels signed a 4 year contract in January 2009, and consequently, he has a 4 year plan. You don't have to like it, but it's going to tear your heart strings if you put your Favorite Player over your Favorite Team.

Doc had been alluding in the past week about the fact that there are obviously people in the locker room who aren't really doing their jobs, and who aren't giving their all to the attempt. His feelings at this time have been that the characters would quickly become obvious. Apparently, that's been happening already. It sure didn't take long.

Many of us were fairly stunned by the Marshall situation. It could still be an injury - as of Friday night. Some among us may have a suspicion that Marshall has opened his mouth at the wrong time and in the wrong way. He hasn't been exactly quiet about his feelings that he would be with another team next year - this may be the start of that proceeding - but he hasn't been benched yet, either. While it's hard not to value Marshall as a player, his ability to create trouble for the team just won't quite go away. If he's going to be on the sales block, we'll be having a couple of more draft picks, and one of them will be a #1, coming our way.

How do we feel about this? Saddened. Marshall could be a big part of the Broncos becoming a major success over the next three years, but the situation shows that this is probably not to be. Sometimes it's better to just get something painful over with and have done with it. I don't know what it is with Marshall, but he's not much interested in being a Bronco. Josh McDaniels did not turn this into a media quarrel (If indeed that is what it is), Brandon Marshall did. This suggests the belief that he does not want to be a Bronco. Since he is still under contract, the only leverage he has left, is to be a distraction. Alienating himself to the point that the Broncos have no other choice than to be rid of him. The proverbial Squeaky Wheel needs Grease, which is a darned pity but I don't see much choice.

We've mentioned this before, but Doc Bear is a retired doc - an OMD who was a primary care provider as well as a teacher - and our co-member Ponderosa is a currently-working MD. Both have said about the same thing that Bear does about MRIs: The MRI is one of the best tests that we have at this time. However - it's not foolproof by a long way. I'm not sure if Marshall is playing games or not - no one but him seems to be - but he's got a fair point in that the MRI does not show anything, but that the test is far from infallible. Two of them on his hip last year didn't show problems, but the problems were there even so, and were found by a specialist later. I have to give Marshall the benefit of the doubt on this one, for lack of other evidence. Well, except for one bit of evidence - this quote from Daniel Graham: 

"While Marshall has been a good teammate this season, McDaniels was doing what was in the Broncos' best interests." Obviously, there is an underlying story here. The general consensus is that we don't know the whole story now. We're seeing the beginning of a few things, but there's a deeper story that we just don't have. 

Speaking of which, other than an odious connection with Bus Cook, Tony Scheffler is another story. We all mostly love Tony and have since we picked him up. He's got a lot of talent and he can really help a team. But Tony has a terrible habit of dropping passes at crucial moments, getting blocked out of position and missing key blocks when a play is on the line. He's also been less than money on third and long. Doc was one that really believed that Josh McDaniels would find his talent very useful, and it appears that he is willing to say that he was just flat out wrong. Scheffler often seemed an afterthought and I have to admit - he wasn't where he needed to be, too many times. You may recall a game early in the season, a 3 TE set that resulted in an easy Scheffler TD - I never saw the play again, and often wondered why. Kaptain even reported a play in Training Camp, that looked so good, Scheffler said, "that's a keeper, remember that play." Something is very, very wrong. I still don't know what. But it appears to me that the broom is off the hook by the door and the housecleaning is starting. TJ had a lot of stats that explained where Tony is in terms of his play.

The Denver Post has reported that Scheffler is unhappy with his role in the offense, but the numbers don't support this perception.  Courtesy of StatMaster TJ, Here are Scheffler's numbers for all of 2008 compared to his current-2009 numbers:

Year Snaps Total Snaps % of Snaps Targeted Targeted/Game Receptions % Caught Yds Yds / Rec. YAC YAC / Rec. Long TD Drops
2008 422 1079 39.11% 59 4.54 40 67.8 645 16.1 210 5.3 72 3 6
2009 556 1012 54.94% 46 3.07 31 67.4 416 13.4 190 6.1 52 2 2

Just what does Scheffler have to complain about?  In 2008, he only participated in 39% of Denver's snaps.  This year, he's participating in almost 60%.  So he's been in the game more often.  Through 15 games this year, he's been targeted 46 times, or, on average, 3.07 times per game  In 2008, he was targeted 59 times through 13 games, which is an average of 4.54 balls per game.  Even if one was feeling frisky (and it seems as if Scheffler certainly is), one could only argue that he's only lost the opportunity for 1 ball per game.   If 1 extra opportunity is enough to make Scheffler this upset, then he is quite possibly entering the land of Terrell Owens.

Another things that came out in doing these stats is that in both 2008 and 2009, Tony failed to haul in 1/3 of the passes that he was targeted with. In 2008 is was 40 catches on 59 targets - 19 misses, almost exactly 1/3 - and in 2009 it was being targeted 46 times and catching 31 - also almost exactly 1/3. Yes, his targeting is down a little, but his ability to get to and hang on to the ball hasn't changed a bit and certainly isn't better. Perhaps he's upset about his total yardage stats entering a free-agency period, but if anything, his increased role in the blocking game this year should only enhance his free-agent value.  There has been a dearth of blocking TEs, and Scheffler's ability as a receiver as well as his improved blocking should be marketable.

In June, Scheffler appeared to put all of the Cutler-McDaniels issues behind him, saying:

"We've got a good thing going right now," Scheffler said. "We've got great team chemistry. We're just looking forward to getting this offense installed and having fun with it. When your number is called, you've got to step up and make a play."

And McDaniels also seemed to indicate that Scheffler was going to be anything but a problem:

"I'm sure there were quite a few players who had relationships with Jay, and they've done a great job of saying, 'You know what? This is our team now, and these are our quarterbacks.' He's working his butt off to get better with each one of them. He's making a good impression on them, and I hope they're making a good impression on him."

What could have possibly changed? If you recall, he was upset that the Broncos traded his good friend, not to mention a QB that he had a rapport with. During Training Camp, he had a moment of doubt and took a few days to decide his future with the team. Then in June, Scheffler and McDaniels appeared to come to terms with the situation, and Tony was reassured by the coach that he was an important part of the new offense. Josh McDaniels has honored his end of the bargain. Scheffler has been on the field, and he has been targeted. If anything, Scheffler's game has evolved under McDaniels so that he is now a more diverse player. So McDaniels has actually helped Scheffler's cause.

All of this because of a few more yards and a few more catches?

There has to be more to this story. Perhaps Bus Cook, Scheffler's agent (and puppet master behind the Jay Cutler trade), will come out soon and shed some light on the situation. Josina Anderson reached out to him (ugly thought) and John Bena posted the results on the front page. It would be extremely shocking to find out that an agent advised his client to make some noise about getting the ball before the free-agency period begins.  Completely shocking. Except that we're talking about Bus Cook, so maybe shocking isn't the right term. So what happened? Is Richard Quinn threatening his Playing Time?

Brandon is showing his true colors again, proving that a leopard can't change it's spots. We all knew that he wasn't satisfied with his pay grade, and it was thought that he was worried that he wouldn't be featured enough in Josh McDaniel's new offense. Well, that myth has been debunked. Marshall is sending the same vibe that got Jay Cutler a one-way ticket out of town. If you remember (how could we not?), Brian Xanders and Josh McDaniels schooled the Bears and took advantage of their own greed. They got maximum return out of a potential headache. Hold tight and we will soon see what kind of bids come out for Brandon's services. What is the value of a Top 5 difference-making WR? Who are the likely Bidders?

It's true that Cutler would love to throw to either or both of these former teammates, but McX has milked that Cash Cow for all it's worth. If Mike Shanahan ends up in Washington like everyone thinks, Dan Snyder won't prevent him from acquiring both players. Baltimore (22nd pick), Jacksonville (12th pick), Miami (15th pick), and Detroit (2nd pick) all need a #1 Receiver. How about Cleveland (6th pick). Josh Cribbs anyone? Would Jerry Jones (26th pick) part with ROY candidate Miles Austin? Houston's (18th pick) Andre Johnson would make a good straight up trade. But would Kubiak go for it? Brandon is buddies with Larry Fitzgerald. Would the Cards trade Anquan Boldin for a chance to have that pair? In New York (21st pick), Mark Sanchez needs someone to help him succeed. St. Louis (1st pick) and Tampa Bay (4th pick) have Draft picks and need so much help that they can't really afford to bid for just one player. Tennessee (13th pick)could use the help. Then there's Seattle. They have the 7th and 19th picks and have an affinity for collecting WR's. If the Broncos get a low enough pick in trade without a receiver to replace him, do they maneuver to pick up Dez Bryant?

"What about his replacement in Free Agency. Here is the list of upcoming UFA's. See anyone you like," queried the Kap'n?

Arnaz Battle, Marty Booker, Antonio Bryant, Nate Burleson, Tim Carter, Chris Chambers, Antonio Chatman, Terrance Copper, Bobby Engram, Brian Finneran, Mike Furrey, Greg Lewis, Brandon Lloyd, Derrick Mason, Shaun McDonald, Sean Morey, Muhsin Muhammad, Kassim Osgood, Terrell Owens, Josh Reed, David Tyree, Bobby Wade, Kevin Walter, Kelley Washington, Ernest Wilford.

Marshall was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He later lived in Georgia, then moved to Florida, where he played high school football. He went to College at University of Central Florida in Orlando, so Jacksonville or Miami could be appealing to him. Not that McX would be interested in Marshall's choice of where he would like to play. Brandon will play, most likely, wherever Denver can get the most in return for his services.

A thought, almost too out there to happen, and yet... it would be a blockbuster to push them all, but could you see Shanahan in Washington, trading Jason Campbell and Haynesworth for Cutler and Aromashodu? Maybe the Bears can get a few picks back in return for the deal - can J. Campbell do a worse job for Chicago than Cutler did this year? At least the Bears would have a guy in the middle of their defense as well as a QB who can throw to players in his own jerseys. 

Peyton Hillis could very well be next. Is his lack of playing time post-concussion related, or has he truly not grasped the Amoeba concept? He might be disappointed in his reduced role, but he is too easy going to become a disruptive force in the locker room. He generally saves that for the field and the opposing team and his work on special teams has often been excellent (disregarding his problems with ball control). Has he given up on McD?  Has McD given up on him?

What are your thoughts, MHR. Is the housecleaning beginning early? If it is, who is your best thought as to the next change that the Broncos are going to make? Or is there just a lot more to the Marshall/Scheffler story than we are currently aware?

Originally posted at MHR

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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