I’ve been feeling pretty hostile toward a large part of the Broncos fan base lately. I used to think that we were a really educated and reasonable fan base. Through the magic of Twitter, I’ve learned that neither is actually the case. Broncos fans, by-and-large, are tremendously spoiled, and short-sighted. They don’t know much about football, and they don’t try too hard to learn about it from resources like It’s All Over Fat Man and Mile High Report. (The Broncos MSM only has negativity and obviousness to contribute, of course.)
On that note, here’s the ever-growing media narrative: the Denver Broncos are on the wrong track because their young egomaniac coach has set out to destroy a once-proud team. Doug Farrar from the often-craptastic Football Outsiders grew up in Denver, and this is the truth, according to him. Mark Kiszla thinks Josh McDaniels looks like a beaten man. (Which for Mark, would be a big success!) This whole thing reminds me of when noted assholes TJ Simers and Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times successfully ran Dodgers’ GM Paul DePodesta out of LA after 2 years. They hated the young, Harvard educated, Moneyball-reared DePodesta, and called him Google Boy, like knowing how to use The Google is a bad thing. Luckily, Pat Bowlen said Monday that it’s not going to work.
The most frequent charge against McDaniels is that he’s a terrible personnel guy. I think that’s hogwash, aided by a lot of hindsight. There has really been no transaction that seemed egregiously bad in the moment, where somebody knowledgeable would say that it made absolutely no sense. Everybody likes to hit the Broncos for the Peyton Hillis trade, but I’m sure it seemed like a pretty good deal to them at the time. Hillis wasn’t what the Broncos were looking for in a back (and still isn’t, for the record) and they’d lost two games in 2009 largely due to Chris Simms’ suckitude. Why not shore up your backup QB position with somebody who has looked functional-to-solid at times in the NFL, and give up a guy who you weren’t going to use anyway? Eric Mangini had his Jets defense run over by Hillis once, in the best game of his career to that point, and thought he was worth a look. It seemed like a solid trade for both teams, and the only real objections came from some Broncos fans who had developed man (and woman) crushes on the rare caucasian tailback.
(Yes, caucasian-ness is the primary driver for the majority of the love that Hillis gets. You can’t possibly convince me otherwise, because as a player, he’s not too different from Reuben Droughns or Mike Anderson. Identifying with people who look like you doesn’t make you a racist, necessarily, so there’s no need to get butt-hurt about this. For what it’s worth, as a policy, I’m only really interested in dating white women, and I’m definitely not a racist.)
You get my point, though, right? No Peter King, Mike Silver, John Clayton, or Pork Chop Williamson screamed about the greatness of Hillis at the time of the trade. They were more focused on the possibility that Quinn may be able to beat out Orton. They trumpeted the factoid (which is a thing that’s believed to be a fact, but actually isn’t) that Quinn played in the exact same offense McDaniels runs at Notre Dame. Quinn has sat on the bench, like backup QBs do. Hillis has had success running and catching the ball this year, (which a lot of Broncos fans, including me, weren’t really that surprised about), and suddenly McDaniels is an idiot who traded away the franchise RB they needed to run the ball with success. How could he not have known he had the NFL’s only one-man running game on his roster? This guy doesn’t even need an offensive line! McDumbass is a fool!!!!!!
The Alphonso Smith thing didn’t work out for the Broncos, but I loved him coming out of Wake Forest too, and so did a lot of other people. The Broncos had him graded very highly, so they made the move. (And, yes, for the hundredth time, trading next year’s #1 for a high #2 this year can be a great deal if the player works out well.) It’s funny how Smith was suddenly great, and McDaniels suddenly missed the boat on him, because he’s intercepted some passes for the Lions, and then he gets eviscerated on national TV last Thursday, and nobody knows for sure what the meme is anymore. Alphonso and Josina Anderson are seemingly still bffs, for what that’s worth, and she noted stupidly that his 5 picks would lead the Broncos, although if he were still in Denver, he wouldn’t be seeing the field, of course. (I’m hip to her game; she buddies up to players like a lower-rent Jay Glazer in high heels. You have to take them both with a serious grain of salt, for that reason.)
I’ve made this point on Twitter a lot lately, but the Broncos’ biggest problem has been their unwillingness to lower expectations, and call a rebuilding process what it is. They’re the only team in the NFL which isn’t allowed a grace period to rebuild, largely because they haven’t asked for one. (There’s also the aforementioned spoiled-fans factor, which has been really bad, too.) In the last 30 years, the Broncos have two seasons of ten or more losses, 10 in 1990, and 11 in 1999. Both of those bad seasons were flanked on either side by seasons of double-digit wins, so they were understood to be aberrations. No rebuilding program was called-for, or happened. No lifelong Broncos fan knows what it’s like to go from good, to rebuilding, to good again. It’s never happened in team history, after all, until now.
Here’s the rational question, to me. Do you really want to flush the last 2 years, and start over again? If you do,understand that that means a whole new program, new schemes, new personnel requirements for those schemes, and, consequently, more losing. You’re suddenly running the risk of becoming a franchise that loses all the time and changes coaches every three years, never setting a consistent direction. We’ve already seen this on defense, but it’s been every year, and it’s unquestionably ugly. Think of haphazard, direction-less rebuilding as equal to 5 defensive coordinators in 5 years.
Everybody needs to understand an important, if uncomfortable fact. The Denver Broncos don’t deserve to win by virtue of being the Denver Broncos. Those who think otherwise are delusional idiots, like those who simplistically think that America will always dominate the world, just by virtue of being America the Exceptional. In either case, and in all observable reality, there’s no shortcut to real, sustainable success. You have to make the right choices, and do the necessary work over a long period of time. Success must be earned, and sometimes the getting-there process is painful. Sometimes, you have to rebuild, and your messaging has to reflect that, or you’re bringing trouble upon yourself.
I see teams like the Browns, Rams and Lions doing things to promote future success, and their fans are justifiably excited. The Broncos are doing similarly good structural things, but to a lot of our fans, largely thanks to the idiot media narrative, Josh McDaniels has taken a Good Team and turned into a Bad Team. The truth is, he took over a Bad Team, and it’s now a Growing Team in transition, most especially on offense. They have issues with consistency and execution, which are typical of young groups.
Everybody has noticed that the Broncos have been really successful with scripting plays lately, and that they were extremely successful coming off their bye. A lot of people seem to be struggling to grasp what this means, but it’s very clear and obvious to me. The young players on offense perform at a very high level when they’re comfortable with exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, and they’re confident that they can accomplish the results they’re seeking. This indicates a very important thing; if this group is given time to continue to learn and grow and improve together, they’re going to get to be more consistent, because they’ll all be more comfortable throughout entire games. Nothing will ever be particularly new to them anymore. A few new plays each week will be easily digestable, and the recurring stuff will see more and more consistent proficiency.
This is what I think, in general. The schemes that the Broncos are using in all phases of the game range from fine (defense, special teams) to excellent (offense). If the McDaniels regime can survive this firestorm of negativity and misinformation, there’s no logical football reason to fire them. In fact, I would evaluate doing so to be illogical and reckless. You don’t spend a lot of time and money acquiring players to do certain tasks, and then flush that process before it has a real chance to be successful. Intelligent business-people don’t do that, regardless of what ass-clowns like Mark Kiszla say in the Denver Post. You stick with the plan until it’s pretty clear that the plan is only going to lead to losses. We’re nowhere near that point yet, folks.
The talent on offense is good, and all it’s lacking are experience and repetitions. I particularly expect Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton to improve for next season, and Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to really compete for playing time on offense as second year players. I also expect Tim Tebow to give Kyle Orton a lot of competition, and maybe beat him out. I think that Tebow will ultimately prove to be the better long-term option, because his ability to make plays with his feet, and his emotional leadership style will provide dimensions that have been missing. I think he’ll be able to make the throws that Orton makes with some more experience and coaching. Finally, for the Hillis-lovers, I believe that Knowshon Moreno is proving to be an outstanding fit for the kind of offense the Broncos are running. He’s doing everything well right now, and he’s only going to improve.
The talent on defense leaves quite a bit to be desired. I think that Champ Bailey needs to definitely be re-signed, and I’m hopeful that Andre’ Goodman will finally get healthy yet this season, and play at his 2009 level. I’m encouraged about Perrish Cox and Syd’Quan Thompson for the future, but they both will have significant room to improve. I’m not too thrilled with the Safety play I’ve seen this season, and I’d be really reluctant to count on Brian Dawkins and Renaldo Hill as starters in 2011. I wish Darcel McBath would stay healthy, so we could see what we have there, but in any case, I’d be looking to draft a FS high in 2011, not that there are any elite ones available. I like Mark Barron from Alabama as a possible second round guy.
The defensive line needs some talent infusion, and that’d be a good place to spend a first round pick, in a strong draft for those players. I think Justin Bannan, Marcus Thomas, Kevin Vickerson, and Jamal Williams are solid rotation guys, but it’d be really nice to get somebody in there who can win matchups, and disrupt offenses. I, for one, am 90% happy with the linebacking corps. Mario Haggan and Jason Hunter have held up very well in the running game, for the most part, and I’ve really liked what I’ve been seeing from Joe Mays as a downhill player. I think he needs a contract extension, once the CBA gets figured out. With Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers both available, the pass rush would be improved, but I’d like to see a pass rush specialist drafted to use in sub packages.
If the McDaniels regime is allowed to continue, and some better defensive talent is acquired, this team will win more games. The offense will gain continuity from repetition, and the defense will have better depth (a huge problem right now) and the key players will also mostly be in their second year in the scheme. If Pat Bowlen gives in to the idiots in the local MSM and the fan base, and fires McDaniels, we should get used to losing, because it’s bound to continue in the near term. I’m just glad to see that Bowlen seems to be keeping calm about this.
Originally posted at One Man Football