TJ, Em and I chat a lot, and mostly about the Broncos (go figure). Whatever you may think of our writing here at IAOFM, we do not groupthink - we all have our own views, and hopefully that is evident. But while we don't argue, we certainly have frequent healthy debates about where the Broncos are headed. Today, we're going to
subject you to let you in on a conversation between TJ and I. Now, this is definitely could be one of the most obnoxiously self-gratifying ideas in the history of Broncos blogdom, but we're going to give it a whirl anyway - after all, we’re fans, just like you. While we covered a few different aspects of where the Broncos stand today, we certainly left several questions unanswered, and we'd love to hear/read your thoughts on the same matters.
As some of you know, I'm a fan of the Mets, who have recently overhauled their front office and thankfully done so by hiring a group of intelligent, well-spoken baseball men who have track records of success. One of those men is Paul DePodesta, a Harvard alum who played baseball and football for the Crimson and later worked for Billy Beane with the A's, as immortalized in Michael Lewis' fine book Moneyball. DePodesta would go on to become the GM of the Dodgers for two seasons, and then worked within the Padres' hierarchy for several years. During DePodesta's time with the A's, he gave a fascinating presentation at a leadership forum about what it takes to change the culture of a sports franchise, what with so many deeply-ingrained ways of thinking and evaluating. It's a somewhat lengthy read, but there are several gems within it, and we both highly recommend it - we'll likely be referring to it quite a bit going forward. I read the piece this morning and forwarded it on to TJ - here's where our conversation went from there...
TJ: Reading the article now. the first thing that strikes me is this:
“To the untrained ear, these scouts were unbelievably convincing. Some of their subjective opinions almost sounded like they were objective. If you had worn a major league uniform at some point in your life, you were somehow qualified to make these judgments despite a complete lack of empirical evidence to support your claims.”
Doug: Yeah excellent - there is a lot of brilliance in this presentation
TJ: “We were hanging on instead of trying to move forward. We signed veteran, big name players who everybody knew. Our team got a lot more expensive and started growing older.”
I haven't finished reading yet, but I am already struck by the idea that we were told right before McDaniels was hired that a strong GM would be in place in Denver. For me I still can't get congruent in my mind Bowlen and Ellis' statements regarding this issue with the reality that we don’t have a strong GM/coach separation.
Doug: I'm just reading the part in Kirwan's book about the FO where he makes the point that the coach has to have a lot of power over personnel, or else the GM has to be a true football guy, and that means who? Parcells, Holmgren...
TJ: Well, I'm wondering if the Pats model is correct - both the GM and the coach have to agree on the player. But the problem here is Xanders is not a football guy - he’s just a cap guy, I would argue.
Doug: Right, and Belichick >>>>>>>>>>McDaniels
TJ: At least it appears thus far. I think it's just too bad that McD is getting his on-the-job training in Denver at the expense of the Broncos’ record.
Doug: Well there's also this - just because he's an excellent coordinator doesn't mean he'll ever be a good HC - he's a sharp guy, and knows his X's and O's but a lot of guys do and have failed as HCs
TJ: I am torn because with some experience (perhaps a beard too), he could be good. But I also remember that the worst coaches I had, the ones I did not play the hardest for, were the ones nearest my age. Always - not sure why.
Doug: Raheem Morris? Mike Tomlin?
TJ: I think Morris is just getting lucky
Doug: Sure, the Bucs are lucky to be 7-3 - definitely
TJ: Tomlin doesn't look like a frat guy - he looks like Shaft, man - and he looks mean. Of course, I 'm just joking - I don't really know. Okay, another angle - what about the points differential of the Broncos historically?
Doug: Well, -70 after 10 games is horrendous - puts them on pace for their worst since pre-merger - 1966, in fact.
TJ: So how in the hell can one argue for McD in this context? I mean, it's not like he didn't bring in his guys - Jamal Williams, Brian Dawkins, etc. Wait! It takes time to transition from the 3-4! Isn’t that the rallying cry? Sure, but where is that NT we are supposed to draft for depth and to develop by year three of the McDaniels plan?
Doug: Who knows?
TJ: This should freak everyone out - if we don't have a lockout (which we will), who plays NT, DE, DE next year? The same guys that are now giving up the record-setting points you mentioned? And if we draft a NT now, do we say, “Oh, well he needs another year to learn the system?” It seems to me that we should have had a nose tackle right now being groomed. Chris Baker is not that guy we were told. Who then? Or did they whiff that badly in assuming that Ron Fields and Jamal Williams were gonna hold it down for 3-4 years?
Doug: Vickerson and Bannan aren't that old, but sure - where's the depth?
TJ: But these are the same guys who are giving up these yards right now - just because they aren't old doesn't mean they are 1st class.
TJ: So if Bannan, Williams, Vickerson are the ones we are going to use and we are right now giving up this kind of points differential, why should I believe we will be better against the run next year? Ayers and Doom? DJ and Mays? Or do we blame the secondary some more?
Doug: Ayers/Doom/DJ/Haggan/Hunter sounds like a pretty good crew, no?
TJ: Why do you say that? Based on what objective data? Hahaha
Doug: NONE, hahaha
TJ: Hell, Dude, I don't know - all I'm sayin' - Williams - let go by the Bolts. Dawkins - dumped by the Eagles. Vickerson - claimed off the trash heap. McBean - trash heap as well.
Doug: Hunter - same. Haggan too, actually. At least we have Josh Barrett waiting in the wings at safety. Oh, wait...
TJ: Whose trash is whose treasure?
Doug: Yeah you can't build a team entirely on others' trash, although Shanny did a good job of it once. But only once, and then he kept trying to replicate it.
TJ: Man, last night I was listening to a call-in show in Denver. The fans were so mad, they could hardly pronounce their words. The host said "Look, the pressure in a 3-4 comes from the outside, and that's why when we don't have Doom and Ayers, you are seeing what you are seeing." But one fan - he was actually the smartest one - calls up and says, "Your premise is wrong. McDaniels didn't have to come in and change to a 3-4 in the first place." The host said, "Well, that's true." Haha
Doug: Ha! But what was here to work with?
TJ: It made me think - okay, your two best pass rushers are out, and you are in a 3-4 still, even considering that you are having a hard time with the run?
Doug: The problem with running a 4-3 right now is that means Ryan McBean has to play more
TJ: For me, when they went 4-3, they stopped the run in two games
Doug: True. Well, sort of stopped the run. The run D has had 2 really good games: Iindy, who doesn't try to run, and KC. Everyone else had at least 120 yards except Seattle who had 109.
TJ: Sure, and the KC game was a reflection of the Chiefs having to abandon the run. So what you are saying is they can't stop anyone, no matter what?
Doug: We've also had 7 games with 1 or 0 takeaways
TJ: Do you remember that piece last year in which I compared winning percentage with turnover margin? In over 600 games (or it was some big number like this), teams that had a +2 turnover margin in a game won like 80% of the time, I think. So I'm wondering - what creates turnovers? And why can't/aren't we doing it?
Doug: Pass rush. If you don't have a pass rush, takeaways are all luck.
TJ: Okay, so we lay all of this at the feet of Doom being out? All of it? Ayers (to a smaller extent), although that's debatable, and I think Wink is either not good at zone blitzing or our LBs aren't.
Doug: Well the run defense did get much worse when Ayers got hurt. Doom or Ayers out on their own is one thing. But missing both is huge - not only are they your 2 best linebackers, they are your 2 outside guys in a 3-4. That's devastating
TJ: Teah, this is absolutely true. I guess you give McD a pass then? What do you think?
Doug: I dunno. One could argue there should be better young depth, but it is a young-ish group - Doom/Ayers/DJ/Haggan/Hunter do you really spend a high draft pick to sit on the bench with that group?
TJ: DT, Tebow, Decker - that's some high draft meat for guys that aren't seeing the field much. I don’t like DJ’s play in this system. Gets caught in traffic a lot more than one would like.
Doug: I know, I'm not fond either
TJ: I truly believe we need a MLB that is a big-time brimstone and fire guy in the 3-4, you know, a badass like Al Wilson...how about the Incredible Hulk? I heard he can fill the gap well.
TJ: Wow, this statement from the article is amazing as well: “Every season we play 162 games. Individual players amass over 600 plate appearances. Starting pitchers face 1,000 hitters. We have plenty of sample size. I encouraged everyone to think of the house advantage in everything we did. We may not always be right but we'd be right a lot more often than we'd be wrong. In baseball, if you win about 60% of your games, you're probably in the playoffs.” Football doesn't have such luxury
Doug: That's what makes baseball so much fun for geeks - it's why the % of 130-lb fans wearing glasses is much higher at a baseball game haha
TJ: This is why I love EPV though - the sample size is giant.
TJ: “Many of us share a common psychological deficiency. We judge decisions based on the outcome instead of the time and the circumstances under which they were made. This happens all the time in baseball. They make trades and say things like, “we'll see in three or four years if it was a good decision.” That doesn't work for me because you can't go back and learn from the decisions because of all the variables that occurred in the intervening time. It makes replication of an outcome impossible.”
TJ: Damn, this article is a keeper
Doug: That's my favorite part...