A long-ish post about me and the kind of Broncos fan I am.
I became a Broncos fan in January of 1987, when I was 9 years old. Super Bowl XXI was the first game I ever watched in its entirety, and my father was rooting for the Giants. He kept yelling at my brother Chris and I to shut up so he could watch the game, so we got mad at him and started rooting for the Broncos. Both of us have been Broncos fans since. My father changes allegiances every time he changes cities, and in January 1998, he lived in Milwaukee and had become a Packers fan. He refused to take my call after TD scored, which made my gloating feel even better, and I still remember this as the happiest day of my life. Such is the power of football and the Denver Broncos.
As a fan, I'm an offense guy. I was mad when Mike Shanahan turned down the Head Coaching job in 1993 and Wade Phillips was hired. I still remember Wade shouting "YES!" at his press conference, while I was thinking "NO!" I know a lot of fans are presently down on the Shanahan regime, but I respectfully disagree with that sentiment. I think this antipathy is largely fed by sportswriters who know shockingly little about football, but who look to generate stories rather than just report on them. Frankly, I think all of the Denver-area Broncos columnists leave something to be desired, and I thought that Brandon Marshall was speaking truth about Woody Paige, who seems to have finally decided to go all the way with becoming a full-fledged clown. Congrats, by the way, Woody.
The single biggest determinant in establishing long-term team success in football is a consistency of program and philosophy. This is not even really just my opinion, it's pretty close to scientifically provable. Quick, name the five teams which have averaged 9 or more wins since 1978.
(Methodology: The year 1978 was selected as a starting point, because that was the year in which the NFL adopted a 16 game schedule. Also, the 1982 and 1987 seasons are excluded because they were shortened by labor stoppages.)
If you got them right off the top of your head, don't be too impressed with yourself. My ex-wife got 4 out of 5, and she's a novice. They're really pretty obvious. The common traits are quality ownership and stability of coaching staffs. The next biggest factor is great quarterbacking, but even that can be squandered. For the record, I expect Jay Cutler to make the leap to the Brady-Manning level this season. It gets lost with the spotty W-L count, but his statistical performance over his first 21 starts has been better than either of theirs were.
What I am really getting at is that we have one of the very best coaches in the NFL. No team gets more value added from an offensive philosophy than ours does. You can tell this by the fact that each year at draft time, you hear about Denver Broncos-type offensive linemen and running backs. This is comparable only to the degree of success that the Patriots have with a certain type of defensive player.
You can knock some of the personnel decisions of the Shanahan regime, but this is largely overblown. Almost always picking in the 20s in the draft takes a toll on your overall roster talent. You could say that the Colts have been continually successful in doing so, but they hit a few home runs at the top of the draft. The highest the Broncos have picked during the last 13 years was 11th, when they took Jay Cutler, and they had to trade up to do it. People love to knock the Maurice Clarett pick, but it was a supplemental choice, and they took a flier on talent, and it didn't work out. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The 2006 class has 4 Pro Bowl caliber players in Cutler, Scheffler, Marshall, and Dumervil. The 2007 class looks good too, and defensive linemen generally make big leap from year 1 to year 2. Partcularly, watch out for Marcus Thomas, who was a game-changing player at Florida, and should be at this level also.
I'm excited to be a Broncos fan. They're flying under the radar, and I believe they're primed for a big year. The national attitude around them reminds me of the one around the Giants last offseason. I expect a good draft haul, and for the low-cost free agent signings to fit in well. I expect the Broncos to beat San Diego at home this season, and to seriously contend for the AFC West championship. I also expect that this time next year, all these national NFL writers who are so down on the Broncos will be calling them the hot young team for 2009.