Just when you think it's safe to turn out the lights, Brian Xanders scares the hell out of you.
Like most Broncos fans, I was beginning to accept that Joe Ellis, John Elway, and Brian Xanders simply won't discuss what Xanders did or didn't do under Josh McDaniels' reign of fire. Despite the fact that Elway and Ellis are now presenting the Broncos as an open choose-your-own-adventure book--complete with Twitter requests for head-coaching candidates--I was beginning to move on with the understanding that the fans are supposed to readily accept that the search for a general manager wasn't going any farther than Arvada. I was even prepared to drink some Xanders-laced Kool-Aid. He can't possibly screw up the 2nd-overall pick, I thought.
But then came freaky Friday.
As part of their ongoing Xanders-really-is-general-manager campaign, the Broncos nudged Xanders (let's call him a touchpoint) back out into the public eye on Friday. Xanders' new experiment was a touching Q&A with the Denver Post's faithful readers--not exactly the deepest of thinkers, but probably harder hitting than those from The Vic and Gary Show.
Sure enough, there were no questions about the trades of Peyton Hillis, Alphonso Smith, Laurence Maroney, or anything about his two years as Josh McDaniels' chain-of-command secretary. Still, while I expected a softball piece fit for the Powerpuff Girls (who are actually pretty bad ass, to be frank), I didn't expect the questions to be quite so easy.
Xanders was up to the challenge, however. His answers were about as long as a Chad Pennington fade route. What they lacked in depth, though, they more than made up in faulty logic. In one answer, Xanders placed February before January:
We are going to have our college scouts start cross-checking the players in February, instead of later in the process in January.
There were hard-hitting questions about the endzones being painted and about draft gurus. Xanders tells us the Broncos aren't influenced by draft pundits. Sorry, mock drafters. Those hundreds and hundreds of mock drafts were just mental masturbation. Perhaps if we all tweet Elway our pick, he'll listen. I still hold out hope.
When describing how the Broncos will address the defense, Xanders had this to say:
We are going to address all phases of the defense, whether it's the front seven or the defensive back.
All together now: ugh. I'm not sure if I should take a chainsaw to Xanders' conjunctions or simply finish off his sentences.
I could (and probably should) go on and on, but it would have no particular value. These two examples are sufficient enough to upset you. Further, they're enough to bring you right back to less than zero regarding Xanders.
Despite all of this, I'm not personally attacking Xanders (or his lack of command of the language we call English). It is what it is, Xanders might say. Good grammar doesn't ensure you can uncover the next Trevor Pryce. Yet it gives one slight pause when stacked upon all the other things we've heard and seen. Thus, I'm again lobbying for the very transparency the Broncos say they want.
Xanders doesn't have a failure in communication. I can get past the awkward radio interviews or the ungrammatical Q&A (if I must). What he's got is a failure to communicate his failures. For a franchise that now films coaches as they arrive at the airport, it's a complete joke that they won't bare their souls regarding Xanders. Instead, the entire tenure of Xanders under McDaniels is shrouded in mystery. First, there was a radio interview in which Xanders said he couldn't talk about what happened with Peyton Hillis, but that there was more to the story. Then there was Eric Goodman's story at Mile High Sports, which insinuated that Xanders wasn't told about the Hillis trade before it happened. In addition, the piece suggested that had Xanders had his way, the Broncos would now have Brian Orakpo or Clay Matthews on their roster instead of Robert Ayers. In an interesting twist, after Goodman's piece was widely criticized here and at other Broncos blogs, it has since been taken down.
The larger questions--those that the Denver Post should be asking--still remain:
1) In which moves of the McDaniels era was Xanders directly involved?
2) Why has Xanders contradicted himself on numerous occasions, at some points saying that he and McDaniels worked hand-in-glove, while at others suggesting he was just doing his job in accepting McDaniels' power?
3) Why not stand up to McDaniels during his two years of fury?
4) What led a relatively inexperienced executive like Elway, along with a marketing guy like Ellis, to conclude that it was in the best interest of the franchise to keep its general manager after two years of disappointment without even a sniff of a candidate search?
If the Broncos would come out and answer these questions as truthfully and openly as they pronounce themselves to be these days, the fans would respect them much more, even if they disagreed with the answers. The answers would, at the very least, provide a framework from which fans could make sense of what is going on. The fans would probably turn around in support of Xanders. It would also allow me to write on something other than the lack of transparency at Dove Valley while transparency is being crammed down our throats. Instead, Josh McDaniels has his scarlet letter; the fans have someone to blame.
I fear the answers to the above questions are too embarrassing for the franchise--they'd rather just ignore them. Further, I don't think the answers jive with they way Elway (and Pat Bowlen) want to be seen. Allow me to speculate on the answers:
1) The truth is that Xanders was probably on board with a lot of the moves McDaniels made. Why wouldn't he be? McDaniels knew his system better than anyone else. Xanders would have known this. And if he wasn't on board, he probably put up little struggle.
2) Xanders has contradicted himself because he's an opportunist like most of us. When it served him to give the appearance of working together with McDaniels, he gave it. When it didn't (like when said devil was fired), it suited him to back away from all things Josh. This kind of maneuvering doesn't exactly scream leader, but it's good CYA (Cover Your Al Davis) behavior. I just wish the Broncos would admit to it.
3) See #1.
4) Neither Elway nor Bowlen wanted a GM search in the first place because the last thing they want is for a strong GM to knock heads with Elway. The Broncos need to sell Elway as the 4th-quarter savior. A strong GM wouldn't support this narrative. If the Broncos succeed, it's got to be because of Elway, not Xanders The Meek. It's Elway's show. Imagine if one of the Ravens' front office guys had come into Dove Valley. Joe Ellis and John Elway wouldn't have had so much wiggle room to act inexperienced. Right now, every week in the front office is like another PSA of One to Grow On.
The other edge of this sword is sharper, however. It should keep Xanders up at night. He's probably not even aware of it under that pile of tape he's breaking down. If the Broncos fail, he'll make an easy scapegoat for Elway. Elway can dismiss him and throw the fans some more red meat. After all, you're not going to run John Elway out of town, are you?
And that should scare the hell out of Xanders. Perhaps enough for him to get back to work, instead of giving some trite answers to some meaningless and cherry-picked questions.
In short, if Xanders is going to answer questions, he should answer the questions that give Broncos fans real insight. Otherwise, things become so transparent, they begin to obscure. Perhaps with Xanders as GM, that's what the Broncos want.