I picked up the phone yesterday to find a friend calling with some football news. Chad Ochocinco had been released by the Patriots - did I see any chance that Denver would pursue him?
‘Not much,’ I replied. The truth is, it would shock me if they had a moment’s interest.
It’s not that Chad is, or at least had been, untalented. Even when he was younger and running his own personal carnival sideshow, featuring new and inventive forms of dysfunctionality (while occasionally making appearances and catches for the Cincinnati Bengals), I never had a moment’s doubt that his physical skills were excellent. He does seem to share a number of traits with Brandon Marshall, Denver’s former poster boy for attitude problems and bad behavior (thankfully not the tendency toward violence).
Marshall suffers from a form of mental illness, and I sympathize with that aspect of his life. The question here, though, isn’t whether players like Marshall (and, perhaps, Chad) do or don’t have a form of borderline personality disorder. The question that drives this, like every decision out of Dove Valley whether we individually agree with their rationale or not, is whether it can make the team better. In this case, I can’t see how it could.
Peyton Manning has unquestionably benefited from having some excellent receivers over the years. Marvin Harrison, tight end Dallas Clark, Brandon ‘Slot Machine’ Stokley, Reggie Wayne and others come to mind. Even so, it’s hard to question that Manning’s unearthly accuracy has made them better as well. A look at both the quantity (12 receivers on the roster at the moment) and the quality of the receiving corps for the Broncos this year says they just don’t need extra help.
To wit, they already have Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, the same Brandon Stokley, Andre Caldwell, Matt Willis, Greg Orton and several others - including Gerell Robinson, whom the Broncos happened upon while watching Brock Osweiler at Arizona State, deciding before they left to try to obtain the 6-4, 222-pound wideout.
Their problem this year will be more about getting the group down to a manageable roster size, than it will be about finding enough talent to struggle through the year. When you add in the tight ends - Julius Thomas is just getting back from ankle surgery and is still developing, but Virgil Green (if he survives his suspension), Joel Dreessen, and Jacob Tamme are all talented in nicely interlocking ways - Denver will have no shortage of receiving targets.
I’m a big believer in locker room chemistry. For the first time in a long time, Denver doesn’t have an off-field distraction, whether it’s a quarterback fuss, a receiver or tight end acting out, another change in head coach, or the need for another one. Given this, I don’t see John Elway and Company wanting the possibility of a negative influence. I also can’t imagine Peyton Manning taking kindly to the kind of nonsense that Chad has perpetuated throughout his career - I doubt he’d ever throw to the man.
Even if, by some bizarre twist of fate, the Broncos and Manning could be desperate enough to bring him in, part of the deterioration in Chad is that he has always added sloppy route-running to his selfish antics. He’s 34 and couldn’t make an impact in New England last year, bringing in only 15 catches despite a lack of depth at the position. In Denver, he wouldn’t have any purpose.
You only get so long in the NFL, and Chad’s had a long career by most standards - 11 years. He maintained some level of production for the first 10 of those, which is commendable. But he’s not the type to hold up the kind of personal drive for conditioning and training that Stokley - who's going on 36 - manages. ‘Stokes’, like Manning himself, has always been a perfectionist. His routes are so sharp that nickelbacks have cut themselves on them. He’s incessant in his training. He lost track of his concussions somewhere between 12 and 15, but still has the skills of a younger player. I don’t even know if he’ll make the team this season, although I’m an utter homer about wanting him to. Seeing him and Manning in Broncos orange together? It’s a scene out of a dream.
Ochocinco? More of a scene from a feverish nightmare. I suspect that he’ll find a job somewhere, but I’ll be flabbergasted if it’s in Denver. And frankly, I hope he doesn’t - I need all the flabber that I can get.