Happy Monday to you, or whatever day it might be as you read this, from the Department of Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations. It's been a slow news week for the Broncos and the NFL, but that can't slow us down. Ready, begin...
1. I'm a fairly casual NBA fan. When I was a kid, I decided that the Phoenix Suns were going to be my team, because I liked their Point Guard, Kevin Johnson, who is now the Mayor of Sacramento. I also became a big Steve Nash fan when he was a Freshman at Santa Clara, and he hit 8-of-8 from the free throw line, down the stretch to beat Arizona in the NCAA Tournament in 1992. (That was the first time a 15 seed ever beat a 2 seed.) Steve subsequently being a Sun for 2 stints has also made me excited to be a Suns fan over the years.
The Suns are now on the verge of losing me as a fan, because they took what was the equivalent of the Indianapolis Colts of the NBA, and are quickly turning into the Detroit Lions. A great owner, Jerry Colangelo, sold the team to a terrible owner, Robert Sarver. Sarver is cheap, and likes to sell first round picks for $3 Million in cash, which shouldn't even be allowed. Then those first round picks become players like Rajon Rondo and Rudy Fernandez, guys who could help win now. They make desperate trades, trying to get away from the fast-paced, high scoring approach that made them annual contenders, because the punditry decided that offense can't win championships. Now, they aren't contenders, and they're boring to watch. Nash, one of the Top 10 PGs of all-time, is being forced to play a slow and scripted game, which is completely incompatible with what made him great. Now, they're going to fire their first-year coach tomorrow, and probably trade Amare Stoudemire for pennies on the dollar. The whole thing is just atrocious, and I could easily just switch to the Cavs, any moment. I've been toying with buying season tickets anyway.
The reason I bring this up in a football column is that I am a little worried about the direction of the Broncos. I keep trying to convince myself that I shouldn't be, that Pat Bowlen is a great owner, but like Rachel Maddow, I might need to be talked down. Here is the key question in my mind. Is the only reason that we've all thought so much of Pat Bowlen as an owner the fact that he stayed out of the way of Mike Shanahan all these years, and didn't get involved in football decisions? I think the answer to that question is yes, and since he seems to be changing his MO, I can't help but worry that he'll want to start being more involved as a football decision-maker.
I am thankful for Mike Lombardi's work at the National Football Post, because the year he spent in Denver, working for no pay, enables him to provide some real insight into the team. He has often written about how the Broncos have always lacked a coherent holistic player procurement strategy (I would argue that RBs and O-Linemen have been procured in a coherent way, but he's pretty much right about the rest of the team.) He notably disagrees with the Broncos tendency to rely heavily on position analysis from assistant coaches, rather than from scouts. Lombardi is fond of repeating the Bill Walsh mantra, "Players play, coaches coach, and scouts scout."
I think that the Shanahan-era Broncos always tried to find players who they thought might be worth a dollar, but were selling for 50 cents for one reason or another. Think about Maurice Clarett, who spectacularly didn't work out. Another example is Marcus Thomas, who is working out pretty well. The trade for Dewayne Robertson is another example, as is the one for Dre Bly. Behind that approach is the belief that your coaching and your environment will cause those acquisitions to play better for you than they did in the other place, or in the case of Clarett and Thomas, that they'll behave themselves in your place.
The Patriots approach to player procurement is well-documented. They favor high-character, high-intelligence, low-risk players, and they have specific size/speed guidelines in mind for every position. Fits within their schemes are always considered, and versatility is valued highly. They never overpay replaceable players, and they tend to draft to replace those players a year in advance. All of this is demonstrably pretty smart, and we know this is how Josh McDaniels learned the NFL game. It's a Fortune 500 approach in a league of mom-and-pop businesses.
If the Goodman's got whacked because they were resistant to this type of approach, then I am okay with that. If it happened because Pat Bowlen simply wanted to assert his personal dominance over football operations, then I am not. The Broncos' 2008 draft class was the best in the League, and if they were anybody but the Broncos, you would never stop hearing that. I hope our team is in good hands, because unlike with the Suns, I am a Broncos fan for life, and I would hate to see a good thing get ruined.
2. The following are ten offensive Free Agents, who I think should be considered for acquisition.
a. Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB - Cincinnati - A smart and athletic young player, who played pretty well amid tough circumstances for the Bengals last season. He is pretty ideal as a backup, because he has to know that he's just short of starter-caliber. He is young, but has good pro experience.
b. Dan Orlovsky - QB - Detroit - Orlovsky passes the eyeball test when you watch him throw a ball. He has a good arm, and he's a better athlete than he looks. The self-inflicted safety was bad, but he didn't have a lot of playing experience when it happened. He can be a solid backup, especially with good coaching.
c. Michael Pittman - RB - Denver - I'd like to see Michael re-signed. He was excellent as a third-down back and short-yardage runner before he got hurt.
d. JJ Arrington - RB - Arizona - Arrington is a good kick returner, and a solid backup RB. He's a guy who is a contributor to a winning team, like Kevin Faulk. You have to think McDaniels is looking for a guy like Faulk.
e. Jason Wright - RB - Cleveland - I've never understood why this guy doesn't play more. To my eyes, he's a lot better than Jamal Lewis and Jerome Harrison. He's a good-sized back, who runs with power.
f. Jabar Gaffney - WR - New England - He knows the new system, and will come pretty cheaply. Gaffney is a solid outside possession WR.
g. Michael Clayton - WR - Tampa Bay - Clayton had a good rookie year, and then got stuck in Jon Gruden's doghouse for the next 3 years after that. He's big and physical, and you can buy low on him. I've always thought he was better than guys that Gruden had playing key minutes.
h. Devery Henderson - WR - New Orleans - Henderson led the NFL with an average of 24.8 yards per catch in 2008. He's kind of a one-trick pony, but he is a pretty dangerous deep threat. The Broncos will want to stretch the field more than in the past, and don't really have a guy like Henderson.
i. Daniel Wilcox - TE - Baltimore - A solid blocking TE, who would provide good depth behind Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham.
j. Jake Grove - C - Oakland - Grove is a good backup-type. He can probably get a starter's job somewhere, but he'd be good to have for competition in camp. Since he missed some time in 2008 with injuries, he may be devalued enough to get on a cheap, come-compete-for-a-job kind of deal.
3. Whither the Guru's reaction to Brett Favre's Earth-shattering retirement announcement? I am dying to know what he thinks.
4. The Jets are going to suck this year, unless they get a QB, and their only hope to do that is to draft one, and hope for the best. They are terribly positioned for the future, also, because their cap situation is the worst in the NFL. Favre actually did them a giant favor by quitting, from that perspective. Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini mortgaged the future last season, trying to save their own jobs. Mangini took the fall, and then got hired in Cleveland, which is apropos, because there, he has to pay for the Savage/Crennel two-headed monster doing the same thing.
5. I think Favre would be atrocious as a TV personality. I'm virtually positive that that means Fox has offered him a contract to join Curt, Howie, Terry, Jimmy, Michael, Jillian, and the rest of them in the studio by now, and ESPN wants him for the MNF package too. Imagine Brett matching "wits" with Kornheiser.
6. I don't get the appeal of NASCAR. I watched some of the Daytona 500 today, and I just don't get it. I think there is a part of my brain that is missing, or something.
Next week, we'll have combine talk, 10 ideas for defensive player acqusitions, and much more. Have a great week, and we'll see you next Monday morning, with more Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations.