Happy Tuesday, friends. Welcome to the creative process for ST&NO, which I now intend to lend some insight into. If you didn't know, I am told exactly what to write by messengers of the Supreme Commander of La-La Land. It happens subliminally, in the middle of the night, by visits from Fairies, because it almost feels to me like these are my own independent thoughts. Once the season gets going, I generally wake up on Saturday, and watch some college football, and write for a while, then I watch a bunch of NFL football on Sunday (after another, longer, more intensive Fairy visit) and write a lot more. Then, on Monday, I put the finishing touches on it, and it runs Tuesday morning. Voila! From the mind of the Supreme Commander, to the voices of the Fairies, to my ears, and then my fingers, to your eyes. It's like magic.
Well, usually that's how it goes. Sometimes, it's the middle of the 4th quarter of a fairly annoying and sloppy 3rd preseason game, and this pops onto my iPhone, from John Bena, and sent to the whole creative team.
Can someone post a small game recap, along with some thoughts to use as a Post Game Discussion Thread? Please??? Just reply to this if you do it!
I see it, and I kind of groan, because I live in the eastern time zone, it's almost midnight, I have to work in the morning, and the game was annoying, as I mentioned. I'm just not really in the mood, you dig? I decide I will wait for 20 minutes, and see if anybody else will claim the responsibility. Nobody does, so I decide that I should take ownership of the job, and get it done. Dammit.
So, I know what you're thinking. How did the Kool-Aid, subliminal, happy, positive messaging get to me, considering John's very ambiguous language? I mean, hell, all the guy did was ask somebody to write a few thoughts. I could tell from his tweeting that he was personally less than thrilled with the game. I was never asleep, so the Kool-Aid Fairies couldn't have visited me, right? How could I write such a shiny, happy screed as this? Ponder that, and meanwhile, we'll get Shallow and Nearsighted (and Shiny! and Happy!) with it. Ready..... BEGIN!!!!
1. We begin with our dear friend, the Boringest Man In America.
b. Denver running back Floyd Little, on the surface, falls short. He had but one 1,000-yard rushing season, ran for just 43 touchdowns, averaged 3.9 yards-per-carry in his career and rushed for 54.0 yards per game. But he had the misfortune of playing for a team that had a winning record only twice in his career. He won the rushing title in 1972 and had more rushing yards (5,185) than any other back in football from 1968 to '73. He played behind Steve Tensi, Marlin Briscoe, Steve Ramsey and Charlie Johnson.
We talk in the Hall of Fame selection room every year about not discriminating against guys on historically bad teams, which this Denver team was. I guess when I think of jobbed guys on historically bad teams, I think of Tommy Nobis, Claude Humphrey and Cortez Kennedy. I'll need to be convinced a little more on Little.
This is really important, for a couple of reasons. First of all, King indicates that he can be convinced, so that's a starting point. Now, he thinks he knows a lot more football than he actually does, and his treatment of fan email tends to be arrogant and condescending, but this is a good example of a guy who MHR needs to be lobbying. He can be, and needs to be educated.
I can relate, because 16 months ago, I was right there with him on Little. I was new to MHR, and had a very limited reputation, and was at least somewhat the idiot who didn't like Earl Bennett or Chris Williams that much in the 2008 Draft, and who favored Ryan Clady in the first round. Anyway, I looked at Floyd's statistics, and I wasn't blown away. I had never even seen one play that Floyd participated in, because I am only 32, and not tremendously history-minded. In making a point about Jerome Bettis, who doesn't deserve to go to the HOF, but certainly will, I wrote this FanPost, which makes me cringe now. I got crushed, as you can see in the comments. Firstfan cared so much that he sent me an outstanding book, Tales From The Broncos Sideline, which Floyd wrote, with John Elway writing the foreword, and Jim Brown contributing the preface. Turns out, it's a must-read for any Broncos fan.
I offered that copy of the book up once on here, after I finished it, and got no takers. I am glad, because I am going to send it to Peter King at Sports Illustrated. He needs to read it, because it conveys the greatness of both Floyd the player and Floyd the man. Not to steal the HOF committee's thunder, but please consider writing the BMIA a respectfully-worded email, advocating for Floyd's deserved inclusion in the Hall of Fame. It's an effort that won't be wasted, because the backstory is what sells Floyd, not the stats.
I said this King business was important for a couple of reasons, and I have only given one so far. The second reason is that if Floyd doesn't make it in this year, he almost certainly never will. This is not something people are going to come around to, and if those on the veterans' committee who put up his name lose, they won't try again. Only Bob Hayes has ever fallen short from the veterans committee, and then been re-considered and eventually elected later. Hayes was part of the Cowboys hype machine, and he got a lot of support from that. There's no Broncos hype machine. We're the best thing going for that, with all the talent and determination in this community.
Floyd is up against nobody but himself, and his own qualifications. What I mean by that is, the 2010 Class is limited to 5 modern-era inductees, and 2 seniors. If both seniors candidates make it, they don't keep anybody out, who could have otherwise made it, so it's really a yes-or-no vote, unlike the dynamic which kept Shannon Sharpe out in his first year of eligibility. We all know (or should get to know) that Floyd deserves enshrinement, and we need to help him get there. King says Dick LeBeau will get some love for being widely credited with inventing the zone blitz, which King calls a significant accomplishment in the game's history. How about Floyd saving a moribund franchise that went on to play in 6 Super Bowls (winning 2 of them) and average more wins per season, with more consistency, than any team in the last 31 years? THAT is a significant accomplishment in the game's history. Floyd was, and always will be, the Franchise. For somebody to decide that Floyd Little is not a Hall of Famer is analogous to that person stating for the record that fifty years of Denver Broncos football are meaningless in NFL history. No Floyd, no Broncos.
2. Some additional thoughts on Sunday night's game, incremental to the aforementioned shiny, happy screed:
a. Chris Baker looked outstanding on a few plays, and he lost leverage on a few others, and got pushed backwards. It's a technique issue, not an ability issue, and with good coaching and hard work, he is going to be a force. I can't imagine how a guy like this can go undrafted.
b. I think the offense greatly missed Jabar Gaffney. He's a downfield threat, without being a deep threat, and with solid guys like him, you never realize how much they mean to a team until they miss some time. He was an outstanding signing, and the Broncos need him back soon.
c. The Broncos defense has certainly looked better than that of any other AFC West team this preseason, in all three games. They struggle with covering the seams, and will probably continue to do so, but they are much improved from last year, believe that. Mike Nolan is really adding value, and while this is a transitional year, the improvement is very noticeable. The defense last year struggled to get one 3-and-out per game, and the first-teamers got 5 of them in 2 1/2 quarters against the Bears Sunday night.
d. Richard Quinn can catch, and he can get downfield, so don't be the guy who trumpets the inaccurate draftnik line that he can't do either. I believe that the Broncos actually bought low on him, because he's a very smooth athlete and has excellent functional strength as a blocker.
e. The Josh Barrett upper-extremity injury could really hurt, if it keeps him out long. He's a key special-teamer.
f. I think the Broncos have 2 of the 10 best punters in the NFL on their roster. Whichever one doesn't make it will be in high demand right away. I haven't seen them in practice, but I have to think that Britton Colquitt has a slight lead over Brett Kern at this point, based on games.
g. I think Darius Walker looks better than LaMont Jordan, and that he should be the 4th RB kept. Walker's fumble was bad, but he played well both before and after it. I like his burst to the hole, and in fact, he has more burst than either Peyton Hillis or Correll Buckhalter.
3. Observations from other games:
a. The best QB in the NFC this season is going to be Aaron Rodgers, with apologies to Donovan McNabb and Drew Brees. Rodgers is a great example of arm strength not being everything. Brett Favre has a much stronger arm than Rodgers, but Rodgers still throws the hell out of the slant, and is more accurate with it than Favre ever was. Rodgers also showed good athleticism against the Cardinals, with a long run on the opening posession. Rodgers' greatest strength is his decisiveness and command of the offense. He's starting to remind me of Peyton Manning a little bit, in that way, minus the heavy use of audibles at the line.
b. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gave up 2 TDs against Green Bay, but it doesn't change the fact that he is getting ready to throw his name into the mix as the best CB in the NFL. That dude can turn and run with anybody, and he has outstanding ball skills, among the best in the NFL. He was a top-10 CB as a rookie, and should have definitely been Defensive Rookie of the Year over Jerod Mayo, who was good, but not nearly as good as DRC.
Of the TDs DRC gave up, one was a back-shoulder throw against a TE, (any CB gets beat on that play), and the other one was a deep ball off a great play-fake from Aaron Rodgers, where DRC got sucked up on the fake, and didn't get any safety help over the top, as Jordy Nelson went 76 yards. Trust me, Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be a great player for a long time.
c. Watching the Arizona-Green Bay game, I believe that both teams are Super Bowl contenders in 2009, assuming good health. The Cardinals defense had a bad day, but they aren't a bad defense. The Cardinals have 4 elite players on defense (Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, DRC, and Adrian Wilson) and they're spread out across all three levels. They will give up some yards, but I've watched them really stiffen up in the scoring area for most of the preseason, and that's what winning defenses do.
Meanwhile, the Packers look like they are taking very well to the 3-4, especially Aaron Kampman. They're really benefiting from the return of Cullen Jenkins on the defensive line. His loss to injury last season basically single-handedly wrecked their defense. Ryan Pickett has done a nice job as the starting NT, also. I like what I see of the Packers trying to strip the ball, also. Charles Woodson doesn't look like he has lost a step either, and I had been hearing rumblings (someplace where you hear rumblings) that the Packers were considering transitioning Woodson to Free Safety sooner than later.
d. For two games in a row now, Vince Young has looked like a real NFL QB. Of course, against the Browns, he fumbled at the goal line going in, and had a bad INT returned for a TD, but we're concerned with nuance here at ST&NO, and he generally threw the ball better, and showed more command than I had seen in a couple of years from him.
e. Mark Sanchez is going to look like a rookie at times, but he is going to be more good than bad, right away. The guy has a feel for the game that you can easily see.
f. Among other New York rookies, Hakeem Nicks looked really good for the first time. He's a little different than most WRs, because he's more of a stout, hard-to-tackle guy, kind of like a more talented Josh Reed. Clint Sintim continued to look really good for the Giants, too, and he may challenge for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
g. The Falcons passing game shredded the Chargers, and their average O-Line did fine in pass protection. I think the assumption that Shawne Merriman's return was going to charge up the Bolts' pass rush is in some doubt, because they haven't pressured anybody this preseason. Merriman has been getting blocked, too.
h. Everybody has been saying Brady Quinn won the job in Cleveland, and I agree. I was watching the game live, and Bernie Kosar was quite prescient, right as Quinn had the team at the line, for his eventual TD pass to Braylon Edwards. Kosar mentioned how the strong safety was creeping to the line, and Quinn saw it, and checked to a slant to Edwards, against single coverage. The read was the key thing, and the throw was good, too. The play encapsulated the reason Quinn is better than Anderson. He's slightly less talented, but he consistently produces better outcomes.
i. I heard Shaun Hill say something during the 49ers telecast that was a really good quote. He said playing QB was the hardest job in sports, with the easiset job description: WIN. That's a great description, and Hill is one of these guys who seems to give his team a chance to win when he plays.
j. Jamie Dukes and I agree on something. That's a little chilling, actually. As I watched the Bills-Steelers snooze-fest Sunday, I was thinking that the Bills profoundly erred in picking Aaron Maybin, and would have been better off taking Michael Oher (or trading up to get an even higher-rated OT). They can't block anybody, and they're going to finish in last place in the AFC East because of it. It's too bad, because they are very good at WR, in the secondary, and on special teams.
k. A guy I didn't love coming out of college was Joe Flacco, but I am 100% sure now that he's a true franchise QB. I didn't see a lot of him at Delaware, hence my initial indifference, but the guy has a great arm, good mobility, and poise that is really rare, for such a young guy. He's what Jay Cutler could have been, with a better personal makeup. I like him better than Matt Ryan too, though Ryan has a lot of redeeming qualities, himself.
l. I think Nate Davis is going to get a look as the starter at QB in San Francisco before the year is out. He's very talented, and he only fell to the 5th round because of concerns about a learning disability that he has. He looked terrific against Dallas this weekend.
m. Has Matt Cassel proven that he's a "franchise quarterback"? I watched NFL Network all day Sunday, and had to hear Steve Wyche call him that like 14 times, and it made me cringe each time. He might be a good QB, but even that's far from known at this point.
n. Contrary to the MSM nonsense you hear, the best player on the Raiders offense is JaMarcus Russell. He really seems to be feeling the game a lot better, and he's right on schedule, if you look at him in a vacuum. Unfortunately, the only other talent on the offense is TE Zach Miller, and 3 RBs (Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Justin Fargas). Russell needs help at WR, and I don't think Darrius Heyward-Bey has shown much yet. His O-Line is really bad too, which will hurt.
o. Donald Brown is going to be the bell-cow RB for the Colts, and Joseph Addai will be more comfortable as a complementary 1/3 kind of guy. It's actually pretty funny when Jamie Dukes calls him Pat-Pat (meaning he carries the ball once, and pats his helmet, asking out of the game). Brown got a hard-running TD this weekend, and those are the kind of plays he can make consistently.
p. I will tell you who is a dominant player, whom you may not have heard of. Tony Brown plays DT for the Titans, and wears #97. He's a penetrating, one-gap kind of player, and he's really difficult to handle, which opens up the edges for Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Brown's success in 2008 could have been semi-reasonably assumed to be largely due to Albert Haynesworth's presence, but he's looked even better so far this preseason, with no Haynesworth around.
q, Matt Schaub showed a lot by playing hurt on Monday night. He banged up his knee on a scoring drive, kept playing, and then after a Vikings TD, led the Texans about 40 yards in 27 seconds, to steal a field goal before halftime. Those are the kinds of things that wins games.
r. Dan Orlovsky has always been talented enough to be a solid starter in the NFL, and yes, him being a UConn guy is part of the reason I have paid attention to him over the years. He is now getting top-notch coaching in Houston, and you can tell that he's really improved a lot in a little time.
s. Brett Favre looked the same as he did in the first 11 games last year, and ESPN actually had a good point, that with 11 indoor games this season, he'll be greatly helped.
t. I haven't seen the Bengals once this preaseason in anything but highlights, which is a bad oversight by me. I will definitely be DVRing their game against the Bengals, even though it may not tell me much. It's kind of a problem of my own making for not thinking ahead, though.
4. I was asked by Jon Tollerud on Twitter this week (follow me, if you like my work, @TedBartlett905) for a special edition ST&NO about the Brandon Marshall situation. Well, I don't think turd behavior warrants special treatment. That's not why I didn't write one, I just didn't have time, but it's true nonetheless. In any case, I have had some time to marinate on this, and I have some thoughts. I've been having problems with the story editor locking up on me, and this is my third time writing this part, so bear with me if I seem irritable.
I was all set to say that nobody in their right mind could now empathize with #15. Then, I watched ESPN's abomination of a pregame show, and listened to Keyshawn Johnson (it figures), Cris Carter (really, Cris?) and Tom Jackson (are you &&%$#& kidding me TJ?) all beat the Pay-Marshall-Now drum.
The Broncos can't, and they won't. They can't and won't trade him either. This has to do with controlling the football team and establishing a program. Players can't get their way by throwing a hissy fit. Some will say that Jay Cutler did, but I tend to speculate that Josh McDaniels never really wanted Cutler anyway, based upon evaluations of his film, his character, and his comments to the media that he should have some say in team management, as the starting QB. If I have that right, then trading Cutler was sticking to the company line, really, more than it was acceding to the player's wishes.
I frankly don't really care about Marshall's past legal troubles. He was acquitted, and none of us can possibly know the facts, so at worst, we should call him an alleged woman abuser. (Statements that insinuate that he certainly was guilty are inappropriate in the United States, whether we like it or not.) I care that Brandon stays out of trouble in the future, and that's it.
If Marshall gets with the program, and plays well, he will get paid. It may be in Denver, it may be somewhere else, but he'll get paid, for sure. He needs to come back to Dove Valley on September 6th, go out of his way to be humble, work as hard as he can, and get with the program. If he does that, maybe 5 years from now, he can laugh at how immature he was in 2009, and how much he's grown. If he doesn't, he'll be radioactive, and nobody will want him on their team, except the usual halfway houses in Dallas, Oakland, and Cincinnati.
I found Champ Bailey's comments, as relayed by Andrea Kremer, to be very interesting. He certainly was NOT getting Marshall's back, so all this Jamie Dukes "Marshall-Is-A-Team-Leader" and Keyshawn Johnson "McDaniels is losing his locker room by messing with Marshall" stuff seems like total bunk. Brandon needs to win his teammates and coaches back, and get to playing football. Everything else will eventually work itself out.
5. I think Dish Network must think football fans are stupid. Their commercial says (paraphrasing) that DirecTV charges $300 extra for extra NFL games, and why would you pay that? You can get over 100 games on Dish, including your locals.
Wow, over 100 games huh?
That's really something there, 106 games (plus 65 preseason games on NFLN!). That's also known as the games everybody with cable gets (if you take away the 8 NFL Network games for those cable companies who don't have it), and you're even close to the rabbit-ears only set's complement of 81 games (No ESPN or NFLN.) With the digital conversion for broadcast networks, do rabbit ears still work?
I pay for DirecTV's Sunday Ticket, because I am a Broncos fan living in Cleveland. Even beyond that, there's nothing cooler than flipping through a bunch of early games, and this year, I am going to take it to another level. I am going to set up two laptops with games on, in addition to my TV, and have a third laptop to type notes on. (I own 3 of them, and have one for work too, that I can use for whatever. One of mine is too old and slow to play video very well, though.) Good damn thing I am single right now, isn't it? if I weren't, I probably would be soon enough. Some man-cave activities will be definitely going on at my house this fall. The quality and integrity of ST&NO demand that I watch as much football as I can possibly manage, after all, so it's all for you, my loyal readers, and even those who just tolerate me and my schtick. :) It's worth every dollar of the $400, including SuperFan.
6. Let's remember to professionally work on some Hall of Fame voters, even beyond Peter King, for both Floyd Little and Shannon Sharpe. It's important enough to emphasize again. If we get them in, there's already talk of an MHR gathering in Canton for the ceremony. Since John and I are both fairly local to Canton, I am sure we can get something very cool organized, and watch 1 or 2 of our guys get in. Plus, if two Broncos go in, the team will almost certainly play in the HOF game, and get an extra growth opportunity next offseason, not to mention the fact that Josh McDaniels will get to coach an NFL game at the stadium he played his high school football in.
The first round of beers is on me, if we can help pull this off, though we can't have one in the stadium. Funny how high school stadiums don't have kegerators.
7. Retired for John Elway.
8. There's no live national TV coverage for the Cardinals game Thursday, for the first time this preseason, which sucks. I will be listening on 850 KOA's website, Tweeting, and maybe even participating in the game threads, since my eyes won't be as busy as usual, when they're normally getting my information for me. It will be another growth opportunity for the Broncos, which is very exciting.
That's all for this week. There won't be a Lighting Up The Scoreboard this week, since Game 4 tends to be so meaningless, but look for both ST&NO and LUTS next week, leading into the Bengals game. Until then, keep it Shallow and Nearsighted, and if anybody says you're biased, tell them the Fairies made you that way, and you can't help it.