Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations

Happy Tuesday, friends, and welcome to the triumphant finale of Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations on MileHighReport.com.  I'm obviously excited for my new venture, but I'm a little sad to have just typed that sentence.  The feedback I've received has been very positive, and I particularly thank those who emailed me offline with encouragement on my new direction.

For today, I'm still very proud to be part of the staff of the best Broncos site in the world, and tomorrow, I'll be just as proud to be an alumnus of it, and a branch from the John Bena tree.  (More branches are coming, trust me on that; quality like we have on this site breeds it.)  Taking my MHR responsibility very seriously, and recognizing that some might not care a whit about my new site, I am going to hold off on the details of it for now, and include it as a postscript to this ST&NO, for those who are interested.  Those who aren't can simply skip it, and not feel like I subjected them to undue pain and suffering.  I think that's a fair deal, and I'll assume by your silence that you assent to its terms.

With that out of the way, it's out of the echo chamber, and into the fire, y'all.  Ready.... BEGIN!!!

1.  I'm obviously not too happy with Sunday's result, but I'm not really surprised.  I didn't go cursing out any random old men on Sunday, like I did after the Washington game.  Way back, when I picked this team to go 11-5, I projected a road loss to Philadelphia.  It was clear who the more talented team was on Sunday, and they were wearing green.  The Eagles have had a successful, decade-long, coherent player procurement strategy, and they tend to hit much more than they miss in the draft and free agency.  I am confident that the Broncos are on their way to being able to make the same claim, but it will take a couple more years to build the kind of scheme-planned depth that the Eagles have.

Let's remember to have some perspective.  I don't know how many Texas Hold ‘em players we have here, but when you go all in pre-flop with a low pair, heads-up against two over cards, that's what they call a race.  Say I've got a pair of Fives, and you have a Queen and a Ten.  I am in the lead at the moment the cards are flipped over, but there's about a 50% chance that you'll pair one of your cards, or catch another hand that will beat me.  If I am short-stacked, and I catch that low pocket pair, this is probably the best situation I can reasonably hope for, to get into a race, and I need to make the play when it's there.  I have a 50% chance, where I could either double up, or bust out.  That's all I can ask for, so I make my stand, and I live with the results.

That's where the Broncos found themselves Sunday - short-stacked, and in a race.  They were tied, against a Super Bowl-caliber team, on the road, late in a game, and they had a good chance to win.  Then the cards got flipped over, and the Broncos came up a little short.  I don't believe in moral victories, but I believe that the Broncos acquitted themselves pretty well as a team on Sunday.  I think that any talk of "collapses" or "swoons" (I loathe that word) is misplaced.  In the last 3 weeks, the Broncos have lost respectably to two legitimate Super Bowl contenders on the road, and a bit less respectably to one motivated arch rival at home.  They haven't gotten pounded like during last year's collapse (with no quotation marks, incidentally).

Remember, the Panthers and Chargers took the Broncos to the woodshed last year, and exposed them as frauds.  This year's team is not a fraud; it's just a bit under-talented to go toe-to-toe with the upper echelon teams, and it needs to play great to win those games.  They got that kind of performance, early in the season, against Dallas, New England, and at San Diego.  They didn't quite get that level of performance at Indianapolis or at Philadelphia, but the other guys get paid, too.

I was listening to the incredibly boring first half of the Dallas-Washington Sunday night game, and I heard Cris Collinsworth say something interesting.  He said he had a coach who always said he took playing hard for granted; he wanted execution.  This Broncos team has played hard all season, and has mostly acquitted themselves well against a very tough schedule.  Their consistency and execution has lacked sometimes, and that's mostly a function of talent, in my opinion.  There are some areas of the roster where the players are good enough to get it right a lot of the time, but they get defeated some of the time. 

The offensive and defensive lines are both a bit under-talented, and need some upgrading.  D.J. Williams needs to become more consistent in the future, and hopefully, a year in the system will promote that.  Knowshon Moreno, Robert Ayers, and Alphonso Smith have all had good moments and bad moments as rookies, and we can only hope that the lessons they've learned this year will translate to big second seasons.  It would be nice if Eddie Royal and Kyle Orton developed some rapport, so Eddie would be used more in the passing game.  (Better pass protection would promote more frequent downfield passing.)

This team has been good enough to go 11-5, but has lost a couple close games lately that it was winning early in the season.  The other shoe drops, eventually.  Ask the Miami Dolphins, whose 2008 season I foresaw for the 2009 Broncos.  The Dolphins won a lot of close ones last season, and lost a lot of them this season.  They're a good team, though, and nobody really wants to play them very much.  The Broncos are the same type of team; good enough to win any game, but with little margin for error.  I don't think the Dolphins did enough in the 2009 offseason to improve, and they lost quality players in their secondary like Andre' Goodman and Renaldo Hill, and replaced them with Gibril Wilson, Vontae Davis, and ST&NO Favorite Sean Smith.  That's neutral at best, and in the short term, it's clearly a downgrade.  I'd like to see the Broncos keep their best players, and replace their worst.  I suppose that's all anybody wants for their team.

The Broncos' path to the postseason is a bit more challenging now, but it's almost beside the point.  Frankly, making the playoffs and winning a game would almost be a negative for their growth prospects.  It's looking more and more like 2010 will be uncapped, and one of the provisions of that scenario is that the 8 teams which make the Divisional Playoff round are prohibited from signing any free agents, except to replace their own lost players.  This team still needs more talent, and as much as simple-minded people like to talk about building only through the draft, smart coaches and GMs don't stick to blanket "truisms" like that.  They get the best players they can to match their team's schemes, and they do it however they can.  Being limited in the ability to acquire players isn't really what this team needs right now.  Granted, if they win a playoff game, I'll be happy about that, but I'll be happy too if the Broncos sign a Guard like Logan Mankins, Jahri Evans, or Harvey Dahl.  Or, how about a player from this list of defensive linemen: Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Aubrayo Franklin, Casey Hampton, and Ryan Pickett.  How about a punter like Jon Ryan, Sam Koch, or Michael Koenen?  This team definitely has some needs to fill.

The takeaway, if you're looking for one, is that I am still quite bullish on the Broncos' future.  This has always been the first year of a massive shift in programs, (but not exactly a rebuilding year), and next year has always been the season to have some increased expectations. Regardless of the outcome of next week, I feel better now than I did a year ago.  This team wasn't going to win the Super Bowl this year, so it follows that we'd all ultimately be disappointed by their elimination at some point.  While I hope they're able to get into the postseason, I'll be happy enough if they do their part by beating Kansas City next week, and we'll see how the chips fall after that.

2.  Information From My Eyes - Broncos at Eagles:

a.  My goodness, was Mitch Berger terrible Sunday.  There aren't words to adequately describe it.  The punter position has to be a high priority in the offseason.

b.  I've been down on Russ Hochstein, Ben Hamilton and Casey Wiegmann for awhile, and I'm at the point where you can add Chris Kuper to that list, too.  He's the restricted free agent who can get away, in my opinion.  He's been getting pushed backward a lot, and he really struggled with Mike Patterson Sunday.

c.  That Brandon Stokley play was atrocious.  He was mauled, and he had every right to be upset.  I wish he hadn't grazed the official's hand, but accidents happen.  A missed call like that can help decide the outcome of a game, even in the first quarter.

d.  Not a great showing for Brandon Marshall when it came to catching the ball.  He needs to focus and look it all the way in.

e.  Phil Simms had it exactly right.  Blitzing Donovan McNabb is a fool's errand.  You're much better off to rush four, drop seven, and play coverage.  McNabb knows exactly where to go hot, and he throws the ball exceptionially well from an off-balance position.  You'd rather make him be accurate than make him be athletic.

f.  I wish the Broncos would make it a 60-minute priority to cover the good TEs one of these days.  Somehow, it's always an adjustment to be made, and it starts happening once it's figured out.  It's getting quite annoying.

g.  I've been pleased with the play of the special teams for about the last month, and it continued to be solid Sunday.

h.  I always seem to want to praise Robert Ayers, but he was more active than I've ever seen him on Sunday.  He was constantly around the ball, and I continue to be pleased with his development.  I think he's going to go from being a half-step away from the play to making a lot of plays next season.  When you consider that LB is a new position for him, and he's been used in coverage a lot, his rookie year has been pretty solid, regardless of what the Simple Simon's tell you.

i.  I thought the use of Brandon Gorin as an extra lineman was pretty ineffectual Sunday.  The Eagles D-line dominated in the running game all day.

j.  I've seen some calls for more zone blocking, but I don't think I agree.  The Broncos haven't been any more effective at the zone stuff than they have the man stuff this season.  What they need is execution.

k.  Great call and execution on the 3rd quarter quick screen to Correll Buckhalter.  That was a huge play in the game, to get the Broncos out of a terrible down-and-distance situation.

l.  The interception thrown by Kyle Orton was a solid decision, but a bad throw.  You like to throw over the CB and outside the S in cover-2; you just need to hit on it. 

m.  I was glad to see Brandon Lloyd contributing.  He made a couple key catches, and it was nice to see him get a chance to play. 

n.  The Broncos are frequently criticized for throwing short so much, but I believe that it's a function of Josh McDaniels not trusting the pass protection.  That's 100% justified, incidentally.

o.  Andre' Goodman was fantastic Sunday, and I felt bad that Jeremy Maclin made that great sideline catch in front of him.  Really, you can't cover any better than that with the play calling for him to stay deeper than the receiver.  You just take your hat off to McNabb and Maclin on a play like that.

p.  D.J. Williams had a pretty nice game, but he sure busted on that McNabb 3rd-and-25 in the 4th quarter.  What a bad decision to jump that short route, and lose vision on McNabb.  Robert Ayers really shouldn't have gotten upfield, either.

3.  Information From My Eyes - Other Games:

a.  At the risk of sounding like I have a personal bandanna against Peter King, I’ll start with something which was utterly silly that he said in his MMQB column yesterday.

Amazing, isn't it, that Matt Schaub's going to end up with 4,700 passing yards or so. What's this league coming to?

Yes, Peter, it’s quite amazing (that you make money to write drivel like this).  I’ll tell you what the league is coming to.  A guy who is a really good player has executed a very good passing scheme, and used some strong weapons very well.  PK just doesn’t realize how good Schaub is, because nobody has told him yet. 

Really, Schaub and Drew Brees have had very similar seasons, and are comparable players.  To wit, check out their statistics, as I momentarily pretend that I give a damn about stats.

Passing Rushing Sacks

G Rating Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD INT Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Sack YdsL

2009 - Matt Schaub 15 99.1 372 544 68.4 4,467 297.8 8.2 27 14 46 56 3.7 1.2 0 24 141

Passing Rushing Sacks

G Rating Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD INT Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Sack YdsL

2009 - Drew Brees 15 109.6 363 514 70.6 4,388 292.5 8.5 34 11 22 33 2.2 1.5 2 20 135

Very similar across the board, right?  Brees is the second coming of the savior, though, and Schaub is evidently an interloper whose success is indicative of some unfortunate condition that the league is coming to.  I really don't have anything personal against Peter King, but how can I let something as absurd as this stand?  It's unduly influencing the understanding of decent, hard-working, trusting fans, so I can't.

Schaub and Brees have a lot in common, actually.  Both men have clear limitations; (height and arm strength for Brees, durability, overall athleticism and arm strength for Schaub).  Both are coached by very creative offensive coaches, who scheme to maximize their strengths, and minimize their weaknesses.  Both have a lot of weapons around them, though the Saints have more.

The Saints have obviously won more games, and if you're the kind of Simple Simon who thinks everything hinges on the QB, you might give Brees a lot of credit and Schaub just a little.  The truth is, Schaub's Texans team profiles a lot like Brees' 2008 Saints, and nobody asked what the league was coming to for Brees last year.  I'm here to tell you, Schaub is every bit the player that Brees is, and he should join Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in the Pro Bowl for the AFC, ahead of Tom Brady, though he probably won't.

b.  Speaking of the Texans, I'd hate to be playing them right now.  Their offense is terrific, and has been all year, but their defense has really come on strong the last month or so.  They have a nice rookie find in CB Glover Quin, and Brian Cushing is a super-duper-star.  It's not hyperbole to say that he's the best OLB in the NFL this season whose primary role isn't rushing the passer.  More fun with stats:

Sacks Interceptions Tackles

G Sacks YdsL Int Yds IntTD Solo Ast Total

2009 - Brian Cushing 15 4 30.5 4 26 0 82 46 128

Cushing is the fifth-leading tackler in the NFL through 15 games, and it'll be a crime if he doesn't make the Pro Bowl.  (He probably won't, because he's not a pass rusher, and he's a rookie.)  The Texans hit like crazy when they picked him, and he's been head-and-shoulders better than USC teammates Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga, who have both also been good.  Sometimes, a pick is really obvious, so obvious that people find it uninspiring or boring.  You have to like it when a pick like that works out so well.

c.  The Dolphins laid an egg to start the game, then played well in the second half, after I had shifted away from the game live.  I re-watched the Short Cut Monday night, and I was once again impressed with the play of Chad Henne.  The guy is just a good-looking young QB, and Dolphins fans should be very excited for what the future holds at that position.

I think if I were in the position of Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland, I'd be most urgently looking for a big, physical #1-type of WR.  That, and a receiving TE is what their offense lacks, and otherwise, I wouldn't change much of anything.  Of course, good, big WRs don't grow on trees, but I'd be trying hard to land Dez Bryant in the draft.  Ted Ginn is limited to playing outside the numbers, and while he can sometimes be a very good deep threat, he offers little in the intermediate area, or the middle of the field.  Greg Camarillo, Brian Hartline, and Davone Bess are all slot WR-types.  With those four guys, it's like you're trying to manufacture a passing game, like how the 1980s St. Louis Cardinals used to manufacture runs with slap singles and stolen bases.  You can go that way, and get by, but it's a tougher go than hitting a few home runs is.  I really think Miami's defense is in good shape, personnel-wise, and will be very strong next season, as rookie starting CBs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith enter their second seasons. 

d.  Congratulations to the Colts, for doing what they thought was right for their team.  Their critics can pound sand down a rathole.  The Colts don't owe them, or anybody, anything.  Their mission is to win the Super Bowl, not to be undefeated in the regular season.  The Simple Simon's say that Peyton Manning never gets hurt, but it's not all about Manning; the Colts need all of their starters healthy in the playoffs.  What happens if Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark blows out his knee, or Dwight Freeney gets seriously hurt?  Risk aversion is appropriate when there's nothing real to play for.

e.  As much of a QB lover as I am, I get irritated at all the talk about how games are basically entirely won and lost at the QB position.  An example of how this is complete bunk is what has happened to Minnesota.  Their offensive line has played poorly four weeks in a row now, and that's a real issue. 

A major, unmentioned problem though, is the loss of MLB E.J. Henderson, who is underrated and excellent.  Nobody had run effectively on the Vikings in about 3 years, until the last three games, when Henderson has been out.  Henderson, Pat Williams, and Kevin Williams are the best interior triangle in the NFL against the run, and while Jasper Brinkley has showed a little bit at times, he's no Henderson, by a longshot.  This is a big reason I expect Minnesota to be one-and-done in the playoffs.

f.  The Chiefs gave quite a defensive effort Sunday in hanging with the Bengals.  I thought Tyson Jackson looked more active and effective than I've seen him look all season, which has to be an encouraging sign for the Chiefs.  I still don't see a lot out of Glenn Dorsey, though, which continues to surprise me.  I was very high on him coming out of LSU, and he just hasn't yet developed like I thought he would.

g.  Leon Hall had a pretty spectacular coverage game Sunday for the Bengals, mostly against Chris Chambers.  Hall knocked down at least four passes (according to ESPN), and I thought I counted five.  Hall and Johnathan Joseph have both been very good this season, and I fully believe that four of this season's six best AFC CBs come from two teams, between Hall and Joseph, and Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman.  Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha are the other two top CBs, obviously.  I would say that Quentin Jammer, Cortland Finnegan, Eric Wright, and Lito Sheppard have rounded out the top 10, but those four are a level down from the top six.

h.  Don't look now, but the Panthers are back to executing the formula that won them 12 games last season.  Of course, all you get from the MSM is how Minnesota and the Giants self-destructed in back-to-back weeks.  Carolina is running the ball, despite being without their starting tackles and DeAngelo Williams, and they're hitting on some downfield passes with Matt Moore.  On defense, they're rushing the passer with four men and playing good zone coverage.  This bodes well for 2010, especially if Moore can beat out Jake Delhomme and keep playing this well.

i.  Julius Peppers looks like he wants to get paid lately.  He's making slightly more than $1 million per game now, but he wants a multi-year contract with about $40 million guaranteed.  I bet he gets it, if he keeps getting off the ball like he has been lately.

j.  Osi Umenyiora has had a fairly disappointing season for the Giants, but you can't tell me he should only be seeing the field for four snaps in any game.  I think that what he's asked to do in the running game doesn't suit his abilities very much.  The Giants seem to want him to control a gap, when he's much more effective at shooting a gap, like Dwight Freeney.  The writing seems to be on the wall that his days are numbered in New Jersey.  If Gaines Adams can garner a second-round pick, you have to think Umenyiora can, too.  Honestly, a predominantly Tampa-2 team, like the Bucs, strike me as the ideal situation for a guy of Osi's skills and abilities.  Maybe with an extra #2, they'd want to bring in a proven pass rusher. 

k.  Congratulations to whomever is using the name underwear, for beating me for the championship of the official MHR Fantasy League.  I couldn't overcome a tankfest from Laurence Maroney, and a fairly quiet day from Brandon Marshall and Aaron Rodgers.  You win some, you lose some.  Big up, underwear!

l.  It seems to me that the Matt Hasselbeck era should probably be coming to an end in Seattle pretty soon.  He has looked terrible the second half of this season, and it's a bit hard to understand, because he had a couple good early games.  In Hasselbeck's last two games, he's thrown 2 TDs and 8 Interceptions.  It's a lost season in Seattle, but this is ridiculous.

m.  The Seahawks need to figure out what they want to be, because I haven't been able to discern a coherent strategy for player procurement for them in quite awhile.  They have three really highly paid WRs in Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandazdeh and Nate Burleson.  I don't think any of them are worth their pay, but they're all solid players.  They also have three big-money LBs in Aaron Curry, Lofa Tatupu, and Leroy Hill.  They have no particular quality on the offensive line, at RB, or in their secondary.  There are some okay players, but nothing more than that.

To me, Seattle is a team which needs an entirely new program.  If I were whoever is hired as their GM, with all those LBs they have, I think I'd can Jim Mora, and hire Todd Bowles to be the Head Coach.  Bowles is a Parcells guy, who could come in and implement a 3-4 defense, which would turn the blue chipper Curry loose to be most impactful.  I think really highly of Bowles, and I think Mora is just going to keep banging the same nail with the same hammer.  I've never seen a lot of indications that Mora is a tone-setter for a program in either of the two Head Coaching jobs he's held.

n.  Is it just me, or does the NBA seem thoroughly uninteresting this year?  I used to be a pretty good fan, but I could care less right now.  Maybe it's the total immersion in football that I've gone through over the last 5 months, but I'm bored by hoops.  I haven't watched one complete game this season, and I may not have watched a full half.  I used to coach kids' basketball, and I really like the game in and of itself, but the NBA product is lame to me right now.

o.  Josh Freeman is still throwing the ball to the other team far too much, but you can tell that the guy is the real deal.  I think Raheem Morris is going to be back next year, but I think that I'd hire the best QB teachers money can buy, if I were him.  Charlie Weis comes to mind.  I'd offer to pay him a bunch of money to come to Tampa, although he says he wants to stay in the Midwest.  Freeman has all the ability in the world, and seems like a smart kid.  He just needs reps and coaching.

p.  Morris was criticized for canning Jim Bates, but the truth is, the Bucs defense has been much better since he did.  With Morris calling the plays himself, they've allowed an average of 17 points per game (and won 2 of 5 games).  With Bates calling the plays, they allowed 29 points per game, and went 1-9.  You haven't heard that from the MSM, because the hater-driven narrative that they push is that Morris is a young fool, in over his head. 

Everybody knows I like Morris, and the main reason is that he has the courage to cut bait when something clearly isn't working, regardless of the outside perception of it.  He was hamstrung by the lateness of his hiring, which left little in the way of quality NFL assistants available.  He clearly didn't know what he was doing in interviewing and hiring coaches (those are acquired skills), but he has to have a better idea now.  Morris deserves a chance to bring in some better people, and see what kind of improvement he can lead with a better staff and some more talent.

q.  My opinion of New Orleans is completely unchanged, despite their two straight losses.  If they execute, they are talented enough on both sides of the ball to win the Super Bowl.  Their execution on offense has been somewhat lacking since their domination of the Patriots, though, so they'd better pick it up.  Football Outsiders had a solid article Monday about playoff momentum being bunk, so I wouldn't be worried about that.  Football games are independent events.  (Stop me if you've heard this one before.)  You have to execute and make the plays that are there to be made.

r.  One of the worst starting players I've seen all year is Minnesota RG Anthony Herrera.  He's like the offensive equivalent to the 2008 version of Calvin Lowry.   The guy has a missed assignment on virtually every play.  It's shocking that he plays on a team with such a good record.

s.  You know, Johnny Knox has gotten a lot of love this season, and he has good stats for a fifth rounder.  I am not so high on him, though, because I perceive him to be soft.  At least four times that I've seen this season, he's quit against a jam, and failed to get across the face of the CB on a slant route.  At least a couple of those led to Jay Cutler interceptions.  Knox is very fast, and has good ball skills, but he's thin, and seems to lack strength and physicality.  Like Mike Shanahan used to say, you'd better be able to get off press coverage, or you'll be selling cars before very long.

t.  I've been somewhat critical of Chris Williams in the past, but he had a fantastic game on Monday night against Jared Allen.  I didn't see a lot of chipping or double-teaming happening, and Williams really did a good job on the left side, which he's fairly new to playing at the NFL level.  Bears fans can hope they have something for the future after a performance like that.

u.  I was writing as much as I was watching on Monday night, but I thought Antoine Winfield looked pretty bad.  He got undressed by Devin Aromashodu on the first posession of overtime.  I know he was in bail technique, but he got way too deep on the drop, and recognized the route very slowly.  Aromashodu also clearly dogged him on the winning TD in overtime.  He had no jam, and no chance.

I've never been Winfield's biggest fan, to tell the truth.  To me, he's like Asante Samuel without the good ball skills.  He hits hard, but he doesn't cover that great.  Peter King named him to SI.com's All-Decade Team recently, which I thought was silly.  His rationale was that he's a good tackler, and you need one on the other side of a cover guy like Champ Bailey.  Of course, Bailey is one of the best tackling CBs ever, himself, but nobody told PK, so he doesn't know.

4.  As promised, here is the All-ST&NO Favorites Team for 2009.  I don't expect any of these guys to make the Pro Bowl this season, although one or two might. 

QB Alex Smith SFO

RB Frank Gore SFO

RB Kevin Faulk NE

WR Sidney Rice MIN

WR Jason Avant PHI

TE Zach Miller OAK

LT Duane Brown HOU

LG Ben Grubbs BAL

C Alex Mack CLE

RG Jahri Evans NO

RT Vernon Carey MIA

DL Antonio Smith HOU

DL Randy Starks MIA

DL Tony Brown TEN

DL Alex Brown CHI

OLB Mario Haggan DEN

OLB Brian Cushing HOU

ILB Channing Crowder MIA

ILB DeMeco Ryans HOU

CB Sean Smith MIA

CB Andre' Goodman DEN

S Thomas DeCoud ATL

S Bernard Pollard HOU

K Ryan Succop KC

P Andy Lee SF

Notes: 

a.  It's well-known that I love Sean Smith's ability to play press coverage, but he came close to getting bounced in favor of Cleveland's Brandon McDonald, because he has seemed allergic to tackling lately.  I don't know if he's hurt, but he needs to stick his nose in there.

b.  The three players who may make the Pro Bowl, in my opinion, are Sidney Rice, Brian Cushing, and Andy Lee.  All should, and we'll see if they do.

c.  A few of my favorites, like Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, McDonald, Matt Roth, Jason Snelling, Harvey Dahl, and Brett Kern missed the cut.  Better luck next year.

d.  Yes, I am a University of Florida fan, and yes, that impacts my favorites.  After all, they're MY favorites.

e.  I think two Broncos are appropriate.  I loved Goodman last year in Miami, and was ecstatic when the Broncos signed him.  Haggan became a Favorite this season, and I love the way he selflessly and physically sets the edge.

5.  I thought about it a bit this week, and I still don't like epaulets.  I don't think anything is ever going to change that.  They just make me think of Officers' and Chiefs' summer whites, and Members Only jackets.   My hetero street cred was openly questioned last week for daring to discuss men's fashion in a football column, but I could really give a damn.

Remember this exchange from Season 2 of The Wire?  Jimmy McNulty and Bunk Moreland were sitting on Spiros Vondopoulos.

Bunk:  A different look for our boy. 

McNulty: Yeah, Perry Ellis, or something. 

Bunk: Now, how would a just-rolled-out-of-bed-looking mother&^%er like you know the designer? 

McNulty: [pauses] Okay, I'm guessing. 

Bunk: It's a Joseph Abboud. He puts dark buttons instead of brass on his blazers. That's the Abboud signature. 

McNulty: You know what they call a guy who pays that much attention to his clothes, don't you? 

Bunk: A grown-up

So, yeah, there you go.  I think if I were gay, I'd be open about it, and blaze a new trail among football writers.  I'm not, though, so I have to do the other thing instead.  I actually started seeing a new woman this week, if that's germane to anything.  (Does that sound like a racist talking about how many black friends they have?  It's not the same thing, so I guess I don't really care.)  The regular season is almost over, so I'll have some more time soon.  Timing is everything, you know?  The summer girlfriend breaking up with me during halftime of the Hall of Fame Game probably enabled me to write 30,000-40,000 more words this season than I would have been able to, otherwise.  <shrug>

6.  Interesting rumor from ESPN today that Bill Cowher wants back into the coaching ranks.  They seem to think that Tampa Bay is his landing spot, but I don't.  For one thing, it's a total rebuilding job, and the defensive personnel is completely scheme-incompatible with what Cowher likes to run.  For another, I think Raheem Morris is going to get a second year. 

So where does Cowher land?  Let's consider that for a moment.

Cleveland - Eric Mangini may get canned, and Cowher played and coached in Cleveland, but he has no discernible relationship with Mike Holmgren, and comes from a diametrically-opposed programmatic background.  Not likely.  Incidentally, look for Jim Zorn here.  It may be a tough sell to fans, but Holmgren pushed Zorn hard for the Redskins job, and may be able to provide enough cover to make it work.  Even a decent spin doctor could make a passable case that Zorn was doomed to failure by the meddling of Dan Snyder and the incomptence of Vinny Cerrato.

Buffalo - Unlikely to pay Cowher money, or to be particularly attractive to him.  This probably ends up being a first-timer, or lower-profile retread.  Charlie Weis has been mentioned as a possibility.

Seattle - Might fire Jim Mora, and could fit from a coaching-style perspective, but it's doubtful that Cowher would want to move way out to the Pacific Northwest.

Carolina - Once thought to be Cowher's best landing spot, it was reported Monday that John Fox and Marty Hurney are safe.

Washington - This is going to be Mike Shanahan's spot, no question about it.

Dallas - Wade Phillips is looking safer all the time.  Jerry Jones likes Wade, mostly because he lets Jerry have the spotlight.  Cowher wouldn't go for that, and has a big, Parcells-like presence, which would compete with Jerry just by its media stature.  Not a fit.

St. Louis/Detroit - Not going to fire their first-year coaches.

Kansas City - 95% likely not going to fire Todd Haley.

Oakland - May fire Tom Cable, but there's no way Cowher (or any credible Head Coach) works for Al Davis.

There's no obvious landing spot, is there?  I think that it's likely that Cowher's publicist is soon saying that the rumors were garbage, and that he didn't ever want to coach in 2010, and maybe next year.  Wanting in and not getting in would somewhat tarnish his luster, and neither he nor CBS will want that.

7.  Retired for John Elway.

8.  If you watch the Food Network (I admittedly don't), you should check out  Private Chefs of Beverly Hills tonight (Tuesday) at 9 PM EST.  A guy I went to middle school and high school with, Matt DuTrumble, is going to be featured on the show, and he's a cool guy, so I wanted to shout him out here.  Look at these NFA Wildcats making moves.

That's all the MHR-related material I have for today, and, incidentally, as a front-page poster.  My last 6,000 words (7,000 if you continue on).  If you'd like to continue reading my work in the future, please continue to read on, after this paragraph.  I'd love to have you check out my new site.  If you're not really a fan, and/or are not particularly interested in venturing outside the MHR community, I thank you for reading my work while I was doing it here.  Get ready for a great reloading season, and hopefully, success in a few more games this season.  I will always value my time at MHR very highly, and the friendships I've made here.  Thank you all for everything, and if I don't see you, be well in the New Year, and into the future.

Post-script - By reading further, you hereby voluntarily choose to learn the details about my new site.

So, last week, when I announced that I was establishing my own site, I didn't go into a lot of detail.  Since I hope a lot of you will continue to read my work, and hopefully tell your friends who aren't Broncos fans to do the same, I wanted to talk briefly about what the plan is.  My new site is called SmarterFans.com  As an admittedly semi-vain person, it made a lot of sense to me to play to the vanity of others a bit.  Everybody would like to think that they're a Smarter Fan, right?  Well, the goal is to encourage and enable a robust sharing of football knowledge across a connected community, similar to what has been so masterfully achieved here at MHR.

I have come to regard team specificity to be a barrier to building the type of community I want to build.  My goal is to cover all 32 teams fairly evenly, subject to their individual relevance within the NFL landscape.  I have no plans to renounce being a Broncos fan, or to pretend like I am not one.  I have always said I am not a journalist, and I have absolutely zero desire to be one, or to pretend indifference to the teams and personalities in the game.  I feel bad for a guy like Adam Schefter, who says he's not a fan of any team, just of the best stories.  How the hell can football be any fun, when that's your approach?

For those who've asked, I'll still be retiring #7 for John Elway, because that's a Ted Bartlett thing, and because I own the site, and get to do whatever I want.  My analysis will be independent and objective, but I think it always has been.  Independence is key, because y'all know I don't really care who I offend, if I feel like the comments I make are fair and accurate.  My independence is what allows me to do that, because I don't rely on anybody's access or good graces.  I've been criticized for taking some shots at writers before, and my approach there has been evolving.  I plan to try hard not to make my criticisms seem personal, but I am sure this will be a work in progress.  Sometimes things make more sense to me when I type them, than they do to others when they're read.  It's a hazard of being Ted, like drama in the LBC is to Snoop D-O-Double-G.  <shrug>

Format-wise, you can expect the ST&NO you're used to reading to be cut roughly in half, and posted between Monday and Tuesday.  Monday will feature more of a general flipping-channels kind of feel, and will run opposite Peter King's MMQB.  Tuesday's part will be written on Monday nights, after I watch 5-6 key games, and will be more detailed.  I also expect to do more with on-camera video commentary than I ever previously have, and write a few shorter articles each week about topics which grab my attention.  I have to have new content just about every day, since I'll be carrying a whole site at first.  Between now and next season, I'll also be creating some video packages in the mold of what I was doing with Lighting Up The Scoreboard.  I think the presentation of those videos was very powerful, but was misapplied as a game-preview mechanism.  I was spending four hours per video to create something that became irrelevant within a couple days.  That's really why I stopped doing them.  I want to use the concept to create football education videos, to help new fans learn the game, and casual fans become Smarter Fans.  Those videos can be re-used indefinitely, and frankly, I can eventually sell ads on them.  (As far as ads go, I plan to start off with Google Adsense, and all ad placement will err on the side of respect to the end-user.)

I'm not reporting the news, and I don't really care about that aspect of football coverage at all, so I am pulling in National Football Post's RSS feed, and linking to their news posts.  Aaron Wilson and Brad Biggs do a pretty good job of reporting news for them, and I'm sure NFP won't mind being linked, and getting the traffic I drive to them.  I'm an analyst, and the thrust of SmarterFans.com will always be analysis of the news, rather than the gathering and reporting of it.

I'm starting with no contributors, but I hope to identify a few talented ones fairly quickly, and have them augment what I am doing.  I definitely want to find a draftnik sooner rather than later, and maybe a stats person, and a fantasy writer when we get closer to the 2010 Season (despite my personal distaste for fantasy football).  I'd like to find the kind of talent which John put together here, so if you know anybody who can live up to what I'd call the MHR front-page standard, and has interest in writing at the league-wide level, please send them my way.  I can't stress enough that I am trying to largely re-create what I've learned here, and apply MHR's best practices to the macro level.

I realize that I'm very lucky, because I'm going to start with some readers who know me, and some knowledge of how a top-notch multi-user community site works.  I expect that my site's incubation period will be somewhat shorter than a brand new site out of left-field, trying to carve out some market share.  The way I see it, there's nothing in the existing marketplace of ideas which is exactly like what I am trying to do, and there's a robust consumer demand for better (and better-presented) football information.  I think I know how to meet that demand, and defeat the vast tsunami of MSM suckitude.  I'm not doing anything but trying to be the best in the world at what I do.  Thanks for being part of that, both here and at SmarterFans.com. Hit me up at my new email address - ted@smarterfans.com, if you have any ideas or suggestions.  Thanks for continuing to check me out, and for telling your friends about SmarterFans.com

Originally posted at MHR

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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