Friday, January 16, 2009

State of the Broncos Address

It was a hard and shocking fact to learn that, after a decade and a half, the Denver Broncos fired Mike Shanahan. I didn’t say anything about it when the announcement was made (though I haven’t chimed in about anything in a while, but no matter). Now, however, as the new coaching staff shapes up, I've come to grips with it, the depression has eased, and I can finally discuss it.

--First and foremost, I absolutely do not agree with the decision to fire Shanahan. Granted, there’s only been one playoff win in a decade now and no Super Bowls since Elway retired (or was forced to ride off to the cool mountain stream of Coorsland, however you want to look at it). Nonetheless, losing seasons have been kept to a minimum and, especially this year, injuries trumped talent with gusto. No new coach can combat seven running backs on IR. Defensive problems abound and have seemingly gotten worse, so there was justification for change, but I didn’t expect it and I do not like it.

That said, no matter how I feel, acceptance is the name of the game and, based on the decisions owner Pat Bowlin has made since then, I am thrilled at the prospects.

--Head coach Josh McDaniels: No 32 year old has a proven track record with anything (except maybe for fucking up), so hiring McDaniels may wind up a mistake. Still, he was going to get a head coaching job somewhere so, instead of teams like the Raiders and Chiefs conducting the experiment and succeeding, I’m okay with the Broncos hiring him, even if he fails. With his time guiding Tom Brady to record success and turning Matt Cassel, who hadn’t started a game since high school, into a viable commodity, I think he’s worth the risk. If his personnel choices are any indication, this will be a smooth ride.

--DC Mike Nolan: as a head coach, Nolan was an abomination. Such is the risk with hiring coordinators as head coaches, and such could be the fate of McDaniels. Nolan as a defensive coordinator, however, is a much different story. His first NFL job was linebackers coach under Denver’s Dan Reeves regime, played safety at Oregon (hook ‘em Ducks!!), and was defensive coordinator for the ridiculously good Ravens’ defense, from ‘02-’04, and looks sharp in a suit. Most importantly, this strongly signals a change back to the 3-4 alignment, which is far superior to the 4-3, given the right people (which the Broncos don’t really have right now). The Orange Crush will live once more!

--The first of two important position coaches that have been retained: RB coach Bobby Turner, who was one of Shanahan’s original hires, will return in that role, one that last year, in spite of all those injuries continued to make people like fullback Peyton Hillis and former Aurora mall cell phone kiosk manager Tatum Bell look like decent back. It is unclear how much rushing the Broncos are going to do next year with Cutler coming around, Marshall continuing to improve, and the revelation that is Eddie Royal (my big crush last year), but he has proven himself in this role.

--The running game only works in Denver, however, if the offensive line plays as it has for years, which is why the retention of Rick Dennison is so exciting. I was worried about the cheating but, with Dennison on-staff, I know the cut blocks continue. Go cheating! It’s what makes the Broncos the Broncos. When Cutler snaps the ball, the center drops to his knees and elbows a guy in the side of his knee…7-yard gain. March it down the field.

This is all that is certain as of now. My hope is that Jeremy Bates, last years QB coach and friend of Cutler, will be placed in that role. He has clearly helped Cutler improve significantly and Cutler is known to express his discontent. I want to keep him happy and McDaniels will be calling the plays anyway, so I don’t see how his role will change too much. Denver appears to be stealing KC’s special teams coach. This is great if it hurts the Chiefs, and the Broncos’ special teams can’t really get much worse, but I don’t know anything about him except, for one to work with the Chiefs, they must be of somewhat questionable character. Speaking of questionable character, there is currently talk of the abhorable Bill Romanowski being brought in as some kind of nutrition coach. Last I checked, Big Bill’s nutrition comes out of a syringe. I would find this a disturbing, albeit fairly amusing move (though, if Romanowski actually reads this, he might come to my house, tear my leg off, and eat it in front of me so, for the sake of walking, I didn’t mean it Bill; you’re awesome and totally not on steroids). We’ll see…we’ll see. Until then, go Broncos!