For anyone who follows the Broncos phrases like "The Drive" and "The Dive" are reminiscent of the glory days in Denver. Fourth quarter comebacks and naked bootlegs frustrated opponents and gave screaming fans the fodder to talk some pretty good smack at the water cooler. Using the awesome running game to set up 60 yard bombs to the likes of guys like Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey was something that was definitely expected but was also virtually unstoppable.
Though Denver has struggled to find a franchise QB since John Elway's retirement their one constant has been a high powered offense which featured almost flawless run and pass blocking. This has allowed Denver to be ranked among the top of the best offenses in football. While they boasted 1,000+ yard rushers in every year since 1995 except one they also have had a passing game that confused defenses and had opposing coaches scratching their heads.
Former head coach Mike Shanahan was a master at finding ways to get running backs free and using that to get the ball down field. He wasn't afraid to let it fly. Running backs like Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Clinton Portis thrived under Shanahan's system. However, while the backs were scurrying for 100 yard games on a regular basis. Elway, Bubby Brister, Brian Griese and Jake Plummer were heaving the ball all around the field completing passes over 20 yards on a regular basis as well.
That looks to change starting 2009 with new Head Coach Josh McDaniels. McDaniels, former Offensive Coordinator for the New England Patriots, has a different philosophy. In his years with New England McDaniels was known for being a "systematic" coach. Rather than attacking down the field on a regular basis McDaniels strategy was to pick apart defenses with passes that looked more runs than down field throws. When you consider Tom Brady's career yards per completion average is 11.5 it is obvious that the system McDaniels had is what made his QB's successful. Brady has two Super Bowl MVP awards to go along with four Pro Bowl appearances. Since McDaniels became the QB coach in the 2004 season Brady only has three passes over 75 yards and that is with Randy Moss on the team. Matt Cassell, whom McDaniels tried to bring to Denver with him, averaged only 7.2 yards per pass in 2008. Jay Cutler, who was disgruntled over McDaniels trying to bring in Cassell and subsequently traded, averaged 12 yards per completion last year.
With Kyle Orton the most likely candidate to fill Cutler's spot it appears McDaniels has a guy who can fit his sytem. For his career his yards per completion is under 11 and has only one completion over 60 yards in his career.
So Bronco fans while the running game will still be something to look forward to don't count on seeing any long bombs to Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall. They will have to catch the ball short and make some yards after the catch. Will that be as exciting as seeing them air it out? That remains to be seen.