Broncos Losses, Kyle Orton Injury Put QB Controversy on the Radar in Denver

Chaz MattsonAnalyst INovember 16, 2009

The current state of the Denver Broncos is somewhat reminiscent to the famous scene in the movie Young Frankenstein. Strange things start to occur while Igor and Dr. Frankenstein are working late at night digging a grave.

“It could be worse,” says a loony looking Igor, played by the late Marty Feldman.

“How?” says Dr. Frankenstein, played by Gene Wilder.

“It could be raining.”

Then, in a flash of lightning with a booming thunder and a torrential rain, the joke hits the audience and puts them in stitches.

Now this movie line wasn’t talking about football, but it could easily be applied to the likes of the New England Patriots blowing a 17-point lead Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts. It could also just as easily be applied to the current downward trend in Denver that took the team's amazing 6-0 start and quickly turned south to a mediocre 6-3.

Something strange happened to the Denver Broncos during their bye week, which coincidentally fell on Halloween weekend. Perhaps it was raining.

Either way, since the Broncos blew up the Chargers in San Diego, their season has taken on water of torrential proportions.

The Denver Broncos now find themselves fighting for their playoff lives. If they don’t wake up soon, they will fall victim to the San Diego Chargers and their fast start will go for naught.

A last-ditch effort to win the division and control the fate of the Chargers and the Broncos comes this Sunday in Denver.

It's mind boggling to think the Broncos had a 3.5-game lead after beating down the Chargers in San Diego on Oct. 19. That lead has now entirely evaporated following two big wins by the Chargers against the Giants and the Eagles. Meanwhile, the Broncos posted two tough losses to the Ravens and Steelers and one unsettling loss to a dismal Washington squad.

The Recap

It seemed to start with a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi-Ho, Silver!” and the Denver Broncos were off and running and throwing the deep ball. The same two elements that seemed to be lacking in their two previous losses showed up in Washington D.C. on Sunday.

Knowshon Moreno got the game going with a 29-yard jaunt and the Broncos were immediately in business. On the following third down play Kyle Orton went top shelf 40 yards to Brandon Marshall and the Broncos had the early 7-0 lead.

Almost as quickly as the Broncos scored did the Washington natives show that they came to play ball as well. They responded with a 78-yard drive that ended with a short two yard pass from Jason Campbell to big tight end Todd Yoder to even the score 7-7.

Broncos running back Correll Buckhalter was hit from behind by Lorenzo Alexander on the subsequent drive and fumbled. The one thing that is certainly a constant in the Broncos three losses are the turnovers and the Broncos turned it over twice to Washington’s zero on Sunday.

The Broncos defense held the Washington attack at bay following the turnover and Denver went back on offense.

Coach McDaniels chose to go on the quick strike again as he hit Brandon Marshall deep again on a ball that traveled 45 yards through the air for a 75-yard touchdown and a Broncos 14-7 lead.

Orton later had Eddie Royal wide open deep down field and the Broncos could have scored a third touchdown on a deep ball if not for overshooting an outstretched Royal.

Then, at the 6:39 mark of the second quarter, came the worst blunder of the Josh McDaniels era in Denver.

Say what you will about how poor special teams play was under Mike Shanahan’s watch, his teams never allowed a punter to look like John Elway. That is exactly what happened to Denver when Washington punter Hunter Smith hit Mike Sellers off of a fake field goal that went for a touchdown. 

The real embarrassment off of this play was that Washington showed their hand on the fake prior to coach Jim Zorn calling a timeout to set up the play correctly. Denver sadly enough failed to make any adjustments in preparation for a fake. The only response to come from McDaniels was that the Broncos had not seen the play before.

The play put the score at 14-14.

This play in particular might signal that it’s time for a new special teams coach. The Broncos have been riddled with poor play on special teams and certainly that play cost the Broncos this game at least in part.

On Orton’s last drive of the day, he led the Broncos to a field goal and their last points on the day and a 17-14 edge at the half.

Orton was injured on third down and it appears it is an injury that will have the Broncos looking at their future starter sooner than later.

The second half the Broncos defense played valiantly in the third quarter to help the offense find a way to win. The reality, however, was that backup Chris Simms was not ready to play mentally, and that fact alone ensconced the Broncos' fate.

Washington subsequently wore down the Broncos defense by the fourth quarter and scored 17 points in the quarter to beat the Broncos going away, 27-17.

Quarterback Issues on the Radar

The real issue now is it comes with an underlying quarterback controversy brewing in Denver with Orton literally falling victim to what appears to be a very bad sprained ankle. Orton’s left leg was caught under the weight of a tackle and with it took some of the stability the organization was used to at the position.

The pure nature of the sort of injury suffered by Orton leads to easy speculation that he could be out anywhere between 6-8 weeks at minimum and the rest of the season a strong possibility. These sorts of injuries make an already immobile quarterback a duck on water for all too eager defenses to finish off for the rest of the season. In other words, it's pure speculation on an early front but Orton may be done for the season and possibly as the starting quarterback in Denver.

Simms clearly showed he was not ready to play, going 3-of-13 for 13 yards and an interception. That leads to this thought: It might be time to start Tom Brandstater again this season. It would absolutely set off a sort of quarterback controversy, but face the facts. Simms, a highly paid backup, was not ready to play when all his team probably needed was one drive for a touchdown. If the Broncos get that touchdown early enough it might be a different outcome.

Going into the most important game of the season, it’s a simple question to consider. Would you rather have a quarterback that throws a good ball with a little inexperience or a backup who’s shown he’s not ready to play and isn’t throwing the ball incredibly well?

You have to feel for McDaniels, since he went the distance to get Orton and for a time that bet was paying off huge dividends on the Broncos' tumultuous offseason. Now the Broncos' season comes down to this. He must make the right decision here or the Broncos are in trouble in their most important game of the year.

Having looked at film on Simms and fellow backup Brandstater, it would seem that Brandstater, for all of his inexperience, is the more capable quarterback to help the Broncos franchise move forward. The situation, however, opens up the floodgates to trades and free agent signings to right the ship sooner than later. This is obviously a situation where anything is possible moving forward.

Earth to Jake Plummer: Come in, Major Tom!

So stay tuned.

The Final Note on the Washington Namesake

For nearly a century, the Washington football franchise has made its living off of the backs of a race of people that are nearly extinct in North America. Regardless of the origins of the team name, which there are exhaustive stories and excuses alike made to endorse the name, it needs to change.

That said, today an “official” decision was passed down today regarding the namesake, and Washington will not be forced to change the name of their franchise.

The irony is this: Neither Dan Snider, the previous ownership, nor any of the judges handling this case are part Native American in any form.

With the era that our country is currently under, it’s no longer a time to live in ignorance or under predatory capitalism, under both of which this clearly falls.

If the Washington franchise is so bold to claim to be the torch on the hill for an overrun race of people, they should put their money where their namesake is and sponsor tribal rights issues and scholarship programs.

For the better part of a century the football team has had the opportunity to do so and they have failed miserably.

The reality is there are no other sports franchises named after the color of a persons skin and their likeness emblazoned on a team logo. This is racism; apparently the Supreme Court does not consider racism an atrocity on humanity. In multicultural America it is an issue whether they admit it or not. It is racism, and let’s be clear; there are no mild forms of racism, just racism.

So this is something that the NFL should now address as a league. It has been a league that is quick to respond to detrimental actions from its players.

In this case, it should crack down on this ownership group for leaving a black eye on the league. It's bad public relations for this charade to continue, and the team should change its name immediately.


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