As the New Year begins and the football season comes to a close, one cannot help but look back to the beginning of the season, and even the year, when the Broncos were entrenched in one of the most attention-getting and controversial offseasons in franchise history.
The Broncos had fired long-time head coach Mike Shanahan and in mid-January hired former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to replace Shanahan at the helm.
Little did we know what would transpire. A couple months following McDaniels' arrival, rumors spread that the new head coach tried to trade quarterback Jay Cutler in a deal that would have sent former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassell to the Broncos.
The McDaniels-Cutler relationship soon disintegrated and the disgruntled quarterback was eventually traded to the Chicago Bears for quarterback Kyle Orton, as well as two first-round draft picks and a third-round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
This trade spawned a myriad of negativity from the Broncos faithful as well as the entire football community. The Broncos were soon considered a mockery; their demise seemed imminent.
The Broncos offseason was not a complete disaster. Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan was brought in as the new defensive coordinator and the defense as a whole underwent an extreme makeover.
Additions to the defense included veterans such as safety Brian Dawkins, linebacker Andra Davis, defensive back Andre Goodman, defensive back Renaldo Hill and others.
The offense was also revamped. McDaniels brought in running backs Correll Buckhalter, Lamont Jordan and J.J. Arrington (who would eventually be cut). Wide receivers Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd were also acquired, not to mention the acquisitions of Orton via trade and rookie running back Knowshon Moreno as a first-round draft pick.
Possessing arguably the toughest schedule in the NFL the Broncos went into the 2009 season with less than attractive expectations. With their backs against the wall, the Broncos soon proved all the naysayers wrong as they began the season with six straight wins heading into their Week Seven bye.
Following the bye, they promptly lost their next four contests and were looking like the team everyone expected at the beginning of the season. They came back with back-to-back wins against the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs in Weeks 12 and 13. They proceeded to lose their next three games and are now in danger of missing out on the postseason.
However, even if the Broncos lose to the Chiefs on Sunday, and end up not making the playoffs, they will still finish at an even 8-8 on the season. Their defense, with one game left to play, has given up a respectable 280 points compared to the 448 points they rendered last season.
Kyle Orton has more than held his own this season and proven himself to be a very capable quarterback for the Broncos. Orton and wide receiver Brandon Marshall have established a potent Mile High connection as well.
Additionally, the Broncos are sending five players to Miami for the Pro Bowl in February, three of which are on defense. They had only three representatives in the Pro Bowl last year and they were all on offense.
Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game, the Broncos have overall been a pleasant surprise to their fans and it is hard to argue that they have not exceeded expectations this season.