For some odd reason, the Denver Broncos seem to keep partying like it's 1999.
Legendary quarterback John Elway had retired, reigning NFL MVP Terrell Davis was lost for the season, and suddenly the Broncos were looking for an identity on a once potent offense now stuck with a mediocre quarterback and an unstable running game (albeit Olandis Gary performed admirably that season).
Sound familiar? It should, because it's the exact same position the Broncos find themselves in entering the 2010 season. A year after a potential franchise quarterback was traded, the Broncos traded away their franchise receiver. Yes, being traded is a lot different than retiring, but the fact remains the same:
The Broncos have no identity on offense.
Most of the players on that list are quarterbacks. This raises a big red flag in the case of the Broncos. All three quarterbacks on the roster have a legitimate shot at winning the starting job, despite coach Josh McDaniels' endorsement of incumbent Kyle Orton this week heading into next month's training camp.
Can each of them start? Absolutely. The bigger question, however, is can any of them be "the man" around which the Denver offense can be built?
Let's look at each quarterback:
Orton has earned rave reviews from his coaches and teammates about his leadership skills. He will also benefit from spending a second year in McDaniels' system. He has a leg up on rookie quarterback Tim Tebow in this regard, but the third quarterback, Brady Quinn, is already familiar with the system since he played under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.
All that said, Orton has to produce and finally shred the reputation he has earned as a "game manager" who can't throw deep and carry his team late in a game. Despite McDaniels' praise this year, there is no reason to believe Orton's statistics will blossom with this competition in camp. The only approach here is wait and see.
Let's cut to the chase here: Quinn stunk in Cleveland. He showed zero leadership ability on a team that desperately needed some, and showed close to zero ability on the field despite being touted as a potential franchise quarterback in the NFL. He was even being sniffed around as an overall No. 1 pick.
Then draft day arrived and Quinn fell down the draft board, not too much unlike Aaron Rodgers' not long before. The difference is Rodgers landed behind a Hall of Fame quarterback and Quinn landed in what could only be called "quarterback hell."
Can McDaniels salvage Quinn's career? Once again, time will tell. It is safe to say though that Quinn will not grow into "the man" overnight.
Nothing else here needs to be written about Tim Tebow's leadership abilities and other intangibles. They are off the charts. The fact that Tebow wanted to stay in Denver upon his arrival immediately after the draft spoke volumes, despite the fact that NFL rules sent Tebow back to Florida until mini-camps begin.
Tebow's biggest question marks are thankfully the most coachable and fixable out of the three quarterbacks. His throwing motion, grip and the level he holds the ball are all teachable and correctable. Will they take time to correct? It's likely. It's like changing a morning routine. It won't happen over night.
But once that routine happens, Tebow has every bit the ability to be the face of the Broncos franchise for years to come.
That is for the future, but what about 2010? It is impossible to see what the identity of the Denver Broncos offense becomes at this point in the year. Who knows how the season will unfold? Maybe Eddie Royal steps up in a big way to fill Marshall's shoes and has a year that sets the league on fire. Perhaps Knowshon Moreno could avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and break out for a 1,200 yard season.
Ask any offensive coach, McDaniels included, and one of the key things they will all tell you is that the offense needs an identity. It should be noted that identity doesn't necessarily have to mean one player, either. Identity can be a scheme or an overall ideology. But behind each scheme or idea, there is one person on the field that is usually the driving fore behind said scheme or ideology.
Who will that person be for the Denver Broncos in 2010?
Stay tuned. It's a contest everyone will be watching.
Follow Kris Burke on Twitter: @KBurkeBroncos
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