Denver Broncos: The NFL's Most Confusing Team
"This is for a good friend who has been there for me when I was down. For you D-Rob, I hope you enjoy."
When you look at a football team's roster and evaluate the talent's ability, you generally get an idea of what kind of team it is.
For instance, if you look at the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, you will notice that the team has a decent running game, a defense that forces turnovers but isn't that particularly strong, and a quarterback with an arm as accurate as a sniper rifle.
They use multiple packages of wide receiver sets to spread the ball around and make opposing defenses adjust to everyone, which can be very difficult.
If you give me two hours to look at some numbers and watch some tape, I can probably give you a similar analysis of almost every team in the National Football League.
However, one team confounds me to the point where I can't put a finger on them. This team should be in the Witness Protection Program with all the identity changes it has had in the past two years.
That team is the 8-8 Denver Broncos.
To fully understand exactly what I mean, you have to go back to 2008. The Broncos had a rifle-armed quarterback named Jay Cutler who could throw some of the prettiest spirals out there.
They had two receivers at the Pro Bowl level in Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. The defense was almost at the bottom of the barrel though, so they had to rely on Cutler to get the job done.
The Broncos were 8-5 with a three game lead in the AFC West and three left to play. If they won just one of their remaining games, they would have made the playoffs. All the other AFC West teams had at least eight losses.
However, the 5-8 San Diego Chargers got hot and started catching up. The Broncos lost to the Panthers and the Bills in the first two games, and the Chargers won their two games, setting up a winner-take-all match in San Diego.
I remember watching that game on my television expecting a good matchup because it was do or die time. I was disappointed to say the least. The Chargers crushed the Broncos 52-21, and it was just a tremendous meltdown.
The Broncos became the first team ever to lose a three game division lead with three to go.
That losing streak began a new era in Denver. I remember listening to a sports clip about it afterwards and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com said that the head coach of the Broncos, Mike Shanahan, was fired because of it.
To use his exact words, "Nothing he could do would ever get him fired. Well, this got him fired."
And he's right. Shanahan had been the head coach of two Super Bowl winning teams, so his job was about as secure as you could get until that happened.
See what I mean about confusing?
After Shanahan was fired, the Broncos hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to lead them to victory.
Immediately I had the feeling that this guy was going to take some time to break in. He was 32 at the time and actually had players that were older than him. I thought he was going to go about his style, but try to merge with the team and become part of the family.
Well it didn't start off on the right foot because a rumor was leaked that Denver was negotiating a possible three way trade with the Buccaneers and Patriots that would send Cutler to Tampa Bay and Matt Cassel, a quarterback that had worked with McDaniels in New England, to Denver.
It never happened. From all accounts I can remember or trace, the Broncos didn't even contact people. They were contacted. It doesn't hurt to at least listen, and no player is exempt from a trade except maybe Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.
But Cutler was a great passer that had a 17-20 record as a starter. If a team is desperate enough to go all in like that then Jay Cutler was expendable.
Well, the teams weren't desperate enough so Denver just thanked them for their time and proceeded to go about its plans.
Except Cutler also has a big mouth to go with his big arm. He's a guy who is under the impression that he's one of the elite and was extremely insulted by the idea that the Broncos would trade him.
Nevermind that they were just listening to people. He was still offended, and it snowballed from there. Eventually Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears for two first round picks, a third round pick, and quarterback Kyle Orton.
The team then does a 180 degree turn. They go 6-0 with the No. 1 defense in the league at the time. They were 30th in overall defense in 2008 and in 2009 they are No. 1? With an offensive coach in charge?
Then they started falling and the season ended with an 8-8 record. They did finish 12th in overall defense, a major upgrade, and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil led the league with 17 sacks.
However, the Broncos went from second in total offensive yards in 2008 to 15th in 2009. So the defense improved when Denver hired a offensive coach? Run that by me again because I'm confused.
This past offseason though, the Brocons have been even more puzzling. I cannot figure it out. I feel like I'm in my high school calculus class.
The Broncos signed nose tackle Jamal Williams to a three-year deal, but what really got me was the draft.
Going into it, I thought they should get another pass rusher to help them out since Robert Ayers wasn't doing a good job, and if Denver paired another effective guy with Elvis Dumervil, then they would get results.
A cornerback also fit because the secondary was aging.
They drafted Demaryius Thomas, a wide receiver from Georgia Tech. What were they thinking? Dez Bryant was still on the draft board at the time. He was easily the best receiver in the draft and a steal at No. 22, but they drafted a guy who had a broken foot.
The Broncos are either gutsy, stupid, or both. Granted, Thomas had been checked out by doctors and they said he'd be healthy by OTAs, but still, he had a broken foot. You can trade up in the early second round and get him while using this pick to get somebody else, like Bryant.
Don't forget that Thomas just re-injured his foot yet again. It wasn't serious from reports I've read, but that doesn't give me confidence regarding his durability. I think it is only a matter of time before that foot causes Denver to shoot themselves in the foot.
Then, right after the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant, the Broncos made more history. They traded up back into the first round, sending second, third, and fourth round picks to the Baltimore Ravens.
Who did they desperately want? Why, none other than quarterback Tim Tebow.
The Broncos had no need for a quarterback. Orton may not be John Elway but he's not a bad player, and they drafted Tebow?
Look, I love Tim Tebow as much as the next person. I think he's one of the greatest men in sports right now, and I wish everyone was like him in terms of character.
However, character doesn't throw touchdown passes. It helps, but Tim Tebow has played in Urban Meyer's offense with the veer and short passes. You can't run the veer in the pros. You can't ask a quarterback to play fullback. This isn't the 1920s, you have to pass in order to survive. The athletes are much stronger, faster, and meaner than in college. It's a war zone at times.
If the Broncos wanted to draft a quarterback, they should've gone after Jimmy Clausen, who has a powerful arm. Or how about Colt McCoy, who has won more games than any college quarterback in history, has a much better arm than Tebow, amazing character traits like Tebow, and actually knows how to pass the football to win games?
Every report from qualified experts has said that Tim Tebow does not know how to run an NFL offense. He's doesn't have a cannon for an arm to help him out either. He has trouble reading defenses. I even read a report that stated he wasn't as accurate as he needed to be.
This team continued to confuse me even more by trading its best player, Brandon Marshall, to the Miami Dolphins for two second round draft picks.
He caught 18 passes in one game, and last year, he broke the single game record with 21. Where does trading this player make sense for a team?
This Broncos team is unpredictable because so many things have changed, and there is no constant anymore from the past. Players like All-Pro lineman Ryan Clady and Elvis Dumervil—likely out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle—are hurt.
This team has different running backs every year. I know they just signed LenDale White, but I'm not expecting much from him. Knowshon Moreno almost tore a hamstring, and Correll Buckhalter has a sore back.
Linebacker Jarvis Moss just broke his hand, so who knows what will happen there.
I don't know what to expect from this team next week or in the next minute.
All in all, when I look at the Broncos team I don't see much hope for the present. Fans need to look to the future.
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