As the Broncos ground game remains grounded through the first eight weeks, the Patriots defense proved Sunday that the former Broncos back Peyton Hillis has not. Hillis is currently 11th in the league in rushing with 644 yards and seven touchdowns.
Touchdowns have not been easy to come by in the Denver offense. Knowshon Moreno and Tim Tebow have each rushed for two touchdowns, while Orton is tied for sixth in the league with 12 touchdowns.
For those of you that don't remember this trade, let me break it down for you. The Broncos sent Hillis, a 2011 sixth-round pick, and a 2012 pick to the Browns for Brady Quinn.
Now that we have the benefit of hindsight, is this the worst move Josh McDaniels has made thus far in Denver? Most Broncos fans say, "Yes."
Before we can decide, we must break down some key points in the Denver Broncos offense before we can address how big a factor Hillis might have been in 2010.
If Barry Sanders and Walter Peyton had some miracle spawn that was groomed to play running back in the NFL, he still probably wouldn't have been able to run behind the Denver line. Ranked dead last in the league, the Denver rushing attack is helpless and would have needed a lot more than the rugged, Chuck Norris-esque running style of Hillis to make a significant difference this year. As long as the offensive line is this bad, the running game will follow.
At the time of the trade, Hillis was probably not expected to play much anyways. This became a lose-lose situation for McDaniels. He drafted Knowshon Moreno with his 12th overall pick in his first draft as the Denver head coach and had no intention of taking carries away from at the hands of Hillis, a seventh-rounder.
To McDaniels, this trade cost him nothing but a potential backup, as he probably anticipated having a healthy Moreno and Buckhalter.
For those of you that forget that Moreno led all rookies in rushing last year, establishing himself as a feature back was not an unreasonable expectation. Just imagine all the heat McDaniels would be taking if Hillis was starting and his first-rounder Moreno was sitting on the bench, doing nothing more than collecting large paychecks.
We would simply be swapping the word "pick" over the word "trade" in all of these articles bashing McD and his personnel moves.
For those of you that remember how bad Simms was when Orton went down were a huge fan of this trade. Brady Quinn is at least a viable backup. With that being said, most people are quick to ramble off that he has only been listed as the No. 2 quarterback for one game this year, while Tebow has been holding onto the backup role for most of the season.
What people don't understand is that Quinn is McDaniels' insurance policy for Tim Tebow. Like it or not, Orton is probably getting shipped out next year. He shipped Cutler out, he will have no problem shipping Orton.
When Tebow takes over the offense, Quinn will be there waiting to backup Tebow in case of an injury. Due to the nature of Tebow's running ability and frequency, investing in a decent backup is not a bad idea.
Quinn will have a year of McDaniel's system under his belt, and may even compete with Tebow for the starting job. If he doesn't, he may be in the game for a series or two per game just to give Timmy a breather.
When all of this falls into place in the next 18 months it is going to make Josh McDaniels look brilliant. That is assuming Bowlen keeps him around long enough to implement all of this.
So is this trade a fireable offense for Josh McDaniels? We have to remember that even if Peyton Hillis runs for 1,500 yards behind the Browns offensive line, he may have only ran for his life behind Denver's.