Denver Broncos: 10 Predictions for the 2011 Season, Time to Look to the Future
As the media clamors over whether or not the Denver Broncos should start rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, and others are trying to figure out creative ways to hate Kyle Orton, it is time to look beyond the present.
After all, Christmas is approaching, and although there will not be any yuletide cheer offered by our beloved Broncos this season, it is still imperative to focus on the positive, leave the negative behind and concentrate on one infallible truth—there is indeed always next year!
In order to fully grasp the concept of this sentiment and allow for it to take full effect, one must do away with the troubles of the present and look to a brighter, more positive mindset that could seem as near as the orange sunset to the optimist yet as far away as the moon to those who wish to dwell.
Forget this season—it is over. There is nothing that can be done to eradicate the horrors of the Josh McDaniels regime.
While the Broncos flirt with the notion of having their worst record since before the merger, it is now time to examine what this tumultuous season has left them with. As the offseason fast approaches—and not soon enough—the carnage will be assessed. There will be more casualties, and the Broncos will attempt to recover from one of the worst nightmares in franchise history.
What will they do? What moves will be made?
Here are 10 predictions...
10. Introducing Your New Vice President of Football Operations...John Elway!
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It has been widely reported, speculated and even assumed that John Elway, by far the most recognized and respected icon in Denver Broncos history (sorry, Tebow fans), would like to have a prominent role in the day-to-day maneuverings and operations of the Denver Broncos.
Evidence of this is correlated to the "dinner" that Elway shared with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen shortly after the dismissal of beleaguered coach Josh McDaniels, as well as interviews that he has recently given.
Elway already has player personnel experience, albeit through his duties in the Arena League, but this could be the first stepping stone to restoring the Broncos to prominence.
He clearly has unquestionable loyalty to the city and the franchise and a degree of football acumen that would be difficult to match.
Whether it is VP of operations, a stake in the ownership of the franchise or director of player personnel, expect John Elway to play a prominent role in the Broncos draft room come April 2011.
9. Pat Bowlen Will Get His Man
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Though it is difficult to speculate as to who this coach may be, one thing is for certain: It will not be Eric Studesville, or anyone on the current Broncos coaching staff for that matter.
After witnessing the recent blatant disregard for the NFL franchise and its fans that college coaches such as Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino portrayed, one would be safe in assuming that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is not going to bring in a coach from ANY university, regardless of his ties to Tim Tebow.
Due to the egregious error that was made with the McDaniels hiring, one would also be hard pressed to find Bowlen hiring an assistant head coach or coordinator who is under the age of 40 and has never been a head coach at the professional level. The influx of young head coaches may seem to work elsewhere, but Mr. Bowlen already had his trip to the daycare, and he has seen enough.
It is recognized that Pat Bowlen will have to open his already strained checkbook with regard to paying head coaches in order to lure Gruden or Cowher to Denver. Cowher may decide to go to Carolina once John Fox is dismissed, so that would leave Gruden—and a bevy of others.
Out of complete bias (and wishful thinking), the Denver Broncos will bring in Jon Gruden as their head coach in 2011.
8. Kyle Orton Will Not Be Traded
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It is impossible not to hear the boos, hisses and screams at this sentiment, but it is fact. There are two reasons why Kyle Orton will not be traded, coupled with a long shot proposition.
The first reason why Orton will not be traded is solely predicated upon Tim Tebow. For starters, no one, aside from the Broncos coaching staff, knows how Tebow is developing. Is it crazy to suggest that he is still behind the curve with regard to his throwing accuracy and motion?
Regardless of how much disdain is shared for Orton, the fact remains Tebow is an unpolished rookie whose legend could quite possibly be bigger than his actual game.
How much is Denver going to prove, or is Tebow going to be able to prove for that matter, if he is placed into a hostile environment next week against a Raider team that is fighting for its playoff life? What if he stinks up the joint?
The truth is the Broncos have to keep Orton—even if Tebow shines and becomes the starter.
The second reason deals with the trade value for Orton. It has been argued that Denver could get a plethora of draft picks for Orton; this will not happen. Any intelligent GM knows his track record, and they realize that Kyle Orton is more the guy that we have seen the last two weeks than the guy we saw in the first 11. At best, Denver would get a fourth- or fifth-round pick for Orton, and that would be a waste.
He can serve as a viable backup if Tebow is successful.
The long shot proposition plays out like this: Denver is slated to get the third overall pick. For argument's sake, let's say that Cowher takes the job in Carolina and is not an avid member of the Jimmy Clausen fan club. He has a track record of liking game-managing QBs (it drove him crazy when Ben Roethlisberger started chucking the ball around), and he may like Orton. Denver sends its third overall to the Panthers, along with Orton, and its first-round pick in 2012 to draft Andrew Luck out of Stanford.
Orton could become the first QB in NFL history to be traded to two different franchises with two first-round picks attached.
7. Neither Will Tim Tebow
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Again the screams. The justification for why Tebow will not be traded is very simple: Nobody knows what he has to offer.
Even if he plays in the next three weeks, those performances will only scratch the surface of what he may actually be able to do. Also, is three weeks really conducive to conducting a thorough assessment of one's capabilities?
Regardless, if he plays well, Denver will want to keep him.
If he does not play well, no other franchise will want him anyway.
Bottom line is the Broncos spent a first-round draft pick on him, and they are going to want to know for certain that he is either a bust or a stud. The 2011 season will open as a true quarterback battle for the starting position. This will be unlike the colloquialisms that were given by McDaniels regarding "the best player will play," because we all know that was not the case during his tenure in Denver.
By the end of the preseason, Tim Tebow will be the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2011. His determination, heart and desire to compete will be too much for Orton to bear, and in the final preseason game Orton will throw four interceptions, mope off the field and lose the job for good.
6. Brady Quinn Will Be Cut, and Another QB Will Be Drafted
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What can be said about Brady Quinn? It appears that all of the GMs who left him to sit there through the entire first round, as he contemplated his fate in the green room in New York City, knew what they were doing.
When he was traded to Denver (for a player that will not be mentioned because the purpose of this slideshow is to remain optimistic) there were a certain amount of high hopes.
After watching Quinn in meager preseason action, and coupling in the fact that he was unable to take over the solid No. 2 QB position from an unpolished rookie, one is left to wonder, "Why keep him?"
Quinn has unfortunately verified his status as the Anna Kournikova of football. With that premise in mind, the Broncos will release Quinn before draft day, and they will attempt to pick up a quarterback in the draft that they can develop.
This is a necessary step with the uncertainty of Tebow and the inconsistencies of Orton. Plus, all new head coaches like to draft a quarterback; it lets them know they have "their guy." Either way, Brady Quinn will not be in a Denver Broncos uniform next year.
Maybe Denver could trade him to Cleveland for Peyton Hillis...never mind.
5. The Broncos Will Sign Champ Bailey
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Through the struggles of this year and an overall putrid effort on defense, Champ has remained a constant.
Earlier in the year he had his struggles, and there was fear around Broncos Country that McDaniels was going to go the Patriot Way and not attempt to give Champ a new contract.
In recent weeks, however, Bailey has once again proven that he has the capability to be a shutdown corner—just ask Dwayne Bowe and Larry Fitzgerald.
It is going to be imperative for the Broncos to re-sign Bailey due to the uncertainties in their secondary. Andre Goodman is oft-injured and may not have a roster spot next year. Brian Dawkins, though the consummate inspirational leader and eventual Hall of Famer, is not getting any younger, and it is only a matter of time before he retires. Renaldo Hill...well, let's just say that Denver will re-sign Bailey.
Here is what the Broncos secondary would look like going into next season if Bailey were to go elsewhere:
Perrish Cox (if he's not in prison), Syd'Quan Thompson, Nate Jones, David Brouton, Darcel McBath and Cassius Vaughan.
Not that these players are terrible, but one word does come to mind—inexperienced. This is the major mitigating factor contributing to why Champ Bailey gets his new contract in 2011.
4. Knowshon Moreno Will Actually Earn His First Round Status
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Hard to believe, isn't it?
Since becoming the first pick of the Josh McDaniels regime, Moreno has had less than stellar rookie and sophomore seasons.
The subject of an array of criticisms, particularly due to the success of his predecessor who was traded to Cleveland, Knowshon has been labeled "injury-prone," "a bust" and tagged with the nickname "Know-show" due to several games that he has missed due to injury.
Yet in the last two games, Moreno has shown glimpses of what made him a dangerous back at the University of Georgia and ultimately why he was regarded as a top back in the 2009 draft. Two weeks ago, he pummeled the Chiefs for his best day as a pro, accumulating 161 yards rushing on just 23 carries for a blistering 7.0 yards per carry.
Although he did not break the century mark against the Cardinals last week, Moreno has still been running with the same purpose, determination and aggression that he had against the Chiefs.
So why the resurgence?
One could speculate that it is due to the fact that for the first time since turning pro, Moreno is actually healthy. Instead of sauntering around the backfield looking for a hole, Moreno is hitting the hole with authority and reaching the second level of opposing defenses more consistently.
Another factor contributing to Moreno's recent success is the health of the offensive line. For the first time this season, the Broncos have been able to have the core group of J.D. Walton, Zane Beadles, Ryan Harris, Chris Kuper and Ryan Clady in the trenches. The health of the offensive line is severely overlooked until a healthy unit is once again on the field and one can observe the obvious difference.
These factors may constitute Moreno gaining over 1,000 rushing yards this year. If he averages 95 yards a game in the last three contests, he will hit that mark. Regardless, the prediction for 2011 is Moreno will exceed that 1,000-yard milestone easily and will finish with over 1,500 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns, thus leading the Broncos offense in a much more balanced attack.
3. All of the Critical Draft Picks Will Go to Shoring Up the Ailing Defense
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By labeling these draft picks critical, one can infer the statement to mean picks in the first three rounds. Although this may be the most obvious of predictions, it is important to keep in mind the Broncos were faced with similar situations over the last two offseasons leading up to the draft.
In both of those drafts, the Broncos, knowing that our defense needed dire assistance, utilized three out of their four first-round picks on the offensive side of the ball; Robert Ayers is the only defensive player chosen in the first round.
2011 will be different.
There are a myriad of impressive front seven players that Denver will have to choose from—particularly with a top five pick. Some of these players are Marcel Dareus (DT, Alabama), Da'Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson), Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn) and Robert Quinn (DE, North Carolina).
Aside from the immediate need to shore up the defensive line, the Broncos could also look at linebackers such as Akeem Ayers (UCLA), Greg Jones (Michigan St.) or possibly Travis Lewis (Oklahoma).
Denver has spent several draft picks on the secondary, and although our current starting secondary is one of the oldest in the league, there is hope that the aforementioned youth will be able to step in and make critical contributions on the back end of the defense.
As it stands right now, of course this can change drastically come draft day, Denver has six draft picks entering the 2011 NFL Draft. They have the obvious top five pick, two second rounders and one pick in each of the third, sixth and seventh rounds respectively.
In shoring up the defense and also getting Elvis Dumervil back, the Broncos will finally be competitive again on the defensive side of the ball in 2011.
2. Denver Is Going to Make the Playoffs
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It takes plenty of optimism, faith and a little bit of insanity to predict this, but you heard it here first: The 2011 Denver Broncos are going to make the playoffs!
Before the criticism ensues, it is acknowledged that this prediction is a stretch, but it is not impossible. To solidify the point, one needs to look no further than the recent success that the Miami Dolphins had after a 1-15 season, the resurgence of the Jets from mediocrity and this year's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In looking at the reality of this prediction closer, take a look at what the Broncos' proposed schedule of opponents may look like next year.
Every season the opponents revolve by division. Next year, Denver should play the AFC East and the NFC North. Games within these divisions would include the Lions, Bills, the Favre-less Vikings, a rematch with the Jets and the Bears. Since everyone seems to think that Jay Cutler stinks, and couple in that Denver also would be slated against the last place teams in the other AFC divisions, one would have to like the Broncos' chances heading into next year.
Granted, it is impossible to forecast what any of these teams will look like in 2011, but the same can be said for the Broncos.
If they draft right, get the head coach they want and are not destroyed by injuries at key positions again, Denver has the talent to make this happen.
1. The Nightmare Is Over! Order Is Restored in the Universe!
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Now, winning the Super Bowl may be out of the question, but it is important to conclude this bout of optimism with an image from the past. Denver is one of the winningest franchises over the course of the last 30 years.
To seem like the universe is completely out of sorts when Denver is losing so terribly is a legitimate thought process. Most Broncos fans are accustomed to watching their beloved team at least compete for a playoff spot in December, if not earn a playoff berth in January.
Only the diehards, the ones who have been around before Red Miller, Morton and the Orange Crush, can attest to what it is like to witness the Broncos perform like this.
At this juncture in the season, to pay more attention to your fantasy teams than your home team is not only eerie; it is uncomfortable—at least it is for me.
What has transpired here in Denver over the course of the last few years is an aberration—it is not the sign of things to come. The nightmare is over. Never again will we see a head coach come in and completely dismantle this franchise. If anything, we can be thankful that Pat Bowlen saw the error of his ways and is trying to rectify the situation as opposed to doing what the Lions did with Matt Millen in Detroit.
I am here to tell all of Broncos Country that now is not the time to be pessimistic—the Broncos will recover! They did it after 1976, and after going 5-11 in 1990, and again after going 6-10 upon Elway's retirement, and they will do it next year in 2011. It seems that people fail to recognize that expectations have to be altered once your head coach trades away any semblance of talent, your best pass rusher gets hurt in training camp and you have a makeshift offensive line.
But all will be rectified in 2011, and this will become but a distant memory—and we will cherish the Broncos even more because of what has transpired.
Forget about the negatives of this season.
It is time to look forward to what could be positive in 2011.
I am ready. Are you?