Denver Broncos Can Be a Playoff Team Next Year by Following These Steps

Reid BrooksAnalyst IDecember 17, 2010

Denver Broncos Can Be a Playoff Team Next Year by Following These Steps

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    OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 08:  Head coach Mike Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers scowls on the sidelines during a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on August 8, 2008, at the McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Greg Trott/Getty Images)
    Greg Trott/Getty Images

    Denver Broncos fans are currently licking their wounds from the worst season in memorable history. But still, I for one don't think success is that far around the corner.

    If Pat Bowlen plays his cards right, I think the team can find itself not only successful immediately, but also building upon a bright future.

    The playoffs do not have to be too far away; in fact, with the right adjustments and additions, the Mile High City could have an NFL team playing in January next year.

Fire Joe Ellis and Brian Xanders

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 3: Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen looks on during warm-ups prior to the NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 3, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Pat Bowlen needs to start surrounding himself with intelligent people. To start with, I don't believe George Bush's cousin fits the bill.

    While I would have come to that conclusion pretty quickly based on political ideas, I think Joe Ellis' days as Broncos COO should be numbered. Aside from having literally no valuable experience in NFL management previously, Ellis hired Josh McDaniels.

    He also stood by him for far too long, and ever since Pat Bowlen has stepped back from the spotlight and allowed Ellis to manage day-to-day operations, things have been getting worse.

    What was it that your cousin said Joe?  "Fool me once, shame on me (teleprompter dies, long blank stare)...if you fool me can't get fooled again."

    Don't let Ellis continue to make decisions.

    On a similar note, who the heck is Brian Xanders? Where did this guy actually come from? He seems worthless, finish the housecleaning by canning him as well and bringing in a real, experienced NFL GM.

Replace COO Joe Ellis with John Elway

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and and hall of famer John Elway on the field prior to Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Ph
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    This kind of seems to be the plan anyway, but Bowlen so far seems interested in keeping worthless Joe around as well as adding John Elway.

    John is a man who requires no introduction, but allow me to clarify a common misconception out there for some people: Elway is not Dan Marino.

    First of all, he has never thrown a tantrum live during the CBS morning show (great video to watch of Dan on Youtube). But more importantly and also a bit more relevant: Elway actually has business experience, and he has football business experience.

    He and Bowlen partnered with Stan Kroenke to lead the Colorado Crush to substantial success in the Arena Football League. Elway can do the necessary football operations work.

    There is also the fact that people like him because he is one of the most legendary people in the history of the sport and the single greatest man in the history of Colorado professional athletics, but that seems like a side note.

Bring in a Competent General Manager

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    Why was Ted Sundquist let go to begin with?
    Why was Ted Sundquist let go to begin with?Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Hey, I've said previously I'm partial to Ted Sundquist. I always like the personnel he brought to Denver, and he is definitely available.

    In hindsight, it looks like Mike Shanahan's mistakes got Ted fired, and I think he deserves another shot. It also helps the franchise with consistency to have a guy like Sundquist bringing in a familiar type of player. I think the fans would feel a lot better with a solid, truly Denver-style GM.

    But really, I'll take anyone who isn't named Brian Xanders. I'd prefer they have some competence, but I think virtually anyone would be an improvement.

Hire Mike Nolan (or Another Defensive Guru) As Head Coach

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    NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 28: Head coach Mike Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers waits for a decision on a challenged play against the New Orleans Saints on September 28 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the 49ers 31-17.  (
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Mike Nolan has a knack for fixing defenses.

    He has taken Miami's defense from being the 22nd overall unit in the NFL in 2009 (that was when he was last coaching in Denver) to the fifth overall unit in the NFL in 2010.

    This man instantly makes every defense he touches extremely potent.

    That gives me supreme confidence in the Broncos chances for a quick turnaround, and I think Nolan can make this defense very strong without changing much personnel. He was doing it back in 2009 before Josh McDaniels started tinkering with his scheme, causing the defense to collapse.

    That's the reason he left Denver.

    Obviously, Nolan didn't do so well in San Francisco, but many coaches don't figure things out until their second time at the rodeo. He is familiar with the defensive personnel, he is well liked by the players (at least those who played under him) and he has proven he can be successful.

    And signing him up as head coach would give the Broncos a chance to.

Sign Champ Bailey

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    This man is the most legendary Broncos player since John Elway
    This man is the most legendary Broncos player since John ElwayJamie Squire/Getty Images

    Remember how the Denver Broncos have that one living legend playing cornerback?

    Well, they should do everything they can to keep him for at least a couple more seasons. I don't care if the team has to franchise tag him, the defense must hold onto Champ Bailey for at least one more season.

    Bringing Mike Nolan in as the head coach will probably help Bailey feel some consistency (at long last) on the defensive side of the ball, and make him more agreeable to working things out in Denver.

    Holding onto Champ Bailey is going to be essential, because without him I'm not sure the defense can make the much needed quick turnaround Mike Nolan can offer. And I have a bit of a unique plan for our first draft pick that doesn't involve drafting a cornerback.

Bring in a Truly Broncos-Style Offensive Coordinator

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 1: Head coach Mike Mularkey of the Buffalo Bills looks on during their game against the New York Jets on January 1, 2006 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Jets defeated the Bills 30-26.(Photo by Jim McIsaac
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    My dream here would be prying Mike Mularkey away from Atlanta to be our offensive coordinator. I don't think it can happen because we don't bring a lot to the table right now compared to the NFC-leading Falcons.

    But I think, given the right challenge, it might be doable. If he sees an opportunity to build something on the offensive side of the ball in Denver, I think we could get him. but that will hinge on a very creative first round draft play that I will describe shortly.

    Other strong candidates would be Gary Kubiak (if he is available, everyone seems to assume that he has already been fired). I'm sure there are some dark horses out there that individuals are pulling for.

Trade Tim Tebow, Our First Round Pick, and Anything Else To Get Andrew Luck

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    PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal in action against the Oregon State Beavers at Stanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Who remembers the last time we had a quarterback from Stanford and a running back from Georgia? Didn't we win a pair of Superbowls?

    I don't have anything against Tim Tebow, aside from the fact that I just don't think he is really that good. I also don't think he fits what the Denver Broncos (and their fans) are used to doing.

    Andrew Luck gives us a franchise quarterback (who can even take some time to develop behind Orton if need be) and a whole heck of a lot of excitement. The guy is a consensus future-star, not a fool's project. It ends all of the Tebow controversy, and shores up the future of what actually appears to be a very strong offense.

    We'd have young receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, as well as Eddie Royal and Knowshon Moreno. The team could then use a solid tight end, but the Broncos offensive line is actually pretty stout as well. The team has the best left tackle in football.

    With Andrew Luck, the Broncos offense immediately becomes one of the favorable, young units in the league. Sure it might need some tweaking, but the team would have all of the necessary pieces for future success in place.

    The downside is we have to neglect our defense in the first round of the draft. That's why Mike Nolan, a guy who can make any defense immediately strong, would be my pick for head coach.

    Also the chance to work with Luck could pull Mularkey away from Atlanta.

Free Agency and the Rest of the Draft

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Kyle Rudolph #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish breaks away from Quinton Rochardson #28 of the Washington Huskies after catching the ball on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Dan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    As I said before, the Broncos are going to need to get (in my opinion) a solid, young tight end. Kyle Rudolph out of Notre Dame could be available at the beginning of the second round. If he is, I think he is a guy to jump on. But there will also be other good option in the draft (and perhaps free agency).

    The Broncos will need to spend the rest of their draft picks on defensive linemen, and also really need to work free agency to get whatever other good defensive help they can.

    The team's core group of linebackers, consisting of Elvis Dumervil, DJ Williams, and Robert Ayers are fairly tough when healthy. That will make the defensive rebuilding project a bit easier.

    Keep in mind, Mike Nolan has been able to turn defenses around almost immediately without doing much to the personnel. That's why I feel comfortable putting the defensive needs off, for just one more year, in order to give Broncos fans and immediate feeling of "turning the corner" on the Josh McDaniels era.

A Manageable, Quick Turnaround

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Runningback Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos runs with the football during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defe
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I truly believe all of these steps are very practical and very manageable. This team could turn itself around almost entirely within one year by making some very smart personnel moves.

    There are a number of bright spots already on the team, and as long as we try to add to them, the Broncos could be playoff bound as early as next year.

    The great thing about the NFL is the parity from season to season. It doesn't take long to go from the bottom to the top of a division. The Broncos have an opportunity to be a good example of that.