This is a tough article to write, in that I, and most Denver Broncos fans had higher hopes for how the 2010 NFL season would end then it actually will.
I know that is always the case and is true of all real NFL fans, no matter which teams they follow. But, well, the Broncos are different. They have a great heritage, dating back to 1960 and have provided many great moments over those 50 years.
2010 will have to go down as one of the most frustrating and disappointing seasons in all those that came before it.
This will be a review of the Good (a few things), the Bad (a few more) and the Ugly (a lot). Just a warning as this article may not be for the faint of heart. You have been warned!
Given the poor showing Denver had in last year's draft (trading up to get players that could have been had later, too many offensive players, not enough defensive talent, etc.), the 2010 draft was the one that was going to show that Boy Genius Josh McDaniels had learned from his past mistakes.
Whoops, my Bad, he actually got WORSE! Once again, he used the first 1st round pick to take an offensive player, just like last year, and he chose a nice guy but a perpetually injured player in WR Demarius Thomas (pictured) who had minimal impact on the team. Will he work out in the future? Bay Bay has great size and speed and is a positive locker room player, but he contributed almost nothing to the success of this team this year.
Then with the second pick, Mastermind Jr. traded picks and moved up to make another 1st round pick in QB Tim Tebow. Again, a nice guy and he may turn into a decent QB, but more wasted picks on offense when the defense was bleeding all over the field.
There were some later round choices, JD Walton and Zane Beadles, both ending up starting on the offensive line, but Walton was forced into that role when McDaniels cut All-Pro Center Casey Wigmann, who is back, guess where? Starting for the AFC West champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
There was one standout defensive draft choice, CB Perrish Cox, but he stands out for reasons other than inside the lines. (More about that later.)
Will some of the players from the past two drafts turn into very good players? Probably, but very few of them filled holes where the real needs were on this team.
Overall, another wasted draft year and a further degradation of the defense.
What a target rich environment this one is. After Hoody West decided last season that he didn't need any Pro-Bowl QB (Jay Cutler) or this year, Pro-Bowl WR (Brandon Marshall), he continued to dismantle the offense this past off-season by trading away the only power back on the team, Peyton Hillis.
Yes, THAT Peyton HIllis, he of the 6'2" 250 pound frame who can run over, through and around the opposing players. Oh, and he can also catch out of the backfield and out of a TE, Slot and even WR formation.
Through 15 games so far this year, Hillis has 1,164 yards rushing for a 4.4 YPC and 8 TDs. He also has 474 yards receiving for a 7.9 YPC and 2 TDs. These numbers are better than almost the entire stable of Denver's RBs. who have a grand total of 1,398 yards.
And what did Denver get back? QB Brady Quinn, who hasn't played a down AND we gave up an additional 2nd round draft choice.
Add in the previously mentioned cutting of C Casey Wigmann, the drafting and give-away of CB Alphonso Smith, the signing of three stop-gap defensive linemen, one of which didn't even make the team, and you have an incredibly destructive off-season.
With an almost total lack of adult supervision in the coaching ranks, the loss of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan sealed the fate of the Denver D. He was brought in last season to move the Bronco defense from the 4-3 to the 3-4. He was quite successful at that even given his relative lack of talent to work with.
He was the maturing influence on a young and inexperienced coaching staff and was one of the bright spots for the 2010 season. He would get to pick his players in the draft and in free agency, he would continue to build the defense and bring, intelligence and innovation to the defensive side of the ball.
Then one morning we woke up to find he was gone, to make a lateral move to the Miami Dolphins.
There is still much speculation as to why and how all this happened, but to say it left a huge hole in the rebuilding process is an understatement. His replacement, former LB Coach Don "Wink" Martindale, was a poor excuse for a DC. He often looked confused lost and seemed to further demoralize a defense that is gong to finish at the bottom or near the bottom in most defensive statistics.
When All World OLB and pass-rushing specialist Elvis Dumervil signed his contract extension, there was hope in the ranks that the defense would get better with the addition of some much-needed draft picks to bolster an aging and porous D.
Then he tore his pectoral muscle in the preseason and would miss the entire regular season. With no real replacement for his 17 sacks, the Denver D had no pass rush. The current sack leader, Mario Haggan, has five. And the entire Denver defense has only 18, one more than Doom had last season.
Maybe the bright spot on the entire team was the breakout season of WR Brandon Lloyd. When Brandon Marshall was traded, a lot of the fans were wondering, "Where will the offense come from now?"
Well, folks, so far this year, Lloyd has 72 receptions, 1375 yards with a 19.1 YPC and 10 TDs. There are not just BMarsh numbers, they are better!
There may not be a better WR in the NFL in the combination of hands, body control, pass route running and making even poor QB throws look good. If you don't believe me, ask Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.
In his 8 years in the league, with SF, WASH and CHI, he had a few decent years but nothing that would point to what he did this year. He is the only Pro-Bowl Bronco and is a deserving and proud representative of this franchise.
Every one thought that last year was a fluke and that QB Kyle Orton would come back to earth. But he once again proved the naysayers wrong with his steady and heady play and quiet leadership.
Until the battering took its toll with damaged ribs, that he tried to play through, he was on pace to have over 4,000 yards passing and 23-24 TDs. But his season came to an abrupt end when he could not practice and gave way to fan favorite rookie Tim Bebow.
He will most likely finish this season with the stats he has now, 3653 yards, 20 TDs and 9 INTs. He also was sacked 34 times and was hit a lot more.
And depending on who comes in as the new regime in Denver, he most likely will be traded, hopefully to a team where he has better talent around him.
Some startling legal issues cropped up on this team at a time when they were least expected or needed.
Ex-coach Josh McDaniels has said he was a "Character Guy", only wanting players on his team that were stand-up and made their community proud. Such was not the case this year.
So far, we have had the second DUI arrest for standout LB DJ Williams, who will likely serve a minimum 4 game suspension next year. This will deplete an already depleted defensive Front 7. As great of a player he is on the field, he has an issue with continuing to drive while impaired.
Add to that the arrest on the horrific charges of sexual assault on a helpless person by rookie CB Perrish Cox, who will either be in jail for 2 years to life if convicted or minimally serve a 6 game suspension, ala Ben Roethlesberger. So much for "character", especially when McDaniels already knew of his being suspended from his Oklahoma State team and missing playing in the Cotton Bowl his senior year.
And, although not as bad of a charge, injured LB Elvis Dumervil was charged with assault resulting from an incident when he was trying to get into the players lockerroom without his credentials and a physical altercation caused the charges to be brought.
I strongly believe in being innocent til proven guilty, but the NFL works under different rules, so there is a good chance one, two or all three of the above named players will be suspended and/or gone form the team at the start of the next season.
In less than two seasons, the decision of owner Pat Bowlen to hire an inexperienced, immature, ego-maniac 32 year old to coach this team was one of the low-lights of the 50 year history.
To his credit, Bowlen pulled the plug before the end of the year, something few people thought he would do, considering how quiet he was throughout the reign of terror this little man put the team, the fans and the ownership through.
Even as fans were calling for his head before the season started, there were many who were still supporting him and his"offense only" focus to the game that is the NFL. Unfortunately, he never understood that "Defense wins championships" and continued to place all his cookies in the offensive jar to prove how great an offensive genius he was.
In addition to the terrible record and some embarrassing games (59-14 loss to Oakland, at home, anyone?), there was that little SPYGATE II incident. You know, where the same scumbag that played a part in SPYGATE I at new England, was brought to Denver by McDaniels and did the same thing here against San Francisco. At least we know the apple doesn't fall very far from the Hoody, right?
Now he gets to go destroy another team, but my guess it will be back as an Offensive Coordinator, at least until he grows up.
Remember the last little man boy-genius to get fired in less than two years at the helm in Oakland ended up coming back here and winning two Super Bowl rings. So maybe there is a silver lining in McDaniels' future.
This may be one of the hardest things to face this season. The end of the Dawkins/Bailey time in Denver.
With the way that CB Champ Bailey was treated by management and the embarrassment he faced playing on this crappy defense, he is as good as gone. And as much as I will miss him, I will also cherish the times I have watched him play the game the way a true shutdown CB should play this game.
And I wish him the best in chasing his ring. He truly deserves it.
And what can you say about Safety Brian Dawkins. He brought a toughness and vocal leadership to this team. But with his age (37) and nagging injuries, I don't expect to see him back in Bronco Orange and Blue next year, either.
I will miss both of you guys, both for what you did on the field and bringing leadership to a team sorely lacking in that this past few years. But also for being class guys off the field.
And it will be great to see their busts in Canton, with the Denver Broncos listed as part of their resumes.
With all the uproar when Denver chose QB Tim Tebow as the second of two 1st round picks in the 2010 draft, the publicity has been relentless.
With the fan base split fairly evenly on his future success most of this year as a Denver Bronco QB, it has been a field day for the press as well as the sale of jerseys. Not just in Denver but all over NFL Nation.
But nowhere as rabid as in Gatorland. Following that draft selection of Mr. Tebow, there were so many people in Florida signing onto Google Maps trying to find Denver, Colorado, I am surprised the map site didn't go down.
He played sparingly throughout the first three quarters of the season and then only went in o gadget plays. He scored two short running TDs and threw for one, but was little used by the coach who drafted him.
Then, after Orton was hurt, the interim coach, Eric Studesville started him against Oakland in the Black Hole. He played pretty well for a first start, not throwing any INTS but DEN still lost the game as they were outplayed on both sides of the ball all game long.
Then he was named starter for the game last week against the reeling Houston Texans, owner of the worst pass defense in the NFL. Tebow had a very good game, throwing for over 300 yards and only 1 INT. He brought the team back from a 17-0 deficit at half time and Denver ended up winning the game 24-23.
Interesting to also note, that win by Denver and loss by Houston may very well have sealed Texans head coach Gary Kubiak's fate and if he is fired, he would be on the short list as either head coach or Offensive Coordinator back here in Denver.
Hey, we all start out 0-0 next year, right? And it could happen again, right?
As a die-hard Bronco fan and a glass half-full kind of guy, I do see improvement next season. After all, look who won the AFC West this season: the Kansas City Chiefs, usually at the bottom of the heap the past several years.
But to be honest, what I am really looking for is bringing in a strong front office and coaching staff that will have a plan on how to rebuild this franchise, and do it in a few years, but not try to do it in one.
This will mean an overhaul of the entire defense, maybe only 3-4 starters from this year will be starting next year. There will be some great competition at QB, whether that is with Tebow and Orton or Tebow and someone else that the new regime brings in, through the draft or though free agency and/or trades.
I see a very astute set of draft day decisions that won't leave half the fans either scratching their heads or banging those same heads against the wall.
And I expect to see the return of the home field advantage at Mile High, something that was squandered the past several years.
Just one Bronco fan(atic)'s opinion.