As the conference championships approach, and the fans of Broncos Country find themselves a dozen years removed from our beloved Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy that fateful night in Miami, I look forward to this weekend's games with both apathy and acrimony.
In doing so, I retrospectively look back at what has transpired in those dozen years and have to wonder what most fans of the Broncos have to be wondering either to themselves, or to their favorite drinking buddy: What in all that is holy has happened to the Denver Broncos? How did we get to be so average? Mediocre even?
Maybe I am being pessimistic, and every fan out there is going to question my loyalty. If that is indeed the case, I am sure that no one will be abashed in telling me such.
On the other hand, maybe I am actually writing what a bevy of other fans are thinking. But they do not have the time, energy or wherewithal to actually put the thoughts into words out of ambivalence or fear—I don't know.
What I do know is the Broncos have one playoff victory in 12 years.
How long before we start sounding like 50-year-old men still clamoring over their dominating victory in the '78 high school championship? Or even worse, how long till we begin to sound like Raiders fans, merely clinging to glories past?
With these thoughts in mind, the time has come to examine what the future holds for the Denver Broncos and come to grips with how we just may have become a mediocre team grasping at the straws of greatness.
John Fox?!? Did Denver "Settle" for Its New Head Coach?
The entire premise for this article was perpetuated by the hiring of John Fox. Not to say that I am not happy with the decision—because I am, but I think it is more the way that it transpired.
I am fairly certain that the Broncos became the first franchise in NFL history to have the team with the second-worst record actually hire the head coach from the team with the worst record.
Granted, Fox has a reputation for building teams in a hurry. This is evidenced by the way he rebuilt Carolina. Undoubtedly, Fox's forte is defense.
In areas that Denver has struggled, specifically against the run and creating turnovers, Fox's defenses were never lower than 15th overall, five times in the top 10, including seven finishes in the top 10 against the run. With regard to takeaways, his teams landed in the top 15 all but two seasons with finishes in the top two twice and fourth overall one time.
I can also see why his overall record of 73-71 is a little deceiving. Going into to 2010, Fox was 71-57. Let's face it, anytime you go 2-14, it is going to do a little damage on the winning percentage.
However, even these things do not leave me distraught.
It is simply the fact that other head coaches did not even want to come interview here. Harbaugh, Malarkey, Gregg Williams. These guys didn't even want to bring their family on a free ski trip. That is what is so disconcerting.
Now, you couple in the fact that Jim Mora is no longer interested in the job as defensive coordinator and one has to start thinking, "What happened to Denver?"
Which leads me to the point of "settling." Elway and Bowlen can both stand up on the podium with all of the bravado in the world, exclaiming in unison that John Fox was their man for the job, but how much of this is false bravado?
I realize that the likes of Cowher or Gruden would not have worked due to their demands to run the team, but after the third guy said, "No, thanks," did Elway and Bowlen start to panic? Did it come down to Fewell and Fox, and on a game of Rochambeau, Fox won out?
Think about it.
It cannot, and does not look good for Bowlen's franchise when you cannot even get a potential coaching candidate to even examine the job—not to mention an assistant coach who works for the NFL Network right now.
Maybe Bowlen wanted to save face and not let his brethren, the fans of Denver, be more alarmed than we already are. Nothing says damage control like a letter to season ticket holders.
Yet this is only the first sign that Denver could be reaching for the straws of greatness. The personnel changes on the horizon could be a fortuitous sign of things to come.
If the Shepherd Goes, Does His Flock Go with Him?
I would be remiss in my duties if I did not bring up something that many of the readers may not be aware of.
There may be a quarterback controversy in Denver.
I know this sounds completely ridiculous, but Coach Fox, although he does have a liking for Tim Tebow, may not want to make the covenant with Tebow just yet—which may cause a mass Exodus.
Not to be redundant, but if Tebow were to get traded, I truly wonder how many of those "fans" who bought his orange No. 15 would trade it in for a different colored No. 15 (perhaps a nice purple, or maroon). This may seem like a vacuous question, but for those who are avid readers, they understand the fact to which I speak.
However, if a quarterback does go, it will probably not be Tebow—which seems like the better decision to make.
We have seen the best of what Orton has to offer. Though it would be in the best interests of the team to keep him on in a backup role, chances are, his days in Denver are numbered and he will be gone come draft day. This according to TV star and Broncos guru, Woody Paige.
The situation of starting a proverbial rookie does not necessarily scream, "We're bound for greatness!" What does it honestly say to you?
Even the Fans Are at Each Other's Throats, Which Isn't So Great.
This one has come as a shock. In sports, there is always going to be grumbling from fans with regard to the coach, the personnel and why the fans themselves feel they should be the coaches and personnel.
However, the polarity with regard to a certain athlete(s) on the team and the passion displayed by the fans of the athlete(s) has created a definite "us against them" mentality.
Typically in sports, this is a good thing—look at how well it has worked out for the Jets.
In this instance, however, it is not because Broncos fans are fighting amongst themselves. "It's my team, because I've been a fan for 50 years"..."No, it's my team because I have been a fan for the last three games and that makes me just as much of a fan as you because that's the way a real sports fan would look at it."
Which one makes the most sense? I am not even going to touch that one.
I guess this is what happens when the team is losing, but I've even read blogs that are starting to bash Shanahan. Really? Now we are going to start going after the only coach to lead us to the promised land?
Man, things are really getting desperate in here.
Potential Greatness? There Is Definitely a Draft in Here.
The final attempt for Denver to grasp at the straws of greatness comes in the last week of April—the 2011 NFL Draft.
This year's draft could be the most important draft in franchise history.
After being gutted like a marlin the last two years by the new offensive coordinator of the Rams, John Elway and the brass have a lot of ground to make up.
There are talks of drafting a defensive lineman. There are also talks of drafting a defensive back. Well, thank goodness we are at least discussing drafting for defense—let's just hope the brass is doing the same.
Moreover, I think if Denver were to draft a defensive back with its first pick, it would have to come out of trading down a few spots and acquiring more picks. Has anyone ever seen, at least in the modern era, a DB taken in the top two?
In order to make this a successful draft, it would appear that Denver would have to bring in a strong nucleus of defensive talent to reinvigorate an anemic unit.
Mediocrity, Greatness or Insanity?
I would like to consider myself as loyal as the next Broncos fan, but at what point do we have to stop and say, "What the heck is going on here?"
It is easy to see that the last couple of years have done a number on our beloved franchise.
But when you start to couple it in with the last 12, it really starts to put a damper on things.
There used to be a time when coaches would give an appendage to merely have the opportunity to be on the coaching staff in Denver—now, we can't even get guys to show up.
There used to be a time when teams would fear having to come to Denver and face our Broncos. Now, not so much.
There used to be a time when fans stood united for one common goal—to cheer loud and proud for our Broncos. Now, there is division and cheering out of convenience and circumstance.
So, which is it? Mediocrity or greatness?
I can honestly say that I do not know. Fortunately Denver does have talent on the team that will allow for a good foundation.
Hiring a veteran defensive-minded head coach was a great start; following up with a successful draft will be another. Getting solid play from the QB followed by developing a solid running game once again will all contribute to alleviating the grasping and turning it into clenching—hopefully a playoff birth.
Yet even listing all of these things off is slightly discouraging.
Regardless, one thing is for certain: I will always cheer as if we are on the brink of greatness!
How about you?