NFL Lockout 2011: How It Is Killing the Denver Broncos' Season Before It Starts
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As the Denver Broncos blogosphere continues to be inculcated with the monotony of the Orton versus Tim Tebow debate, it becomes important to examine a topic that carries with it a brevity that goes beyond a mere battle at quarterback.
While the NFL and its players continue their battle of attrition, with neither side capitulating, the premise of an autumn without football could very well be upon us.
For every day that the two sides refuse to return to the bargaining table, further eschewing one another in the press, the potential of this lockout is more detrimental to some teams than it is to others.
The Denver Broncos are a team whose 2011 season could very well be over before it starts if an agreement is not reached soon.
Is this possible?
Can this lockout by the owners really damage the Broncos so severely as to affect the outcome of a season that is yet to be played?
The contention here is “yes” it can—and it will.
Granted, the draft is still going to take place, and the Broncos will be able to utilize the fruits of last seasons efforts (or lack thereof) with their second overall pick. However, there are many other aspects of the offseason which the Broncos will not be able to utilize—aspects that are sorely needed.
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Why a Lockout?
In light of the malevolent nature of the comments airing back and forth between the NFL and the Players Association, it may be constructive to introduce what this lockout is really about.
I am not going to try to profess to have the strongest degree of acumen when it comes to the issues on the negotiating table.
However, one can speculate rather strongly that it assuredly boils down to one issue—money.
In reading about the “concerns,” there are talks that the players do not want to play an 18-game season, citing player safety as a reason. The owners maintain that players fail to recognize the rising costs to run an NFL franchise.
Regardless, to the layman in all of us, this lockout essentially boils down to the two parties being able to, or rather not being able to, split $9 billion worth of revenue.
Just so we are straight on this: NINE BILLION DOLLARS worth of revenue.
There are some who scoff at this notion and call both sides avarice egomaniacs and stipulate that both parties should recognize the amount of money they are fighting over is more than most would see in 50 lifetimes.
What Annoys You Most About the Lockout?
In this area, I am going to acquiesce. I do not know what it is like to live on a millionaire’s salary, nor am I cognizant of what it is like to own a business worth a billion dollars. So in that regard I find it best to stay out of matters to which I cannot relate.
Where we all can relate is in the arena of football, and the irrefutable fact that we want football come September. Actually, I want football now, and I am certain I am not alone in this thinking.
Moreover, we want our Broncos to be able to eradicate the failures of last season and resurrect the greatness of years past.
Some may argue that as long as the deal is made by September, everything will be okay—this is a very fallacious mindset to carry. As it applies to the Denver Broncos, there are several reasons why the deal needs to be done now.
Actually, there are $9 billion worth of reasons why this Lockout is dooming the Denver Broncos 2011 season; both in the short and long-term.
Here are just a few.
John Fox Needs to Get Acclimated to His New Team
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For teams with new head coaches, as is the case in San Francisco, Cleveland and here in Denver in naming a few, the lockout proposes a very difficult challenge. The owners have “locked out” the players, meaning the coaches and players cannot communicate.
This proves to be a difficult task when you are John Fox and you need to build a solid foundation with your new team.
By now, most teams would be conducting some sort of OTA or offseason workout program and the head coach would begin implementing his offensive and defensive schemes. Again, this situation does not carry as much weight if you are Lovie Smith in Chicago, or Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, because these coaches have already instilled an identity for their team.
John Fox is now faced with a very perplexing dilemma: He has to hope that his players are in the weight room voluntarily working out, that they are staying out of trouble, and he has to hope that they are able to ascertain his system if and when the lockout ends.
Will John Fox be able to build the continuity amongst his team necessary to compete at the highest level in NFL under the duress of a shortened offseason program?
The longer the lockout continues, the less time Fox will have with the Broncos to prepare.
The Denver Broncos were a team that incessantly struggled last year; this is not the formula for success in 2011.
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Orton Stays…So Does Tebow
The heading of this section is utilized solely to extrapolate with a lockout in effect, free agency ceases to exist. Not only does free agency cease to exist, but trades are disallowed as well.
Most noted in Broncos Country, is the alleged Kyle Orton trade situation.
Unfortunately, under the lockout, this means for all of those fans with a penchant for assuming that Denver can get top trade value for Orton (and you know who you are), those hopes are crushed. As are the hopes of those who had prayed that Tebow would be sent packing from Denver as well.
The Broncos will not be able to fill any voids that they have on the team, and it appears they have a few, via free agency.
In assessing the positional needs that the Broncos have, one could speculate they need help on the defensive line, offensive line, tight end, running back, and possibly even linebacker and secondary.
However, the promise of bringing in a DeAngelo Williams at running back, or even a Tommy Harris in at defensive tackle are, as it stands now, mere pipe dreams as the Broncos find themselves at the mercy of the lockout.
In light of this fact, the lockout has now placed the Broncos at a severe disadvantage entering into next season. It is hard to build a house without a hammer. It will be hard for Denver to rebuild without all of the necessary tools at their disposal.
The advent of free agency was created to provide teams with an outlet to improve their roster from the season before. Now, it has become a proverbial albatross around the owners’ neck.
Of course, the second a deal is struck, the free agency wires will be as fervent as a high school keggar, and teams will be making deals better than Monty Hall ever dreamed.
For now though, all we hear is crickets—and the ticking of the clock.
Clearly, free agency is one area that the Broncos were hoping to have the opportunity to examine. Without it, they are going to have to rely heavily on the draft and current players.
Both are situations that have to leave the organization—and its fans—a little uneasy.
A Different Type of Draft
On a larger scale, the lockout will have a convoluted affect on the draft and the way it is typically run for the Denver Broncos.
Anyone who has watched a draft, or even a recap, understands there are a bevy of trades that take place during the draft; either for players or draft picks. In the 2011 lockout version of the draft, these opportunities to improve the team via trade will be nonexistent.
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The Denver Broncos will not even be able to sign the players they draft to contracts until a new CBA is reached.
This may not seem important in April or even June, but what will happen if a CBA is not finalized until August or September? If a player decides to holdout, he may miss the first four games of the season—or more.
Another aspect of the draft that may be altered is the way Denver drafts.
Initially, the Broncos may have sought to draft a kicker, or another wide receiver or possibly even a quarterback. Now, with the way things are slated with the lockout, Denver is in a position where their draft must solely be based on dire need.
This could affect their first pick.
Although they would have liked Patrick Peterson out of LSU, with the re-signing of Champ Bailey, they may no longer see the need for another shutdown corner and may decide that Robert Quinn or Marcell Dareus will provide more value.
In stating this, I am not insinuating that the Broncos previous intentions were to be frivolous with their picks—even though it has happened recently. I am merely conveying that their desire to possibly “reach” for a player, even in the later rounds, may be replaced by the “safer” bet due to the inability to bolster their roster via free agency or trade.
Regardless, one cannot argue the fact that the 2011 lockout draft will carry with it an ominous tone, as the two parties remain reticent about the issues that separate them.
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Moreover, teams like the Denver Broncos, who need all the help they can get, will continue to suffer the consequences.
So What Does it All Mean?
Basically, the longer the lockout goes, the slimmer Denver’s chances for success in 2011 become.
One can argue that the return of Elvis Dumervil to the defense will have an immediate impact—and it will.
Yet at the same time, the return of Dumervil does not make up for the fact that he, as well as the other defensive players, will be faced with the challenge of learning a new scheme. Not only a new scheme, but an entirely different system as well as Denver reverts back to the 4-3.
From an offensive perspective, if Tim Tebow was truly going to compete, or earn, the starting job, this puts him at a severe disadvantage as well. There will be those who argue that Tebow is working out as we speak, but he is not working out with the coaching staff nor is he learning Fox’s new system of offense.
Unfortunately, even if the Broncos were to draft effectively and get every player they wanted, how many of said rookies could truly make an impact on a team in their rookie seasons? Fans witnessed this first hand last year with the implementation of Beadles and Walton on the offensive line; it is indeed a work in progress.
Without the ability to acquire veterans via free agency, or potentially make trades to acquire more draft picks, the Broncos may essentially field the same team they fielded last season.
This has both a short term and long-term effect on the franchise for 2011.
The short term being the players and coaches cannot meet to get on the same page and begin to develop continuity, strategy, and camaraderie; the long term being the effect that the short term then has on the entire season.
More succinctly stated, is it possible that this lockout could make the 2011 season a complete wash?
Well, for teams like Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New England, New Orleans, and the other upper echelon teams, probably not. Nevertheless, for teams with new head coaches and personnel issues, like the ones the Broncos are facing, it very well could be—if an agreement is not reached soon.
As stated before, the lockout can and will destroy the Broncos 2011 season before it even begins.
What is truly sad in all of this is that both the players and the owners think that they are trying to do what is best for them, and rightfully so. Yet in doing so, they are taking football away from us, and regardless of who “wins” or “loses” we, the fans, are the ones who are losing right now and will continue to lose.
And they should not be so confident to think that we will soon forget it.
Therefore, here’s to hoping that there really is a way to slice a $9 billion pie…
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