The Denver Broncos open their 2011 preseason football schedule by taking on the Dallas Cowboys tonight at 8:30pm EDT in Arlington, TX. The Broncos have been in the early spotlight during this unique version of NFL training camps across the country.
There are a number of interesting storylines in the first preseason game for both teams. Both teams have first-year head coaches. Denver fired Josh McDaniels just two years after parting ways with two-time Super Bowl champion head coach Mike Shanahan. They brought in longtime Carolina Panthers coach, John Fox. His job is to revamp a terrible defense while trying to muster what he can out of a very young, inexperienced offense.
In Dallas, they have turned to the young and very talented offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett. Although he wasn't labeled head coach or co-head coach, Garrett had complete control of the offense whereas Wade Phillips had the same with the defense. Both had spurts of success in their tenure together, but they were never able to combine minds and put a premium product on the field.
Now that Phillips is out, tonight will be Garrett's first chance to prove that as head coach, he can take the Cowboys back to the promise land.
Something interesting to spot early in the game will be how quickly John Fox goes to second-year quarterback Tim Tebow. A widely publicized quarterback controversy in Denver has spurred a lot comments from vice president of football operations John Elway.
"I'd never give up on Tim Tebow," said Elway, following a comment on how the prolonged lockout hurt Tebow's chances to take over the starting role this year. Most Broncos fans and followers remember the early years of Elway like they were yesterday, and the Hall of Fame quarterback would admit to throwing a ton of bad interceptions early in his career. Tebow and most young quarterbacks will do the same, and most will gradually improve either placing themselves in a starting position somewhere in the NFL, or by securing themselves in some type of backup role.
The interesting part of this battle is Kyle Orton was long thought of as a member of the latter group. He was seen as a mediocre backup at best. Lovie Smith praised him when Smith was his head coach in Denver, and Josh McDaniels made believers out of many that Orton could play football as a starter in this league.
There is no easy answer here, but fans in Denver will make it widely known that if Orton struggles even just a little, all you will hear in the background of Broncos games will be "Tee-Bow, Tee-Bow, Tee-Bow".
I'm sure Dallas fans remember a day when a Romo chant festered through Cowboys Stadium.
The city still glowing after their NBA championship victory this past June will turn the page beginning tonight. Jason Garrett and Tony Romo will be getting the headlines. Whether those headlines are going to read good or bad, evil or sad, will all depend on if Garrett can prove to the Cowboy Faithful that the page has turned with this franchise.
They are sick of losing in Dallas and most non-believers feel that Garrett is just going to bring more of the same. He basically had his way with the offense with Wade Phillips as head coach, so Dallas fans want to know, why will it improve now?
It is apparent that Jerry Jones is a man of his word and honored what he told Garrett. A betting man would be very wise to gamble that the favorite to be the first head coach fired in 2011-2012 is Garrett. My guess would be that if Jones sees more of the same mediocrity early on, then we will see a switch almost immediately in Dallas.
All in all, football is back beginning tonight, and our wonderful soap opera we call the NFL starts all over again. Denver Bronco Tim Tebow, although featured in a secondary role, will be the focus of tonight's episode. It will be interesting to see what weapons Tony Romo falls in love with this season—two of his top threats, Marion Barber and Roy Williams, have moved on to Chicago—and it will be interesting to see how Dallas' coaching staff incorporates new toys for Romo to play with.