Denver Could Learn a Valuable Lesson from the 1994 Broncos

Jesse SchafferCorrespondent IMay 2, 2009

11 Dec 1994:  Running back Reggie Rivers of the Denver Broncos (center) gets tackled by several Los Angeles Raiders players during a game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The Raiders won the game, 23-13. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello  /Allsport

This hasn’t been an offseason that Broncos fans have become accustomed to.

After 15 years under the control of the “Mastermind,” Mike Shanahan, Denver’s favorite sports team now marches to the tune of a vastly different drummer. A Patriot’s tune, to be exact.

Josh McDaniels has changed nearly everything about Broncos’ football that Shanahan so carefully installed over the years.

Shanny’s teams relied on a strong running game, a quick defense that was tough against the run and a tenacious, game-changing quarterback that could keep a defense honest when everything around him seemed to be falling apart.

While that system experienced its fair share of both success and failure, it was still a system that the Denver fan base had become very accustomed to. Perhaps that’s the biggest reason why Josh McDaniels’ changes have fans all over the Rocky Mountains calling for the new drummer’s head.

By trading Jay Cutler, the face of the franchise, and then turning around and trading the leverage that he received from the Cutler trade for a 5’9 rookie cornerback in Alphonso Smith, McDaniels isn’t exactly taking a conventional path to rebuilding this team.

There are still gaping holes on that defense and Kyle Orton, no matter how valiantly he played in Chicago, is a tremendous downgrade in talent from Cutler.

Add all this up and even some of the most loyal Broncomaniacs believe next season and the ones after it are a lost cause. Maybe those same fans could find some closure if they remembered the 1994 Denver Broncos.

The ’94 Broncos had star players John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater, and Karl Mecklenburg, and an offense that ranked 10th in points and sixth in total yards.

Unfortunately, it also featured an abysmal defense that ranked 25th in points allowed and 28th in total yards allowed. Denver twice gave up more than 40 points in a single game and finished 7-9, good for fourth place in the AFC West.

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Suffice to say, coach Wade Phillips was fired after the season and was replaced with a hot shot offensive guru named Mike Shanahan.

With the addition of a star running back through the draft in Terrell Davis, a few key veterans on defense and a switch to different offensive and defensive schemes, the ’95 Broncos made progress.

While their 8-8 record was only good enough for third place in the AFC West, they showed substantial improvement in their rankings. Denver’s offense finished ninth in points and third in total yards while the defense ended up at 17th in points allowed and 15th in total yards allowed.

The 2008 Denver Broncos featured an offense that gained a lot of yards and couldn’t score that much and a defense that would have given up touchdowns to varsity high school teams. Shanahan is gone, replaced by that hot shot offensive guru named Josh McDaniels.

The team thinks it found a star running back in the draft with Knowshon Moreno. Brian Dawkins, Andra Davis, and Renaldo Hill are a few key defensive veterans looking to give Denver a boost. The Broncos will now pass the ball before they run it and have dropped the 4-3 defense for McDaniels’ 3-4 scheme.

For fans of a football team that haven’t had a lot to cheer about since the ’95 Broncos reached their potential in the Super Bowl, an 8-8 season in McDaniels’ debut as head coach may be better than any Broncos fan could ever hope for.

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