Yes, Broncos fans, it’s rebuilding time |

Yes, Broncos fans, it’s rebuilding time

Sam Adams
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado – Whether they admit it or not, the Broncos are in a rebuilding mode. So accept it. Instead of looking back at what might have been for the team with Jay Cutler, look ahead to what awaits without him.

For rookie head coach Josh McDaniels, the honey-do list of improvements seems a mile long.

Find quality run-stoppers. Add aggressive pass-rushers. Get a healthy every-down running back. Pick up another wide receiver. Bring home another placekicker.

And now there’s “establish a starting quarterback” at the very top of the list.

That’s what I took from McDaniels at his news conference on Friday, one day after Cutler was dealt to the Chicago Bears for a pair of No. 1 picks, a third-rounder and quarterback Kyle Orton.

I expected some closure on discussion of Cutler, an assessment of Orton and a look ahead to improving the league’s 30th-ranked defense. There was very little discussion about the defense and plenty of inquiries about Cutler.

As for the Orton assessment, if I understood McDaniels, Orton is no more of a lock to start the Broncos’ regular-season opener in September than Chris Simms.

It’s all the makings for a quarterback controversy ” a major or minor controversy, depending on your expectations for the season. But aren’t all unsettled starting quarterback issues considered major in the NFL?

McDaniels praised Orton’s toughness and smartness, and called him “accurate with the football.” But he didn’t stamp him with the label “starter.”

Simms drew praise from McDaniels for his toughness, smartness and for being “knee-deep” with the offense. He didn’t get the stamp, either.

As for Cutler, the coach labeled the player “talented” with the ability to “do a lot of things.” But McDaniels was quick to add that quarterbacks distinguish themselves by getting into the playoffs.

Cutler, based on his first three seasons in Denver ” and McDaniels’ job description ” has yet to distinguish himself among NFL quarterbacks. The coach didn’t stutter when offering his belief that the team can win without the player.

The belief of fans and media is that the Broncos offense was one of the NFL’s elite in 2008. If you’re into yards, then that would be a good assessment. The Broncos ranked No. 2 in offensive yards. But they put up 23 points a game ” which ranked in the middle of the pack.

Guess what? The Chicago Bears, with Orton starting 15 games, averaged 23 points a game.

Fans and media also might tell you that Cutler would have had even greater numbers had he been paired with a better running game. The stats show that Denver’s running game ranked 12th in the NFL. Guess what? Chicago’s running game ranked No. 24.

It’s a guess here, but if Orton gets the protection that Cutler enjoyed, his numbers might improve. That is, if Orton is the Broncos starter come September.

Forget September. Denver has plenty of rebuilding ahead during the next 90 days.

On Friday, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen issued a letter to season ticket-holders, explaining the team’s decision-making process with Cutler. Bowlen stated that the club has a 96 percent season ticket renewal for 2009 and that winning a Super Bowl remains the franchise’s ultimate goal.

If it’s about winning a championship in 2009, the Broncos had better get busy with work on the defense. To this point of the offseason, the defense hasn’t gotten better. They’ve gotten older, with the acquisitions of several veteran defensive backs, but not better.

The good news is that the Broncos have flexibility with a bevy of draft choices to improve the defense, including two in the first round.

The bad news is, we’ve already seen that in a time where defense is the most glaring need for the Broncos, the coach is not afraid to tinker with the offense instead.

When it’s all said and done, any success that comes Denver’s way this season will be with Orton at quarterback. Or Simms. Or somebody else.

Defenses are known to win championships. Quarterbacks are known to win games ” or lose jobs for head coaches.

And teams who trade Pro Bowl quarterbacks like Cutler are in a rebuilding mode. And that’s exactly where the Broncos are in 2009.

Cutler pledges title in Chicago

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