A memo to McDaniels – Coach, listen up
Vail, CO Colorado
For the last four years, January has been a somber month for Denver Broncos fans.
While other teams gear up for the playoffs and begin playing to their maximum potential, the Broncos inexplicably implode, saving their worst performances for the least opportune times.
In the last two years, the Broncos have earned a special place in NFL history. In 2008 they became the first team to squander a three-game division lead with three games to play, and this year, they topped that nauseating performance by becoming the first team to start 6-0 and somehow fail to qualify for the playoffs.
These collapses were particularly disconcerting because they played out similarly: In absolutely heartbreaking, unfathomable ways. Last year, an embarrassing home loss to the lowly Buffalo Bills forced the infamous blowout at San Diego for the division crown.
The Broncos outdid themselves this December, however; first allowing middle-school-caliber quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders to beat them at Invesco, then following up with a gut-wrenching loss at Philly, and most embarrassingly, a bad home loss to the cellar-dwelling Kansas City Chiefs.
Disturbingly, these debacles occurred with different coaches, different systems, different quarterbacks, and different rosters. It is abundantly obvious that something is wrong in Denver. But after a major overhaul last year, what can Josh McDaniels do to fix it?
Doing nothing and something
When this season began, expectations were low for the Broncos. Analysts were predicting anywhere from two to six wins, and nobody expected the team to contend. However, new coach Josh McDaniels wouldn’t have any of that talk, and when the Broncos roared out to a 6-0 start, beating several eventual playoff teams along the way, he had his team believing.
Expectations soared and the team seemed invincible. But then something happened. After a string of losses, frustration became evident: Brandon Marshall and Knowshon Moreno pushing each other after a fumble, unsportsmanlike penalties in the Chargers game, Brandon Stokley’s ejection in Philadelphia, and finally, Brandon Marshall’s suspension for the season finale.
The primary ill that plagued the 2009 Broncos was a lack of chemistry down the stretch. This was predictable on a roster that featured an overwhelming majority of first-year Broncos, but it cost them their season.
To boost team chemistry, the best solution for McDaniels might be to do nothing. Well, almost nothing. To help the team jell, time may well be the primary factor. But to allow the team to coalesce, McDaniels first must remove the cancer.
Despite all of his success and talent, Brandon Marshall needs to leave for the team to succeed. If McDaniels’ dream is for the Broncos to resemble the Patriots, he must get rid of all players that don’t buy into the team-first philosophy that has defined Bill Belichick’s success. The Broncos need to trade Marshall before free-agency, so that they receive adequate compensation, whether in the form of draft-picks or a player of comparable value. The fact of the matter is, that while Marshall has tremendous talent, his attitude costs Denver more games than his skill wins for them.
Aside from removing a few negative influences, McDaniels should try to keep the core intact. Players must be fully comfortable with their teammates before they can achieve success.
This is not to say that a few free-agent moves would greatly benefit the team. The Broncos need to scour the market to find improvements for their defensive front seven. A hole-filling defensive tackle would go a long way towards fixing a defense that was run all over late in the season.
The Broncos could also use an improvement in their linebacking corps, and Alabama’s Rolando McClain might fit nicely if he’s available in the draft.
Finally, McDaniels needs to start thinking about the future. Overall, Kyle Orton played admirably this year. He was smart, efficient, and accurate. But let’s be honest. Not one defense in the league is scared to face him.
In a draft sure to be loaded with stud college QBs, McDaniels needs to take a good, hard look at Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy if they happen to slip into the second round. That’s not to say a rookie should start at QB next year, but Orton is only a short-term solution, not a franchise QB, and he could certainly help tutor a young quarterback.
Broncos fans are growing impatient waiting for the team to contend again, something which was promised with the Jay Cutler’s arrival in 2006. However; the team has been in constant turmoil since, resulting in catastrophic collapses.
To return the Broncos to prominence, McDaniels must rid the team of its problem players, and establish continuity among the rest. Marshall notwithstanding, the Broncos need stability more than change. To right the ship in Denver, the moves McDaniels does not make might be more important than the ones he does.
Ascher Robbins is a sophomore at UC-Santa Barbara, having graduated from Battle Mountain 2008. When not obsessing about the Broncos, he is majoring in communications. Robbins will be writing a weekly column for the Vail Daily.
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