September 12, 1:46 PM:
I’m currently stretching in anticipation of the Broncos season opener tomorrow. I pulled my back out this morning, and I now have less than twenty-four hours to make sure my back and arms are limber enough to hoist large objects and lob them at my TV. I’m not necessarily planning to throw anything at my TV, but I must be ready at a moment’s notice to hurl inanimate objects because things could get ugly rather quickly tomorrow.
Yes, I’m a very worried man. I’m worried that I just pulled my back out and I’m only 23 years old. I’m worried that I might break a pricey plasma screen before noon tomorrow. I’m worried that Josh McDaniels might ultimately regret leaving Papa Belichick and Brother Brady, the comforts of Gillette Stadium, and blazing his own trail westward through this sick and twisted world; we all die alone, Josh…we all die alone! And I suppose I’m now worried that I just referenced death a mere 150 words into this column. I haven’t even discussed the Broncos’ playoff chances yet. Things indeed look quite grim at the moment.
September12, 2:33 PM:
Nevertheless, perhaps I should re-evaluate my fears? I’ll always dread heights, flying on small airplanes, sharks, and Vladimir Putin, but enough is enough. I can rationally explain why I remain weary of each entity I just listed (Note: Putin was in the KGB, knows judo, is a despot, and his cold stare haunts my dreams). Yet, upon further reflection, I cannot fully explain why I’m so afraid of watching the 2009 Broncos. I can speculate that the defensive line is porous and raw, the offense is overrated and anemic, and that Kyle Orton’s odious pre-season play will carry over into the regular season. But I cannot confirm any of these suspicions. The truth is no one can, and not just because the Broncos have yet to play a down. Simply put, we do not know enough about the Denver Broncos to declare them a horrendous football team.
The Broncos are a mystery wrapped in an enigma shrouded by vagueness. They are far and away the most puzzling team in the NFL. Every facet of this team is new. The lineup is one enormous question mark. Though it is easy and tempting to hastily write off question marks as flaws, I caution you to avoid doing so. If an NFL team is heading towards a disappointing season, one can usually isolate and identify said team’s specific problems. For instance, this year you could say, “Jamal Lewis is old, used up, and bad,” or “Norv Turner and Wade Phillips are spineless dweebs, who will each serve as President before they can so much as spell ‘playoff win’,” or “Matt Millen spent eight years ‘building’ that franchise.” Trying to identify the Broncos’ specific problems is a futile exercise because we currently know so little about the components of Our Town’s football team.
September 12, 3:27 PM:
The offseason was turbulent. The regime change at Dove Valley has been tough to swallow, and the Broncos struggled mightily during the pre-season. But pre-season football is meaningless; the Lions went undefeated during the 2008 pre-season. I expect the Broncos to prove that they are a better football team than most expect, especially on defense. Mike Nolan is a brilliant defensive mind; he worked wonders for the Baltimore Ravens as a defensive coordinator between 2001 and 2004.
The Broncos defense possesses an attractive mix of aging wisdom and young, raw talent. Alphonso Smith and Darcel McBath will learn how to play NFL football from Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. Could you ask for better teachers? Bailey and Dawkins are not only top-ten players of all-time at their respective positions, but they are also consummate professionals. Josh McDaniels almost certainly considered this when he traded next year’s first-round pick for Smith. (Note: I watched Smith and McBath at training camp. McBath possesses nice size and is a ballhawk, who will likely take some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Smith is a legitimate talent. He might not be as great a punt returner as the Broncos expect him to be, but his footwork is fancy and he is freakishly athletic. Smith does not jump. He bounces.)
I’m also excited about the Broncos linebackers. Elvis Dumervil will excel in his new position as an end-backer hybrid; he also plays at 200% on every down, which I love. Andra Davis, a savvy veteran, plays hungry football. Remember that Davis recorded twenty tackles in a single game several seasons ago. He is a bargain for the Broncos’ cap and brings an intensity and positive attitude that this team desperately needs. At 30, Davis is playing for financial security, so he will listen to his coaches, execute the game plan, and never take a play off. Additionally, look for Mario Haggan to flourish in blitz packages. Haggan is enormous (a taller version of London Fletcher) and looked great in training camp. The team recently named him a defensive captain for the upcoming season. Super Mario might be my new favorite Bronco.
The defensive line is the Broncos’ most looming question mark not named “Kyle Orton.” Many analysts argue that the Broncos lack necessary star-power up front, and therefore will not mount an effective pass-rush and will struggle to contain the run. Yes, the Broncos do lack proven talent along the front-three. However, who says a star will not emerge from this group? Ron Fields was an All-SEC tackle at Mississippi State and Chris Baker might have been a top-50 draft pick had he not been kicked out Penn State for assaulting two of his classmates. At least we know that Baker will play with some emotion; the last thing the Broncos need is another Jarvis Moss.
I anticipate that Nolan will rely on his linebackers and hybrid end-backers to rack up sacks, not his front-three defensive linemen. The defensive line will perform inglorious, grunt work while Dumervil, DJ Williams, and Super Mario assault opposing quarterbacks. So, who cares if the Broncos’ front-three lacks star power? All that matters is that the front-three are big, strong, and do not take plays off. Fields and Baker, like so many faces on this defensive unit, are playing for their reputations and future contracts. The defensive line will make mistakes, but I predict the line will always play with enthusiasm and learn quickly from each mental lapse. I mean, these guys have no choice but to perform each Sunday or else they will hit the waiver wire the following week.
The mix of journeymen and prospects on defense, specifically along the defensive line, is indeed a major question mark for the Broncos. But do not write off the unit just yet. The defense will benefit from its lack of proven pro-bowlers. Uncertainty could inspire players to work harder and rise to the moment, leading to increased productivity. For the record, I have much less faith in Kyle Orton’s arm than the Broncos’ revamped and unproven defense. Ok, I’m going to say it: Nolan will have a top-fifteen defense by season’s end.
September 12, 4:19 PM:
Change is often an uncomfortable exercise. As humans (and Broncos fans), we crave and strive for change while simultaneously rejecting its nerve-racking effects. But we can’t have our cake (or coach) and eat it, too. In the words of former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” The Broncos had to make a change. They may not be Super Bowl contenders yet, but the organization had slowly decayed for the better part of a decade under the direction of Mike Shanahan. At this point in time, fans obviously cannot confirm that the organization has significantly improved. In the same breath, it is fruitless to convince yourself that the Broncos have regressed since last season.
It is quite simple. The organization needed a new head coach. Pat Bowlen fired the coach that needed to be let go and hired a new coach. A smart, affordable, and unproven coach at that. Only time can solve the mystery of the 2009 Denver Broncos, so let’s just wait and see how this entire situation plays out. It is acceptable to be upset with and worried about the franchise, but what are you going to do? Not root for the home team? Not watch the games?
If you are particularly livid, perhaps you should hold off on purchasing tickets and traveling to Invesco Field; never invest in a faulty product, such as Kyle Orton. Yet, you should also consider that you and only you lose by fully boycotting the Broncos this season. You’re effectively punishing yourself for decisions that you had no hand in making. Sit back, relax, and at least be thankful that the Broncos have adopted a proactive mentality. The organization boldly displayed that it is willing to risk it all in an effort to avoid mediocrity. As a fan, what more could you ask for? We need to give this team a chance to prove itself before we take the easy way out by turning our backs on the franchise.
Uncertainty defines the 2009 Broncos. The team will live and die by its numerous question marks. But these question marks also reinforce the team’s overall potential, starting with Coach McDaniels. Be rational and keep in mind that the Broncos organization was headed towards the cemetery last January. These offseason moves have temporarily resurrected a dying franchise. Additional moves might be necessary, but allow the present to unfold before abandoning the future.
September 13, 2:15 PM:
Ok, I planned to write a running commentary of today’s game. Unfortunately, I found it too difficult to constantly muster up words to describe the events unfolding in Cincinnati. Referring to the game as “awful” does not say nearly enough about the overall level of play I just witnessed. Boring? Yes, the game was boring, but boring events seldom leave one incensed and shocked. Frustrating? This game was not just frustrating to watch, it was wearisome to tolerate. I’ve never suffered through three hours of football like I did this afternoon. Watching the Broncos offense was like eating mud. The activity did not kill me, but my health did not benefit from the experience and it was hard to keep myself from vomiting. So here are my thoughts on “The Game That Shall Not Be Named”…
– Dan Fouts is the worst commentator on television…in any sport. Period. His jokes about what NFL players did and looked like during the 60s and 70s were so thoughtless, pitiful, and numerous that I considered muting my TV. I only kept the volume on because Gus Johnson is a golden god.
– Where was Brandon Marshall during that entire game? Hold on, let me rephrase that. Who pressed a scalding iron to Brandon Marshall’s hands on Saturday night thus rendering his fingers and palms useless for today’s game? I know Marshall missed training camp, but he looked totally “checked out” against the Bengals. I’ve never seen such a powerful man expend less energy and roll over as easily as the 6’5″ 250-pound Marshall did in his first game back from suspension. One more performance like today’s dud and it might be fair to claim that Marshall has indeed packed it in for the season.
Maybe Marshall needs a little more time to study the playbook. Yet, you’d think that he spent the bulk of his time away from the team learning the new offense so that he could earn himself a new, lucrative contract? Of course, that assumption is far too rational, considering I am writing about Brandon Marshall.
Marshall might as well have dropped his pants and pooped in the endzone at Paul Brown Stadium, and then followed that up by urinating on the Broncos’ bench. His performance today was that offensive. Furthermore, public defecation would have been more productive and required greater attention to detail than any route he ran or catch he “tried” to make.
– Kyle Orton was brutal. Broken pinky aside, Orton looked indecisive, weak, and confused all day. I understand why McDaniels acquired Orton to replace Cutler. Orton is smart, tall, and allegedly possesses untapped potential. Yet, I worry that Orton is hopelessly average. He therefore remains a poor investment for a franchise that claims to be so devoted to avoiding mediocrity.
Orton lacks the competitive drive that defines all successful NFL players. Think about it. He had the opportunity for four seasons to run away with the keys to the Chicago Bears offense. He never did. His competition was Rex Grossman and (our favorite) Brian Griese. Each time Orton won the starting job he managed to hand it back over to his lowly competition. He does not have “it.”
As far as weak-armed quarterbacks go, I’d much rather have Chad Pennington on my team than Kyle Orton. At least Pennington took losing the starting job in New York personally. He clearly used the Jets’ lack of faith in him as motivation to succeed once he landed in Miami. Maybe Orton is just reserved, but he did not look like a confident player or a leader out there today. This does not bode well for the Broncos’ offense. My mouth still tastes like mud…
– Rey Maualuga has already arrived. He should not have dropped to the second round of the draft. Maualuga and Keith Rivers make the Cincy defense one of the more underrated units in the NFL. I bet Knowshon agrees with me.
– Denver, please remain patient with Knowshon Moreno. He did not look good in his first regular season appearance, but he will move the chains by week ten.
– My faith in the Broncos’ defense remains firm. While the Bengals offense did not perform at an elite level, an NFL defense always deserves credit for holding an opposing offense to one touchdown and 86 rushing yards. Super Mario recorded a sack (num, num, num, num, num!), Champ’s legs looked healthy and fresh as he held Ochocinco in check, and the front-seven constantly harassed Carson Palmer and kept him from ever finding his rhythm.
– I’m a huge Josh McDaniels fan. Say what you will about his stubbornness or his offseason decisions, but this man is an intense competitor. He has a presence and belongs in the NFL. Coaching is his craft and he holds himself accountable for the performance of his players. Watching him berate Orton for taking a sack that pushed the Broncos out of field goal range and forced a punt late in the fourth quarter was the most exciting moment of the game…until the luckiest play in Denver sports history occurred.
McDaniels is also smart, meticulous, and persistent. He rebuked the officials when the game clock was incorrectly set to 20 seconds following the Bengals fourth-quarter touchdown. Moments later the game clock was re-set to 38 seconds, which paved the way for the luckiest play in Denver sports history. McDaniels hates mediocrity, and I bet he is also a sore loser. These are qualities you want to see in an NFL head coach. Plus, I think he and I are technically part of the same generation, which is exciting.
– I’m not a fan of CSI, CSI: Miami, or CSI: New York. The proliferation of primetime crime dramas has officially gotten out of control. If the government can control the H1N1 virus, then they can certainly solve the current crime drama pandemic. This is a real problem that affects all of us.
– I feel sorry for Marvin Lewis. He is not a great head coach and he is not going to win many games this season. He won today’s game, but then he didn’t win today’s game. Bummer, man.
– 1-0 has never felt less good. Recall that Ed Hochuli advanced the Broncos to 2-0 last season. That said, the defense looked solid, and this team could make some noise if Marshall and Orton never ever again play like they did today.
I’m excited for Hood Jr. vs. Hood Jr. when the Broncos play the Browns next weekend. I think the Broncos will build off of today’s improbable victory. Furthermore, there is no way next Sunday’s match-up will play out as unpleasantly as “The Game That Shall Not Be Named.”
Watch it one more time. I’m still completely speechless. I started laughing hysterically when it happened. First of all, thank you, Gus Johnson. Your passionate commentating on this play made the game interesting for the first time since kickoff. Dan Fouts, why did you have to ruin this moment? Please do not answer me out-loud, just think about it. Second, pay attention to McDaniels after Brandon Stokley scores. His intensity is awesome. He doesn’t even celebrate. Rather, McDaniels immediately screams at Orton to go for two. I swear the man is never satisfied, and that is a great thing. Finally, Kyle, I’m sorry, but you actually did nothing right on that play.
September 13, 11:45 PM:
I leave you with a parting treat…trust me, you’ll enjoy it. I will now go to sleep a happy Broncos fan.