After seeing this team again turn into the laughing stock of the NFL, I really wonder what good a win does next week, other than get us a worst draft position and a beat down by the Colts. I would never advocate tanking a game, but this team is far from being able to compete in the playoffs with no running game and a defense equally inept at stopping the run or pass, and a kicker who can't make 40 yd fg or kick the ball past the 10 yard line at altitude, I don't see us doing anything positive in the playoffs. I seriously wonder what good it will do to win other than some perverse ego that we "kept" San Diego out of the playoffs. There is no matchup that I see that we would keep the team from scoring under 30 and many would probably put 40 plus on us. Honestly, I much rather watch the Colts destroy SD than see it happen to Denver again.
My point being, if we make the playoffs there will be less pressure from ownership to force Mike to make some hard changes in scouting on defense, coaching, and players since he will be able to say we won the AFC West with a very young team and we should get better next year, if we lose, then he will have a hard time explaining blowing a 3 game lead with four to play, he will have to make some changes, because he and Pat Bowlen will see that this team, as talented as they are, are not built to win Championships.
The fundlemental changes that need to be addressed are:
1) We need an identity on defense, and leadership from the coaching staff and players. Slowvik seems like a nice guy and probably is fairly knowledgable, but bottom line is the vetern players that should be playing with some urgency and purpose don't because they have no fear of him and don't respect him. Look what happened when we inserted Woodyard and Larsen, they made plays because they didn't know any better and they were playing for a job next year.
2) As much as I think Jay Cutler has the potential to be a great QB, he has to understand that he will be measured by wins and losses and not passing yards and pretty TD passes. Checkdowns, throwing it away, or running with the ball are all acceptable versus ill advised throws into double and triple coverage. Great you got the all time season record for yards, how about getting an all time season record for wins. Something fundlementally needs to change with Cutler's thought process as far as understanding the moment of the game, Solomon Wilcox during the broadcast made a great point that when Cutler's gear was out he was too busy arguing with the refs rather than getting the play from the sidelines and managing the game. There have been other numerouos times this year that he has continued to confound people with bone headed choices, whoever is his mentor, needs to work with him in understanding what needs to be done and when. Look at Belicheck and Parcells when they coach, they are always bringing up situations during practice, it's 3rd and goal, we are down by 4, end of the half, what should you be looking for as far as play calls, that is what Jay and this team needs.
3) This team needs to re-establish itself as a run based team, something that will be hard for Cutler and Marshall to stomach. Obviously injuries at the RB position crippled us, but going into the season we had Young and Hall and Pittman as the top three RB, none of them should be a starter, ever! We need a true number RB, maybe Torain is the guy, maybe Hillis, or maybe someone else, but waiver wire guys are never going to give you more than an occassional lift. We need someone that defenses are scared of, someone that can last a season and can pound out the 3rd and 3 and also get a 50 yd TD run.
4.) The defensive line must be rebuilt, either through the draft or free agency, I am not sold on any player on the defensive line, maybe Thomas, and that is a thin maybe, but I think it is safe to say that Moss and Crowder are busts, Dumerville is a nice pass rushing DE on 3rd downs, but that is it, and EE and Engleberger need to find new jobs. As much as it pains me to see, I say the Broncos seriously need to address the DE and DT position early and often in the draft. I would like a great MLB and S, but without a consistent play from the D-line, it wouldn't matter if we had Gradishar and Atwater and Smith at their primes, we need talent that matches the O-line on the D-line if we want to win championships.
5.) Special teams, I am willing to give Prater the benefit of the doubt for this year,but if I see another kickoff at Mile High land on the 10 yard line then he needs to go. The whole reason he got the job was supposed to be his KO ability. What I have seen is someone who is shaky at FG and who's KO have become a joke. If that is going to be the case, might as well get a vetern placekicker and find someone else to handle KO chores exclusively. Again, for as much time and effort that has been supposedly put into ST, I have not seen the productivity. My feeling is that if you can win two out of the three phases of the game, you will win, we are along way from winning the defensive phase of the game, we should be winning the ST phase and offensive phase until the defense can catch up.
Anyways, the whole point of the post is that I seriously wonder if any of these points will be addressed in the offseason if we make the playoffs then lose and Shannan can simply say we had too many injuries and were too young to compete, and Bowlen will give him and the staff another pass, or if we lose, then maybe some heat will be brought to the fire in the offseason. Sometimes I think Mike Shannan may be a little too comfortable with his job, and that Bowlen needs to put some pressure on him. With an AFC West title, there wn't be that much pressure from the top.
I will also say this about this team, a ot of people are bringing up the point that adversity builds character, somewhat true. But being that this is the NFL and that rosters get turned over every five years, how many of these guys are still going to be around two years from now or five years. Sure Cutler, Marshall, Royal, Clady. and most of the O-line, but other than that, who else would you say will be on this team in five years. I look at it this way, when the Broncos lost to the Jags in the playoffs, Romo said he kept a newspaper ad poster of the Jags up all offseason to motivate him to get better, the team remained virtually intact, with some additions, they all had a purpose to win, who on this team now has that purpose to win, who is going to mount a poster of Phyliss over his gym every day to get him mad and pissed off? Who is going to be the real leaders?