Former Bronco Shannon Sharpe didn't get the chance to talk about the demise of the Broncos on his CBS Studio Show because they had obviously signed off. He did have plenty to say, however, when contacted by the Rocky Mountain News earlier today --
What are your thoughts on the Broncos’ late-season collapse, culminated by their loss to the Chargers?
I’m disappointed. You have a three-game lead and you’ve got to take the game at home to Buffalo (a 30-23 loss Dec. 21) so it doesn’t come down to winner-take-all. The defense is not very good. Run. Pass. They need a pass rusher. And Jay Cutler, as talented as he is, he still puts the ball in harm’s way far too many times ... When you look at their defense, they always gave up 500 yards a game. That’s just a shame. I don’t know, if, in the short term, if they can get it fixed because it’s such a glaring weakness. They can’t pressure the quarterback. They can’t stop the run ... That just might be (Denver’s) worst defense in all my years in being associated with the Broncos (since 1990).
How monumental of a collapse is it considering no team ever had lost a three-game division lead with three to play, and what lingering effects might it have?
How does it get any worse? They haven’t been to the playoffs in three years so, what, they’re not going to make it a fourth year in a row? ... I just don’t think they have enough playmakers on the defensive side of the ball ... Honestly, did anybody expect the Broncos to win (Sunday)? Anybody that follows the game knows there’s no way the Broncos were going to win that game. The Chargers were better ... That’s going to hurt for a while. But 52-21. Everybody is going to remember that until September.
Some believe Mike Shanahan can be with the Broncos for about as long as he wants, but do you look at him as being on the hot seat?
I just think they need to do a better job of picking players. You set yourselves up when you take all those (former) Cleveland Browns players, when you move up (in the draft) to take players that don’t pan out ... When you constantly do that year after year, it catches up to you ... Offensively, they have the pieces ... but (not) defensively.
But Shanahan is making the personnel calls (as vice president of football operations)?
The guy’s name on his check is (owner) Pat Bowlen, and Pat Bowlen seems to think he’s doing a good enough job. Far be it for me to tell him what he should do. I just think that, if he’s going to continue in that role, he just has to do a better job of picking talent.
Can Shanahan effectively perform both roles of coaching and personnel, or is that too tough in today’s NFL?
It’s hard to say he can’t because he’s had success doing it. He’s won (two) Super Bowls doing it that way. So why can’t he? Maybe what has happened is he enjoyed so much success so early. His first year he goes 8-8 (in 1995), then we go 13-3 division (title in 1996), and then you get back-to-back Super Bowls (after the 1997 and 1998 seasons). So, naturally, with that progression, everybody thinks every second or third year Mike should be playing for a Super Bowl. Those are unrealistic expectations, but those are expectations Mike has for himself. Once you (win) that Super Bowl, nothing else matters. Mike understands that and (puts) that type of pressure on your need to perform. But there’s no question he has to do a better job of picking talent.
As one of 25 Hall of Fame semifinalists (the list soon will be cut to 15 finalists with four to seven selected Jan. 31 for the Hall), how do you assess your chances?
I’ve taken the test and hopefully the grade I got was good enough ... If somebody would have told me I would have the career I had coming out of Savannah State, I wouldn’t have believed them. Everything I received after the Super Bowls and what I have been able to accomplish in 14 years is icing on the cake ... But there’s nothing I can do about it now. I realize there are a lot of good guys that are worthy.
What would it mean to be the first tight end enshrined in the first year of eligibility?
I don’t want to say I should be a first ballot. I never measured myself up against someone else ... I will sit around antsy like the rest of the guys. I actually will be at (the Super Bowl in Tampa, where the class is announced) to do my radio show. Am I inviting 50 people down there? No.
Where are your Super Bowl rings?
I gave my brother one, and my sister (Libby) now has the other two in a safety deposit box. I don’t wear them. I know I have them. It’s kind of like Bill Gates doesn’t walk around with millions in his pocket, but you know he has it.
Hard to disagree with much of what Sharpe is saying. 2009 is shaping up to be a huge off-season for the Broncos.