Go easy on me, this is my first diary on MHR :)
First, a change in philosophy:
When we won back to back Championships, we had a lot of high character guys - Rod & Easy Ed, Elway, Davis, Neil Smith, just about the entire offensive line, Steve Atwater, and, for all of his talking, Shannon Sharpe. For most of the post Superbowl Mike Shanahan era, it seems that as long as someone could play technically sound football, they had a place on our team. Character traits were overlooked for numbers (Dale Carter, Daryl Gardener, Travis Henry – though he seems to be making a good effort to turn it around). Guys with attitude problems were welcomed if they could put up the stats (Javon). Sure, we'd like the guys who were leaders and had high character, and we'd have them on the team, but it wasn't a priority compared to their play. As those guys left, we didn't replace them with enough outspoken high character players. We weren't prepared for the leadership vacuum last year when Rod Smith and Al Wilson couldn't play anymore.
Last season, game after game, Bronco fans were saying to themselves and to each other "there were a lot of players who just gave up in the middle of that game." The two San Diego games and the Detroit game jump right to my mind. We had a bunch of guys out there that were just collecting a paycheck. This draft changes that, in fact, the entire reloading season has been about changing that. I got to thinking about this when I read through most of the pages on the guys we selected in the draft and that expanded to guys we brought in as free agents as well.
Second, The Rod Tidwell draft aka "I'm all heart":
Yeah Jerry Maguire isn't a great movie, and don't get me started on Tom Cruise's acting ability, but I love the Rod Tidwell/Cuba Gooding Jr story line (side note - I was bartending in Phoenix when the movie was filmed and met Cuba who was staying at our resort, great guy) he learns that playing for a paycheck isn't what makes a great player.
With each free agent we signed, with each draft choice we made, the Broncos are bringing in guys who all had a few things in common. Call it desire, work ethic, tenacity, or competitiveness, but it all can be boiled down into one thing - heart. Let's take a look at some of the guys we got in the draft:
Royal, WR/ST - Strong, good work ethic, high character guy
Lichensteiger, C - Lineman with a nasty streak, relentless competitor
Williams, CB - Competitive, never gives up, has a will to win
Torain, RB - Good work ethic, character
Powell, DT - Always gives 100%, competitor, always hustles, character
Larsen, LB/ST - outspoken leader, challenges others, gets in guys faces who don't give their all
It seemed like in addition to their football abilities the Denver Broncos were drafting guys who weren't going to take "no" for an answer. Guys who would fight for every yard and every inch until the whistle blows. Guys who will lead by example and speak up when others aren't pulling their weight.
Third, The free agent signings:
Losing both Rod Smith and Al Wilson left a gigantic hole on the field and in the locker room. John Lynch is a good leader for now, but doesn’t have many years left on the field and Jay Cutler is growing into that role as a quarterback needs to, but we need more than just one guy on either side of the ball to maintain accountability on our team.
We have heard that Niko Koutouvides was a team leader even though he was only a back up and a special teamer. He was a team captain in Seattle, I have a feeling that the guy is going to be something special for us for a long time, both on the field and off.
Shanahan compared Keary Colbert to Eddie Mac saying "I like the type of person he is, you could see the way he played in the running game and the passing game, that's what we look for in a player." I hope Colbert has the skills that Eddie Mac had, but more than that, I hope he has the drive and determination that Easy Ed had. Shanahan thinks so, so that's a good sign.
If Boss has half of the character that his brother does, he will be quite the asset as well. We know that Champ will keep him in line, but I don't think that's going to be an issue.
I'm sure that we'll still take chances on talented but troubled players in the future, however, we needed to address our biggest weakness this reloading season - heart.
On that, I give the Broncos a grade A+.