Monday, MONDAY, MONNNNNNNNNNNNDAY!!!!!! Good morning, and welcome to another edition of Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations. For this week's official ST&NO picture, I chose Knowshon Moreno being coached by Bobby Turner. It kind of gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing Bobby is still with us, and that he's devoting his considerable coaching talents to developing a future star. It's the time of the year where football news is slow. If I were a newsman, I might have to resort to making up some trade rumors. Since I am an avowed opinion-writer, though, here comes a portion of that instead for you to chew on. Bon appetit!
1. I work for a publicly-traded Fortune 500 company in its corporate finance group. I help manage the finances of a standalone $110-million business unit within the larger $6-billion company, but I do participate some in the consolidation of financial results across the entire company, so I have gained some insight as to how it all works.
I don't think I should probably name my company explicitly here, but I will say it is one of the few whose stock has performed fairly well amid the financial crisis of the last 6 months, because that's the point of this lead-up.
The main reason for the strong and steady performance has been expectation management. Our senior management tells Wall Street that we'll make certain numbers, and we make them every quarter. I am involved in the forecasting at the business unit level, and I can tell you that it's a very serious undertaking. Nobody gets surprised, and the stock performs well. The main reason individual stocks tank is underperformance of expectations. Conversely, overperformance of expectations causes stock prices to skyrocket. It's a smart strategy to stay away from hyped stocks that underperform, and a smart strategy to look for ones which are under the radar, and ready to overperform.
I look at the Denver Broncos for 2009, and I see a lot of reason to think that the team will overperform the low expectations which the punditocracy (negative, as always) seems to be setting for them. I saw somebody at Football Outsiders say the Broncos were a couple of bad breaks away from watching Seattle exercise the first pick in the 2010 Draft on their behalf. It was so idiotic that I am not even going to link it. After the jump, we'll look at this seriously.
Welcome to the other side. I am going to hypothesize a hypothesis here. It seems to me that a smart football coach will always seek to make best use of his assets toward the accomplishment of the mission of winning football games. Wow, that's pretty obvious, right? Well, the football media always seems to assume that coaches are inextricably tied to systems, regardless of the personnel they have to use.
Coaches who don't adjust to their personnel are doomed to lose a lot of games and get fired. Mike Shanahan always adjusted, Bill Belichick is well-known for adjusting (remember the 2-5 stuff he was doing on defense when he had a bunch of D-Linemen hurt?), and even Tony Dungy went away from a pure Tampa-2 over the last few years some. Smart coaches adjust as needed.
For example, we're all under the impression that the Broncos will run a 3-4 defense this season, as Mike Nolan is known to favor it, and Josh McDaniels has openly said they want to transition to it. I think it's a mistake, though, to think that it will be a pure 3-4, because the total complement of necessary personnel may not be in place yet. It would only make sense to deploy your resources in the most productive way possible, regardless of what you would prefer to do.
You're wondering, what could I be getting at? Well, I will tell you. The Broncos have significantly more talent on their roster, top to bottom, than they did last season, and particularly, at the end of last season. I don't think you'd get a lot of argument against that statement from anybody. So, if the talent is better, isn't it a natural assumption to make that a smart coaching staff would be able to deploy that talent in such a way as to improve upon last season's 8-8 record? It follows that all of the hand-wringing about "fitting the system" is just noise.
Think about it. The defensive talent is better overall, and it's vastly better in the secondary. The inability to cover the passing game was the primary reason for the defensive problems last season, although many seem to believe otherwise. The second-biggest problem was giving up big plays in the running game, which Brian Dawkins helps against, because he's such a good player against the run, without even starting from the box. Better gap discipline from a new scheme would help too. If you strip out the big plays, the Broncos run defense wasn't really that bad last season. I think it is reasonable to think that the Broncos defense can be league-average this season.
The offense is absolutely loaded with talent. At 10 of the 11 positions, there is a definite above-average player. Ryan Clady, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Casey Wiegmann, Ryan Harris, and the Daniel Graham/Tony Scheffler tandem are at or near the top of the NFL at their respective positions. Knowshon Moreno can be outstanding also, and I love the idea of a Moreno/Hillis tandem at RB. (Important: If that happens, I am calling on the MHR to reject the predictable Thunder and Lightning regurgitation. Let's not allow it to go there). If the winner of the QB derby plays well, which I find pretty likely, this is a top-notch offense, one of the very best in the NFL.
The increased talent also has implications for the special teams. Better team athleticism leads to better kick coverage units. This was again a weakness in 2008, and by drafting a guy like David Bruton expressly to help the special teams, and adding guys like Darcel McBath and Alphonso Smith to the coverage units, you have to think that improvement will be seen in this area.
This team will be better this season than it was last season, whether or not it shows up in the record. Low expectations are a blessing, because they will allow the team to operate under the radar for awhile. Look at Miami, Atlanta, and Baltimore last season, who walked the same path that the Broncos will walk this season. And remember - for the Broncos, the task is to go from second (or really, tied for first) to first, not worst-to-first.
2. I don't think that Brett Favre is coming back this season, but I don't really care. It doesn't affect much of anything in my opinion. People say the Vikings are a QB away from championship contention, but Favre isn't that QB anymore. They'd almost be better off looking at Michael Vick when he gets released from home confinement in July. That's a different kind of circus, but it's worth a look, at least.
3. Since I am sure the Vick reference will stir something up, I believe that a convicted criminal who serves his sentence to the satisfaction of the law should be allowed to rejoin society, and earn a living without impediment. People will say, what about child molesters, well, this is clearly not nearly the same thing.
Any protestation of Vick getting another job will, in my opinion, harm society as much as Vick's dog-fighting crimes did. I hope that the guy learned his lesson, and doesn't repeat his mistakes, but if he does, he can go back to prison. It's not fair for people to assume that he will screw up again, though.
4. While writing this, I've been watching Game 4 of the Rockets-Lakers series. Nobody in the MSM thought the Rockets would win this game after losing Yao Ming for the season, and they dominated. This is another example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. A team that has winning habits and executes can overcome injuries and personnel shortcomings.
5. I am a New York Mets fan, and I know there are several others here as well. I think the best broadcasting team in sports is Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez for SNY. Cohen is a very knowledgeable play-by-play man. Darling, who went to Yale, brings a thinking-man's approach to game analysis, particularly pitching. Hernandez, the greatest defensive first baseman ever, and a very good hitter, has an equally cerebral approach to analyzing hitting and defense. Darling and Hernandez both take some games off, so sometimes it's all 3, and sometimes it's just Cohen and one of the other two. It works great, regardless of the configuration.
The best thing about the three of them is that they have no problem criticizing the Mets when it's warranted. The analysis is fairly detached, and they don't use the words "we" or "us" unless they are talking about a Mets team in the 1980's that they played on. While watching a recent game, it occurred to me that MHR is similar to the Cohen/Darling/Hernandez troika. We're homers to a reasonable point, and it's clearly understood that we want to see the Broncos be successful. In the final analysis, though, we'll criticize the team where it's reasonably warranted.
6. I am very interested by the launch of the ESPNChicago.com site. Not a lot has been made of it, but I consider it to be a major occurrence in the sports media landscape. If you read this guy's February column on Chicagotribune.com, he seems to get it dead wrong, in my opinion.
ESPN believes Chicago has big enough shoulders for another local sports outlet, as it will launch its first Web site devoted to local sports fans.
No, that's not what ESPN thinks, actually. ESPN thinks that they can do better than the existing local sites, and take enough of their market share to push them out of business. They undoubtedly have the most resources to work with, and they have cost efficiencies relative to the locals, so they may be right. Remember, newspapers everywhere are dying, so there has to be an expectation that a future void will need to be filled.
I am starting to envision a world where the major news sites (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) begin adding sites for large local markets, and ESPN is hosting sites in every market which has professional or major college sports. I would venture to guess that CBS and Fox would try to get in on the sports action, and CBS in on the news action as well, but both are pretty far behind the industry leaders today.
This is a new form of media imperialism that's on the rise. The print media is severely disadvantaged by their existing cost structure, and the owners of the broadcast media see the opportunity to dominate a new "written-word" media landscape. (They'll mostly want to stay out of the printing business, beyond existing ventures like ESPN the Magazine.)
MHR will be directly competing against the likely-to-someday-exist ESPNDenver.com. Our model is very different, in that we're a participatory community rather than a sermon on a mount, but in the marketplace of ideas, we'll be facing off more directly than ever with ESPN. It should be interesting.
7. Retired for John Elway.
8. I have decided that I will no longer buy products or services from retailers who compare their pricing schemes to "stimulus packages" or "bailouts" in their advertising. That's just too much stupid for me.
We'll see you next week for more Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations. Maybe there will be some new Broncos news by then to talk about. Have a great week.