Surveying the Defense

Much of the MSM’s attitude towards the Broncos was infected during the Cutlergate issue so there’s been monkey pile of proffered opinions that contain little serious analysis. We can lump much of this in the Group Think pile, and ignore it — for the most part.

There are some kernels of truth, or logic, contained therein, so I wanted to address what has merit.

[note: this originally appeared as comment to another post but is reposted in near-verbatim here]



The standard line of thinkings goes: we were terrible and added little so we’re still terrible. Added to this is the adjunct: scheme changes depress performance so we’re going to suffer even more on top of this.

There’s a sort of “logical arithmetic” that underlies this analysis; you simply add the negatives and expect a poor defensive performance. What’s not readily apparent is that this is an invalid form of reasoning.

For instance — we’re replacing many of the players who were deemed to be part of the problem, but the MSM’s ‘received wisdom’ (MSM’s RW hereafter) regards this as a negative! In fact, the baseline performance level that they’re using is based on these ‘problem players’ and the depressing effects of adding new players and changing the scheme are considered further negatives, which could potentially depress performance even more!

Let me go further — in regards to the scheme change; viewing the switch to a 3-4 as a negative creates a logical conundrum. The implication is that keeping Slowik’s ‘non-scheme scheme’ would have been preferable. Moreover, since the baseline for our performance is arbitrarily set at the end of the Shanahan/Slowik era, the defensive changes we made BEFORE last season aren’t considered as part of the problem, but rather, they’re considered in the positive. Any scheme changes we make this year are being added to the baseline established last year, which is itself considered a proxy for our talent level on defense. Another way of looking at the situation — however — is that removing a negative (i.e., Slowik’s scheme) is like adding a positive. In other words, getting rid of Slowik’s scheme eliminates a depressing influence on our team’s defensive performance, one that LED to that historically bad defensive performance. We actually would have been better on defense without the ill-considered Slowik scheme and the rag tag group of veteran castoffs we’d accumulated.


Defensive units often respond quickly to ‘positive’ changes so the turn-around from bad to good (or at least decent) can be quick. Mired in the statistical analysis (or inextricably intertwined) is the fact that bad things happen for a reason. Dysfunctional teams tend repeat their mistakes, as coaches are hired and fired and schemes are changed, all of which is disruptive and fails to adequately address the problem — typically.

The myriad organizational problems that dysfunctional organizations suffer from accompany (statistically) the scheme changes and personnel changes that appear in data. Therefore, much of quantitative analysis done on scheme change, etc., is a record of what bad teams do, and these ‘bad’ examples are lumped in with the more rare ‘good’ examples, because they’re categorized together since they share a common trait. Yes, indeed, most rebuilding efforts are unsuccessful, because the category of “rebuilding teams” is dominated by teams that failed and thus needed to be rebuilt.


It’s often better to see the rebuilding process in the same way as one would look at any other type of organization. Rather than focus on the ‘bottom line’ that’s an end-product, look instead to all the little things. Dysfunctional organizations aren’t produced overnight, moreover, organizational problems often breed other problems, so the many ‘culture changing’ little steps that are introduced by a new management may appear insignificant initially but they usually contribute to the bottom line eventually.

The point is to NOT worry about the bottom line of wins/losses but instead focus on process. Wins & losses are what is produced after you do everything else that goes into playing football.

The MSM’s RW is that — once again! — changing the Bronco’s culture, and certain aspects of the offense, too, was a big mistake. There’s an "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ maxim being employed here, and there’s also considerable resistance in the fan-base to change. But just look at what the MSM’s RW is saying here. What they’re saying is that there weren’t any problems with team’s culture and organization so you shouldn’t fix anything. Actually, Shanahan was a marvelous game coach and a poor general manager. Many of us here believe that THAT WAS the problem! All one has to do is look at the How the Broncos were Built section of the media guide to see — quite graphically — how bad we were at team building. Here’s who we have left from before 2006 — Ben Hamilton and D. J. Williams. You can also include Champ Bailey, since he was acquired in a trade for Clinton Portis, but THREE players is not a successful team building effort.


Much of what we’ve come to believe represents a distorted picture of the Broncos. This is even more true when it comes to the MSM’s RW. I, too, believed many of the things I’ve mentioned, such as keeping things the same, but I didn’t cling to those beliefs after I had the chance to analyze the new staff’s moves. What’s apparent about much of the MSM’s RW is how little thought went into it. And this isn’t surprising considering how few credible print journalists there are nowadays and the media’s tendency to use conflict to draw interest.

Approximately one year ago today, I commented in a post here at MHR about the Broncos’ failure to successfully engage in a team building effort. What may not have been apparent to many people is how that failure at team building would eventually translate into on-the-field results. The strange thing at this point is that much of the recent success (a half full glass terminological phrasing) is due to the fact that our draft drought has ended and we’ve been acquiring talent over the course of the last 3 years. We’ve acquired enormous amounts of talent recently and this is part of the story behind why we’ve been so good/bad. The MSM’s usual narrative is that our talent level is the problem, and so the solution MUST BE the infusion of more talent. Failing to add a generous portion of (usually young) talent is likened to completely misunderstanding the team building process.

However, I would say that it’s the MSM that’s missed the boat here. Team building is first and foremost a careful process. You don’t engage in a willy nilly process of collecting whatever talent is available and throw them together and then hope that somehow a team is formed, yet most of the MSM’s RW explicitly says that we should do exactly that. Furthermore, there’s a limit to how much young talent you can bring in, since many young players of an equal talent/experiential level don’t equate to a single competent veteran. Again, the MSM’s RW is that the high number of merely competent (but high character) veterans we brought in were an insufficient solution — thus missing the point. As I pointed out earlier, we DON’T HAVE ANY VETERANS! Not unless you’re speaking of Champ, DJ and Hamilton, or any of the other vets acquired in recent times, so acquiring high character, low cost vets was the only good solution to the problem. We could have overspent on a single player, such as Haynesworth, but we added to a greater number of positions instead.

Even though I could go on (and on) I want to wrap this up. Much of the negative coverage of the Bronco’s recent team building efforts has been the result of a failure to understand what wasn’t being done in terms of team building and thus misses the nature of our problems. We’re both younger and more talented than the MSM recognizes, and the veteran talent we shed in the offseason was part of the problem. It’s not that all of them were terrible. The problem was that there was no plan behind their acquisition, and many of them were also “street veterans” who collectively amounted to a disaster. The fact that many of the new FA vets are equally old misses the point. Nearly all of them, almost without exception, were still wanted by their original team. They may resemble the players we released as far as their superficial aspects but they’re somewhat different than the castoffs we acquired in the last two years. Finally, since we’re so young as a team we’re still behind in terms of development. Much of this younger talent will need to learn through more playing time, but the most obvious fact about this is that we will almost certainly improve and continue to improve as time goes by.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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