Well I can't seem to go back to sleep, so I figure now is as good as time as any to issue my honest feelings about what we can conclude is one of the worst losses in recent memory. Not only was it against the Raiders, not only did they set a record for themselves, but it put us in a funk that we as Bronco fans are not used to being in.
Having optimism for our season after last week was warranted. We played a sloppy game but also played against a much better team in the Jets and should have had a victory. Maybe the players were still saddened by the result of last week, and came out onto the field already demoralized? Perhaps it was a banged up defense showing that it cannot compete week in and week out unless it gets healthy?
What makes me worried as a fan is that whatever the reason for this beatdown of a game will be evident to the rest of the teams on our schedule. The Broncos absolutely have slipped, and this is not a knee jerk reaction (sadly). Look at the situation.
Can the Broncos fix injury problems on their own?
Other teams are not going to wait till we get healthy to implement their gameplans, and they will do their best to take advantage of our young backups. Sure we can get healthy over time, but by then we could already be staring at a 2-6 record by our name, and what happens if we reach that point? Of course the AFC West is weak so there is always a slight chance, even with a battered team like ours, that we will get lucky and top the division still.
Maybe it's my morning grumpiness talking, but weren't we all (me included) talking about our depth? I looked at our roster at the start of season and was happy, not because we had the best starters in the division, but because we had depth. I know we have been bitten by the injury bug just as hard if not harder than any team in the league, but at what point do we stop giving ourselves injuries as an excuse? Good teams find ways to win despite their weaknesses and injuries, which is something we are struggling to do.
Can they fix passion?
I am usually not the type of guy to question what goes through a players heads, because when we question their heart, it is typically a way of us trying to find a reason for why they did so bad. It is almost a scapegoat of a reason sometimes for the players, because instead of questioning their actual skill, we wind up questioning an intangible which we hope can be rectified.
Despite my stance though, I find myself this time empty of any sympathy for the players. I cannot imagine what it must feel like as a player to quickly be down by 21 points, at home, against a rival, in a pivotal game, but the impression they gave off was simply pathetic. There was no pride, nothing which made them want to strike back. It looked more like they were going through the motions, and sure it was bad for all the fans who watched, but it was even worse for them as a team.
If a professional sports team reaches that point mid season, I do not understand how you can truly inspire any confidence in your fan base. Heck, I don't even know how you can inspire confidence in the players beside you in the locker room. Maybe the Broncos come out angry in London and play a prepared and thorough game against another struggling team in the 49ers, but for the first time in my Broncos fandom, I question the drive they have to prepare, to win.
Has this been a train wreck in the making?
As I said before, this is not a knee jerk reaction, not to me at least. Josh McDaniels, who I have been a strong supporter of since he was hired, has gone from being a hated man for his actions during the first preseason, to being a brilliant and shrewd coach with a 6-0 start, to being almost a joke now going 4-13 since. It is scary how quickly things have become scary for our coaching situation.
Yet, the one item that I am waffling about is the last sentence I wrote. Even as I wrote it, I found myself wondering: "Has it really been a quick change?"
Sure it has only been a season and a half but let's take a look at some facets of McDaniels time here so far:
- McDaniels is no stranger to offense. He was hired because of his credentials as an offensive coordinator on a record breaking team.
- When the Broncos go 6-0, we were not winning by putting up a lot of points, but rather it was on the strength of our defense.
- The rest of that season, the Broncos defense breaks down a little, and the offense continues to be mediocre.
- This season, McDaniels' scheme at first seems to be strong, but the cracks begin to show. He is a whiz in the passing game, but even in a league where the pass is now the norm, his offense is terribly imbalanced, and he now no longer has the defense which bailed him out a season ago.
I wanted nothing more than to see this young coach succeed, but eventually his complicated air-it-out offensive system has become predictable. We could at first march up and down the field in the air, albeit we couldn't score consistently, but now I am seeing the punter so much (and he has done a good job thus far) that I may have to get a jersey of his, considering he may the most used player this season.
I have lost a lot of my faith in McDaniels, and unless he pulls out some magic of his hoodie, I don't know if I will ever regain it. Does McDaniels deserve another chance to even up his record and turn this team around? Maybe, but I am not going to say it would be wonderful if he comes back. Time is not something you can simply play with in the NFL. McDaniels has got to get his team up and prepared, and cannot afford to let his team and reputation get trampled any more.
Maybe the way I am looking at things now is off base and will be proven wrong (please let it be). Heck, I do not even know if I actually got anywhere point wise in this post. I simply love my Denver Broncos and had to vent somehow, and my way is to reason things out.
Regardless of how I feel, I am going to watch them, sometimes in pure anger, but I am not seeing the happiest ending to this season. The Broncos need to prove they can play with some heart and fire, and if there is some progression with our young players, to me this season will not be a total loss. Every team hits the bottom sometime, in fact you have to in order to rise up again, but let's hope that this game was our rock bottom and we don't sink any lower, although signs are pointing to a tough climb back out.