It is a tough pill to swallow, but the Broncos are officially out of contention for the playoffs mid season for the first time in a long, long time. Maybe we're not technically out mathematically, but anyone who has watched the games this season knows it to be true. We will struggle to be .500 this season and yearn for the years of mediocrity which led us down this lonely, desolate road.
The truth is simple: We are not a very good team.
We are an injury plagued, mistake prone team. We are too young in some spots and too old in others. We are a team without soul and a will to win.
The QB Situation:
Let's be honest. There really isn't a QB situation. Orton is a top 10 QB right now in this league. If he was playing for the Vikings they'd be 5-2. I am well documented as being on the Orton side of the fence, but don't think I don't realize the potential Tebow has.
The truth is it is not Tebow time. Not yet. We need Orton to keep impressing. I will go on record as saying that Orton's play is less than inspiring outside of stats. His will to win is in question - not his ability. Tebowis the exact opposite - his will to win is unquestionable, but his ability is in question. Why we haven't seen a single NFL regular season game with a Tebow pass is beyond me, but the fact remains that he isn't ready. I think Tebow could be one of those players who plays better during the games than during practices (see: Peyton Hillis), but I support starting Orton purely because of trade value.
We have so many holes in our team that we are going to need to trade Orton. A team like the Vikings will pay top dollar for Orton after Favre finally hangs it up (and he will - I doubt anyone is going to take a plane to go get him after this season). He won't come close to a Cutler like bounty, but we should be able to get a 2nd and perhaps a 3rd or 4th for him. This will go a long way in a pretty deep draft (not last year deep, but deeper than the years before depending on who declares).
Orton is this teams Jake Plummer - he's a stopgap. Granted his results are not what Plummers were but he has outlived his usefulness. What's the point of having him put up 350+ yards in 6 losing efforts? His value is no longer as the QB of this team. His value is purely in trade value next year. Let's hope he puts up some serious numbers.
The Bailey Conundrum:
His time in Denver is up and it doesn't look like we'll be extending any sort of contractual olive branch. Best case scenario? If football is even played in 2011-2012 we're looking at a franchise tag and trade. This is probably the fairest deal for Bailey who deserves a shot at a championship. Right now Bailey is the Dan Marino of CB's and I hope we can trade him to a contender.
The fact is there is no need for his level of talent on a non competitor like the Denver Broncos. We won't be primed for any sort of playoff run anytime soon. Let's cut ties and get what we can. He's a better player than Maroney so I'm thinking we can net a 3rd round pick for Bailey if we give up a 5th.
Regardless of compensation Bailey's twilight years shouldn't be in Denver. He's probably my favorite player but he deserves better than this.
The Dawkins Debacle:
How angry Dawkins must be. He was led here under false pretenses. We can't trade him, but I just generally feel bad for him. I think he has another year in the tank and will retire a Bronco. I'd be a fool to think we could give him a shot at the playoffs - we won't.
The Offensive Offensive Line:
This problem, in my opinion, fixes itself after a couple of years. We'll eventually hit in the draft and the young guys will learn enough to be a force in the NFL. JD has shown flashes. Beadles is playing out of position. Clady isn't 100%. Harris is 100%. I think inexperience and injury is most of the problem here. That and we could use (read: need) a new offensive line coach - perhaps someone with some semblance of run blocking expertise. I'm sure at least McGeorge would agree that a run game would go a long way toward having an offense that scores points regularly (specifically the 1st quarter). It also goes a long well towards controlling the clock and keeping our defense fresh toward the end of the season. I don't think any drastic changes are necessary here player wise.
The Rediculous Running Game:
See offensive line (above). Moreno is a good back. Hell I'd say his better than good based on how bad our offensive line is. He has a fire in these games lately that I haven't seen in many of our players, but he is just about the only good thing about our running game. Maroney is so MIA I forgot he was even on the team. Buckhalter has lost every step he had and our blocking is unequivocally terrible. But if our primary back is good and our offensive line is growing what do we do in the meantime? If you can't change the player you change the coaching. This goes deeper than just our offensive line coach. It needs to go all the way up to our offensive coordinator. I will credit McGeorge for this - none of our coaches have a strong ground focus. We need that. If McD wants to keep his job he needs to find someone to improve our run game and not in two seasons - next season. We do need another back with a Sproles type play style to give opponents different looks and while we're at it we need a true power rusher like a Jacobs or Hillis type.
The Prolific Passing Game:
Credit where credit is due. McDaniel's has built one of the best passing games in the league in terms of sheer ability to move the ball. Orton is playing his best ball ever with limited physical talent and the scheme has made Brandon Lloyd look better than Roddy White this season. The only problem is the run game. It's hard to throw near the end zone when teams only have to account for 10-30 yards and not 40+ with coverage. We're not a running threat from any distance near the red zone so teams can dial up heavy coverage we end up kicking field goals (or not kicking field goals as the case may be). It all stems from the running game. Fix that and you fix our offense. Period.
So with all the negative where do we go?
There are a lot of positives about this team. Our WR corp is in the top 5 in the NFL. With the emergence of Lloyd we have three threats to take it all the way every play (based on sheer speed): Lloyd, Royal, and Thomas. If Decker AND Willis emerge our WR corps will keep defensive coordinators up at night. Gaffney, unfortunately for him, does not seem to factor in to future plans. It's a numbers game and his number should come up at the end of this season. I like Gaffney and he has done well there is just too much potential sitting bench side.
We have some impact rookies developing, too. Perrish Cox is going to be a solid NFL corner. We just need someone else to pair with him - maybe Squid or Vaughn? Someone has to step up between those two or we need to draft someone.
We desparately need another TE. Graham is on his last legs and we need a do it all type TE that plays the same style as Witten or Clark. We probably won't find one that talented but we to find one.
Then there is Tebow. The story is set for Tebow. He will take over a team and has a chance, against all odds, to make us a contender. The screen play is written, but he needs help.
I for one am not ready to annoint Tebow as I have explained, but conversely I am not completely ready to abandon McDaniels. If he can fix these areas we can be a very good football team, but its hard to overlook only 2 draft picks being used to address the front seven in 2 years (Ayers and Kirlew). You could argue we did in free agency but it doesn't look to have had a major impact - at least not we would have expected. Our run defense is still porous and not even worth commenting on.
The fact is McDaniels has one more season to right the ship and from my outlook he can. It's an uphill battle but as true blue and orange Bronco fans we will watch, sometimes in horror, as we work towards a universal goal. Will we get there? It will be a new decade for the NFL and for Denver so lets hope so.