In one of the most futile efforts I have ever seen to win a game in recent memory, the Broncos have officially ended their campaign of pain… well sort of. I mean, the Denver Post was calling the Broncos season officially over the day we let Jay Cutler go, then it was really over when we got blown away by the Raiders… and then it was surely over the day we lost to the Chargers… but now it’s really really over because mathematically we can no longer advance to the playoffs. There are no more shreds of hope to taunt us. No more heroic, Disney movie comebacks for us to look forward to in January. Definitely no Superbowl. We’d be hard pressed to get in the Cotton Bowl if we wanted to. Maybe we can hire Denzel Washington as head coach. He could get us into the playoffs. Can’t you see it now, the first coach of all time to get a team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs… into the playoffs. Surely the Broncos short list for head coach must look something like this:
1. Jesus Christ
2. Denzel Washington
3. Anybody willing to leave a reputable team to accept a one-year, 2 million dollar coaching deal with a fan base that is about two losses away from the psyche ward… and a Denver Post sports writing crew that is quite possibly the most fickle and detached from reality in the country.
Unfortunately Jesus is busy, you know, Lording over the universe and planning His comeback tour. I think Denzel Washington is trying to land another movie about runaway trains and hostages, and we just got turned down by the coach of the Air Force Academy football team. I’m sure the Denver Post Broncos writers are busy trying to show how they knew McDaniel’s was a bust from week one, even though they were drinking his cool-aid by the bucket after the Broncos won 6 in a row, when was that, oh, LAST YEAR.
But that’s cool, because we just fired the most promising young head coach the Broncos have ever had because things were getting tough. Because we weren’t winning right now. Because during a year when any Bronco fan willing to face the facts understood that this was a year to rebuild still insisted that we must meet our goal of mediocrity at 8-8. But an 8-8 season without a playoff berth is no better than an 2-14 season that nets you Ndominkung Suh. In fact, it could be argued that maybe it’s worse. Playoffs are everything. You must make it to the playoffs or you are only kidding yourself to think you are that much more successful than a team that won zero games in the same season. In fact, there seems to be a team every season that takes a 3 or 4 win season and magically turns it around the next year. We had the talent, we just hadn’t yet hit our tipping point.
The NFL never ceases to amaze me. It really is a true microcosm of the real world. Its fanbase is full of people who want the payoffs (read, playoffs) right now. Not next year, not in two years. RIGHT NOW DAMMIT. And if they can’t get it right now well then FIRE THE WHOLE DAMN COACHING STAFF. Well, we got our gimme now wish. Christmas has come three weeks early. The man we hated most is gone. But what we’ve really inherited at the moment is a coachless team with a wealth of underdeveloped talent with little future direction toward its development. Our team is like a diamond in the rough and instead of finding the right stone cutter to perfect it over time we are looking for a lumberjack with a sledghammer to make it shiny in ten seconds. Is Paul Bunyan available?
I am hearing all over the blogosphere that people are blaming Josh McDaniel’s for breaking up their Broncos. Are you kidding me? We were a team mired in mediocrity since we won our last Superbowl. That’s on Shanahan. Every time I hear an argument saying that we should have kept Shanahan I can’t help but think of how sterile his team had become. Shanahan had to go. The Redskins needed him for another mediocre season of 8-8 where they will net themselves a mid-level first round draft pick. You really think the Redskins are SuperBowl material under Shanahan? Give me a break. They are farther away from a Superbowl than we are… without a head coach. Shanahan won his Superbowls and then he lost his edge in Denver. Yet still we pine for those days of being just average. We pine for our old head coach. But why? His team needed a spark of life and Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall were never going to be the flint. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, without serious changes to their mental state, will never be the catalyst that brings their teams to the Superbowl. Jay Cutler will never be what Roethlisberger is to his Steelers, or what Fitzgerald was to Kurt Warner. Cutler isn’t a winner when it matters most. Marshall is a good receiver, but not a true player like Fitz. The Broncos of the Shanahan era were on the decline. It was slow and it was steady and it was boring. Shanahan had to go. If you still believe that was your Bronco team of the future than I am satisfied knowing that at least McDaniel’s smashed it all to pieces so that we could start fresh. I’d take a truly awful season that warrants a high draft pick and sets up a do-or-die year than I would five and six years of just being mediocre with no end in sight. Five or six years of just being good enough. We needed a winning attitude. I really felt that McDaniel’s brought at least a shadow of that attitude to Denver, even if it never truly panned out in our time-table.
What a ride this must have been for Josh McDaniels. Talk about one of the greatest starts to a coaches career in a new town only to have an entire city turn on him faster than a Team Edward groupie at a Team Jacob rally. In fact, we should build a ride in his honor at Elitches. It could go something like this. You get into your harness and it takes you 150 feet into the air as you get serenaded to "You're the Best" by Joe "Bean" Esposito. Then after you hit the apex of your climb, the harnesses gets ridiculously tight on your nuts and you get a hosed in the face with gallons of freezing water. As you drop down bystanders get to chuck things like raw vegetables, meat from Casa Bonita, Harry Potter jellybeans, and half eaten funnel cakes at you. Then you go into the tunnel where you are forced to watch random love scenes from the Twilight movies while being doused in Axe Body Spray, completed with a nice slow finish where small children in a room full of levers connected to boxing gloves get to punch you over and over while you are serenaded by "You're The Best"... by Justin Beiber and the Nacho Libre Band. Yes, this idea definitely has promise. We'll call it the McMind Debaser.
McDaniel’s had been our head coach for only 28 games and now this town is ready to run him through the meat grinder. I was convinced at the beginning of this season that McDaniel’s future in Denver relied almost solely on Tim Tebow. That was obviously not the case. Something has broken down the Bronco Nation’s psyche. Bronco Fans have lost their minds in anger, self-pity, and the yearning for our team of the past… and by past I mean the team that featured the most prima-donna QB/WR combo in the league. Man those seasons of 8-8 were great.
Are the facts so hard to see anymore that we cannot except the reality of just another lost season on top of many? From the day Dumerville went down for the year the pathway to our doom was set. Injuries destroyed us and the youth of our players and head coach simply didn’t have the experience to pick up the slack when our starters went out with injury. You can call it excuses if you want but we are two unfortunate injuries away from being right back in the thick of our toilet bowl division. Then Bronco country went rabid when we lost so soundly to the Raiders at home a month ago. There was no recovering from that game. I consider myself to be a pretty even keeled person and even I was this close to sacrificing relationships with my family over the loss. It was personal and it will never be forgotten. We developed bloodlust.
That’s right, bloodlust. Losing to the Raiders like we did demanded some kind of sacrifice. Someone had to pay and every loss after that raised the stakes a little higher until we went into a frenzy and were so ready to crucify our head coach we forgot that this was still a re-building year. That this was the time to begin development of some of our top draft picks. Nope, the only way to wash away the loss to the Raiders was a playoff berth. We had to overcome the near impossible. We couldn’t do it. Now McDaniels must pay. But it will not satiate the need.
Who will be next? Xanders? Most likely.
What about our COO Joe Ellis? Surely he had a play in this. Get rid of him too.
What about Pat Bowlen? Are we at the point where we are ready to level our sports hate against him? Are we ready, in a sense, to become the new Oakland Raiders? A fanbase that lives to hate their owner.
Bronco fans are murderous right now. They are using the classically naive "anybody is better than this guy" excuse. It’s the reasoning of the foolish. It’s the kind of thinking that gets a team mired in a slump for ten years.
No, our bloodlust must be quenched by somebody or something. McDaniels was only a bandaid. Now we must win or we will devour somebody else until our team is a shell of an organization and doomed to the gutter of our already sorry division. We are the only team to win the Superbowl in our division in the past 26 years and, honestly, are still the best hope the division has to return to the big game in the future.
So what next? Obviously we must continue punishing people. Because that is what we as sports fans do when our teams lose, we find people to punish. The list of people to punish in the Broncos organization must be ten yards long, which is ironically exactly how far our offense couldn’t go on any down and yards to go against the Chiefs on Sunday. How can our once dominant sports franchise be so humiliated as to be eliminated from playoff contention by week 12? I’m pretty sure the only team of mine that did worse this season was my fantasy football team. I guess that removes me from the candidate pool of managers to take Josh McDaniel’s place next year.
Let’s consider for a minute what happened to the Broncos this season. Did we, at the beginning of this year, really expect to go to the playoffs? I mean really, in our heart of hearts, expect to make it to the playoffs? And by heart of hearts I obviously mean would we put 10 bucks on it in Vegas? At the beginning of this season I put the Broncos at a very generous 10-6 with a playoff berth and a division victory. Admittedly I was still a little high on the Tebow pipe but could you blame me? We hadn’t played a game yet and our backup QB had the #1 jersey sales in the country. If that doesn’t spell hope I don’t know what does. But it wasn’t just that. We had the promise of youth on our front line. We had a stud RB in Moreno who hadn’t yet hit his stride, and a bunch of pre-season talent that looked great mixed with some serious veteran leadership. It was just never meant to pan out quite that way.
The Broncos were destined to fail, not because of McDaniels, but because:
#1. We could never recover from injury.
Losing players to injury is a reality for every football team in the country. In fact, one of the most important parts of making it through an entire season and into the Superbowl is how your team is able to step up in place of injured players. When the Broncos lost their veteran talent early on to injury, we didn’t have a chance. It’s that veteran talent that can often times push you over the edge to a victory late in the 4th quarter. It’s that veteran talent that won’t get a pass interference called on them on the final passing play of a game to lose it. We didn’t have our veteran talent and it hurt us from the start.
#2. Too young, too much, too fast.
As our veterans went down day after day, we were forced as a team to shuffle positions and begin incorporating under-developed talent from the get go. Yet the fan and news expectations for our season never changed. We still must win. We still must make the playoffs. Unfortunately we were just too young. The demands were just too much, and the timeframe was just too fast. We couldn’t deliver the immediate gratification the Bronco fans had come to crave ever since we went 6-0 last year.
#3. We don’t have the patience.
I guess there’s a debate that needs to be had among NFL fans. Are championship teams built, or are they simply a collection of talent? Perhaps both is the answer but don’t you get the feeling that in this town, we are demanding an NFL team be collected? We don’t have time for re-building. We are kidding ourselves to think that even if we admit the Broncos must rebuild we won’t be like as crazed as a vampire at a Bonfils Blood Center if we go 3-13 again next season and another complete overhaul will be had. The talking heads are claiming we are in for a long rebuilding process, but don’t you think that next year Kizla is going to be encouraging fans to donate money to buy out a losing coaches contract and then after said coach gets fired claim he was just a scapegoat? We have zero patience. No longsuffering.
I know I sound like I’m a huge Josh McDaniels fan suffering from the shell shock of the past couple of days, but I promise you that is not the case. If McDaniels had to go, he had to go. My personal opinion as that getting rid of our head coach before he had the proper chance to develop his drafted talent was pre-mature, but I also understand that there is a ferocious need to win. I believe that dynasties are built around strong leadership first, strong defense second, and a powerful offense third. Those things rarely happen in one year. They can, however, change in as little time as one off-season. My vote was to give McDaniels one more year to do better than what he did last year with the talent he’s built. Obviously that will no longer be the case but I truly hope that Bronco Nation will wake up to the fact that when we win our next Superbowl we will not be the same team that won the SuperBowl twice. The NFL is not the same as it was in 1999. We need to stop pining for the old days.
It’s time to move on. We need to get behind our team, develop its talent, and hope upon hope that our next head coach can pick up where McDaniels left off. People say it can’t get much worse but oh yes it can. All this team needs is a little time to get back on a roll. Streaks tend to beget streaks. Maybe a new coach was the catalyst we needed to break our current one, maybe not. Either way I can’t help but think that our return to glory isn’t so far away as our local news would have us to believe. We are rebuilding and the talent is there. We just need to find the right person to fit it all together and then give him the time to develop. We need to find out where Denzel Washington is...