ESPN.com news services - Tuesday, December 30, 2008 - "He was known as a genius, a mastermind and, yes, a Super Bowl champion. Shockingly, though, Mike Shanahan has a new title: unemployed coach."
My brother, a life-long, hard-core Chiefs fan, called me from KC, offering his "heart felt condolences" but unable to contain his utter glee that his most hated rival (next to the Raiders of course) had made this "bone-head" error. He likened it to the Raiders letting John Gruden get away, only to feel the sting of it in the Superbowl. Myself, I was awed, angered and generally sick to my stomach. We were one game and 10+ serious injuries(!) out of the play-offs with an all-pro Rookie left tackle, Brandon Marshall/Eddie Royal & Tony Scheffler lighting it up and our 3rd year All-Pro QB showing signs of 'getting it'. ...and then we hired McXanders and traded Cutler.
We here at MHR and every fan site around the country have hashed out the merits of this regime change, drawn clear lines in the sand, become divided, hateful and obsessive over our side of the issue. Most of us who thought it a mistake, especially those of us unbiased enough to see Shanny's flaws (as well as the possibilities McDaniels brought to the table), have grown resolved to 'wait and see'. Not that we had any other option! After a year, aside from the 'hater faction' (and a few who simply do not believe), we're still waiting, hopefully ...for any sign of progress. For evolution.
I imagine 2009 saw many of the 13-3 Baby! fans take a breath and perhaps even fall off the Kool-Aid Wagon after our 2-8 finish. In contrast, as many of the 3-13 Doomsayers were surely swayed somewhat by our amazing 6-0 start with successes verses some quality teams. How many of us fist pumped right there with McDaniels after the New England win? I for one rewound it several times in order to get a few more blows in and release some of that intense offseason angst. In the end, our talent level and 'new boss' growing pains leveled us out quite evenly indeed.
Further leveling us out was the loss of Mike Nolan. His 1st hire was my 1st hope that McD was truly an upgrade, as Shanny never could seem to hire or trust a strong willed DC. …his loss feels a bit like the ‘same ol’…
8-8. We're not comfortable with average as Broncos fans. We're spoiled but wouldn't have it any other way ...lest it be MORE spoiled! That said, where are we now? An intelligent fan should easily realize the lengthiness of the rebuilding process. It takes a smart, patient front office with owner support and maybe a little luck. ...and it takes years. That last bit is the really scary part. Our worst case scenario has us spending the 3-5 years to completely rebuild our team in McXander's image ...only to fail and head back to the drawing board. I've woken sweaty and shaken at the thought.
Years? Yes. Even so, in the upcoming weeks we'll learn volumes as to the direction of our team as well as our front office's assessment of our existing talent. Pretty damn exciting actually. I can't envision Pat Bowlen being so short-sighted as to require McX to Win Now. We're about to get a much clearer picture of McX's team building philosophy. Will McXanders risk everything on making a play-off run in 2010 with flashy, Win Now players or do they trust that Pat Bowlen will allow for a longer process and go for long-term, less glamorous, 'in-the-trenches' talent?
As examples of Win Now/Flashy choices I submit K. Moreno, Dez Bryant, any QB (or 2nd rd CB) we’d have to trade up to draft or D. McNabb. All would look good in Blue & Orange but I'm all for standing behind McX and patiently building from the trenches up.
Either way, let's hope McX performs as advertised and continues to build us a team of high talent, high quality men who are passionate, team 1st players and will represent our team for years to come. At least in this way, if the 'worst case' comes to pass, the next regime would be left with a better base level of talent than Shanny left us.
...I'm looking forward to part II of this story - Looks Like Evolution - Post Draft/FA! Maybe I'll even have the opportunity to write it...