Our team, the Denver Broncos, shocked the world last year with our play early in the season. Was it because of poor competition we had early on? Was it because the other teams thought we were a push-over? Was it because our young coach's novel play calling had defensive coordinators' heads spinning? Was it because of Kyle Orton's Rivers, Manning, or Brady type numbers? Your answer to all these questions should be a definitive and resounding, NO... My thoughts on why this was the case and why this has been the best off-season for the Denver Broncos in recent memory after the jump.Early on in the season (our first 6 games) we looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. After the Monday Night victory over San Diego, which I had the privilege to attend, Broncos fans around the country were rejoicing. People were jumping on the McDaniels bandwagon, including a surprising majority of the MSM. People started talking about McDaniels as Coach of the Year and even Orton as MVP! It was amazing, I mean come on, 6 weeks into the season and we had already doubled the amount of wins that John Clayton predicted we would have!
-On a side note, the San Diego game was the only Broncos game I was able to attend last season and my first time seeing my team outside the confines of Mile High. Just a Colorado guy trying to hold it down for Broncos' Country out here in San Diego. For your information and enjoyment, Qualcomm Stadium isn't worthy of holding Invesco Field's jock strap, much less the original Mile High Stadium. When the Chargers defense faced a 3rd down and the crowd was "making noise", I sat in amazement. There was no comparison to the deafening sound and the uneasy feeling in your gut that you get during the localized earthquake on a big 3rd down play, as the stadium itself is shaking beneath you. ANYONE who has seen a game in Mile High knows this feeling. The simultaneous silence of the stadium and faint cheers of the Broncos' sidelines and Broncos fans scattered in different sections of the stadium during Eddie Royal's returns was an awesome experience to say the least. I scalped a single ticket at the last minute to get into the game, luckily there were two Broncos fans visiting from Denver sitting right behind me who were just as vocal as I was, and they were gracious enough to take a picture.
Sorry for going off on a tangent there. Back to the point already!!
Why was our team in this position? This was not because Kyle Orton was playing "above his ceiling" this was simply an effect of our balanced attack on offense and our solid defense, a direct result of our team having an effective multi-dimensional approach on both sides of the ball. It is the difference between Super Bowl contenders and teams who miss the playoffs, i.e. the difference between the first part of the season and the "post-bye" part of the season. After the bye week, the games became increasingly harder to watch, as we had the ball run down our throats and having our rush stuffed at the line of scrimmage more often than not. We were losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. PERIOD. As a result, opposing offenses were controlling the clock, opposing defenses had no respect for our rushing attack, and the pressure on Kyle Orton increased (both literally and figuratively).
The Best Off-Season in Years
This hasn't been the best off-season in years because we added the best college football player ever in Tim Tebow, nor because we added Brandon Marshall's replacement or the second coming of Eddie Mac, or the fact that we were able to pick up an incredibly talented DB in the 5th round (I love these picks, and these guys will definitely improve our team, but these positions are not at the heart of why the 2009 season went awry). No, this off-season has been the best in recent memory because we have made considerable improvements targeting control of the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball. We have made considerable strides adding talented guys that are going to have an immediate impact on the defensive line and interior offensive line. Though these pick-ups might not stand out to many people outside Broncos' Country, they definitely stand out to me. McX has targeted the most important positions on the field for our team this off-season. Sure, it will be interesting to see how the QB situation unfolds in the coming months, and that will definitely be the sexy thing to talk about on ESPN, NFL Network, and even MHR, but this is not what I'm looking forward to the most. I'm as gitty as a schoolgirl to find out what the depth chart on the offensive line will look like, especially on the interior.
There are two articles that came out this morning from the Denver Post's dynamic duo, Woody and the Kiz. Each article brings up different points, but both men are essentially turning the page on the Kyle Orton chapter of the Denver Broncos saga. They bring up some interesting points about Kyle Orton's interests, and they may be valid, but at this point, I consider them to be ill-advised speculations, especially because their critiques of Orton's play, personality, and leadership are completely wrong IMHO. They are basing these critiques, not on the foundation of objective observation of the Broncos' 2009 season under the helm of KO, but under the subjective, wishful (and outright impatient) thinking that Brady Quinn was brought in as a starter, or that we will take a chance on throwing Tebow out there in his first season and expect Roethlisberger results. They're both basing their thinking, that Quinn or Tebow should/will be the starters this season, on the common assumption that we would not be able to contend for a Super Bowl this year, so we may as well not waste anymore of the Broncos' or Orton's time. I respectively disagree.
Give Kyle Orton a break
It seems that most people love to make the point that "Kyle Orton won't lose any games for you, but he won't win any for you either". This is just a blatantly ignorant statement. We would not have won the New England game or the Dallas game without a cool, calm Kyle in the backfield. He has won games for us, but we can't expect him to win close games if we are nowhere close to the other team, getting spanked the way we did in the latter part of the season. We can't expect Kyle Orton to have pocket presence when the other defense is pressuring him to the point where there is no pocket to speak of. Did Kyle make mistakes last year? Sure, but we wouldn't be able to rely on ANY quarterback to win games for us when we give up control of the line of scrimmage the way we did, so why would we expect Kyle Orton to do so? Let's go back to the beginning of last season, and compare it to what we are looking at now. As I have pointed out, we have made substantial improvements at the spots responsible for our demise last year, and IMO we are an improved team even compared to the one that looked like Super Bowl contenders. We have the pieces in place to be competitive with EVERY team on our schedule and we DO have a chance of contending for a Super Bowl this year WITH Kyle Orton, BELIEVE IT!! If we keep this guy around, he is going to surprise the naysayers all over again.
I believe that this position still belongs to Kyle Orton. He is a proven leader on our team, his teammates respect him, and it would be unwise and hypocritical of McDaniels to heed the advice of Woody and the Kiz. McDaniels has said that the player who gives us the best opportunity to win will play, and at this point, Kyle Orton is that player. After all, all we are trying to do is win some MF games and Orton has proven that he can win in the NFL. Period. Tebow and Quinn certainly have an opportunity to compete this off-season, but at this point they are both unproven players. This may go without saying for many who know this dynamic duo, but take those articles from Woody and the Kiz with a grain of salt
It isn't called the Ultimate Team Sport for nothing
In conclusion, the improvements we have made this off-season to control the line of scrimmage will translate into some victories. I just hope this gives something to think about for those of us in Broncos' Country who are little too quick to throw Kyle Orton, Knowshon Moreno, or our linebackers under the bus. These guys may be in the spotlight, but the unsung heroes on Super Bowl contending teams are those at the point of attack. So give those big guys some love. Our team is only as strong as our weakest link, and I think our chain is looking pretty strong right now.
Don't grill me too much MHR, this is my first fan-post!!