This past game against the Colts was a particularly difficult game to watch, mostly because I felt like the opportunity to take a massive step forward as a team was there but things did not workout.
Disclaimer: For the people that are irate (for lack of a better word) with the current state of the Broncos following this loss, this post will certainly make your blood boil over. For this reason it may be best to skip over a “Kool-aid” post if you have found the Kool-aid to be particularly bitter the past couple of days.
However, if you watched this game on your own, away from the internet and after it was all said and done you reacted with: “Oh man that was right there…. I can’t wait to continue watching these Broncos grow-up”. Then you are in the same boat as myself.
Well we might as well start at the top of the organization, and with the gentleman that will most likely stir up the most controversy.
There is a very thin line between “Coaching” and “Execution”. On one hand you will hear people say that “The coach doesn’t put on the pads” (or something to that effect). Then on the other hand you will hear “It is the coaches’ job to put his players in the right position to make plays”.
In the case of the Colt’s game, it seems that McDaniels is taking a far bit of heat considering what transpired during the game. There are a couple of points that I want to make with regards to McDaniels and the entire week leading up to this game and the game itself.
First though is the game plan, which was installed prior to the game and was actually an exceptional concept. Going into this game the Texans created what the MSM considers to be the blueprint for beating the Colts, which is to run the ball. I would argue that the game plan presented by McDaniels (and maybe someone before him, but I don’t know) is the actual blueprint to beating the Colts. I say this because the outcome of the Texans game can never be expected, they were able to run like that but no one goes into the game expecting that type of outcome.
The Texans game plan of smashing the ball performs a few vital tasks that McDaniels and every team will want to incorporate into their game plan when facing the Colts.
1) Shortens the game (fewer offensive series for Manning)
2) Slows down the pass-rush
3) Keeps the offense in manageable down and distance
These are all very important things to accomplish, so when you read about how the Broncos or McDaniels specifically is a horrible coach because he should see that the team has no success running the ball, keep in mind that the success of the run is irrelevant to his game plan. The Broncos just like every other team in the NFL is going to run the ball and if they want a chance they will stick to it no matter how unsuccessful it is when they are playing the Colts.
The addition to the blueprint that was presented in this game was the PA-Heavy protection passing game. This to me was an excellent plan because it negated the strength of the Colts defense which is Freeney and Mathis. It also assumes that your team has a superior set of receivers than the Colts have DBs and an upper echelon QB. As this game continued and the mistakes began to mount, the biggest mistake would have been to get away from the plan. Ditch the run game and allow Freeney and Mathis to do exactly what they have done to countless teams before.
The game plan for the Colts is to get an early lead and send the hounds after the QB. The Broncos lost this game, but they had the discipline to stick with the plan that gave them a chance to win, had they gone away from the game plan because it was unsuccessful in the running portion then they would have been playing right into the hands of the Colts.
In game decisions, now this is an area where I would agree that McDaniels made some decisions that blew up in his face. However I am personally not going to call him an idiot for going for it on 4th down because I would have done the exact same thing. When you play the Colts and turn the ball over and make mistakes (especially when you are inferior in talent) then you are going to lose the game. The Colts will always score the points, you can not prevent that. So sitting at home, when it was third down I had hoped the Broncos would go for it on 4th down (when Maroney came up short). I was scared though because of what not making it would have meant for the outcome of the game. I respect McDaniels for having the conviction to do what was right, no matter how bad the outcome could have been. There are plenty of coaches who would have never gone for it because they do not want to take the blame for a loss…..even though they are playing a superior team that never really loses to anyone. The decision to throw the fade on third down and then run on fourth down is exactly what any offense would want. Trust us to get this one way or another. I don’t know how this is McDaniels fault on the play-calling side of things. If you believe kicking the field goal was the smarter thing to do and you believed it at the time and not after the fact then you were right. However, if you believe the play calls themselves were a mistake then what else would you have done?
The 4th and 3 that was incomplete to Brandon Lloyd was the perfect play-call. They had one-on-one coverage on the outside. The corner turned his hips to run with Lloyd and was taking an inside coverage shade. The throw from Orton was arguably his worst of the game. He didn’t give Lloyd the chance to make a play, but with a good back shoulder throw like that it is an insanely high probability completion and it is almost impossible to defend.
Look it really comes down to this, if you are playing flawless football against the Colts then you can go for those field goals, but as soon as you start turning the ball over you have to get Touchdowns. You can not afford to come away with Field goals in the redzone.
I respect McDaniels more after this game because he knew that they would have to come out guns blazing, and he gave his team the chance to do this. Things did not workout, but I can guarantee you that the players and coaches inside that building who understand football and have studied Peyton Manning, know that what he did was right. A completion to Lloyd and 8 more inches for Maroney and everyone is singing a different tune. I realize what happened is what happened, but if I was given 2 options in a loss as a player for the Broncos.
1) Maroney 8 inches short. Incompletion to Lloyd
2) 2 field goals, and no second opportunity to make a play to take down arguably the best team in football over the past few seasons.
I know what I would have chosen.
Players you can bank on
Every team that is rebuilding or reloading, if they eventually become a perennial Super Bowl contender they will have cornerstone players and an exciting period in time when the young guys step forward and become the type of contributor you need down the road. Here are the players that you can bank on if/when we return to the playoffs.
This guy is a franchise QB in every sense of the word, except playoff success. He has all the arm strength that any QB would ever need. Take a look at the Brandon Lloyd touchdown pass, but more importantly watch the play at the 0:44 second mark of this link
All offseason you will hear NFL draft experts talk about arm strength and the 15 yard out. That play at 0:44 is what they are talking about and the throw is on a rope right in the chest. Picture perfect pass that requires “Franchise QB arm strength”. He has the respect of the locker room required, that dedication in the film room and weight room required. If you believe that a player such as Cutler is a Franchise QB then you also believe that Orton is one. I wouldn’t trade Orton straight up for Cutler today, while Cutler has a bit more raw skill as a passer. I trust Orton to make the right decisions and be a leader every day for the next 8-10 years.
Every week he will get stronger and better, but let’s put that injury aside. There is generally much discussion about how Cady has regressed since his rookie season. There are a couple things I consider when I think about this. First if you project Clady’s career based on his rookie season then he would go down as the greatest Left Tackle to ever play. I wonder how much Cutler’s ability to throw while backing up, or off his back foot helped Clady in his pass protection numbers. I also wonder how many of those Interceptions that he threw when it would have been a better decision to take a sack helped Clady’s protection statistics.
Either way when I look at the entire NFL these are the players that I would not be utterly disappointed if the Broncos traded Clady straight up for:
1) Jake Long, Miami
2) Joe Thomas, Cleveland
There were reports in the off-season that he was taking a step forward as a LB, which I can only assume was referring to his play against the run and in coverage. He was learning a new position and just like any other player had a lot of room to grow from his first season at a new position to his second. He always could and always will be able to rush the passer with the best of them. It will be interesting to see how the rest of his game comes into place next year.
Still one of the best in the league. However the long-term prospects of moving him inside to Safety along side McBath is very exciting. Having Champ Bailey as the QB of the secondary from the Safety position, leading the young guys in practice and in the lockerroom is about as much value as you can get from any defensive player in the league from an intangible standpoint.
Players that have shown flashes and will be exciting to watch grow
I don’t know what to think about Moreno, I really like him for a couple of reasons but I do not believe he is a work-horse back. The injuries are unfortunate, but he will have to prove he can stay healthy eventually. However I think of Moreno as a younger (higher potential ceiling) version of Kevin Faulk from the Patriots. He is an excellent leader and locker room guy, he can be fully trusted in pass protection, excellent receiver out of the backfield in both route running and for check-down purposes. What I am concerned about is his ability to run the ball consistently, but that will not be determined this season with the young offensive line.
However if you talked to a New England fan and asked him about the value of a guy like Kevin Faulk over the past decade then they will surely tell you that he can not ever be replaced.
He is going to be a #1 receiver in this league at some point, and with his speed it will be a true #1 that requires coverage rolled to his side. The real question with him is what will happen with that foot long-term.
Showed a ton of promise in the pre-season, and I suspect that we will see him more as the season progresses. I would love for him to earn the trust of the coaches in practice and continue flashing the overall game that reminds me a lot of what Gaffney is doing right now.
I think it is safe to say that he won’t be a #1 receiver in this league, which seemed possible after his rookie season. However this guy is beyond valuable when building a team. He works his tail off and set’s the proper example, he can be trusted as a returner to not put the ball on the ground, he can be trusted to make the catch when the ball is thrown to the right spot and he has shown that he can gain yards outside of the design of the play with his run after the catch.
This guy is fantastic and an excellent Strong side LB prospect in the 3-4. He has already showed that he is excellent against the run and flashes some nice pass rush moves. With Dumervil demanding double teams down the road, it will open up Ayers to be the perfect complimentary player to what Dumervil provides.
He took a bit a licking against the Colts and Austin Collie. However when you consider that he is a 5th round pick and he is basically a starter right now with Goodman and Bailey battling injuries, he will be exciting to watch grow-up and my only concern for him down the road is that he keeps his head on straight.
I really like how feisty and powerful this guy is. Either way this was a huge homerun in the draft and center is covered for the next 12 years.
He has played admirably at Right Tackle considering he was working most of the off-season at Guard. He has shown improvement and maybe 10 weeks from now he will be the long-term replacement for Ryan Harris.
If this guy can stay healthy then he is a huge asset, and one of the best in the league at his position. However he hasn’t been able to get or stay healthy and if this season continues with him accumulating missed games then he will probably be replaced after the season. Whether it is Beadles taking his spot and finding a Guard to upgrade Stanley Daniels or provide depth.
I loved what I saw out of him in the pre-season before the injury and again against the Colts. I believe deep down that he will be a great player in this league. Believing that though is based on hope and projecting a player based on limited visual evidence, but I think by the end of the season we will have enough visual evidence to make an accurate projection on what he will become.
Note: I have left out players that are extremely solid such as: Gaffney, Lloyd, Kuper Graham, Mcbean, Haggan, Hill, etc.
These players will not be seen as the cornerstones to the franchise but will play their role and as a group are just as important to building a team as anyone else.
As each game comes and goes knee-jerk reactions are inevitable whether it is in a losing effort or in a winning effort. However every fan should accept right now that McDaniels is here as the head coach of the Broncos for a long-time and that is because Bowlen runs his team properly. When the decision to hire a new coach was made it was made because Bowlen felt the guy he was hiring would take this team to the Super Bowl. No matter how bad things get he is not going to be firing the coach after this season because he knows like all the great owners in the league that you make a coaching decision for a reason and you can not allow other people to sway your convictions. Let’s say for example that this team goes 8-8, making it 16-16 during the McDaniels era, many people will argue that it is enough to know this isn’t going to work. Those people are wrong, and they are wrong because the painting has not been finished. The painting has been started and we can see the direction that the artist is going in, but we won’t be able to judge the painting until it is finished. When I look at the big picture that is being painted I see a lot of things that I like and every Sunday I will sit down and see what direction the painting is heading. This to me is what will make this season special, not winning a bunch of games or enduring numerous losses. It is the growth of the players listed above under “players that have shown flashes and will be exciting to watch grow” and the role that they make for themselves in the big picture.
Who knows maybe a guy like Cassius Vaughn, Mathew Willis, or Syd’Quan Thompson will emerge from the shadows….. if that Dawn get’s bright enough you never know what you will be able to find in the shadows.