A couple of different threads have raised the discussion about whether the team is better now or there's really been no improvement. The best way is to simply look at the rosters. Let's look:
To analyze, I'll try to break it into 4 groups: Players Still on The Team, Players Who'd Make the 2010 Team, Players Who Might Make the Team and Players Who Wouldn't. The analysis is going to attempt to be McD-neutral, in the sense, it's whether or not the players would make the team under a hypothetical coach, not McD. Also, as much as possible, I'm looking at the 2008 version of the player.
Players Still On The Team (13):
Players Who'd Have Made the 2010 Roster (7):
Peyton Hillis (He's a better RB than either Ball or Hall)
Michael Pittman (If White is healthy, he probably doesn't)
Brandon Stokely (A healthy 2008 version probably makes the team.)
Kenny Peterson (I think he's better than Smith)
Players Who Might Make the Roster (4):
Tom Nalen (Probably, if healthy, belongs in the category above)
Players Who Wouldn't Make the Roster (33):
Edell Shepherd (I'm listing guys who spent the season on IR as well for consistency)
Calvin Lowry (God, he was bad.)
Nate Webster (Might be my least favorite Bronco in recent memory)
20 players would be on the team. 4 might. 33 wouldn't. Now there are probably a handful of guys who there'll be some debate (Boss Bailey?) but I think I've been pretty neutral. Honestly, go down the list of 33 and find the guys still in the NFL (or even more fairly, look to see who played in 2009). Not more than a handful.
So, in my opinion, those who remain convinced we're not better now have forgotten just how bad the 2008 roster ended up being. Half of the 2008 roster would be cut. Said a different way, if the 2008 roster had their choices to swap players, over HALF of the team in 2008 would be replaced by the current roster.
That's how bad and thin the 2008 roster was. Because, yes, to be fair, the 2010 roster has holes but even the holes and poor players are largely an improvement.
Our TE and RB depth would be better with Hillis, Pittman, and Scheffler still on the roster. But there's nowhere else (you can argue that the top of the depth chart would be better at QB w/ Cutler over Orton and at WR with Marshall over Gaffney but there's far better depth at both positions now) where the depth in 2008 compares.
Just look at the back-ups (I'm doing my best to remember the 2008 rosters depth chart and where the player is still on the team, I'm not listing him):
QB - Tebow/Quinn v. Ramsey (More of an indictment of Ramsey than anything else)
WR- Decker/Bey Bey/Willis v. Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert
OL -Olsen/Batiste/Daniels v. Pears/Polumbus/Gandy. The 2008 players are arguably no better (and I think it's fair to argue they're worse) than But this is the only position where I think it's really even debatable.
DL - Fields/Smith v. Nic Clemons/Josh Shaw
LB - Atkins/Mays/Hunter v. Winborn/Green/Niko
DB - Cox/Squid/McBath/Bruton/Vaughn v. Abdullah/Williams/Lowry/Paymah
Again, in a lot of these cases, it's not that I'm sold on the 2010 players. It's more about simply how bad the 2008 roster was. Not to mention, look again at the two groups and decide which players you trust on special teams. Is there a ST player from 2008 who'd play on ST in 2010?
So does this mean there isn't room for criticism of the 2010 roster? Of course not.
But the 2008 roster was worse.
By a lot.