After another crazy comeback, a 1st place rank in the AFC West, I thought it might be a good time to reflect where this team has come from. A year ago, last Monday, Josh McDaniels was fired, Studsville was named interim head coach, and this franchise was left dead in the water in the wake of wasted draft picks, poor trades, bad FA signings, a HC coach who had dismantled anything that had once resembled the franchise we all knew and loved, and a front office that was impotent to stand up to a 35 year old with a power trip.
Many here saw the firing of McDaniels as the death nail of the franchise, that Mr. Bowlen would be setting this franchise back 10-years by not allowing McDaniels to remake the franchise into the Patriots
west. I wasn't one that shared that vision, I commended Mr. Bowlen for realizing his mistakes and trying to fix the situation and the franchise. Step one in that process was getting a real football man in charge, to give the GM/HC a seperation of powers. Shortly after the end of a disastorous season, Mr. Bowlen called the one man he had faith in restoring the Broncos
back to glory, that man being John Elway.
Many cringed at the idea of putting a man with no NFL front office experience in charge, thinking it was more a move to appease fans than to actually fix the franchise. But as we soon found out, what John Elway may lack in front office experience he more than makes up for in drive, passion, and knowledge of the game he was raised in. Few seemed to understand having been raised the son of a coach and a man who would later serve as an intergral part of putting together the SB championship teams of the late 90's, Elway understands what it takes to build a winner, and the next step was getting a HC that shared Elway's vision.
John Fox was not seen as many people's first choice, he was coming off coaching the only team that faired worse in 2010 than the Broncos. There was a rally cry to get a sexier choice like Gruden, or Cowher or maybe some new hot shot assistant coach, but the reality is that Elway knew that this team would be young, would need someone who had been through the battles, who understood how to win in the NFL, and who could remain calm even in bad situations, and wasn't going to demand the spotlight or the power. John Fox was the right coach. He was a coach who wanted to coach and didn't care about the press clippings or getting on TV with screaming soundbites and fist pumps, he would allow his assistants to coach and not be a dictator or micromanager. He would work in a team aspect with Elway and the GM to bring the Broncos back. And like Elway, he wants to win and win badly.
Next came selection of a GM. I admit I was not sold and am still skeptical regarding Xanders remaining as GM, but I credit Elway allowing him to prove himslef without the hinderence of a guy like McD neutering the guy. And I also credit Elway to listening to his advice and working with Xanders and Fox to really form a management team and change the culture at Dove Valley.
Next came the draft and the No. 2 overall pick. Elway knew the Broncos could not miss on this pick, and we needed a pick that would pay divadends right away. Hence came Von Miller
, who was the most impactful front seven player to come out in a long while. Miller has quickly proven to be well worth the pick. The Broncos were saddled with few picks due to poor trades by McDaniels and Comapny but they found ways to move back and pick up additional picks. The draft obviously had alot of controversy due to not picking a DT and picking a 2nd round RT and a ton of LB's and TE's, but overall, the draft looks like a solid B, with the only real dissappointment being Rahim Moore
, who looks to a be a bust at this stage. But Elway and Xanders had one dramatic philosphic change in the Bronco draft stratagy, which was no more developmental or boom or bust prospects in the 1st round, value more picks, and don't reach for need. The stratagy will pay off, as I think with each year and more scouting experience, Elway and Xanders will continue to improve their success rate with the early parts of the draft.
Next came filling out the coaching staff, Fox could of easily cleaned house and brought in everyone he wanted, but he carefully reviewed the staff and kept good coaches in McCoy and Studdsville, and filled in staff on the DC, OL and other areas where there was room for improvement. That staff looks to be one of the best in the NFL currently and has been a reflection of the HC in being calm and not ego driven control freak. Fox has been described as a player's coach, but in that same vein I think he is a coach's coach, allowing his coaches to do their jobs and provding guidence and help rather than feeling like he is losing power or authority.
Next came an accelerated training camp and off season due to the lockout. The staff didn't have the advanatage of installing the offense and defense through OTAs and also were saddled with the Orton/Tebow controversy. While I think Tebow should of been given a starting shot much sooner (after week one), I understand the reasoning behind keeping Orton as starer. Mainly he knew the offense, had the timing down, and could hit the ground running so to speak. He gave the Broncos a better chance to win with a conventional NFL offense.
The season started off rough and this team looked destined for another dismal finish and a top 5 pick again next year. But then Fox had finally figured out that Orton was not the answer (short or long term) and decided to pull him and give Tebow the ball, and as they say the rest is history at this point.
This team (IMO) still has some very serious flaws such as coverting on third downs (especially third and short), getting off to fast starts, run defense, depth at O-line/D-line and DB. But considering from where this team was a year ago, I am freaking amazed at where we have come. Granted much praise for the turnaround can be attributed to Tebow, but this truly has been a transformation of the team into a real team. Starting with management acting as a team and working together. The coaching staff working a a unit on all phases of the game and being able to adapt their schemes to fit the personnel strengths. To players being unselfish and working together for a common goal of winning games. Tebow has contributed greatly, but so to has the O-line play been improved, where would we be without McGhee and his hard running, DT, Decker, Royal and Willis all stepping up and making big plays, Von Miller obviously has been a player, but Dawkins, Dumerville and Champ stepping their games up has been huge, the other LB's (woodyard, Mays, and DJ Williams) have all played better, the much maligned D-line hasn't been perfect, but they have generally played much better than most had thought, and even the ST have been outstanding this season, and considering the influx of new players on ST and a shortened offseason, their play has been great (especially in coverage).
What I am getting at is this turnaround may have been sparked by one player, but the reality is the turnaround started about a year ago this week. When what I beleive is the best owner in sports understood his mistakes and did what was right. While the tunr around isn't complete, we are so much better than where we were a year ago, we all need to say a thank you to Mr. Bowlen for having the courage to can McDaniels, pay the costs in money and bad pub for the firing, but get the team on the right tracks.
Go Broncos, the journey is only begining.
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