If you don't already have a twitter account, I would suggest that you think about getting one. It's a free service and depending upon who you choose to follow, you can sometimes get to "listen in" on some intriguing conversations -- such as the one I recently saw between MHR members Nick Castillo and Sayre Bedinger. The two were having a lively conversation about why the Broncos would pursue Peyton Manning instead of defensive free agents. At one point, Nick made a comment to the effect of "Didn't Elway see the Broncos defense get torched by New England for 45 points?" My apologies to Nick for not having the exact quote.
That comment got me to thinking about the needs of the team. Certainly five losses in which the opposing team scored forty or more points is a telling one about the quality of our defense. So why pursue Manning at the possible expense of obtaining defensive free agents? Perhaps an answer lies in where Elway and Fox see the team's greatest need.
Take a jump with me
The conversation between Nick and Sayre prompted me to take a second look at the 2011 season. As was pointed out, five times in eighteen games the Broncos surrendered forty or more points: Green Bay 49-23, Detroit 45-10, New England 41-23, Buffalo 40-10, New England 45-10. Five blow outs. Not a good sign for the defense. Yet, is it as lopsided as it first appears?
When we look a little more closely at those blow out games, we find:
Green Bay 49-23
Four turnovers (3 interceptions, 1 fumble) led to 21 points for Green Bay and blew open what had started as a close game.
Three turnovers (1 interception, 2 fumbles) led to 14 points for Detroit and exaggerated a game that Detroit was handling effectively.
New England 41-23
Three fumbles led to 13 points for New England and turned a game that Denver had started out in the lead, then had been staying close, into a rout.
Four turnovers (3 interceptions and 1 fumble) led to 17 points for Buffalo and broke open a see-saw battle.
New England 45-10
This game had only one fumble which to led to 7 points for New England in a game that the Patriots controlled from the very beginning.
So out of those five blow out games, the Broncos had been competitive in three of them until the offense started misfiring. Offensive (plus one special teams) turnovers contributed to the opposing teams scoring 72 points -- this was 33% of the points scored in those blow outs. That's not even speculating about the points the Broncos might have managed on one or more of those aborted drives.
Let's also consider the fact that the Broncos defense held opposing teams to seventeen, or less, points seven times: Tennessee 17, Miami 15, Kansas City 10, New York Jets 13, San Diego 13, Chicago 10, Kansas City 7. The Broncos were 5-2 in those games.
We should now consider the flip side -- offensive production. The Broncos played eighteen games in 2011. In eleven of those eighteen games, the offense put less than twenty-one points on the board: Oakland 20, Tennessee 14, Miami 18, Detroit 10, Kansas City 17, New York Jets 17, San Diego 16, Chicago 13, Buffalo 14, Kansas City 3. The Broncos were 5-6 in those eleven games.
Let's summarize this another way: when the defense yielded 20 or less points (seven games), the Broncos went 5-2 and when the defense surrendered 24 or less (eleven games), Denver went 8-3. On the other hand, when the offense was held to 20 or less points (eleven games), Denver went 5-6 and when they were held to 24 or less (fifteen games) the Broncos went 6-9.
One final consideration: Denver had to play from behind in fourteen of their eighteen games in 2011. They lost eight of those fourteen. It's not that much of a stretch to see how an offense struggling to put points on the board contributed to that situation. I get the feeling that Elway and Fox want to help the Broncos' defense by making the other team play from behind.
I get the feeling that Elway and Fox believe that defense is only in need of minor adjustments while the offense is in need of significant improvement. I'm also inclined to believe that neither Elway nor Fox believed that Tebow can deliver the kind of improvement they want to see in the offense in 2012. More likely, they view Tebow as a development project, at best, who could benefit from working with Manning. Unfortunately, I believe a small percentage of overly vocal fans who want to promote Tebow over anything else will make that an untenable situation for the Broncos.
If their thinking is, in fact, that the greatest need is to jump start the offense, then their pursuit of Manning makes a great deal of sense.
What do you think: are Elway and Fox more concerned about the offense than the defense?