, BRONCO BEAT WRITER, DENVER POST
This week, I am pleased to welcome Denver Post columnist and Bronco Beat Writer Mike Klis to the MHR. He was kind enough to answer some questions for us about the Broncos, the aura of old Mile High Stadium, and the legacy of Jake Plummer.
--MHR - The similarities between 2005 and 2006 so far are pretty scary. Do you think the lack of reps in the preseason for Jake, and the offense as a whole, has an effect on this team more than some others?
MK - Good points. There is a rhythm to the Broncos' offense, a precision that can be lost by inactivity. I do believe that by not having the starters play in the final preseason game negatively affects the offensive execution for the season opener. I understand why Shanahan doesn't play his starters in the preseason finale _ the risk of injury, and the need to evaluate the back-end of the roster, are greater than keeping the first-team offense sharp. But I wouldn't be surprised if he makes some kind of late-preseason adjustment next year.
--MHR - A lot has been said about Jake Plummer, but the fact remain that Mike Shanahan has a better winning percentage with Jake than with Elway. Have the fans and main-stream media been too hard on Jake, and will anything, even a Super Bowl win, be good enough for Jake Plummer in Denver?
MK - . I really don't think it's John Elway that weighs on Plummer or any Broncos quarterback so much as the Super Bowl trophy. Before Broncomania breathed, win or lose. Now, fans will forever compare to the current team to the back-to-back Super Bowl teams. I think most fans, not all but most, appreciate Plummer's skills. But I also think most fans wonder if you can win it all with him at QB. I think he can lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl title _ so long as the team doesn't fall behind. But even if Jake wins a Super Bowl, I think fans will wonder if Jay Cutler can play better.
--MHR - Since you are at every home game, have you noticed the Home Field Advantage the Broncos once enjoyed at old Mile High Stadium returning to the new stadium. I know the Broncos have won their last 12 regular season home games, but is the atmosphere back?
MK - impossible for Invesco to recapture the atmosphere of old Mile High for one simple reason _ Invesco is nearly twice as large, in terms of square footage, than Mile High. That means 75,000 people need twice as many decibels in their roar to equal the noise at Mile High. Can't be done. Not that anyone should long for old Mile High. It's just that, you can't have your noise and comfort, too.
--MHR - Mike Shanahan appears to have a cool relationship with the local media, at least from afar. Is that the case, and in private moments, or off the record moments, what is Shanny like?
MK - After covering baseball for 17 1/2 years, one of the most pleasant surprises with my beat switch last summer has been dealing with Shanahan. From afar, he appears icy, intimidating, sensitive to criticism. And while he does keep his guard up at all time, what I've found is Shanahan only has problems with those who take shots from afar, and then don't show up the next day. He has had chilly relationships with sports-radio hosts and columnists, but he respects those who stand behind their opinions by standing in front of them the next day.
--MHR - It looks as if Tony Scheffler is struggling with the pro game so far. Is there some concern within the organization about Tony?
MK - I don't think concern is the right word. Disappointed by his start, perhaps, but not concerned. No matter how talented, there is no predicting when a rookie will come along. The Broncos believe Scheffler will be big-time productive. They just don't know when. If they thought it would already by now, then his splendid preseason fooled them.
--MHR - In your opinion, Is this defense as good as it has played, or is it playing over it's head a bit?
MK - I think in today's age of film, scouting and coaching adjustments, the defense is always as good as it's played. The unit's speed is incredible. I'm a little surprised by how well it's played because I thought the front four would miss Courtney Brown and Trevor Pryce. But one thing that's helped is, with the exception of the token short passes, opposing offenses aren't messing with Champ Bailey's side of the field. That leaves the other 10 guys to cover half a field. Playing defense is easier that way.
--MHR - What is your take on the rest of the season? Does this team have what it takes to go far in the playoffs?
MK - I think the rest of the season has possibilities and uncertainities. It's too early. They still look 11-5/playoff good. But health/injuries are the biggest factor to a team's success/failure in today's NFL. And they will likely play a couple close games that can go either way. I will go out on a limb and say the AFC West is a two-team fight between the Broncos and Chargers.
Our thanks to Mike for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with us!!