Warning: If you want sunshine and happiness about this offseason, look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you like dispassionate and semi-objective analysis from a diehard fan, read on. This is simply a rewind on the offseason from my own extremely confused and unhappy perspective.
Going into this offseason, I was pretty excited about the Broncos. Sure, the defense was awful and the coaching on that side of the ball seemed inept to say the least, but the offense! We had the best young QB in football. The offensive line was young and excellent already. Every skill position was set. On top of that, we had the best offensive mind in football, and the drafting issues appeared to be behind him after a solid 2008 draft.
All we needed was a good defensive draft, some new defensive coaches and this team was Super Bowl bound in the near future, I was convinced.
Then Mike Shanahan was fired. I was stunned at first, but as more info came out and I considered the past, it made sense. Shanahan had refused to fire Bob Slowik, who was clearly not the answer as a defensive coach, or relenquish player personnel control at all. Shanahan's management and player development decisions were questionable at best -- his drafts before the last had been awful with few exceptions. His choices as subordinates had not gotten the job done. Shanahan's obsession with power was counter-productive. When Pat Bowlen said it was time for a change, I accepted it. One step backwards to make two steps forward, right?
Some time later, the hire was announced: Josh McDaniels. At first it seemed a strange choice -- the 32 year old McDaniels had little in the way of a resume and was another offensive-minded coach. Hadn't we just fired the greatest offensive mind in football?
But as I read the information, I managed to rationalize it to myself. McDaniels had the potential to be a Shanahan-level genius according to all reports, and this new coach wouldn't have all of the player personnel choices left to him. A better power structure would lead to better drafting and personnel decisions, right? Perhaps he could get a better DC in (and he did in Mike Nolan). One step backwards in coaching ability for 2 steps forward in organizational structure, right?
Over the next few weeks, Jeremy Bates, widely considered a brilliant offensive mind and a "keeper", was let go, along with the Goodmans as GMs. Not a big deal, I told myself, ust more old guard cleaning out. But wait a second, who's in control of player personnel now? Brian Xanders, the new GM, is mostly a numbers guy. Does this mean the coach is back in control of player personnel? Wasn't having a better power structure a major reason Shanahan was fired? Well, maybe McDaniels is better at player personnel. Yeah, that's it.
As free agency commenced, things appeared to be in good shape. Brain Dawkins and the glut of other signings were focused on plugging secondary holes on a simply awful defense that needed help virtually everywhere. There were a couple puzzling RB signings given the presence of Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain as at least passable options, but whatever. No biggie, just a coach wanting some more depth. And dumping Mike Leach, a brilliant long snapper and well-liked locker room figure for the Pats long snapper? Why would McDaniels do that -- is he that obsessed with his own guys that he would risk alienating the locker room like that? Puzzling...
Then, the Cutler/Cassel fiasco occurred. No need to recap the mess, but I felt there was blame on both sides, and because of immaturity on both sides the situation was untenable. You can't have a disgruntled and newly-revealed-to-be-immature guy like that leading your team, right? No choice but to trade him, and we got excellent value with 2 firsts, a third and The Neckbeard himself, Kyle Orton. One step backwards in QB talent to take two steps forward fixing the defense, right?
Which brings us to today, the first day of the draft. Time to fix the front 7, at last! After all this, our needs are clear: we need starters at NT, 3-4 DE, and rush OLB, and we have both the picks to make it happen and to make sure we don't have reach for these positions of need or ignore great value out there.
Instead, we got...this. At pick 12, Brian Orakpo is available, a great value by all accounts AND at a position of need. No brainer! But we passed him up for Knowshon Moreno -- another good value pick and a good player for sure, but at a position the team had already pursued in free agency (RB), and that had substantial talent at the spot already in Hillis and others. I am puzzled, and frustrated. I guess we'll be taking front 7 guys with the rest of the picks, right?
Pick 18, Robert Ayers. A one year wonder 4-3 DE that most figure as a rush OLB in the pros. He's got red flags for me -- major Jarvis Moss deja-vu anyone? Isn't he a bit small to be a 3-4 DE? -- but hey, at least we're improving an area of need without reaching too much.
Pick 37, Alphonso Smith, for the Bronco's #1 next year. Look, I like Smith. He's a value at #37 despite his size. But didn't we spend money in free agency to patch up this position? Aren't there awesome options available right now at positions of need, like Connor Barwin? I'm no Brace fan, but isn't he a fit at a huge need in NT? Most of all, we gave up a probable top 10 pick next year for this guy? I'm literally speechless. I cannot conceive what might possibly have happened to trigger this sort of insanity.
Pick 48, Darcel McBath? A SAFETY? WITH A 3-4 ROUND GRADE?! All of the above arguments apply -- not a position of need, huge holes to fill, etc. Why not wait until the 3rd round? Why not Fili Moala or Paul Kruger? or Sean Smith if you have to go safety? Stunned.
Pick 64, Richard Quinn? A BLOCKING TE?! WITH A 4TH ROUND GRADE?! Can't you wait until the 3rd at least instead of wasting picks? Why do we need this when we have one of the best blocking TEs in the league in Graham? McDaniels really thinks this -- a blocking TE that will play in goal line sets only for the foreseeable future -- is a greater need than a NT or OLB, and worth trading up for. Simply incredible.
This offseason is like a bad dream. We've gone from having a dominant young QB leading a killer offense with proven brilliance at coach, to question marks at QB and the coach. We've gone from a flat terrible defense, with most issues stemming from the worst front 7 in Denver history to...virtually the same front 7 with a different scheme and one more player, and an upgraded secondary. Have we learned nothing the last years of good secondary with poor front 7 play? It's worthless to have that! We've traded a future first rounder -- a likely top 10 one -- and traded it for a mid 2nd round pick at a position not even a need.
HT is attempting to tell us that this somehow makes sense. I completely disagree. This draft and offseason shows ignorance of basic football principles like building strong lines first. The bizarre doubling of expensive FA signings, trading up at huge cost, and spending most of these high picks on positions not even near the highest need shows that there's been no plan at all, just huge overvaluation of certain skills and positions.
At least this isn't unprecedented -- overvaluation of certain positions and talents to the complete ignorance of more important needs is the trademark of a well known team: the Raiders. I can't even believe I just said that, but it's true. This draft and offseason is completely Raiders-esque.
I hope I'm wrong, but I see this team on a course for disaster. But I'm still a fan no matter how awful things are.