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On the Verge of Carpe Diem?

Four QBs; images courtesy of SBNation
Four QBs; images courtesy of SBNation

    I love the expression "Carpe Diem" -- part of a phrase from a Latin poem by Horace -- that has been popularized and satirized in literature and media.  The phrase is most commonly translated as "seize the day," and is most commonly interpreted to mean that one should take control of the events of the day.  This is interesting, given the fact that "carpe" literally means "pick," pluck," pluck off," or gather."  It is made even more interesting when we realize that Horace uses it to mean "enjoy," or "make use of."  The point he makes in his poem is that we should enjoy the day because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.  I imagine right about now, some of you are thinking "What on earth is he talking about?" or "Why is he talking about it?" or even "Why am I wasting my time with this?"

    After reading the wealth of thought-provoking and informative posts and stories that have appeared here at MHR since the draft, and after reading many of the news stories regarding the Broncos in other forums and on other sites, I find myself wondering if we are not on the verge of seeing a case of carpe diem occurring in Dove Valley.

I'll explain after the jump

    I feel I must begin this article by admitting and reaffirming that I am one of the biggest Orton homers here at MHR.  When Orton first came to Denver, I knew nothing about him.  Nada. Zilch.  Zero.  When I dared ask questions about both Cutler and Orton on the Denver Post message board, I was unequivocally flamed for not condemning McDaniels for trading away the wunderkind Cutler.  The most I could seem to learn was that Orton was an inconsequential throw-in in that blockbuster trade.  Following that experience I stumbled across MHR.  Here I was treated to civil discourse that looked at all sides of the issue without the name-calling and personal attacks.  I was encouraged to do something I enjoy: research a topic of interest, present my findings and discuss them with others who may or may not agree with me.

    What I found in researching Orton, was a player who had been thrown into the mix as a rookie, was sat a year, played minimally his third year, and became the starter for a 2nd time in his 4th year.  He was portrayed as a quiet, confident player.  He quickly earned the respect of his teammates and coaches.  He became a field general with a neck beard.  He showed a pattern of improving his production in each year that he was a primary starter.  He wasn't particularly flashy, nor as mobile as we might like, but he did a good job of protecting the ball, as he learned to run a new offensive system and build rapport with a new set of teammates.  I found myself liking this young QB.  I decided to take a "carpe diem -- enjoy the day" approach when it came to Orton and the Broncos.  I'm still convinced that Orton has the skill set to take the Broncos to the Super Bowl, at some point in the future.  As I mentioned before the fold, as much as I may like Orton and would like to see him hefting a Lombardi Trophy in the Orange and Blue, there are many articles and news items that have appeared since the draft that have prompted me to wonder if we are not about to see an unprecedented example of McDaniels' carpe diem -- seize the day. 

    The majority of the discussions have had to do with exactly when fans expect to see Tim Tebow take over the reins of the offense.  It is widely assumed that Orton will start in 2010, and then be replaced, if not in 2010 then by 2011 at the latest.  There are those, like myself, who have stood our ground saying that Orton will be the starter throughout 2010, and whether or not he'll be around in the years that follow depends largely on how successful the offense is in the upcoming season.  Lost in this Orton/Tebow discussion has been the role of both Quinn and Brandstater.  Yet, as my wife would say, the synapses in my brain decided to fire in an unusual way, connecting thoughts that I'd not thought to connect previously.  The logic runs like this:

1)Denver releases Chris Simms and trades for Brady Quinn -- supposedly as a backup and to provide additional competition for Orton.

2)Brandstater seems to drop off the radar.

3)Denver drafts Tim Tebow, despite already having 2 veteran QBs and a 2nd year QB.

4)Ryan Clady (LT) -- the QB's blindside protector -- injures his knee, requiring surgery.

I must admit that some of what follows from this point forward is based on my virtual lack of knowledge regarding sports injuries.

5)Is it much of a reach to believe that post-injury Clady (if he plays at all in 2010) will not be as much of an immovable object as was pre-injury Clady?

6)Is it unreasonable to believe that Ryan Harris (RT) -- who has had more recovery time than Clady -- will be more effective in protecting the QB than Clady?

Based on #1 & #2:

7)Would this not, in essence, mean that "blind side" protection would favor a left-handed quarterback?

8)Further, would not having both starting tackles coming off injuries effectively mean that it would be easier to provide protection for a more mobile quarterback, irregardless of which side is his blind side?

At this point, even as much of an Orton homer as I has to admit that Orton's scrambling ability is not going to particularly intimidate anyone.

9)McDaniels has repeatedly talked about how he is going to institute an offensive scheme that will "revolutionize" football.  His work in New England seems to be an offensive that uses power running and a passing attack that favors short to intermediate range passes.  It has also been speculated that he is planning to implement key components of an Urban Meyer's style spread offense.  It requires a QB that can pick up quickly on what is happening and can make pre-snap adjustments as needed.  McDaniels has also said that he plans to unveil more of the playbook this year.

10)In a post draft interview, McDaniels commented that one of the things that impressed him about Tebow was the fact that after a short session of classroom instruction, Tebow was able to accurately use the offensive terminology to describe and discuss the offensive plays McDaniels had tried to teach him.

Now, I am well-versed in the arguments against starting a rookie QB.  I think that when, at all possible, rookies coming into the league -- irregardless of position -- should be given as much time as possible to develop a rapport with their teammates, learn the system being used by the team, and become accustomed to the pressure and speed of the NFL game.  Despite all of that:

11)Based on #1-#9, is it that much of a reach to consider the possibility that McDaniels might choose to accelerate his plans to unveil/fully implement his amoeba offense with it's strong modifications of the Meyer's offense, and use Tebow to run it?

I could see two or three potential advantages to this choice:

12)It might minimize the protection issues by switching the blind side to the tackle who's had the greater recovery time.

13)It might minimize the protection issues by putting a pocket passer with greater mobility on the field.

14)It might provide a rookie QB with some breathing space by its very novelty -- an offense based on the Meyer's spread (a system which, incidentally, Tebow has been working with for the last four years) -- which might make it more difficult for defenses to game plan against, and this added to some of the things McDaniels was doing last year.

Should this happen, it could create a rather interesting QB situation, especially since it might have the Broncos choose to do the unusual: carry 4 QBs on the roster.

15)Under this scenario, Tebow would become the starter.  Quinn, being more mobile than Orton would become the backup, while Orton (who is generally thought to be gone by 2011 anyway) becomes a player/coach tasked with mentoring the younger QBs, especially on game day between offensive series.  Brandstater then becomes the odd man out who either ends up on the practice squad or is released outright.

One other thing led  me to consider the possibility of McDaniels choosing to practice "carpe diem" -- "seize the day:"  the parallels between his coaching career and that of his mentor, Bill Belichick.  While such comparisons generally prove to be little more than an intellectual exercise that has no bearing on what happens in real life, in this case, I was intrigued by what I read.  Please note, the following picture is being painted with very broad brush strokes.

16)Belichick started out as a Special Assistant, became an assistant coach, worked on the offensive side of the ball, became a defensive assistant then a DC, and finally became an HC.  In New England, he implemented a new offensive system, switched a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, had a major injury to a starter in his second year, and ended up replacing his starting QB.  In that second year, he won the Super Bowl.

17)McDaniels started out as a Personnel Assistant, became an assistant coach, worked on the defensive side of the ball, became an offensive assistant, then an OC, and finally became an HC.  In Denver, he implemented a new offensive system, switched a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, replaced the starting QB, had a major injury to a starter in his second year.  In this second year, who knows what will happen?

    I know that there are a lot of holes in this scenario.  McDaniels' repeated statements that Orton is the starter, and he expects Kyle to be much improved in his second year in the system (then, again, I seem to remember statements about how some other QB was "The guy" right up until he was traded).  The many valid arguments against starting a rookie QB when you don't have to.  The virtual invisibility of Brandstater in the Broncos' public statements raises questions about him.  There have been many reasons cited about why Tebow is not ready to be an NFL starter -- beyond the simple fact of him being a rookie.  The popularity and respect for Orton in the locker room says a lot about how he can generate team chemistry.  The list goes on and on as to why we should expect to see Orton continue as our starter.

    Personally, I firmly believe that Orton will be our starter come Week 1, that he will be our starter throughout 2010, and, if he takes us on a run deep into the playoffs will be our starter in 2011 as well.  Yet, there are just enough intriguing parallels, patterns, and snippets of information coming out of Dove Valley since the draft to make me wonder if we might not see McDaniels compress his timeline. 

The only thing I can claim to know for certain is that as the 2010 off season continues, and once the 2010 season starts, I plan to "carpe diem" -- "Enjoy the day."