As I sit here, less than an hour after the ball dropped on the eastern seaboard, happy that my sick one year old is finally resting peacefully, I began to contemplate the recent past of our beloved Denver Broncos and its immediate future. The problem that has troubled me for nearly half the season is that this team should not be as bad as it is. I look at the roster and I see talent that should be getting the job done, yet hasn't.
I know I am likely in the minority, as a 4-11 record will ensure, but I think I came across something that may just be that ray of hope we are all looking for. And no, it's name is not Tim Tebow. The ray of hope is that this team is not devoid of talent, this team is not as devoid in talent as was the team the Broncos fielded in 2008. What this team is devoid in, is confidence in themselves and experience from their coaches. I think the current coaching staff, though I've hammered them collectively in recent weeks, have the ability to coach at this level, but I am wholly focused on their current inability to get results.
Thanks to John Bena, I caught an article written by Andrew Mason on one John Fox. What sold me on my own belief that the talent on this roster is not as vacant as other major media outlets have led us to believe is this simple excerpt from Mason's blog, MaxDenver.com:
He (John Fox) is also the kind of coach who can find ways to utilize the talent on hand, and you can look at the Panthers’ 2003 NFC title-winning team for evidence. Their starting lineup in Super Bowl XXXVIII included 14 starters who were a part of a 1-15 team 25 months earlier. Twenty-two of the 44 Panthers who played in that Super Bowl were on the 1-15 team. (Compare that with the Broncos’ roster at Arizona; they had just seven starters and 11 players overall who were with the team in 2008.)
The reason I believe the current Broncos roster has more in common with John Fox's 1-15 Panthers of 2001 than the Broncos 2008 is because of the players on this roster I'd prefer to keep than to expend. I'll start with the offense.
Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn, Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, Lance Ball, LenDale White, Brandon Lloyd, Demaryius Thomas, Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal, Eric Decker, Daniel Graham, Richard Quinn, Ryan Harris, Chris Kuper, J.D. Walton, Zane Beadles, Ryan Clady, and Russ Hochstein.
That is twenty guys. If the offense takes up half the roster, well we could theoretically add several more guys to the mix. I want to touch on a few that get more hate than they deserve. First is Daniel Graham. Watch the highlight reels, he is always the first guy to congratulate his teammates after a score. An incoming head coach would be a fool to get rid of a veteran like Graham, not only that, he has taken a seemingly reduced role on offense in stride as Richard Quinn begins to fully transition to the NFL. However, people have their views and no amount of reason or game tape will move the masses from their perceptions. One a bum, always a bum.
Another guy people do not care for, must be the "if they are over 30 they suck" Madden crowd, is Correll Buckhalter. He'll never be the starter, but he provides a unique skill set in a limited role and it would be foolish to discard him without having someone to fill that role. As for Russ Hochstein, he knows the assignments of every single interior line position and is a solid backup.
Brady Quinn is also a guy worth keeping as a backup. Name one backup quarterback that is worth starting in the NFL? Yeah, didn't think so, those guys are all traded to QB needy teams. I think we can live with Brady Quinn for now. As for the rest, I should hope they speak for themselves and the debate is minimal.
Gee, all that for offense? And that was the less pretentious unit on the team! Well, let's take a look at the defense, shall we?
Guys I'd like to see in a Broncos uniform next year: Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan, Marcus Thomas, Ronald Fields, Mario Haggan, Jason Hunter, D.J. Williams, Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, Joe Mays, Champ Bailey, Perrish Cox, Syd'Quan Thompson, Andre Goodman, Cassius Vaughn, Renaldo Hill, Brian Dawkins, and Darcel McBath. I also have three bubble guys in Jamal Williams, Ryan McBean, and David Bruton.
So that's a whooping twenty-one guys on one of the worst defensive units in Broncos history. I'm crazy right? Well that depends on how much you think the results on the field were more due to talent or scheme and coaching. I've slowly come to believe its the latter more than the former.
The first guy I want to cover is Justin Bannan. I have read and heard many people complain about him, but all I have seen from his play is consistently doing his job and making a few plays here and there. He is a lock in my mind. The interior line is where this unit fails miserably, which is why I would love to see the next head coach make the switch back over to a 4-3 defensive scheme. They are weak at linebacker and deep at defensive tackle, except right now this team doesn't use defensive tackles in the sense I am talking about.
Another guy is Brian Dawkins. If you think he has no value on this team, take a listen to Tim Tebow's interview with a local radio station. I'd like to see him return as well. The fact is, wholesale destruction of this team will not result in wins. Keeping the aging veterans, or at least most of them, is ideal because drafting a player is going to take a year or two before they are good enough not to get burned a few times every game. Especially at the cornerback and safety positions.
This team was absolutely horrible in many areas, but most of it was and is mental. They have the talent to win any game, they just need someone to come in to weave it all together. My vote is for John Fox, because he has a proven record of getting the most out of his players. I will also be happy if most of the guys I named are still around next season, with free agency and the draft bolstering an already talented, if under-performing, football team.
As for tomorrow, the Broncos are going to blow up the San Diego Chargers. Well, maybe not blow up, but they'll win. Just the kind of thing this franchise will need heading into another offseason of change and uncertainty. Hopefully it will be the last for quite some time.