Here's the thing, I need a sanity break from all the conflicting reports about you-know-who. I can't bring myself to read another 9am report about someone saying he's coming back, only to have a 10am report saying he isn't. And then watch it repeat itself at least two to three more times that same day... every...single...day... it's madness I tell you, madness (and that's coming from a blowhard like me)!
So I'm here to offer
myself you a much-needed break from "Peyton Watch: 2015" (cool Dateline NBC music shall follow).
Let's talk about the running back situation for a second, shall we? And yes, before I get started, I'm perfectly aware that this is February and that things will change once free agency and the draft happen. But hey, we have to talk about something, right? So let's begin.
2014 saw the disappearance of the "heir apparent" (to whom is the real question) in Montee Ball and the emergence of C.J. Anderson. Who ever saw that coming (besides some of us who are still owed a $50 bet about CJ from a year ago)?
More importantly that what was accomplished by C.J. in 2014 is what will happen to C.J. and Montee in 2015? Will they split carries? Will C.J. have the starting gig by default? Will the Broncos give the job to Montee by default? Will the be an open competition for the starting job? Will one of them be traded? Let's hammer out ideas about all of that below.
2014 Running Backs:
2014 was suppose to be Montee Ball's breakout year. He was coming off of a very impressive last half of the season in 2013 thanks in large part to the game slowing down for him and his pass blocking vastly improving. Montee was poised to grab the starting spot by the horns and never look back. How many yards would he get? 1,000? 1,500? 2,000? Heck, the sky was the limit right? THUD. That was the sound of his expectations once he had surgery in training camp and then tried coming back too quickly and tweaking his groin. After the groin tweak, he tried coming back too soon and promptly tore his groin and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. For all the promise he showed in 2013, nobody can claim 2014 as anything but a bust of a year for the assumed starting running back and Terrell Davis pick to be the breakout running back in the NFL.
But fear, not MHR faithful, we had Ronnie freaking Hillman. Ugh. Yes, I know he ripped off a whopping two straight 100 yard performances. And yes, he impressed me with his hunger, but he was and probably always will be in my doghouse. So let's just move on because ultimately, Hillman was benched in favor of a better option.
That's right ladies and gentlemen, C.J. Mother Freaking Anderson baby! C.J. exploded on the scene with his ridiculous catch and run against the Raiders for 51 yards for a touchdown.
Thankfully the highlights didn't end with that play. In C.J.'s Tour de Force back half of the season, he actually led the entire NFL (yes, including DeMarco Murry) in rushing yards and total yards and was tied for the lead in touchdowns. Talk about dominance! He was and did everything that Montee Ball was supposed to do.
But does that mean he's gong to be the default starting running back for the Broncos in 2015?
Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the most ridiculously boring time of the NFL. Some may argue it's June through July (between Mini Camps and Training Camp), but I beg to differ. I honestly believe this is the real "dead time" of the NFL because there is literally no news to report. There is no action to be taken. There is nothing to actually "report" on. There's only speculation about absolutely every aspect of an upcoming uncertainty. (yes, that sounds weird, but it's the truth.).
With the new coaching staff in place, and with the upcoming free agency period, draft, and camps, all we can be sure of is that the 2015 Broncos will be different than the 2014. How different? Who knows! Anyone who tells you they know are snakeskin oil salesmen. Anyone who tells you they have an idea are also trying to sell you beach front property in Montana. Anyone who doesn't end articles asking more questions than they have answers to is simply blowing smoke up your.... yeah. Let's just say that at this point in the offseason, the only fact anyone knows is that they don't know anything. Which is why I'm here to speculate and ask questions.
2015 Running Back Scenario One:
C.J. Anderson, despite the coaching change and offensive line changes coming, will enter the 2015 as the undisputed starting running back.
How likely is this to happen? In my opinion, I'm putting this at a 25% chance of fruition. Why so low? Simple: Gary Kubiak is the new head coach and all he's ever seen of C.J. will be from film, not his own eyes. For all the wonderful moments and ridiculous levels of heart and determination C.J. has shown us, he will still be a question mark for Kubiak. Until coaches actually see players perform in front of them, they will never be fully convinced they are the correct fit for them. Especially new coaches. Keep in mind that Kubiak has never seen Montee either. For all he knows, Montee is every bit if not a better fit than C.J. is. Yes, you may not agree, but until it plays out in camp and preseason, that is the assumption that any competent head coach who wants the best player on the field needs to take. This is why I'm giving this scenario only a 25% likelihood of happening at this stage in the offseason.
2015 Running Back Scenario Two:
Montee Ball is once again proclaimed the running back of the future. And honestly, why shouldn't he be? If you are completely honest with yourself, your fandom, and your eyesight, the last time we saw a fully healthy Montee Ball was in 2013 when he was playing a hell of a lot like C.J. Anderson did last season, and as a rookie to boot. I give this an equal 25% chance of happening as with C.J. being proclaimed the starter, and for much of the same reasons. Kubiak simply hasn't seen a healthy Montee Ball. Heck, we haven't seen a healthy Montee Ball in a full calendar year! That's a long time. Plus, remember, Kubiak's offensive philosophy and style fits Montee's running style to a T. If there is a running back on the Broncos roster who SHOULD be a dominant force in that offense, it's Montee Ball (blah blah Oregon's line blah blah). The facts of the matter are still the same: The last time Montee was healthy, he was pretty dominant, and as a rookie to boot. He also played in a system that didn't fit him very well. To be performing at a high level while a rookie, and in a system that didn't fit should count for something, especially when picking a starter in a system that finally does fit his style.
2015 Running Back Scenario Three:
Kubiak deploys the dreaded running back by committee (RBBC) approach and totally messes up any chemistry and rhythm that our running backs would otherwise gain throughout the game. I'm giving this a 10% likelihood of happening.
I know rbbc is hated by many (especially fantasy football owners), but in theory, it does have its perks. This system keeps running backs fresh. This system keeps running backs healthy (or at least takes away some of the chances for injury by limiting snaps), and this system can potentially keep quality starters on the field instead of keeping a quality starter on the bench. The downside is that running backs can't find their rhythm, so instead of stringing multiple plays together in order to finally gash the defense for quality run after quality run, they will instead rely on singular plays and singular moments that might not add up to overall impact and success. But hey, at least the backs will stay fresh, for what it's worth.
2015 Running Back Scenario Four:
In this scenario, we find Kubiak proclaiming that there will be an open competition for the starting running back position. I'm giving this a 39% chance of happening. Why so high? Easy, its because this is probably the correct way to approach things. Kubiak will want to see both backs in his offense. He won't want to paint anyone into the corner by proclaiming the competition over with before it begins. In all actuality, this should probably be around 100% in terms of "likelihood", but I won't go there or else I'd be proclaiming to know something as fact, and we all know there are only two facts in life: Death and taxes!
2015 Running Back Scenario Five:
In this scenario, I'm going to say something very unpopular. In this scenario that I'm giving a whopping 1% chance of happening, I'm going to shock everyone by saying that C.J. Anderson will be traded and Montee Ball will be given the starting role.
Hold the Bat Phone for a second. What kind of crazy substances is Pete smoking up there in Denver you say? Just listen to me for a second, and keep in mind that I'm only giving this a 1% chance of happening, and realistically, probably a 0% chance of happening because it's so out there and so brilliant that it will never happen.
Trade C.J. for picks/players, even if it's in package deals to move up in the draft (outside of the 1st round I'd assume, but you never know). Why on God's green earth would I say such a ridiculously moronic thing? Simple: Because you have two starters playing the same position, and that position calls for only one of the two to be on the field at any given time.
You see, unlike the wide receiver position, if you have two starting caliber players, they can't be on the field at the same time. What good would it be to have Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers on the same team when only one of them could take the snaps? You would literally be doing nothing with a player that has value. As a GM, that is a huge no-no. Now, I'm not saying C.J. and Montee have that level of talent, but they are both starters in my mind, especially in this offense, so you would be wasting talent/value on 100% of offensive snaps by having only one of them taking handoffs on any given play.
Working off the premise that a GM would want to maximize value and talent on the team, it does make logical sense that you would get more value for a player via a trade (even for a low round draft pick) than to have that value sitting on the bench. Yes, I know injuries happen, so you wouldn't want to trade anyone and have the cupboard bare in case your starter goes down, but that's not the point. The point is that C.J. has value and Montee does not. That is why C.J. would be the person on the trading block.
"What value" does an undrafted player at a diminishing position have you say? "#1 in the NFL in yards and touchdowns is value" I say. A pro bowl berth is value! These things have tangible value for players, and with C.J. being so young, I could see a team offering a low pick for him. And hey, you still have Montee in your back pocket. Remember, Kubiak's system should fit Montee's style like a glove. C.J. and Montee should be equally effective, but again, you can only play one while the other wastes away on the bench. So why not take that wasted value and turn it into a tangible asset?
I know what you're saying, you're saying "Montee sucks!" I get it. Most people are probably saying that. I just implore you all to remember the back half of 2013 and how good he really did look. Scrub 2014 from your memory as he was legitimately injured. Remember, this guy tailored his running game after Terrell Davis, and he will now be playing in the same system that Davis played in. Yes, it's a leap of faith, but yes, I fully believe that Montee could get it done. This is why I give this a 1% chance of happening (even though it really should be 0%, but if I said 0%, then I couldn't send any of you down the rabbit hole with me).
So what's it going to be Broncos Country? Which scenario is the most likely to pan out? Which scenario do you think should pan out? Sound off below and lets get some good non-Peyton talk going for a change.