After leading his team to the worst record in the NFL, John Fox was hired to coach the team with the second worst record in the NFL. Such a move speaks volumes about the desperate state of affairs for the Broncos and how far they have fallen from respectability.
Most of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Josh 'frat boy' McDaniels. In fairness to Fox, he is a much more established coach who will bring a level-headed approach to the organization that currently is needed. The Panthers season was an aberration ending a string of competitive years and it is the latter which Broncos fans should expect. The future is definitely uncertain, but after a down right embarrassing season, its the only thing Broncos fans can focus on.
Season In Review: 4-12 Denver Broncos
All the hype coming into the season was on Tim Tebow and the curious decision making that led to him being a first-round selection (curious was one of the nicer words I could up with). What Broncos fans should have been focused on was their questionable abilities of their head coach (questionable was one of the nicer words I could come up with) and distinct lack of talent, especially on defense.
If it hasn't already started, the trend is quickly moving towards the theory that focusing on the front four is critical to the success of a defense. The Broncos proved why. With a bunch of guys that make you scratch your head and say who? the Broncos had so few sacks they couldn't have had a field-day race. To put it into perspective, the entire Denver defense managed 23 qb takedowns while Team Freeney-Mathis registered 21. Yikes.
With no pressure up front, the secondary, which should have been a strength, was torched.
Offensively, one of the few areas in which Josh 'frat boy' McDaniels has knowledge, the Broncos had promising success. Kyle Orton lit-up defenses for huge games but - and Denver fans probably already know this - you just can't win with Kyle Orton, especially if you you don't have a dominant defense. He is Trent Dilfer light only there is no Ray Lewis to back him up.
Season Highlights: Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow getting some action (ha ha).
For Colts fans it was definitely week when Peyton Manning lit up the porous (porous was one of the nicer words... you get the point) for 3 touchdowns and 325 yards.
Asides from dominating the Chiefs in week 10, the Broncos never really showed up. In fact they lost by 15 or more 5 times including a horrific 14-59 outing against the rival Raiders. Ouch.
One of the lone bright spots was the play of Kyle Orton. Playing in an offense which was as unbalanced as its coach, Orton flung the ball around. According to the Milehighreport.com, the Broncos threw the ball over 65 percent of the time helping Orton get mentioned in the MVP debate early on before the team started to fade.
Otherwise, Tim Tebow played fairly well and showed definite promise in his first three starts at the end of the season. Such starts were invaluable experience and if John Fox does decide to go with Tebow, the knowledge Tebow gained from those three starts could be a factor as to why.
Offseason Momentum: Trending downward - Too many issues and an aging defense
I would be more excited and comfortable as a Carolina fan than a Denver one. Kicking out McDaniels restores the lost dignity but can Denver fans really rally around and get excited about John Fox? Maybe, but it will be hard.
Ron Rivera led of one the best defenses and the rest of the staff, especially Sean McDermott, are top notch as well. John Fox, as much as I like him, lead the team into the ground. While it wasn't all his fault, its easy to see while Broncos fans might be a tad underwhelmed with his hire.
Otherwise, the aging defense has to be a major concern. Already the defense ranked 25th in opposing passing yards (236 ypg) and 31rst in rushing defense (154 ypg). Our friends over at Milehighreport.com say that John Fox will give up on the 3-4 experiment and return to the 4-3 base defense. This should prolong the longevity of Jamal Williams who at age 34 played hard but is slowing down. What it won't solve is the frightening fact that the Broncos have 6 other defensive starters over the age of 30 including both starting corners and both safeties (one of them the 37 year old Brian Dawkins).
Of course, the biggest offseason challenge, and the elephant in the room, is who will be qb. Does Kyle Orton get his due and keep his starting job after a terrific season (numbers wise), or does John Fox put the ball in the hands of the future, Tim Tebow.
And then there's Brady Quinn... (Golden Domers collectively shake their heads and sigh)
Offseason Anxiety: See Above
Aging defense, who to start at qb, what happened to the Eddie Royal from 2 years ago, ditto for the once potent running game (more on that later) or.... well everything. Tough times ahead for the loyal Broncos fans.
Minus D.J. Williams (and John Elway in the front office), the team is entirely devoid of any superstars, which may explain why Tim Tebow sold so many jerseys.
Draft Desires: Defensive line.
Didn't even need to change the headline from yesterday. I think this will be a common theme for a lot of struggling teams but Denver might need more defensive line help then anyone, especially if it switches back to the 4-3 defense.
Again, like with the Panthers, the names Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson and Nick Fairley from Auburn keep coming up. If the Broncos are really after a pass rush, then Bowers has to be the selection. 2009 sack leader Elvis Dumervil is coming back which should do wonders in terms of getting pressure so pairing him with a young stud DE could really change the Broncos fortunes and give the Broncos a Freeney-Mathis type feel up front.
Sayre Bedinger (also at milehighreport.com) predicts that the Broncos will move on and trade Kyle Orton. An interesting thought as the Broncos only have 6 draft picks and are aging quickly.
Sayre feels such a move could garner a 3rd and 4th pick.
Free Agency Farewells: The Broncos are finally spared
The big name, and a guy who still has a lot left, is Champ Bailey. He has been one of the premiere shut down cornerbacks, and all around players, for the past decade. I have nothing but respect for him.
In the short term, the Broncos need to resign him. Period. If the rebuilding process gains steam, he could be a casualty, in which case Bill Polian better do everything in his power to keep him in the general horse genus.
His signing, or release could be big news for a lot of teams around the league including the Colts.
Otherwise the list is not serious. The Broncos will prioritize signing OT Ryan Harris to keep continuity on the line and will probably lock up place kicker Steven Hauschka. Other considerations will include starting DE Kevin Vickerson and a few others who could shore up special teams. Besides Bailey and Harris none of the players would be sorely missed.
One player who might conjure vengeful thoughts from Colts fans, is Laurence Maroney. Even though he is so washed up, he is still a one-time Patriot.
Premature Glimpse Into the Future
The outlook is gloomy. So gloomy in fact, that they might overtake the Panthers for the worst team in the league. Imagine that: Tebow or Luck? You think you have a Qb controversy, just wait until next year. Realistically, unless Tebow finds his Gator magic 4/5 wins is more likely.
John Fox will definitely help. He had a hard time connecting with a younger team in Carolina over the past few years and has always been more comfortable with a veteran locker room. He definitely has that here and should connect with and motivate a team in desperate need of direction.
One area that his presence will make an immediate difference is the running game. Josh 'no-it-all' Mcdaniels inherited the league's best zone blocking team and within a few months dismantled it for his preferred man to man blocking scheme. Obviously, Denver went from producing 11 1,000 yard rushers in Shanahan's 14 years to producing 0 in Mcdaniel's two. Bravo Josh.
Reports are that coach Fox is eager to reinstate the zone blocking scheme and take advantage of the remaining quick lighter blockers that are holdovers from the Shanahan era. If true, such a scheme should allow Knowshon Moreno to shine.
Still 5-11 seems generous.
Threat to the Stampede: 0
Unless the league expands to 18 games and the Broncos are the AFC West team that the Colts draw, there is no way we will see them. We all wish we could but there is not a chance that Denver makes the playoffs.
If they do, lets hope we draw them because judging by our past playoff encounters the betting line would be off-the-charts.
Tune in tomorrow as we head north to battle the frigid cold in Buffalo.