I have to admit, writing about how the Chiefs are slipping into the bottom feeder class of the NFL the other day was cathartic. I usually don’t spend much time bashing other team, I mean I do bash Patriot Fans, but their team is excellent, it’s hard to speak ill of a squad that executes that well.
But do to how much I enjoyed ripping the Chiefs; I decided to turn this into a series. Why I am happy that I’m not a fan of “insert AFC West team here”. And since there are only 3 AFC west teams other than the Raiders, and since I have already completed one of these, I like my chances to actually finish the series. (Unlike the draft series, which kind of died an early death).
So that said, lets take a look at another team in the AFC west, and today it’s the Denver Bronco’s in the crosshairs.
At first glance it’s hard as a Raider fan to write a scathing review of the Bronco’s. The teams have many similarities.
West Coast Offense
Zone Stretch Blocking Scheme
Young Unproven QB with whom the Franchises Future Rests
Overpays for Free Agents
But then you look a bit deeper, and the Bronco’s problems clearly run deeper, and due to Shanahan’s untouchable status, aren’t going to get fixed anytime soon.
And you have to start at the Top, with Pat Bowlen. For all the hate Al gets for being a meddling owner, Pat deserves equal for being a dupe. And that’s about the kindest thing you can say about someone who has bought Mike Shanahan’s shit for so many years. Honestly, how long can Shanahan ride the coattails of the Elway Super Bowls, and enjoy carte blanche to run the team into the ground.
Make no mistake, Bowlen has allowed Shanahan to hijack his team and remake it in his own image. Shanahan has final say in personnel; gamelan and I suspect what color underwear Bowlen puts on in the morning.
So how has this worked out for Denver? Lets start with the vaunted offensive line:
The Bronco’s zone stretch system gave the team one of the best running games in Football for the last 10+ years. One running back after another came into the system and produced, the NFL myth became that Shanahan could make filet out of dog shit when it came to running backs. However the bloom is off this Rose in recent years, as Shanahan has lost his magic touch. This isn’t due to the failures of the backs (although moves like Maurice Clarrett are laughable) this is due to Shanahan being unable to evaluate lineman that fit the system.
There is no longer a clear direction on this offensive line. It has been rumored for a few seasons that the Bronco’s were looking to move away from the zone-stretch, but they have yet to undertake the full scale remodeling that this would entail.
At LT the Bronco’s have seemingly replaced the retiring Matt Lepsis with rookie Ryan Clady. So the change to power blocking has taken place at one position, and while Clady looks to be the real thing at LT, he sure doesn’t fit a zone-stretch scheme.
Also this off-season, the heir apparent to Tom Nalen, Chris Myers, was allowed to leave via Free Agency. Yet another questionable move on the line. Nalen is on his last legs, while, IMO, one of the best centers of the last 15-year, it is time for him to hang up the cleats. Is there a problem with Myers, not according to Alex Gibbs, as he is now a Texan running the zone-stretch there.
These two moves have thrown the Bronco’s line from strength to a potential weekness. There is no real back up to Nalen available, and the rest of the line is a bunch of mismatched parts. The failure to adequately replace aging vets in recent years will cause the Bronco’s run game to falter in the near future.
After the line, you have to look at the running backs. Shanahan changes his backs more often than he changes his socks (which is why he is known as Stinky). The latest move was to jettison Travis Henry due to his lack of dedication. A better GM would never have put any stock into Henry, who’s only dedication since entering the league has been to expanding his lineage while smoking herb. Leaving the Bronco’s to count on Selvin Young as their workhorse. I feel better already.
Then you look to Shanahan’s outstanding work with the Wide Receivers. Mike has been unable to find a long-term answer at Wide Receiver since lucking upon Rod Smith. The latest “Star” in Denver is Brandon Marshall, who is as likely to find himself behind bars as in Probowls if he keeps on his current track. And while as a Raider fan I have little room to crow about Javon Walker, at least the Raiders didn’t give up draft picks for him. But hey Denver Fans, at least you have Brandon Stokely locked up for the next 3 years.
Here is the kicker, for all the problems on Offense, Shanahan’s moves on Defense makes them look good.
Who can forget bringing aboard almost the entire Cleveland Browns line a couple years back, despite the fact they sucked as a unit. Now the Bronco’s pin their hopes on Dewayne Robertson regaining his, Strike that, deciding he wants to play for the 1st time in his career. Jets fans, here is your chance to join with Raider fans and point and laugh.
At linebacker, D.J. Williams is excellent when allowed to play outside, and it looks like the Broncos will allow that this year. But do you have any faith in Boss Bailey covering Gonzalez, Gates and Miller. For some reason the Rat does. And who is going to play the Mike? Niko Koutouvides, bless you, do you need a tissue?
The Corners are the only unit that is solid here, arguably the best in the league depending on how you rank Bly vs. Hall. But behind them you have 98 year old John Lynch and Hamza Abdullah. Can you say the middle is open?
Looking at this you have to wonder how Bowlen can allow Shanahan anywhere near the controls of the roster. But for some reason Shanahan is Teflon. He has been allowed to pin the defenses struggles on DC after DC, rather than being forced to accept any responsibility for the unit’s lack of talent anywhere other than CB. He has been allowed to turn the offense from a fearsome unit, to one completely lacking direction.
And that is what it comes down to with Denver. There is no accountability at the Top; every failure is someone else’s fault. Shanahan is the George Bush of the NFL. The Buck stops somewhere else, with Bowlen being the Sean Hanity believing any BS that is blown up his ass.
The fact of the matter is, as long as Shanahan is allowed free reign over the team, the Bronco’s are not getting back to the Super Bowl, and by the time that Bowlen wakes up, chances are the Damage would run so deep that it will take another 2-4 years to get back on track.
Clueless owner, a coach accountable to no one, and a roster that is on the verge of falling apart at the seems. Looking at Denver, Damn it feels good to be a Raider.