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Published on 09/13/2010 at Mon Sep 13 17:09.
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Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen once dubbed Mike Shanahan his "coach for life." Now he's playing for a different team. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen once dubbed Mike Shanahan his "coach for life." Now he's playing for a different team. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Once upon a time — 2008 — the Mike Shanahan-led Denver Broncos were 8-5, boasted Pro Bowlers Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, and were apparently playoff-bound. The future was bright. Then, in three horrific weeks, the wheels fell off. Shanahan was fired. Cutler was traded. And Marshall pretended to be a punter.

For better or worse, this series of posts is intended to keep tabs on those who, at the time, looked to be key cogs in the Broncos’ future. Our goal isn’t to stir the pot; it’s to assess these franchise-shaking moves week-to-week in 2010 as objectively as possible, draw some conclusions, then let you draw your own. This is a look at a Broncos team in an alternate reality — The Alt Broncos.

Mike ShanahanMike Shanahan
Record: 1-0
Streak: Won 1
Stat Line: Offense: 250 ypg. Defense: 380 ypg

The Washington Redskins won Sunday night, but how much of the credit can one really give to Shanahan? His offense netted only 250 yards and six points, the remaining seven coming off Jim Haslett‘s defense’s fumble return for a touchdown to end the first half. Of course, Shanahan deserves some credit for selecting his defensive coordinator in the first place — a sentence once thought unutterable around these parts.

Reality Check: Josh McDaniels — McDaniels is 0-1 on the season following his club’s up-and-down affair at Jacksonville. The Broncos offense played better than the Redskins’ this weekend — both coaches’ strong points — but that wasn’t reflected well enough in the scoreboard, or the record books.

Jay CutlerJay Cutler
Record: 1-0
Streak: Won 1
Stat Line: 372 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Jay Cutler’s stats from opening week are highly impressive, finishing with a 108.3 passer rating and, more importantly, giving the Chicago Bears a notch in the win column. A good chunk of that credit should go to Matt Forte, though, who took one of Cutler’s short tosses 89 yards for a touchdown (not to mention the refs/NFL rulebook for taking away that Calvin Johnson game-winning touchdown).

Reality Check: Kyle Orton — Orton had a strong performance Sunday, despite what some of the detractors may point out. His effectiveness on third and fourth downs can be questioned, as he only converted two of nine first downs with his arm, but he had the Broncos within inches of tying the game in the fourth quarter behind some brilliant throws (including four of 25 yards or more).

Brandon MarshallBrandon Marshall
Record: 1-0
Streak: Won 1
Stat Line: 8 rec, 53 yds

Marshall was a repeated target in the Miami Dolphins‘ offense and churned out extra yards with his patented after-the-catch heroics, but he also dropped a (slightly underthrown, but very catchable) deep bomb from quarterback Chad Henne in the second quarter.

Reality Check: Jabar Gaffney — The Broncos’ “#1″ wide receiver actually caught the third-most passes for the fourth-most yards (three for 34) but hauled in Orton’s lone touchdown. For now, the Broncos appear to be fine without Marshall, although the question must be asked — unlike Brandon Lloyd, would Brandon Marshall have gotten both feet in bounds?

The Edge: At 3-0 to 0-1, we have to give the edge to the Alt Broncos this week… not that any one of them would be considered the biggest reason their respective teams won Sunday.

  • inrodwetrust

    Can we add?

    Peyton Hillis: 9 carries 41 yards 4.6 avg and 1 TD (loss)
    Tony Scheffler: 6 receptions 43 yards 7.2 avg 0 TD (loss)

  • http://twitter.com/DantePakistan Michael Land

    I kinda like this feature but it may get depressing as the season goes on…..

  • Big_Pete

    I don't like the article. While I can see bringing up the Marshall stuff, the Cutler horse has been beaten to death, then buried, then dug up and beaten even more.
    Enough of the Cutler stuff guys, you're better than that.
    If you want to compare the “alt Broncos”, then just do the Redskins vs Broncos each week and see who does better. You're reaching for straws here gentlemen. Desperation is a smelly cologne.

  • inrodwetrust

    By the same logic why not toss in the Houston texans? It is fun to see former broncos in the league as long as they don't play for the Raiders.

  • http://www.broncotalk.net Josh Temple

    I agree with the Cutler sentiment, however I think I can speak for all of the staff when I say that we will always try to be objective and not sugar coat everything. Most of us enjoy writing optimistic pieces but you need a little dose of reality every now and then.

  • Kawike

    I hate reality… so depressing.

  • http://manchester-architects.com T-Money

    THANK YOU KC! Just what the doctor ordered!

  • mikebirty

    Hamza Abdullah had three tackles.

    Don't forget in the 2008 draft the Broncos passed up Chris Johnson and in 2006 Miles Austin was undrafted so you could really include both of these on the list.

  • Jack

    you might want to include Peyton Hillis's 2 fumbles in that stat line.

  • http://thingsatrexdoes.tumblr.com Mike Birtwistle

    Hamza Abdullah had three tackles.

    Don't forget in the 2008 draft the Broncos passed up Chris Johnson and in 2006 Miles Austin was undrafted so you could really include both of these on the list.

  • Jack

    you might want to include Peyton Hillis's 2 fumbles in that stat line.