Posted Mon Sep 13th by Monty
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.
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.
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).
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.