Denver Broncos blog, news and rumors



John Fox Coach Press Conference

John Fox, right, the new head football coach of the NFL team Denver Broncos, poses for a photo with owner Pat Bowlen , center, and John Elway, Executive V.P. of football operations, at the teams headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski)

The Denver Broncos are no strangers to regime changes.

Owner Pat Bowlen fired “Coach for Life” Mike Shanahan following the 2008 season, opening the door for Josh McDaniels to take over. The plan was for the young McDaniels to inherit Shanahan’s throne. McDaniels, given total control as both personnel manager and coach, would install the New England Patriots‘ culture of winning to the Rocky Mountains and maintain it for years to come.

2011 BRONCOS SEASON PREVIEW – TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Changing of the Guard
  2. Kyle Orton – One Last Chance to Take the Next Step
  3. Breaking Down the Offense
  4. The Defense and Special Teams
  5. The Prediction

It was a great plan in theory. The execution, however, was far from it. It came with casualties.

Gone were Jay Cutler. Brandon Marshall. Tony Scheffler. Peyton Hillis. The offensive line was overhauled. A new defensive scheme was installed, full of new personnel. Players changed positions. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan left after 2009′s half-remarkable season.

In many cases, the Broncos stockpiled draft picks in return for the players they lost, but the talent the Broncos netted with those picks didn’t compensate for the talent lost. The Broncos fell to 4-12 in 2010, the losingest season in franchise history. McDaniels was fired before he could see the season through.

Setting aside the inexperience, the media subterfuge, the gameday behavior, and even Spygate II, the McDaniels Era failed at the most basic, philosophical level. McDaniels’ scheme became more important than McDaniels’ team. If you didn’t fit a role in his playbook, you were gone.

Historically, the best coaches in the NFL maximized the talent on their roster. They scripted plays to hide their personnel weaknesses and utilized the players they did have to their highest potential. They didn’t clean house for the sake of a better-looking power blocking offensive line. They didn’t ignore the talents of a pass-catching tight end or a dynamic running back because they believed in their spread offense. They maximized the pieces they had in place.

Enter John Elway, John Fox, and Brian Xanders.

The Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Head Coach, and General Manager (respectively) of the Denver Broncos have installed a new football plan in the Rocky Mountains. It’s not flashy. It’s not full of sweeping changes. It’s pragmatic.

The simple fact that Kyle Orton remains the embattled starter at quarterback illustrates the patience the new regime is willing to exercise. It punctuates the difference between the gameplan of this front office and the last.

Brandon Lloyd pulls in a touchdown pass as the Broncos defeated the Chiefs 49-29. (AP Photo Joe Mahoney)

For the most part, the Broncos are keeping their offensive personnel from a year ago. The quarterbacks and wide receivers return, for the most part. The offensive line has been tweaked but returns four starters from 2010. The emphasis has moved from the pass to the run, but the Broncos didn’t have to gouge their roster to make it so.

The defense, on the other hand, has undergone a makeover. Fox deemed a return to the 4-3 in order, and cleaned up the defensive line to make it so. Elvis Dumervil returns from injury, joined by pass rushing rookie Von Miller.

And this is where the Broncos will find their new identity.

The difference between McDaniels’ idea of cleaning house and Fox’s idea of cleaning house is that the former removed young, talented, established players from the Broncos’ roster because they didn’t fit his system. Fox removed the aging retreads of a failed defense in lieu of a younger, more aggressive group while keeping the talent he had in place. Just imagine if Fox had traded Elvis Dumervil, or failed to come to terms with Champ Bailey in contract negotiations to get an idea of McDaniels’ failures. Fox wisely kept the talent in place and fit them into his scheme rather than trading them for youth, potential, and “better fits.”

All this being said, a 4-12 season requires a rebuild. How quickly can the Broncos truly turn this ship around? While teams go from the NFL basement to the playoffs every year (see: Kansas City Chiefs, 2010), it’s far from the norm. How competitive can these rebuilding Broncos really expect to be?

The answer rests on the shoulders of Kyle Orton.

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  • LarryB

    Just a great analysis, Monty! I, too, was extremely worried about the depth on the team. Two developments, however, gave me cause for some comfort: (1) The reserves allowed only two (2) yards a carry in the last preseason game, and (2) the Broncos added only one player from outside after the final cuts, and none from the waiver wire – which indicated to me that the Broncos have more faith in their reserves than we do.

    This is reinforced by the fact that, although the Cardinals passed the Broncos dizzy, the Cardinals played their first string against the Broncos reserves through much of the first half. In addition, Dumervil, Ayers, Miller, Champ, Goodman, Dawkins, and Moore were all missing from the lineup, which likely will not happen during the season (GASP! I hope not!). So the depth just might be a bit stronger than perhaps we believe?

    Regarding Orton, it is easy to think he “fades,” come the latter part of the season. However, take note that the St. Louis game last year happened in mid-November, and he passed for 347 yards and three TDs IN THE FOURTH QUARTER, coming within a whisker of coming back from 19 down to a win.

    So it wasn’t a “fade,” but a SUDDEN fall, indicating something was suddenly very wrong. What was wrong, of course, was severe rib injury – to BOTH sides, as it turned out.

    So I anticipate a truly breakout season for Kyle. He was on his way in his first 11 games last year, and there is no reason he can’t improve even on that with a better running game and the addition of a couple bonafide pass-catching tight ends.

    I have them 10-6, barring injury to the players you listed. Kool-aid? Well, we’ll see . . .

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    Thanks for the kind words and great insight yourself, LarryB! Orton has suffered those sudden falls his entire career, though. I certainly hope this year is different.

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    BTW everybody I changed my profile name from “Kyle Montgomery” to this (Monty). Same guy. Hi.

  • Bucky

    Man I wish either of you were right on this, and maybe I will be proved wrong, but the big IF that you laid out there about Orton is just to big an IF for me. I have the unique pleasure of being a Colorado boy who went to college in Chicago during the Orton/Grossman fiasco. And while I will continue to hope that there is simply some magic hump that Orton can get over, I just don’t see it. I think we have seen the top of his game, and that top just isn’t good enough to be a franchise/dynasty kind of QB. 

    I don’t know if we have a guy on our team who is. kinda funny how we have three Quarterbacks all needing to get past that one magic mark to be “elite.” If we could take and jam all three of these guys into one QB we would have a super stud, but we can’t and because of that I am more inclined to put us at 7-9 or 6-10 than I am at 8-8, I would certainly not bet a dime on 10-6.

    But hey, here is hoping for the IF’s I guess!   

  • Blsd30

    sounds about right but i think we win against buffalo for sure and 1 of the charger game putting us at 10-6.

  • http://Facebook.com/BroncosZone Jon

    Hi, Monty!

  • Rc_sodak

    So when you tell us everything, will it be considered the ‘full monty’?

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    I bare all.

  • Shamzami

    As much as I like the Broncos, after seeing what I’ve seen I have a bad feeling that they’ll be embarrassed by Oakland on Monday night and won’t win more than 4-5 games this year, which is okay.  The team is by no means set at any position and our quarterback is suspect at best.  So drink the Orange Koolaid if you want, but don’t be surprised to see them struggle most of the year and build on that.  In a couple of years we may have a team that compete, but this team is light years away from that.

  • Hansen

    Speaking of full monty, I thought it was interesting how you changed your id after those rather, shall we say, unsavory photos of you surfaced on that “other” site.

    Seriously, good analysis.

  • Anonymous

    I’m never going to be in love with Orton but at least he has shown a noted desire to be in that spot with out question and pretty much shown it on the field as well.

    I still think we will have more to worry about than who is back up is. I wonder if being 7-9 or 8-8 and missing the play-offs is better than 4-12 and missing them??? Either is missing them ~shrug~… I think all of these “if’s” are the ssame as saying “if” we still had this guy or that guy we’d be better off, we dont and not all of those guys are going to start even 14 at the same time. History shows other wise. but “IF” we do, then there is that chance.

    What would be really cool though would be to turn it all around and get in by winning the division, that would be pretty exciting. Hey I can dream… right?!?

  • 5280

    I love this piece Monty keep it up.  Honestly Im kind of shocked that Julius thomas isnt starting week one.  From what Ive seen at camp and in preseason, he’s definitely ready. dude can catch everything and fells had way to many drops.  Like you said though: there are far too many uncertainties to predict anything really. we wont know what we have until 6 or 7 weeks into the season.  I’m just praying von and doom stay healthy.  tackles or not, if von and doom stay healthy, we’ll at least own 3rd down and the team that owns 3rd down is usually the one that wins the game. IMO its all about the D this year. say what you want about the Oline and the running game, if the D doesnt step up in a major way this year its another 4-12 season.

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    Thanks 5280, glad you like it.

    I agree, defense is everything this year. I’m feeling good about the pass defense, with Doom, Von, Champ and a handful of other solid guys. The run defense has me worried. Guess we’ll find out Monday; you KNOW the Raiders will try to run that ball on us.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I had comments I’ve forgotten as I read…

    Two points I think though.
    With Baily at nickle, Vaughn’s skills/health are critical.

    Our Safeties are also a HUGE issue. Can Moore play with starters? AND if he gets hurt, who has the speed to replace him? Nobody. – Bdawk? Lost a step for sure.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I had comments I’ve forgotten as I read…

    Two points I think though.
    With Baily at nickle, Vaughn’s skills/health are critical.

    Our Safeties are also a HUGE issue. Can Moore play with starters? AND if he gets hurt, who has the speed to replace him? Nobody. – Bdawk? Lost a step for sure.