Is this some kind of joke? Is it just a bad dream? Is Mike Shanahan really trying to turn the Denver Broncos into the Cincinnati Bengals?
I’ve been a diehard Bronco fan as long as I can remember, and I’ve been a Mike Shanahan supporter since the day we kicked Wade “the bum” Phillips out the door. The two Super Bowl victories brought Colorado together like nothing else ever has. In fact, instead of two Super Bowl championships, I think there should have been four. We were the best team in the AFC in 1996, only to lose to the Jaguars in the biggest upset in Broncos history. In 1998, our Denver team was arguably one of the best in NFL history, and we brought the very same team back in 1999 with one rather large exception…John Elway.
And since 1999, things seem to have gotten progressively worse. Mike Shanahan has gone from ‘The Mastermind’ to the ‘Absent Mind’.
It is becoming more and more obvious that Gary Kubiak was the biggest reason behind the Broncos success, not Mike Shanahan. Since Kubiak left for Texas, the Broncos have taken a steep nosedive and the upstart Texans are becoming one of the league’s best up and coming teams. In fact, I would bet you that the Texans reach the Super Bowl with Kubiak before Denver gets back there with Shanahan.
I’ve been drinking the Mike Shanahan Kool-Aid just like everyone else, but over the past three years I’ve began to have my doubts. The 2008 draft was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back for me.
As any so-called expert will tell you, a draft can’t be properly evaluated until several years down the road. So let’s go back to previous drafts. Your first round draft pick should be a potential cornerstone of your franchise, and at least a 6-10 year starter. Of course there are bound to be a few busts along the way, but looking back at the Broncos draft history, there are more than a few.
Can you name the first round picks Denver still has remaining on their roster since Mike Shanahan took over in 1995. I’ll help you out, there are three, and they were all picked in the last four years. They are Jay Cutler, DJ Williams, and Jarvis Moss, and if Moss doesn’t come around soon, he too, may be gone.
There are names like, George Foster, Ashley Lelie, Willie Middlebrooks, and Marcus Nash. In fact if you go back as recently as 2004, the Broncos had 10 picks in that draft, DJ Williams is all that is left. In 2003 they also had 10 picks, and not a single player from that draft remains on this team.
This brings me to 2008. USA Today rated Denver dead last in this year’s draft class and it’s not hard to see why. It’s not because there weren’t any big names, it’s because they had a lot of needs to fill and somehow failed to fill most of them.
Ryan Clady looks like he could be a great selection. He’s big, he’s athletic, and he has quick feet. However, that’s the same thing they said about George Foster as well, and we all know how that turned out. Also, there is the little factor of his Wonderlic score. The NFL draft average of this intelligence test is 20. Good offensive linemen usually score somewhere around 26, Clady scored 13.
We needed an offensive lineman, so I won’t complain too much about that pick. However, after that the draft went downhill. The Broncos needed a return specialist, so to everyone’s surprise they took one in the 2nd round, way above were most teams would do so. In fact, the biggest surprise wasn’t even that they took a returner..It’s that they took Eddie Royal from Virginia Tech instead of the top return specialist on the board, which would be DeSean Jackson from Cal. Jackson has had his off the field problems, but then again so have about 40 percent of this year’s class. Jackson may turn out to be the 2nd best return man in the league behind Devin Hester and make the Broncos regret their decision to pass him up.
We also need a middle linebacker. Right now the starting middle linebacker for the Broncos is a guy named Niko Koutouvides. He’s a guy we got from Seattle, where he was 5th on the depth chart at linebacker, and now he’s our starter!
With a multitude of picks on day two, Denver could have traded up into the middle of the 3rd round to get Dan Conner from Penn State, a middle linebacker that some feel could have been a late 1st to early 2nd round pick. Instead we waited and went with a cornerback in the 4th round. I don’t think I need to remind you that we have two high priced cornerbacks already on the roster. We did eventually take a linebacker out of Arizona, but he barely has a chance to make the team, let alone start.
Wide Receiver is another area where they dropped the ball, and not only in the draft. Brandon Marshall is the obvious number one, and I think he’ll recover from his injury and be fine. However, after letting Javon Walker walk over into the Raiders locker-room, we did nothing to address the number two wide receiver roll. We signed a lot of guys, none of which should be starters in this league. Sure, Darrell Jackson has a big name, but he hasn’t been a legit starter in three years. There were guys out there for the Broncos to land, they just didn’t.
Mike Shanahan is currently building a 35,000 square foot goliath of a mansion in Denver, which means he doesn’t think he’s going anywhere, anytime soon. However, the next two years will be very telling for this franchise. The 2008 schedule is as easy as it gets in the NFL, but in 2009 the Broncos will have the toughest schedule in the league.
It’s now or never for Mike Shanahan in Denver. It’s time to prove that he is the ‘Mastermind’ and not the ‘Absent Mind’ he appears to be.
If 2008 and 2009 don’t produce a playoff win or even a playoff appearance it will be time for us to cut our losses with the beloved ego-maniac we call coach. Otherwise that 35,000 square foot mansion will be sitting empty. Maybe we can turn it into a Denver Bronco Museum, so we can all go there and reminisce about the days when we had a winning franchise, long before it was ran into the ground.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, whether you agree with me or not.
Josh Earl – 11 Sports Reporter