FOX Sports Exclusive
Denver mess shows experience counts
Well, the Kiddie Korps management team has fallen flat. Whether or not Broncos owner Pat Bowlen even knows how bad it is, Rocky Mountain fans know that their team lacks the personnel and the direction to be a factor in the AFC West, a division now controlled by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Yes, the Chiefs are in first place in one of the NFL’s worst divisions and probably some of the credit belongs to their general manager Scott Pioli, who knows how to build a team. Was Thomas Jones’ production and leadership worth the expense? What’s interesting is that Pioli even considered hiring Josh McDaniels to be his head coach when finally deciding to strike out on his own from Bill Belichick’s Patriots, where they both once worked.
But the Broncos jumped in first when Bowlen shocked the world by unloading Mike Shanahan (who was still owed $7 million) and hiring McDaniels at the age of 32 years and 8 months. Historically, Lane Kiffin is the youngest coach to be ever hired as a NFL head man (at 31 years and 8 months) and we all know today that Al Davis did the right thing in getting rid of him. Tom Cable may not be the brightest offensive mind in the world, but the NFL is more than just clever game plans. There has to be accountability, leadership and toughness in the locker room.
One thing about Shanahan is that for all his knowledge of the passing game, he never forgot how to run the football. He and his coaches always found dependable running backs. His Redskins are running now with a kid named Ryan Torain, who made his fourth NFL start against the Chicago Bears, gaining 125 yards on 21 carries.
Torain was a fourth-round pick in Shanahan’s last draft in Denver and he was one of the first players cut by McDaniels in 2009. Shanahan signed him to the Redskins’ practice squad this year and, well, he’s a pretty tough, strong runner. He has to learn how to hold onto the ball a little better, but he does exert tremendous effort.
There is an old adage in football. If you can’t run, you will never be able to stop the run. This adage fits the Broncos perfectly. They pretty much have the NFL’s worst rushing game with 68.4 yards per game while allowing 156.3 yards per after Darren McFadden’s personal onslaught on Sunday. McFadden scored four touchdowns and now has 557 yards on the season, his best total since being drafted fourth overall in 2008. And he’s missed two games this season due to a hamstring injury.
The Broncos were seven-point favorites at home against an Oakland team that failed to score a touchdown the previous week in losing to the 49ers. Instead, they allowed the Raiders to score the most points (59) in their history, which, interestingly enough, tied their own mark for futility.
Training camp buzz this past summer was that the Broncos, once they had lost defender Elvis Dumervil, were a bad team, one of the worst in the league. Well, they proved that Sunday. This is what happens when a respected owner like Bowlen, who reportedly is suffering some memory loss, hires youngsters like McDaniels and Brian Xanders, who was the youngest-ever general manager at 37 in 2009, and puts them in charge of a once-respected outfit. It never made sense to have two novices working together, shaping the future of a franchise.
Yes, their first draft choice this year, receiver Demaryius Thomas, has a bright future, but their 2010 draft was all about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. And the jury is still deliberating on whether he will ever be a solid NFL quarterback. Tebow was a luxury pick for a team with a proven quarterback in Kyle Orton and desperate for help in many other areas.
The Broncos drafted tight end Richard Quinn in the second round last year and he still hasn’t caught a pass this year. Maybe McDaniels could have solved his running game problem by drafting Shonn Green, who went to the Jets in the third round, in the same draft. Instead, he rescued Laurence Maroney from Belichick’s doghouse. Last off season, you heard about the major strides that defensive players like Jarvis Moss and Robert Ayers were making. Now all you hear is mumbles.
Today, McDaniels is known as the coach who couldn’t get anything straight with Jay Cutler, a quarterback Shanahan had primed to be a star, and his best receiver, Brandon Marshall. Both players have never looked back and are richer for it.
Since shocking the NFL with a 6-0 start in 2009, McDaniels and Denver are 4-13 and most would say that’s who they really are.
DID THE SUSPENSION THREAT WORK?
While watching Tennessee’s Kenny Britt catch seven passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns in 2-1/2 quarters of work, I had to wonder where the Philadelphia defensive backs were. One week after the NFL fined defenders as much as $75,000 for hitting defenseless receivers and threatening suspension to the next guilty party, were defenders really playing more cautiously?
It’s difficult to say, but Britt wasn’t alone in putting up big numbers. Buffalo’s Steve Johnson had eight catches for 158 yards and his teammate, Lee Evans, had 105 yards and three touchdown catches against a big-hitting Baltimore defense. Hines Ward had 131 receiving yards. Roddy White had 201 yards and two more touchdowns. Bengals rookie Jordan Shipley, who missed games to an earlier concussion, had 131 yards and a touchdown. Carolina rookie receiver David Gettis had a career day with eight catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Those are just some numbers to digest.
Speaking of Buffalo, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for three touchdowns in two consecutive games and that’s the first time it’s happened since Jim Kelly did it in 1990. The Bills also snapped a streak of 60 games in which they had failed to have consecutive 300-yard passing days, the longest in the NFL.
NOTES & THOUGHTS
-- The Browns displayed a lot of creativity on special teams in beating the Saints. Fake punts and across the field laterals on kickoff returns; they pulled out all the stops. And it’s the third straight season that the lowly Browns have beaten the defending Super Bowl champion. How remarkable is that?
-- The first NFL player to intercept four passes in a game was Sammy Baugh, who played both ways and is better known for slinging it.
-- The Bears still haven’t figured out how to block anybody.
-- Did anybody else notice that if Brett Favre didn’t have a bad ankle, he might have been able to run for a first down on his last play ever in Lambeau Field? There were acres of yards in front of him when he dodged the pass rush. It was very similar to his final play in the NFC Championship Game last season in New Orleans.
-- The Arizona Cardinals may regret all season not finding the right quarterback for their offense. Why they didn’t unload Matt Leinart sooner and find a proven triggerman remains unknown. Otherwise, they still have the best talent in the NFC West.
-- On the Rams’ final defensive play, defensive end Chris Long jammed Bucs running back Cadillac Williams at the line of scrimmage, but the safety lost containment on Josh Freeman, who rolled and faded to his right like Joe Montana did years ago before throwing to Dwight Clark. Long then dropped into the end zone to guard against a pass only to watch the guy he knocked down, Williams, race free. And Freeman found him for the winning touchdown.