The whirlwind experience that is the Denver Broncos soap opera continues.
Longtime head coach Mike Shanahan, a probable future Hall of Fame coach is fired after yet another recent mediocre season. A hot young assistant in Josh McDaniels, not likely ready for prime time, is hired over significantly more experienced and defensively well-versed minds such as Minnesota coordinator Leslie Frazier. Quarterback Jay Cutler’s name is floated in trade talks and eventually the Pro Bowler is dealt away after proving his production potential.
Heads are still spinning.
Draft day comes and the Broncos keep the surprises coming drafting a running back and a “who’s he” project with their first rounders.
It’s almost as if the franchises’ fans are the parents and owner Pat Bowlen is the teenager exhibiting a pattern of behavior way outside the norm of stability, making the fans wonder if there are serious emotional issues affecting Bowlen, and his new officers.
Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno is by all accounts a dynamic running back headed for a franchise that desperately needs one but the new attitude in the league is that for every LaDainian Tomlinson taken high in the draft there are many productive runners selected long after the first round. The Broncos themselves should remember this well. There is a bounty of strong second-round and second-day backs available and more pressing needs on the other side of the ball.
The Broncos brass must have chosen Moreno because it did not see the playmaking they need in the present roster. Scouts who offered public comments for print before the draft thought Denver was diving head first into a pair of defenders in round one, if not the majority of its’ draft.
No Texas rusher Brian Orakpo? No physical, intense, heat-seeking missile USC linebacker Brian Cushing? Not even Northern Illinois’ pass rusher Larry English, whom San Diego found worthy at pick No. 16? The scoreboard next season will keep ringing like a pinball machine with the Broncos struggling to stop teams.
The theory has to be that with less-dynamic quarterbacking expected in 2009 from either Kyle Orton, Chris Simms, or “OrSims” taking snaps the team had to have a reliable running game to take the pressure off the QB and thus, the coach who treated Cutler like the unwanted girl before prom.
Tennessee end Robert Ayers’ selection was equally puzzling with higher impact or more potential players on the board, including USC hitter and ball hawk Rey Maualuga, Florida State’s pass rushing Everette Brown, San Jose State lineman and sleeper Jarron Gilbert, underrated Mississippi lineman Peria Jerry or Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis, amongst others.
Ayers might prove to have the versatility that McDaniels and the New England way desires but his talent is not above the players he was selected. He’s raw as rap music and simply not proven as a quarterback hunter. He’s clay that might be sculpted but he’s far from a sure thing or immediate contributor of any solid impression.
Then, in the second round, another puzzling move, again passing over Maualuga and Brown, as well as ignoring gargantuan tackle, Boston College’s Ron Brace, a beast to create a traffic jams in opposing offenses running games, in favor of a smallish cornerback out of Wake Forest, Alphonso Smith, at an inflated cost, an outrageous price of a first-rounder in 2010. Maybe the Broncos believe Smith is ready to start Day 1 and be a pro bowl caliber gnat in the secondary.
McDaniels and Brian Xander continue to show the fans gross ineptitude or impressive composure in the face of what is sure to be increased heat and higher-level criticism. Bowlen either has supreme confidence that his whiz kids will do him proud or he’s slipping into Al Davis-like delusion and will see his franchise start to mirror the Oakland Raiders’ on-field results.
Maybe Moreno becomes a star, Ayers a hard-hitting pass rusher supreme. Moreno, in fact, could become a star if the passing game is effective. Ayers seems like the sort of reach Jarvis Moss was a couple of years ago.
Time will tell but the Bowlen-McDaniels’ marriage seems chock full of poor decision making and erratic behavior already. Maybe the rest of the offseason will give that union time to give fans hope, show them smoother waters.