Well... It happened. The worst fear of every Broncos fan happened. For the third straight season the Broncos will be watching the playoffs from home. For the second time in those three seasons all it would have taken was a win over a sub .500 team to get there, and yet here we are.
But then that poses a question, where are we EXACTLY. What needs to be done to fix this train wreck that used to be an NFL powerhouse? The obvious answer is a change in the coaching staff, maybe a big signing, or even a savior found in the draft.
The issue there is this, finding a new coach doesn't necessarily equate to success, just ask the Oakland Raiders. At the same time neither does signing a big name, again just ask the Oakland Raiders.
Success in the NFL is a tricky thing. Just a couple of years ago the Giants and Titans were talking of making coaching changes, yet here were are with the same old guys and they are the top seeds from their respective divisions. So what am I getting at here, well it isn't what you think. Truth is that it may be time for Mike Shanahan to go.
The only consistent thing that the Broncos have had going for them the past few years is their inconsistency. This is a team that one week will destroy a powerhouse and look like they are unstoppable, then the next week gave a team their first win of the year. This can be traced directly back to motivation. Players give everything for great coaches, every down, every game.
Now, I may not demand that this team makes a change at head coach, but at the same time I will NOT defend Mike anymore.
Now on to how I fix this...
Step #1- Leave the offense alone....
Fortunately we may have the next Terrell Owens and the next Brett Favre on this team in Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall (maybe even the next Steve Smith in Eddie Royal), the bad news is that we may have the next Brett Favre (NFL Career leader in INT) and Terrell Owens (issue after issue) on this team.
Outside of the young star QB and great WR's the future is also very bright for the rest of this offense as well. For as bad as Jim Bates as with this defense last year, his son Jeremy has looked great as a first year coordinator. Add to that this very young offensive line looks great, and if we can get one of those 7 injured RB's to come back healthy next year this may be the best offense in the NFL.
Just to think that when this season started the Broncos had a combined ZERO starts between their #2 WR, LT, RT, and FB then to see what they have done is amazing.
Step #2- Fix the defense through the draft.
For years the Broncos have tried to find a big play WR, watching guys like Javon Walker come and go only to be replaced by two amazing WR's that this team drafted should really be the example for the defense.
I have always argued that the MLB may be the most important position on the defense. If you think of a great defense you almost always see a great MLB in the center of that equation. Since this team lost Al Wilson they really have not had a MLB.
It would just so happen that our guy is out there and ready to step up. With the Broncos picking in the middle of the first round and the only MLB in the history of the NCAA to become a 3 time all American projected to be there when they pick James Laurinaitis may be the first piece of fixing this defense.
From there you have a couple ways to go. If I'm in charge I'd draft Free Safety in the second round, then take Wesley Woodyard and move him to Strong Safety. They guy has obvious NFL talent and speed. All it would take is for him to lose about 15 pounds slimming down in the offseason and we may have the next John Lynch. This will also give us DJ Williams, Boss Bailey and Laurinaitis at LB, very fast crew with a TON of talent.
Step #3- Defensive coordinator change
Yes I know this team changes Defensive coaching staffs on an annual basis, BUT this has to be done. The problem is that they keep hiring guys that have failed everywhere they have gone. You can't expect a guy that isn't a good coach to begin with to show up to Dove Valley and all of the sudden get it. This just isn't going to happen.
The way to fix this issue is to scalp a young coach from someone. Find a guy that is new and fresh. Someone that doesn't think that the best DB in football needs to cover a TE. Or someone that actually uses a fast group of LB's to blitz on occasion. Maybe even someone that thinks that an overaggressive guy like Dre Bly needs safety help over the top. Just a few questions I'd be asking.
Step#4- Special teams
This year the Special Teams looked like they took the short bus to the games. Prater was cut from the Falcons a year ago for a reason. You can have all the leg strength in the world, but when you miss back to back chances at an extra point it's time to start putting in that application to kick in the CFL.
Eddie Royal was drafted to be the fix on the return team, BUT turns out this guy is just too valuable on offense to risk injury.
Add to all of this that the kick coverage team was just flat out pathetic. The fix here just comes with depth.
Use another late round pick on the fastest guy left available, hope that will give you a return man. Sign a new kicker. To fix this kick coverage problem use free agency, and keep guys like Spencer Larsen and Niko Koutouvides on special teams.
That is really all I have. Like I said I'm not going to start the "Fire Shanahan Club" but at the same time to collapse like this team did is just plain unacceptable. Regardless of the fate of the head coach, changes need to be made with this team. Win or lose on Monday night you can't expect this team to have come close to the Colts a week later (who by the way will CRUSH the Chargers, so Broncos fans will have SOMETHING to look forward to).
Truth is that the Broncos are in position to become the powerhouse they once were. The Chiefs and Raiders are a mess, and with Tomlinson approaching the wrong side of 30 the Chargers will soon join them.
The opportunity is there, the question is will this team step up and make the most of it. Or will 2008 repeat itself and we will be forced to watch this team drop the ball once again.