I'm back! I apologize for the delay in posting this. I spent 16 nights in a hotel working for Colorado State University at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. I was worn out by about the third day of the Show, but somehow managed to survive. I even saw a Stock Show record bullride in a rodeo, when the #2 bullrider in the world matched up with the #2 bucking bull and rode him for a score of 93. The National Western is one of the world's largest stock shows, and the Stock Show rodeo is the first major rodeo event of the season, following less than a month after the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. All of the world's best cowboys and rodeo livestock are at this rodeo. Enjoy the Mailbag!
1. When do you think the Colorado Avalanche will be ready to contend for the Stanley Cup? - Redwing19
This is a difficult question to address. It all hinges on whether or not the Avs have a franchise goaltender in the system or they can draft or sign one. The tandem of Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft make this team very frustrating to watch as a fan. All the same, the team is .500 with less than spectacular goaltending. I would bet that the Avalanche will be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in two years. Right now, the team is in a transitional phase, but they haven't committed to a full-scale rebuild, which is why they aren't an out-and-out bad team. There are some excellent young pieces, though, which makes it exciting to watch going forward. Paul Stastny will be the captain, and Wojtek Wolski, David Jones, and John-Michael Liles are all guys that will be the guts of the franchise in the future. The Avalanche have a defenseman that served as an alternate captain for the US team in the World Junior Hockey Championships named Kevin Shattenkirk who will likely be with the big club next season, and another playing Junior hockey right now named Cameron Gaunce, who has been nothing short of spectacular. As long as they can find a solid #1 goaltender, the team will be a legitimate contender within two years.
2. I heard Bill Romanowski sent a PowerPoint to Pat Bowlen on why he should be the Broncos new head coach. What are your thoughts on Romo's desire to coach? - Mondo Jay
I would love to see Romo as a coach in the NFL. I don't think that he would be much of a head coach, but he could be a great linebackers coach, and he could probably even be a pretty good defensive coordinator. People often forget just how great of a player Romo was. He was the guy on defense that offenses had to gameplan around. Were it not for the fact that he was such a controversial figure in so many ways, he'd probably be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. There's no denying the passion that he has for the game of football. Make no mistake, either - Romo is a very smart man, and he's a very good communicator. He was on TV in Denver on FSN Rocky Mountain every week in 2007 doing the Broncos game preview show on Wednesday's along with another former Bronco, Alfred Williams, who co-hosts an afternoon radio show in Denver on KKFN radio. I think that Romanowski could be a very successful coach in the NFL, but I don't think that he's head coach material. His personality is too volatile to be put in front of the media every day. I wouldn't be surprised to see him wind up with the Broncos in some capacity this year, probably as some sort of "fitness coach".
3. What are your thoughts on Brett Favre, Eric Mangini, and how the Jets will fare in 2009 after their late-season 2008 collapse? - Real Sports
I think that Brett Favre will be back, and I think that the Jets will be a very good team in 2009. Mangini went to Cleveland, and that job is a lot better than it appears on the surface. The Browns have a lot of talent on offense. Brady Quinn looks like he'll be very good quarterback, and that's where it all starts. As long as the Browns can get a little defensive help, I think that Mangini will be just fine. Rob Ryan is a better-than-average defensive coordinator, so that will help. As far as the Jets go, people need to remember that most of the key members of that team were new in 2008. They were learning a system that many of them had never played before, particularly Alan Faneca and Brett Favre. The fact that the Jets decided to retain Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator will be great for them. I'm not sure what to make of the Rex Ryan hiring. All of the Ryans seem to have volatile personalities, and that's tough in the head coaching business. They'll probably be fine in 2009, but I'm curious to see what happens in 2010 after the Rex Ryan honeymoon period ends. They will certainly be a playoff team next season, though. As for Favre, I couldn't imagine walking away after this past season. He has more now to prove than he has since he was traded to the Packers. I think that he'll come back and have a good season, then he'll retire after next year.
4. Watching the Ravens highlights, it seems the offense sucks. With players adapting to offense/defense/special teams, how do you think the entire defense would go playing offense? - eylesy
Funny thing about the Ravens offense. This year, they were better than they have ever been. They still weren't great, as Joe Flacco was only a rookie, but you should have seen them before this season. They could hardly muster a first down, let alone a touchdown. They look like they will be set for a long time on offense, so long as they don't have too many draft mistakes on that side of the ball. It is certainly the defense that carried them this year, though, and it has been for a lot of years. As for your question, they wouldn't do very well at all. They may know how to read a defense, but it's more likely that they wouldn't. Defenses know how to read offenses, and offenses know how to read defenses. In fact, the guy that runs the Broncos offensive line that allowed just 12 sacks in nearly 600 pass attempts this past season, Rick Dennison, was a linebacker in his playing days. However, if you took a great defense like the Steelers or Ravens and played them all on the offensive side of the ball, they wouldn't last very long. Positions in the NFL are so specialized that many players may know techniques of another position, but they can't execute them. James Harrison would know what moves a linebacker is going to make, as well as how to successfully block those moves, but he wouldn't stand a chance. Every position is just too different. That's why it's so difficult even for a right guard to move to right tackle. It's just a different world. For such a team sport, football is very individualized.
5. Who do you think is the best QB in Broncos history not named Elway? - TenRingsSTL
Excellent question. The Broncos never had a truly dynamic quarterback before Elway, and Jay Cutler hasn't reached that level yet, but he has a very bright future. Before too long, it will certainly be Jay Cutler. I may get myself killed if I say this too loudly, but he may very well end up being better than Elway when all is said and done. He'll never surpass #7's celebrity, but he may end up having the better career. As for the question, I would have to say that it's definitely between Craig Morton and Jake Plummer. I know that there are many who think that Plummer wasn't that good, but he did set several Broncos records, he went to a Pro Bowl, led the team to an AFC Championship Game, and he led the Broncos to an astounding 39-15 record as a starting quarterback. Broncos original quarterback Frank Tripucka also can't be overlooked in this conversation. However, I can say with 100% certainty that Craig Morton, the other #7 in the Broncos Ring of Fame, was the best of the bunch. In 6 seasons in Denver, when many thought his career was over after leaving Dallas, Morton amassed a 41-23 record and threw for over 11,000 yards and 74 touchdowns. He had a 79.1 QB rating, and he rushed for over 1,800 yards. The greatest thing that he ever did, though, was give a franchise respectability. The Broncos, though they have been sold out since 1970, were never a good team before Morton arrived. Morton, the Orange Crush, and head coach Red Miller led the Broncos to a berth in Super Bowl XII following the 1977 season, in which the Broncos lost to Morton's former team, the Dallas Cowboys. This was the first of 6 AFC Championships to date for the Broncos, second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Terry Frei of The Denver Post wrote a great book about that season, entitled '77: The Denver Broncos and a Coming of Age.
Thank you all for all of your questions. From now on, this blog will be posted every other Sunday. The next edition will be posted on February 8, 2009. Post your questions in the group forum, or send them to me in a FanMail.
Video of the Week
I love watching hockey games that are played in Canada. I'm not Canadian, but I consider myself to be somewhat of an honorary Canadian. Altitude Sports and Entertainment, the TV home of the Colorado Avalanche, always shows the performance of the National Anthems when the Avs play in Canadian arenas. If you've ever heard anyone say that "O, Canada" is a great song, it's true. The lyrics are truly great, but it's even better when it is sung before a Canadian crowd. The entire crowd belts it out along with the performer. This video is the performance of "O, Canada" at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, before an Oilers game. The singer stops singing after a few lines, and the crowd sings the entire song. At one point during the video, it zooms in on former Oiler Ryan Smyth, now with the Colorado Avalanche. Check out the guy behind him in the crowd. He really gets into it. Enjoy!