The Broncos shocking start to the ’09 season had many so called experts and skeptical fans like me eating crow. However, after the smoke cleared this Broncos team proved to be the average at best team that most people living in reality knew they were.
The usual low key off-season atmosphere of the Broncos headquarters in Dove Valley had turned into a frenzied media circus revolving around the firing of longtime head coach Mike Shanahan, the hiring of his replacement Josh McDaniels and the botched trade attempt of star QB Jay Cutler.
In fact, those events overshadowed the real problems of this team, the lack of talent on defense.
With everyone returning on offense (ranked 2nd overall in ’08) and a major overhaul on defense, the Broncos looked poised to be a force in the AFC.
Enter Josh McDaniels and his New England sized ego.
It turned out McDaniels first priority, besides changing the offensive playbook, would be to reunite with QB Matt Cassell. In what had to be a complete bombshell to the players, McDaniels got caught with his pants down and could not make a three-way deal happen which would send Cutler to Tampa, draft picks to New England and Cassell to Denver. Cutler would make things much worse by throwing a tantrum over the failed trade and forced owner Pat Bowlens hand in trading him to the Chicago Bears. The Broncos received a pirate’s ransom in return and entered the draft with two first round picks and a decent QB in Kyle Orton.
With the 12th overall pick from Chicago everyone assumed Denver would take someone who could immediately step in and make an impact on defense, the logical choice right? Once again the McDaniels ego would supersede logic and Denver would pick RB Knowshon Moreno. The following draft picks would defy all logic as well; especially the decision to trade next year’s first round draft pick to pick up tiny cornerback Alphonso Smith in the second round, instead of having two first round picks for the ’10 draft.
Yes the warning signs were obvious.
Training camp would start with star wide receiver Brandon Marshall demanding a trade. Marshall’s trade demands went unanswered, then taking tips from Cutler, threw a tantrum of his own and got suspended without pay for the remainder of camp.
You had to be a fool to believe the Broncos were actually headed in the right direction. You need stars to win in this league and Denver’s were dropping like flies.
The Broncos opened the season in Cincinnati and looked pathetic on offense and won a fluke play, “the immaculate deflection” The Broncos would win their first 6 games by a combined score of 133-66.
After the bye week of week seven the Broncos would lose 4 straight games by a combined score of 117-37.
The Broncos looked like they had regained a little swagger with impressive victories over the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs.
Denver would then somehow lose to the pathetic Oakland Raiders in Denver.This was the game where their playoffs hope had all but slipped through their fingers. With a close loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia, the Broncos need to beat the lowly Chiefs and get a little help. The Broncos entered week 17 with 10 different scenarios to qualify for postseason play.
McDaniels would suspend star wide receiver Brandon Marshall and TE Tony Scheffler for the crucial final game for disciplinary reasons and Denver, in by far the most meaningful game of the season, got hammered by the Chiefs who were playing for nothing but pride.
After such a promising start the Broncos finished 8-8.
McDaniels must know that mediocrity is not welcomed in Denver. Fan favorite Red Miller was fired in 1980 for finishing 8-8. This was just 3 seasons removed from leading them to their first Super Bowl. In 1992 Dan Reeves was fired for finishing 8-8. In 12 seasons Reeves coached the Broncos to 3 Super Bowls and 4 AFC championship games. Wade Phillips was fired after the 1994 season for finishing a combined 16-16 in two seasons. Then Shanahan, the coach who lead Denver to their first world championships, was fired for going a combined 24-24 in last 3 seasons as head coach.
This is what makes the Broncos unique. The fans will not accept a loser, or even a team that tries hard. Denver fans demand a contender. Since qualifying for the postseason for the first time in ’77, they have never missed the playoffs four consecutive years until now.
McDaniels must fare much better next year to keep his job. Let’s just hope he and his ego are aware of this.