Wednesday, July 2, 2008

BRONCOS: Past, Present and Future

For many, the '07 season is the worst thing that has ever happened to Bronco fans. If you think it was bad for you, the last game vs.Vikings wasn't even telecast in my area thanks to the Cowboys. When the Cowboys were eliminated and Hitler went off about it ... well, that helped. Hey, and the Broncs won that one, too! The NFL Channel is still blacking the game out. Listen up, my brothers and sisters, the best thing about '07 is that it's over. Next year is almost here!

Unfortunately, that doesn't stop much residual whining, crying, bitching and moaning from those who just can't take the trash-talk from their acquaitances who are fans of other teams. Maybe when the Broncos get back on track, we'll remember our pain and be nicer to others who will inevitably experience it in the future ... nah! I will admit that when the Raiders lost to the Bucs in Superbowl Whatever, I couldn't resist the temptation to tease one of my student/football players by saying, the day after Super Sunday, "Hey, don't you know that when Rich Gannon wakes up this morning and looks in the mirror, he'll say, 'I set a Super Bowl record ... for interceptions.'" Sorry, Luis, what goes around comes around, Buddy. You still my bro. And I tease Victoria about her beloved Steelers, but not too much because girls have that Classical goddess thing they do when they get mad ... you know, they turn you into things you don't wanna be.

For me, the football situation was saved by a bunch of great bowl games and ... the Giants! There's a cycle fans go through after each season which is unsatisfactory for everyone except the fans of the team that won it all ... sorry, Adolf. A certain amount of cussing and carrying on is normal. But then, for those of us who ARE normal, we start to look for ways to fix what's wrong rather than constantly calling for the head(s) of the coach(es). Hey, fans, this isn't high school any more and, yes, dad, we CAN hear everything you are saying/screaming from the stands. First we have to argue about what is wrong, and when we finally agree on an area then we have to argue about what to do about it. It's a good thing. That's how Ian and I met; arguing about the draft. Which is mostly phase one, along with the FA market; phase two is arguing about who was acquired/drafted; phase three ended just recently with the mini-camps and cuts leading up to training camp. We are now in the Dead Zone, that darkest hour before first light when the meanest, ugliest, most pessimistic creatures doggedly hang around before Dawn with her rose-red fingertips heralds the onset of the '08 SEASON, BABY, YEAH!!!

Everyone is trying to cope. Even Brandon Marshall is doing his best to distract us and give us something to talk about. What do we say kids? "Thank you, Mister Marshall." Good. Now don't you feel better? No? Don't tell me you're one of those fair-weather fans who jumped on the bandwagon in the late nineties and are now complaining about the ride, are you? It's times like this when I remember that Mile-High Stadium was sold out years before the Broncos even had a winning season; at the end of their first decade when the AFL and NFL had just merged. I guess you had to be there, but you whiners have no idea ... It's hard communicating with people who give you a blank stare when you mention Floyd Little, who DOES BELONG IN THE HOF, DAMNIT!

But, hey, yeah, we are still hearing from people who actually voice the idea that nothing can be solved until after Shanahan is gone. I like Bill Parcells, too, but be careful what you wish for. Besides, my favorite post-game interview guy in the history of post-game interviews is busy with a project right now; one that rather dwarfs the project we are following. Naysayers have been so busy they haven't noticed that, since the beginning of the '07 season, the Broncos have 53 new faces, out of 82 at the time of this post, headed into '08 training camp. That's amazing. That's a whole football team.

That's not all that's new. During the telecast, I am glued to the screen. During '07, I saw Shanahan's face, usually right in front of my neice's father-in-law, HEY, FRED! Don't you love how TV directors love to cut to the face of the coach of the team that just screwed up? I thought I could read his mind. Generally, it was, "What's that? Why did they do that?" OK, this is the guy born on the day Mount Vesuvius erupted ... August 24th, right? Volcanoes are unpredictable with their M-A-G-M-A and everything. I had a feeling that Mike Shanahan was going to do everything in his power to fix his team. So, Bates-gone. Heimerdinger-gone and not replaced. Sundquist-gone and not replaced. New associate head coach, Steve Watson. Wonder what that means? New DC, but new LB coach (Jim Ryan), too. New front office people anwering to ... Mike Shanahan. Several new coaches. Then there were all the players released: Ian Gold, Javon Walker, Travis Henry (tried to tell you), a bunch of others, Myers traded.

It's a message. "I'm the leader of this outfit and we're going in this direction. If you don't like it, step off." At this point, all would be well advised to get on the same page with Mike unless you just happen to like volcanic-seismic cataclysms. He has removed as many layers of bureaucracy as possible between him and the players. Everyone in his front office and on his coaching staff had better be busting their butts as hard as he is. Right now the contracts are being negotiated. Pat Bowlen is tired of fiscal irresponsibility. Those in whom Shanahan has placed his trust to do certain jobs had better do them well now. Whoever goofed on the Josh Barrett contract had better fix the problem and learn from it. Assistant coaches had better take care of every little-bitty thing in preparation for training camp because Mike is overseeing the signings. When camp begins, he will be everywhere: at each position, offense, defense, special teams. I guarantee that he will check every little detail about each phase of the game. Since it is physically impossible for him to be at each position practice and meeting (since they all occur simultaneously), the assistants had better be good at writing playbooks. He will see videos of each practice though, and each assistant will have a list of things to do from Mike each and every day.

The Broncos are over halfway towards their next Super Bowl appearance in terms of having the pieces in place. The biggest puzzle piece is Jay Cutler, the intelligent, strong-armed QB Mike has been looking for since Elway retired. All else is being gathered and it's just a matter of time.

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