Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Mad Scientist

They used to call him "The Mastermind", but these days he looks more like a mad scientist who refuses to listen to outside ideas and insists on pushing through his own crazy agenda despite the results. I am referring to Denver Broncos' Head Coach, Mike Shanahan. When you win back to back Superbowl titles, you get a lot of leeway but it's clear to this Bronco fan that The Mad Scientist is wearing out his welcome in Denver.

He traded one of the top tailbacks in the league in Clinton Portis to get Champ Bailey and then 3 years later traded the guy that replaced Portis, Tatum Bell, to the Lions for Dre' Bly. The tandem of highly regarded DB's was supposed to help turn around a porous defense. The result? The worst pass defense in the league. And what of that running game? Once regarded as the top rushing attack in the league because of Denver's superb zone blocking scheme, it seemed for awhile like anyone could run in the Denver system. No names like Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns all had big years in Denver. The problem? It was a different guy every year. There was zero consistency in the offense and no chemistry in the locker room. Guys would rush for 1400 yards one year and then lose their spot to an undrafted rookie the next. And the past 2 seasons? Led by lightweight Selvin Young and a series of journeymen including Michael Pittman, Anderson and Travis Henry, Denver is well on it's way to a 2nd consecutive season without a 1000 yard rusher and is being forced to throw on almost every big play.

I know what you're thinking. Denver is still posting solid rushing totals, in fact they currently rank 13th in the league right? Sure that may be true but this team has zero ability to control the clock and put away a team late. In fact, Denver has often squandered big leads because of their inability to put teams away by running the ball down their throat when they had the lead. They even lost to the lowly Chiefs, who allow more rushing yards than any team in the league, because of their inability to exploit the Chiefs weak rushing game. Selvin Young has a lot of talent but he is built more like a kick returner than an every down back and there is a reason nobody wanted to sign Michael Pittman until Denver came calling. His best years are in the rear view mirror. He's a solid 3rd down back and does a nice job of protecting Cutler but you can't build an offense around him. Teams are figuring this out and as they bite less and less on the play action and keep more and more DB's back in coverage it becomes harder and harder for the Denver passing game to be efficient and operate like it is capable of doing.

Don't get me wrong. I still believe Shanahan has a future as a head coach but I think it's time for a change. If he goes somewhere else and starts fresh, I think he has a shot at turning a team around. But you have to take away the personnel decision making power. If you let him mess with the roster the mad scientist will take over and the results won't be pretty..

1 comment:

Matt Clapp said...

You nailed it. Fly and I were talking about the Portis-Bailey trade last night, I totally understand it, and Bailey's arguably the top CB in the league, but Clinton Portis is a special back. Look what they did with Terrell Davis. Clinton would've been averaging 6 yards a carry for the Broncos, and their offense would be absolutely ridiculous.
Shanahan's become a bit cocky I think, in that he can plug any back into his system and they'll do great for example. Like you said they've done fine, but wouldn't you rather just be exceptional at it?

And as I blogged about, they need to fire their d-coordinator Bob Slowik. Yeah they're probably not a top 15 d regardless, but they shouldn't be nearly this bad.

Anyway, they've still got a terrific shot at getting in the playoffs and maybe they figure some things out. Not having Selvin Young, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley, as well as a hurting Cutler definitely hurt their offense last night. But if they can't make a play on defense, it won't matter.
Great blog.