Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dec 30, 2008 By Request: Top 10 Reasons the Broncos Aren’t Going to the Playoffs

  1. San Diego is better. First and foremost, it must be admitted that the 8-8 Chargers are better than the 8-8 Broncos, but you would have a hard time convincing me that either team deserves the playoffs over the New England Patriots. And you simply couldn’t convince me that either deserved to be hosting Indianapolis at home. While I understand the excitement on the part of the Chargers and their fans, the truth is that there just isn’t that much to be proud of in the AFC West this season.
  2. The Broncos defense. The defense was, at best, mediocre this season; most of the time it was truly bad. Somewhere deep inside, though, I knew that they had a perfectly horrid game in them. In the biggest game of their year they managed to play their worst game of the year. There has to be a prize for that somewhere. Honestly, the level of talent on the defensive side of the ball is at its lowest in my memory.
  3. Champ Bailey. While Broncos fans were happy to see him back, it was obvious that he wasn’t healthy.
  4. Jay Cutler. While Cutler has thrown for a tremendous number of yards this season, it’s obvious that he isn’t really quite prime time yet. More on that later, but there is something lacking both in his leadership style and his personal decision making that resulted in far more turnovers this year than there should have been.
  5. Mike Shanahan. Of course, more on his dismissal later, but while Shanahan actually cobbled together a good offense, his defensive personnel decisions have been mostly horrendous over the last few years--and that includes his revolving door at defensive coordinator. I love Shanahan and I admire the record that he earned as a head coach with the Broncos, but I wasn’t sad to hear that he had been dismissed. The only thing that I hope is that whoever fills that head coach position is someone up to the task. ‘09 could be pretty rough.
  6. Inconsistent running game. Of course, this isn’t anyone’s fault--that the Broncos could continue to find bodies to fill the role of running back throughout the season was an amazing feat in and of itself. That many of those backs looked solid is a testament to the talent, depth, and scheme. That there were games where the Broncos couldn’t quite get the running game going in the right direction is singularly unsurprising.
  7. Tackling. When the defense wasn’t out of position, it was missing tackles. I’d love to know how many times this season a Broncos defender found himself alone in the backfield with a running back or a wide receiver and then missed an open tackle.
  8. Third down futility. Occasionally, the defense would manage to get opponents into third and long. Regularly, they let the opponent convert with big plays. Big runs, big passes, big penalties--they were always willing to do what it took to help the other team convert.
  9. Jason Elam. While it isn’t his fault, the decision to let him go definitely haunted the Broncos a few times this year. That personnel decision may still turn out for the best, but the kicking game definitely suffered in the second half of the season. There were times that Matt Prater looked good, but his inconsistency on the mid-range kicks and his inability to put his kickoffs into the end zone really hurt.
    Special teams. Where the kicking game flailed aimlessly, the coverage on kickoffs was particularly bad. The special teams play this year was not as disastrous as the defensive play, but it had its horrific moments.
  10. They obviously had something better to do. Instead of winning one of their last three games or bothering to show up against teams like the Raiders, the Broncos obviously had something better to do. Not sure what that might have been, but there were times where the effort simply wasn’t going into the game and I have to imagine it was going somewhere else instead.

The Broncos--a young team loaded with spectacular talent on offense--might want to remember the failure of this year so that they can address their own shortcomings next year. They failed to make the playoffs by just one game--a game that probably would have saved their coaches job, would have given them a platform to build on for next season. Instead, they ended ugly and they’ll have a new head coach next season.


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