Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Nov 2010

ESPN: Josh McDaniels and the Denver Running Game

This week's Monday Night Football feature is on Josh McDaniels and his three-point program to destroy the Broncos' running game, which has gone from first in rushing DVOA the season before he arrived to second-to-last this year.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 20 Nov 2010

46 comments, Last at 30 Nov 2010, 7:19pm by tunesmith

Comments

1
by Fan in Exile :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 12:06pm

Wow, just reading the comment here, made me realize that the article is not worth my time. Thanks for that Bill.

2
by Jayson Werth (not verified) :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 1:17pm

And what was wrong with the comment? You think Boy Wonder has done a good job with the running game?

3
by Fan in Exile :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 2:26pm

My first response to this is, "if you have to ask the question then you won't understand the answer."

But giving you the benefit of the doubt. The first and most obvious problem is the chiefs game where we had a great running game. So pretty obviously except for the injuries that they've been fighting through the game that McD wanted isn't bad. We'll see how it goes, but obviously if the guys just made it onto the field it's far too early to start ripping on him for it.

Now if he had been snarky before the chiefs game he might have had a leg to stand on, but after it just looks stupid.

Next he seems to be looking at the running game as if it can be considered apart from the passing game. It can't be in case you were wondering. You can't substitute one guard for running plays and one guard for passing plays, you have to bring in guys who fit both parts of your system.

Next arguing that they were elite in 2008, shows that he's not looking beyond certain limited stats. In 2008 they couldn't score points. They needed changes. I don't know where those changes are going yet, but you have to give a guy a chance to play with healthy players before this type of piece.

Finally, at least last year, he tried to keep it the same. The same players, the same coaches but the RBs clearly got better. They just weren't getting it done.

4
by RichC (not verified) :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 3:02pm

"Next he seems to be looking at the running game as if it can be considered apart from the passing game. It can't be in case you were wondering. You can't substitute one guard for running plays and one guard for passing plays, you have to bring in guys who fit both parts of your system."

This.

The Denver passing offense is very very good. The passing offense is much more important than the running offense.

6
by deflated (not verified) :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 8:09pm

Are we watching the same team? The Denver Broncos I follow have produced one competent running display this season - prior to KC they have ranged from bad to hideous. Apart from Buckhalter they stank last year as well, Moreno just eked out his first 100yd game after 20ish starts which is a pretty indifferent start to a career. But this is the real head-scratcher:

"So pretty obviously except for the injuries that they've been fighting through the game that McD wanted isn't bad."

In 2008 we started 7 different RBs due to injury and still had a superior running game. This year has had nothing in comparison and the running game absolutely stinks.

7
by Fan in Exile :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:38am

There's this awesome website called football outsiders where you can go and see that O-line has a huge impact on the running game, and the RB is kind of interchangeable. Then you can look at the 2010 injuries and see how they were to our O-line and the 2008 ones where to the RB.

If you're going by stats there's only been one good game, but if you've been watching the games you'll have seen how the O-line is coming together and Moreno is getting healthier and better.

15
by deflated (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:47pm

So I'm guessing you were furious when we wasted a first round pick on Moreno then?

I've watched the games, the ground game hurts my eyes. The Laurence Maroney Experiment was astoundingly bad; a somewhat effective player from 2009 (25th in DVOA of 50 qualified RBs) morphed into a stumbling disaster (-65.8% DVOA, -11 effective yards). He looked completely lost and indifferent, it just looked like he didn't know what he was expected to do as he approached the line.

And if you actually look at the FO stats you'll see that the O-line is the best performed part of the running game; our best aspect is Power running (54% success rate, 24th) and Stuffed rate (26%, 30th) compared to the 2nd Level (32nd) and Open Field (32nd) yards. Even when they get some room the RBs can't take advantage of it.

5
by KJT :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 7:34pm

Man, I HATE when someone writes something bad about my team, especially when it's true.

8
by Fan in Exile :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:39am

Man, I LOVE it when someone only rips on the person and isn't smart enough to respond to any of the points, especially when they're good.

32
by Scott C :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 3:24pm

Which point was good? I don't see it. There are points that stand on their own, but don't seem to relate to the issue at hand.

So there is one game where the running game did OK, and that's all the "obvious" evidence you need? Ever hear of sample size? The Bills just scored 35 points in a half and won another game, is it "obvious" that they are a great offense now?

The issue 'scoring points' in 2008 was one of turnovers and bad defense. Last in the league by FAR in turnovers created on defense (13, second worst 17, median 25). And they had a league low 2 non-offensive TD's. No the 2008 Denver Offense was not a problem. The defense was atrocious, and the special teams bland.

McD came in and talked about how 'hard it is to win without' a go-to running back, drafted one, changed the offense dramatically, and the running game fell apart. You admit that its at least as much about the O-line and scheme as the RB, but ignore that McD ignored that with personnel and scheme.

How do you justify the following as not being primarily influenced by coaching?
Year, Yards/attempt rank
2002: 3
2003: 5
2004: 9
2005: 4
2006: 9
2007: 5
2008: 3
2009: 17
2010: 32

37
by tunesmith :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 7:28pm

I can justify it as age and experience being a heavy influence. Average years of experience of starting line:

2002: 2.6
2003: 5.2
2004: 5.2
2005: 5.6
2006: 6.6
2007: 5.6
2008: 4 (Clady, Kuper, Harris)
2009: 5 (Hamilton degrading from concussions, Harris injured)
2010: 1.4

And again, it is simply not true that McDaniels has thrown out the zone scheme. It's a canard that gets repeated a lot, but it is false.

38
by Kibbles :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:18am

Right, and of course Josh McDaniels had nothing to do with that dramatic drop in experience. It's not like he got rid of Ben Hamilton or Casey Wiegmann and chose to start a pair of rookies or anything. He's a victim of circumstance.

And again, it's absolutely true that McDaniels has changed Denver's blocking scheme. Sure, he still runs zone plays, but the zone plays he runs are different than the zone plays that were Denver's bread and butter under Shanahan. As for it being canard... I will again refer you to the following quote by Josh McDaniels, head coach of the Denver Broncos: "Our running game and some of the things we're going to do next year will definitely change. The teams that run the zone play, that's predominantly what they do, because if you're going to be good at that, you're going to have to be good at that all the time. We're not doing that. There will be some zone in there, but we're not going to major in it. We're going to run some power, we're going to run some inside zone. There's no way to exactly characterize our type of running scheme. It's just not going to be dedicated to the outside zone play. It will be different. But it will be more what I'm used to, and Clancy's going to do a great job with it."

Now, I don't know what you see when you read that block of text, but I see the words "will definitely change", "we're not going to do that", "there will be some zone, but we're not going to major in it", "it's just not going to be dedicated to the outside zone play", "it will be different", and "it will be more what I'm used to". I don't know how he could have possibly been more clear that he was changing Denver's blocking scheme unless he sent a hand-written letter personally addressed to you that read "Dear tunesmith, by the way, I really, really, really, really, really am changing the blocking scheme. I promise. You might not think I am, but I cross my heart and I hope to die that I am. That's why I'm releasing guys like Hamilton and Wiegmann who are still useful players but who were suited for the old blocking scheme. That's why I'm drafting larger linemen then Denver has drafted in the past. That's why I keep dropping words like "different" and mentioning how much I want to establish a power running game, by which you are supposed to infer that Denver's previous blocking scheme was not a power scheme. It's why I called all those great experienced offensive linemen with whom Denver experienced so much success things like "old" and "slow". You apparently seem absolutely convinced that I know what I'm doing, so trust me on this one: there's a new sheriff in town, and our blocking scheme now reflects my own personal preferences. Sincerely, Josh McDaniels"

9
by JIPanick :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 1:55am

If he keeps Orton playing at this level, I don't care if we never call a handoff again. OTOH, somebody badly needs to fix the defense.

10
by tunesmith :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 6:40am

Gawd, the bias here sometimes...

Ben Hamilton - concussioned out of effectiveness. Tom Nalen, gone. Lepsis rapidly lost effectiveness.

This year - Clady, injured. Harris, injured. Rookie replaced Nalen. Rookie replaced Hamilton.

This ain't rocket science, and it ain't McD maurading through the league in a gleeful boyish impetuous display of incompetence.

11
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 9:22am

So what if my coach changed the scheme, the coaches and the personnel that had been wildly successful in a decade for no reason other than he's a young arrogant punk?

Leave McDaniels alone! Wah! Wah!

12
by Fan in Exile :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 11:12am

Yeah shanny got fired because he was wildly successful. We scoring more points per game now than in 2008, I would say that's an improvement even if the running game isn't doing as well. 8-8 is not wildly successful.

16
by deflated (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 1:00pm

And the defense is still giving up 28 a game and our record is worse. Changing from a good running game/good passing game to awful running/outstanding passing does not seem to be a net improvement.

13
by RichC (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:16pm

"the coaches and the personnel that had been wildly successful in a decade "

Umm, what? You do realise Shanny got fired for a reason, right?

14
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:41pm

The reason being that Pat Bowlen had become a senile drunk, yes.

17
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 1:00pm

And the reason has nothing to do with the Denver zone-blocking scheme, Rick Dennison the OL coach or the top-notch OLine Shannahan assembled.

All of the three are now gone under McDaniels. He sure isn't having any success in the run game.

33
by Scott C :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 3:27pm

So, over the course of what 14 years, Shanahan never once had injuries or rookies on his offensive line, right? In bad injury years in the past, the Broncos would still have the 10th ranked running game in yards/attempt.

Yes, injuries and age are hurting this year, but the scheme and coaches seem unable to compensate.

18
by RickD :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 1:04pm

Speaking for Pats fans, we all think it's all Maroney's fault. :)

19
by Kibbles :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 5:21pm

I cannot for the life of my understand how anyone could possibly argue with even the slightest bit of seriousness that the running game has not gotten much, much, much worse under Josh McDaniels. Don't play the injury card on me, either- the 2006 Broncos lost Lepsis 6 games in and still ranked 8th in yards and 9th in ypa. The 2002 Broncos lost Nalen 7 games in and still ranked 5th in yards and 3rd in ypa. The 2007 Broncos lost Nalen 5 games in and lost Hamilton for the entire season and still ranked 9th in yards and 5th in ypa. The 2008 Broncos lost Nalen in the preseason and by November they were starting a cell phone salesman from the local mall at RB (no, seriously, they were literally starting a cell phone salesman from the local mall at RB), and they ranked 12th in yards and 3rd in ypa. Denver dealt with just as much injury to the offensive line before McDaniels came to town, and they always emerged unscathed. Now, under McDaniels, they suffer an injury to the offensive line and become the worst rushing team in the entire NFL.

You're right that RBs are fungible, which is why it was RIDICULOUS when McDaniels spent the #12 draft pick on an RB after already returning every single RB from the team that ranked 3rd in YPA despite putting 7 backs on injured reserve in 2008. By the way, at least one of those RBs, (Peyton Hillis), was actually apparently pretty good after all. Since taking over as head coach, McDaniels has scrapped the most successful blocking system of the last 20 years, fired the most successful RB coach possibly in history, fired the offensive line coach responsible for developing that studly offensive line in the first place, and traded a draft pick for the utter failure that is Laurence Maroney... and Denver's running game has, in response, become possibly the worst it's been in team history.

Now, he's been working absolute MIRACLES in the passing game, but let's call a spade a spade. He took the most stable, reliable, unbreakable running game in the history of the NFL... and he broke it. Also, after spending all of his effort tinkering with the offense, it's still regressed, and the defense still hasn't improved. Actually, that's inaccurate- the defense improved, but then McDaniels chased off the architect of that improvement, too.

I can't for the life of me understand how anyone could deny any of these obvious truths.

20
by Fan in Exile :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 8:31pm

I don't understand how someone could write so much and not respond to the previous arguments at all.

21
by deflated (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 9:11pm

Okay, lets make this a simple yes/no proposition:

Do you or do you not believe that the Denver running game is far worse on a per-carry basis in 2010 than it was in 2008?

No qualifiers about O-line injury, as Kibbles pointed out there were plenty prior to 2008. Nothing on the rookies on the O-line either, going that route was entirely McDaniels choice. By deriding the article you appear to think the current running game is as good or improved ("scores more points", etc.) - that is certainly an interesting perspective for an FO reader.

22
by Fan in Exile :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 9:51pm

You are so completely wrong.

I'm deriding the article because it misses the obvious reality of the situation. When Shanahan was replaced by a McDaniels the running game was always going with SHanahan. It wasn't a decision Josh made it was a choice Bowlen made by picking a new coach from such a different school. To rip on McDaniels after only a year and half shows a total inability to understand the reality of coaching changes, to do so after the injuries and the success in KC, shows that he clearly also does not have a reasonable expectation about what can actually be done with the limits of a 53 man roster and an inability to adjust the story line when it's clearly changing.

26
by Kibbles :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 3:29am

When Shanahan was replaced by McDaniels, why did the running game have to go with Shanahan? Rick Dennison was still around. Bobby Turner was still around. When Jim Mora was fired in Indy and Tony Dungy was hired to replace him, it's not like Mora took the offense with him on his way out the door- Tony Dungy recognized what he already had in place and he built around it rather than trying to overhaul it in his image. Ditto that for Gruden in Tampa. Now, it was probably easier for Dungy since he's always been a guy who has made his bones on defense, or for Gruden who was always an offense-first coach, but it shows that it's entirely possible for a coach to come into a new situation and say "Wow, you know what? Something's really working here, so rather than tearing it down and adapting this to my philosophy, I'm going to adapt my philosophy to the pieces that are already in place".

Also, it may just be me, but I think it's a little bit odd to see someone on a stats-centric site like Football Outsiders basing the crux of the argument on the fact that Denver's rushing offense just had a good game. One good game. And not even a phenomenal game or anything- they averaged 4.94 yards per rush, which is a good total, but nothing that would even raise an eyebrow if Denver's other 8 games hadn't been so horrifyingly terrible.

29
by oi! (not verified) :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 10:46am

Perhaps a better example would be Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh. Everyone expected him to completely revamp the defense. But he chose to keep LeBeau around and leave the defense essentially unchanged. It may not be the defense that he would coach - but he's not the DC, he's the HC, and the defense works the way it is.

34
by Scott C :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 3:36pm

Or Ron Rivera in San Diego, never coached the 3-4 until SD, now is the DC of a team that runs it (though its more hybrid now than before).

McD had the choice to go "wow, the running game here works, lets keep as much of that as we can", but instead just tossed everything out, good and bad, and started over.

30
by deflated (not verified) :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 1:45pm

So your position is that a far less effective running game is an acceptable price for having McDaniels as a coach?

I can't see that he has shown anything like the potential to be worth that. This isn't a rip on McDaniels, I just can't see any benefit that outweighs the cost. He's shown an outstanding talent to put together a passing game but is at best workmanlike for anything else required of a head coach (and some areas he hasn't even made league-average to date). The net change - slightly fewer points scored (23.1 per game in 2008, 22.6 in 2010), unchanged defense and much worse record - doesn't look like the trade-off will be a good one for 2+ years, if ever.

That is four years for McDaniels to get the team back to the overall level he inherited. I can't think of any HC who has gotten that sort of opportunity to take over a talented-but-flawed team and was allowed to tinker for 4 seasons with no consequences. If he had kept the old running game - convinced one of Dennison/Turner to stay, drafted defense instead of a whole new o-line + RB - what would Denver look like today? Combined with McD's passing game they would be a team no-one wanted to play, a great offense.

Also you can't say the changes were inevitable, all the relevant players/coaches could have been retained if McD desired. His choice, no-one else.

23
by tunesmith :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 10:12pm

You're exhibiting more of a willingness to just be argumentative than to actually discuss. McDaniels hasn't broken a running game, but he's obviously broken a few brains here and there, as evidenced by the number of people who will string together a few data points and incorrect assertions into a downright weird narrative - it almost sounds like you wouldn't be surprised to find out McDaniels is some kind of New England Manchurian Candidate.

Just to pick a few things out,

scrapped the most successful blocking system of the last 20 years

False. The Broncos still run zone more than power. You would know this if you were more interested in facts than your own weird biases.

fired the most successful RB coach possibly in history

False. Bobby Turner was hired away from the Broncos by Mike Shanahan, who Turner had coached with for something like fourteen years, and it was a promotion as "assistant head coach/running backs". A google search for "Bobby Turner fired" turns up zero relevant matches. McD actually attempted to refuse Shanahan's request to interview Turner at first.

fired the offensive line coach responsible for developing that studly offensive line

False and WTF? Alex Gibbs had been trying to retire for years and spent the last few with Atlanta and Houston, not with Denver. Also, Alex Gibbs unexpectedly retired (while in Seattle) just before the start of this regular season. If you're talking about Rick Dennison, again.... False. Dennison was hired away from Denver and given a promotion to offensive coordinator, after Houston lost Alex Gibbs and Kyle Shanahan (hmm, I don't see people claiming that Kubiak incompetently fired them...)

I can't for the life of me understand how anyone could deny any of these obvious truths.

Sounds like a personal problem.

24
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 11:20pm

^this guy probably believes politicians resign in order to spend more time with their families.

How much coolaid do you have to drink to sincerely believe in front office press releases? Enough to melt the brain, probably.

27
by Kibbles :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 4:02am

McDaniels hasn't broken a running game? You mean the running game he took over hasn't gone from 1st to 22nd to 31st under his watch? You don't think McDaniels bears any responsibility for the slide?

False. The Broncos still run zone more than power. You would know this if you were more interested in facts than your own weird biases.

Let's hear the facts according to the man himself. This is a direct quote from Josh McDaniels this last offseason (emphasis mine):
"Our running game and some of the things we're going to do next year will definitely change. The teams that run the zone play, that's predominantly what they do, because if you're going to be good at that, you're going to have to be good at that all the time. We're not doing that. There will be some zone in there, but we're not going to major in it. We're going to run some power, we're going to run some inside zone. There's no way to exactly characterize our type of running scheme. It's just not going to be dedicated to the outside zone play. It will be different. But it will be more what I'm used to, and Clancy's going to do a great job with it."

And here's McDaniels on some of the offensive linemen he inherited from Shanahan (you know, the guys responsible for that top-ranked rushing attack that he's not at all responsible for dismantling): "We had some linemen up front that aren't here anymore that were light, weak, old,". And here's one of those "light, weak, old" linemen, Casey Wiegmann, "That's what they told me when they called me and said they were going to release me, that they were going to go with a bigger offensive line, a more powerful running game".

I'm very interested in the facts, and the facts are that Josh McDaniels has been changing the blocking scheme since the moment he arrived. He admits it, his coaching staff admits it, his offensive linemen admit it, NFL analysts admit it, the Denver beat writers admit it... pretty much everyone admits it except for you.

False. Bobby Turner was hired away from the Broncos by Mike Shanahan, who Turner had coached with for something like fourteen years, and it was a promotion as "assistant head coach/running backs". A google search for "Bobby Turner fired" turns up zero relevant matches. McD actually attempted to refuse Shanahan's request to interview Turner at first.

However they want to spin it, the simple fact is that Turner left in a lateral move. Sure, he got a longer title, but Shanahan's been pulling that nonsense for years (calling someone "Assistant HC: RBs" instead of "RB coach" so he can bill it as a promotion), and I've yet to see anyone fooled by it. Lots of people seem to be leaving Denver in lateral moves these days- Bobby Turner, Rick Dennison, Mike Nolan... whatever you want to call it, whether they were fired, or whether they left because they couldn't get along with McD, or whether Denver didn't make enough of an effort to retain them, or whatever, the end result is the same- lots of awesome coaches with a history of pulling off spectacular coaching jobs all leaving Denver to take the same position with another team.

False and WTF? Alex Gibbs had been trying to retire for years and spent the last few with Atlanta and Houston, not with Denver. Also, Alex Gibbs unexpectedly retired (while in Seattle) just before the start of this regular season. If you're talking about Rick Dennison, again.... False. Dennison was hired away from Denver and given a promotion to offensive coordinator, after Houston lost Alex Gibbs and Kyle Shanahan (hmm, I don't see people claiming that Kubiak incompetently fired them...)

Alex Gibbs? Why on earth would you bring up Alex Gibbs? Gibbs hasn't been Denver's offensive line coach since 2000. Rick Dennison took over as OL coach in 2001, and he was responsible for developing every single OL after that. Four of Denver's five starting linemen (Clady, Hamilton, Kuper, Harris) had never played for any offensive line coach other than Dennison. Neither had any of the reserves. Dennison also oversaw the development of Chris Myers and Cooper Carlisle (starting guards for the Texans and Raiders), and the transition of Lepsis from RT to LT. Gibbs might have been the architect of the blocking scheme back in 1995, but Dennison gets every single ounce of credit for turning the 2008 Denver Broncos offensive line into the juggernaut that it was.

And again, you're right that he wasn't technically fired... he was demoted, and in response he quit so he could join another team willing to give him his old job back.

35
by Scott C :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 3:39pm

"False. The Broncos still run zone more than power. You would know this if you were more interested in facts than your own weird biases."

Many, many teams run zone more than power, but don't fall in the same category as the Shanahan/Kubiak style zone running game. There is a huge difference, just ask any d-lineman about what kinds of blocks they encounter.

25
by Dennis :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 11:58pm

I'm surprised nobody has commented on Peyton Hillis yet. McDaniels refused to play him last year even though the Broncos didn't have any power running game and then traded him for Brady Quinn.

28
by Kibbles :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 4:22am

See #19.

I actually don't have a problem with Denver trading Hillis for Quinn. The fact is that RBs *ARE* pretty fungible, and as awesome as Hillis has looked, a lot of that is due to Cleveland's sick offensive line. I have a bigger problem with Denver wasting the #12 overall pick on Knowshon Moreno when they already had Peyton Hillis in the fold (plus Ryan Torain, Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington, and LaMont Jordan)... but once that mistake was made, Denver might as well get what they can. At least Denver got something for Hillis, as opposed to Ben Hamilton (starting LG for the Seahawks), Tyler Polumbus (starting LT for the Seahawks), and Casey Wiegmann (starting C for the Chiefs). Especially Wiegmann, whose replacement is a big reason for Denver's fall.

Worth pointing out that not only has Denver gone from 1st to 31st in rushing DVOA under McDaniels, but it has done so despite the fact that McDaniels has spent the #12 pick on an RB, a 2nd and 3rd round pick on offensive linemen, traded a 4th round pick for another RB, and given multi-million dollar contracts to Knowshon Moreno (5 years, 17 million), Correll Buckhalter (4 years, 10 million), and LaMont Jordan (2 years, 2.5 million). In terms of resources, Josh McDaniels has probably devoted more energy to the running game than any other aspect of the entire franchise... and it's still gone from spectacular to horrifying.

I give McDaniels props for turning Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd into All Pros, but at the same time, I can't help but recognize how horrifying his results have been with the running game... and while results to date are not necessarily indicative of future performance, what else do we have to judge him by? It may be too early to give him a final report card, but he's got a giant red "F" on his mid-terms.

31
by ammek :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 1:52pm

There's also the issue of how long the transition should take. Kubiak, going the other way from power to zone in Houston, returned the Texans to the top ten in ALY in his second season. Mike McCarthy, on the other hand, needed four years before his zone scheme was effective (and it hasn't lasted). How long are you willing to give McD?

36
by Scott C :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 3:45pm

Now that, is a worthy argument.

Sure, its not going well so far, but I can agree that you can't really judge a HC and scheme transition in 2 years. It is better to transition without a period of serious decline, but things may turn around in 2 years.

39
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 12:23am

I guess they won't ever make coolaid strong enough to cover up the taste of this one.

How (much more) foolish do the homers in this thread look now?

40
by ammek :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 5:51am

Not really at all. Denver lost on poor pass protection and defense. It's not as if the late Shanahan years were a model of defensive dominance.

42
by Fan in Exile :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 8:51am

The people piling on in this thread are so dumb. No one ever argued that the Bronco's were a good team. The most I ever said is that their running game was looking better. It wasn't the running game that was the big problem last night, it was the passing game, an old defense, and play calling.

These are the problems you have when you've got to turn over as many players as the Bronco's have that's just reality in the NFL. You're going to have guys that make rookie mistakes and guys that drop off of cliffs.

It's dumb to write an entire article ignoring that that's the reality in the NFL. Now if you could write an article about who the Bronco's should pick up, before hand, not some hindsight bs. That's a good article but to expect that a massive change over is going to happen quickly, and rip only on the head coach is total crap.

41
by rots (not verified) :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 8:02am

This article is ridiculous. As a life long Bronco fan and watcher of just about every snap for the last 30 years i can state unequivocally that our running game in 2008 was atrocious when it counted.

Namely, we couldnt convert a 3rd and 2 or 4th and 1 to save our lives via the ground game. Running up meaningless yards b/n the 20's maybe looks good to Barnwell when those yards arent put into context. However, when evaluating the running game w/in the larger context of donig something crazy, like you know, scoring points, the running game was ineffective.

Now the running game is worse than ineffective, its downright putrid. But on the other hand, who cares? Bigger problems lie on the D/ST sides of things and until there are some real defensive playmakers our running game doesnt really worry me.

43
by ammek :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 10:46am

Denver ranked #10 in power situations in 2008, converting 70%. Perhaps you only remember the failures. Tenth seems okay for a team that started six different running backs.

44
by Kibbles :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:05pm

Denver ran 34 times on 3rd or 4th down with 1 or 2 yards left to go in 2008. 26 of those 34 rushes resulted in a new set of downs, good for a 76.5% conversion rate. For comparison purposes, from 2002-2003 (the Clinton Portis years), the team ran 70 times on 3rd or 4th down with 1 or 2 yards to go, and converted 50 times, good for 71.4%. In 2005, when Denver had the #1 rushing DVOA, almost produced a pair of 1,000 yard rushers, and rode its dominant rushing attack to the AFCCG, Denver converted 33 out of 46 runs on 3rd or 4th down with 2 or fewer yards to go, which is 71.7%.

In the red zone, the 2008 Denver Broncos averaged 3.5 yards per carry with a first down every 2.9 carries. The 2002-2003 Broncos averaged 3.0 ypc with a first down every 3.3 carries, while the 2005 Broncos averaged 2.9 ypc with a first down every 3.0 carries.

Inside the 5 yard line, the 2008 Denver Broncos scored a TD on 45% of their rushes. The 2002-2003 Denver Broncos scored a TD on 42% of their rushes from inside the 5, while the 2005 Denver Broncos scored a TD on 35% of their rushes from inside the 5.

By every objective measure imaginable, "when it counted" the 2008 Denver running game was the most efficient unit the franchise has produced since 1998, at least. They converted a higher percentage of the time on 3rd down, they averaged more ypc in the red zone, and they converted a higher percentage of their goal-to-go scenarios. You can state that the 2008 running game was atrocious when it counted as unequivocally as you want, but all that does is make you unequivocally wrong.

I also don't get your last paragraph. Apparently you care how good the running game was in 2008 when the defense was atrocious, but not in 2010 because the defense is atrocious? You ask who cares that it's been 2 years and the defense hasn't improved any (even with the mighty forces of regression on its side), while the offense has gotten worse? I would think that anyone who is a fan of the franchise should care.

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by Kibbles :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 2:42pm

Also, I feel the need to point out just how crazy it is for us to be comparing the 2008 Denver Broncos to the 2010 version in the first place (to say nothing of the 2002-2003 or 2005 versions). The starting RB for the 2008 Broncos was Michael Pittman... until he got injured. Then it was Selvin Young... until he got injured. Then it would have been Andre Hall, but he was injured. Ryan Torain recovered from his preseason injury enough to log a start before getting injured again and getting lost for the season. Fullback Peyton Hillis got a start and was injured, but he was able to play through it the next week... until he got injured a second time and lost for the season. After that, BACKUP fullback P.J. Pope got a start before he, too, got injured. All told, Denver had an RB start 5 games, a different RB start 3 more, a different RB start 3 more, a different RB start 3 more, a different RB start 1 game, and another different RB start 1 more. And that doesn't include the back who they lost during preseason, or Andre Hall who got injured when he was still a reserve. On September 1st, Tatum Bell got cut by the Detroit Lions, a team so laden with talent they were about to embark on an 0-16 season. On September 2nd, Tatum Bell stole Rudi Johnson's luggage. In October, Tatum realized that he wouldn't be landing on a team, so he took a job managing a cell phone kiosk in the Aurora mall. In November, after the Broncos had passed on Bell 6 times already, Tatum was pressed into service as the starting RB for the Denver Broncos. It was a farce. It would be like if the San Diego Chargers lost Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, Jacob Hester, and Darren Sproles, and then brought up an RB from the practice squad and lost him, and then signed Larry Johnson and Lorenzo Neal off the street, and then lost Larry Johnson, and then started Lorenzo Neal and lost him in the first half, and then brought back Michael Bennett and started him for the last month of the season.

I just wanted to add some context, because it's easy to read the words "placed 7 RBs on IR" or "started 6 different players at RB" and not really process them, but once you start seeing some names and details, the true absurdity shines through. If someone pitched a movie idea to Disney where a cell phone salesman-slash-seventh stringer would go on to lead his team in rushing over the final month of the season, Disney would reject it as too unbelievable. Denver as a team ranked 12th in rushing yardage, despite the fact that their leading rusher had 343 rushing yards. The "this year's Broncos have had to deal with injuries" excuse really doesn't carry much weight with me.

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by tunesmith :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 7:19pm

why not? again, you're more invested in building a case than in looking at all the material facts. This year's Broncos had to deal with injuries on the offensive line - both starting tackles playing gimpy and sometimes held out. In addition, if Ben Hamilton had still been on the team, he would have been useless due to the concussion factory he became. It was a good move to get a new guard in place of him. Finally, if you want to raise holy hell out of replacing a 15-year veteran with a rookie center, go right ahead - plenty of people would be comfortable with that given that they haven't exactly been one center away from being a super bowl contender.