Thank You John Elway!

Posted by Uncle Rico 2:06 PM ET

Only three years after after Pat Bowlen fired Josh McDaniels and ended the neophyte head coach’s reign of destruction on the Denver Broncos, John Elway has rebuilt the Broncos and guided the team back to the Super Bowl. So, let’s hope that tonight Mr. Bowlen will be able to hold up the Vince Lombardi Trophy and echo the thoughts of Broncos fans around the world in proclaiming “Thank You John Elway!” Follow all the action and offer your public thanks to The Duke on Uncle Rico’s new site, Thank You John Elway.

Berger says Broncos didn’t want to play for “little punk” Josh McDaniels

Posted by Uncle Rico 5:35 PM ET

It’s been two years and 10 months since Pat Bowlen fired Josh McDaniels, but that didn’t stop former NFL punter Mitch Berger from recently sharing his feelings on playing for McDaniels.

In an interview with 750 The Game in Portland, Berger said of his tenure in Denver: “It felt like I was playing for an equipment manager or something, [McDaniels] was like a little punk. He came in there and said that he wanted to hear a lot from me, he wanted to know what I thought about situations. He wanted to take advantage of my veteran leadership… he said all that. But as soon as I had a game that wasn’t up to his standards, he wouldn’t talk to you or look at you.”

Berger also highlighted the fact that McDaniels often “threw players under the bus in meetings,” specifically mentioning receiver Brandon Marshall. “I never played for a guy in my life who guys wanted to play for less,” Berger concluded. “He was just a guy you didn’t care about.”

McDaniels, now the offensive coordinator in New England, is having a rough week. Yesterday, the Cincinnati Bengals defense dominated the Patriots offense. In the Bengals 13-6 win, Tom Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in his last 53 games. The Patriots quarterback was only three games shy of breaking Drew Brees’ record for consecutive games with a TD pass.

Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos (5-0) earned the team’s 16th consecutive regular season victory. The Denver offense continued on a torrid pace, piling up 51 points in a 51-48 win at Dallas. While it’s still early in the 2013 season, Pro Football Talk detailed the six offensive records that the Broncos are on track to break (of particular interest to Broncos fans may be the points record set by the Josh McDaniels coordinated New England Patriots in 2007):

Points
Record: 589, Patriots, 2007
Broncos now: 230
Broncos pace: 736

Touchdowns
Record: 75, Patriots, 2007
Broncos now: 29
Broncos pace: 93

First downs
Record: 444, Patriots, 2012
Broncos now: 147
Broncos pace: 470

Passing first downs
Record: 280, Saints, 2011
Broncos now: 97
Broncos pace: 310

Yards gained
Record: 7,474, Saints, 2011
Broncos now: 2,449
Broncos pace: 7,837

Fewest interceptions
Record: 5, 1960 Browns, 1966 Packers, 1990 Chiefs, 1990 Giants, 2010 Patriots, 2011 49ers
Broncos now: 1
Broncos pace: 3

John Fox’s conservative play calling, epic blunder by Rahim Moore end Broncos season

Posted by Uncle Rico 2:40 PM ET

Broncos safety Rahim Moore allowed WR Jacoby Jones to get behind him on a desperation 70 yard TD pass with less than one minute remaining in the 4th quarter of Saturday's 38-35 OT loss to the Ravens.  (Image: AP)

Broncos safety Rahim Moore allowed WR Jacoby Jones to get behind him on a desperation 70 yard TD pass with less than one minute remaining in the 4th quarter of Saturday’s 38-35 OT loss to the Ravens. (Image: AP)

There were a number of factors – including horrendous officiating, a “chunk” from mostly reliable kicker Matt Prater and an ill-timed Peyton Manning interception – that led to the Broncos 38-35 overtime loss to Baltimore in the AFC semi-finals on Saturday, but none stand out more than head coach John Fox’s ultra conservative play calling and safety Rahim Moore’s epic blunder in (not) performing his deep-half zone responsibilities on Jacoby Jones’ 70-yard touchdown with under 50 seconds left in regulation and the Broncos leading 35-28.

As Andy Benoit wrote in The Fifth Down New York Times blog, the result of the game was more about Denver’s miscues than anything else:

“This [game] belongs in the discussion of ‘greatest playoff games of all time. It’s hard to give it the nod, though, because the most dramatic play and the most dramatic decision were more about one team’s mistakes than about another team’s greatness. The mistakes came from the Broncos… John Fox telling Peyton Manning to take a knee with half a minute to go in regulation when the Broncos had acceptable field position (own 20 yard-line) and two timeouts. Why are you paying Manning more than $1 million a game if you’re not going to lean on him in that situation?”

David Ramsey of the Colorado Springs Gazette thinks Fox’s cowardice doomed Denver. Per Ramsey, “the Broncos had a chance to retaliate after one of the most devastating mistakes in Colorado sports history. Here’s what coach John Fox did instead: He proclaimed – to his players, to a jammed stadium, to television viewers around the world – his lack of faith in his offense. He worried about, using his words, the “bad stuff” that might happen. Bad stuff did happen, largely because of Fox’s cowardice. He doomed his Broncos to a 38-35 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.”

Peter King called Fox’s decisions Coaching Negligence 101.

As the Atlanta Falcons proved yesterday, 31 seconds is enough time to move the offense in position to attempt a field goal. Fox also refused to let Manning throw on third and seven during the Broncos attempt to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter. Instead Fox directed a between the tackles Ronnie Hillman run that went nowhere and the Ravens got the ball back, ultimately tying the game on Moore’s inexplicable decision to take himself out of the Flacco to Jones play by switching to a backpedal at the last second and going for an interception as opposed to knocking the ball down or at the very least ensuring Jones did not score in the event the reception was made. Moore’s failure to understand his responsibilities given the circumstances is the biggest gaffe in the history of the Denver Broncos.

George Bretherton’s second-by-second examination of the play notes that if Moore had just made the tackle – never mind breaking up the pass – Denver would have still been in great shape:

“How many breakdowns were there on this play? Consider: Had Moore been late to cover Jones but had still made the tackle, the Broncos would still have been in good shape. Flacco and the Ravens linemen were still more than 50 yards up the field. It had taken 18 seconds from the time Flacco was tackled on a 7-yard run on the previous play to when he was able to take the snap on third down. It most likely would have taken at least 25-30 seconds to take the next snap, which would have left the Ravens with one or possibly two more plays.”

Moore defied the odds of probability. According to ESPN’s stats and info win probability model, the Broncos had 97.2% chance to win the game just before Jones’ TD. That’s how close the Broncos were to hosting the New England Patriots with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. In a matter of seconds, the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage was squandered.

And it’s not as if Moore had a good game otherwise. Jeff Legwold confirmed what was obvious to many Broncos fans watching the game – Moore blew his assignment on Torrey Smith’s first TD as Champ Bailey was expecting deep help from the free safety on the pass play:

“That said, after breaking down Bailey’s games for years, it appears he expects help on the first scoring pass to Smith simply because of the way he’s aligned at the snap. He looks to have outside leverage and plays the play that way throughout. With outside leverage, or playing the outside shoulder of the receiver, that would indicate he thinks he has help from a safety to the inside. He played the play that way, and he rarely fumbles that kind of assignment, and the safety (in this case Rahim Moore) moves upfield to take a receiver crossing over the middle. Moore may have thought the ball was going to the underneath receiver so was trying to make the play there. Or Bailey got the call wrong or Moore got the call wrong.”

Now, the offseason begins. It’s your move John Elway.

The only person calling Brian Xanders is Mike Klis

Posted by Uncle Rico 12:45 ET

When the Carolina Panthers fired general manager Marty Hurney in October, The Denver Post’s Mike Klis wrote:

“Brian Xanders should be on their short-list of candidates. This is a guy who knows the inner front-office systems of three teams — the Atlanta Falcons, Broncos and New England Patriots (through his time with Josh McDaniels). Xanders has worked nearly NFL job, from coach to salary cap manager to talent evaluator to general manager.”

Well, to the surprise of no-one but Klis the Panthers never reached out to Xanders before hiring former Broncos scout and New York Giants football personnel veteran Dave Gettleman. Not to mention, none of the other six teams (Arizona, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, New York (Jets), and San Diego) with GM vacancies considered Xanders as a candidate either.

The word is out that Xanders was little more than the perfect stooge to stand in as GM in Denver while Josh McDaniels tried his best to ruin the Broncos. First, Xanders said he and McDaniels were working in concert with regard to the team’s personnel moves. Then, with his job in jeopardy after McDaniels was fired, Xanders was singing a different tune and not accepting any blame for the catastrophic mess at Dove Valley. Either way, John Elway quickly realized that Xanders was in over his head.

Of course, this isn’t Klis’ first sell job on behalf of Xanders. Before Elway took over the football operations at Dove Valley, Klis lobbied the Broncos to expand Xanders role and authority with the club. Despite NFL analysts and Broncos fans having major concerns about Xanders’ (a) lack of talent evaluation experience – he has never worked as a scout at any level and his background (subsequent to running a health club owned by the Atlanta Falcons) is in salary cap management, and (b) true involvement in the debacle that has caused the Broncos to become the laughingstock of the league, Klis urged doubters to give Xanders an opportunity because he worked his way into the front offices of the NFL by “first cleaning the pool and steam room for the Rankin Smith family.”

Klis just can’t help himself from churning out garbage.

But Klis is not alone when it comes to thoughtless reporting at The Denver Post. It’s All Over Fat Man! took on Jeff Legwold yesterday for his continued insistence that Norv Turner will be a candidate to replace offensive coordinator Mike McCoy if McCoy is hired as head coach of the Bears or Cardinals. Ted Bartlett did a great job setting the record straight on breaking down why Turner doesn’t make sense in Denver.

Agent Bob LaMonte doing his best to prevent world from forgetting Josh McDaniels head coaching disaster

Posted by Uncle Rico 3:10 PM ET

Another Josh McDaniels redemption rumor has surfaced today. The latest, from Marc Sessler at NFL.com suggests that if offered the Cleveland Browns head coaching job, McDaniels would accept it in a flash. This sounds like another attempt by McDaniels’ agent, Bob LaMonte, to secure his client a spot on the lucrative NFL head coaching carousel. Let’s be real though – while owners and team presidents have memories short enough to provide men like Romeo Crennel, Wade Philips and Norv Turner do-overs (multiple in the case of Turner and Philips), none of them are likely to overlook the extraordinarily disastrous results of McDaniels short tenure as the Broncos head coach.

Getting past a poor record is one thing, but the arrogance, immaturity, inability to get along with star players (e.g. Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Peyton Hillis, Tony Scheffler, etc.) and not being able to work well alongside assistant coaches (e.g. Mike Nolan) McDaniels brings to the table cannot be sold to a fan base. Case in point: Chris Roling at Bleacher Report writes Josh McDaniels is a terrible candidate to replace Lovie Smith. It seems that McDaniels’ only supporter among the analyst community is Mike Lombardi. But by many accounts, including that of Tony Grossi of ESPN Clevelend, Lombardi’s only hope in returning to an NFL front office is in a stripped down general manager role as part of a Joe Banner-Lombardi-McDaniels trio in Cleveland. Recall, after being fired by Al Davis, Lombardi was so desperate to find employment with an NFL franchise that he worked briefly for Mike Shanahan and the Broncos for free. So, Lombardi’s backing of McDaniels is self-serving.

As prime evidence that McDaniels has not learned from his past mistakes, according to two influential NFL sources of Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe, “if Lombardi and McDaniels indeed team up in Cleveland, the chances are good that they will attempt to trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and install him as the franchise quarterback. Brandon Weeden would be out, or in a backup role.”

The ceiling for some football coaches is being a good coordinator. McDaniels seemingly fits into such group, except per bigleadsports, McDaniels’ only coordinator job without the high tide of Tom Brady to raise his boat resulted in the worst offensive performance since the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 1976 Bucs averaged 8.9 points a game. Including those Buccaneers, the six expansion teams since 1970 averaged 14.2 points. McDaniels’ 2011 St. Louis Rams offense: 11.8 points per game.

If McDaniels is as smart as he thinks he is, then he won’t be leaving the New England Patriots anytime soon.

Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall may need a fresh pair of boxers

Posted by Uncle Rico 2:08 PM ET

On the same day that quarterback Peyton Manning helped the Broncos (11-3, No. 2 in the AFC) win for the first time in Baltimore against the Ravens (thank you John Elway for understanding that to be successful in the NFL a team needs an NFL caliber signal caller), Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that Josh McDaniels could be a head coach candidate for the Chicago Bears if Lovie Smith is fired, given that bears general manager Phil Emery, like McDaniels, comes from the Belichick-Pioli tree. Quite frankly it’s shocking that La Canfora would start connecting the dots on a McDaniels to the Bears rumor since McDaniels’ first order of business upon arriving in Denver was to trade the franchise’s emerging star quarterback, Jay Cutler, to the Bears. The decision to trade Cutler was criticized by many including the Denver’s top wide receiver Brandon Marshall who said at the time “I know a lot of people on the outside consider that a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very bad move. . . . Did I say ‘very’?”

Not long thereafter Marshall was traded to Miami by McDaniels for two 2nd round picks. Marshall has since been reunited with Cutler in Chicago, where the wideout recorded his fourth consecutive 100 reception season, an accomplishment that puts his among the most productive receivers in NFL history. So, while the Patriots offensive success with McDaniels calling plays this season has led to a few stories touting the redemption of McDaniels and contemplating his second chance as an NFL head coach, it most certainly won’t be in Chicago as the Bears have indicated a strong desire to sign Cutler to a contract extension.

As for McDaniels getting another chance to lead a franchise, it’s important to not overlook the fact that his most recent success (as was the case prior to landing the job in Denver) is as a result almost entirely of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Really, aside from getting Matt Cassel to play slightly above average while filling in for an injured Brady in 2008, McDaniels hasn’t done much winning without Brady or Belichick. McDaniels’ tenure in Denver was a colossal failure top to bottom and he served as the offensive coordinator of a 2-14 team in St. Louis in 2011.

Recall it was McDaniels’ attempt to trade for Cassel that started the feud with Cutler. But McDaniels should have known what everyone now knows: Cassel is not good. This is evidenced not only by Cassel’s poor play since receiving an oversized contract from the Kansas City Chiefs but also by the fact that Brady Quinn is starting ahead of him. McDaniels misevaluation of quarterback talent doesn’t end with Cassel. In 2010, McDaniels squandered a slew of draft picks trading up to select Tim Tebow in the first round. Tebow was (and still is) a long way from developing into a functional NFL quarterback and many league insiders believe that Tebow could have been had for a single pick in round 2 or 3 or later.

Despite all the speculation that McDaniels will get another head coaching opportunity, the memories of his numerous blunders (on the field and on draft day), childish sideline antics and an NFL policy violation will likely cause any owner searching for a new head coach to conclude Josh McDaniels STILL Sucks.

Broncos season ends with a thud in New England; Elway still looking for QBs

Posted by Uncle Rico 5:15 PM ET

It has been almost a month since the Denver Broncos got shellacked 45 – 10 by the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL playoffs. At the time, some Denver fans tempered the beating the Patriots put on quarterback Tim Tebow and the Broncos by reasoning that New England was the best team in the league and on its way to winning a fourth world championship under head coach Bill Belichick. But, the following week the Patriots narrowly escaped a loss in the AFC championship game at home to Baltimore, and then lost 21 – 17 to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.

After watching two elite passers go head to head in Indianapolis on Sunday it is no surprise that executive vice president of football operations John Elway continues search for an upgrade at quarterback. Certainly, Tebow had his moments as a starting quarterback, but to have a shot at getting to and winning a Super Bowl, Elway knows that a quarterback with the ability and skill to consistently quickly process information and throw accurately is a necessity. So, it will be interesting to see if Denver signs one of the available free agents or drafts a player like Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill as ESPN’s Todd McShay suggests in his recent mock draft. Tebow will enter training camp as the starter, but will he be first on the depth chart come the first week of the 2012 NFL season?

Khan’s one step plan to revive Jacksonville Jaguars: trade for Tebow

Posted by Uncle Rico 5:16 PM ET

As expected, NFL owners unanimously approved the sale of the Jacksonville Jaguars to Shahid Khan. Kahn’s story is remarkable. He left his hometown of Lahore, Pakistan in 1967 at the age of 17 to study industrial engineering at the University of Illinois. While a student, Kahn started working at Flex-N-Gate, an auto parts manufacturer based in Urbana, IL. He continued to work at Flex-N-Gate until 1978 when he left the company to open his own shop with a focus on producing a uniquely designed one-piece bumper that had no seams to rust. Two years later, Kahn acquired Flex-N-Gate and ultimately grew the privately held company into a business with more than $3 billion in revenue, 12,450 employees and 48 plants in the United States and abroad.

Kahn has dreamed of owning an NFL team for some time. Now that he has realized such dream, the formula for success as an NFL owner may be shockingly simple: direct Jaguars general manager Gene Smith to trade for Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Bringing the former Florida Gators star home would instantly make Kahn a hero in Jacksonville and result in unprecedented ticket and merchandise sales.

Kahn acquired a franchise that is severely depressed. In 2005, the Jaguars permanently covered up almost 10,000 seats at Everbank Field in an effort to avoid local television blackouts and the embarrassment of a substantially empty stadium. Jacksonville has a record of 21 – 38 since losing to New England in the 2008 divisional playoffs, the team’s last trip to the postseason. Head coach Jack Del Rio was recently fired and the Jaguars were blown out 41 – 14 at Atlanta last night in a game that was televised nationally. Today, ProFootballTalk.com’s Michael David Smith wondered whether the Jaguars would be forced to use the team’s first round draft pick on a quarterback only a year after selecting Blaine Gabbert 10th overall.

Meanwhile, despite the continued criticism of his ability and skill by NFL analysts and players, Tim Tebow has lead the Broncos to six consecutive wins and a 7 – 1 record since taking over as the starter from Kyle Orton. But, Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway is clearly not a believer in Tebow as a the franchise’s future. So, while many people would consider trading Tebow sacrilegious (not to mention a bad football decision), Elway is without a doubt open to moving on from Tebow. Especially if it means acquiring the additional draft picks required to trade up in this year’s draft to take Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III. Or perhaps Elway thinks Gabbert has the physical characteristics and mental makeup that the Broncos legend can devlop into the quarterback of his team. Either way, Elway would seemingly welcome an easy way out of having to commit to Tebow for the long term.

Tebow’s impact on the value of the Jaguars franchise has the potential to be significant. Applying a multiple of seven to nine time cash flow in valuing an NFL franchise, the Tebow effect would only need to contribute an additional $12.5 million to annual cash flow to add $100 million to the team’s overall value. Forbes reported that Kahn paid $760 million for the team. So, if Tebow could add $12.5 million in revenues – a figure that seems reasonable if not low given that Tebow has transcended sports and is now in the same stratosphere as celebrities Lady Gaga and George Clooney – in his first year in Jacksonville then Kahn will have increased the value of the franchise by 13% in only one year. The prospect of creating that level of gain in such a short time period of time with one transaction has to excite a smart busineesman like Kahn and will be the force that brings Tim Tebow back to Jacksonville.

Elway: Broncos no closer to finding QB

Posted by Uncle Rico 1:37 PM ET

Yesterday, appearing on Gary Miller’s weekly radio show on 102.3 FM, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway said the team was no closer to finding its quarterback despite Tim Tebow’s 4-1 record as a starter this season. Elway’s response angered Tebowmaniacs, but his reasoning for making the declaration should give Broncos fans comfort. Elway is focused on finding a quarterback that gives the Broncos the best shot to win a Super Bowl. Perhaps that is Tebow, but Elway is not sold yet “[w]e can’t go 3-for-13 [on third downs] and win a world championship. Those are the type of things we have to keep improving.” Kudos to Elway for not crowning Tebow his successor as King of Mile High based on four wins in which for the most part Tebow failed miserably passing the ball.

As Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush opines, while Tebow may be able to improve his footwork and throwing mechanics in time, the immediate widespread worship and praise only serves to hinder his development:

“Now here’s a tough one. How grateful are you for Tim Tebow? If you work in all-sports radio, he has to be the next-best thing for you to winning the lottery. And if you go to work on Sunday in a chapel, ministry or church — or you work in politics and go to work any day for the conservative right — I’m sure you’re pretty pleased too. On the other hand, if you’re a football purist or just anyone who enjoys good quarterback play, you’re probably not very happy right now. I am extremely grateful for Tim Tebow because he appears to be an exceptionally fine young man, but I am also very disturbed by the way he is being taken advantage of by the segment of his legion of fans that either knows nothing about football or celebrates his presence in the lineup only because of what he represents off the field. The wins and losses at the moment are meaningless. It looks to me as though, with patience and the right teaching, Tebow just might be able to learn the footwork, mechanics and arm slots to someday play the position at an NFL level. But leaving him out there now and encouraging all that he is doing so wrong seems almost certain to hinder his development more than it could ever help, and it leaves me feeling bad for both Tebow and Broncos fans.”

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for your continued support of Josh McDaniels Sucks!

Forbes names Bowlen 10th worst owner in NFL; Fox fed up with criticism of coaching staff for Tebow’s struggles

Posted by Uncle Rico 4:40 PM ET

Until recently, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was routinely included in any discussion of top owners in professional sports. Now, with the Broncos piling up losses and the organization scrambling to repair the damage caused by of the most disastrous head coaching tenures in NFL history, Bowlen finds himself on the other end of the spectrum. In Forbes 2011 ranking of the NFL’s best and worst owners, Bowlen was named the 10th worst owner in the league. Forbes attributes the dishonorable distinction to a weak growth – only 5% – in the franchise’s value over the last 5 years together with a porous .450 win percentage during such period.

As covered by ProFootballTalk.com, John Fox seems fed up with the criticism the coaching staff is taking for quarterback Tim Tebow’s struggles. The following quote from Fox makes it pretty clear that the Broncos will be aggressively searching for a new quarterback in the offseason:

“The goofy thing is, it’s almost like if he doesn’t have success it will be anybody’s fault but his. It’s almost that kind of polarizing thing,” Fox told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “They’ll say it could be his supporting cast, or the type of plays.”

Not to worry Broncos fans, John Elway has already moved on from tutoring Tebow to scouting Tebow’s potential replacements.

Lastly, count Denver Broncos great Shannon Sharpe among the many NFL analyst that think Denver should bail on Tebow in favor of a quarterback with the skills necessary to play the position at the highest professional level. Below is an exerpt from Patrick Saunders column in The Denver Post:

Speaking with Gary Miller and Vic Lombardi Thursday morning on his weekly segment on FM 102.3 “The Ticket,” Sharpe was asked if he’s seen enough to form an opinion about Tebow.

“Can I ask you a question, Gary?” Sharpe replied. “How many dates did you have to go on before you realized that the girl you were dating wasn’t the one? Does the girl need to burn your house down? Does she need to bust your car windows out?”

Sharpe made it clear that he has nothing personal against Tebow, but he also made it clear he doesn’t believe Tebow is an NFL-quality QB.

“Look, I’m not arguing whether or not he’s a great guy,” Sharpe said. “I’m not arguing whether or not he’s a hard worker. I’m not arguing any of those facts.

“But I think in today’s game, it’s hard for you to play quarterback in the National Football League if you can’t throw the ball accurately, and if you can’t throw it consistently accurate.”

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