Welcome to the 85th edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where the orange and blue sky might be falling. I wrote a lot of words this week. Let’s get into it…
At some point late in the fourth quarter of the Broncos’ disheartening and discouraging loss to the Rams on Sunday, I provided the group of family and friends with which I was watching a distinct summary of both the day’s events and the broader implications concerning the big picture of the Broncos’ 2014 season. With the outcome having already been decided, I sullenly slumped forward, plopped my chin on my palm and proclaimed the following:
…(sophisticated stroking of chin hair)…
I think that pretty much sums things up, but let’s dive in to this mess.
The Broncos have just gotten their asses kicked for the second time in three weeks. And this one was pretty much a disaster. They lost 22-7 to the St. Louis Rams. They lost by 15 points. To the St. Louis Rams. They scored 7 points. Against the St. Louis Rams. THE ST. LOUIS RAMS!
Krusty The Clown watched the game. He has the same question as lots of Broncos fans.
Good question, Herschel. What DID we just watch?
We saw dropped passes and bad tackling. We saw bad throws from an MVP quarterback. We saw garbage offensive line play. We saw a kneel down. We saw injuries. We did NOT see any field goal attempts.
Now, there’s no sense in playing the blame game, unless you’re writing a blog about the Broncos after the Broncos got their asses kicked by the St. Louis Rams. Then there’s a ton of sense in playing the blame game. Let’s point some fingers!
THIS IS ALL THE OFFENSE’S FAULT!
For the first time in a few years, the offense was without a doubt the main issue in a Broncos’ loss.
Peyton Manning does not look sharp right now and is undoubtedly playing the worst football of his three seasons in Denver. He seems uncomfortable in the pocket. He seems hesitant or unwilling to throw the ball down the field. He’s hanging his receivers out to dry. He’s throwing picks. It’s all kind of odd to watch.
*Sidenote: I do not care about Manning’s “bad” body language. He’s been doing that his whole career. His career has been pretty good. He gets pissed off when things don’t go well. So what? Peyton Manning is afforded certain luxuries such as this.
The running game has, for the most part, not been much of a factor throughout the year. On Sunday that nonfactor-ness went to a whole ‘nother level. The Broncos ran the ball ten times. Manning threw 54 passes. TEN! FIFTY-FOUR! That’s amazing. To an extent, I am of the belief that a team with Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders does not need to lean too heavily on the run. That’s not necessarily a point of emphasis based on the personnel that has been assembled here.
But regardless of your offensive makeup, you can’t throw the ball FORTY-FOUR more times than you run it. That is absurd.
Yes, the offense took a hit when two of the passing game’s most important and prominent weapons left with injuries in the first half, but shouldn’t that mean you run the ball– or try to run the ball– MORE?
We can talk about the lack of a running game. We can talk about the two big injuries. We can talk about the struggles of Manning. (Struggles is a very, very relative term here.) But there’s another problem that outweighs all of those.
This offensive line is crap right now. The Broncos have a guard playing tackle, a center playing guard, a new guy playing center, and an all-pro playing like crap. That’s not exactly a recipe for success. Right now the lack of a running game comes back to the offensive line play. The (relative) struggles of Manning comes back to the offensive line play. St. Louis has an above average defense, particularly in the front seven. And they just owned the Broncos up front.
It was ugly.
The Denver Broncos and their immensely talented, record-setting, intimidating offense scored seven points on Sunday. That’s a problem.
THIS IS ALL THE DEFENSE’S FAULT!
Don’t get me wrong, I am identifying the Broncos’ offense as Reason Number One they were dominated on Sunday, but we can throw plenty more blame around.
The defense gets some credit for holding St. Louis to just one touchdown and forcing five field goals. I guess. They only gave up 22 points. The way this team is constructed that’s supposed to be good enough, right? I guess.
But they really weren’t all that impressive when you consider the opponent. Shaun Hill was making his first start in over two months. He’s a backup’s backup. Tre Mason is a fine young rookie running back, but he’s been up and down since taking over as a starter. Kenny Britt is Kenny Britt. He’s not exactly curling the toes of wide receiver coaches across the league. What I’m trying to say is THE RAMS’ OFFENSE SUCKS.
Yet the Broncos defense again had trouble getting stops on 3rd-and-longs. They forced zero turnovers. They sacked Hill just three times.
It would have been nice for this new, revamped defense to step up and shut the Rams’ crappy offense down on a day when Manning and Co. were not at their finest. We’ve heard plenty of talk about the Broncos needing to learn to win a low scoring game. A game that sees both teams score in the teens or low-20s. Evidently this defense isn’t ready for that.
Yes, some of this comes back to the offense. The two interceptions, the bad field position after failed fourth-down attempts, and the lack of a running game didn’t do the D* any favors, but I’m not exactly giving the defense a thumbs up.
*How many times did CBS show that middle-aged dork with the cutout of the D and the fence during the broadcast? Like, ten? It amazes me that someone would bring that to a game in 2014.
THIS IS ALL THE SPECIAL TEAMS’S’S’S’ FAULT!
Tuesdays With Mitch is here with some breaking news. Good teams in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE! have kickers. All of them. Right now, the Broncos do not appear to have a kicker after they thrice turned down long field goal attempts and instead elected to go for it on fourth down or punt. Those game situations are as follows, and keep in mind THEY’RE PLAYING IN A FREAKING DOME!
- 3-0 Rams. 1:22 left in the first quarter. 4th-and-5 from the 37. The Broncos decline a would-be 54-yarder and fail to convert. …A made field goal would have simply tied the game in the first quarter. That’s obviously not important at all.
- 13-7 Rams. Opening drive of the third quarter. 4th-and-10 from the 38. The Broncos decline a would-be 55-yarder and punt. …Leaving three more (potential) points on the board in a close game.
- 19-7 Rams. 9:37 left in the fourth quarter. 4th-and-4 from the 28. The Broncos decline a would be 45-yarder and Manning is sacked for a loss of 12. …At this point it’s a two possession game with under ten minutes remaining. The game would have stayed two possessions with a made field goal, so many would argue that going for it is the right call here regardless of whether or not a kicker wearing a Broncos jersey exists somewhere in the world. HOWEVAH, if the Broncos had kicked a couple of those long field goals earlier, another field goal here might have made sense.
This is not college football, where #collegekickers are notoriously shaky and erratic. This is THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE! Kickers in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE! need to be able to make, or at least attempt, 50-plus yard field goals. In fact, I’m fairly certain they’re paid a handsome salary to do just that. So I’m not putting these decisions on the coaching staff. If they don’t trust Brandon McManus, so be it. But something needs to be done about this. You can not have a guy on your roster that you don’t trust attempting field goals when a very, very large portion of his job description involves attempting field goals.
Aside from having a kicker who is not allowed to kick field goals, the Broncos special teams units have been awfully pedestrian all year. They have zero kickoff return threats. They have zero punt return threats.
The more you think about it, the Broncos do not appear to be a complete football team.
…I also have McManus in both of my fantasy leagues, you jerks.
So looking ahead…
The Broncos come back home for their first game at Mile High in exactly a month on Sunday. Things don’t appear to be getting easier. The 6-4 Dolphins come to town with the 2nd highest rated total defense and 2nd highest rated passing defense in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE!. Miami played on Thursday night last week, so they will have a few extra days rest.
After that, the Broncos take their annual trip to Arrowhead to play the 7-3 Chiefs, who will also be coming off a Thursday game with a few extra days to rest and prepare. So yeah, the Broncos and Chiefs will be playing in Arrowhead in week 13 with first place on the line. I didn’t see that coming.
Oh, and the Patriots look like a damn powerhouse after beating the Colts handily in Indianapolis. For Denver to catch New England, the Broncos need to win out and the Patriots need to lose twice in their final six games.
Much of my focus in this space throughout the season has been on securing the top seed in the AFC. This is all one long preseason, I said. Enjoy the ride until the real games start in January, I said. That’s no longer the outlook. Right now the focus needs to be trying to win the division by trying to win some football games by trying to not suck on offense, defense, and special teams.
Because excluding a two-quarter stretch (roughly) against a team that hasn’t won a game in a calendar year, the Broncos have looked pretty crappy three weeks in a row.
You know me, I’m much more levelheaded than most sports blowhards you’ll hear or read. I actually misplaced my Broncos Panic Button a couple years ago and have never bothered to look for it. But after watching the Broncos on Sunday afternoon I think I’m going to need to locate that thing. Because if the Broncos have a similar performance in this week’s game against the Dolphins, I’ll be mashing down the Broncos Panic Button and heading for the hills until… Rockies season? Oh Dear Lord.
One quick thought on the Broncos potentially signing Hall of Fame MeatHead/DoucheBag/ScumBag/Racist/Sexist/Homophobe Richie Incognito:
This is something I find myself torn on. Not because I wonder whether Incognito would be able to play well after his time away from the game. I think he would help this team’s patchwork offensive line immediately. Not because I’m concerned with the chemistry in the locker room. I think the Broncos have a veteran locker room that wouldn’t put up with his nonsense and I think even Incognito would be able to stay in his lane for the season’s final couple months. And no, I don’t really care about the media distraction it would bring (though that would be the biggest annoyance).
I’m struggling with this thought because as a fan, Incognito is one of the last people on this planet I would ever want to root for. He is a terrible dude. I’m not naive enough to think all Broncos players are saints. Assuredly, they are not. But I do have a hard time believing that anyone in the
Broncos’ locker room, the entire NFL, the entire world is as big of a douche as Incognito.
So this is the question I find myself asking: Would it be worth it to root for someone I find to be hilariously stupid and mind-numbingly repulsive if it substantially increases the Broncos’ chances of winning the Super Bowl?
I’m not entirely sure how to answer that.
Off to the weekly departments…
Stud of the week:
Let’s talk about Jim McElwain. He’s pretty awesome. First though, let’s recap the CSU Rams’ eventful bye week.
First, Boise State took on San Diego State in a game that could have had huge (HUGE!)implications for CSU. Things got off to a pretty great start, with the Aztecs jumping out to a 20-0 lead in Boise. I was feeling prett-ay darn good about things. But San Diego State isn’t all that good this year and Boise State is. So the Broncos came roaring back and won 39-28, delaying the Rams’ Mountain West championship hopes at least one more week.
Boise State plays in Laramie this week at 8:15. The Broncos are 14-point favorites. CSU fans are all die-hard Wyoming fans until further notice.
On Sunday some good news was released in the form of the national polls. CSU was bumped up two spots to #23 in the coaches poll. They moved up one spot to #22 in the AP poll. The committee’s rankings will be released in a couple hours and I think CSU has a somewhat reasonable chance to sneak in there after multiple teams ahead of them lost on Saturday.
Okay back to Jim McElwain… Other college football news surfaced on Sunday, when Florida announced the firing (or resignation, whatever) of Will Muschamp. Of course, this immediately sparked speculation as to who will replace Muschamp as head coach in Gainesville. Jim McElwain is on just about every list of potential candidates.
Bovada even has odds on who the next coach will be. McElwain opened as the second most likely “candidate”, but has moved to third as I write this. This is obviously kind of silly, but it’s also a bit concerning, as oddsmakers are generally extremely well-informed.
I would be very surprised if McElwain took the Florida job. It’s a possibility, but I would be very surprised.
The first thing we need to consider is the buyout in McElwain’s current contract, which is an unheard of $7.5 million. Yes, Florida is a big time school with a big time budget and big time donors, but SEVEN AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS, in a lump sum, one-time payment, is a lot of money, even for them.
I think people’s’ eyes can glaze over when we start discussing millions of dollars in big time athletics. For reference, Will Muschamp’s 2013 salary is about $2.7 million. So McElwain’s buyout alone is almost THREE TIMES what Florida is paying Muschamp each year. That’s not chump change.
Also, it sounds like Florida is going to aim higher than a head coach at a Mountain West school. Florida is considered a top-five or so job in the country and they will probably have their initial sights set on a head coach from a Power 5 school like Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State) or Dan Mullen (Mississippi State).
So my guess is Florida would have to swing and miss on a couple of their first choices, then they would have to REAALLLY, REAAALLLYYY want Jim McElwain to the point where coming up with multiple briefcases filled with cash isn’t an issue.
And that’s only half of the equation.
McElwain has to want Florida, too. McElwain is comfortable in Fort Collins. He is the highest paid coach in the Mountain West (although obviously a job like Florida would provide a big raise). Maybe McElwain will pull a Sonny and be cool staying in Fort Collins for a long time (fingers crossed). But assuming that’s not the case, McElwain doesn’t have to jump at the first job opening that comes his way. He has the luxury to sit back and wait for what he considers the perfect situation.
If McElwain doesn’t want the task of completely rebuilding a powerhouse, he can simply wait for a good situation at a school he considers an upgrade. Chris Petersen did this when he stayed at Boise State for eight years before finally leaving for Washington after last season. Petersen’s name was mentioned in every big school’s coaching vacancy for years. He waited until he saw a school that fit his profile and was left in good shape by the previous coach.
Florida needs a new coach. Michigan will soon be needing a new coach. Nebraska may (maybe not) soon be needing a new coach. McElwain’s name will be associated with every job opening in the country.
There are always a lot of moving parts in these situations and much of my outlook is based on speculation, but as of right now, there are plenty of reasons to be confident McElwain will be back with Colorado State next year.
Douche of the week:
This guy needs to reevaluate everything in his life and I mean that sincerely.
Douche is even a douche when he’s interviewed after the whole thing went down.
A few other things:
The Nuggets beat the Cavs last night in a game that will surely represent the moment that their entire season turned around. Until all that actually happens, this free throw sums up their season.
Never change, JaVale. That’s from Sunday’s loss to New York. The Nuggets scored eight points on 1-16 shooting in the second quarter.
This dude did not like Mr. Referee touching his bottom.
Mr. Referee looks kind of terrified.
This is the greatest punt ever. Right back in his own grill.
I stumbled across this GIF from a recent boxing match this week. It is the coolest thing I saw all week. Incredible.
A couple links worth sharing:
- I was hit pretty hard by Chris Ballard’s longform story on NBA player Ryan Anderson adjusting to life after his girlfriend’s suicide. Ballard is one of the best.
- AP story on Jack, the 9-year-old with brain tumors that CSU football has “adopted” as a teammate.
- College basketball is back! I enjoyed this piece on how awesome (and American) the game is.
- Off the board a little bit here, but I really enjoyed this profile of Chris Pratt from one of my favorite online writers.
And finally, here’s Daniel Tosh tearing up ESPN. Really good stuff:
Pretty solid from Tosh, but he loses some credibility when he includes Mike and Mike in his “you guys are cool” disclaimer at the end.
Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. See ya next week.
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