McDaniels finds himself in a situation that just about every politician is familiar with: Do what’s right for the team, or do what it takes to stay employed … tough call. Playing for the future would mean putting team MVP Kyle Orton on the bench and letting rookie first-rounder Tim Tebow take some meaningful snaps from a base offensive formation. Playing for the future would mean giving quality minutes to a handful of defensive backs that now only see time in nickel and dime formations. It would benching guys like Brian Dawkins and some of the other thirty-somethings on the team whose best years are behind them. It would mean throwing in the towel on a lost season and genuinely beginning a talent evaluation process for next year and the year after that.
It would mean embracing the term “rebuilding.”
Largely, the decision rests with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who, if anything in recent years, has proved he still has a thirst to win. He fired the team’s longest-tenured and most-successful coach in Mike Shanahan after a string of disappointing .500-ish seasons, and I’m guessing he didn’t make that difficult decision with the expectation of having his replacement completely gut the franchise of some of its best talent and end up 3-7 with six games left to play just two short years later.
If Bowlen is willing to be patient, that would mean giving McDaniels another year–guaranteed–to remake the team into his own creation and succeed. It’s not unheard of–the Miami Dolphins managed a single win just a few years ago, and they turned their team around on a dime a year later and were legitimate playoff contenders.
But, I would argue that it’s not just the losing that has Bowlen concerned right now. It’s the way this team loses, and to whom. It burns to get clocked twice in the same season to two hated division rivals (and there are three division games left? Who wants to guess how many of those the Broncos can win?). It has to make the owner seethe to his team’s 2009 first-round draft pick Knowshon Moreno hardly function as a full-time running back while the discarded blue-collar worker Peyton Hillis is running away with the hearts of Cleveland fans. It has to to hurt to see his team play so inconsistently over the six weeks–a psychiatrist would no doubt be prescribing something pretty creative if the Broncos were to seek some therapy.
I would argue that Kyle Orton–at least in McDaniels’ system–offers the best chance for success, long-term. I think drafting Tebow is proving to be a gimmick pick that’s done little more than earn a new fan base in central Florida–unless he’s coached up and trusted, he’ll never be an NFL starter. And why trust him when Orton has proven more than capable in an offensive system with a questionable offensive line and a pathetic running attack. one must wonder, should those two problems ever go away, how bright is Orton’s future under McDaniels?
We’re nearing decision time in Broncos Country. It’s almost time to make the call, Pat. Is the future now? Are the Broncos, indeed, rebuilding? Or is McDaniels on the right long-term track? Can he salvage a winner from his team (and it is his team, you know) in the next year or so?
Your call. Tough call.
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