Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tradition Tuesday: Shortest Honeymoon Ever

If you need to research the origins of The Tradition, Tradition Tuesday, or the House of Georges, make like old man Bush, go back to your Google and figure all that out. We're hip deep in breaking news here, no time for pageantry.

When Coach Doogie was hired and thrust upon the football world yesterday, we all looked upon the move with some degree of skepticism. After all, the guy is an infant. Many who view the world through orange-tinted spectacles allowed themselves a little of that darned hope that's been in fashion lately. And the rest of you haters adopted a wait-and-see-please-God-make-this-kid-suck posture. The common theme with both viewpoints is that we'd allow more than one day before we passed judgement on the new regime.

I'm here to tell you, HoG Nation, that one day is all we need. This reconstruction of the Broncos organization is doomed to failure. Sure, the Chiefs nabbed the top free-agent general manager in Scott Pioli, the kind of surehanded front-office type that Pat Bowlen claimed to demand when he Cannahanned the Mastermind. But I never thought Denver would land Pioli--he's surely drawing a fat salary, and most of the available non-player Bowlen bucks are still going to the former coach. I did foolishly think that my team of choice would hire somebody to assess and modify this damaged roster, and not just hand the job to whatever poor schmuck was left holding the last hot potato.

But here, friends and enemies alike, is that schmuck. And so the Josh McDaniels Era is effectively over before it started.

The GM position in the NFL is unique among the major sports. In some ways it's only now being elevated to a premier position that widely recognized among fans. I doubt that even the most hard-core followers of NFL franchises could have named their GM ten or even five years ago. But because this is a year-round game and every fan plays GM in his fantasy league, we identify with the job much more than the old days when we simply flipped on the tube Sunday and watched our teams.

There's a bigger separation between the front offices and fields of play in Major League Baseball and even the NHL, simply because those sports have minor-league systems and the draft is not always immediately fruitful with talent. Baseball GMs once toiled in obscurity as well, but the rise of fantasy and Michael Lewis' Moneyball--which detailed Oakland's wunderkind GM Billy Beane--has made these employees much more visible.

Pro basketball relies on the draft for immediate help much like the NFL does, but the NBA has a gimmick that is still exceedingly rare in the NFL--the midseason trade. If you build a shitty team through free agency and the draft, ahem, Denver Nuggets, you can simply work a swap and try again.

Building a team in the NFL is unique, because you get one shot a year. Between now and July, every GM must look at what he has, see what's out there, and craft a roster. He hands his coach a little less than a hundred men, and then that coach starts weeding through those men. I don't even know what these GMs do once the season starts, other than scout malls for cell phone salesman that can play tailback in a pinch.

Which brings me back to Pat Bowlen. I was led to believe that Bowlen fired one of the best coaches the game has ever seen because his moves as de facto GM were crippling the Broncos. We as fans accepted the fact that we'd be stuck with a coach inferior to Shanahan in the short-term, but that the payoff would be an immediate front-office upgrade. We'd finally have someone signing free agents, drafting kids and manipulating the salary cap that was free of the old status quo.

Yet what we got was the embodiment of the old status quo. I don't know what you call that, but I'll bet it rhymes with bullspit. How exactly is Jim Goodman going to independently assess and evaluate the makeup of this roster when he had a hand in creating it? Somehwere in the Broncos' draft war room was the biggest advocate for George Foster, or for Jarvis Moss. How do I know that guy wasn't Jim Goodman? And how exactly is Jim Goodman going to cut Jarvis Moss loose, if that's the best thing for the Broncos to do, if Jarvis Moss is his pet project?

If you brought in an outsider, any outsider, you could at least get a fresh set of eyes on some of these vital decisions. By keeping the same dudes in place you don't address the problem, the problem that was so severe that it forced Pat Bowlen to make a move that for many was unthinkable.

So I wouldn't expect too many big changes, Bronco fans. This team may switch to a 3-4 or go after a big name in free agency like Albert Haynesworth or Julius Peppers. But it will fundamentally be the same as the club that choked harder than any NFL team ever has. By leaving the status quo in place as far as player personnel, it's a lock.

But hey, at least the Chiefs hired a successor to Carl Peterson. That's big news, right? Not really--Pioli blows. Belichick ran everything out there, except the cheating. That was all Pioli. So I see KC vastly improving in the areas of black ops and covert counterintelligence yet remaining awful everywhere else. Cheers to that.


The Lone Reader said...


A solid connection to the SEC doesn't hurt, but I'm not sure that it demands a GM postion. I can understand your frustration. Perhaps hiring within wasn't what you were anticipating.

It's consistent. I guess they've decided to place the blame on Mikey entirely. This suggests that they feel the organization is solid all together, except for on-field decisions. I tend to disagree with their assessment, but good luck.

It's never easy bein' a fan, huh?