Monday, March 16, 2009

Small Time Thinking, Big Time Problems

In the midst of the HoG's enormous birthday celebration (which consists of three dudes in three basements in three different area codes sipping from three jugs of Old Crow) I thought I'd try to place this whole Cutlertastrophe in context. Sure, we Bronco fans are faced with losing a Pro Bowl quarterback, albeit a whiny ballerina of the breed. We're faced with the probability that we just hired a coach with the common sense of a toothpick. And we've always known that our owner is a few sheets short of a ream, and Canadian to boot.

What we're looking at as well, folks, is a decrease in overall status. What was once seen as one of the finest homes on the NFL block, a model franchise, is now in danger of foreclosure. The weeds are starting to sprout in the yard, the shutters are beginning to droop, and there's a Cavalier in the driveway with tags that expired in 2005.

Now look--I personally don't care about how much prestige my team carries around the league. I care about winning games, and part of me loves the idea of slipping under the radar for a while before vaulting back to glory. But there are real cracks on the foundation of this team, people, cracks that go far beyond the foibles of Whiny Jay and Coach Littledick.

We're rapidly falling from Big Time to Small Time in the Mile High City. What's worse, our former laughingstock neighbors out in KC are travelling in the opposite direction. I'll be needing some aspirin, to be washed down with this rotgut hooch. Happy Birthday to us!

First, let's break down what constitutes a Big Time NFL Franchise. Both New York teams certainly are, as well as the Patriots and Cowboys. But mere market size does not dictate Big Time status. Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have transcended their crappy Rust Belt dwellings through professional operations and sustained success. Even losing teams can stay Big Time. Miami went Big Time the minute they hired Bill Parcells to run their show, and the Redskins will be Big Time so long as Dan Snyder, his bottomless checkbook, and his insatiable need to manufacture freak-show headlines are there.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Small Time clubs. You know who they are. If you lost 16 games last year and your owner was the last person in America to realize Matt Millen should be canned, you're Small Time. If you took a Super Bowl champion and ran it into the ground, San Francisco-Oakland-St. Louis, you're Small Time. If you play pro football in the state of Ohio, you're Small Time. As Jeff Foxworthy would say were he writing this post, if your stadium was a shelter for Hurricane Katrina refugees, you might be a Small Time. Small Time teams might occasionally win a few games, Jacksonville, but they're forever battling the stink of minor-league halfassery wafting up from the basement. They pay more for free agents, they wait in line for top-flight coaches, they get extensions from the league office to avoid home-game blackouts.

We all watched the Kansas City Chiefs wallow in this pit for many years, a time span roughly coinciding with the firing of Marty Schottenheimer and the hiring of Top Chef Hosea Pioli. We watched mediocrity become institutionalized, bad players become great in the eyes of myopic fans, and poor decisions get rationalized. Get a load of your garden-variety Chief Fan these days, and they're strutting around like the cock of the walk. Competent leadership and hope for the future will do that, and having the remainder of the division run by fucking retards doesn't hurt.

Which brings me to my Denver Broncos. A decision was made last January to whack Mike Shanahan, and that decision was pretty easy to justify. We've gone into these topics ad nauseum around here, no need to drag it up again. But while you can, on paper, defend the Shanahan firing as necessary to advance the team forward, you must understand that making that move results in a threat to Big Time status.

I am of the opinion that Pat Bowlen cares about such a superficial threat. I think he cares about it very much. Pat Bowlen has leveraged his team's Big Time image into hundreds of millions of dollars in personal gain. He's converted it into a new stadium. He's secured a spot on the NFL committee responsible for its lifeblood--the network TV contract--and almost singlehandedly created the NFL Network. Pat Bowlen likes being Big Time.

So here, torn between the Big Time cachet of Mike Shanahan and the decidely pedestrian route that comes with fighting ten other teams for head coaching candidates, Bowlen chose the riskier strategy, the one that seemingly threatened the Broncos' Big Time label. But the more you look at it, the more it is eveident that Bowlen's move was neither radical nor bold. It was incredibly conservative, actually, because Bowlen merely went back to a successful decision he made 14 years ago and copied it.

Just as Shanahan was hired as a young offensive Mastermind, Josh McDaniels had developed a bio filled with genius superlatives. All of Bowlen's rhetoric surrounding the Coach Doogie signing reflected the 1995 move to bring Shanahan in. Bowlen felt that by importing a product of another Big Time franchise, he could hold on to the tag forever. In this way, Bowlen showed the same weakness that lost Shanahan his job--he ignored the many signs of danger and distress and insisted he was one piece away from returning to the Super Bowl. McDaniels became Bowlen's Simeon Rice.

We're still waiting to watch Doogie's first game. We don't know who'll take the first snap, we don't know what play he'll script, and we don't know if the kid can handle an NFL season. Witnessing his first offseason in charge, he seems like he could use some seasoning. He does not appear ready for the Big Time. Winning, of course, can cure all of this. With or without Jay Cutler, a successful season under Josh McDaniels could restore Bowlen's Big Time ambitions and quiet the deep discontent in Bronco Nation.

If you care what I think, I don't see it happening. I do not see Coach Doogie morphing from March Moron into September Savant. I've no reason to believe that he can manage a defensive resurgence or patch together a respectable kicking game. There's zero in his background that tells me he'll build a ground attack that can win on days when his QB--whomever that may be--isn't firing with accuracy.

I could be wrong, in fact I usually am (except on Puerto Rico in the WBC). The combination of Doog and Colonel Xanders could fucking nail this draft. They could acquire the young talent necessary to replace all the ancient free agents they just signed. They could get lucky with their RB potpourri, they could seamlessly introduce an effective 3-4 defensive scheme, and their schedule could turn out to be less difficult than first thought.

They could also mend fences with Jay Cutler, his loony dad, his hack agent, and his debilitating battles with alcohol and insulin. Cutler could equal or surpass his '08 numbers and all could be well in Big Time Bowlenland. I don't buy it, but perhaps that's because my supply of blind optimism has dipped to Small Time levels.


Cecil said...

First off, if you live in Colorado and haven't gone to to buy your subscription, do so now.

Second, this mess has just metastasized to the point where it's almost impossible to know what's what, but I'm sticking with my recent points: Cutler, despite being a better option at QB than we could find otherwise, has evidently decided quite a while ago that he's through with Denver.

And he's playing the boo-fucking-hoo card, with the help of his slimy hick fuck of an agent, to try and make it happen. Nice work for a guy who talks about "playing for his teammates."

McDaniels didn't handle this well, but the preponderance of the evidence suggests that Cutler's camp is responsible for the vast majority of the smoke, here. I'm tired of hearing about how his feelings were just so badly hurt by the suggestion of a trade that now, gosh, I just can't make it here anymore.

Is this all about a new contract? If so, that's even fucking slimier.

Dylan said...

Myopia? Mediocrity?
Is there not a theme that you won't clumsily insert into any conversation?

O well...I gotta go stitch up my Zuba pants..therz a new season a comin'.

Cecil said...

I will say this about McDaniels: if he goes into next season hoping to launch a thousand passes on the arm of Chris Simms, we're fucked, crazy fucked, like the slut Heather Hunter (nod to The Pharcyde).