Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How the Broncos save the survivors after dropping The Bomb

Ok, so, that happened.

When the "hot seat" lists come out at the end of every year, there are always a handful of coaches who, even after mediocre years, would never be on them. Mike Holmgren. Jon Gruden. Andy Reid. And, the (previously) longest-tenured coach with one team in the NFL, Mike Shanahan, who, as coach and G.M., had the job by the throat.

Until the Donkeys choked the last two years, that is.

Is it a sad day for Broncos fans? Sure. He won a lot of games, and two Super Bowls. But the team had reached a stagnant level of putrid proportions, and any casual fan will tell you that they have played up-or-down to their level of competition for quite some time now. Only in the SB-winning years did they consistently pound teams, good or bad.

To me, this is much like the Iverson-Billups trade: part of me is sad to see such a talented person go, but at the same time, it's obviously for the good of the team.

The playoff run (um, beating the Patriots at home) in 2005 was orchestrated by a quarterback that nobody, fans or team alike, seemed to want running things. The defense has gotten more and more pathetic and predictable as the offense (seemingly) did the opposite, even though that was exposed lately due to injuries and a lack of a solid running game. Many of their top defensive draft picks failed to pan out.

However, this is a team with some positives, and here's what I think Pat Bowlen needs to do to get this team back to the perennial top of the AFC.
  1. Go hard and heavy after Bill Cowher. Denver has many things which should entice the Chin. First, it's a football town. A guy like Cowher would appreciate that, as opposed to baseball-centric New York. Also, since the offense has many of the pieces in place, Cowher wouldn't have to worry about that as much and could focus on his passion, the defense, which is the biggest problem with this team. Speaking of the defense...
  2. Make Romeo Crennel one of the highest-paid coordinators in the league. Crennel did such a poor job in Cleveland that it's highly unlikely he'll get another offer to coach anywhere. He ran the Patriots' defense in the early 2000s, when they won a few titles. He knows how to scheme, he knows how to find players (via trades, the draft or free agency) who fit the system, and he knows how to mold them into a unit. This would be especially prudent if the Broncos can't land Cowher, and instead go after somebody like Jason Garrett or Eric Mangini, i.e. offensive-minded guys.
  3. No matter who you hire, do not give them total personnel control. It's just too hard to do both jobs nowadays. Would the Broncos have been maybe a bit more focused if, instead of scouring the scout teams and the waiver wire for a guy who could run the ball late in the year, the coach was preparing the team for a win it sorely needed? If the Browns are interested in the Patriots' Scott Pioli and he in them, then why wouldn't he be interested in the Broncos? Denver is always at the top of players' lists because the facilities are great and the players are treated well. That would make a top-notch personnel man like Pioli's job a whole lot easier.
  4. Get the home-field advantage back. Teams used to hate playing in Denver. H-A-T-E. Now the weather's a bit warmer, Invesco's a lot quieter than Mile High, and it's not too annoying to hear "In-Com-Plete" only seven or eight times a game, since most visiting QBs complete about 75% of their passes against a woefully porous Denver D. I don't know how you do it, Pat - pour some extra concrete in the stands? - but it's gotta be done.
  5. Make the right choices on #s 1 & 2. The top choice on everybody's list is Cowher, but Miami, Atlanta and Baltimore seemingly went the right way in getting a bunch of no-name coaches or coordinators. The defense needs a complete overhaul. Maybe he can poach somebody off Dick LeBeau's or Rex Ryan's staffs, or give Rex Ryan the reigns and see what he can do. Either way, the defense must be made a priority.
With lots of talent on offense, a supportive owner willing to spend and a division that is seeing its top dog (the Chargers) slide back down toward the middle, there should be no shortage of options for Pat Bowlen. The question is whether or not he picks the right ones. It's the end of an era, but hopefully the start of a new one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and All That

So, I was afraid I would have to wrote this all along. I am going to cheer for the Yankees to sign Manny Ramirez. I want it to happen. I want them to get Brian Fuentes too. And dump Hideki Matsui-- one of the only guys I like on the entire team, really. I want them to sign Derek Lowe, Adam Dunn as a DH and trade for Jake Peavy.

Think about it: Manny, Dunn, Jeter, Arod, Tex? And the other cast of characters?
Think about it: Lowe, Burnett, CC, Wang, Hughes and Fuentes/Joba/Rivera
Think about it: over 500 million dollars in one offseason.
Think about it: have we ever seen anything like that? Has sport become the recession-proof ideal it always looked like it was?

I want to find out. I want one city to dominate sports so crucially that we can't take our eyes off of it. I want New York City to be the destination for every word of every conversation. I want LeBron, Wade and Bosh to the Knicks. I want some hockey dudes to sign with the Rangers. I want Tom Coughlin to keep his seemingly brilliant ways. I live here, and I want it all. I really do. If these things happen, I'll switch. I'll leave Boston sports.

This is not sarcasm. This is the biggest chest-beasting city in the world, so let's see it. I want year-round championships. This is philosophical (albiet in sports) proof that there is no reason to resist, but I want more. I want it all. I want every big name player with a gleam of the bog-time in his eye to come to New York City. It's never happened before, but it could happen now. I want tampering, cheating, money-laundering, hotel break-ins, back-loaded contracts, law-breaking nasty-minded, hooker-incentive deals. Anything is nothing, everything is not enough.

It's time for the Yankees-- nay New York City-- to get its due. This is not sarcasm, it's hope for the rest of humanity to finally see the big idea.

I will become a fan while paying outrageous rent with a shit job, not being able to afford to get into the stadiums and giving up one of my last true strongholds-- the feeling of euphoria I get from seeing my original teams win championships. I'll do it. But, New York City, you gotta earn it.

Man, I gotta get outta this shithole. Happy fucking holidays.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Congratulations on picking up your KhalilBot 5000!

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the San Diego Padres

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Ruminating on Watching My Team Win in a Mildly Hostile Environment, While the Real Environment is Incredibly Hostile

It's been three full days now and I can still hear his voice. It was barely above freezing on the last day in November and the rain, while not completely piercing like frozen bullets, still had sting, had life. Cold, win and rain formed a palpable trio. But the voice cut through it, sharp. Swift. Raspy.

"Cutlaaaaaah. Cutlaaaaaah. It's Cutlaaaaaah, baby!"

When you go to see one of your teams play on another team's turf, alone, you hope to find solace and comfort in fellow fans. Knowledgeable fans, witty fans, fans who can take a shot and give two right back.

"Cutlaaaaaah time!"

He was not one of them.

I came in halfway through the first quarter (we parked at 3:15 and I still managed to get two-and-a-half hot dogs and five beers in) with the score tied 7-7. Walking up I heard about Thomas Jones' long TD scamper, so I asked the nearest Bronco fan -- a man wearing a bright-orange, shag carpet Cypress Hill hat -- how Denver scored the first touchdown. "The defense, baby, an ... interception return. Big play by the defense!"

He was promptly corrected by the long-time Jets season-ticket holder behind us, standing in work boots, jeans, an amazingly soggy Jets hoodie and no hat. Fumble return. Questionable call.

"It's Cutlaaaaaah!"

We traded some barbs (always fun when your team's ahead), and later we traded White Horse scotch swigs from my flask. It was a courtesy not extended to my nearest comrade-in-headgear.

Halftime came, Broncos ahead 27-14, and the stands magically emptied. Despite this, my girlfriend and I stayed in our nosebleed seats, believing that when one vantage point works, and works well, you stay there. No pictures exist of this vantage point, of course, because fingers weren't designed to operate in such deplorable conditions.

"Did Cutlaaaaaah throw a touchdown?"

"No, Peyton Hillis ran it in. But we scored."

"Yeah, but dat doesn't git me any fantasy points."

I was beginning to doubt if he was truly a Bronco fan.

With about 7 minutes remaining in the game, I got a call from my friend, who was down in the lower level, under the overhang. I assume it's a request to leave; the game was firmly in the hands of the sunrises and sunsets and the temperature was going as the sun goes in the latter, and not the former.

However we were told to head down, finish the win and dry off. Eagerly we raced down the spiral staircase, listening to the f-bombs and abuses of numerous Jets fans, wondering -- like me -- why Mangini decided to pass on three fourth-down tries. Upon reaching the lower level it was obvious that we were not the only ones treating ourselves to the cover; numerous Bronco fans took advantage, including the woman in front of me who heard ongoing cries of "Shaaaaaaaaaanon Sharrrrrrrrrrrrpe" and not once looked back, either because she didn't want to give them the satisfaction or because she didn't know who he was, despite wearing his jersey.

As the final seconds wound down I slapped strangers' hands, chanted "Here We Go, Broncos, Here We Go" and revealed my secret weapon: the JC Saves shirt. Since I got it three games ago, I've worn it each game day: they've won each game I've watched either on TV or in person (Falcons, Jets) and lost the game I didn't (Raiders). If it's adhering to my torso and my eyes are gazing at its inspiration, things are good.

It got some solid compliments. One thumbs-up.

The man who should've seen it, however, didn't. That's a privelege reserved for just a few.