Preseason power rankings: No. 26

How bad is the AFC West?  Of the first seven teams on our worst-to-first ranking of NFL franchises, three of them come from the worst division in the sport.

No. 30 was the Raiders.  No. 287, the Chiefs.  And No. 26 is the Denver Broncos.

It’s a stunning fall for a team that has been competitive for years.  But the decision to dump an experience offensive guru and to replace him with an inexperienced offensive guru and then to dump an experienced and stellar quarterback and to replace him with an experienced and crappy quarterback potentially spells doom in 2008, if not beyond.

No amount of draft picks can guarantee that the Broncos will find that which they had — a bona fide franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler.

Regardless of whether Cutler asked out or whether he first developed an acute case of stickinassitis after the Broncos tried to swap Cutler out for Matt Cassel, the Broncos never should have let him go — and if coach Josh McDaniels had any inkling that he didn’t want Cutler, he should have been honest with owner Pat Bowlen.

If, however, McDaniels had been candid with Bowlen, McDaniels would still be the offensive coordinator of the Patriots.  (Or maybe the head coach of the Chiefs.)

The Cutler conundrum has created a separate problem between the Broncos and receiver Brandon Marshall, who is staging a passive-aggressive version of T.O.’s shirtless driveway situps assault on the Eagles, circa 2005.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have signed a bunch of running backs, drafted Knowshon Moreno with the No. 12 overall pick, and haven’t done much to beef up a front seven that was one of the team’s major weaknesses during the Shanahan era.

So it’s going to be a long year in Denver.  And if the Broncos can’t take care of the Chiefs and the Raiders, McDaniels — who like Browns coach Eric Mangini is behaving like their mentor without the license to do so that winning provides — could be the former coach of the Broncos as soon as January.

Key Player:  Moreno.  He needs to have an Adrian Peterson-style impact on the offense, and then Kyle Orton or Chris Simms (or Craig Morton or Bubby Brister) will need to take advantage of the attention devoted to stopping the former Georgia star.

Rookie to watch:  Apart from Moreno, the Broncos need a quick impact from cornerback Alphonso Smith, primarily since the 2010 first-round pick from the Cutler trade was dangled in exchange for the opportunity to snag Smith in round two.

Best veteran acquisition:  The answer would be safety Brian Dawkins, if he were healthy.  Considering the other veterans they acquired, an injured Brian Dawkins is still the best of the bunch.

Key game:  Week Two versus Cleveland and Week Three at Oakland.  If the Broncos lose both of these games, they could go winless through November.  After the trip to Oakland, Denver plays the Cowboys, Patriots, Chargers, Ravens, Steelers, Redskins, Chargers, and Giants.

16 responses to “Preseason power rankings: No. 26

  1. Ah pre-season rankings still don’t mean anything, but unlike the Raider fans who still live in denial, I admit Denver is somewhat rebuilding. Regardless, they can win 6 or 7 games and probably get second in the division.
    I think Denver will finish higher than this, but my reasons for believing this are about the same as Florio’s for believing they will finish poorly: opinion.
    Go Broncos.

  2. Florio, you’re awesome for harkening back to Craig Morton and probably the worst team to ever play in a Super Bowl.
    I hadn’t thought about the very real possibility of an 8 game losing streak. I’ve consistently held my over/under for wins @ 5.5 but they very well could be 0-11 to start the year.
    Maybe it’s just how cool of a show Hard Knocks is, but I think the Bengals can be very competitive and we open up in Cincinnati. Who knows with Cleveland. Oakland usually plays tough at home against Denver…I was there in ’07 when the Raiders won for the first time in 8 games. I have a little idea of what hell is like now.
    This is a team that should be amongst the elite were it not for a few bad personnel moves, unfortunate injuries and Travis Henry’s love of the chronic. Javon Walker and Cutler were really scary for like 3 games together. They had a Top-3 Defense in ’05. If the above guys are with the team and healthy along with B-Marsh, Royal, Hillis, Scheffler, one of the better O-Lines in the league and the home field advantage…they’re ridiculous. It’s sad to see the team’s current state.
    Knowshon’s an unknown and Orton looks miserable. My 10 month old daughter throws better with her left hand than the garbage that happened in Seattle. Hopefully he (hopefully Simms) can dink and dunk 200+ yards/game and not turn it over. If they can manage to avoid being the worst defense in the league, we might not lose 10 games.
    I predict that the Broncos are involved in the 4 ugliest games of the year. They also get the Eagles and Colts in addition to the teams listed above…it’s gonna be rough.

  3. I’m glad McDaniels was picked up by Denver before Pioli and KC tried to get him. My god that’s been a beautiful disaster, and Todd Haley is looking like the real deal when it comes to successful Head Coaches.
    If I were a Bronco fan and not a Bronco hater, I’d be pissed at McDaniels and Cutlet… er, Cutler. Hell, I think I’d buy a Cutler Jersey just to burn it when he comes to town…

  4. “dump an experienced and stellar quarterback and to replace him with an experienced and crappy quarterback potentially spells doom in 2008, if not beyond.”

  5. Florio, the Broncos didn’t trade the pick from the Cutler trade for Alphonso Smith – instead, they traded their own 2010 pick. So even if the Broncos are horrible this season, they still won’t have an opportunity to pick up McCoy or Bradford.

  6. Wasn’t there a story here that PFT thought the bears gave up too much for Cutler? Now they’re saying he’s a “stellar” qb? I would think an “experienced and stellar” qb was well worth what chicago gave up.
    I’m not saying cutler is those things but there is a bit of inconsistency with the point of view.
    Btw, what is up with comment errors? Nearly every time I get an error and have to log back in… why even have a “remember me” function if it doesn’t work.

  7. Florio, Seattle will be enjoying a top 10 NFL draft pick next courtesy of Alphonso Smith and Denver.

  8. The Broncos are in a nose dive and accelerating.
    The owner got rid of his experienced pilots and hired kamikaze pilots.
    All the Broncos needed was a GM…instead
    Shanahan out. New young know it all coach listens to no one in.
    Cutler is out. The draft picks in exchange for him were thrown away on a reach of an RB and midget CB’s.
    Everyone knows a crash is coming.
    If they had just replaced Shanahan as GM and not as coach they could have solved things much better.

  9. The Chiefs are ranked higher than the Raiders? You have to be kidding me. Getting a new coach and a new GM doesn’t just make them better in one single off season. The team stunk to high heaven last season. Bias aside, the Raiders are the better football team right now(nor am I living in denial Broncogal).
    The Raiders have been rebuilding for some time now, and are way ahead of the Chiefs. The broncos are on a back slide, but I can understand them getting a higher ranking, as they finished at .500 last season. Still, anyone who thinks the Raiders are the 30th ranking team in the NFL, is an idiot who hasn’t done much homework on the team.

  10. I love how Bronco fans call the team swirling around in the toilet just before they disappear for good “rebuilding”
    Yeah…. trade away your 26 year old QB who threw for 4,500 yards last season because you are “rebuilding” and Kyle Orton is just the player you need to start anew.

  11. Philtration says:
    August 26, 2009 9:33 PM
    I love how Bronco fans call the team swirling around in the toilet just before they disappear for good “rebuilding
    That is one of the funniest comments of the week.

  12. I understand the need for Coach McHoodie jr’s need to trade Jay Cutler. I also understand that Brandon Marshall has always been a jerk and will continue to be a jerk, so the way he is dealing with him to me is justified. I even understand signing every free agent running back under the sun and then using the 12th pick in the draft to take a running back. But there are two things I don’t understand and in my not understanding them in my opinion will lead to Coach McHoodie jr’s downfall. Signing Brian Dawkins and trading away the Broncos first round pick in 2010. Doing these things in my mind was a delusion that you were going to have a winning season and make the playoffs this year. Coach McDaniel’s would have been given the benefit of the doubt for at least 2 years understanding that the last coach held his job for 14 years and it was going to take a little time to transition away from the personnel that that coach had acquired. But those two moves were made with Coach McD’s ego in full effect. Shut down cornerbacks are the hardest to find commodities along with pass rushing defensive ends. When you think you have a chance to get one you double down and take the risk. Unfortunately for Coach McDaniel’s the risk may very well be his job.

  13. ” … if coach Josh McDaniels had any inkling that he didn’t want Cutler, he should have been honest with owner Pat Bowlen. ”
    The first of many lies told by this twitchy S.O.B. this off-season. Once again, Bowlen appears to have checked-out.
    He still owes Shanahan about $20 mil; if he fires McDips**t, he’ll probably owe him a chunk, as well. Hire a new coach and you’ll be paying three.
    Bowlen – the very definition of a “fool and his money” – would probably be swayed by that more than the fact that his team is destroyed. If he’s even able to stay engaged these days.
    At this point, I’d be looking forward to draft day in April, but McDips**t has trashed that, as well.

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