Friday, March 14, 2014
Cecil reviewed John Elway's history, going back to when Elway was originally drafted by Baltimore. The Elways did not want John to play for the Colts owner, Robert Irsay, or the Baltimore coach, Frank Kush. John worked his way out of this by forcing a trade to the Broncos. Turning a negative into a positive.
Then once with the Broncos, Elway played for a coach who stunted Elway's growth with very conservative game plans. Run-Run-Pass was a common 1st-2nd-3rd down play strategy under Reeves. Did John get depressed? No! Instead he used his time under Reeves to work on his touch passing, a skill that served Elway and the Broncos well with the Bronco Super Bowl teams later in his career. Again John turned a negative to a positive.
Cecil mentioned other disappointments in Elway's career as a player and GM. The Jacksonville playoff loss in 1996, the Baltimore playoff game in 2012, losing Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator last year - with each negative Elway turned the situation to a positive. Fans can have hope he'll do it again after the Seattle Super Bowl loss this year.
Cecil had other "insider" nuggets he shared with the 60+ club members in attendance:
1. In the 2012 draft the Broncos liked 3 quarterbacks: Russell Wilson, Brock Osweiler, and Nick Foles. Wilson and Foles have already had success early in their NFL careers, and according to Cecil Osweiler will, too, when he gets his shot after Manning retires. Osweiler has improved his footwork and throwing motion greatly while serving as Manning's backup the last two years, and Peyton's mentoring has helped, too. "Don't believe xxx who says Osweiler won't be the next Bronco quarterback after Peyton retires," said Cecil. "Brock can be the starter. He would have been the first qb taken in the 2013 draft had he stayed in school."
2. The Broncos would have drafted Russell Wilson had Peyton Manning not signed with the Broncos, according to Cecil. When Cecil asked Wilson how he'd like being a backup to Tebow at the 2012 NFL Combine, Wilson was confident he'd be the starter. "I want to be known as a passer, not a runner," Wilson told Cecil at the time.
3. The Broncos have their own tradition of success to build on. They are not trying to be a copycat of Seattle. New free agent signee TJ Ward is a strong safety in the Steve Atwater mode - a hitter and trash talker. He could provide a swagger to the defense that has been missing since Al Wilson retired. Champ Bailey was a great player, but he didn't talk much. Ward is different; he can be a vocal inspiring leader for the team. Free agent cornerback signee Aqib Talib has a great attitude now, according to Cecil's sources, after having some discipline problems in his younger years. Talib adds toughness to the secondary - a quality the player he replaces, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, did not have. The 3rd free agent signee, Demarcus Ware, was so excited to be a Bronco he was shaking the podium at his initial press conference. Cecil thinks Ware, in addition to his pass rush skills, will be a good mentor to Von Miller, filling the leadership role Elvis Dumervil had two seasons ago with the team. Ware was playing out of position with a bad elbow last year. In watching film Cecil thinks Ware still has it and can get double digit sacks next season. Ware is an upgrade over Shawn Phillips.
4. The Broncos still need a middle linebacker. The best in this draft class is CJ Mosely of Alabama, a MLB who can cover and thus can play all three downs. The Chicago Bears, though, love Mosely so the Broncos would have to move up 17 spots in the first round to have a shot at Mosely. Unlikely? Probably, but Elway has a way of getting things done.
5. Eric Decker did not want to leave the team. Decker was one of the most upset players after the Super Bowl loss. This was Decker's one shot to get big money in free agency. Cecil thought he'd get a contract in the 5 years for 50 million range but Decker signed for less than that. Cecil was surprised Decker signed for less than what the Dolphins Brian Hartline got - Decker is the better player. Still the Broncos were not going to pay him that much - Denver never made an offer.
6. He doesn't expect the broncos to sign an offensive lineman in free agency. An unknown who is still on the team is 2013 6th round draft choice Vinston Painter, a tackle, who could help. He doesn't think Orlando Franklin will be successful if he moves inside to play guard.
7. Adam Gase is a future head coach - a rising young star. Cecil likes John Fox but Gase could be the next great Bronco coach. Gase and Manning yell at each other in practice, Gase as a young coach was not intimidated by Manning and got the best out of Peyton this season.
I asked Cecil what he would recommend for the Broncos to draft. He threw out some names of his favorites:
Round 1: You never have enough pass rushers. Dee Ford Auburn defensive end. "He has a great 1st step and loves the game."
Round 2: Very deep draft for wide receivers. Broncos should be able to get a good one in this round -
Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt - a "decker clone". Clutch, great hands. Jerry Rice's cousin.
Jarvis Landry LSU - not an athletic freak but knows how to get open
Paul Richardson Colorado - in combine workouts Cecil couldn't tell much difference between Richardson and the clear #1 choice at wr this year (Sammy Watkins). Richardson should be a top 15 pick based on ability, this year's Desean Jackson, but he'll slip due to his injury history and slight build. Cecil thinks Richardson will be this year's Keenan Allen (the Chargers prize 2013 rookie who went in the 3rd round last year).
Cecil hopes the Broncos do not draft Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State who Cecil thinks is overrated.
Round 3: Middle linebacker such as Chris Borland of Wisconsin or Stanford's Shayne Skov. Skov plays with an attitude and could appeal to Elway who wants a tougher defense
Round 4: Chris Davis Auburn. Can play nickel corner and be the return man to replace Trindon Holliday. Davis was the hero of the Alabama/Auburn game with his missed field goal return to win the game.
Late round sleeper: Isaiah Crowell alabama state. He was a freshman phenom, Adrian Peterson like. He was kicked out of Georgia on a weapons charge. He's a good kid according to the Alabama State coaches but will slip because of his checkered past. "He could be the best back in the draft," says Cecil. Will he be willing to accept a backup role and play special teams? That's a question mark with Crowell.
The running backs are better in this draft class than in 2013. 25 draftable backs.
Zac Dysert is not the answer as 3rd string Broncos QB, in Cecil's opinion. The Broncos had a private workout with Wyoming's Brett Smith who the team likes. Smith wasn't invited to the combine yet was better than most of the combine qb's. Bryn Renner of North Carolina is another late round possibility - Renner has the endorsement of Peyton Manning.
Overall it was a great evening of football talk from Cecil. I could have listened to him for another hour. It got this Bronco fan excited about the 2014 season, rather than thinking back to that disappointing Super Bowl loss.