Thirty-four-year-old Josh McDaniels is entering his second season as the head coach in Denver, and he gained a lifetime of experience in his first year on the job. Let's take a closer look at the Broncos on the 19th stop of NESN.com's 32-day odyssey through the NFL.
2009 Record: 8-8 (missed playoffs)
2010 Schedule Difficulty: Their opponents went a combined 124-132 (.484 winning percentage) in 2009, which makes for the ninth-easiest schedule in the NFL.
Key Additions: Quarterback Brady Quinn, defensive lineman Justin Bannan, defensive tackle Jamal Williams, defensive end Jarvis Green, quarterback Tim Tebow (draft), wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (draft), linebacker Akin Ayodele
Key Losses: Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, tight end Tony Scheffler, fullback Peyton Hillis, inside linebacker Andra Davis
Burning Question: What is Josh McDaniels' end game? The roster shuffling is fine when you're winning, which was the case when Denver won its first six games in 2009. But when the Broncos dropped eight of their last 10 contests, including their final four games, critics jumped on the head coach.
The young coach traded quarterback Jay Cutler in the 2009 offseason and benched Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler in the regular-season finale — which Denver lost, 44-24, at home against lowly Kansas City. Marshall and Scheffler were both traded during this offseason, and the Broncos also surprisingly parted ways with Andra Davis.
The Cutler trade might end up working in Denver's favor, but for now, the Broncos are left with quarterbacks Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow. And who knows how they'll make up for the losses of Marshall and Scheffler.
It's clear that McDaniels won't let hot heads stick around, but the rest of the Broncos have seen they can get out of Denver if they show a little attitude and resentment. If McDaniels was replacing Cutler, Marshall and Scheffler with franchise-type players, the head coach would have a little more leniency, but his direction might be blurred in the eyes of the players.
If Denver has a slow start in 2010, things might get pretty ugly.
2010 Outlook: There's a lot of talent in Denver, but it's young and has to learn how to win together. Last season's squad was a perfect example of what happens in such a case. They'll feed off momentum — both good and bad — so it's an absolute must for guys like Orton, safety Brian Dawkins and linebacker Elvis Dumervil to continue taking charge of the locker room. Aside from that, the Broncos don’t look like much more than an eight-win team.
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