Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Denver Broncos

Twenty years ago I predicted the quarterback of the future would be a powerful, strong running back who could throw the ball with considerable accuracy. And today, we have Cam Newton who fits the bill perfectly. Now don’t get me wrong. I think Peyton Manning will go down in history as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. And who knows? Before he’s finished, Cam Newton could also achieve that same level. But when it comes to Super Bowl 50, I have to go with Cam. His ability to run the ball opens a new dimension in the game allowing a quarterback to pick up 8 and 9 yards at a time when the defensive linebackers drop back to cover the wide receivers. And I think, even though Denver has a fantastic defense, Cam Newton’s performance will make the difference in the game.

When Jamaal Charles fumbled twice last night during the Chiefs-Broncos game, it was as much the coaching staff’s fault (and the front office’s fault) as it was Jamaal’s.

Here’s why: Jamaal is a professional athlete but even professional athletes are human beings first, and then athletic performers. They have problems just like the rest of us mortals. And I’m not talking about deep-seated psychological problems. I’m referring to problems they might be having with their wives, or girlfriends, or financial problems, problems with a coach, or problems with a teammate. If they keep their problems bottled up, if they withhold them and don’t tell anyone about what’s bothering them, it will negatively affect their game during competition. They will not be focused and are more susceptible to fumbles, dropped passes, and missed tackles.

Former NFL coach Joe Gibbs realized this late in his career when he was negotiating an athlete’s contract and figured out the athlete, even though he was making millions of dollars a year, was having financial problems. Former NFL running back Eddie George, when Tiger Woods’ issues became public, stated: “Ninety percent of all NFL athletes are having extra-marital affairs.” If true, why doesn’t the coaching staff and front office do something about it?

Much has been written about the importance of the turnover/takeaway ratio in the NFL. Few however are able explain the reasons turnovers happen.

Some say it’s because the opposing team has focused their defensive efforts on the practice of ripping the ball out of the runner’s hands, or other reasons.

While there may be some truth to these theories, my experience working with athletes and players has made it clear that when athletes are carrying around unresolved issues in their lives, they are more prone to making mistakes. When they are withholding their feelings, when they have misdirected anger at their teammates or coaches, or when they’ve had an argument with their wives or girlfriends (or both) they are prone to fumbling the ball, or dropping a pass that hits them in the numbers, or jumping off sides, or, if the player is a quarterback, throwing multiple interceptions in a game.

The reason is simple: They are not focused.

And it all starts with the coaches and assistant coaches (and the front office) and how they interact with their players, how they listen to their players issues and personal problems, and the type of feedback program they have created internally that allows players to air their grievances (both personal and team related) without being punished.

It’s no coincidence that the NFL teams with the best turnover/takeaway ratio are successful, while those with the worst are not.

I was about to write something regarding Peyton Manning’s sub-par performance in the playoffs this year and was planning to point my finger at the deteriorating relationship between Head Coach John Fox and Quarterback Manning. But when I visited the Broncos’ website, I came upon this headline: “Broncos, John Fox agree to part ways.” I wasn’t surprised. Things have not been right between them ever since the playoffs two years ago when, with the score tied, 31 seconds left in regulation playing time and three timeouts remaining, Fox instructed Manning to “take a knee.” Amazing! One of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time at the helm, whose specialty is moving the ball down the field under pressure, and he’s told by his coach to take a knee. That tells you a lot about coach Fox: He isn’t a risk-taker…like Elway and Manning. I was surprised he wasn’t let go sooner.

And then I read what USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan wrote about Manning in today’s newspaper, that he’ll be turning 39 in just a few months and that he was showing his age.

What Christine and other sports writers don’t quite understand is that what takes place away from the football field (behind closed doors) affects what takes place on the football field. With Fox gone, I’m looking for next season’s Broncos to not only be in the Super Bowl, but to win it.

Now that John Elway is calling the shots with the Denver Broncos, I predict you’ll see a different kind of team…one that is much more aggressive. For example, you won’t see again what happened two years ago in the playoffs when, with 31 seconds and three timeouts remaining, and the score tied, head coach John Fox told Manning to “take a knee.” Amazing! One of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time at the helm, whose specialty is moving the ball down the field under pressure, and he’s told by his coach to take a knee. That tells you a lot about coach Fox: He isn’t a risk-taker…like Elway and Manning. So if Elway performs true to form, he’ll be encouraging Fox to do the right thing and utilize Manning’s amazing talents. In addition, the Broncos are loaded with great football players.

I’ve always maintained that any NFL team who is going to play Denver at home are at a disadvantage because of the mile-high stadium UNLESS they arrive in Denver 3 or 4 days prior to game time so they can become acclimated to the high altitude. While watching the game on television last night, I noticed from time to time the camera showed Chiefs players sitting on the bench with oxygen masks. So I went to the Internet and the best I could determine was that the game was played November 17th and the Chiefs arrived in Denver November 16th. If this is true, it could be the reason why Payton Manning wasn’t sacked once in the entire game. The defensive linemen may have been too exhausted and gasping for breath.


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