Well as I sat there in the O (getting drunker and drunker with each beer) watching the final game of the 2013 season several thoughts entered my mind.
#1 - Pryor loss whatever he had and I'm not sure he's ever going to find it again. He missed several timing throws that any high school QB can make on a regular basis and he didn't barely miss them either. They were terrible throws, behind, overhead and no where near. He managed to do better in terms of managing the clock and some of the tuck and run plays but he missed a long snap on our 2nd drive that lead to the 2nd DEN TD and effectively killed any potential of momentum coming back our way. He couldn't do anything for 3 quarters. Several in the stands were calling for MM because it was obvious that Pryor wasn't going to provide anything that resembled a "spark" and he didn't. I honestly don't know if Pryor can be developed further. He plays scared now and lacks confidence in every throw. It was tough to watch yesterday and made me a little sad as he showed so much promise early in the season. From what we've seen from MM he's still got a long way to go as well. I will not be surprised to see us draft another QB but with so many QB needy teams ahead of us in the draft will using our top pick on one be smart? Impossible to tell at this time. It's a shame because both these guys have flashed skills at times. But like the thin veil of positivity some of us bought into this season, right now it's gone.
#2 Why? What happened?
To further answer this question we must understand and dispel some myths about this year's team:
One - This team is not as far from the 4 - 12 it finished at. The secondary was slightly improved (and I use that term loosely) but it got dinged the second we lost Branch. It got even worse when Hayden & Young went out. Jenkins is at best a dime guy and even then, I'd rather find someone better. Although Porter is slightly better, he's most effective with superior guys around him IMO. If we keep him I hope it's for cheap then we can find superior talent to surround him. I'd rather see him as a nickel guy at this point in his career instead of the every down starter. Woodson played pretty well but was asked to do more than he should have. Having Branch back will help him out considerably. I would love to keep Chuck but is he down? I never want to see Ross starting again. Give those snaps to Young who we should resign and stick behind Branch or replace Woodson with if we move on. We need at least 2 more guys here with NFL talent and I'm ok drafting another CB or S high (2nd or 3rd round) to make it happen.
Two - You can't win if you can't generate a pass rush. We don't have anyone in our front seven that scares opposing teams. That needs to change. I like what Houston brings to the table but he flamed out this year after being challenged and isn't the dominate guy were looking for. He's solid but not worth a ton of $ and that's why I think he's right in terms of being gone (I still hope he stays though). I also think we're drafting at least 1 DE this draft (Don't be surprised if we add 2 DL). RM will not overpay a rotational guy and I think DA will overhaul the defense again this season with guys that fit his scheme even better. I'm okay with that as we already added Hayden, Moore & McGee this season. Sims looks like a find and Walker was a solid plug in. I liked what Burnett & Roach brought to the table but I would mind finding one more stud LBer to hurt the QB, Hardy and others come to mind.
Three - You can't consistently score TD's without big time players. The best we have right now is Reece who no one it seems (but Hue) can figure out how to tap into. Kinda hard to scare opposing defenses when your best player isn't always in the game plan. We need at least one of those guys. The good news we have some promising guys in Rivera and Murray (Hopefully). Streater solidified his status as a possessive WR and Holmes might be a solid pick up but we still desperately need a true #1 WR. Fitz, Decker and others might be solid FA ideas or we could draft one. Any way you slice it, we need a difference maker here. Like our defense, we need someone to force those double teams to open things up for the others.
Four - Show me a team without depth and I'll show you a losing team. No way around this one. We could barely trot out enough starters this season due to injury they we ended up scraping the barrel in the 11th hour again. This is a big reason we regressed across the board in the 2nd half this season. We have to add as much quality depth as we can this off season. I'm sick of watching our D get winded and breaking down when we need them most.
Five - Many want to blame DA and his staff. I get that and if I have one problem with DA it's that he's always acted like he truly has 4 years and didn't concern himself with the last 2 in terms of wins. It's more than annoying right now but I'm willing to see what happens this off season and I acknowledge that he had a guaranteed crap hand to begin with and came here anyway. That buys him one more season in my book but we better see improvement.
Now before anyone starts with the "He started with an 8 - 8 team" let's understand that DA lost several key guys from that team and lost a ton of salary as well, had picks starting in the 4th round, a QB with no pocket awareness and a propensity for throwing picks that he didn't choose and a RB we all know can't survive in the NFL no matter what the scheme. Yes Knapp proved a colossal mistake but one that was corrected immediately (Something Hue fumbled with Bres) but the rest can be chalked up to the points above and the fact that RM had every intention in gutting that team and starting over in a way Al never did. You can call them "excuses" if you want and DA still might not make it but at least we'll know if it really was him or the players he had.
I stand by my previous posts, unless we replaced DA with a proven winner like say Cowher (Gruden has stated emphatically he has no interest in coaching) then there is no reason to let DA and his staff go. I realize there's too many fans that haven't seen a winning season or a SB victory but we all need to remember that after 83 it took 19 years to get back the SB. Patience is a virtue and we all need that right now as we start in earnest the 1st year of truly rebuilding the team RM & DA envisioned 2 years ago.
As I sat there yesterday this was my last thought:
#3 - Regardless of our record, we should finally be able to field better team. I believe with another year in Olson's & Tarver's schemes, better players and better health all around we should see an uptick liken to early this season. I for one will never buy into the gloom and doom of impatience as I've seen this movie before.