Is it time for a Change?

While no one dared to ask, many still question whether the Broncos one-time offensive genius has enough left in him to turn this mess around.<br><br> Some, even going so far as to question his justification of being retained as both Head Coach and Vice President of Football Operations for the 2005 NFL season.

Time is a strange animal, both cruel and kind.

Twelve months ago Marty Schottenheimer and Drew Brees were steps away from unemployment, Boston Red Sox fans were cursed and Mike Shanahan was considered a mastermind.

Now, the curse has been lifted, Brees and Schottenheimer are the toast of the town and Shanahan has slipped into the depths of mediocrity among the NFL's elite coaches.

Another post-Elway season, another Mile High meltdown and the Denver Broncos suddenly find themselves fighting for their playoff lives.

"Obviously, a big disappointment right now," Shanahan explained after Sunday's 20-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers. "We had our opportunity and didn't take advantage of it. It will hurt for a while, and we'll see what we can do."

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a lot Shanahan can do, unless of course his plan includes a change in personnel, philosophy and direction.

Denver's act has become old.

The roll out, run and the occasional longball are as stale as last month's turkey, only harder to digest.

Case in point was the Broncos final drive of Sunday's game, when, with no time outs left, they attempted to march downfield to set up a game tying Jason Elam field goal.

With fifty-seconds remaining Plummer misfired on pass attempts to Jeb Putzier, Ashley Lelie and Rod Smith. On fourth and ten he connected with rookie Darius Watts on a 13-yard reception giving them a first down on the Chargers 46-yard line.

After a quarterback spike stopped the clock with twenty-seconds left, Plummer again came up incomplete on passes to Lelie and Watts, resulting in a fourth and ten with only eight seconds to play.

The key words here being FOURTH and ten.

"What we were trying to do, depending on how long we got out, we were going to throw a fade route and a flat route," Shanahan offered. When Darius caught the ball on the flat, he might have gotten four or five more yards and get out of bounds. If not, the quarterback was going to throw way down low and we were going to go for the Hail Mary."

What?

Maybe someone can explain why, with only eight seconds remaining and the season on the line, the Mastermind would honestly think the Broncos were capable of pulling off two plays on a fourth and ten situation.

When Watts initially caught the ball he was still short of the first down, so simply going out of bounds was pointless. Struggling for the first down, Watts ate exactly eight seconds off the clock.

Game, set, match and the Denver Broncos are two games out of first place in the AFC West, watching the light at the end of the tunnel fade fast.

In hindsight, the head coach acknowledged the blunder, albeit reluctantly during Monday's press conference, when asked if he really thought Watts had enough time to get the first down AND get out of bounds.

"Probably not," he admitted.

While no one dared to ask, many still question whether the one-time offensive genius has enough left in him to turn this mess around. Some, even going so far as to question his justification of being retained as both Head Coach and Vice President of Football Operations for the 2005 NFL season.

Without knowing it, we may have just been given the answer.

Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net

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