Broncos Update Insider - 1/19

When it comes to assessing blame for the Denver Broncos 7-9 season, coach Mike Shanahan said it starts with him.

He felt the players were good enough to win 10 games. The Broncos would have made the playoffs if he would have done a decent job of coaching, he said.

"I take it as personally embarrassing when I told you we should have won 10 games based on personnel, and it comes back to me," Shanahan said. "It's tough to go through."

Shanahan blamed himself a few times throughout the season after bad games. The losing season was only his second since taking over as Denver's head coach in 1995.

The offseason started with a few tweaks on his staff. The most notable change was when assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates stepped down after being offered a reassignment as linebackers coach. Some more changes could be coming if assistant head coach/offense Mike Heimerdinger is lured away by Tennessee.

Although Shanahan took the blame, he wasn't blamed by owner Pat Bowlen. Bowlen, who has often said that Shanahan will be his coach as long as he wants, said that he thinks Shanahan was let down by his coaches and players.

When asked if Bowlen would consider a change if things don't improve next year, he said he expects a better season but Shanahan's job isn't in jeopardy.

"That's not in my mind at all," Bowlen said. "At some point, Shanahan could get completely exasperated and say 'I'm done.' That's more likely to happen than me doing anything."

Shanahan said his relationship with Bowlen wasn't strained because of the losing season. The two men see eye-to-eye on most things, and both are driven to get back to the Super Bowl glory the Broncos had in the 1990s.

Bowlen said the frequent misses in free agency have bothered him, as have some of the off-field problems the Broncos have had. But he thinks the changes Shanahan made on the coaching staff were for the better, and like Shanahan, he thinks the talent is there for the team to bounce back quickly.

Shanahan said he appreciates the support he has gotten from the owner.

"Pat has been great," Shanahan said. "He understands the time we put in and how we look at it, and that you are going to go through some tough times."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos have been plagued by off-field problems, and another one came shortly after the season ended when tight end Daniel Graham was arrested.

Graham was arrested on suspicion of criminal mischief and harassment after an argument with his ex-girlfriend Jan. 10. According to the police report, he was arguing with her about the sale of their house and struck a bedpost with his hand, damaging the bed.

After the season, before news of Graham's arrest was public, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said the team would have to be more careful about acquiring players with character issues. At least five Broncos were arrested in the past year: receiver Brandon Marshall, receiver David Kircus, punter Todd Sauerbrun, quarterback Darrell Hackney and Graham. Kircus and Sauerbrun are no longer with the team.

--Center Tom Nalen and guard Ben Hamilton should be able to return in 2008 from injuries that landed them on injured reserve last season. Nalen tore his biceps and Hamilton suffered from post-concussion symptoms.

"Tom Nalen, he believes he'll be back and is almost 100 percent right now," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Ben Hamilton's feeling the same way."

--The Broncos will have to replace left tackle Matt Lepsis, who retired. The leading in-house candidates are Erik Pears, Chris Kuper and Ryan Harris.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It didn't work. He's been a proven defensive guy for a long time, but it didn't work here." -- Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, on former Broncos assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos' biggest change on the coaching staff came when assistant head coach/defense Jim Bates stepped down, leaving Bob Slowik to run the defense. There were other changes as well.

Linebackers coach Joe Baker and offensive assistant Jim Ryan switched positions, with Baker going to offense and Ryan put in charge of the linebackers. Ronnie Bradford will coach defensive backs, a job Slowik had last year. Denver could be facing more changes if assistant head coach/offense Mike Heimerdinger goes to Tennessee.



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