AFC West: John Lynch
So, Shanahan traded for Champ Bailey and, much like John Elway did last year with Peyton Manning, Shanahan took a chance on a guy coming off neck surgery -- a guy named John Lynch.
Lynch, who played 11 seasons in Tampa Bay and the final four years of his career with the Broncos, was the only player with Broncos ties to make the cut for the final 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014.
The 15 modern-era finalists will be trimmed at the meeting of the Hall's Board of Selectors the day before the Super Bowl.
Former Broncos linebacker Karl Mecklenberg, former Broncos safety Steve Atwater and former Broncos running back Terrell Davis made the cut to the 25 semifinalists, but none of the three were chosen as finalists.
The Broncos, with four Hall of Famers -- John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Floyd Little and Shannon Sharpe -- continue to be under-represented in the Hall for the team's success level.
They have six Super Bowl appearances as an organization, yet just the four Hall of Famers. Davis, Atwater and Mecklenberg remain on the modern-era ballot.
Let’s take a look at the nine candidates among the 27 who spent significant portions of their careers in the AFC West. Here they are:
Steve Atwater, S, -- 1989-98 Denver Broncos
Will he get in? He might be getting closer, but this year might be tough.
Tim Brown, WR -- 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Will he get in? Brown will get in, but it might take some more time because of the logjam at receiver, whether it’s right or not.
Don Coryell, coach -- 1978-86 San Diego Chargers
Will he get in? The late coach has his supporters, but it won’t be easy.
Terrell Davis, RB -- 1995-2001 Denver Broncos.
Will he get in? Davis’ short career remains his biggest challenge.
Albert Lewis, CB – 1983-93 Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-98 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Will he get in? Nice to see him make this list for the first time, but it might be tough.
John Lynch, S – 2004-07 Denver Broncos
Will he get in? Hard hitter will likely get in soon, if not this year.
Karl Mecklenburg, LB -- 1983-1994 Denver Broncos
Will he get in? I’d call him a big longshot to make it in 2013.
Warren Sapp, DT – 2004-07 Oakland Raiders
Will he get in? I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make it in his first year on the ballot.
Will Shields, G -- 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs
Will he get in? I have a good feeling about Shields in his second year of eligibility.
However, U-T San Diego reports the team is hopeful neither injury is serious. They will be monitored and even if both players are fine, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get some time off.
- CBS Sports reports Washington has discussed signing free-agent running back Cedric Benson. He has been linked to the Raiders for weeks. Oakland now has the salary-cap room to add Benson. They could use more experience behind injury prone starter Darren McFadden.
- Former Denver safety John Lynch spoke to the team on Wednesday night.
- Now that assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski has resigned because of personal reasons, the Raiders are one of nine teams in the NFL without an assistant line coach. Frank Pollack is the line coach.
- U-T San Diego reports that Chargers’ reserve offensive lineman Brandyn Dombrowski is likely headed to the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury. He faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster.
- Denver defensive lineman Mitch Unrein got some work with the first-team defense Thursday.
Former Chargers legends Dan Fouts, LaDainian Tomlinson and Rodney Harrison, former San Diego coach Bobby Ross, former NFL star and San Diego native John Lynch and San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders will all be part of the speaking program.
The Chargers are hosting the event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. PT Friday.
Seau died on May 2 at the age of 43. His death was ruled a suicide. His family will have a private funeral for Seau in his hometown of Oceanside, Calif., on Thursday.
In other AFC West news:
NFC West blogger Mike Sando believes former Denver general manager Brian Xanders would be a good fit in St. Louis because of his previous working relationship with new St. Louis general manager Les Snead. Xanders and the Broncos parted ways Monday because Denver is streamlining its front office.
Second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor prepares for a new opportunity in Oakland. He is probably looking at being the No. 3 quarterback again in 2012.
The Denver safety was named to the Pro Bowl on Thursday, replacing Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu because of an injury. It is Dawkins’ ninth Pro Bowl — tied with John Lynch for the second-most career Pro Bowl berths by a safety.
Expect Dawkins, 38, to try to play. He missed all but a quarter of Denver’s final five games because of a neck injury, but the injury has been improving steadily in the past few days. Dawkins, a potential Hall of Famer, wouldn’t have accepted the invitation if he wasn’t going to be cleared to play.
Dawkins told a Denver television station last weekend that he will consider retirement. He played the past three seasons with Denver and has been the team’s undisputed leader. Dawkins played well in 2011 when healthy, recording 51 tackles and three sacks.
Dawkins joins a strong Denver contingent — the team's most at the Pro Bowl since 2001 — for the Jan. 29 game in Honolulu. Running back Willis McGahee and tackle Ryan Clady were named to the team as injury replacements. Cornerback Champ Bailey, defensive end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker Von Miller are also representing the AFC West champions.
Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones showed blazing speed at his pro day Thursday. The Raiders, who love speed, was at the pro day held near Oakland. The Broncos also have an interest in Jones.
In an interesting interaction with the readers of the Denver Post, former Denver safety John Lynch talked about the possibility of joining an NFL front office at some point and who he’d tab to be the No. 2 overall pick for Denver. His choice is a small surprise.
- Oakland’s sell-out streak ended at one. After selling out against Kansas City, Sunday’s game against Miami will be blacked out on local television. Oakland has had blackouts in 12 of the past 13 games.
- It looks like Brandon Marshall will not have an AFC West reunion in Oakland. The current Miami and former Denver receiver has a serious hamstring injury that puts his availability in Oakland in doubt.
- ESPN Stats & Information looks at Peyton Manning’s recent struggles against San Diego. The Chargers visit the Colts on Sunday night in a pivotal game for both teams.
- St. Louis running back Steven Jackson is going to unique lengths to prepare to play in the high Denver altitude Sunday.
- Former Denver safety John Lynch will work Sunday’s game against St. Louis for Fox. It will be his first Denver game since becoming a color commentator. He retired in 2008 after being cut by Denver and New England.
- Mel Kiper takes a look at the surprising work of a couple of AFC West rookie receivers.
The Broncos have gotten used to dealing with death, if that is even possible. Sadly, they must face the death of a teammate for the third time in less than four years
Second-year receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead Monday of an apparent suicide. He was 23. McKinley was a receiver who was a fifth-round pick in 2009. He was on the injured reserve.
Once again, Denver will be saddled with heavy hearts.
Hours after the 2006 season ended, popular starting right cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting after a New Year’s Eve party in downtown Denver hosted by Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin. Fifty-five days later, reserve running back Damien Nash died of a heart attack after hosting a charity basketball event. Williams and Nash were both 24.
Monday night, Denver star cornerback Champ Bailey and former safety John Lynch hosted an event to benefit the memorial center named in Williams’ honor. Several current Denver players were scheduled to be at the event.
Nearly four years after Williams’ senseless death, the event was supposed to be joyous as the team and the Denver community remembered Williams.
Now this news.
The deaths of Williams and Nash understandably affected the 2007 Broncos. There were funerals, tributes and the team wore helmet decals in memory of the two men. As time passed, it seemed Denver found a way to move on, although the team never forgot Williams and Nash.
Now, there will be more memorials and tributes to deal with.
Unlike Williams and Nash, I had never met McKinley. By all accounts, he was pleasant young man who was quick with a smile. This is a tragedy that the Broncos are all too familiar with.
Tebow is one of the most talked-about players in the NFL and he hasn’t even played in a regular-season game. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Florida is a polarizing wonder. Tebow’s NFL future has been serious water-cooler conversation ever since Denver shocked the NFL by trading three draft picks to move up and take him with the No. 25 pick in April. Everybody has an opinion and the opinions vary.
And that is the case with ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and AFC West blogger Bill Williamson. Clayton is taking the stance that Tebow’s game will not translate to the NFL, while Williamson believes it will.
Let’s get started:
Remember how we watched Tebow throw with the proper mechanics in warm-ups. He kept the ball high and was consistent with his release point in pre-practice. Then we watched practice and some of the old habits returned. He would throw the ball with more of a sidearm delivery. At times, there would be a little hitch in the throw. The release was slow and sometimes the passes weren’t accurate.
In sports, it’s hard to change habits. While it’s possible for him to fix the delivery in time, it’s going to take at least two years. I give Josh McDaniels credit, he recognized the dilemma and covered the organization by giving Kyle Orton a one-year contract extension. Both of us agree Orton is good, not great. It’s also nice that he recognizes that both of us respect his abilities, leadership and the way he runs an offense.
What I like most about watching Tebow is his dedication. He won’t fail because of a lack of effort. How about the extra stretching and muscle-building exercises he does at practice? Too bad we can’t find a "throw doctor’" we can send him to for a quick fix.
Bill Williamson: Mechanics is a fair enough place to start on Tebow. That, of course, is the biggest knock on him. He has an awkward delivery, there’s no doubt about it. But I don’t think it’s a sure sign of failure for a quarterback. Philip Rivers doesn’t have the prettiest motion in the league, nor did the late Steve McNair. Rivers is an elite player and McNair was an NFL MVP. They were able to adjust in time and Tebow will have time.
Even though we will see Tebow as a rookie in special formations such as the Wildcat, he probably won’t start until 2012 unless there is an injury to Orton. Rivers and McNair sat and they were better for it. Plus, Tebow already has made strides in a short time under McDaniels’ guidance. He’s a much better quarterback today than he was the day he was drafted four-plus months ago. He got better as the offseason program went on and he made improvements in training camp and in the preseason. Tebow’s delivery appeared to shorten as the preseason went on. He is working on improving himself. Imagine what is going to happen when the learning curve continues for two years?
Plus, several NFL folks I have talked to, including Rivers, say that Tebow doesn’t necessarily have to refine his entire motion, just naturally work on it and still be the player he is comfortable being. I think taking this player’s delivery and making that the premise for his ultimate failure may be a tad short-sighted.
JC: Because you covered the Broncos in Denver, you can appreciate this: Denver is one of the toughest cities to be an NFL quarterback, and I think the Broncos made a big mistake by hyping him up after the draft.
The biggest mistake was making him a first-round pick. Quarterbacks taken in the first round tread on John Elway’s turf. Those who tread on Elway’s turf get worse than turf toe. They eventually become unemployed. The worst I remember was Tommy Maddox. He came to town when Elway was still a top quarterback. He eventually had to go into Arena Football and then the Steelers to have any kind of a successful career. The quarterback expectations eventually caught up to Brian Griese and Jake Plummer.
Now, here comes Tebow, perhaps the greatest college leader of our time. By him being taken in the first round, Tebow jerseys flew out of stores. Fans expected his college skills to translate into the NFL with instant success. Columnists in town took their sides, and some of the most influential called for McDaniels to have guts and just go with Tebow. Had that happened, Tebow might be destined for the Arena League.
In Denver, as you know, good isn’t good enough when it comes to quarterbacks. Griese was kicked away because he was a 60-percent thrower but a 50-percent winner. Plummer’s time ran out because he was a 50-percent thrower and a 60-percent winner. The standard in Denver is Elway, the ultimate arm and the ultimate winner. He carried the Broncos. Tebow can’t do that right away and I’m not sold he ever will. Even if he fixes his bad throwing mechanics, he has the chance to start his career as a 50-percent thrower. Because the talent around him is suspect, Orton, who is good, is going to struggle to make the Broncos a 50-percent winner this season. That means Tebow would have better than a 50-50 chance of being a disaster.
Tebow brings electricity. It’s because he has great intangibles. I know intangibles don’t pay the bills, but they can be a great difference-maker. Tebow has special intangibles. People gravitate toward him, including his teammates.
This whole Tebow Mania deal in Denver had potential to be a disaster. Tebow’s jersey instantly became the biggest seller in the NFL and Tebow is Topic A in Denver. This is the most popular team in the state of Colorado and all anyone wants to talk about is the rookie quarterback. That could have led to jealousy and hostility. It hasn’t happened.
It hasn’t happened because Tebow immediately earned the respect of his veteran teammates by being humble and working hard. Veterans such as future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey have been wowed by Tebow’s work ethic and attitude. Remember that hideous Friar Tuck haircut Tebow's teammates gave him prior to an open scrimmage? Tebow didn’t fret. He embraced the hazing. He’s a team guy.
During the preseason, his teammates have remarked how Tebow already has controlled the huddle. The Broncos believe in Tebow just as his teammates at Florida did. Elway and John Lynch have raved about Tebow’s intangibles after meeting him. If you impress these two guys, you have something going for you.
JC: After we left Broncos camp, I watched Tebow’s first preseason game and came to another disturbing conclusion. Because Tebow is fearless, I worry about his health.
That touchdown run he had in his first preseason game was exciting, but it also reminded me of the pounding Tebow took in college trying to get Florida to be a great college power. As a college quarterback, Tebow was bigger and more powerful than a lot of the linebackers and defensive backs trying to tackle him. In the pros, he’s a target and I worry about him getting concussions or more injuries. That preseason touchdown run bruised his ribs, and the injury was a result of Tebow not playing it safe. That’s the style that made him so good in college and it’s the style that could make his career ever so short in the NFL.
As great as Tebow is as an athlete, he runs a 4.7 40, which isn’t particularly fast for a NFL quarterback. His footwork isn’t the greatest either. In many ways, Tebow looks like a combination of Steve Grogan and Joe Kapp. Sorry for going old school on you, buddy, but the point I’m trying to make is what worked for Grogan and Kapp back in the day doesn’t work now in a league dominated by great passers.
Michael Vick is a better athlete and better thrower than Tebow will ever be and I’m not sold he can be a winning quarterback in the post-2005 NFL, which is dominated by quarterbacks who are accurate and can run the no-huddle flawlessly. Vince Young is the ultimate compromise that might work because he’s a 6-foot-5 quarterback who is faster than Tebow and is always looking downfield when he rolls out of the pocket. I fear Tebow tucking the ball away and just running, absorbing a big hit.
I do think Tebow’s in good hands with McDaniels now that Orton will be the starter for the next two years. I just hope he stays healthy, which he will if they groom him to be an eventual backup and see where he is as a developmental quarterback by 2012.
BW: John, I don’t think there is any gray area. I don’t think Tebow is going to be a decent backup. He is either going to be a star or be a failed experiment. And I don’t see him failing. He is simply not going to allow himself to fail.
In one of my conversations with Tebow, he admitted that he is afraid of failure. He is afraid to let down his coaches, teammates and family. The fire burns. That’s what McDaniels saw during the famous combine meeting when the Broncos’ brass fell in love with Tebow.
I have talked to countless folks about Tebow. There are two schools of thought when it comes to whether his game translates to the NFL. One is that Tebow is so focused and so determined that there is no way he’ll fail. The other is that he already has gotten all he can out of limited ability and has peaked as a player. Two head coaches have told me that, as have a couple of general managers.
However, there are many personnel folks who think Tebow will thrive under McDaniels’ guidance. I point to the immense improvement he already has made as evidence that Tebow has not peaked. He learns from his mistakes and he gets better. He reads defenses and senses oncoming defenders better than he did a month ago. He handles the pocket better than he did earlier in camp. Tebow is an ascending player. There’s little doubt in my mind.
I enjoy catching up with him. His analysis is worth noting. That’s why Kansas City Chiefs fans have reason to be optimistic.
Lynch, who is know an analyst for FOX, saw the Chiefs play earlier in the preseason. The likely Hall of Fame safety believes the Chiefs have a chance to be strong on defense. This is fascinating because many people, myself included, think the Chiefs could be a strong team if the defense can come together.
The Chiefs’ offense has been better and has shown more improvements than the defense during much of the summer. However, the Kansas City defense did play well against Philadelphia on Friday, with the starters playing extensively.
Lynch believes the defense has a chance to develop. He is particularly impressed by rookie safety Eric Berry and veteran linebacker Tamba Hali. He thinks both players can make huge impacts and help elevate the unit.
“I really think the defense can make strides,” Lynch said. “They can do some things … I really like Berry. He is explosive.”
If Lynch is on to something, and I have no reason to doubt he is, perhaps a Kansas City revival is in the works.
Tebow was the No. 2 quarterback Sunday against Pittsburgh and he has outplayed Brady Quinn. However, Denver coach Josh McDaniels said Tebow came in second after Kyle Orton because the team wanted to see more repetitions since he missed the previous game with sore ribs. However, it needs to be noted that when Orton left the field for a play during a short injury, it was Quinn, not Tebow, who replaced him.
There could be a situation where Tebow is the No. 2 quarterback on game days because he will be used in special packages. However, perhaps early in Tebow’s career, if Orton misses a week, Quinn would be the starter.
Still, it is clear Tebow is making strides and gaining more support. Monday, I caught up with former Tampa Bay and Denver safety john Lynch, who is an analyst for FOX. He was at Denver’s game against Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Lynch, a college quarterback at Stanford, has watched Tebow in camp and liked what he saw on the field Sunday night. Lynch said the most impressive thing about Tebow was how quickly he is learning. Lynch said Tebow rarely makes the same mistake twice, and his game is evolving.
“He has the most diagnosed release in the history of releases and he is working on it,” Lynch said. “We saw improvements. Credit goes to Tim for recognizing he had some mechanical issues and he addressed it … The kid seems focused on bettering his game every day.”
The Broncos had Tebow work on his pocket game Sunday night. He didn’t take off and run after injuring his ribs on a touchdown run in his preseason debut at Cincinnati two weeks ago. Lynch thinks it’s smart that Tebow refine his pocket-passing presence, but he shouldn’t go away from his game.
“It’s strength of his and he should use it,” Lynch said. “Steve Young’s evolution to being a truly championship quarterback was when he combined his pocket game with his natural running skills. I think that’s the progression Tim needs to strive for.”
Like everyone else, Lynch said a key to Tebow’s chances to succeed is his makeup.
“I like what he does on the field, but I’m telling you, you can’t discount those intangibles,” Lynch said. “He’s special. There is just a way he carries himself, you now he will be a successful player.”
|Josh McDaniels and Mike Tomlin, two of the youngest head coaches in the league, face off on Monday night in Denver.|
When Josh McDaniels and Mike Tomlin face each other Monday night for the first time as head coaches, the football world will watch two of the game’s brightest young coaches at work.
Observers will also see two men who took strikingly similar paths.
McDaniels and Tomlin are bright, engaging men who worked their way up from being small-school athletes to Super Bowl-winning, coveted assistant coaches. Both took over for Super Bowl-winning legends in cities steeped in football tradition.
“These are two similar guys,” said retired safety John Lynch, who played under both McDaniels and Tomlin during his career. “Both Mike and Josh are highly intelligent, strong-minded football men. They really are similar.”
As we prepare for a pivotal AFC matchup in Denver, let’s look at the career paths taken by these 30-somethings who look as if they will be roaming the sidelines for a long time:
McDaniels: 33 (33 when hired).
Tomlin: 37 (34 when hired).
The playing field
McDaniels: The son of a legendary high school coach in Canton, Ohio. He went to John Carroll, where he was a receiver.
Tomlin: Grew up in Newport News, Va. Tomlin was a standout receiver/tight end at William & Mary.
McDaniels: A great quarterback coach who uses an energetic, friendly personality. But he’s not afraid to hurt feelings for the greater good of the team, and can be stern when needed. He’s a detail-oriented coach who has a firm grasp of the X's and O’s part of the game.
Tomlin: A high-energy, never-say-die defensive-minded coach whose brain is like a sponge. He craves football knowledge. He is not afraid to challenge stars to be better.
The other side of the ball
Last week, I spoke with Gary Horton of Scouts Inc., who said he was impressed by McDaniels’ ability as a defensive coach. McDaniels has a strong knowledge of defenses, Horton said, enabling him to prepare his offensive players for what to expect. McDaniels has experience coaching on defense and Tomlin has some history coaching on offense.
McDaniels: He was a defensive assistant in New England for 2002-03. He worked with the defensive backs in 2003.
Tomlin: In 1995, he was the receivers coach at VMI and in 1997, he coached the receivers at Arkansas State.
Highlights as an assistant
McDaniels: He was with the Patriots during all three of their Super Bowl-winning seasons. He was the offensive coordinator when the team went 16-0 in the regular season and set an NFL record for scoring.
Tomlin: Tomlin was Tampa Bay’s defensive backs coach when it won the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. In 2006, he turned around Minnesota’s defense in his one season as a coordinator.
Highlights as a head coach
McDaniels: The Broncos won their first six games this season despite being expected to be a bottom-feeder in McDaniels’ first season. Denver is 6-1 and McDaniels is a favorite for the NFL Coach of the Year award.
Tomlin: Taking over for Bill Cowher, Tomlin cemented his own name in Pittsburgh’s history by winning the Super Bowl last year in just his second season as a head coach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
ESPN.com's all-decade top-25 player list is top heavy with players from the AFC West.
Only three players on the list spent a major portion of their careers in the division, but they're all in the top 10. It was the only division to boast three of the top-10 players. They are running back LaDainian Tomlinson at No. 3 (San Diego), cornerback Champ Bailey at No. 6 (Denver) and tight end Tony Gonzalez at No. 10 (Kansas City).
Tomlinson was the highest ranked nonquarterback on the list. Bailey was the highest ranked cornerback and the second-highest ranked defensive player on the list and Gonzalez was the only tight end on the list.
What are your thoughts on the AFC West's influence on the list?
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Warning to Oakland Raiders fans: Your day is about to be ruined.
As part of our all-decade week, NFC East blogger Matt Mosley looks at the memorable moments of the decade in the NFL.
The most memorable officiating call is ... Yes, the play that inspired the Tuck Rule. How can any call this decade rival the call in New England that helped cost Oakland a playoff game and birthed the Tom Brady Super Bowl era in Jan 2002?
I can almost hear the screams emanating from Raider Nation.
While Raiders fans will be sickened at the memory, I'm sure the fans of the other three AFC West teams will get a chuckle.
Also mentioned in Mosley's post is new Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli and former Denver safety John Lynch.
Take a look and I hope you continue to enjoy our all-decade week that runs through Friday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Here are some random thoughts on our all-decade defensive team that pertain to the AFC West:
Champ Bailey: This is a slam dunk. Bailey is one of the best players, regardless of position, to play in the NFL this decade. The fact that he plays one of the most important positions on the field makes him even more impressive.
He shuts down half of the field. What struck me most about Bailey is not how he plays the pass, but how he plays the run. He is a dominant run-stopper and he is a brilliant tackler. Bailey has said he concentrated on his run-stopping when teams refused to throw his way.
He's a complete player and a future Hall of Famer.
Warren Sapp: Sapp will forever be remembered as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and his inclusion on our team is based mostly on his work in Tampa Bay. Sapp ended his career in Oakland. He had some solid moments in Oakland and his larger-than-life personality was on display as a Raider. Sapp may be a Buc, but he made an impact in Oakland.
John Lynch: Lynch certainly made a case for the all-decade team. Like Sapp, Lynch will be remembered for his Tampa Bay days. But he made a huge impact in Denver during his four seasons there. He and Bailey headlined a terrific secondary and Lynch's legendary leadership helped this team.
Shawne Merriman: The San Diego linebacker deserves a mention, but he just didn't play long enough in the decade. However, from 2005-07, he was as good as any defensive player in the NFL. His 39.5 sacks in that three-season span were the most in the NFL. Merriman, who is coming back after missing all but one game last season with a knee injury, is far from a one-trick pony. He is also solid in run support.
Speaking of the Chargers, I think defensive tackle Jamal Williams deserved mention. He has long been one of the premier run-stuffers and defensive-line anchors in the league.
Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is a lot like Merriman. He may be dominant now, but his just didn't make a big enough impact for the long run. Maybe next decade.