As Head Coach Mike Shanahan speaks from here in the media room, I blog from a few feet away. Follow below to get some of Shanahan’s thoughts on the season as he shares them …
1:23 p.m. MST: The room is filling up. Most of the local media outlets have already arrived, and cameras are hear from the local television stations, Broncos TV and, of course, the NFL Network. These season-ending press conferences have usually been lengthy ones — I’m guessing 60 minutes.
1:30 p.m. MST: Final count — seven TV cameras, five newspapers represented, three photographers, a wire service, and a team Web site writer/editor with a computer on his lap. I’ve heard that using a laptop as its name suggests causes some health issues, but I’ll take my chances. Shanahan should be here momentarily.
1:30 p.m. MST: “You guys have been missing me, haven’t you?”
1:31 p.m. MST: Shanahan on the coaching-staff changes: “Anytime you make a change, it’s very very tough … I haven’t done it very many times until this year; three times in 12 years. To make a change is something you think very long and hard about.
1:31 p.m. MST: On Bates: “Jim brings a lot to the table. His experience speaks for itself … The types of defenses he’s had speaks volumes … To have him and Bob Slowik working together is something a head coach always hopes for.” … On DL Coach Bill Johnson: “I think the world of him.” … On the staff: “It’s the type of staff I’m very proud of.”
1:32 p.m. MST: On the defensive scheme: “So many different things you can do on defense. The main thing is how you get it done.”
1:33 p.m. MST: More on changes … says he sits down with each coach to explain why he made the change … “I wouldn’t be surprised” if former TE coach Tim Brewster has a top-notch recruiting class at the University of Minnesota.
1:34 p.m. MST: More on coaching changes: “Sometimes a little change is always good.”
1:35 p.m. MST: Looking back on the Cutler/Plummer change: “I thought it was the right time … when you’re 7-4 and averaging 17 points a game you’re not going to go very far in the playoffs.” … Speaks of red-zone/goal-to-go struggles against 49ers, calls them “embarrassing.”
1:36 p.m. MST: Asked about changes on roster by Jeff Legwold and responds by talking about how the coaches will be here into the evening looking over potential free agents over the next three weeks … says that when you figure out in which direction to go in free agency, then the draft is targeted.
1:36 p.m. MST: “No target date” on what he will do with Jake Plummer; says a number of teams may look at him as a starter, citing his starting record with Denver (40-18).
1:37 p.m. MST: Hasn’t talked to Javon Walker personally, but has talked to some who have, and he is “doing as well as can be expected” in the wake of Darrent Williams’ death.
1:38 p.m. MST: On Walker’s on-field performance: “Did as good a job as can be expected … I thought he had a very good year.”
1:39 p.m. MST: Running game: “Even though we’re over 2,000 yards, everyone wants that so-called superstar at the running back position. … The main thing you want to do is be productive … We were not nearly as good as we’d like to be, and we’re used to, but it’s not just the RB position, it’s a number of different areas.”
1:39 p.m. MST: Asked if he’d like a bigger type of running back, he cites the weights of Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis as evidence that a big back is not necessarily what you need.
1:39 p.m. MST: Two-RB combos in the Super Bowl: “I think they copied that from us,” Shanahan says with a sly smile.
1:40 p.m. MST: “A number of things that will be done” to remember Darrent Williams … no specifics as to whether there will be a jersey patch or anything visible of that nature.
1:41 p.m. MST: “Would I be against John (Elway) talking to Jay (Cutler)? Absolutely not.”
1:41 p.m. MST: What excites him about next year … “Young, talented players” … “It’s like any year; it’s day by day. … That’s what we’re trying to do now, work through the free agency period, try to get through the draft.”
1:42 p.m. MST: Says that the grind of work hasn’t helped him deal with Williams’ death. “The only way I can deal with something like that is to think that he’s in a much better place. The Lord took him for a reason. Why, I don’t know.”
1:43 p.m. MST: Says team will “not overpay for somebody” in free agency … “You learn from your mistakes, and we’ve obviously made a bunch of them over the years and I think we’ve made some good decisions through the years. Hopefully we will learn from the good decisions and learn from the bad decisions and not make as many bad ones and put the best football team that we can together.”
1:44 p.m. MST: Expects all veterans nearing retirement threshhold to return this year.
1:45 p.m. MST: On Cutler working out in the offseason: “That’s what separates the good ones from the great ones … the passion.”
1:46 p.m. MST: “I think everybody can see that this team is very, very close (to a title), look at the Indianapolis game this year … so we know we’re not very far away.”
1:46 p.m. MST: No one thing to help the team get over the hump, Shanahan says.
1:47 p.m. MST: Asked about what happened in the second half of the season, Shanahan reiterates it’s not just one thing. “I’m not going to go through all those scenarios with you guys; I read about why those things occurred every weekend.”
1:48 p.m. MST: On Tatum Bell’s future: “Everybody says what a bad year Tatum had and what a great year (New England running back Laurence) Maroney had, but Tatum Bell averaged more yards per carry than Maroney. Sometimes you lose perspective on what a guy does or doesn’t do … I think Tatum just disappointed with the turnovers he had late in the season.”
1:49 p.m. MST: Lepsis: “When we lost Matt, we didn’t play at the level we were capable of playing … Any time you rank 21st in the league in offense, that’s embarrassing in and of itself.”
1:50 p.m. MST: Potential change on the O-line: “To say what changes we’re going to have, obviously I’m not going to go in that direction, but we’ll try to get as much depth as possible and have those guys compete.” Tom Nalen will be back, Shanahan said. “He played at a Pro Bowl level … To not be nominated at least as an alternate was a farce.”
1:50 p.m. MST: “Kind of hard to say” if Rod Smith will start this year “because we do have some great competition at that position. Rod will start out as the starter … Rod will do everything possible to win that position.”
1:51 p.m. MST: Shanahan doesn’t think that Smith would choose not to play rather than be the No. 3 receiver or play on special teams. “He’ll do whatever he can to help this football team win,” Shanahan said.
1:52 p.m. MST: Shanahan tells a story of how he was a passenger when a friend of his died in a motorcycle accident, and talks about how he moved on and how it relates to Javon Walker. “I definitely think (Javon) will get over it … Life goes on. The guy upstairs will take all of us someday.”
1:53 p.m. MST: “We’ve got some depth there (at right tackle); we’ve got some competition,” Shanahan said. Adam Meadows and Erik Pears were cited by Shanahan as being in the mix.
1:54 p.m. MST: Asked whether Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl win paralleled with John Elway: “I saw it as a little bit different … but I could see it was the same pressure that John had.”
1:55 p.m. MST: Everybody should be ready and full speed by the start of the first mini-camp, Shanahan said.
1:56 p.m. MST: Surgeries: Al Wilson (thumb) and “some minor surgeries.”
1:56 p.m. MST: “I can’t say for sure” if Gerard Warren was full speed with his toe injury last year. “You’ll have to ask him.
1:58 p.m. MST: On AFC dominance in Super Bowls: “It could continue for a while.”
1:58 p.m. MST: S
ays he would take the option to play on Thanksgiving. “Maybe they give us a home game,” he said.
1:59 p.m. MST: “Nothing is closed” on Plummer’s status, says Shanahan when asked if the door was closed on Plummer being a backup for the Broncos.
1:59 p.m. MST: Domonique Foxworth will be the starting right cornerback.
2:00 p.m. MST: It “will be a little easier” than it was last year for the Broncos to get players squared away contract-wise heading into free agency.
2:00 p.m. MST: On acquiring a veteran QB as backup: “I think common sense would be to have a veteran backup with a young starter.”
2:01 p.m. MST: Offensive coaching changes: Pat McPherson to tight ends … Mike Heimerdinger working with QBs and calling plays … Jeremy Bates will coach wide receivers and quarterbacks … Steve Watson will be “associate head coach” and do some of the things that Rick Smith did before he left for the Houston Texans. “Steve has been a guy I’ve been very close with through the years and I think he can help me in a number of areas besides football.”
2:02 p.m. MST: Says that Troy Calhoun, new Air Force hasn’t asked for any advice, but that he has spoken with the former Broncos assistant who joined the Academy in December.
2:03 p.m. MST: “What we’re doing now is taking a look at every free agent that’s out there at every position … and then at the end of free agency you kind of get an idea what direction you should go in for the draft. Now you start looking at where the depth of the draft is, is it defensive line, is it safety, is it offensive line, we’ll see.”
2:04 p.m. MST: Says he looks at how a player plays rather than what they do at the Combine. “They get with a coach, work with him for two months on all these drills, but then they can’t play football.” … Speaks of the importance of coaches talking with the players at the Combine and “getting a feel for the type of player we’re talking to.”
2:05 p.m. MST: “I’m going to do the same thing I have done. I enjoy football, so I’m going to be involved in the football phases.” … Says that Ryan Slowik will help new special-teams coach Scott O’Brien … “Scott has done special teams for a lot of years. I think he’ll bring a lot to the table.”
2:06 p.m. MST: Says that the arrangement between Bates and Slowik will be similar to what exists with Heimerdinger and Rick Dennison on the offensive side of the football.
2:07 p.m. MST: On O’Brien: “He’s got experience … A lot of people that he’s worked for say he’s one of the best coaches they’ve ever had … I was very impressed with not only his knowledge for special teams, but for personnel across the league.”
2:07 p.m. MST: Emphasis on finding a return guy in the draft? “We’ll always try to find a return guy … You can’t always get those guys. Now you go back and say, ‘Should we have gotten (Devin Hester) in the first round?’” but he adds that he feels very good about how the draft turned out last year. “Hopefully we can have one of those drafts this year.”
2:08 p.m. MST: Says that Quincy Morgan might be able to help at wide receiver in addition to his duties on kickoff returns. “Hopefully he’s more than just a returner.”
2:10 p.m. MST: On Brandon Marshall: “Brandon really made some strides … Once he got hurt in the preseason, it really set him back in his conditioning … and he really didn’t know how to work to get back in shape … and then when he did, you could see his potential soar.”
2:11 p.m. MST: “Okay; take care, guys.” With that, Shanahan signs off after 41 minutes. So I was a little off on the time estimate.