This Does Not Compute

Hey, Sparky, think it's time to pull the plug on the Bowl Championship Series wizards?


JFK went down to Dallas. Hitler figured the troops would love Stalingrad in January. Saddam Hussein decided to take his chances in court instead of sticking that gun up his nose. And Mike Shanahan -- the former Mastermind -- ordered Clinton Portis to carry the freight one more time. Because of that choice, your Denver Broncos just might find themselves watching the playoffs in their living rooms. Because without Portis, the Broncos bear a striking resemblance to, say, the Buffalo Bills or the Cleveland Browns. They're a race car with no engine, dinner sans the entree.

When it comes to decision-making, good or bad, the willful Mr. Shanahan always gets his way, and he certainly couldn't have dreamed Sunday afternoon that his star running back would get hurt on his 38th carry of the day, in overtime. What Shanahan did know, or should have known, is that when the moment comes to conclude your business, you do it -- you kickthe damn field goal and get everybody into the showers. But no. The king of theory wanted Portis's run to line the ball up just so-- so that a cheerleader could have booted it through, or a drunk stumbling out of the South Stands. As a result, his brilliant but overworked mule (Portis has six straight 100-yard games and 1,500-plus yards for the season) will either miss Sunday's night's crucial game against the formidable Indianapolis Colts or step onto the killer Indy AstroTurf with a tender knee and ankle. The Broncos' nice little playoff run is suddenly in grave jeopardy.

For his part, the coach said Monday that he was more worried about a Portis fumble on carry number 38 than any sort of Portis injury -- an opinion hotly debated on the sports-blab shows this week and, not insignificantly, in the minds of more than a few Denver Broncos. When Shannon Sharpe jumped into Shanahan's ear a moment after the Portis injury, the message was not just dissatisfaction, but -- judging by Sharpe's body language -- something more like revolt.

This season, Shanahan has had more questions thrown at him than Saddam's getting from the CIA, and he's got no good answer for the one that may have ended his team's post-season dream. Of course, Sunday's 23-20 squeaker over Cleveland should never have come to a field goal in OT. It should never have demanded Portis's 30th carry, much less the 38th. As with the Chicago Bears debacle, Shanahan didn't have his guys ready to play -- at home -- against a much inferior opponent. They were lucky to win the thing at all, and what they've won, more likely, is a nice seat on the couch in time for a playoff game contested by Baltimore or even the heretofore awful Cincinnati Bengals. Imagine that.

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