I know with the conclusion of the Super Bowl, next football season seems impossibly far away, but take heart football fans (at least those of the college football variety), Spring football is just weeks away and many of the 2011 season's biggest questions will begin to be answered. The Broncos have some key players returning, but the big storyline for this Spring is who we'll be missing. After the jump, join Kevan and I as we wage a fierce email battle royale to answer the question of which Bronco receiver's departure will leave the bigger hole in the offense. Words were said, feelings were hurt. Basically, it went exactly like I'd hoped.
Drew starts things off:
So this week's been a real doozy. My wife was nice enough to bequeath me a raging flu that tore me up and made me feel like the arthritic emperor from the Star Wars movies. Since I was a kid, when I got real sick and ran a high enough fever, I would get delirious. Well, guess what happened to me Tuesday night in the middle of a nasty 103º bout? That's right...I got delirious. Down was up, up was down, and I really wasn't sure where I was or why that anthropomorphic toaster was singing me showtunes from the foot of my bed. At the height of my delirium I could've sworn that we would be without the services of both Austin Pettis and Titus Young next year. Thankfully, the fever broke at about 3 AM, but the horrible nightmare of losing our #1 and #2 receivers for 2011 must have struck me in a moment of lucidity. Titus Young and Austin Pettis are gone next year and they'll not easily be replaced. Even with Kellen Moore still under center, the loss of a dynamic duo that rewrote the Bronco record books since their true freshman seasons will leave a gaping void that can not and will not be filled in 2011. This all led me to ponder which receiver the Broncos will truly miss the most. I'll proffer my suggestion below, Kevan will play devil's advocate and offer a rebuttal...unless he agrees with me, in which case, this will be the world's shortest roundtable (besides the one in Chris Ault's dining room). Here goes.
The answer here is not as difficult as you may think. The answer is Austin Pettis. Now let me get right out of the way that I will not be introducing any character issues or off-the-field hijinks into evidence as a build my case. We'll miss Austin Pettis the most because when he was on his game he was nearly impossible to defend. It didn't matter what defensive coordinators dialed up, it didn't matter if he was double- or even triple-covered. If the ball was in the vicinity of Austin Pettis, he was coming down with it. Now, this isn't to say that Titus was easy to defend...he wasn't. It also isn't to say that Titus Young didn't have some good hands...he did (barring a bout with acute fumblitis as a frosh). Pettis was just at a whole other level. Pettis didn't have the speed of Young, but he had everything else—height, reach, hands, route-running, physicality, desire. Everything you'd want in a receiver, really.
The head-scratchingest thing about the Pettis era is that he wasn't thrown to more. Sure, if the Broncos needed to move the chains it was a safe bet it was heading #2s way...but the corner fade to Austin Pettis was used so sparingly by the offensive playcallers you'd swear they were being merciful to the other teams. Where Titus Young became known for his "throw the ball deep, he'll go and get it" prowess...the nearest I can figure, Pettis' calling card may well have been "throw the ball anywhere, he'll go and get it".
In a very convenient turn of events, I disagree. Long live the roundtable!
The Broncos will miss Titus Young more for a number of reasons. Here's one: Boise State can scheme a player to get open. They cannot scheme a player to outrun single coverage. When Boise State wants to throw a 3rd and 3 pass next season, they can line up Tyler Shoemaker, Kirby Moore, and Geraldo Hiwat, pull out some fresh Chris Strausser route juju, and voila! First and ten. When the Broncos want to throw a deep bomb on 1st and 10 for kicks and giggles, they can hope and pray Geraldo Hiwat beats one-on-one coverage. Voila! Crapshoot.
Here's reason No. 2: Boise State has already experienced life without Austin Pettis to some extent. I am convinced that Pettis was not 100 percent for parts of last season, and BSU's offense didn't seem to be the worst for wear. That's thanks in large part to Young and in small part to Boise State's other receivers. No one could replace Pettis in the lineup, but they could come close enough that the team wasn't falling apart into a 2008 Poinsettia Bowl mess.
I have many more reasons, but I'll let you rebut. Hehe, "rebut."
"Thanks for having my back, Kev" (via cdn3.sbnation.com)
I certainly can't argue that Titus brought the deep-ball back like Justin Timberlake brought sexy back...but here's what I can't agree with: that it was necessary.
I love watching 60 yard bombs as much as the next guy, but let's be honest...it's a luxury that many, many teams do without every year and still find success. First off, it's risky...if you don't have your QB dialed in or the receiver willing to stretch out...it's an imminently interceptable pass. Second, it's not needed. Yes, a 50+ TD strike can change the outlook of a game in a hurry...but all the offense really needs to do is get 10 yards a pop and they'll ultimately get where they need to be anyway. 7 yard out routes are not as exciting to watch...I'll grant you that, but if we're saying that Titus will be missed more because he's the only one who might be able to haul in a high-risk pass...I gotta point you to the redzone, where high-risk passes are a way of life. The redzone is where we need to thrive...and that's where the cool, calm, collectedness of Austin Pettis made him the more invaluable asset. Short passes and runs still set up the deep ball at least a few times a game...and for that you just need an adequately fast, sure-handed receiver. Hiwat fits that bill...heck, Lou Fanucchi fit that bill and trust me, he wasn't as fast as Titus or the Flying Dutchman (never too early to plant the nickname seeds).
Ooh, are we doing nicknames? Let's see, Miller Time, King Dedede, Men At Burks, Troy Warehouse, The Cobbler. I have more.
The Broncos' next great slot receiver (via Gamespot
So let me approach this WR convo from a different angle. Which receiver will the Broncos miss the most? How about: Which receiver is most easily replaced? I say Austin Pettis, and I say so with the fear and trepidation that he might find out I said this, hunt me down, challenge me to an All-Stars skills competition, and embarrass me in front of my family and friends. It would be ugly. I lack hand-eye coordination.
For the sake of argument, let's dumb down Pettis and Young's roles in the offense to "possession receiver - chain mover" and "speed freak - deep threat." That was very irresponsible what I just did, but oh well. The role of possession receiver can be handled by any number of Broncos. Tyler Shoemaker has good hands. Kirby Moore, I presume, has good hands. The role of chain mover can be handled by scheme. There are five eligible receivers on every play who will fill in the role of chain mover in Pettis's absence including but not limited to tight ends, slots, fullbacks, jumbo TE Chuck Hayes, etc. The Broncos have options here. They do not have options for "speed freak," unless Dallas Burroughs and Geraldo Hiwat can be fused together, preferably with four arms (the better to catch and text with).
Other Young > Pettis arguments I have at the ready:
- Boise State played with a 75 percent Pettis for much of the 2010 season and is therefore already slightly prepared to replace him.
Vinny Perretta tried to replace Titus Young a few years back, and it didn't work.
- Geraldo Hiwat is further from being Titus Young than Tyler Shoemaker is from being Austin Pettis.
Yes, we are doing nicknames. Here's one I just came up with for you: Wrongy Wrongerson (nice ring to it—very formal). Austin Pettis is more easily replaced than Titus Young? Am I on Candid Camera? Pettis had a once-in-a-decade combination of height, hands, and physicality...maybe even more than a decade. Plus, he swings a mean bat at charity softball games...that can't be taught.
I'm going to miss both of these guys like I miss LOST now that it's off the air, but Austin Pettis easier to replace? Sir, you forget yourself! Remove yourself from the premises forthwith before the constabulary is summoned!
Austin Pettis was much more than a chain mover...he was a touchdown scorer...and that is something more valuable than top-end speed if you ask me—which you did, in a roundabout way. Titus Young will go to the combine at the end of this month and in all likelihood not run the 4.2 40 that he's been hyping everyone up for. In fact, I'll be surprised if Titus is the fastest WR at the combine. He may well be the quickest—both in footwork and in willingness to throw up hang loose signs—but he probably won't be the fastest. Heck, in straight line speed Geraldo Hiwat and Dallas Burroughs are probably faster than Titus...and isn't that the Titus asset you're coveting? Titus' bread and butter was the long ball, and if Hiwat can't get separation 40 yards down the field than he isn't what he's been billed as. Personally, I want to see a guy get separation at 5, 10, and 15 yards...and that is what a good, physical route-runner with soft hands like Pettis can do. You'll certainly see more in-game situations calling for receivers gaining that kind of modest yardage than the once-a-game bombs that Titus was hauling in. Also consider this: if Titus was nigh-uncoverable on deep routes, why didn't they just have Kellen chuck the ball downfield as hard as he could for 3 straight downs? Because despite Titus' speed, it's still a low-percentage play. Pettis made moving the chains and redzone TDs high-percentage plays...and that's what wins ballgames.
Checkmate and king me.
Indeed. LOST was the King of Queens of its time.
I fear we have reached an impasse on this one. I see Pettis's skills as fairly replaceable because there are as many ways to gain 10 yards as there Jesse Palmer suit-tie combinations. Not so much with 50 yard plays. Those are rare. Unless you have Titus Young on your team. Which Boise State doesn't any more. Sad. Fragments.
So let's move on to other topics upon which we won't agree. The Boise State offense is more prepared to replace an Austin Pettis than they are a Titus Young. Pettis missed 2010's Fiesta Bowl, and the Broncos won. Pettis fell into a WR2 role this season, and Boise State won. Second, the wide receivers who remain on the Boise State roster are nearer in skill set to Pettis than they are to Young, making the transition easier for the Pettis role than for the Young role. Thirds (which rhymes with turds), there was only one wide receiver who led the team in receiving and touchdowns and drew the opponent's No. 1 corner week in and week out. Hint: Not Mitch Burroughs.
I leave you with this: Titus Young was closer to being Austin Pettis than Austin Pettis was to being Titus Young. I don't think I can make that any clearer.
Methinks Pettis was closer to Titus than you think. He ran a 4.48 40 at the Broncos pro day last year...this wasn't long after the ankle break heard 'round the world against Nevada. I'm willing to bet most Division 1 cornerbacks can run in the 4.4 range and are capable of keeping up with or at least closing on fast receivers (provided they don't bite on a pump fake or get juked out of their jock)...corners could be covering Pettis like OJ Simpson's leather gloves...but it didn't make a hill of beans difference. "Uncoverable" is the tag I'd apply not to the guy that occasionally finds himself leading a cornerback parade 50 yards downfield, but the guy that despite the DBs proximity to him still hauls in the pass time and again. It's science. Deal with it.
How about similarity as a part of the offense? Titus Young ran screens. He went over the middle. He did comebacks. He ran deep out, crossing patterns, you name it. Young's evolution during the course of the season was as an all-around receiver, which is more Pettis-like than people probably realize. I do not believe that vice versa (Pettis as deep threat) could be said.
Drew's final appeal:
Fair enough. Let's let the people decide. OBNUG is a democracy after all. I would like to mention, however, before the will of the people is put forth, that in last season's offseason roundtable I predicted Doug Martin would be our starter. My track record speaks for itself.
Kevan with the last word:
And for the record, I take back everything bad I just said about Austin Pettis. Democratize this piece.
Just how wrong is Kevan? State the obvious in the comments.