ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With rookies scheduled to report on Thursday, we're seemingly closer to football than we have been in months.
In this edition of "Ask Aric," I tackle questions on the Broncos' draft class, contract negotiations, the team's new offense and more.
As always, click here to submit a question for a future mailbag.
Aric, I don't know if you were asked this before, but I just had to ask... How is Mike Shanahan not in the Hall of Fame?! I think he'd deserve it after all his accomplishments, and yet he hasn't been considered even once — Scott T.
Scott, it's hard to be sure that Shanahan has never been considered for the Hall of Fame, as the committee's deliberations remain private. It's worth noting that it is more difficult for a coach to reach the Hall of Fame than it is for a player. The Contributors Committee and Seniors Committee combine to nominate three candidates for each class, and they alternate between which of the committees nominates two individuals. For example, in 2019, when Pat Bowlen was elected to the Hall of Fame, he and Gil Brandt were the nominees from the Contributors Committee, and Johnny Robinson was the nominee from the Seniors Committee. In 2018, the Seniors Committee nominated two individuals while the Contributors Committee nominated just one. In addition to those already strict restrictions, keep in mind that a coach must also compete against owners, general managers and others to earn the nomination.
This past class was a bit different, as the Hall of Fame selected two coaches as part of the 20-person Centennial Class. Dallas' Jimmy Johnson and Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher were elected, and I'd argue Shanahan's resume stacks up favorably against both. Shanahan has the same number of Super Bowl wins as Johnson and one more than Cowher. He also ranks 13th on the all-time wins list, compared to 20th for Cowher and 59th for Johnson.
Shanahan, though, was not among the finalists for the Class of 2020. In time, I suspect Shanahan will get more and more consideration for the Hall — and perhaps his Ring of Fame election spurs that momentum. He's certainly deserving: When counting his career as an assistant, he is one of just six head coaches to win multiple Super Bowls and win more than 200 games with one team. He joins Bill Belichick, George Seifert, Don Shula, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll. Three of those men are already in the Hall, and Belichick is a shoo-in when the time comes.
Was wondering if Austin Fort was invited back to camp this year. Being from Wyoming, I've kind of followed the young man through his journey - John E.
John, Austin Fort remains on the roster and will compete at one of the deepest position groups on the team. He had a promising training camp last year before tearing his ACL in a preseason game against Seattle. He may face an uphill climb to make the roster given the talent at the position, but he still has practice squad eligibility. Last week, I took a close look at the Broncos' tight end group.
Aric, I found myself wondering if motivating a particular player at this point in their career is part of contract negotiations? As in the cases of Simmons, and Lindsay (however different) situations. Thank you. - Mark J.
Mark, that's an interesting thought, but I'm not sure if it's the goal — even if it is the end result. With Simmons' negotiations, John Elway spoke often about how much he wanted to keep Simmons in Denver. The fact that they didn't get a long-term deal done may end up motivating Simmons to play even better this season, but I don't think the Broncos chose not to extend him in order to motivate him. In any contract negotiation, there are plenty of factors at play. Still, I don't think they'd shy away from a deal just to motivate him to play well. A big contract should be motivation enough.
I'd argue the same is the case with Lindsay. After signing Melvin Gordon III, the Broncos didn't modify Lindsay's contract. They likely didn't make that decision to motivate him, but it's clear from Lindsay's comments that it has motivated him. There's a little bit of nuance here, but I think intent is important.
Now, if you want an example of a team motivating a player, I'd look no further than the competition at left tackle. I fully expect Garett Bolles will earn the starting job again, but there's no question the Broncos may have announced the open competition in order to light a fire under Bolles and motivate him to play better.
With the offseason being affected by COVID-19 and with us having a new offense and a lot of young players, will Pat Shurmur reduce the offense so that the young players can grasp it faster - Lester C.
Lester, there will be enough reps in practice to go around for the Broncos to install their full offense. The change, though, is that Shurmur and the Broncos must be focused in their approach. As Shumur mentioned earlier this offseason, the lack of OTAs means the offense can't waste plays to try out a bunch of different stuff. In a normal offseason, teams have the luxury to test out plays that they may not be very good at. It's a helpful practice, just in case one of those plays or formations ends up being a surprising success. This year, because of limited reps, Shurmur and the offensive coaches will have to use their time in the film room to determine what this team can run well. Then, they'll likely have to stay focused on those concepts and plays during the on-field work. That's the prudent move as Denver prepares to play Tennessee on Sept. 14.
Seems like a lot of other teams have wrapped up signing their draft class and yet none of the Broncos are signed... any reason and how does that affect the players from the draft? - Chris F.
Chris, the Broncos are hardly alone. As of Sunday, 23 of the 32 first-round picks from this year's draft remain unsigned, and 15 teams haven't signed any of their draft picks. The unusual nature of this year has changed the normal time frame, as draft picks haven't even been to team facilities for the first time yet. As the NFL and NFLPA come to an agreement on protocols for training camp and the season, I suspect we'll see a flurry of signings. Even though we're getting close to the scheduled start of training camp, I still wouldn't worry. These contracts tend to be pretty easy to negotiate, as they're largely slotted into place by the CBA.
How is the Bronco training camp going to be different this year with possible protocols of social distancing and possibly masks? What does the team have to say about it? - Rashael B.
Rashael, I would guess we'll know more in the coming days, but the Broncos have had to submit detailed plans to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 to both the NFL and the Colorado government. Training camp will look different, I'm sure, in order to keep players, coaches and staff members safe. One noticeable change is that the Broncos will hold training camp without fans. While that's certainly not ideal, the team plans to provide a daily live stream so that fans can stay up to date on the team from home.
Would it be possible to have a "drive-in" for home games with big screens in the parking lots? Fans social distancing in/on their (decorated) cars; blowing horns and flashing lights to cheer? - Erin M.
Erin, I haven't heard this idea before, but I kind of like it. Currently, the Broncos continue to plan to host a limited-capacity crowd, if allowed by state and local guidelines. I'm not quite sure how the drive-in idea would work in conjunction with that, but it's definitely a cool, outside-the-box suggestion. In a season that will look different than any in recent memory, it's important to find new ways to show support. Even though Empower Field at Mile High won't be packed like usual, Broncos Country will still play a big role in the season. Keep that passion — and make sure to cheer extra loud whether it's at home or anywhere else.