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News » Sharpe: That might have been the Broncos' worst defense in years

Sharpe: That might have been the Broncos' worst defense in years

Sharpe: That might have been the Broncos' worst defense in years
Shannon Sharpe would have said plenty on the air about his former team falling apart Sunday night in San Diego, but the game was played after CBS had signed off for the day on its NFL coverage.

Instead, the CBS studio analyst and former Broncos tight end watched the 52-21 season-ending loss to the Chargers aboard a Delta flight from New York to his hometown of Atlanta. His disappointment was reserved to muttering to himself or to nearby passengers.

Eventually, Sharpe did offer his thoughts to the Rocky Mountain News' Chris Tomasson about the Broncos' season, about how coach Mike Shanahan must "do a better job of picking talent" and about his own chances of being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Jan. 31.

Sharpe, in his first year of Hall eligibility, is one of 25 semifinalists. Should he get in, Sharpe said he would be introduced by his brother, Sterling Sharpe, an NFL receiver (1988 to 1994) before his career ended because of a neck injury.

Sharpe played with the Broncos from 1990 to 1999 and 2002 to 2003, winning two Super Bowl rings. He also played with Baltimore in 2000 and 2001, winning a third Super Bowl. He retired as the NFL's all-time tight end leader with 815 catches and 10,060 yards, records broken this season by Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez.

What are your thoughts on the Broncos' late-season collapse, culminated by their loss to the Chargers?

I'm disappointed. You have a three-game lead and you've got to take the game at home to Buffalo (a 30-23 loss Dec. 21) so it doesn't come down to winner-take-all. The defense is not very good. Run. Pass. They need a pass rusher. And Jay Cutler, as talented as he is, he still puts the ball in harm's way far too many times. . . . When you look at their defense, they always gave up 500 yards a game. That's just a shame. I don't know if, in the short term, if they can get it fixed because it's such a glaring weakness. They can't pressure the quarterback. They can't stop the run. . . . That just might be (Denver's) worst defense in all my years in being associated with the Broncos (since 1990).

How monumental of a collapse is it considering no team ever had lost a three-game division lead with three to play and what lingering effects might it have?

How does it get any worse? They haven't been to the playoffs in three years so, what, they're not going to make it a fourth year in a row? . . . I just don't think they have enough playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. . . . Honestly, did anybody expect the Broncos to win (Sunday)? Anybody that follows the game knows there's no way the Broncos were going to win that game. The Chargers were better. . . . That's going to hurt for a while. But 52-21. Everybody is going to remember that until September.

Some believe Mike Shanahan can be with the Broncos for about as long as he wants, but do you look at him as being on the hot seat?

I just think they need to do a better job of picking players. You set yourselves up when you take all those (former) Cleveland Browns players, when you move up (in the draft) to take players that don't pan out. . . . When you constantly do that, year after year, it catches up to you. . . . Offensively, they have the pieces . . . but (not) defensively.

But Shanahan is making the personnel calls (as vice president of Football operations)?

The guy's name on his check is (owner) Pat Bowlen, and Pat Bowlen seems to think he's doing a good enough job. Far be it for me to tell him what he should do. I just think that, if he's going to continue in that role, he just has to do a better job of picking talent.

Can Shanahan effectively perform both roles of coaching and personnel, or is that too tough in today's NFL?

It's hard to say he can't because he's had success doing it. He's won (two) Super Bowls doing it that way. So why can't he? Maybe what has happened is he enjoyed so much success so early. His first year, he goes 8-8 (in 1995), then we go 13-3 division (title in 1996), and then you get back-to-back Super Bowls (after the 1997 and 1998 seasons). So, naturally, with that progression, everybody thinks every second or third year, Mike should be playing for a Super Bowl. Those are unrealistic expectations, but those are expectations Mike has for himself. Once you (win) that Super Bowl, nothing else matters. Mike understands that and (puts) that type of pressure on your need to perform. But there's no question he has to do a better job of picking talent.

As one of 25 Hall of Fame semifinalists (the list soon will be cut to 15 finalists with four to seven selected Jan. 31 for the Hall), how do you assess your chances?

I've taken the test and, hopefully, the grade I got was good enough. . . . If somebody would have told me I would have the career I had coming out of Savannah State, I wouldn't have believed them. Everything I received after the Super Bowls and what I have been able to accomplish in 14 years is icing on the cake. . . . But there's nothing I can do about it now. I realize there are a lot of good guys that are worthy.

What would it mean to be the first tight end enshrined in the first year of eligibility?

I don't want to say I should be a first ballot. I never measured myself up against someone else. . . . I will sit around antsy, like the rest of the guys. I actually will be at (the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., where the class is announced) to do my radio show. Am I inviting 50 people down there? No.

Where are your Super Bowl rings?

I gave my brother one and my sister (Libby) now has the other two in a safety-deposit box. I don't wear them. I know I have them. It's kind of like Bill Gates doesn't walk around with millions in his pocket, but you know he has it.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

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