Broncos regular-season wrap-up

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Final Power Ranking: 29

Preseason Power Ranking: 22

Biggest surprise: That this season got to the point where rookie quarterback Tim Tebow had to play to give the team some hope. When Tebow was drafted in the first round in April, the idea was for the team to use him in special packages as a rookie and perhaps give him a chance to start next season. Then, in the summer when Kyle Orton was given a contract extension through next season, it appeared that Tebow wouldn’t get a chance to start until 2012. However, in this lost season, Tebow started the final three games. He played well enough and showed enough glimpses of ability with his arm and legs that Tebow has a chance to remain the starter next season.

Biggest disappointment: The end of the Josh McDaniels era. Denver fired McDaniels with four games remaining when Denver was 3-9 in 2010 and 11-17 overall under McDaniels. He lasted just 23 months. McDaniels was fired partly because of poor personnel decisions that could affect Denver for the next few years. McDaniels showed signs that he is a good coach, but he wasn’t ready to be a head coach and the organization has to dig out of a big hole as a result.

Biggest need: The Broncos have to get better on defense. Denver gave up a league-high 471 points. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Denver allowed 9.1 points per game more in 2010 than in 2009. The Broncos have needs in all facets of defense, but particularly on the defensive line. The Broncos need a big, stout game-changer. One possibility is Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers if he comes out early or perhaps Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley. Denver has the No. 2 pick and should be able to get Bowers unless it decides to trade down and get several players. The needs are great enough on defense where that wouldn’t be a bad option.

Team MVP: Receiver Brandon Lloyd. This was an unexpected positive development in a lost season. Lloyd, a career journeyman, led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards. At 29, Lloyd developed into one of the most exciting receivers in the NFL.

This franchise is for John: The Broncos are going to entrust their future in the hands of legendary quarterback John Elway. He is expected to be officially announced as the leader of the team’s football operations, and is expected to make a run at Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. Elway is going to be part of key personnel decisions. This is a critical time for Denver. It can’t afford to fail in its second attempt to move away from the Mike Shanahan era that ended in 2008 after 14 seasons. Just because Elway was a great quarterback in Denver, it doesn’t mean he will be a great front-office leader. The Broncos have no choice -- Elway has to be good or they will continue to languish at the bottom of the league.