Thursday, December 1, 2016

Touring Broncos Headquarters with the QB Club

Last night I was fortunate to be one of 50 members of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club to sit in on a taping of the Broncos Huddle TV show and later tour the Broncos facility.  The Kansas City game was "a tough loss.  We have to bounce back," said player co-host Emmanuel Sanders during the show, reflecting on the Broncos disappointing overtime loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night.

The player guest this night was Broncos receiver Bennie Fowler, who caught a 76 yard touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian with 2 1/2 minutes to go in regulation to give the Broncos an 8 point lead.  "I thought the game was in the bag after my TD," Fowler said.

The Broncos Huddle was recorded at one end of the Broncos massive indoor practice facility.  It was interesting to get a behind the scenes look at how this TV show is produced.

I marveled at how far the Broncos have come in their training facilities.  I remember as a kid watching preseason practice at the team's 5700 Logan address (north on I-25).  Today's Bronco headquarters dwarfs the old place.

After the Broncos Huddle show was complete our group was taken on a tour of the Broncos facility - seeing places the general public is not allowed to access.

At dusk we saw the Broncos outdoor practice fields, with the huge indoor facility looming in the distance.  "It's a lot colder than last time I was here," I remarked as the 20 degree temperatures sent a chill through our group.  Many of us had watched a Broncos training camp practice here in the August heat, though on this tour we saw the fields from a different angle. 

Next we saw the Broncos weight room, with motivational signs above.

Then it was on to the room where the weekly press conference is held.  Here I am standing where just a few hours earlier Trevor Siemian was interviewed on NFL Network.

The press conference room was smaller than I expected, with beat writers who cover the team each with a little desk to file their stories.  We saw Channel 7's Troy Renck and ESPN's Jeff Legwold, past QB Club guest speakers, working late to meet their deadlines.

Then we were escorted to the main lobby of the Broncos headquarters, where all of the team's past trophies are prominently displayed.  I especially liked the looks of those three Lombardi trophies in the middle!

Here I am with my wife Anne at the Broncos Huddle set.  Thanks to Channel 9 and the Broncos for giving our group an insiders view of the Broncos headquarters!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Simon Fletcher at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

Sunday night's Bronco loss to the Raiders put the members of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club in a down mood.  That feeling was quickly changed by an appearance by Ring-of-Famer Simon Fletcher.  On this night Fletcher reminded us of great Bronco teams of the past and the strengths of this franchise that we all have supported for so long.  Here is a summary of Simon's comments:

On entering the Broncos Ring of Fame 21 years after his playing career was over:

You guys got as tired of waiting as I did! (joking)  The first person I called was my mother.  She was excited that I finally got recognized.  Mom always told me "Look at where you are going, not where you've been" so I wasn't bothered by the Ring of Fame delay.  When you are on the field you don't think of records, rather you think of supporting your teammates and the great Bronco fans.

What the Bronco fans mean to him:

I was more excited about meeting with you, the Bronco QB Club, than the Ring of Fame ceremony.  What never changed over the years was the support of the Bronco fans - we appreciate so much what you do.  When I came to Denver I was a single dad supporting my 17 month daughter Ashley.  You bronco fans gave to little Ashley - she was given so many stuffed animals as gifts!  Here I was 1000 miles away from where I grew up (Texas) and fans volunteered to watch my daughter - thank you!  I could not have been more fortunate than to be drafted by Denver because of the great Bronco fans.  I'm going to live in Colorado until I die.

On being the Broncos all time sack leader:

To hell with sacks!  I came out for 172 games.  I earned my paycheck - every dollar.  When I watched the Broncos against the Raiders I thought "you guys need more pride in what you are doing. Bronco fans deserve better than this."  I thought the team came out flat.

On the Broncos prospects the rest of the season:

New England will lose three more games so the Broncos still have a shot at the best record in the AFC.  But the offensive line has to get better.  If they know John Elway like I do there will be changes if they don't perform.  The team seems to be resting on last year's laurels.

On playing for Wade Phillips as defensive coordinater:

The 1991 season AFC Championship game was one of our best performances (a 10-7 loss to the Bills where Buffalo did not have an offensive touchdown)  Wade told us before the game that the offense had holes in the offensive line and we had to play our best.  We held Thurman Thomas in check that day.  This season I think Wade has been hampered by the head coach the last couple of games - his defensive game plans have not been as aggressive.

On his worst game as a Bronco:

The 1987 AFC Championship game ("the fumble")  My wife was overdue with child and it was hard to keep my mind on the game.  I was thankful for Jeremiah Castille causing that fumble giving us the win!

On his best game as a Bronco:

The AFC Divisional playoff win vs the Houston Oilers.  I was asked by a reporter before the game, "since you grew up in Houston, doesn't a small part of you want to see the Oilers win?"  I said "from the opening whistle to the closing gun I'm playing 100% for the Broncos.  I've got orange blood in my veins and when I go #1 it's blue!"

On losing to the Giants in Super Bowl 21:

Some of our starters that game were not A grade, and some of our backups shouldn't have been in the league.  We didn't have the team speed to keep up with the Giants.  We were overmatched.  On last year's Broncos Super Bowl team there wasn't as much difference between the 1st and 2nd team.

On retiring after 10 years and missing out on the Broncos Super Bowl wins:

I told Dan Reeves I was going to play 10 years and that's it (3 contracts). My little girl Ashley meant more to me than playing more years.  It was the right decision.

On Pat Bowlen:

The year we drafted Mike Croel Mike was leading the AFC in sacks where I had zero at one point of the season.  We were getting ready to play in a bitter cold game and Pat Bowlen came out of his owner box and down to the field before the game.  Pat put his arm around me, and said "from where I am sitting I see how well you are playing.  Mike is getting those sacks because of you."  Pat was a player's owner.  I am so grateful I got to play for him.


True to his word, Simon Fletcher never did leave Colorado and today runs a catering business out of Fort Morgan.  It was great to meet this new Ring of Famer in person and hear of his passion for playing for the Broncos and his love of the Denver fans.

Me and Simon at the Bronco QB Club

Thursday, September 8, 2016

My 2016 Broncos prediction

As is my tradition in this blog I am posting my prediction of the Broncos season before the first game.

Sep. 8      Panthers      Carolina Panthers  WIN 1-0
A tough opening matchup, and a difficult Carolina defense for Trevor Siemian to play against in his first NFL start.  Still I always say ‘never bet against the Broncos at home”.  I think the Denver defense gives the Broncos the turnover edge and the Broncos win in a close game.

Sep. 18      Colts      Indianapolis Colts WIN 2-0
See Sept 8th.  Tough opponent but don’t bet against the Broncos at home.  The Colts have offensive line problems, too, which will allow the Denver defense to neutralize Andrew Luck.
Sep. 25      Bengals      at Cincinnati Bengals LOSS 2-1
The Bengals get revenge for the late season overtime loss in Denver last season, where they almost beat the Broncos with their backup quarterback.  Andy Dalton and the Bengals win it this time.
Oct. 2      Buccaneers      at Tampa Bay Buccaneers WIN 3-1
A possible trap game against the improving Bucs but the Broncos D takes advantage of a young Jameis Winston to win.
Oct. 9      Falcons      Atlanta Falcons WIN 4-1
easy home win
Oct. 13      Chargers      at San Diego Chargers WIN 5-1
the broncos have had good success in San Diego in recent years
Oct. 24      Texans      Houston Texans WIN 6-1
Brock’s return to Denver is not a happy one for him
Oct. 30      Chargers      San Diego Chargers WIN 7-1
Chargers play the Broncos tough in Denver but the Broncos come out with a win
Nov. 6      Raiders      at Oakland Raiders LOSS 7-2
The improving Raiders repeat their late season 2015 victory against the Broncos
Nov. 13      Saints      at New Orleans Saints LOSS 7-3
Drew Brees has a big day as the Broncos lose in the Dome         
Nov. 27      Chiefs      Kansas City Chiefs LOSS 7-4
The Broncos first home loss vs a team that blew them out at Mile High last year
Dec. 4      Jaguars      at Jacksonville Jaguars LOSS 7-5
The late season decline continues against the improved Jaguars
Dec. 11      Titans      at Tennessee Titans WIN 8-5
The Broncos end their losing streak with a late season resurgence vs the Titans.
Dec. 18      Patriots      New England Patriots WIN 9-5
Tom Brady never seems to play that well in games in Denver.  If this one were in New England it would be a different story.
Dec.25      Chiefs      at Kansas City Chiefs LOSS 9-6
The Chiefs complete a sweep of the defending champs.
Jan. 1      Raiders      Oakland Raiders WIN 10-6
The Broncos close out the regular season with a win and clinch a wild card berth

I pick Kansas City to win the division.  The Chiefs finished the regular season strong last year and have most of their team coming back intact, while the Broncos have had major changes.
The Broncos lose in the wildcard round.  2016 will be a decent transition season, making the playoffs is a plus, and look for better results in 2017.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

CU Buffs Scrimmage (August 2016)

On a sunny August Saturday morning I attended the first hour of a CU Buffs football scrimmage. It had been several years since I've been to Boulder and Folsom Field.  I was impressed with the additions to the stadium (new scoreboards, new upgraded seating in the corner of the northeast endzone, and the nearby indoor practice facility)

The scrimmage started with several special teams drills.  Place kicker Diego Gonzalez was accurate in all of his field goal attempts.  He looks improved from last season where he made 18 of 29 field goal attempts.

Next head coach Mike MacIntyre divided the team into the offense (black jerseys with gold for the quarterbacks) and the defense (white jerseys).  MacIntyre yelled out the name of an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman to battle one on one while their teammates looked on.  The lineman who won the skirmish was cheered by the teammates on his side of the ball.

Overall MacIntyre was much more engaged in the scrimmage than ones I had attended by two previous CU head coaches (Jon Embree and Dan Hawkins).  MacIntyre was shouting encouragement throughout the scrimmage while he roamed the field.

Next the whole team observed one on one battles on the goal line.  Here Sefo Liufau attempted a pass to one of his receivers in a battle with a defensive back.  Liufau was off target this day, missing on several end zone fade patterns.  Redshirt Frosh Steve Montez fared better, connecting on tds in this drill with his receiver.  I think Liufau is still working on his timing after missing spring practice and much of last season due to injury.  Montez looked better than the highlights I saw of him from the spring game. 

Other players that stood out to me:

Tony Julmisse caught a long touchdown pass.  The Buffs aren't sure whether to put Julmisse on offense or defense yet.  He looked like an athlete to me who'll have an impact wherever the Buffs decide to play him.

Phillip Lindsey ran hard from the running back spot.

Ahkello Witherspoon had a nice interception on a long pass.

Whether the offense is improved this year depends on the quarterback play and the offensive line.  The receivers look solid and there are a number of talented running backs.  The defense always has the advantage in these earlier scrimmages and today was no exception, but I do think the defense will be much improved this year.

I wish I could have stayed for the whole scrimmage (I had an appointment in Boulder later that morning).  From others I heard that the fans were allowed on the field to mix with the players after the scrimmage was over.  I like that Mike MacIntyre has one open scrimmage like this for the fans in the Fall.  I understand why practices are closed as the team prepares for their big opener against CSU, but open scrimmages like this get the fans excited for the upcoming year and gives us an early preview of some of the new players (like Julmisse)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jeff Legwold at the Bronco QB Club

ESPN's Jeff Legwold entertained a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club audience Tuesday night, giving us insight into the Pro Football Hall of Fame process and the recent NFL draft.

Legwold is currently the president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He has been on the Board of Selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1999.  He attended his first Scouting Combine in 1987, and has been covering the NFL over 25 years.  Jeff has covered the Broncos since 2004, including writing for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.  Previously Jeff has also covered the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.

"There are over 990 saints in the Catholic church, and 295 members of the NFL Hall of Fame.  It's easier to become a saint than to get enshrined in Canton!" Legwold said, giving us a sense of how difficult it is for a player to enter the Hall.  "The fans of every NFL city think they have at least five players that are a slam dunk for the Hall.  Multiply that by 32 teams.  But we can only elect five total from the modern era each year."

Legwold said he just got his ballot for this season's Hall of Fame class.  The 46 members of the selection committee vote and reduce that list to 25.  Legwold then sends out information packets on all the Broncos on the list of 25 to the other voters.  That list then gets cut to 15, and Legwold again sends out followup information packets on the Broncos in the group of 15.  "If you get into the final 15, more than likely you'll get in eventually," said Legwold.  But often players have to wait.  Lynn Swann, for example, was in the final 15 12 times before he was selected for the Hall.  This gave us hope that Broncos Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater, and John Lynch will eventually get in, as they were in last season's 15 finalists.

The Hall of Fame voters are members of the media.  They are not compensated for their work - it is a voluntary effort.  The Hall of Fame Board of Directors is its own entity, consisting mostly of Canton, Ohio area businessmen, who don't answer to the NFL. Given the size of NFL rosters the pool of players from which the Hall chooses from is bigger than any other sport.  When the Hall voters have pushed for more spots, the Board of Directors has refused.  "They want to make it hard to get in," Legwold said.

Legwold said Terrell Davis has a good shot at getting in the Hall but maybe not for February’s class since LaDainian Tomlinson will first become eligible in 2017.  "A center or a safety has a long hill to climb," Legwold said (only 5 safeties are in the Hall currently) which reduces the chances for Atwater and Lynch. Louie Wright has a chance to make it from the senior pool, Legwold feels.

On this year's Broncos draft class, Legwold said the Broncos reached a bit for their first two picks, but they really like both players (Paxton Lynch round 1, Adam Gotsis round 2).  He said the Broncos found out later three teams had Gotsis targeted for early round 3, so Gotsis wouldn't have been there for Denver's third round pick.  He thinks Lynch has a stronger arm than Brock Osweiller but needs to sit a year to learn the NFL game.  He thinks the Broncos may stick with their current 3 quarterbacks to give each more reps in training camp.

Legwold hears that the Broncos should get an overseas game in 2017.  The team will be visiting the White House sometime during the next six weeks to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with the President.

Legwold spoke on these and other topics, answering our many questions for over an hour.  It was a great opportunity to pick the brain of a long time NFL reporter and Hall of Fame voter.

Afterwards Legwold stayed to talk to Bronco QB Club members individually, and take pictures (like this one with me!):

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cecil Lammey at the Bronco QB Club (April 2016)

"John Elway has always turned negatives into positives," said Cecil Lammey to a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club audience two years ago.  It was our first meeting after the devastating loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 48.  The mood of the club members was down that night, but Cecil encouraged us by saying the team was in good hands with John Elway.

Cecil was right.  Elway's free agent acquisitions that offseason (like Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and TJ Ward) were key players on the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos.  Cecil was back last night to give us his annual offseason review of the Broncos and a look forward to the NFL draft.  Cecil currently can be heard weekdays on Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan from 9 to 11 am as the station's "football insider".

"John Elway plays chess, while the rest of the league plays checkers," said Cecil, again emphasizing the theme that the Broncos will come out of this offseason just fine under John Elway's leadership.  A few insights Cecil gave us this night:

Malik Jackson gone:  Malik signed a 90 million contract with Jacksonville - too much!  "This is the best defensive line class I've seen in a decade," said Cecil.  "The Broncos can find a replacement for Malik in the 4th round."

Danny Trevathan gone: The Broncos can replace him from their linebacker depth.  "Zaire Anderson had 100 tackles a year with Nebraska and he can cover sideline to sideline," said Cecil.  Expect Anderson to have a bigger role with the team this year, and Todd Davis will see more playing time, too.  The Bears overpaid for Trevathan.

CJ Anderson contract: It was a good deal for the Broncos.  If CJ had been given a 2nd round tender, he'd be a unrestricted free agent next year.  Elway expects CJ to have a big year, and his current multiyear contract will then be considered a bargain.

Colin Kaepernick: "if he doesn't want to be here, move on"

Russell Okung: great contract for the Broncos.  Elway showed patience in not waiving Clady, and this paid off with the trade to the Jets last week.  The Broncos were getting calls for Clady (the Ravens were one team inquiring) so Elway held out until he was able to make a trade, saving cap space and acquiring a 5th round pick in the end.

Mark Sanchez: Cecil's guess right now is that Sanchez will be the opening night quarterback for the Broncos.  A rookie QB could be groomed behind Sanchez and take over before the season is complete.  Cecil didn't have much confidence in Trevor Siemian.  When Siemian was selected by the Broncos in the 7th round Cecil called it "the worst pick in the draft.  He couldn't beat out a running QB at Northwestern."  After seeing Siemian in camp Cecil concedes that Trevor has a cannon of an arm but one that is very inaccurate.  "We'll see the Broncos add two more quarterbacks," Cecil predicted.  "Siemian is on the hot seat this year."

Sylvester Williams/Phil Taylor: Sly is still a bit of a project.  The Broncos have not exercised the 5th year option on Sly which could be an indication of what the team really thinks of him.  He's a situational player at best.  Free agent Phil Taylor who the Broncos signed this offseason will be the best nose tackle on the team if he is healthy.

Mike Sullivan: the Broncos capologist.  Sullivan was a bulldog as a player's agent, always getting the most for his clients.  Now that he's working for the Broncos, he's the master of the salary cap.  The Okung deal was very cap friendly.  There's a clause in Demaryius Thomas contract, too, where the broncos can convert the money owed to a signing bonus, freeing cap space.

Cecil also mentioned some 2016 NFL draft prospects to keep an eye on:

Keith Marshall, Georgia running back.  Will be a bargain in the 6th round.

Jaylon Smith: Will likely miss his rookie season due to injury.  Can play all four linebacker positions.  If he's on the Broncos he'll be the second best player on the defense.

Paxton Lynch: Good QB fit for the broncos, the team likely would have to move up to around pick 20 in the first round to get him.  Paxton Lynch would be a long term solution at quarterback.  Mark Sanchez or another vet is just a short term answer.  The broncos need a QB solution, not an answer.

Josh Forrest, Kentucky linebacker: another possible 6th round pick, reminds Cecil of Malik Jackson


Cecil gave a 20 minute talk and then answered many questions from the NFL savvy Bronco QB club crowd.  Thanks to Cecil for once again sharing his opinions on the Broncos - it is always one of our club's best meetings of the year.

Next up for the Broncos QB Club: ESPN's Jeff Legwold, the Broncos representative on the Hall of Fame committee, will give us an inside look at the Hall of Fame selection process.  He'll also give opinions on the Broncos 2016 draft class.  Join the QB Club now and you, too, can attend this May 3rd meeting!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jon Keyworth at the Bronco QB Club

Former Bronco running back Jon Keyworth spoke to a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club group Saturday afternoon with entertaining stories of his playing days, and sobering facts about the concussion-related injuries ex-NFL players deal with.

In addition to his playing exploits Keyworth is best known for his "Make Those Miracles Happen" song during the Broncos AFC Championship 1977 season.  "We were flying home from Houston after clinching the division title," Keyworth said.  "The celebrations on the plane were wild - it was the first time the Broncos had won anything in their history."  Keyworth had a conversation with a couple of friends who were restaurant owners at 1 am the following morning.  "There should be a song to celebrate this," one said.  Keyworth's friends had connections in the recording industry and within 2 weeks the "Make Those Miracles Happen" song was recorded.

"I knew nothing about making a record," Keyworth said, yet thanks to his friends "Make Those Miracles Happen" was in the Denver stores as a 45-rpm record by the time of the AFC Championship game vs Oakland.  The song was a big hit, and still is played sometimes whenever the Broncos are making a playoff run. "Like during this year's incredible miracle Super Bowl season" Keyworth said.

Keyworth even was able to convince some of his teammates to strategically pose naked for the album.  Keyworth's roommate, running back Jim Jensen, was on the album cover.

Keyworth played for the Broncos from 1974 - 1980.  He was originally drafted by the Washington Redskins.  "Jon, you don't want to come here," said Keyworth's friend Bill Brundige.  Keyworth was a teammate of Brundige at the University of Colorado.  "With George Allan as the coach, you won't play for four years," Brundige cautioned.  Allen was notorious for playing veterans over rookies.

Kay Dalton was on the CU staff during Keyworth's college days.  When Dalton was fired from the Buffs he got a job on John Ralston's Bronco staff.  "Dalton told Ralston to trade for me," Keyworth relates, and that's what happened.

Keyworth's rookie season was a tumultuous one.  He came to camp during an NFL strike.  With the Bronco vets holding out the coaches were able to get a good long look at Jon.  "I remember in the first preseason game coming into our locker room under the South Stands.  Above me were a group of Bronco vets holding out.  'I'm going to kick your ass!' the vets yelled down at Keyworth, not happy that Jon had crossed the picket line.

The strike was soon settled and Keyworth found himself third on the depth chart at fullback, behind Joe Dawkins and Bobby Anderson.  Dawkins was soon traded, and Anderson broke his leg in the last preseason game.  The Broncos then decided to go with a backfield of Floyd Little and Otis Armstrong.  When Little was hurt in a game vs the Colts, offensive coordinator Max Coley turned to Keyworth and said, "OK Jon, you're on!"

The next week Keyworth, starting with Armstrong, had his best game as a pro, rushing for 148 yards in an upset of the Raiders at Oakland.  At the time it was the second most yards gained by a Bronco running back in team history.  Keyworth kept a positive attitude through his early struggles with the team and eventually it paid off with a starting gig.  "It doesn't matter what happens to you, it's what you do with what happens to you," Keyworth said - a motto he lives by.

Keyworth told us other entertaining stories of from his Bronco playing days:

  • The time coach Red Miller wrestled linebacker Glenn "Lumpy" Hyde to the ground in front of the players, with the team cheering both sides on.  "Red was a great player's coach," Keyworth said.
  • A practical joke Randy Gradishar played on Floyd Little. Floyd had a special shampoo that he used to help with his hair loss. Gradishar took a bottle of regular shampoo and dumped it on Floyd in the shower, destroying the effects of Floyd's special formula. Little was incensed! Little connected on a punch to Keyworth as Floyd exited the shower.  "Do I fight back against 'the franchise'?" Jon wondered.  He thought the better of it, and 15 minutes later he and Floyd were laughing about it as Little discovered Gradishar was behind the prank.  Incidents like this built team unity, Keyworth said.
  • Bronco guard Tom Glassic overslept and missed the team bus to Super Bowl 12.  Glassic's Dad drove Tom to the game (at the Super Dome) but Glassic couldn't get in.  Nobody believed he was a member of the Broncos.  
Then the tone of the meeting became serious.  "My brothers are all suffering," Keyworth said as he told of retired players dealing with the effects of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy - head injuries).  "The NFL has suppressed the truth for years," Keyworth said.  "I had 1000s of concussions during my playing career," he relates.  Today Keyworth is a strong advocate for natural treatment of the disease, not with "the horrible drugs with bad side effects."  Keyworth works with his wife Claudia at a Health and Wellness Clinic promoting holistic remedies to restore brain function for NFL vets.  "These guys are suffering greatly," Keyworth said.  "Keep them in your prayers."  The Keyworths urged our group to see the movie Concussion to learn the facts about CTE.

Since I was a kid I have been collecting newspapers from great moments in Bronco history.  On the morning of the Keyworth meeting I dug up an old Denver Post Sports Section from 1974, "Otis Jon Run Raiders Defense into the Ground" the headline read.  It was the story of Keyworth's career 148 yard game he had in the big upset of Oakland that year.  I took the above picture with Jon.  "I don't have much memorabilia from my playing days," Jon told me.  "I want you to keep this," I replied, handing him that old newspaper.  Jon was very appreciative and even had a tear in his eye as he thanked me.

It was the least I could do for this ex-Bronco who I enjoyed watching in his playing days, and for his contributions today in promoting new treatment options for retired NFL vets still suffering from the effects of concussions.