Monday, January 14, 2019

Baseball or Football for Kyler Murray? Bronco Draft Choice Rick Leach Picked Baseball

Today Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray will decide whether to enter the NFL draft or stick to his baseball contract with the Oakland A's.  Murray is a star in both sports so the decision is not an easy one.

Murray's dilemma brought back memories of the Broncos fifth round draft choice in 1979 - quarterback Rick Leach.  Leach was a baseball and football star at the University of Michigan.  He finished third in the Heisman trophy balloting at the end of his senior season.  Different than Murray, Leach was first drafted by the Broncos, and then by the Detroit Tigers one month later (13th pick of the first round).

The appeal of playing for his home town Tigers was too much for Leach as he relayed in this 2017 interview with Mlive: "At that time, where I could stay in my home state and play if I made the Major Leagues, and where family and friends could see me was appealing," Leach said. "When I looked at the longevity factor, the injury factor and everything, I never regretted one thing about that decision."  Turns out Leach did reach the majors but was mostly a backup in his nine seasons for various teams (he was released by the Tigers after three seasons)

But what if Leach had chosen football instead?  Bronco coach Red Miller was said to have been impressed with Leach in rookie minicamp before the two sport star picked baseball.  Perhaps Leach would have been a worthy successor to the aging Craig Morton as the Broncos starter, Miller wouldn't have made the failed Matt Robinson trade in 1980 in search for a starting quarterback, and Red would have kept his job instead of being replaced by Dan Reeves as Broncos head coach in 1981.

It all worked out in the end for the Broncos, for if Leach had been a successful multiyear starter for the team they may not have traded for John Elway after the 1983 draft.  Still it would have been interesting to see how Leach would have fared with the Broncos.  "I thought I had a skill level that I would have liked to try and see what would have happened," Leach said in his Mlive interview. "But the offense I ran at Michigan and what I would have needed to play in the NFL was significantly different. But I would have loved the opportunity just to kind of prove to myself to see if I could have done it."

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Will They Name an Elementary School After Fangio? New Bronco Coach Reaction

In December 1966 I was 10 years old, and an avid fan of the Denver Broncos! The Broncos had just announced Lou Saban as their new head coach.  My friend Greg called a sports talk radio show to talk about the news.  "What school do you go to?" asked the host. "Sabin Elementary" said Greg.  "That's amazing! They've already named an elementary school after him!" replied the host.

Of course Sabin Elementary was not named after Lou Saban, but the host's comment reflected the excitement the city had for the new Broncos head coach at the time.  For two 10 year old kids, and for other die hard Bronco fans, Saban gave us hope that the coaching change would transform the perennial loser Broncos to a winning franchise.  Five years later, "Half A Loaf Lou" was run out of town after a 20 win, 43 loss, 3 tie record.

Over the years I've seen other Bronco head coaches arrive with great anticipation, only to exit in disappointment after a few seasons.  John Ralston was supposed to bring his innovative Stanford offense with him from the college ranks in 1972.  Ralston left in 1976 after a player revolt. Red Miller was a career assistant coach (much like Vic Fangio today).  Red got his first head coaching job with the Broncos in 1977, had an amazing Super Bowl run that year, but a few years later was fired after some unwise personnel decisions (like trading for qb Matt Robinson from the NY Jets).  And more recently Vance Joseph was heralded as a "leader of men" when he was hired as head coach in 2017, only to be let go two years later after 11 wins in 32 games.

Today, like back in 1966, this town is sure to get its hopes up when the Broncos introduce new head coach Vic Fangio to the Bronco faithful.  I like the hire on paper.  Fangio's strong defensive background can only make the Broncos defense even better.  Gary Kubiak's return to the staff is sure to improve the Broncos coaching on the offensive side of the ball.

Somehow, though, I have a feeling Fangio won't meet the fans high expectations this year.  The Broncos have yet to find a long term answer at starting quarterback, and years of draft mistakes have hurt the team's depth.  It'll take more than one season to get a true measure of Fangio and his coaching staff.  I hope the impatient Denver fans give him that.

Vic Fangio photo courtesy of the Denver Post

(update: Gary Kubiak won't be running the Broncos offense, which may turn out well, as Fangio in consultation with John Elway can pick his own man as Bronco offensive coordinator)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

My Top 10 Colorado Sports Events in 2018

It was another interesting year for the Colorado sports fan, with the Rockies and Avalanche having strong seasons while the Broncos did not.  For this fan who has followed Colorado sports since the 1960's, here are my top ten sports events in 2018:

Number 10: 

October 21st - Nuggets 100 Golden State 98 - Nuggets beat the defending nba champs to go 3-0 to start the season despite missing 18 free throws. A big block by Juancho Hernangomez at the buzzer preserved the win.  This early season victory was an indication of how competitive the Nuggets would be in the NBA this season (at year's end the Nuggets win/loss record was in the top 3 in the Western Conference).

Number 9:
February 4th - Going back to the previous season, the Nuggets seem to play Golden State better than most NBA teams.  On this night the Nuggets beat Golden State 115-108 in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a game at the Pepsi Center.  The defending champ Warriors were 41-11 coming into the game and the Nuggets were only the second team to beat the Warriors twice during the 2017-2018 season after this game.

Number 8:

November 18th - Broncos 23 Chargers 22.  It was another down year for the Broncos but this game was the team's biggest surprise win. The Broncos appeared headed for another loss, down 19-7 in the second half, before coming back to win in the fourth quarter.  With the Chargers being 7-2 and the 
Broncos 3-6 entering this game, few gave the Broncos a chance for a win, especially since the team hadn't won an AFC West road game since 2015.

Number 7:
November 25th - Broncos 24 Steelers 17.  The best home win for the Broncos in the 2018 season.  Building on the upset victory over the Chargers the week before, the Broncos again came from behind to beat the Steelers.  At the time this game got the team back in playoff contention. The Steelers had won 6 straight before this game so the Broncos victory was a big one.

Number 6:
August 11th - Rockies beat the Dodgers 3-2 with a 2 out 3 run homer by Ryan McMahon in the bottom of the 9th, pulling within 1 1/2 games of first place.  The Rockies and Dodgers were in a tight race all season for the National League West crown (and eventually tied for first place after the 162 game season).  This game looked hopeless as the Dodgers dominated the Rockies through 8 and 2/3rds innings before McMahon's big blow.  The game also gave an early indication of the impact McMahon could have on the Rockies in the future.  McMahon will have a much bigger role with the team in 2019 with the expected departure of DJ LeMahieu.

Number 5:
April 7th - Avalanche 5 Blues 2. It's rare in the NHL's 82 game season you will find two teams playing each other for the last playoff spot in the season's final game.  That's what happened on this night, and the home town Avs didn't disappoint with a thrilling win. Making the playoffs for the Avs was a huge accomplishment after the terrible season the team had the season before.

Number 4:
September 5th - Trevor hits 3.  Rockies shortstop Trevor Story hits 3 home runs in his first 3 at bats, including the longest home run in Coors Field history, as the Rockies beat the Giants 5-3. The win extended the team's lead for first place in the NL West.

Number 3:
April 20th - Avalanche 2 Nashville 1 in game 5 of the teams' NHL playoff series.  Trailing 1-0 with 5 minutes to go in an elimination game, the Avs score 2 goals in the the last 5 minutes for a thrilling win over the heavily favored Predators.  Andrew Hammond, the team's 3rd string goalie, had 44 saves!  “One of the most epic periods I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Kyle Keefe of Altitude TV afterwards.

Number 2:
September 8th - Colorado 33 Nebraska 28.  An extra sweet win for this longtime Colorado football fan as the Buffs spoiled the debut of the Huskers head coach Scott Frost in Lincoln. The Buffs came from behind to beat the Nebraska on 40 yard td pass from Buff QB Steven Montez to wide receiver Laviska Shenault with a minute left to the play in the game!  While the Buffs season was an overall disappointment, this win was the Buffs' best in the past 10 years.

Number 1:
October 2nd - Rockies 2 Cubs 1 in 13 innings in the National League's wildcard playoff game.  The Rockies weren't given much chance to win this one after losing their division to the Dodgers the day before.  Kyle Freeland showed he was one of baseball's best pitchers, shutting out the Cubs over 6.2 innings.  Light hitting Tony Wolters was the extra inning hero, driving in the go ahead run in the top of the 13th with a 2 out single.  Though the Rockies were to lose the next series vs the Brewers, knocking the Cubs out of the playoffs in this game was a huge surprise!

What will 2019 have in store for Colorado sports fans?  A new head coach for the Broncos?  Playoff appearances for the Avs and Nuggets?  Can the Rockies stay competitive with the Dodgers like they did in 2018?  I'll be watching and compiling my 2019 top 10 Colorado Sports Events list - check back next year at this time!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Mark Jackson at the Denver Broncos QB Club

Mark Jackson, one of the legendary Broncos "3 Amigos" wide receivers in the 1980's, entertained a standing room only crowd at our Denver Broncos Quarterback Club meeting today (shown above with club member Cheryl James).

"The 3 Amigos poster is the best selling poster in Broncos history," Jackson told us. "And I don't have one!!!"

Jackson told us a story of going to a charity event after his playing days and seeing a 3 Amigos poster up on a raffle table.  "I'll give you $100 for that poster," Mark said.  "Sorry" was the reply.  "$200, $300??" "Nope, it's a raffle item".  "OK I'll buy 100 raffle tickets at $1 each," Mark told the organizers.  Mark had to leave the meeting early.  He called former Bronco Ron Egloff, who was also at the event.  "Blue (Egloff's nickname for Jackson), some kid won the 3 Amigos poster after buying a $1 raffle ticket," Egloff told a disappointed Jackson.

This was one of many entertaining stories Jackson told the QB Club this day.  Below is a summary of some of his comments.

"I was a 6th round draft choice in 1986 by the Broncos.  I didn't think I'd get drafted.  I was a walk on at Purdue and played 5 years there.  In my early years I was known as the 'Black Rudy' (walkon who tries hard but doesn't get into a game).  But I played with Rod Woodson at Purdue. Going against Rod and other tough defensive backs every day in practice that taught me how to play against bump and run coverage.  Jim Everett was my quarterback at Purdue.  He was a good athlete and had a strong arm.  I was used to catching rockets from Everett so adjusting to Elway in Denver wasn't too tough.  Elway had much more escape-ability than Everett."

How was it playing in Cleveland and scoring the tying touchdown at the end of The Drive?

"Cleveland Municipal Stadium is one of the ugliest places on earth.  But that day I saw it as beautiful!  The Drive was just another day at the office.  John Elway at Stanford, Dave Studdard at Texas, Keith Bishop at Baylor, Steve Sewell at Oklahoma - my teammates and me had been making plays for years.  We've done it so many times it becomes routine.  So the Drive happened because of our earlier preparation."

Do you still have the ball from your final "Drive" reception?

"It was in my Mom's basement.  Then she moved.  I don't know where it is!"

Was The Drive your most memorable catch?

"No it wasn't.  When I was a rookie I scored 3 times, and all were called back by penalty.  Finally against the Bengals in a shootout between Boomer Esiason and John Elway I caught my first TD!  I leaped over Robert Jackson, the Bengals defensive back, to catch it!"

The QB Club crowd listened intently as Jackson told more and more stories from his playing days.  "When I got to my first training camp in Greeley, smelling the Monfort's air, I thought 'whose idea is this'??"

What was your toughest Super Bowl loss?

"On our first drive against the Giants in Super Bowl 21 I caught a pass on 3rd and 18 on the same pattern I had run against Cleveland during The Drive when we had 3rd and 23.  I didn't play much after that.  It was tough watching my team lose from the sidelines."

Jackson talked for 30 to 40 minutes, then greeted fans individually afterwards, signing many autographs and taking pictures.  Jackson co-hosts a talk radio show on Mile Hi Sports Radio from 7 to 9 am - the fans at the Bronco QB club are sure to tune in after listening to Jackson's many entertaining stories from his playing days.

The Denver Broncos Quarterback Club meets periodically at the Fox and Hound Sports Bar in Lone Tree.  Check out our webpage and signup for our mailing list to be informed of our future events.  We welcome all Bronco fans!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Day at the Broncos Business Huddle

Today the Broncos hosted a group of Denver area business professionals at their second annual Broncos Business Huddle.  It was an excellent event!

At the start of the day the Broncos provided a continental breakfast in the East Club Level.  Pictures were available with the three Super Bowl trophies which me and my wife took advantage of.  The Broncos also provided professional head shots of attendees that were later email'd to us.

Steve Atwater was mingling with the crowd.  Here I took a picture with Steve.  Steve was very personable as he chatted with me about his Bronco career.

Another former Bronco mixing with the crowd was Ed McCaffery.

McCaffery was the MC for the main part of the program - one and a half hours of different presentations.

Former Broncos placekicker Rich Karlis told us of his success in business after his football career.

The highlight was a 45 minute motivational talk by Terrell Davis.

TD told us stories from his football career and how the lessons he learned applied to his life after football.  I've heard a number of motivational speeches in the past.  TD's was one of the best I have listened to.

Afterwards attendees were split up into smaller groups to attend 1/2 hour breakout sessions on a variety of topics.

One talk I attended was by Clark Wray, senior director of ticket strategy and analytics.  The mobile ticketing, introduced this year, gives the Broncos much more data to analyze on how to improve fans' experience on game day.  Wray showed us a chart from the opener (the Seattle game) and how the data showed the Broncos the entry problems with a couple of gates.  As a result the team made changes and the survey results from the second game (Oakland) yielded better results.

I also attended a session with Patrick Smyth, VP of Public Relations and Nancy Svoboda, VP of Human Resources.  After a presentation on their roles Smyth and Svoboda opened it up for questions.  I asked how they handled the Chad Kelly situation.  Smyth said they have a plan in place to deal with controversies, and that the Broncos want to be "ahead of the story".  Smyth is like a doctor on call - the Kelly situation broke in the late evening and the Broncos were quick to develop a response rather than waiting until the morning.

My wife attended a session by Mike Sullivan, director of football administration.  Sullivan told stories of when he used to be the agent for Aaron Rodgers, and the challenges of contract negotiations.  It sounded very interesting - I will have to go to that one next year!

To conclude the event the Broncos handed out gift bags.  We have plenty of TD's barbeque sauce and McCaffery's mustard now!  Also included was a $20 gift card to the Broncos team store, a signed photo from Terrell Davis, and other goodies.  The whole event cost participants $20 to attend - the gift bag contents alone were worth much more than that.  Also part of the event were stadium tours.  The Business Huddle has a weekly score prediction contest among participants - last year I won a Von Miller jersey from the contest, and this year I've won a $100 gift card.

The Broncos Business Huddle looks like it'll be an annual event in early November each year.  I encourage you to attend - well worth my time!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In the Audience For the Broncos Huddle TV Show

Another event for the Denver Broncos QB Club tonight!  We were in the audience for the Broncos Huddle TV show which airs on Wednesday night each week on Denver's Channel 9.  Here tight end Jeff Heuerman talks about last Sunday's Bronco loss to the KC Chiefs with Channel 9's Rod Mackey.

Will Parks arrived in his casual garb.

Parks talked about what a great influence newly traded Demaryius Thomas was on him.  On the flight home from KC Thomas sat with Parks at the back of the plane and Thomas told Parks how much Parks had grown as a player.  Heuerman, too, had good words to say about Thomas taking young players under his wing.  Both said Thomas will be missed.

The loyal fans from the QB club were in attendance, like Bronco Prophet!

Afterwards club members were given the opportunity to take pictures on the Broncos Huddle set.  It was also cool to see the inside of the Broncos practice facility from field level.

Being in the audience for the Broncos Huddle TV Show is a yearly event for the QB Club.  For more information about the QB Club click here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Touring Sports Radio Station The Fan 104.3

Earlier this week I was given the opportunity to tour sports radio 104.3 The Fan with a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club group.  It was a great experience to see the behind the scenes working of the top sports radio station in the Denver market.   Pictured above is our QB Club group with Fan hosts "D-Mac" and Alfred Williams.

In their Greenwood Village studios we learned that The Fan shares the space with three other stations - KOSI 101.1 (adult contemporary), KYGO 98,5 (country) and ESPN 1600 (mostly features ESPN Radio's national programming).  All the stations are owned by Bonneville International, which has 22 stations across the country.

Our host this evening was The Fan's program director Armen Williams, shown above explaining the inner workings of the four stations as he escorted us around the Bonneville Denver facility. 

One of the highlights of the tour was watching The Fan's board operator, Bryan "Big Sexy" Beard, monitor Alfred Williams and D-Mac's radio program (seen through the window above).  There is much more involved in the radio production than I realized!  Beard makes everything run smoothly through his control panel and through communicating to the hosts through off air mikes.

Armen also told us of the importance of the board operator to make a successful show, and described to us the technology all around us.

The show is over - time to meet D-Mac and Alfred!

Were D-Mac and Alfred ready to go home after their 3 hour radio program?  No!  Both were very friendly as they greeted everyone in our QB Club group individually.

 "Can I get your autograph?" asked QB Club member Betty Campbell.  "Sure!" replied Alfred.  Betty said she had met Alfred before, but there was always too big of a crowd around him to get an autograph.  Not so tonight - Betty went home with Alfred's signature!

What a special night this was for our QB Club group!  Thanks to Armen and The Fan for giving us an inside look at their operations.

Due to size limitations, we were limited to 10 guests for this tour.  We are looking into the possibility of scheduling another tour of The Fan in the future so more QB Club members can experience what we did.