Saturday, December 26, 2009

Auld Lang Hawkins

I received a good response from my "12 Days of McDaniels" post for Christmas, so here's another holiday tune for CU Buff football coach Dan Hawkins:

Auld Lang Hawkins (Sung to Auld Lang Syne)

Should all my losses be forgot
as I get a fifth year?

Should all my losses be forgot
As Cody's playin fine.

For Cody's playin fine Buff Fans,
For Cody's playin fine
let's give my son another chance
as Hansen rides the pine

I came here with big promises
a national title's our fate!
Then after 8 months on the job
we lose to Montana State

For Cody's playin fine Buff Fans,
For Cody's playin fine
let's give my son another chance
as Hansen rides the pine

Recruiting's been good to me
as we signed our darrell scotts
but darrell never played too much
as we lost to the have nots

For Cody's playin fine Buff Fans,
For Cody's playin fine
let's give my son another chance
as Hansen rides the pine

Two road wins in four years
was good enough for Bohn
when he said I'd be comin back
I almost dropped the phone

For Cody's playin fine Buff Fans,
For Cody's playin fine
let's give my son another chance
as Hansen rides the pine

=========

Happy New Year to Buff Fans everywhere!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 days of McDaniels

As we approach December 25th we've had our ups and downs from Josh McDaniels and the Broncos in 2009. Here's what coach Josh has given us fans this season (sung to the 12 days of Christmas):

12 carries by Hillis
11 failed 4th downs
10 td's from brandon
9 new starters on defense
8 sacks in 3 weeks from Elvis (games 2-4)
7 yard punt by Berger
6 wins to start the season
5 completions by Simms
4 fumbles by Knowshon
3 td's from stokely
2 wins since the bye week
and 1 fbomb on national tv

Happy Holidays to Bronco Fans everywhere!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jay Cutler tribute song

Came across this video on the internet today from a disgruntled Chicago Bears fan. Very funny. Glad we are rid of Cutler!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

46 years later - the Broncos play a home game on Thanksgiving

This week the Broncos host the New York Giants at Invesco field. While Denver has played on Thanksgiving a few times over the years, this is their first Thanksgiving home game since 1963. The Broncos lost to the Oakland Raiders on that Thanksgiving Day (November 28, 1963) 26-10.

That game is more than just a statistic for me. It was my first Bronco game ever! I was 7 years old at the time. John F Kennedy had been assassinated the Friday before and the nation was in mourning. A friend of my Dad's gave him 3 50 yard line seats in the West Stands, and he took my brother and me to the game.

I don't remember much of the game, other than the Broncos having a running back with an unusual name ("Billy Joe"). A long time Bronco nemesis, Al Davis, was coaching the Raiders that day.

I have attended hundreds of Broncos home games since Thanksgiving Day 1963, but to this day those were the BEST seats I've ever had at a Bronco game. I was too young to appreciate the 50 yard line location!

As for this year's team, I've had fun comparing them to the 1977 Broncos. The last 4 weeks of losses have shown this is not a 77 rerun. Maybe my post before the Cincinnati game will turn out to be more accurate (I said if the Broncos defeated the Bengals they'd start out 4-0 and finish 8-8).

What concerns me about the 09 Broncos in recent weeks is how the defense has been dominated in the 4th quarter, unable to stop the run. This is not a good recipe for success against a power running team like the Giants.

Still I think the Broncos always have a chance of winning at home (forgetting for a minute last week's 32-3 debacle against the Chargers). The Giants have already complained about traveling cross country in a short week, and New York had lost four in a row this season, too, before winning last week against the Falcons.

Here's hoping the Broncos make their all time Thanksgiving home game record 1 win and 1 loss with a victory against the Giants!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Home games are fun at Air Force!



Yesterday I did something I haven't done in 43 years - attend a home Air Force Football game! Yes the last time I went to an Air Force game was in 1966 at age 10. I have always enjoyed following Air Force football over the years, just never attended games in person.

I was invited by a friend to participate in a pre-game tailgate party. Immediately I saw the difference between Bronco home games. The tailgating area is "First come/first served" with no parking charge. We arrived at 11 a.m. - well in advance of the 1:30 pm kickoff of the Air Force - Army game. We saw many cadets from both service academies doing their own tailgating outside the stadium.

We entered Falcom Stadium at 12:30 pm and quickly found our seats in the upper deck - bench style seats in the Northwest corner of the field. The cadets from both service academies were opposite us in the stands on the other side of the field.

Air Force has one of the best pregame shows I've seen anywhere. First came Air Force sky divers jumping from high over the stadium and maneuvering to land right on the 50 yard line.
The cadets then marched into the stadium by squadrons (shown above) for the National Anthem. Once the anthem was complete the cadets suddenly disbanded and made a mad dash for their seats! The contrast between the orderly cadet march into the stadium and free for all to the seats was amazing.

The highlight of the pregame show was a flyover by 2 F16 jets. I've never seen a flyover with the planes as low as these. They seemed to suck the air out of the lungs of everyone watching as they buzzed over the crowd. A large bomber followed the F16's - there was no shortage of military hardware to display.

Oh yes - and there was a game, too! The game was exciting with cheerleaders from both sides urging the cadets to yell their loudest. Army was the better team in the first half, yet only earned a 7-7 tie thanks to a long punt return td by Air Force.

Don't leave your seats at half time - otherwise you'll miss Air Force's signature "trained falcon" show. One of these special birds soared over the crowd and back to the cadet trainers on the field.

The football Falcons found their legs in the 2nd half to win the game going away, 35-7. Every time Air Force scored, a group of cadets did pushups in the end zone (one for each point)

Air Force football is an entertaining show - with many extras in addition to the football excitement. I don't think I'll wait 43 years to attend my next Falcon home game!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hawkins reminds me of Gerry Faust

I was thinking earlier today coach Hawkins tenure at the University of Colorado reminds me of the Gerry Faust era at Notre Dame. Tonight I checked out wikipedia on Faust and read this:

"It was his amazing record, sound ethics and the quality football players from Moeller who later played at Notre Dame, that led Notre Dame officials to take a calculated gamble and hire him when Dan Devine stepped down after the 1980 season. For Faust, a devout Roman Catholic, it was a dream come true. He had coveted the head coaching job at Notre Dame for years and said all along that he would never leave Moeller for anything else. Faust inherited a solid squad that included nine of his former players from Moeller. He switched the team's home jerseys from green back to blue, although initially it was a lighter Madonna blue shade than the navy blue that had been previously worn (and returned to in 1984), and kept the player's names on the backs. A self-proclaimed eternal optimist brimming with enthusiasm, Faust had visions of winning more games and national championships and coaching at Notre Dame longer than anyone else. Then when he saw Notre Dame's schedule, he was quoted as saying, "I hope my lifelong dream doesn't end in a nightmare." Sadly, it proved to be a prophetic statement and his era at Notre Dame, initially referred to as "The Bold Experiment"[1], fell far short of living up to expectations."

Faust's Notre Dame tenure started on a high note with a 27-9 victory over LSU in the 1981 season opener, one of the most widely anticipated games in school history. After top-ranked Michigan lost to Wisconsin on that same day, Notre Dame was voted #1 in the polls. The success was short-lived, however, as Michigan defeated Notre Dame the following week, 25-7. It was all downhill after that as the Irish finished 5-6 that year, their first losing season since 1963. Faust would end his stint at Notre Dame with a 30-26-1 record, never winning more than seven games in one season and never coming even close to contending for a national title. This included four consecutive losses against Air Force, whom the Irish had never lost to prior to 1982. Despite his mediocre record and growing discontent among Irish fans, Faust was allowed to remain at Notre Dame for the entire duration of his five-year contract."

Comparisons to Hawk:

eternal optimist in over his head as a division 1 football coach

Faust had 1 big win early in his tenure (LSU 81). Hawk had his big win over Oklahoma

Repeated losses to teams far less talented. I remember the Faust losses to air force in the 80's - notre dame was solidly outcoached each game. Hawk's losses to csu toledo, montana state and near loss to Eastern Washington last year are similar.

What happened to Faust? He was canned at Notre Dame, unsuccessful and eventually fired at Akron. Today "Faust lives in Fairlawn, Ohio, a suburb of Akron; he now works as a motivational speaker."

That's the job for Hawk - motivational speaker - not division 1 football coach.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Broncos: more 77, 09 comparisons

I've been making comparisons between the 1977 and the 2009 Broncos since training camp. What struck me this week is how similar many of the coaches and players are between these two teams.

Coaching staff

77 Red Miller/09 Josh McDaniels - Many of the similarities I already wrote about: first nfl head coaching job, both replaced the most successful coach in Bronco history up until that time (77 Ralston, 09 Shanahan), both were New England Patriots offensive coordinators before coming to the Broncos. Now add both got off to a 6-0 start in their first Bronco season!

77 Joel Collier/09 Mike Nolan - These two were both known to be among the best defensive coordinators in the game, but both failed as a head coach (Collier with Buffalo, Nolan with San Francisco). After the head coaching failure each man came to the Broncos to once again to be a defensive coordinator, with spectacular success.

Offense

QB 77 Craig Morton/09 Kyle Orton - Veteran quarterbacks who were given up by their former teams (Morton - Giants, Orton - Bears)

RB 77 Rob Lytle/09 Knowshon Moreno - Rookie early round draft picks who played an important part of the Broncos running back by committee. Each had a bit of a fumbling problem (ask Al Davis about Rob Lytle).

RB 77 Otis Armstrong/09 Correll Buckhalter - veteran running backs considered past their prime yet excelling in the Broncos running back by committee.

RB 77 Jon Keyworth/09 Peyton Hillis - big running backs used in short yardage with good receiving skills

WR 77 Haven Moses/09 Brandon Marshall - each was the "go to" man for his bronco qb. Each used his size to get an advantage on smaller cornerbacks.

WR 77 Rick Upchurch/09 Eddie Royal - speedy wide receivers who also had a big impact in the kick return game

WR 77 Jack Dolbin/09 Brandon Stokely - white man can run! Deceptively fast receivers with good hands

TE 77 Riley Odoms/09 Daniel Graham - veteran tight ends winding down their careers but still with something left to give the Broncos

Center 77 Mike Montler/09 Casey Wiegmann - nfl veteran centers from other teams whose careers were revived with the Broncos

DEFENSE

LB 77 Tom Jackson/09 Elvis Dumervil - young impact linebackers who graduated from LOUISVILLE

DB 77 Billy Thompson/09 Brian Dawkins - Grandfathers of the defense. Veteran safeties that stabilized their defenses.

DB 77 Louis Wright/09 Champ Bailey - All pro "shutdown" corners.

DB 77 Bernard Jackson/09 Renaldo Hill - veteran safeties acquired from other NFL teams. 77 was Jackson's first year with the Broncos, 09 was Hill's first year with the Broncos.

===============

Will the 2009 Broncos reach the Super Bowl like the 1977 team? Time will tell but after this week's win at San Diego I think they have a legitimate shot. The 2009 team is more balanced than the 77 team (better offense than 77 team, very good defense but not quite as good as the 77 Orange Crush D).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wow! Broncos pass rush the great equalizer

The Broncos are 6-0! I thought the Chargers pass game would do the Broncos in tonight. What I didn't count on was the Broncos great pass rush against a shaky San Diego offensive line. A great pass rush negates a great passing attack every time!

The offense is coming around, too. Good to see Tony Scheffler more involved tonight and Kyle Orton had another solid game. The team has so many weapons. In this game Scheffler and Eddie Royal were the stars, while the heroes of the New England game (Brandon Marshall and Knowshon Moreno) were relatively quiet.

This team has great balance between the offense and defense, and finds new ways to win each week. And I think the best is yet to come!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rivers Won't Miss

As I was watching last week's Denver Broncos/New England Patriots game from the North Stands at Invesco Field, I was reminded of the January 2006 playoff game between the two teams.

In that playoff game Patriots QB Tom Brady was off, missing open receivers throughout the game in the Denver secondary. I noticed the same thing last Sunday - Brady had open receivers, he just wasn't hitting them.

In 2006 after that Denver playoff win the following week Pittsburgh came to town. Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger also had open receivers all game and he didn't miss - Pittsburgh came away with a 34-17 upset win over the Broncos.

I'm afraid the same thing is going to happen this Monday night. San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers has a great receiving corp and he's not going to miss open wideouts like Tom Brady did.

Yes I predict the Broncos first loss Monday night. The 77 team got off to a 6-0 start before losing at home to division rival Oakland 24-14 in week 7. Like that 77 team a loss Monday night will be a temporary setback and I still think the Broncos will make the playoffs this year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Broncos/Patriots: 20-17 41 years later



On this Monday I'm enjoying the Broncos at 5-0 after a thrilling win over the New England Patriots yesterday. More of my thoughts on the Broncos later in the week.

At the game I bought a game program for the first time in years - a "legacy" program pictured to the right above. When I was a kid growing up in Denver I used to save Bronco programs. I went back into my Bronco program collection today and found the program pictured to the left - from September 29, 1968.

41 years ago this 1968 Broncos/Pats game was my first home game as a season ticket holder. I sat in the South Stands as a 12 year old excited for the new season. The program says "Stadium Dedication Day" - that's because the upper deck on the West Side of the old Bears Stadium (later renamed Mile Hi Stadium) had been completed in the offseason, increasing the capacity to an NFL acceptable 50,000. Later expansions would bring the stadium's seating capacity to 75,000.

In that game 41 years ago the score was the same as yesterday's - except the Patriot's won. Yes, 41 years ago the final score was Boston 20, Denver 17. As the box score indicates, the winning margin was on a SEVEN yard field goal by the Patriot's Gino Cappelletti. Cappelletti was at yesterday's game, too, as part of the Patriots broadcast team.

How do you kick a seven yard field goal? And the goal posts back then were on the goal line, not in the back of the end zone. I think I could have made that kick!

Over my 41 years as a season ticket holder I've seen many Broncos/Patriots games after that first disappointment in 1968. Yesterday's game, and the January 2006 Broncos playoff win, were definitely the best!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time to wear the old bronco stocking cap



Sunday is Legacy Day for the Denver Broncos as players will wear throwback uniforms resembling the ones worn in 1960. I'll do my part and wear my Broncos stocking cap (with temperatures projected to be in the 30's I'll need it!). I don't remember exactly when I bought this cap - I think it was as a teen in the late 60's or early 70's.

I still wear the cap when shoveling snow and (of course) when attending cold Bronco games. Last time I wore it to a game I was going for refreshments and suddenly felt a slap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a guy in his 70's missing a few teeth. "Hey!" he said in a raspy voice as he pointed to a cap just like mine on his head, "I haven't seen another one of these in years!"

I must be getting old.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

McDaniels meets with the Bronco Quarterback Club


Tonight was my first chance to see Josh McDaniels up close. I along with other members of the Bronco Quarterback Club were invited to watch the taping of Channel 4's Josh McDaniels Show at the Broncos Conditioning Center in Dove Valley. McDaniels answered questions from club members afterwards.

McDaniels walked right by my chair at the start of the meeting and my first reaction was "who is this kid?" He looked so young and he's not very big. I figured he must know what he's doing to command respect from much larger (and in some cases) much older NFL players. McDaniels was wearing his signature "hoodie".

Below I'll paraphrase some of the comments McDaniels made.

McDaniels saw someone in the audience wearing a yellow Bronco "throwback" jersey. "We're going to wear the yellow jerseys in practice on Friday to get over the initial shock" of playing in these unusual looking jerseys. McDaniels joked he was going to wear "an old school hoodie" on Sunday.

When asked how it feels to be 4-0 McDaniels said he was pleased but he's "a long way from being satisfied." He said the team has had a long and tough week of preparation for the Patriots. This team is definitely not resting on its laurels.

McDaniels talked about the Patriots. He said they like to run from the shotgun formation (and illustrated that by showing a scoring run from Sammy Morris last Sunday). Their offensive line is experienced and quick hitting. Bill Belichick does a great job of designing pressure to get to the quarterback - you'll never see the Patriots run past the quarterback. They rush to a spot.

A play was shown where Baltimore blitzed the Patriots in the red zone. McDaniels pointed out how Tom Brady immediately recognized this and threw to Randy Moss who had drawn 1 to 1 coverage. Very few cornerbacks can cover Moss 1 to 1 and the play resulted in an easy touchdown.

McDaniels stressed you can't play one defense against the Patriots. You have to disguise your defensive schemes throughout the game.

McDaniels then answered some questions from members of the quarterback club.

Why did Dallas go after Champ 2 plays in a row at the end of the game on Sunday?

I don't know. Champ was in great position on those 2 plays. He played slightly off the receiver, read which way the receiver was going to cut, then quickly moved up to knock down the ball.

Why did you go for it on 4th and 1?

The wind was a factor in the game. From the pregame warmups I figured the maximum field goal into the wind was 48 yards and that's how long the field goal attempt would have been. I wanted to show the players I had confidence in them to go for it, and they were excited about it. We didn't like the result (not making the 1st down) but I felt it was the right call to go for it.

Do you know what Tom Brady's weaknesses are?

Yes but he doesn't have many. We need to keep changing things up. When Brady gets comfortable and gets in a rhythm that's when he plays the best. I do know certain things about that offense and we'll try to keep Brady off balance.

I've only competed against Brady twice. Once when I was on the Michigan State staff and we were playing Michigan - I won. Then another time we played each other in a round of golf - I won. I hope Sunday is the 3rd time.

Will you assign 1 guy (champ) to cover Randy Moss?

No, we want to change it up. Champ is comfortable on the left side and Andre Goodman is comfortable on the right side. We're not going to change our corners position on the field just to put 1 guy on Moss.

You won in the 4th quarter on Sunday vs Dallas. How important was conditioning and how important was the half time adjustments?

Both were important. We are a well conditioned team. In camp we practiced in pads for all but 2 days. We run alot in practice and our players have volunteered to run even when not asked. As for adjustments at half time, we have alot of smart players. Smart players can take a 2 or 3 minute plan we draw up at half time and then run it in the second half.

What did you say to Brandon Marshall after his big touchdown catch?

(McDaniels asked the crowd not to share what he told Marshall - then he told us. I won't spill the beans but will say this: McDaniels said he and Marshall have a great relationship. The hug was an inside joke between the two - Marshall said something funny and McDaniels hugged him in response)


=====


Overall I was very impressed with McDaniels. He has a quiet confidence about him and he showed a good sense of humor. He concluded by saying "many of you have been fans since before I was born - thanks for your support." If there was any doubts in the minds of the longtime fans of the Bronco QB Club on whether McDaniels was the right man for the job, Josh quieted those concerns tonight. He was knowledgeable, funny, and very personable.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Broncos: Chance to Thrive in Week 5 Just Like '77

The Broncos are 4-0 and are the surprise of the NFL so far. This summer, before training camp began, I saw this as a possibility and made comparisons to the miracle season of the 1977 Broncos. Even I didn't expect the defense to play as well as it has!

Just like that 77 team, the early season schedule is setting up for a franchise defining game in week 5. That 77 team was 4-0, too, but they weren't taken too seriously. "The Broncos are off to a nice start but they've had an easy schedule" was heard about the 77 team as they headed into a week 5 showdown against the defending Super Bowl Champs and hated rivals Oakland Raiders. The Raiders entered that contest at the top of their game. Veteran NBC Broadcaster Charlie Jones, when promoting the Broncos/Raiders battle of the unbeatens in 77, said "I don't think anybody can beat the Raiders"

Longtime Bronco fans know what happened next. The 77 Broncos stunned the Raiders 30-7 in Oakland and were off to a 12-2 season and a berth in the Super Bowl. I still have the newspaper describing that great win (photo above)

The 2009 Broncos defining game, their toughest test to date, will be this Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Patriots have won 3 Super Bowls this decade and came within minutes of another Super Bowl victory and an undefeated season only two seasons ago. I say a win against the Patriots this Sunday will propel the Broncos to a magical season, better than anyone expected (even me). Yes the schedule gets much tougher after the Patriots game (road games against the Chargers and Ravens among others) and the team will stumble a few times but the positive momentum of a 5-0 start will carry the Broncos to the playoffs!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Denver Pro Hockey Over The Years

This week the Colorado Avalanche open another NHL season at the Pepsi Center Thursday night. While football is my favorite sport, over the years I've also had alot of fun attending pro hockey games in Denver.

It all started when I was 7 years old. My Dad took my brother and I to see the minor league Denver Invaders at the Denver Coliseum.



Comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to joke, "I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out!" That was certainly true of my first hockey game ever. The only thing I remember was a huge bench clearing brawl. My Dad got a piece of a broken hockey stick from the fight, which my brother still has to this day. In today's NHL such a fight would have resulted in half of each team being suspended. Back in the 60's minor league brawls like this were common.







Then in my teen years in the early 70's I would go see the minor league Denver Spurs at the Denver Coliseum.



The Spurs had a good team - they even became the first professional sports team in Colorado to win a championship in 1971–72 when they won the Western Hockey League. The Denver Coliseum was a memorable place to watch a hockey game. That old arena still is in use for what it was first built for in 1952 - hosting Denver's annual Stock Show in January. For hockey there wasn't a bad seat in the Coliseum, even if you could sometimes smell the residue from the Stock Show livestock while watching a game!

The Denver Spurs also was the name of Denver's entry in the new World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1975. I attended the opening game of the Denver Spurs at the new McNichols arena. "Gary McGregor will be the game's next great player" was the hype around the team's supposed young superstar. Well Gary McGregor didn't turn out to be much, and even though the WHA would be the starting point of future NHL stars like Wayne Gretzky the Denver franchise never caught on. The Spurs moved to Ottawa in the middle of the season!

Just when it seemed like hockey would be dead in Denver, the Kansas City Scouts moved to the Mile High City in 1976. No more minor leagues - the National Hockey League had arrived!



I loved going to "Rocky Hockey" games in my college years. Yes the team was called the Colorado Rockies - a name the baseball team would later use after the hockey team left town. I sometimes read that "Denver first had a NHL team in the 70's, but fan support was poor and the team moved to New Jersey in 1982". It wasn't fan support that doomed the Rockies, it was poor ownership. In fact in the team's second year they actually made the playoffs, and I was in attendance at a sold out McNichols arena when the Rockies lost game 2 to the Philadelphia Flyers. The atmosphere that night was just as electric as many years later when I watched the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Finals.

My favorite player was Rockies rookie Barry Beck, a huge physical defenseman with a laser shot. The next year Beck was traded to the Rangers for players and cash, and the team was never quite the same. The Rockies struggled through 5 years in Denver with poor teams and poor attendance because there were always rumors that the team would be moving. When the Rockies left for New Jersey in 1982 I thought we had seen the end of NHL hockey in Denver.

Denver had minor league teams after the Rockies left town, including the successful Denver Grizzlies in the early 90's. I never got into these teams - still heartbroken by the departure of the Rockies I wasn't into watching minor league hockey.

Much to my surprise the NHL wasn't done with Denver yet! In 1995 the Quebec Nordiques moved to the city to become the Colorado Avalanche.



Some local hockey fans weren't thrilled with the Avalanche arrival. They loved the Grizzlies and the cheaper ticket prices of minor league hockey. I remember longtime Denver sportscaster Sandy Clough saying "let's just keep the Grizzlies, we don't need the Nordiques!"

Well, I disagreed with Clough and these fans. I followed the news of the Nordiques rumored move to Denver very closely, and I was ecstatic when the news became official! I was one of the first 100 people to call to get season tickets. "By the end of the year the Avalanche will be more popular than the Nuggets" I told my friends at the time.

We all know what happened that first year of the Avalanche, as the team went on to a magical Stanley Cup winning season. It was redemption for me from the years of watching those minor league hockey games in the smelly Coliseum and seeing the Rockies move back east. The 1995-1996 Avalanche season was as fun a year as I've had as a sports fan for any team. The excitement continued over subsequent years, highlighted by a thrilling 2001 game 7 Stanley Cup win that I watched in person over the New Jersey Devils (those same Devils that had moved from Colorado in the 80's).

As I sit in the Pepsi Center Thursday night watching the Avalanche open against San Jose I will remember all the years of going to hockey games in Denver. I no longer have season tickets, but I did not want to miss this opener (and the retirement ceremony of my all time favorite Avalanche player - Joe Sakic). The Avalanche will likely struggle this year and resemble more 70's Rocky Hockey rather than the Cup winning Colorado team of 2001. That's ok. It'll be fun to watch the next wave of young players which hopefully will be the nucleus of the next Avalanche Stanley Cup contending team in a few years. No matter how bad the Avalanche are this year, I know one thing - NHL hockey is here to stay in this city!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cincinnati will be a bellwether game for the Broncos

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Bronco opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Usually this time of year I make my predictions on the season. This year I am going to make my predictions based on what happens in the opener.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks back about the importance of this Cincinnati game. "If they win they'll finish 7-9, if they lose they'll be 6-10" he said. I think this game has far more importance on how the Broncos season will go than a mere one game swing in the standings.

If the Broncos beat the Bengals ...

It'll be a huge boost in the team's confidence. All the critics of the offseason changes and disappointing preseason will be quieted. If the Broncos can beat a good Bengals team on the road, I predict they start out 4-0. The schedule then gets much tougher, and they'll finish with an 8-8 record. Matching last year's win total with all the offseason turmoil and changes in personel will be a good season in my book. A few weeks ago I said that this bronco season reminds me of the miracle 1977 season. I still say that, but the only chance for a surprise season this year is to win the opener.

If the Broncos play a good game but lose by 7 points or less to the Bengals ...

It'll be disappointing but encouraging at the same time. Lose a close game to the Bengals and I say the team is 2-2 after 4 games and finishes 6-10.

If the Broncos get blown out by the Bengals ...

They'll also lose to the Raiders in two weeks and they could very well lose to Cleveland in game 2. It'll be a disappointing season with maybe a surprise win or two - the team finishes 4-12.

I'm hesitant to pick a win/loss total now because we really don't know what we have with Josh McDaniel's Broncos. The Cincinnati game will tell us alot. What kind of game plan does the rookie coach come up with in a real NFL game? (the preseason is not a good indicator). Is Kyle Orton a competent starting quarterback in this offense? Is the Bronco defense really improved and able to cause turnovers? How about McDaniels first draft class? (will rb Moreno have an impact? Will nickel back and returner Alphonso Smith show his worth?)

I'll miss the first half of the Bengals game as I will be in transit to Las Vegas for a work conference. I'm going to plan the rest of my Sunday based on what happens in the first half; if the Broncos are in the game I'll skip the opening session of my conference and watch the game at a Las Vegas Sports Book. If they are getting blown out I'll forget about football for the day (or at least until the evening, when I'll be in a sports book watching Jay Cutler vs the Packers!)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

21 years of fantasy football

I hosted my annual nfl fantasy football draft on Saturday - the 21st year I've had a "live draft" nfl league. Nowadays it seems most fantasy drafts are done online. Our "old school" draft is still done in person and gives owners a sense of what the real nfl draft is like.

One unique feature of our league is an auction for the first 6 players, and a draft for the remaining 16 players. Here's a video clip of one player being auctioned off:



When I first heard fantasy football calls on sportstalk shows in the 80's I used to think, "get off the air! Let's talk real football!" I soon caught the fantasy sports bug, though, as I played in a league at a local health club and was hooked. I ran my first league a year later in 1989.

Since that first nfl fantasy league I added one fantasy sport after another. I now run leagues in nfl football, ncaa football, nba basketball, nhl hockey, major league baseball, and even golf! I find I am a much more knowledgable fan of each sport now, as playing fantasy sports requires you to learn about all the players in a league rather than just the ones on your favorite team.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Day Floyd Little Was Fired

It was great to hear the news today that Floyd Little is a Seniors finalist for the Hall of Fame. One of the most memorable Bronco home games in the first year I had season tickets was the day Lou Saban "fired" Floyd. Recently I was watching an old 1980 tv special where I relived the twists and turns of this game. I'll let Floyd and Lou tell the story:



I was a 12 year old sitting in the South Stands that day. Floyd's diving reception to setup the winning field goal is still one of the best catches I've seen in my 40+ years of being a bronco fan. It was cold, too! (I remember shivering in the dark watching Floyd's fumble and then awesome catch).

That game, and that play, symbolized what Floyd Little was all about. He was an inspiration to me and many Denver area youth in the late 60's and early 70's. The message Floyd gave us: never give up, always give your best, and good things will happen.

Here's hoping Floyd Little gets a long overdue locker in Canton when the Hall of Fame committee decides on his nomination in a few months. The nomination today will give a new opportunity for the Hall of Fame voters to hear of Floyd's credentials - read 44 Reasons To Elect #44 for the many accomplishments of this great Bronco.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Remembering Lou Saban



Former Bronco head coach Lou Saban passed away in March of this year. Young Bronco fans may think back to the Lou Saban era and think "it must not have been very fun to be a Bronco fan back then." And while Saban never had a winning record in Denver, there were still some exciting games that this old timer remembers. Here in tribute to Lou are my five favorite Bronco wins in the Saban era:

5. Denver 13 Detroit 7 (preseason 1967)

The first ever win by a team from the AFL over the NFL. The town was super excited with their new coach (Saban), and he delivered with this historic win. I wasn't at this game (played at the old DU stadium) but remember listening to it on the radio. Detroit lineman Alex Karras boasted before the game that he would "walk back to Detroit" if the Broncos won. He's still walking.

4. Denver 21 NY Jets 13 1968 Few fans realize that in the miracle Jets championship season New York only lost 3 times - and one was to the Broncos! Steve Tensi led the Broncos to this early season road win. I remember the announcer on NBC saying "the Broncos now have their quarterback!" Well Tensi struggled and later was outperformed by rookie Marlin Briscoe that year, but for one game at least the Broncos shocked the football World with an upset of the Jets.

3. Denver 26 Kansas City 13 1970 In this early season showdown the Broncos beat the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Denver to go to 3-0. Fans like myself at the time thought the Broncos had finally arrived and would be a contender. Despite the fast start the Broncos faded to a 5-8-1 record that year.

2. Denver 21 NY Jets 19 1969 Another early season upset of a defending Super Bowl Champion by the Broncos, one year earlier than the Chiefs victory. This is still one of my all time favorite Bronco home games. The game featured one of the best bronco catches of all time (a diving td catch by Mike Hafner), a long punt return by Floyd Little, and the longest punt in NFL history (98 yarder by the Jets Steve O'Neal). This exciting game, televised to the nation by NBC, put Denver on the pro football map for at least a day.

1. Denver 27 Cleveland 0 1971

Lou Saban's last win as Bronco coach was his best. Art Modell had said during the NFL/AFL wars that the Denver Broncos would never play in his stadium. In the Broncos first visit to Cleveland they totally destroyed the Browns 27-0. To this day one of the most dominant Bronco performances I have ever seen and so unexpected. Cleveland was a contender that year (the Browns ended up 9-5) while the Broncos struggled (with a 4-9-1 record in 1971).

The Broncos would become Cleveland's nemesis in the NFL for years, and it all started with this great win.

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Since the 70's I've been saving newspapers reporting on great Bronco victories - here are sports pages from #3 and #1 on my list:





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Lou Saban never brought Bronco fans a championship or even a winning season, but there were still lots of fun memories from his Bronco teams. Thanks Lou.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Orton Hears A Boo

That's going to be the title of a book summarizing this Bronco season, I'm afraid, if new Bronco quarterback Kyle Orton doesn't improve on his public performances so far. After a horrid scrimmage a week ago Orton followed up with a 3 interception first half in his inaugural Bronco preseason appearance against the 49'ers Friday night.

In my 40+ years of being a Bronco fan I have learned one lesson "Don't take preseason games too seriously!" A couple of weeks ago I compared this year's team to the 1977 team. In that 77 preseason new Bronco qb Craig Morton looked terrible and was booed by the home fans. You know what happened the rest of 77 - Morton's preseason struggles gave no hint to the remarkable year he would have in leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

Enough with the 77 analogies, though. There is cause for concern with Orton's play. Orton doesn't show the arm strength of Jay Cutler or even an average NFL quarterback. He was billed as a quarterback who "doesn't make mistakes" but Denver fans are seeing no evidence of this so far.

If Orton continues to struggle it'll be interesting to see long new head coach Josh McDaniels sticks with him. A wrong quarterback choice has doomed Bronco head coaches in the past:

  • In the late 60's Lou Saban traded two #1 draft choices to get Steve Tensi. Tensi struggled, and was replaced in the latter half of the 68 season with the unorthodox and exciting Marlin Briscoe. Briscoe was a better quarterback for that team - a terrific scrambler with a good arm. Yet in 1969 Saban went back to Tensi and traded Briscoe away. Saban paid a high price for Tensi and was not about to give up on his hand picked choice for qb. This decision eventually cost Lou his job.
  • After a mediocre 1975 season John Ralston decided to stick with his quarterback, Steve Ramsey, instead of making a change. Ralston had hoped Ramsey would be a solid replacement for the retired Charlie Johnson. Ramsey had a bad 1976 season, and Ralston was shown the door soon thereafter.
  • In 1980 Bronco head coach Red Miller traded for NY Jets backup Matt Robinson. I remember reading an anonymous nfl scout saying at the time "this move will be the end of Red Miller." The scout was right, as Robinson was a disappointment for the Broncos and Miller was replaced by Dan Reeves.
The one ray of hope last night for Bronco fans was the play of backup quarterback Chris Simms. Simms showed good arm strength and presence in the pocket - after a fumbled snap he improvised to throw a 52 yard td pass to rookie Kenny McKinley.

This preseason is starting to remind me of 1999. Bubby Brister entered camp that year as Mike Shanahan's hand picked successor to John Elway. Brister struggled in exhibition games and Brian Griese was named the starter for the regular season. The 2 time defending Super Bowl champ Broncos got off to an 0-4 start. As 1999 showed, it's never good for an nfl team to make a starting quarterback change in the preseason. If McDaniels does decide on Simms as the starter how much practice time was lost with Simms watching Orton take 1st team snaps?

Here's hoping Kyle Orton bounces back and has a good game on the road against the Seahawks this week. Maybe like Craig Morton in 77 he'll go on to have a successful season. Orton will need a boost of confidence before the Jay Cutler showdown at Invesco field on August 30th. I can guarantee you if Kyle struggles in that game, the boos aimed at Cutler will be redirected to Orton. Multiply "Orton Hears A Boo" by 75,000!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Visit to CU Buffs Practice


My personal preseason training camp tour continued today as I took in the CU Buffs scrimmage at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado.

I used to live in Louisville, a neighbor of Boulder's, in the 80's. I loved to going to CU games that decade to watch Bill McCartney's teams rise from doormat to national power.

These days I don't get to Boulder nearly as much. I found the drive up to be spectacular as always - the view coming into Boulder on US 36 is breathtaking. Folsom Field's setting, right next to the Flatirons, makes it one of the most scenic stadiums in college football.

As for the scrimmage itself, the Buffs were inconsistent as can be expected after only a week in camp. Cody Hawkins again looked like the best quarterback. The Buffs are deep at running back and their offensive line is huge. On defense the line looked a little undersized, but there is good talent at linebacker and in the secondary. Last year's field goal kicker, Aric Goodman, looked much better in this practice than he did in games last year (he made 10 of 14 field goals and boomed kickoffs far into the end zone this day)

I expect the Buffs to get back to a bowl game this year. Only 3 weeks until opening kickoff against CSU!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Growing Up In The South Stands


I mentioned in my first blog post I have had Bronco season tickets since 1968. "Good to hear from an old timer!" was a typical reply I received. Well, I'm old (at age 53) but not THAT old. You see, I have had Bronco season tickets since age 12!

Yes, in 1968 I bought Bronco season tickets for the huge amount of $2 a game ($14 for the season!) The Broncos at the time had a reduced endzone price for kids age 12 and under. I only had $25 in my savings account. I begged my Mom to let me buy Bronco tickets with my best friend and next door neighbor Greg. "Are you sure this has lasting enjoyment?" Mom asked. Dad was on a business trip. Mom let him give the final approval. "Well if its your own money and you think you'll like it, go ahead," said Dad. I was ecstatic!

Greg's Mom drove us to the stadium where we picked out our two seats in the South Stands. Section CC Row 39 seats 23 and 24 - right in the middle 2/3rds of the way up. My Bronco season ticket would become my prized possession in my growing up years in the late 60's and 70's. I attended every home game. Floyd Little was my favorite player. There were many losses, but a few memorable wins. A victory over Joe Namath and the defending Super Bowl Champ NY Jets in 1969 was one of the best.

Sitting in the middle of the South Stands was anything but comfortable. We were packed in like sardines, with little leg room (even for a 12 year old). Since we were over 20 seats from an aisle, it was almost impossible to get out during the middle of a game. One Sunday we were able to buy the seat next to ours for Greg's Dad. He was not impressed. "If I have to take a pee," he said, "I'll never get out. I'll have to take a leak in my thermos!" Still there was just enough room to pound our feet on the hard metal floor. The sound of 8,000 stomping South Standers was deafening, and disrupted many a play from Broncos opponents over the years. Rocky Mountain Thunder was born.

Despite the packed conditions, we loved our seats. We had a fantastic view of the field, right behind the goal posts. I remember having a great sightlines to see immediately if a field goal was good or not. I knew Jim Turner's 53 yarder at the gun to beat Cleveland in 1975 was between the uprights soon after the ball left his foot. We could see Rick Upchurch weave his way through the opposition for many thrilling punt return td's. John Elway's arm strength was amazing to witness from my vantage point high in the end zone. The "fumble"at the South 5 yard line that decided the 1988 AFC Championship game was within easy view.

We also developed a close relationship with those sitting around us. We saw the same people EVERY home game. An elderly businessman sat behind us. "I own seats on the 50 yard line," he used to tell us, "but I'd rather sit here. You can really see the plays open up from the end zone." I came to be known as the "radio kid". Every game I would bring my transistor radio to listen to Bob Martin's play by play as I watched the action below. Those sitting around me would ask "what's the score of the Raider game?" "are the Chiefs losing?" No iphones in those days - my little radio was our link to the outside world.

After 33 years and too many memories to count I left the South Stands in 2001. The view from my current seats is pictured at the the top of this blog - I'm now in the Northwest corner of Invesco field, section 319 2nd level. Having bought out my friend Greg in the 80's I own two season tickets. Unlike the South Stands I can easily get out at halftime for a restroom break or refreshments. My view of the field is good, but not quite the same as the old days. It seems I have different people sitting next to me every game.

Early in 2001 I toured Mile High Stadium for the last time, shortly before it was torn down to become a parking lot for the new stadium next door. I took the picture on the right of my wife and 7 year old twin boys playing on the field with the South Stands in the background. On that cold January day I remembered all the fun times and memorable games I attended in this place. I walked up to the base of those rusty metal stands, put my hand on the wall, and said "Goodbye old friend."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

bronco practice at invesco 8/6/09





I attended a Denver Broncos public practice at Invesco Field on August 6, 2009. A crowd of about 13,000 watched the Broncos go through a variety of drills followed by a scrimmage. Below are some short videos I took with my casio camera.







New Bronco quarterback Kyle Orton was unimpressive in his first appearance at Invesco. Most of his completions were just short dump off passes like these:


video




video

One of his better passes was this 18 yarder (partially obstructed at the end):


video

and this short one to Tony Scheffler:

video

Orton did not connect on his long passes. One was intercepted on a good play by cornerback Andre Goodman. Others like this one were just off the mark:



video

Yes Orton was unimpressive but I say give him some time. This was only a practice early in camp. I've seen Orton effective in NFL games (like last year's Thursday night game against the Saints) so I'm not ready to give up on him yet. From tonight, though, I can tell Orton lacks the arm strength of the great Denver quarterbacks of the past (Elway, Cutler, Morton). If he succeeds in Denver he'll be more of a Charlie Johnson type.

The Bronco running game had its moments. Here's a good run by Buckhalter:


video

and one by Hillis:



video

Overall it was not an encouraging night for the Broncos offense. The defense looked good (especially the secondary) but that could be in part because of the team's inept passing game.
I say not to overreact on one sloppy practice and let's see how the team looks in the 1st exhibition game 8 days from now vs. San Francisco. It'll be good to get Moreno in camp, too.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Visit to Bronco Training Camp

I visited Bronco training camp Sunday night for the first time in several years. My son Andrew and I had front row seats at around the 10 yard line.

I could see some differences in the way McDaniels ran training camp compared to Mike Shanahan. The players came out to music blaring, and there was a longer time devoted to stretching.

For this evening practice the pace was relaxed. Some of the veterans didn't suit up and the brief scrimmage at the end featured mostly 2nd and 3rd teamers. That's rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater (left) who took all the snaps in the scrimmage.

I was impressed with rookie wide receiver Kenny McKinley (shown at the right before catching a pass from Brandstater). McKinley had a few nice receptions and showed good agility. Had McKinley not caught the pass on the right I think it would have hit my camera!

I'm hoping to attend the workout at Invesco later this week where hopefully I'll see more 1st teamers in action.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2009 Broncos remind me of 77

Welcome to my "sports in denver" blog. As a denver broncos season ticket holder since 1968 I am having a strange sense of deja vu as the Broncos open training camp this week.

This 2009 Broncos season reminds me of the atmosphere just before the miracle 1977 season.

Consider in 1977 the Broncos:

fired their most successful head coach in team history (John Ralston)
hired the New England Patriots offensive coordinator as new coach (Red Miller)
were blown out in a late season game the year before to miss the playoffs (38-14 loss to new england in week 12)
entered the season with an imbalance - great defense, bad offense
entered the season with a new veteran starting quarterback acquired by trade (Craig Morton)

Fast forward to 2009, the Broncos:

fired their most successful head coach in team history (Mike Shanahan)
hired the New England Patriots offensive coordinator as new coach (Josh McDaniels)
were blown out in a late season game the year before to miss the playoffs (52-21 loss to san diego in week 17)
entered the season with an imbalance - great offense, bad defense
entered the season with a new veteran starting quarterback acquired by trade (Kyle Orton)

Both the 1977 edition and the 2009 edition of the Broncos had very difficult schedules.

1977:

St. Louis Cardinals 10 wins 4 losses in 1976
Buffalo Bills 2 wins 12 losses in 1976
@Seattle Seahawks 2 wins 12 losses in 1976
Kansas City Chiefs 5 wins 9 losses in 1976
@Oakland Raiders 13 wins 1 loss in 1976
@Cincinnati Bengals 10 wins 4 losses in 1976
Oakland Raiders 13 wins 1 loss in 1976
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 wins 4 losses in 1976
@San Diego Chargers 6 wins 8 losses in 1976
@Kansas City Chiefs 5 wins 9 losses in 1976
Baltimore Colts 11 wins 3 losses in 1976
@Houston Oilers 5 wins 9 losses in 1976
San Diego Chargers 6 wins 8 losses in 1976
@Dallas Cowboys 11 wins 3 losses in 1976

2009:
@Cincinnati 4 wins 11 losses 1 tie in 2008
Cleveland 4 wins 12 losses in 2008
@Oakland 5 wins 11 losses in 2008
Dallas 9 wins 7 losses in 2008
New England 11 wins 5 losses in 2008
@San Diego 8 wins 8 losses in 2008
@Baltimore 11 wins 5 losses in 2008
Pittsburgh 12 wins 4 losses in 2008
@Washington 8 wins 8 losses in 2008
San Diego 8 wins 8 losses in 2008
NY Giants 12 wins 4 losses in 2008
@Kansas City 2 wins 14 losses in 2008
@Indianapolis 12 wins 4 losses in 2008
Oakland 5 wins 11 losses in 2008
@Philadelphia 9 wins 6 losses 1 tie in 2008
Kansas City 2 wins 14 losses in 2008

Outside of the AFC West the Broncos faced five teams with 10 wins or more the previous season in 1977 and will face 5 teams with 10 wins or more the prior season outside the AFC West in 2009. Yes, in 1977 there was only a 14 game schedule, but the Broncos 2009 16 game schedule is comparable considering the 2009 team will also be playing two 9 win teams (Dallas and Philly) outside the division.

The 1977 Broncos had to rebuild a shaky offense. They had 3 new starters in the offensive line to start the season (Mike Montler center, Andy Mauer left tackle, Paul Howard right guard - howard had missed the 76 season with injury). The schedule started with a difficult but winnable game - against the 10-4 Cardinals at Mile High, followed by 3 games against weaker teams before the schedule got much tougher. The 77 team team struggled in the opener but had just enough to beat the Cardinals 7-0. Three wins against inferior teams put the Broncos at 4-0 heading into Oakland in week 5. That week 5 game was one of the best in Broncos history, a stunning 30-7 Denver win over the hated Raiders. Suddenly the Broncos were 5-0, with a win against the NFL's defending Super Bowl champion. The team's confidence grew game by game and they finished with a remarkable 12-2 record.

Just like thier 1977 counterparts, I think if the 2009 Broncos can get off to a good start in the soft early part of their schedule they can surprise. The 2009 Broncos have to rebuild a shaky defense and it's going to take a few games to get that unit performing at an acceptable level. The Cincinnati opener is going to be difficult but winnable (just like the 77 opener against the Cardinals) followed by two easier games (Cleveland, Oakland) before the schedule gets really tough.

No one predicted the 1977 Broncos would have a winning record, much less a Super Bowl season. "Red Miller's going to need at least a year to get his system in place", "No way the Broncos make the playoffs with that schedule", was heard around town.

I'm hearing the same barbs about Josh McDaniels and the 2009 Broncos. This long time fan has hope for 2009. I hear McDaniels saying the Broncos were too much of a finesse team last season, and he plans to implement a more physical, hard nosed style of play. Red Miller implemented a similar change in team chemistry in 1977.

Can history repeat itself? The patched up 77 Bronco offense started shaky but by December scored 34 points in a playoff win against one of the best defenses of the decade (Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain). Maybe a shaky 2009 Denver defense will gel as the season progresses, just like that '77 offense. Even with a new quarterback the 2009 Denver offense will be fine. I expect lots of points scored with the addition of rookie rb Knowshon Moreno to an already impressive set of skill players and a solid offensive line. While I don't anticipate the 2009 Broncos to reach the Super Bowl, I think it's far too early to write off the season. Just remember what happened in 77!