Friday, December 24, 2010

12 days of McDaniels (2nd & last edition)

In the 2010 football season Josh McDaniels gave to me ...

12 Brady benchings (Quinn never saw the field)
11 rush td's from Hillis (for the Browns)
10 touchdowns from Lloyd
9 yards from Richard (as in Quinn on 1 reception)
8 Raider touchdowns (at Invesco)
7 losses past September
6 td's from Tebow
5 picks from Phonz (for the Lions)
4 games from Maroney (good trade there Josh)
3 Demaryius fumbles
2 coaches quitting (Dennison and Turner)
and 1 tape of a Niner walk through

Merry Christmas to Bronco fans everywhere, the two year McDaniels nightmare is over!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bronco qb club: the two 87's

Tonight I attended an interesting Bronco Quarterback Club meeting featuring two well known #87's - Ed McCaffery of the past and current rookie Eric Decker. Many have compared Decker to McCaffrey in playing style - tonight was the first time the two had met in person. Host David Treadwell, the retired Bronco kicker, made the observation that Decker was four years old when McCaffrey was drafted!

McCaffrey was first to give his impressions of the current Broncos and answer questions from the crowd. Ed said that even though the season is not going well, he looks for players with good "attitude and effort". He said Decker was one player that displayed those traits. Ed said he wants to see Tebow play like the rest of the fans, and hopes Tim gets some game action in the season's remaining 3 games.

McCaffrey talked about his family life. He has two sons playing for Valor Christian High School and he says he gets more nervous watching them in action than when he was an active player. He never pushed his sons into football, "they wanted to play". He also has two elementary schools sons who also play the game.

McCaffrey took some questions about his playing days. One person said the two iconic plays of Super Bowl 32 was Elway's Helicopter run and Ed's block on the game's decisive drive in the 4th quarter. Ed joked "I was wide open on the helicopter play - I don't know why John ran". He declined to reveal what he said to the Green Bay player after his devastating block.

Someone asked why Ed wore small pads in his playing days. McCaffrey said when he was with the 49'ers he thought he needed to be faster to make the team, and that shedding 10 pounds of pads would help. He did make the team and kept wearing those pads, even when the bronco equipment manager tried to replace them after Super Bowl 32.

Ed said when he was with the 49'ers offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan barely said a word to him, but he must have made an impression since later Shanahan wanted Ed on the Broncos.

Ed was asked about his broken leg on Sept 10, 2001 - a Monday night game against the Giants. Ed said he was having a great game that night, he had scored a touchdown and had 94 yards in receiving when the injury happened. He said that was an example of how fast things can change in the NFL. He was beating his former team on the national stage and then suddenly his season was over. He said he never really recovered from that injury. Even though he came back for the opener the next year his leg didn't feel right, his stride was off, and he suffered other injuries (like a strained quad) trying to compensate for the injury.

Eric Decker then addressed the crowd. Eric was thrilled to meet Eddie Mac. He said he picked #87 as his number for three reasons: 1. he was born in 1987 2. He was the 87th player selected in the draft and 3. he patterned his game after #87 Ed McCaffrey ("that's the way I want to play"). Though he was successful playing baseball (a center fielder), he said football was always his first love so that's why he chose the NFL.

Decker suffered a serious injury in his senior year at Minnesota. He wondered if his football career was over but players like ex-Bronco Brandon Stokely (who had suffered a similar injury) encouraged him. Decker said he is still rehabing from the injury and "it still hurts".

Decker said he had never returned a kickoff until the Arizona game. His focus on kickoffs is #1 catch the ball and #2 run fast. He compares it to backyard football, and credits the blockers in front of him with his two good returns in yesterday's game.

Decker was asked how the three bronco quarterbacks compare in throwing a catchable ball. He said Orton and Quinn have better touch and throw a ball easier to catch. Tebow throws hard and being a lefty his ball has a reverse spin. Decker said he saw no problems with Tebow's throwing motion - baseball pitchers have different motions and it is no different for quarterbacks. He caught alot of balls from Tebow in practice. He gets requests from family and friends for Tebow autographs.

Decker said the biggest difference between the college and pro game was the amount of time he spends in the film room with the Broncos. He spends about 4 hours watching film each week in addition to practice. He said the coaches give film of each defensive back he will go against in the coming week for study. Decker also keeps a DVD showing McCaffrey's practice workouts - he doesn't study Ed's previous games so much as his practice routine.

The players spent alot of time taking pictures with fans and signing autographs. David Treadwell asked a trivia question "who are the two #87's in the Bronco Ring of Fame" My hand shot up and I gave the answer (Rich Jackson and Lionel Taylor) - I won a free pie for that. I didn't say I was old enough to have watched all the #87's play in person!

It was a fun evening of Bronco football, current and past, and a nice break from the disappointing season so far. Decker was the first active player to appear at the quarterback club in several years, and he said he's going to work to get other players to make appearances in the future.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eric Bieniemy best choice to be the next CU Football Coach

Now that I am over my "John Elway to coach the CU Buffaloes" fantasy (that was never going to happen) I have a more realistic selection as the next Buff coach: Eric Bieniemy.

I'm in favor of the Buffs going with Bieniemy because:

1. The name of the game in college football is recruiting, and Bieniemy was one of the best recruiters on the staff when he served as a CU assistant under Gary Barnett and later with UCLA. The late Eddie Crowder, successful former CU head coach and past athletic director, was once asked what was the most important attribute of a head coach at Colorado. "recruiting, recruiting, recruiting," was the reply.

2. Bieniemy brings back the much needed tradition of the great CU teams of the 90's. When CU had a 1990 team reunion earlier this season, the atmosphere was electric, and motivated an undermanned Buff team to upset Georgia that weekend. Bieniemy gave a pep talk to the team on game day, and he did various radio interviews proclaiming what a great university Colorado was. CU has an advantage over other down trodden programs in that it DID win a national championship in the not too distant past (1990). Eric Bieniemy was the emotional leader of that championship team.

3. Bieniemy is African American. Regardless of race, Bienamy is a fine football coach. Nation wide, however, there are far too few African American head coaches in big time college football. It would be good to see CU take the lead in this area with a progressive hire for its next head football coach.

4. Bieniemy could bring back Coach McCartney in some capacity. Coach Mac is wanting the head coaching job, too, but at age 70 he is not the best long term option for the program. With Bieniemy at the controls coach Mac could still be intimately involved in the program, and help mentor Eric in dealing with the CU Administration.

5. Other great former Buffs could be brought back as assistants. Jon Embree, the current tight end coach for the Washington Redskins, is a close friend of Bieniemy and has wanted to return to Boulder for years (he applied for the head coaching job before Dan Hawkins was hired)

6. Some say Bieniemy does not have enough experience to be a head coach at the college level. He hasn't even been a coordinator. I say see #1 on my list. His recruiting abilities will more than make up for his lack of game day coaching experience, and he can surround himself with experienced coordinators. Bieniemy's coaching resume is better than Dan Hawkin's when Hawk was hired. Hawkins had no experience at the top BCS levels, while Bieniemy has been an assistant at two top programs (Colorado and UCLA) in addition to serving as running backs coach for the NFL Minnesota Vikings in recent years.

Do the right thing, CU - hire E.B. to be your next coach!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why not Elway for the Buffs?

With the Dan Hawkins firing today there's one name I have not heard as a possibility for Colorado's next coach.

Why not John Elway??

1. Elway is itching to get back into the game. He's been a frequent visitor to Bronco practices this year and has been more involved with the franchise than anytime since his retirement. Ideally Elway wants to get into NFL ownership, but with an NFL player lockout looming the prospects of a pro franchise becoming available are slim.

2. Elway's late father Jack was a lifetime college coach (including his stint at John's alma mater Stanford). When his Dad was alive Elway once said he would like to coach college football with his Dad. Elway certainly knows the life of a college coach and what it takes to succeed.

3. Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh has made a transition from NFL quarterback to successful college football coach and so could Elway. Harbaugh had no BCS experience before his Stanford gig (just 3 years at the University of San Diego). Harbaugh's Dad was also a college coach (at Western Kentucky University).

4. Would Elway consider ncaa football a step down? Elway had success as a co-owner of the Arena Football League champion Colorado Crush and enjoyed that gig - big time college football is a step up from the Arena league.

5. Despite recent investment losses, Elway has plenty of money and wouldn't necessarily demand a top salary. He also loves the state of Colorado - living here, opening a restaurant here, long after his retirement.

6. An Elway hire would finally allow the cash strapped University of Colorado to tap into the rabid and lucrative Denver Broncos fan base (who have sold out all their home games since 1970)

7. Elway would love to return to his old Pac 10 stomping grounds and compete against the schools he battled while he was an all american college quarterback at Stanford.

8. Elway has been waiting 28 years to avenge this play:

With Cal in Boulder next year, he'd get a chance!

Yes I know this is an extreme longshot, but I think Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn should at least have a sit down with Elway, one of the area's greatest football minds, to get his thoughts on the next Buff coach. It was rumored last year Bohn had an informal meeting with Mike Shanahan about the Buff coaching vacancy when it appeared Hawkins would be fired.

Coaching with his father is no longer a possibility for Elway. How about John brings in CU Legend Bill McCartney as defensive coordinator to help him with the Buffs, keeping ties to the Colorado glory days?

This long time CU and Denver Broncos fan can dream, can't he?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Josh McDaniels: the 2010 version of Lou Saban

In watching the Denver Broncos this year in my 42nd year of owning season tickets I've had a strange sense of deja vu. Today it hit me - Josh McDaniels was the 2010 version of Lou Saban!

Saban was the Broncos head coach from 1967 to 1971. Both were known for:

Poor drafting

Saban drafted infamous players like cornerback Grady Cavness, a 2nd rounder who never panned out. Josh McDaniels, despite a boatload of early round picks, made a number of questionable draft selections (Richard Quinn, Knowshon Moreno with pick #12, Alphonso Smith, and more).

Draft pick giveaway

Both Saban and McDaniels didn't seem to value draft picks and didn't hesitate to trade them away. Saban's worst trade was two number ones for quarterback Steve Tensi. McDaniels worst move was a future #1 for a 2nd rounder so he could draft cornerback Alphonso Smith. McDaniels also had a habit of trading picks away to move up in the draft to make questionable selections.

Sideline demeanor

Saban and McDaniels were known for their sideline blowups. Saban "fired" star Floyd Little in one game. McDaniels famous "just win the ***** game" comment on national TV last Thanksgiving was the talk of the NFL, and this season he chewed out Richard Quinn in the opener in front of teammates.

Unrecognized talent

Both Saban and McDaniels didn't use the talent already on the roster. Saban tried to convert Curly Culp to the offensive line, gave up on Culp, and dealt him to Kansas City where Culp became an all pro. Saban also gave up on Marlin Briscoe, his best quarterback. Briscoe later switched positions to wide receiver and made the pro bowl with Miami. McDaniels worst blunder was dealing running back Peyton Hillis, who is now starring with the Cleveland Browns. I won't even mention the Cutler trade.

Trading draft picks for old vets

Both Saban and McDaniels wasted draft picks, trading them for short term veteran nfl help. Saban once traded a #2 pick for San Diego running back Dickie Post. McDaniels made trades with New England for questionable veteran talent, like LeKevin Smith (later waived) and Lawrence Maroney.

Saban was not all bad, and there were also positives to the McDaniels regime. The Broncos were a minor league operation before Saban arrived. I remember going to games as a kid in the mid 60's and seeing the Broncos practice field in the parking lot of the old Bears Stadium. Saban changed all that. He established Bronco offices and a practice field on north I-25, separate from the stadium. These facilities pale in comparison to present day Dove Valley, but they were a big upgrade from the shoestring budget Bronco operation before that. Saban did draft "the franchise" Floyd Little #1, and had some big wins in his Denver tenure (including home wins in back to back years of the defending Super Bowl Champion). Josh McDaniels brought his quarterback coaching skills to the Broncos, and he has worked wonders with previous journeyman Kyle Orton. McDaniels also got the most out of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.

When the Broncos fired Lou Saban they eventually replaced him with John Ralston (after interim coach Jerry Smith). Ralston was a terrific judge of talent and drafter, who stocked the team with players that eventually contributed to the 1977 Super Bowl team. The 2010 Broncos need the same thing - a solid GM who can make better draft picks and trades than McDaniels. Here's hoping that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen hires a strong GM first, and then let the GM pick the coach.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Raiders Week! Remembering Oct 23, 1973

Last week I reminisced about a classic 1969 Broncos/Jets game in Denver - the Broncos victory that day served notice to a National TV audience that Denver was a very difficult place to play for visiting teams. As I get ready to attend this week's game against the Oakland, I think back to another classic game in Bronco history - the team's first ever Monday Night game on October 23, 1973 against the hated Raiders.

When Monday Night Football debuted in September, 1970 it was an instant success. The NFL gambled a solo prime time game would be the perfect end to a football weekend, and they were right. TV Ratings soared in the early years of Monday night football. For the first three years of the telecasts, though, you wouldn't know there was a franchise in Denver!

The Broncos not only failed to make an appearance on Monday night football in 1970-1972, they were also rarely mentioned on the popular "halftime highlights" segment with Howard Cosell. I remember tuning in to Monday night football after a big Bronco win (like the upset of the KC Chiefs to go to 3-0 in Sept 1970), but no highlights were ever shown. Letters flooded into ABC saying "why no broncos???!!!" Howard Cosell finally during one broadcast said "logistical problems with games played in Denver prevent us from showing Monday night highlights of the Bronco games." That made the Bronco fans even angrier - a popular activity at a Denver bar at the time was throwing a brick through a tv set when Howard's face appeared!

This all changed in 1973 when the Monday night crew FINALLY came to Denver. I was a teenager sitting in the South Stands on October 23, 1973. The city treated Howard, Dandy Don, and Frank Gifford like royalty that day, with a special lunch. Denver is known to get big snow storms in October (as it did years later in a home Monday night game against Green Bay) but that evening the weather was perfect - like a warm summer night. The Raiders had not lost in Denver since 1962 and were heavy favorites. I remember one sign hung on the fence in front of the East Stands, "We were going to give out 1,000 Copies Of The Book Cosell, But Logistical Problems Prevented It"

The game itself was memorable, with Billy Thompson returning a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter. Oakland took a late 23-20 lead before the Broncos tied it with a Jim Turner field goal at the end. Never had a tie been so satisfying!

I think back and wonder why was the approval of Howard Cosell and the Monday night crew so important to the city? I was as guilty as the rest of the Bronco fans, tuning into Monday night highlights for a mere mention of the Broncos, only to be disappointed time and time again. The Broncos excellent performance that night was a sweet redemption from the three previous years of no Monday night appearances.

That 1973 Bronco team reminds me of the 2010 team. If I had to pick one quarterback in Bronco history to compare to Kyle Orton, it would be the 73 Broncos Charlie Johnson. Like Orton, Johnson didn't have the strongest arm and he wasn't very mobile, but he was a smart and accurate passer who distributed the ball well to a variety of weapons. The 73 Broncos also got a slow start to the season, two games under .500 after four games compared with the current team's 2 - 4 record after six games. Despite the slow start, the 73 team came on and became the first winning team in Bronco history, even playing for the division title in the last game at Oakland (they lost the rematch to the Raiders 21-17). The 73 team was fun to watch, and had some players who turned out to be key members of the 77 Super Bowl team (Haven Moses, Billy Thompson, Riley Odoms, and others).

I'm thinking better days are ahead for this 2010 Bronco team, starting with a win this week against Oakland. Demaryius Thomas touchdown catch last week over the best cornerback in the NFL was an indication of the immense potential of the Bronco #1 draft choice. Tim Tebow scored his first touchdown and looks to get more involved in future games. The patched up offensive line and defense were significantly improved. Like 1973, maybe this Bronco team still has a chance to win the division despite the slow start.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jets/Broncos 41 years ago

As I am excited about going to the Broncos/Jets game tomorrow I think back to one of the most memorable Broncos/Jets games played in Denver - September 21, 1969.

It was my 2nd year of having Bronco season tickets. I was 13 years old, sitting in the South Stands for the game. The Broncos had won handily over the Patriots in the first game that season (35-7), but the Jets would be a much stiffer test. Joe Namath's team was coming off a stunning Super Bowl winning season, and the Jets had easily defeated the Bills 33-19 in their opener. This Bronco/Jets game in week 2 of the AFL season was to be televised across the country on NBC, one of the first ever national games featuring the lowly Broncos. The draw of course was Broadway Joe and the Jets, not the Broncos.

This game featured 3 memorable plays:

1. The Hit - Dave Costa's helmet to the gut hit on Joe Namath (pictured above) is one of the best sports photographs ever and captures what AFL football was like in the late 60's. No doubt Costa would be suspended for weeks if he made such a hit in the sanitized NFL of 2010 - back in 1969 there were no such restrictions. The grizzly old vet Costa had a clear shot at Namath and he took full advantage of it.

2. The Catch - The Broncos had quickly fallen behind the Jets 13-0 after the 1st quarter and it looked like it would be a long day for the home team. Floyd Little scored to make it 13-7, then later in the quarter Mike Haffner made one of the greatest catches in Bronco history to give Denver a 14-13 lead. Haffner was wide open in the end zone, but Bronco quarterback Pete Liske overthrew him. Haffner dived and caught the ball with his fingertips in the back of the South end zone. I wish I had an old video clip to show you how great a catch this was. Haffner's catch made all the football highlights shows that week, including a showing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

3. The Perfect Punt - This one comes from the Jets. With New York backed up to its 1 yard line Steve O'Neill pulled off the greatest punt in AFL/NFL history. I was sitting in the South Stands watching the punt come towards me from the shadow of the North goal posts. The punt came off O'Neill's leg like a low rocket. Not much height - just a line drive. Bronco returner Billy Thompson misjudged the ball and jumped up trying to catch it, but it sailed over Thompson's head. When it hit the ground the ball rolled and rolled and rolled before resting on the Broncos 1 yard line - a 98 yard punt! To this day that punt has never been equaled, and what made it more amazing was that it went from the 1 yard line to the other 1 yard line. Truly the perfect punt!

More than these three plays, the best thrill of the day was watching the Broncos upset the Jets 21-19 on a national stage. For one day the Broncos upset was the talk of the pro football world.

Would the 2-0 Broncos finally be contenders? It was not to be, as Denver went on to a disappointing 5-8-1 season, while the Jets again made the playoffs with a 10 win 4 loss record.

Tomorrow the injury plagued Broncos are again the underdogs with the Jets coming to town. New York is rated the 2nd best team in the NFL by Sports Illustrated and ESPN coming into the game, very much like that powerhouse Jets team of the late 60's. Will the Broncos win? I don't know, but one thing I have learned over the years is never count the Broncos out at home. Maybe, just maybe, like that Denver team of the late 60's, the Broncos have a Mile Hi surprise waiting for the visitors from New York!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tennessee win was HUGE for the Broncos

My 4-12 prediction if the Broncos lost their opening game to Jacksonville is looking shaky thanks to a great win last week vs Tennessee. I'd much rather be wrong and have the Broncos win!

What I was afraid of in my 4-12 prediction was the difficult opening schedule for the Broncos. I figured a 1-2 start would quickly turn into 1-4 with tough road games at Tennessee and at Baltimore, followed by a home matchup vs the 2009 AFC runnerup Jets. A 1-5 start after the Jets game could have caused a negative spiral just like last year when the Broncos lost to the hapless Raiders and Chiefs at home in their 2-8 finish.

The win at Tennessee changes all of that. This week's game at Baltimore will still be very tough to win (Sport Illustrated's Peter King rates the Ravens as the best team in the NFL right now). Even with a loss in Baltimore the Broncos have a good chance to beat the Jets and finish the tough early part of their schedule with a 3-3 record.

What has impressed me with the Broncos so far? I expected Kyle Orton to have a good year, but he's showing much better mobility in the pocket and accuracy on deep passes than what we saw from him in 2009. Orton says he was hobbled by an ankle injury last year - this year is the first time he's been completely healthy in 3 seasons. Last season we rarely saw the Broncos throw deep - this year the long ball is back in the game plan. The 48 yard td pass from Orton to Brandon Lloyd in the Colts game traveled over 60 yards in the air and could not have been placed any better, settling into Lloyd's hands in the back of the end zone. Last week the key pass interference penalty on Jabar Gaffney was a result of another accurate long pass that traveled over 50 yards in the air.

The Broncos defense has also been impressive. Josh McDaniels made shoring up the run defense the #1 priority in the offseason and so far the results have been good (ranking 12th in the nfl vs the run this year compared to 26th vs the run in 2009). Linebacker Robert Ayers had his best game as a Bronco last week vs the Titans and has shed his "1st round bust" tag in the eyes of many fans to "future star".

There are still problems, most notably with the anemic rushing attack and Knowshon Moreno's inability to stay healthy, but last week's week gives me hope. This week's Baltimore game will be a good test on how much the team has improved over last year. The Ravens had the Broncos well scouted last year in handing Denver its first loss after a 6-0 start. The Ravens have an impressive run defense, but a shaky secondary. Give Orton time to throw and I am confident the Broncos will score points this week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fan Vision Enhances NFL Stadium Experience

I was one of the fortunate Denver Bronco season ticket holders yesterday to try out FanVision - a hand held device for viewing replays, other games, stats, and more while attending an NFL game. I liked it!

You can watch ANY nfl game on FanVision in addition to the NFL red zone channel. What I liked best, though, was the replay capability. After each play you could select one of 3 replays - from a camera on the 50, from one on the 25, or one at field level. A personal instant replay system! During the Bronco/Seahawk game yesterday I replayed several plays multiple times. Once the next play starts the replay is lost but still this is a really cool feature. I liked not being dependent on the network tv feed of the game to see the replays I wanted.

I did think the audio on FanVision could be louder - with the earbuds I had the volume all the way up and I couldn't hear the Fox play by play of the game. The Red zone channel was better for volume. Also when I seated in the sun the 1st half the picture was a little hard to see. With my seats in the shade the 2nd half the FanVision replay system really shined.

Overall though FanVision gets an "A" from me. I look forward to trying it out again at this week's Broncos/Colts game!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jacksonville Game Will Tell Alot About The 2010 Broncos

It's time to reveal my predictions for the 2010 Denver Broncos season. Just like last year I am going to base my predictions on what the team does in its opening game. Last year in this blog I wrote "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." Read all of my last year's prediction here.

That is exactly what happened last year (lucky guess), though I would never have expected the Broncos would start out 6-0, finish the season going 2-8, beat all the AFC West opponents on the road, and lose to them all at home. A very strange season!

I'm hedging on my prediction this year because the Jacksonville game this Sunday will tell alot about what type of team the Broncos will be in 2010. The Jaguar game is not as tough a matchup as the 2009 Cincinnati opener, but it won't be easy. The Broncos historically do not play well in the Florida heat in September games. They lost 34-10 in the 2005 opener at Miami, and lost 23-13 on Sept 23, 2007 at Jacksonville. The Jaguars often seem to have the Broncos number, too, as Jacksonville has won four of the past five games between the two teams.

Going into the Jacksonville game I am most concerned about the Bronco offensive line. Denver's two star young tackles, Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, may not even play. Harris is out for sure with an ankle injury, and Clady is questionable with offseason knee surgery. Most of the interior of the Broncos offensive line is new, too, with rookie center JD Walton getting his first start. Quarterback Kyle Orton has had an impressive preseason, but he has to have time to throw. If Denver's patched up offensive line cannot give Orton proper protection on Sunday, it will be a long day for the Broncos. They won't be facing the vanilla defenses of the preseason. The Jaguars, no doubt, will come up with some special blitz packages to take advantage of Denver's offensive line weakness.

One sure way to neutralize a good pass rush is with an effective running game. Here too, the Broncos have problems. Starter Knowshon Morino has missed the whole preseason with a hamstring injury and will not be 100%. The line has had problems in run blocking in the preseason too.

On defense the Broncos are healthy except for missing star pass rusher Elvis Dumerville (out for the season with a training camp injury)

If the Broncos can get decent offensive line play and protect Orton I think their precision passing game will carve up the Jacksonville secondary. I think the defense can hold the Jaguar offense in check. If the Broncos struggle with pass protection and run blocking, Jacksonville will win easily.

My season predictions:

If the Broncos beat Jacksonville, it'll be a good sign that the offensive line is coming around and that the defense can be effective without Elvis Dumerville. I think they follow up a Jaguar win with a win against Seattle at home. This puts the team at 2-0 heading into a huge home game against defending the defending AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts. Just like last year, when the Broncos capitalized on momentum from early season victories to beat powerhouses Dallas and New England at home, I think the Broncos can beat the Colts and start 3-0. After that the schedule gets tougher. I'll predict a 9-7 season if the team beats the Jaguars.

If the Broncos lose to Jacksonville, it could start an early season tailspin that the team will not recover from. I still expect a win against Seattle at home the next week (1-1), followed by losses to Indianapolis, at Tennessee, at Baltimore, and to the Jets at home to start out 1-5. The losing will affect the morale of the team, and the seemingly easy games of the schedule (Oakland home and away, KC home and away, etc) won't look so easy. The team scratches out a few wins on the way to a disappointing 4-12 record.

Even if the team struggles, I think it will be an interesting season. Rookie quarterback Tim Tebow will no doubt see more playing time if the team is out of playoff contention. I also like the initial indications of the 2010 draft class (much better than the 2009 class). The Broncos are building a young talent base but it probably won't come together this year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CU Scrimmage

Every August I like to go to one Denver Bronco practice and one University of Colorado scrimmage to get an early indication of the prospects for our local teams. Today I headed up to Boulder for the last scrimmage and practice open to the public for the CU Buffs.

The CU scrimmages are sparsely attended - there must have been less than 200 spectators today in the 50,000+ seat Folsom Field. The CU scrimmage is more like a real game than what you see at Bronco practices - the quarterbacks for one are fair game for tackles by the defense.

My impressions of the CU Buffs based on today:

Tyler Hansen (#9) is CLEARLY the best quarterback on the team. Hansen to me was the star of the scrimmage. He looked really good. He has much better pocket presence than when I saw him at the preseason scrimmage last year. He had several deep balls that were right on the money. One was dropped by Tony Clemons, another was dropped by Will Jefferson. He hooked up with Scotty McKnight on a nice 40 yarder despite tight coverage. Hansen ran for a td, too, showing his mobility.

Cody Hawkins was Cody - he just doesn't have the arm strength of Hansen and skipped some balls off the turf. He's an adequate backup with a great attitude but you don't want him as your starter.

When I attended the same scrimmage last year I thought Cody SHOULD be the starter based on that scrimmage. Hansen last year was too raw. This year Hansen was much much improved.

Freshman quarterback Nick Hirschmann reminded me of Hansen last year. He has a good arm (much stronger than Cody's) but he was indecisive in the pocket and needs more work.


Heralded transfer wide receiver Toney Clemons from Michigan is predicted to be Big 12 offensive newcomer of the year but he didn't do much today. He had a drop on the long pass I mentioned and on another shorter pass he bobbled it before getting it under control. Clemons just didn't seem to be getting as many looks as the other receivers.

UCLA transfer wide receiver Paul Richardson looks very good - the most impressive receiver to me. Other than his drop on the long pass Will Jefferson had his moments too.

There were mixed results on the kicking:

Marcus Kirkwood made his first field goal (about 35 yds) then on another try he kicked it straight into the line. Also Kirkwood was short on kickoffs. If it were just kirkwood I'd be concerned about the fg kicking but ..

Last year's field goal kicker, Eric Goodman looked OK - he made 2 fgs in the 35 yard range. He looked ok in the scrimmage last year and later struggled during the season so let's see if he can be more consistent this year.

Freshman kicker Justin Castor has a good leg. He boomed a kickoff from the 30 that went 5 yards deep into the end zone. I saw Castor make one medium range fg, too. After I left I read that he made a 52 yard field goal.

I was more concerned about the punting. Grossnickle had a series of punts from the 20 yard line: the distances I recorded: 24 yds, 31 yds, 35 yds, 35 yds. His best kick was a high one that was fair caught after 35 yards. This is a division 1 punter? He also had a terrible shank when kicked from the 40 (went out of bounds after 10 yards and into the stands). After I left I read that Grossnickle was booming kicks later in the practice, so there is still hope he can get his act together before the CSU opener.

There were lots of receivers open during the scrimmage which caused someone near me to say "we either have a very good offense or our defense is terrible" I do think they were just playing basic sets on defense so I'm not too worried about the secondary.

My early gut feel on the CU Buffs:

6 wins 6 losses because of much improved quarterback play (Hansen) and more receiving weapons.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A day at bronco practice

Yesterday I ventured out to Dove Valley to see the Broncos practice. Here are some pictures I took (with comments):

My son and I were even with the goal line. We arrived about 45 minutes early and had no problems getting a shady spot. Weather was great - not too hot with a cool breeze.

tebow mania was in full force - these kids were yelling "tebow! tebow!" throughout the practice

Tebow looked good to me - like a fullback playing quarterback. He's bigger than Elway was as a rookie (though John bulked up after a few years). Tebow wasn't accurate on all his passes but he has a confident presence in the huddle. I think he's going to be good!

Demaryius Thompson is huge. In fact that's one thing I noticed compared to the Shanahan Broncos - McD is gradually increasing the size and strength of this team.

Eric Decker has been compared to Ed McCaffery - he reminded me more of Steve Watson. Very smooth.

I wasn't all that impressed with Brady Quinn. I think Tebow will eventually be #2 qb this year.

I like making an annual visit to Bronco training camp. Rarely do you get a chance to be so close to NFL players in action. It's not for everyone (not near the excitement of a game) but I like getting a first look at the rookies and seeing the player/coach interactions.

My initial overall impression is that the Broncos will be like last year - with a good veteran defense and alot of youth on offense. The offensive line struggled yesterday and they really need a healthy Ryan Clady back (and the rookie linemen to make an impact). Regardless of the record this year I think it'll be fun to watch the development of the young players (Thomas, Decker, and especially Tebow)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'll be there for Tebow's 1st game, just like I was for Elway's

On August 21st Tim Tebow will make his Denver debut in what otherwise would be a meaningless preseason game against the Detroit Lions. I will be there! Just like I was 23 years ago, when John Elway made his Denver debut in a preseason game against Seattle on August 5, 1983.

Back in 1983 the Broncos didn't include the first preseason game in the season ticket package. This resulted in thousands of tickets being available on game day. I originally wasn't planning to attend the game, but decided after dinner to drive down to Mile High Stadium to buy a ticket. I was glad I did! I sat in the East Stands and I was immediately impressed with the strength of Elway's arm. As the video below shows, right from the start you could tell Elway would be good!

I'm hoping I get the same impression from Tim Tebow on August 21st. I do caution fans to be patient when evaluating Tebow. After John Elway's impressive preseason debut he struggled in later preseason games. Against Minnesota he kept throwing the ball in the dirt, missing wide open receivers. And he had a rocky start to the NFL season against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, being benched half way through the game after completing only 1 of 8 passes for 14 yards. Did this mean that Elway was a bust? No way! Later that year he claimed the starting quarterback job for good and led the Broncos to his first 4th quarter comeback win vs the Colts in December.

Tebow no doubt will have growing pains, and some plays that will cause fans to say "no way is he an nfl quarterback!" I say look for flashes of ability, like we did for Elway back in 1983, and give Tebow at least 2 or 3 years to prove he can be a legitimate NFL quarterback.

Will the scene on August 21st be like August 5, 1983? I hope so - here's a portion of video I recorded that night with Elway's fabulous debut, and what happened later that season:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Buffs will rise again

Great news today that the University of Colorado is joining the Pac 10 conference. I thought the Buffs should have jumped to the pac 10 in the mid 90's when they had the opportunity. Good to see CU got a second chance and said "yes" this time!

Some in the media question the move. "How can the Buffs compete against the likes of USC and the other power schools of the pac 10?" (including Texas and Oklahoma if the rumored expansion comes true). I say the Buffs are sending the right message to their student body in wanting to compete at the highest level possible in college athletics.

When I graduated with honors as a Math major at CU in the late 70's it may not have happened had my adviser said to me, "Those advanced calculus courses will be too tough for you - why don't you take this college algebra class instead!" Yet that is what some CU naysayers have been saying lately on the college sports level - the pac 10 is too tough, cu can never compete, etc.

I say that's garbage. While the state of the football program isn't very good right now, I am confident Colorado can turn the program around. It's happened before. I attended many games in the early 80's when Bill McCartney was coach. In Mac's 3rd year he finished 1-10 and he was lucky to win that only game thanks to a long field goal. No one could have guessed at the time that by the end of the decade CU would win a national championship.

Mac was a once in a lifetime coach whose success is unlikely to be repeated you say? Well the program similarly rose from the ashes in the 60's. Eddie Crowder took over a scandal ridden program and led the Buffs to many good years, including a #3 in the nation finish in 1971.

The Boulder campus is such a great place to recruit to, with the most picturesque stadium in the country. All CU needs is the right coach to get the students and the state excited about Buff football again. Impact recruits will come if they know there's a chance of winning, just like they did for coach Mac and Eddie Crowder.

With the promise of a brighter future and more dollars coming in from the pac 10 deal, I am confident that Colorado can attract a top coach to replace Dan Hawkins after what I expect to be a down season in 2010.

Perhaps one day in the future we'll see something like this again from a Buff football team:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

bronco highlight film, qb club meeting

One of my favorite bronco quarterback club meetings each year is the one in May or June when the highlight film of the previous season is premiered. Tonight I saw the premiere of the 2009 highlight film titled "A Team From The Start"

Patrick Smyth, the executive director of media relations for the Broncos, introduced the film and answered questions from the crowd afterwards. Patrick said NFL films came to the Broncos after the season asking what the team wanted featured in the film. The two features the broncos wanted emphasized were a "team over the individual" attitude and Josh McDaniel's passion.

The film highlighted the Broncos victories, especially the 6-0 start and the Thanksgiving night NY Giants win. I liked that many sideline and locker room comments were included. One that stood out for me was McDaniels yelling at Kyle Orton during a game "if you are fired up, they will be. The rest of the team feeds off of you!" I thought "yep, that's why he drafted Tebow". McDaniels wants a passionate leader as his qb.

Some accomplishments mentioned: McDaniels had the 3rd best start in the history of the NFL for a rookie coach, Elvis was the first bronco to lead the nfl in sacks, the defense had 8 new starters and finished 7th overall in defense, the win at KC was the largest margin of victory ever for the Broncos at Arrowhead, and Matt Prater made 19 of his last 20 field goal attempts.

While the 2-8 finish still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, the highlight film did remind me of that there were alot of positives to last season. Towards the end of the film a fan is shown holding a sign "In McDaniels We Trust"

The highlight film will probably show up on NFL Network in the future. It's worth seeing, especially for all the player and coach comments featured.

After the film Patrick answered questions. I asked him how Tim Tebow was doing. Patrick joked, "Tim who?" Then he went on to say that Tebow is one of the hardest workers at camp. Tim is the last one to leave the building each day and he's always looking for a coach to quiz him on the offense. In his flight out after the draft Tebow wanted to do pushups during the flight to work out, and he brought a gym bag with him. Josh McDaniels says that Tebow is "ahead of schedule" in his development.

McDaniels wants players that are "tough, smart, and physical" The recent bronco draft class featured players with 4 of the top 10 wonderlic scores.

Will Eddie Royal be more involved in the offense? Kyle Orton says he didn't get Eddie the ball as much as he should have last year. McDaniels is trying to have four #1 receivers instead of focusing so much on just 1 receiver like last year (Marshall)
Rod Smith was at practice yesterday and talked to Eddie. Champ saw Rod and teased him about gray hair. "It would be gray if we had won that 2006 afc championship game," said Rod.

Elvis contract? It's being worked on. Elvis has a real good attitude and is confident it will be worked out.

Ryan Clady? He's a real quiet guy. He feels bad about his offseason basketball injury. Not as bad as it could have been and he's recovering well. Clady is a huge Lakers fan and he opens up when teammates tease him about the Lakers.

Xanders and McDaniels relationship? It is really a partnership, they work closely together and come to a decision jointly. They are in each other's offices 15 to 20 times a day. Xanders first job in the NFL was cleaning pools for the Atlanta Falcons. He rose through the ranks and was a defensive assistant on the Falcons super bowl team that played the broncos.

John Elway watched practice yesterday - the first time Elway has been at a Bronco practice in years. The recent bronco quarterbacks, while good guys, didn't want anything to do with Elway. Tebow is different - he wanted to have dinner with Elway when he flew out after the draft.


I always find the qb club meetings interesting and this one was no exception. There was a small but loyal group of fans attending tonight - many long time season ticket holders. The club is planning more Monday night meetings this year and hope to have more current players as guests.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tim Tebow: the next Bobby Anderson?

I'm back to blogging again after a busy two months of travel. The biggest sports story in my absence was the Broncos drafting of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in the first round. This move has been discussed and dissected by sports columnists and fans across the nation. "Brilliant move!" say some. "Major reach!" say others. Here's my take:

Tim Tebow is so compelling because of his character. He is a role model to many after his stellar career at the University of Florida. No doubt this played in a big part in the Broncos drafting him. This brings to mind another former #1 bronco draft pick. Flash back to 1970. No athlete was more admired in these parts than the hero of the University of Colorado, running back Bobby Anderson. Anderson had a great senior season for the Buffaloes, capped by a 254 rushing yard 3 td performance in the Liberty Bowl against Bear Bryant's famed Alabama defense.

Anderson also had great character. I remember him speaking to the youth group at my church. I was excited at the prospect of having my college football hero in Anderson playing in the backfield with my favorite pro player, Floyd Little!

What happened? Anderson had an injury plagued four years with the Broncos and never amounted to much as an nfl player. Years later I attended a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe Nevada where several big stars were present (Michael Jordan, John Elway, and others) Bobby Anderson was also one of the celebrity golfers. "Who is that?" said a guy standing next to me as I watched Anderson on the putting green. Anderson's stellar college career had long been forgotten. Anderson was and continues to be a great guy (he still is a part of the radio broadcast for the cu buffs) but he didn't succeed in the NFL.

I'm rooting for Tim Tebow and I think he does have a chance to become an effective NFL quarterback. I especially like his running ability, a quality lacking with last year's starter Kyle Orton. Denver's offense also features many short, quick passes - passes I think Tebow can handle. Still there are doubts from many pro scouts on whether Tebow can be an nfl qb. "After breaking down the film of Tebow, we cannot help but think he will struggle to succeed in the NFL unless he continues to improve. His offseason work helps, but Tebow must prove himself against competition," says Russ Lande, former pro scout writing in the Sporting News.

While Tebow's off the field activities are admirable, character alone does not make for a good NFL player. It didn't for Bobby Anderson, and it won't for Tim Tebow. I'm hoping the Broncos haven't placed too much emphasis on Tebow's winning personality in drafting him so high.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

broncos by the numbers

I recently came across a list I had put together a few years ago of "all time bronco numbers" - the best player for each number in bronco history. I have updated the list below. Will Tim Tebow become the greatest #15 in Bronco history? He only has to beat out Jim Turner and Brandon Marshall to do it!

I'll have more thoughts on Tebow in a future blog post.

0 - John Olszewski fb
1 - Jason Elam k
2 - Cookie Gilchrist rb runnerup: Mike Horan p
3 - Rich Karlis runnerup: Bobby Howfield k
4 - Robert Thompson wr
5 - Brad Daluiso k
6 - Jay Cutler qb runnerup: Bubby Brister qb
7 - John Elway qb runnerup: Craig Morton qb
8 - Gary Kubiak qb runnerup: Tommy Maddux qb
9 - David Treadwell k
10 - Bucky Dilts p runnerup: Steve Ramsey qb
11 - Bobby Anderson rb
12 - Charlie Johnson qb
13 - Steve Tensi qb runnerup: Don Horn qb
14 - Brian Griese qb runnerup: Norris Weese qb, Pete Liske qb
15 - Jim Turner k runnerup: Brandon Marshall wr Marlin Briscoe qb (tim tebow??)
16 - Jake Plummer qb ; runnerup Tom Rouen p
17 - Steve DeBerg qb
18 - Frank Tripucka qb
19 - Eddie Royal wr runnerup: Fred Steinfort k
20 - Louis Wright db
21 - Gene Mingo k runnerup: Darrien Gordon cb, LeLo Lang db
22 - Olandis Gary rb runnerup: Fran Lynch rb, Glyn Milburn rb/kr
23 - Sammy Winder rb runnerup: Goose Gonselin db
24 - Champ Bailey db runnerup: Otis Armstrong rb
25 - Haven Moses wr
26 - Bobby Humphrey rb runnerup: Calvin Jones cb
27 - Steve Atwater db runnerup: Darrant Williams db Knowshon Moreno rb
28 - Jeremiah Castille cb runnerup: Abner Haynes rb, Gaston Green rb
29 - Howard Griffith rb runnerup: Aaron Craver rb
30 - Terrell Davis rb runnerup: Steve Sewell rb
31 - Mike Harden db
32 - Jon Keyworth rb
33 - Rod Bernstein rb runnerup: Joe Dawkins rb, Tony Dorsett rb
34 - Tyrone Braxton db
35 - Larry Canada rb runnerup: Lonnie Perrin rb
36 - Billy Thompson db
37 - Anthony Lynn rb
38 - Mike Anderson rb runnerup: Reggie Rivers
39 - Ray Crockett db
40 - Charlie West db runnerup: Grady Cavness cb
41 - Rob Lytle rb runnerup: Eric Crabtree wr
42 - Billy Van Huesen wr/p
43 - Steve Foley db
44 - Floyd Little rb
45 - Steve Wilson cb
46 - Dave Preston rb
47 - John Lynch s runnerup: Gerald Wilhite rb
48 - Lionel Washington cb
49 - Dennis Smith s
50 - Bobby Maples c runnerup: Ben Hamilton c Jim Ryan lb
51 - Bob Swenson lb runnerup: John Mobley lb
52 - Randy Gradishar lb (he wore 52 one season) runnerup: Ken Woodard lb Ian Gold lb
53 - Randy Gradashar lb runnerup: Bill Romanowski lb
54 - Keith Bishop c runnerup: Mitch Donahue lb/dl
55 - Rick Dennison lb runnerup: DJ Williams lb Pete Duranko dl
56 - Al Wilson lb runnerup: Ray May lb, Keith Burns lb, Michael Brooks lb
57 - Tom Jackson lb runnerup: Allen Aldridge
58 - Tom Graham lb runnerup: Elijah Alexander lb, Steve Busick
59 - Joe Rizzo lb runnerup: Glen Cadres lb
60 - Paul Howard g runnerup: Gerald Perry g
61 - Tommy Lyons g runnerup: Andre Townsend de
62 - Dan Neil c/g runnerup: Tom Glassic g
63 - Dave Costa dl runnerup: John Grant dl
64 - Billy Bryan c
65 - Gary Zimmerman t
66 - Tom Nalen c
67 - Doug Widell g runnerup: Lumpy Hyde g
68 - Rubin Carter nt runnerup: Larron Jackson t
69 - Mark Schlereth g
70 - Paul Smith dl runnerup: Dave Studdard t
71 - Greg Kragen nt runnerup: Claudie Minor t
72 - Keith Kartz c runnerup: Don Latimer nt
73 - Simon Fletcher lb
74 - Mike Current t
75 - Rulon Jones de runnerup: Brian Habib t
76 - Ken Lanier t
77 - Karl Mecklenburg lb runnerup: Lyle Alzado de
78 - Ryan Clady t runnerup: Matt Lepsis t Marv Montgomery t, Ken Criter lb
79 - Barney Chavous de
80 - Rick Upchurch wr, kr runnerup: Rod Smith wr, Mark Jackson wr
81 - Steve Watson wr runnerup: Billy Masters te
82 - Vance Johnson wr runnerup: Jack Dolbin wr, Bob Scarpitto wr/p
83 - Michael Young wr runnerup: Anthony Miller wr
84 - Shannon Sharpe te runnerup: Mike Haffner wr, Ricky Nattiel wr
85 - Ron Egloff te runnerup: Tom Beer te
86 - Byron Chamberlain te runnerup: Butch Johnson wr
87 - Rich Jackson dl runnerup: Lionel Taylor wr, Ed McCaffery wr
88 - Riley Odoms te runnerup: Al Denson wr, Clarence Kay te
89 - Orson Mobley te runnerup: Jon Embree wr, Dave Logan wr, Dwayne Carswell te
90 - Neil Smith de runnerup: Dan Williams de
91 - Alfred Williams de
92 - Elvis Dumervil lb runnerup: Dave Wyman lb
93 - Trevor Pryce dl
94 - Keith Traylor dt
95 - Michael Dean Perry dt
96 - Harald Hasselbach dl runnerup: Kenny Walker de
97 - Mike Lodish de
98 - Maa Tanuvasa d runnerup: Ricky Hunley lb
99 - Shane Dronett dt runnerup: Seth Joyner lb

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Goodbye Brandon

Brandon Marshall was traded to the Miami Dolphins today for a #2 draft pick in 2010 and a #2 pick in 2011.

I am ok with the trade. For a second year in a row Denver got more for a disgruntled player than I thought they would (Cutler in 2009, Marshall in 2010). Considering Pittsburgh could only trade former Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes for a #5 draft pick this offseason, the Broncos did well to get two #2's.

Money aside, Miami still got the better of the trade. Marshall is a tremendous talent. However considering that the Dolphins had to give Marshall 24 million in guaranteed money, and given his past problems in Denver, I'm not surprised the Broncos passed on giving Brandon a big contract. I hear Marshall's new Miami contract is bigger than Larry Fitzgerald's with Arizona, and Marshall is not a better receiver than Fitzgerald.

Here's a video clip of my favorite Brandon Marshall Bronco memory - his great catch and run for the go ahead touchdown vs Dallas in 2009. This one almost made my "top Bronco plays of all time" list:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #1 The Helicopter

My pick for the Greatest Bronco Play of All Time comes from the best Bronco player ever in the Greatest Bronco Game of All Time:

In Super Bowl 32 with the score tied late in the 3rd quarter, the Broncos faced a 3rd and 6 deep in Green Bay territory. Future Hall Of Famer John Elway gave it his all on this play to get the crucial first down that led to the go ahead touchdown:

This play showed why John Elway was such a great player. Elway was more than his magnificent arm. He always had the ability to confound opposing defenses with his scrambling ability, and even at age 37 in SB32 he still could run. The footage also shows Elway's amazing determination to win.

Shortly after this run the Broncos went ahead 24-17. Green Bay was to tie the score later on but the Elway "helicopter" inspired his teammates to eventually win the game 31-24. After a 38 year wait the Broncos were Champions At Last:

Next: I've received very good response to my countdown so I'll be posting more Bronco memories from the highlights I have saved over the years.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #2 Floyd Little is fired, then makes a great catch!

#2 on my list of the greatest bronco plays of all time:

What happened on November 24, 1968 has become legend among longtime Bronco fans. On that day the Broncos played the Buffalo Bills. Clinging to a 31-29 lead and running out the clock, future Bronco Hall Of Famer Floyd Little fumbled. Buffalo recovered and kicked the go ahead field goal. Listen to Floyd and Bronco coach Lou Saban tell the story in this old 1980 tv special I recorded:

This catch by Floyd is #2 on my list on the greatest bronco plays of all time. You can't really see from the above video what a great catch this was. I was a 12 year old sitting in the South Stands for this game, and the long Briscoe to Little pass was coming right towards me. Floyd dived for the ball and made one of the greatest catches I have seen by a Bronco to this day.

What would have happened if Floyd had not made this spectacular play? Would Saban really have fired Floyd? Probably not, but the incident may have caused a rift between the two that would have created a Cutler like trade in the late 60's. Afterall, Saban did get rid of the quarterback who threw that pass, the amazing Marlin Briscoe, and he might have had enough with Floyd, too.

Floyd Little was an inspiration to kids growing up in Denver in the late 60's/early 70's like myself. This play showed his never give up attitude and great talent on the football field. When Floyd gets inducted into the Hall Of Fame in August this old South Stander will have a smile on his face - remembering all the thrills Floyd gave me and especially this great play.

Next: #1 on my countdown of great bronco plays - champions at last!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #3 Jim Turner Scores Against The Raiders

#3 on my list of Greatest All Time Bronco Plays:

Jim Turner, high tops and all, scores a surprise touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in what I rate as the most important regular season win in Bronco history.

Going into this game the two teams were each 4-0. The Raiders were coming off a Super Bowl Championship and were at their peak. "I don't think anyone can beat the Raiders right now," veteran sportscaster Charlie Jones said before this matchup.

The Raiders scored on their first possession of the game, but Denver battled back to take a 14-7 lead. Just before halftime the Broncos lined up for a long field goal when they pulled off the key play of the miracle 1977 season:

This play, and this game, changed the Oakland/Denver rivalry forever. The Broncos humiliated the Raiders this day. The Broncos laughed at them. "It's all over fat man!" Tom Jackson taunted Raider Coach John Madden as the Broncos won 30-7.

As a long time Raider hater this play is my favorite in the Denver/Oakland rivalry, and that's why I rate it so high on my list. The headline in the Denver Post tells the story of how big a victory this was for the Broncos:

Next: The only play on my list from the 1960's, and my 2nd best Bronco play ever at that.

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #4 Elway to Rod Smith Super Bowl 33

#4 in my countdown of all time Bronco plays:

The Atlanta Falcons had played the Broncos tough in the first quarter of Super Bowl 33. With Denver holding a 10-3 lead Atlanta threatened to tie the game early in the 2nd quarter, driving inside the Denver 10 yard line. The drive stalled and then Morten Anderson missed a 26 yard field goal. The next play pretty much decided the game:

The Elway to Smith td gave the Broncos a 17-3 lead and they never looked back, defeating the Falcons easily 34-19. I really enjoyed this Super Bowl for a couple of reasons. Having sat through the four Bronco Super Bowl losses by big scores it was great for me to see the Broncos on the right side of a dominating Super Bowl win. Also this was John Elway's last game and his exit was impressive: 336 passing yards and named Super Bowl MVP.

Trivia: you'll notice the above highlight starts with Elway going back to pass. Fox almost missed this play because they were late coming out of a commercial. What movie commercial almost preempted this big play? Answer: The commercial was for The Matrix.

Next on my countdown: back to the 1970's for a play that changed the course of Bronco history.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #5 Elway to Jackson finishes The Drive

Resuming the countdown of my all time great Bronco plays:

"The Drive" is one of my favorite Bronco memories. Trailing 20-13 with 5:32 left in the 1986 season's AFC Championship game, John Elway and the Broncos got the ball on their own 2 yard line. While there were several great plays in The Drive (including a clutch 3rd and 18 conversion from midfield), I picked the concluding touchdown as my 5th greatest all time Bronco play:

This TD was the last of three 3rd down conversions during The Drive.
It's easy to forget sometimes that after Denver tied the game Cleveland won the overtime coin toss and the Bronco defense still had to do its part in forcing the Browns to punt. Elway then led the Broncos to the winning field goal on their first overtime possession.

Next in the countdown: another great play by Elway in a Super Bowl

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays,Terrell Davis Big Run

Before getting to my top 5 bronco plays of all time, here's another "honorable mention" play. I can't compile a list of all time great Bronco plays without some mention of Terrell Davis.

It was a windy day January 17, 1999 when the Broncos hosted the NY Jets in the AFC Championship game. 50 mile-per-hour winds neutralized the Broncos and John Elway's great passing attack, so this game clinching run was the key play in a Bronco victory:

Davis had so many big runs in the playoffs, it was difficult to pick just one. In eight career playoff games he accumulated 1,140 yards rushing on 204 carries and 12 touchdowns. The Broncos victory over the Jets was also the last playoff game at Mile High Stadium, and John Elway's last home game.

Next: resuming the countdown with the #5 play on my list against an opponent who was victim to many great bronco plays over the years (the Cleveland Browns)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, Steve Watson's 3 TD Game

Before we get to my top 5 bronco plays of all time it's time for some more "honorable mentions". Today:

Steve Watson was an undrafted free agent out of Temple who saw very little action with the Broncos in 1980 (6 receptions). The 1981 season started the same way, under new coach Dan Reeves, until Watson broke out with an incredible three td game in week 3:

Watson went on to score 13 touchdowns that year. Watson was one of the best Bronco wide receivers ever - he had an uncanny ability to make a catch if the football was anywhere in his vicinity. Look at this clip later in his career with Watson making a great catch from John Elway:

Next: another honorable mention play from an AFC Championship game

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #6 Morton To Moses

Continuing the countdown of my greatest bronco plays of all time:

January 1, 1978. It was a cold day in Denver (18 degrees) as the Broncos hosted the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game. Oakland dominated the game early and took a 3-0 lead before this play changed the entire game:

To consider how big a play this was, go back to the atmosphere before that game. Yes the Broncos had an amazing season up until that point, a 12-2 season and a first round playoff win against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. But there was alot of doubt as to whether the Broncos could really beat the Raiders this day. For one Craig Morton was hurting - bad. With a painfully bruised leg there were questions whether Morton would even play. The Raiders had also beat the Broncos convincingly in their matchup in Denver earlier that season (Raiders 24 Broncos 14 in week 7)

This play turned the whole game around. It gave the Broncos confidence that Morton could play, and play well, despite his injury. Morton and Moses went on to have a huge game (Moses scored twice on 168 receiving yards)

For me personally this was the greatest sports event I have ever attended in Denver. I was there for all the AFC Championship home games, for the many John Elway comebacks, for Eric Young's opening day homer, for the Avs beating the Devils in Stanley Cup game 7. None topped this game. The excitement in the South Stands that day is something I will never forget.

This play, #6 on my list, was key in sending the Broncos to their first Super Bowl:

Next: before getting to my top 5 bronco plays of all time I'll show some great highlights that deserve honorable mention.

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #7 Champ picks off Brady

Next in my countdown of greatest all time bronco plays: the only entry on this list where the play makes BOTH the Broncos all time list and the opponent's. Champ Bailey's game changing interception and return in the playoff game against the New England Patriots in 2006. Here's a feature from NFL Network telling the New England side of that play:

With Denver clinging to a 10-6 lead and the Patriots threatening to take the lead in the 3rd quarter, this play changed the game. It was the most important of several big interceptions for Champ Bailey in the 2005 season - the finest season I've ever seen from a Broncos cornerback. Fortunately Ben Watson's great play to cause Champ to fumble at the 1 was not ruled a touchback, and Mike Anderson's followup 1 yard touchdown run gave the Broncos a comfortable 17-6 lead.

Tom Brady came into this game with 3 Super Bowl Rings and having never lost a playoff game. With credentials like that I am sure Brady will get a locker in Canton, but for some reason he never seems to play well in games at Invesco Field. I was at this game and noticed Brady missing open receivers all game. Three years later in facing Josh McDaniels Broncos at Invesco Brady was equally off target.

Next on the countdown: a game changing play from the miracle 77 season

Monday, March 29, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays: #8 The Immaculate Deflection

Resuming my countdown of my all time greatest bronco plays:

Some of you may be thinking "Are we going to see any recent plays in the countdown?" Well here's a play from last season that will go down as one of the great Bronco finishes ever:

I'll always remember this play in part because of the dramatic finish and in part because of the unusual circumstances in which I saw it. Here's my story:

Since 1968 I have probably missed watching a complete Bronco regular season game less than 10 times - this was one of them. I had an early morning flight to Las Vegas for a business conference that was going to start that Sunday afternoon. I did not want to miss Josh McDaniels first game as head coach. I knew it was going to be a key game, as I wrote about in my blog the week before the game:

"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."

My flight was delayed and I finally got to my hotel towards the end of the third quarter. I had to find a sports book so I could at least watch the finish! I walked over to Caesar's Palace and the Broncos/Bengals game wasn't on any of their big screens. Finally I spotted in a small corner of the sports book a single tv showing the game. I stood with a crowd of about 15 broncos and bengals fans watching the last 6 minutes.

I arrived at the tv just in time to see the Bengals start their go ahead drive. When Cincinnati scored the go ahead td with 38 seconds left I didn't have much hope. I was already late to my business conference so I started walking out of the sports book. Just then Caesar's Palace switched the game to one of their "big screens". I stopped, turned around, and thought "I might as well watch the last couple of plays."

Then the miracle happened. This 53 year old Bronco fan was jumping up and down like a 12 year old as Stokley crossed the goal line! Bronco fans in the sports book were high fiving each other. A Bengals fan ripped up his wager ticket in disgust.

I said "forget the conference!" and stuck around the sports book to see the replay about 15 times.

Finally I did make it over to the conference and I was in meetings until late that night. I got back to my hotel after 10 pm and saw a guy with a Chicago Bears jersey in front of the elevator. "I'm from Denver, how did Cutler do tonight?" I asked (not knowing anything about the Packers/Bears Sunday night game)

The Bears fan glared at me and walked away without saying anything.

For one game at least, McDaniels was looking pretty good as the new Denver head coach, and Cutler's 4 interceptions gave Bears fans a glimpse of what was to come later in the 2010 season. It was a good day to be a Bronco fan!

Next on the countdown: Another big play by a current Bronco player

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays: Gradishar/Jackson hits

The famed Orange Crush defense of the late 70's and early 80's were tough! Here are some big hits by Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson.

Gradishar was especially good in short yardage situations as the first highlight shows - he had an innate ability to time his charge just right to stop a ball carrier dead in his tracks.

Younger fans may just think of Jackson as a likable analyst on ESPN joking with Chris Berman. As these highlights show Jackson was a heat seeking missle on the field - not very big but could he hit!

Next I'll resume my top 12 All Time Bronco plays countdown with a recent highlight you will all remember.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays: Dennis Smith's big hit

So many highlights to choose from for my top 12 all time bronco plays! This one didn't make my top 12 but I decided to include some of my other favorites before resuming the countdown.

A game changing play in Dennis Smith's rookie year - a big hit forcing a fumble in overtime from the Brown's Calvin Hill. Smith had the smarts to stay in bounds and recover the fumble too. I included a couple of plays after the fumble to show the Broncos win - 10 minutes later Calvin Hill was still dazed walking off the field!

From the clip you'll also see future Broncos play by play man Dave Logan of the Browns protesting that the ball was out of bounds.

This was a key win for the Broncos in Dan Reeves 1st year as head coach (1981). Denver went on to finish 10-6.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #9 Louie Wright's Blocked FG Return

Continuing the countdown of my all time greatest bronco plays:

Louie Wright returns a field goal blocked by Dennis Smith to beat San Diego in Overtime in this 1985 game:

I can't remember old Mile High Stadium being any louder than when Louie Wright was running this blocked kick in for a touchdown. What looked like defeat was transformed to sudden victory in just a few seconds! This play was actually a "replay" - just before the Broncos blocked San Diego's field goal and looked to be running in for the winning score, when the refs ruled that the Broncos had called timeout before the play began. The crowd was stunned. The Broncos solution? Do it again! Dennis Smith broke through to block the field goal, and there was no way a kicker was going to catch Wright as he ran for the winning score.

This game was key to the Broncos finishing 11-5 in 1985, however that was also the year an 11-5 record did not get the team a spot in the playoffs. One year later an 11-5 record won the AFC West and the Broncos went to their first John Elway Super Bowl.

Next: So many good highlights to choose from! I'm going to throw in an "honorable mention" play, one that didn't make my top 12 but deserves another look.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #10 Gradishar's Long TD

Continuing the countdown of my all time greatest bronco plays:

#10 Gradishar's Long TD. Randy Gradishar intercepts a pass from Cleveland's Brian Sipe and runs 93 yards for a touchdown - the longest interception return for a td in Bronco history:

The Broncos were 1-3 going into this game in Cleveland. Trailing 10-6 at the time with the Browns within a few yards of another score, the Gradishar interception turned the game around. The Broncos ended up beating Cleveland this day 19-16. One of the few highlights of an otherwise very ordinary 8-8 1980 season for the Broncos - Red Miller's last as head coach.

Next on my list: More Mile High Magic from another member of the Orange Crush Defense

Monday, March 22, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #11 Elway to Nattiel SB 22

Counting down my 12 greatest Bronco plays of all time.

#11: John Elway throws a touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel on the Broncos first offensive play in Super Bowl 22:

When evaluating this play don't think about what happened later in the game. Instead put yourself in the moment right before the Broncos first snap. Two weeks of Super Bowl hype. The crowd on the edge of their seats. The normally conservative Dan Reeves went for it all with this first play, and John Elway delivered! I can't remember a Bronco play where I cheered louder at the result than this one.

Unfortunately this great start did not carryover to the rest of the game, as Bronco fans were again were disappointed with the team's 42-10 loss to the Washington Redskins that day. But for one brief moment, it looked like Elway and the Broncos just might be on their way to winning the big one ...

Next on my list: a play by a bronco defensive great who always found himself around the football.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Greatest All Time Bronco Plays, #12 Morton to Dolbin

I'm starting a series featuring my Greatest All Time Bronco Plays. Being a season ticket holder from 1968 to today I've had my ups and downs with the Broncos. The plays I've selected always bring a smile to my face.

#12 on my list:

Craig Morton throws the clinching touchdown to Jack Dolbin on December 24, 1977 to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Broncos first playoff game ever:

I was a 21 year old sitting in the South Stands for this game. 33 years later this game still is pretty incredible when you think about it. The Broncos were playing perhaps the greatest team of all time that day. The Steelers were in the middle of their fantastic run of 4 Super Bowl championships in 6 years with Terry Bradshaw as their quarterback. Yet the upstart Broncos beat Pittsburgh on what will always be a memorable Christmas Eve in Denver.

This play showed Craig Morton's amazing arm - the best of any Bronco quarterback besides Elway in my book. I also loved the enthusiasm of Broncos owner Gerald Phipps on the sideline. Phipps saved the Broncos in the mid-60's when the franchise almost folded. I was glad to see Phipps finally experience a playoff win after many down years - without Gerald Phipps there would be no Denver Broncos today.

Here's a picture of the December 25th Denver Post sports section - the Broncos gave the city a wonderful Christmas present that year!

Stay tuned for #11 on my list - a highlight from the 80's featuring the great John Elway.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thumbs Up on the Brady Quinn Trade

The Broncos traded Peyton Hillis and two late round future draft choices for Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn yesterday. I like this trade. I first saw Quinn in action in the 2007 preseason when the Browns played the Broncos in Denver's first home game of the year. The score is long forgotten (the Browns won 17-16) but Brady Quinn looked good that night. The nfl writeup for the game says "Brady Quinn delivered his second straight standout performance for the Browns, as he completed 7-of-11 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown."

Quinn did not build on his good rookie preseason performances as he has suffered through three injury plagued mediocre years in Cleveland. I saw Quinn when the Browns played the Broncos in the first home game of the 2009 season and I was not as impressed.

I think Quinn is shell shocked by playing for a bad Cleveland team and here's hoping Josh McDaniels and a more potent Denver offense can revive the career of this former #1 draft choice. Don't look at Cleveland highlights to see the potential in Quinn. Instead look back at his college career at Notre Dame. Here's a video of Notre Dame Quinn highlights. Note around the 1:25 mark Quinn shows good running ability followed by an accurate deep pass - two abilities lacking in Denver starter Kyle Orton last year.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Congrats Floyd Little - but did he really save football in Denver?

It was with great joy I watched my childhood hero, Denver Broncos running back great Floyd Little, inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame yesterday. I'm as big of fan of Floyd Little as anyone, and he richly deserves the honor. When I read statements like this in the Denver Post, though, it is a bit of a stretch:

""Without Floyd Little, there would be no Denver Broncos. Either they don't get picked up by the NFL in the merger, or they move to Alabama and become the Birmingham Broncos," said Tom Mackie, the co-author when Little penned his 2006 autobiography."

Tom Mackie deserves alot of credit for helping get Floyd in the Hall with his book. But what really saved the Broncos was owner Gerald Phipps (in 1965) and an organization called the DOERS which raised enough money for the Bears Stadium expansion after the merger had been agreed to. Longtime Denver broadcaster Larry Zimmer explains it well in his book "Denver Broncos: Colorful Tales of Orange and Blue":

"Bears Stadium was not big enough for the demands of the NFL after the announcement of the merger with the AFL in 1966. Gerald Phipps, who saved the Broncos for Denver in 1965, was the majority owner. He used his political clout to get the Metropolitan Stadium District created. The same legislation called for a bond issue to build a new 20 million dollar stadium near Stapleton Airport. The voters delivered a crushing blow by turning down the stadium bond issue by a two to one margin.

Phipps was keenly disappointed. Rumors were rampant that Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the NFL Owners favored relocating the franchise to Birmingham, Alabama.
A number of volunteer groups were formed to keep the team in Denver. They merged into one organization called the DOERS - Denver Organization to Erect the Right Kind of Stadium. Since a new stadium was out, the effort was to build an addition to Bears Stadium. The group organized collections at civic clubs, schools, and on street corners. ... The plan was to raise 1.8 million, buy Bears Stadium from the Phipps, and give it to the City and County of Denver, which would then pay for the additional 16,000 seats by issuing revenue bonds. The campaign was successful. A deck was added to the west side and the capacity was 50,000 when the 1968 season kicked off. On December 14, 1968 the name of the stadium was officially changed to Mile Hi Stadium."

The sequence of event was thus:

Merger agreed to by the NFL and AFL in 1966
NFL Owners concerned about Denver's small stadium, think about moving the Broncos to Birmingham
First common draft in 1967 between the NFL and AFL - Broncos take Floyd Little with the 6th pick in the first round
August 5, 1967, Broncos become the first ever AFL team to defeat an NFL team after beating the Detroit Lions, 13–7, in a preseason game. Floyd Little has yet to play a down with the team. The city was crazy with excitement due to the merger.
Floyd Little has an ok rookie year, gaining 381 yards over 14 games.
New Stadium Vote fails, DOERS get Bears Stadium expanded to 50,000, allowing Denver to participate in the merger
Broncos open 1968 season in their newly expanded 50,000 seat Bears Stadium
Floyd Little's career and the Broncos popularity really takes off starting in 1968, with the expanded stadium and the anticipation of playing in the NFL


I was a 12 year old in 1968, caught up with the excitement of the Broncos and spent $14 of my $25 savings to get season tickets in the South Stands (they had a kids ticket at the time for $2/game). Was Floyd Little a reason I bought season tickets? Certainly he was a part of it - he was my favorite Bronco. But there were other reasons - the anticipation of the NFL, other great Broncos (like all pro defensive end Rich Jackson), etc.

Floyd Little was the biggest star of the late 60's, early 70's broncos, and a role model to many Denver area kids including myself. But this thing called Broncomania that I've been around all my life is bigger than any one player. To say Floyd Little alone saved the Broncos doesn't give credit to Gerald Phipps (who saved the team in 1965 before Floyd was even drafted) or the fans who formed the DOERS, who raised the funds to get the stadium expanded to the NFL minimum.

There are many legitimate reasons why Floyd Little deserved the Hall of Fame. And while he was certainly a big part of the Broncos increased popularity in the late 60's, to say he single handedly "saved the team" is a bit of an exaggeration, and a claim I've seen some of Floyd Little detractors dispute. Floyd didn't need the "saved the Broncos" legend to get into the Hall - what the man did on the field was enough.