Friday, December 23, 2011

34 years ago today - broncos first playoff win

34 years ago today the Broncos played their first ever game on Christmas Eve, and their first playoff game. The key play of that game:

Craig Morton throws the clinching touchdown to Jack Dolbin on December 24, 1977 to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers:

I posted this video last year as part of my "top 12 all time bronco plays" series and since then the video has had over 4,000 views. This past week a surprise visitor commented on the play on youtube:

"The catch was a thrill but the reaction of Mr. Phipps was even more rewarding" - Jack Dolbin

I was a 21 year old sitting in the South Stands for this game. 34 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.

In narrating the team highlight film that year Pat Summerall said at the end "I can't imagine anything more fun than being a Denver Bronco fan in 1977." There's been no other year like it, until ... this year! The improbable run from a 1-4 start to a possible playoff berth reminds me much of that 77 team.

Here's a picture of the December 25, 1977 Denver Post sports section. Let's hope Tim Tebow and the Broncos produce a similar headline as a result of today's game with Buffalo!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bronco Quarterback Club Meeting with Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt

Life is good for Bronco kickers Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt. Prater was the hero of last week's improbable Broncos comeback victory against the Chicago Bears, with a 59 yard field goal to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation, and a 51 yarder to win it in overtime. Colquitt is having a pro bowl type season as the Broncos punter, in March he married Nikki, a top Denver model (see her on the cover of Trice Jewelers catalog here), and the couple is expecting their first child in the spring.

Prater and Colquitt were guests of the Bronco Quarterback Club on Monday night. They shared many interesting insights about the Broncos and kicking in the NFL.

"You're not going to kick those rugby's, are you?" the Bears Devin Hester said to Colquitt in a pregame conversation Britton relayed to the QB club. "Those rugby's won't help you get to the pro bowl." Hester added.

Colquitt proceeded to tell us kicking "rugby style" was exactly his strategy to limit the returns by Hester, one of the all time best NFL punt returners. Colquitt showed us how he holds the football for a rugby style kick, and said it results in greater height and less distance than a regular punt. This style worked most of the time against the Bears, frustrating Hester, as Hester made a few fair catches. Hester's one good return of the game (which setup the Bears lone touchdown) Colquitt said he thought Hester would fair catch, but Hester didn't.

Colquitt added that he likes to use rugby style kicks when trying to pin a punt down inside the 20 yard line. "The spin is different, sometimes you can get the ball to spin back, and returners don't like it," Britton said.

Matt Prater described his game tying 59 yarder. "I was hoping we'd get a little closer, but if we get to the 40 yard line, I should make it every time," he said. "I was confident. I don't kick the long ones any harder than a 30 yarder. I keep the same technique, staying smooth. When I try to kick it hard the accuracy suffers," he added. Holder Colquitt was not as calm as Prater before the kick. "I almost had a heart attack holding that for you," Colquitt said. "A 59 yarder to tie???!!!"

Prater and Colquitt fielded a bunch of questions from the fans at the Quarterback Club and from host David Treadwell, former Bronco field goal kicker. Here is a sample of some of their answers:

How did you get your start kicking?

Prater said he played on a soccer team with one of the Gramatica brothers. He played safety and kicker. When he saw the success the Gramaticas had kicking he gave it a try himself. Colquitt's dad Craig was a punter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Britton "used to kick a football back and forth with my brother Dustin" (current punter for the KC Chiefs). "Instead of playing catch we'd kick to each other."
Older brother Dustin didn't play football until he was a senior in high school. When Britton saw Dustin's success he thought "this is a family legacy - I can do this!"

To Britton: who has the best average between you and your brother?

"I do"

Who has the best net average?

"I do"

To Prater: how do you like the new kickoff rule, from the 35 instead of the 30?

"I don't complain, but it does take away from the guys with the stronger legs."

Do you think there are fewer kickoff returns?

"With our kickoff coverage team I like it when they return it."

To both: Have you ever used a sports psychologist?

Colquitt "In college (at Tennessee) I had a friend who was a psychiatrist"

Prater "My dad is a psychiatrist. He has helped me not to dwell on the negative. Dad says to forget about the bad kicks."

Colquitt: "Practice breeds confidence."

To Colquitt: Are you authorized to run a fake punt?

"Heck no! In college I tried to throw a pass once (at the swamp in Florida). It didn't turn out well."

To Prater: Is the high altitude an advantage?

"Not as much as people think. Most of kicking is psychological. When I'm in Florida I can kick a field goal from 70 yards too. In our stadium the wind swirls, making it tougher, though the winds were quiet yesterday."

To Prater: Does it affect you when an opposing coach calls a timeout to "ice the kicker"?

"It makes no difference. I actually like it. It gives me more time to make sure I am lined up right."

To Colquitt: Do you have a special game plan punting to the Patriots this week?

"For Chicago we had a special plan because of Devin Hester (rugby punts). For the Patriots I'll go back to punting it as far and long as I can."

Are you superstitious?

Prater "I have lots of superstitions. For home games I always eat breakfast at the Egg and I and have biscuits and gravy. I always listen to Carrie Underwood's song "Jesus, Take The Wheel" before a game. I never step on the Bronco emblem, even in the locker room."

Does a good rush affect you?

Prater: "I trust the guys up front. I only look up when I am lining up for the kick. I don't notice the rush unless they run into me."

Treadwell: "As a kicker you don't have to worry about the outside guys. If you get the kick off in 1.3 seconds or less they guys on the end have no chance to block it. You are most vulnerable up the middle to a strong rush."


Overall it was a great evening of NFL football talk with two of the heroes from Sunday's win over the Bears. Both Prater and Colquitt allowed plenty of time for autographs and pictures with the fans in attendance.

The Bronco QB Club has a special right now where you can get a 2012 membership, and be able to attend the last meeting of the 2011 season (in January) for the annual $40 price. Each meeting, at Red and Jerrys in Englewood, has an additional $20 meal charge which includes tax and tip.

In addition to hosting current Bronco players, the club this season has hosted Denver Post Bronco reporter Lyndsay Jones as a guest, former players, and members of the club were in the audience for the John Elway TV show one Monday night.

Joining the club is a great bargain for a Bronco fan! I've been working on a new website for the Quarterback Club which you can see here:

On the site you can ask for membership information. Club meetings are open to members only - hope to see you at the January meeting!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Myths about Tim Tebow

I'm coming around on Tim Tebow as the quarterback of the Broncos after last night's miracle win vs the Jets. While the jury is still out on whether Tebow can be a consistent winner long term, I'm hearing some "myths" that are predicting his downfall:

1. You can't let your quarterback take as many hits as Tebow does. He's going to get hurt and won't last an entire NFL season.

Tebow is built like a fullback, not like your typical quarterback. Do you ever hear statements like "Adrian Peterson can't last a full NFL season, he can't take the pounding?" for Peterson or any star NFL running back? No. Think of Tebow as the same way. Sure any player can get hurt, but Tebow is no more susceptible to injury than any other player.

2. Tebow is an inaccurate passer. From his work in the NFL so far, this is a true statement (Tim had a 50% completion percentage in 2010 and 45% in 2011 so far). But in college Tebow was much better - with a 66% career passing percentage. I'm seeing Tebow miss open receivers he was hitting in college, so I'm thinking as he gets more comfortable with the pro game his completion percentage will rise. I also hope the Broncos allow Tebow to go back to his natural throwing motion instead of tinkering with it like Josh McDaniels tried to do.

3. The passing lanes in the NFL are tighter than in college, Tebow's passing doesn't fit the NFL game. The passing lanes are tighter and the defensive backs are better in the NFL than in college, for a traditional in the pocket quarterback. However, much of Tebow's value is in his scrambling ability. By extending the play with his feet Tebow often has receivers break open. Opposing defenses are so focused on the run when Tebow is quarterback that this also creates pass opportunities. There was another Bronco QB of the past good at extending the play with his scrambling: John Elway. In fact some of John's biggest completions were to wide open receivers after an Elway scramble.

I say give Tebow the rest of 2011, a full off season of workouts (which he didn't have last year), AND next year as the starter. By then we should know if Tim is the long term answer. The Broncos can use some shoring up at other positions in the draft this year. Unless a quarterback value falls in their laps I hope they use their draft choices for non-quarterbacks, taking the best player available at each selection, and forget about using an early pick for a qb. I do think adding a running quarterback as Tebow's backup would be a good move.

The New York papers were singing a different tune before and after the game, too:

Cartoon by Drew Litton

Monday, November 7, 2011

Satan and Al Davis talk football

SATAN: "Al, oh Al, it's been a rough few weeks for you down here. How would you like a break and see your old team play one more time?"

AL DAVIS: "Really, Satan? You'd do that for me? I thought this was supposed to be Hell."

SATAN: "Of course. You were one of my best servants on earth. It's the least I can do."

AL DAVIS: "Who are we playing this week, anyway? As you know my memory hasn't been what it used to be."

SATAN: "You'll really enjoy this matchup, Al. The Denver Broncos are visiting the Black Hole. Get this - the Broncos are starting Tim Tebow now at quarterback. I so enjoyed watching the Lions rough up that favorite son of the "other side" last week. The Broncos lost 45-10, Timmy had a 3.4 total quarterback rating and was sacked 7 times."

AL DAVIS: "Tebow??!!! Oh this sounds delightful. Can I get visitation rites to Hue Jackson before the game?"

SATAN: "You know, Al, we limit visits from the Dark Side. But for this one time, I'll allow it."

AL DAVIS: "Good. I'll tell Hue to make sure we give Timmy a proper Raider welcome to the NFL. Hits to the head. Cheap shots out of bounds. You know - Raider football!"

SATAN: "Sounds wonderful, Al. I think I'll take Sunday off to watch this myself!"

AL DAVIS: "I have a funny feeling about this, though, Satan. How do I know this isn't one of your tricks? When we had our "deal" on Earth you screwed me a few times. The Lytle fumble. The Immaculate Reception."

SATAN: "Al, Al, you are forgetting the good things I did for you and the Raiders. Getting Willie Brown to Oakland from the downtrodden Broncos in the 60's. And of course arranging for Josh McDaniels to be Broncos head coach."

AL DAVIS: "You're right Satan. I forgot about McDaniels. That was a biggie. Ok I'm in. How about the refs? Will one of your crews be working the game?"

SATAN: "Sorry Al. My boys can only work one Denver/Oakland game a year. Remember that personal foul call on the Broncos defense in the final 2 minutes that clinched the Monday night opener for the Silver and Black? That was my crew. Thought I'd give you one last Raider victory over the Broncos to enjoy in your last days as a thank you for your many years of service to the cause."


AL DAVIS: "Satan - you did it to me again!!!! 31 points in the second half by the Broncos??? Tebow running for 118 yards & passing for two td's??? My Raiders losing 38-24 to the lowly Broncos??? Oh the agony!!!!"

SATAN: "Where do you think you are, Al, Heaven? One of my better tortures if I do say so myself. I could have done without Tebow thanking the Big Guy after the game though."

AL DAVIS: "One last question, Satan. What was Carson Palmer doing as quarterback of my Raiders? Last time I saw him he was roasting hot dogs at a USC tailgate party in September!"

SATAN: "To add to your sentence down here, Al, I arranged for the Raiders to trade 2 future #1 draft picks to the Bengals for the 31 year old quarterback. How do you like that?"

AL DAVIS: "No!!!!! No!!!!! Not that!!!! This will guarantee years of awful Raider football!!!!"

SATAN: "And I'll make sure you have a front row seat to watch it all."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tebowing better than watching Tebow

On Saturday and Sunday I had two flights from New York to Denver canceled due to an unexpected snow storm. Our bus driver said it was only the second time it had snowed in New York in October in 120 years! Sadly, I missed getting home to watch the Broncos/Lions game in Denver. But it didn't turn out so bad ...

My wife and I took a tour of New York on Sunday, which gave me a chance to participate in the new craze, "Tebowing". Here are a few pictures:

Tebowing at the Empire State Building -

Tebowing at Rockefeller Center -

Tebowing at Strawberry Fields in Central Park -

Tebowing at the Statue of Liberty -

The Broncos lost to the Lions Sunday 45-10 and Tim Tebow had a bad day. I still wonder if he has the ability to star in the NFL as I wrote in this blog after the Broncos drafted Tim:

"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."

Still one game is not enough to close the chapter on Tebow's NFL career. I hope the Broncos keep starting him for the rest of the year. I'm rooting for him to succeed.

I do know that "Tebowing" around New York City on Sunday was a whole lot more fun than watching the real Tebow struggle against the Lions!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Caption this - lloyd/orton

When I visited Bronco training camp this summer I noticed Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd talking to each other a lot during warmups. What do you think they were saying?

I posted this question to a couple of bronco fan bulletin boards and got these responses:

"Kyle, don't look yet. See that number 15 and number 9 out there to my left?
I ain't catching no balls from those dudes."

"Richard Quinn can't even follow directions to stretch, $5 says he gets cut."

Brandon Lloyd: "Ok Kyle.. so what you are telling me is that if I rip Tebow in the media before the season starts it will help you get the starter job... but what if you suck again and Tebow ends up being the starter by the BYE week? Then where does that leave me with a pissed off Tebow who will feed the ball to every receiver but me?"
Neckbeard: "Me lose? c'mon man.. that'll never happen.. I'm a born winner. You've seen me practice..."

Lloyd to Orton, "no, he's not looking at you now, but don't look, keep pretending like you're talking to me.

Orton: "don't worry man I don't care if someone else is open, I'm locked on to you, only you"

What do you think Orton and Lloyd were talking about?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Visit to Avalanche Training Camp

I visited the Colorado Avalanche training camp for the first hour of practice today (at the Family Sports Center in Englewood). I've never been to training camp in the 17 years the Avalanche have been in Denver so I wanted to see what it was like.

I've been to football training camps a few times (Broncos and CU). In comparison the Avs camp is almost all scrimmage and live game action. I liked that. I saw on a 2nd rink some teaching going on but the main rink was pretty much all scrimmage after the warmups.

I arrived 15 minutes early and all the seats were full. I stood in a corner and watched the action below me. There are not a lot of seats so if you visit training camp arrive early.

I was very close to the ice; this faceoff was right in front of me:

New Avalanche Goalie Semyon Varlamov will be a key to the team's chances this year. In this scrimmage he looked OK to me (with a quick glove hand). I'm anxious to see him vs the Red Wings on opening night (a game I will be at!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's going to be a long season (broncos)

Some quick thoughts about the Broncos/Raiders game last night after a short night of sleep (got home after 1 a.m., up at 5:30 am for a Tuesday morning meeting):

Pictured to the left is our Raider fan "friend" who was sitting in our section last night, reminding us often of how great his Raiders were and how bad our Broncos looked (this shot was after Sebastian Janakowski's record tying 63 yard field goal). I'm afraid Mr Raider fan is right.

Last week I made my annual bronco predictions based on the outcome of the 1st game. I wrote I'd be looking for these things in the first game:

"The Bronco pass rush has no doubt improved with Elvis Dumervil back and rookie Von Miller on the other side. How will this duo perform in "real" NFL action against an offense game planning against them, instead of the basic offensive schemes they faced in the preseason?"

The verdict: Oakland did an excellent job of scouting the Broncos defensive weaknesses. The answer to a strong outside pass rush? Run draws up the middle to the heart of the soft Bronco defense. After a big gain on a draw early in the game the outside pass rush of the Broncos wasn't as effective.

"Is the Bronco run defense improved? Last year the Raiders ran for 328 yards and 5 td's in their blowout 59-14 win at Denver. Monday night will be a good test for the Bronco defense."

The verdict: Not really. The Raiders Darren McFadden ran for 150 yards (a 6.8 yards per carry average). In the game's concluding drive, when the Broncos only needed a stop to give their offense a chance only down by 3 points, Denver could not stop the Raiders rushing attack.

"Will Bronco rookie right tackle Orlando Franklin hold up against the Raider pass rush? Franklin looked good in the run game in the preseason, but struggled in pass protection at times."

The verdict: Franklin did OK for a rookie. He was called for holding a couple of times but generally held his own in pass protection. Franklin was the least of the Bronco worries on offense last night.

The game really wasn't as close as the 23-20 final. The Raiders dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Kyle Orton, despite 304 passing yards, had one of his worst games as a Bronco (the "lowlight" being dropping the ball and turning it over to the Raiders when he had tight end Fells open for what could have been the go ahead score in the 4th quarter). The Broncos again showed a lack of a running game and had problems scoring in the red zone.

It wasn't all bad. Eric Decker had an amazing 90 yard punt return td and several good receptions. I wondered why the Broncos weren't throwing to Decker more (Eric only had 3 catches) with his teammates having trouble holding on to the ball. Decker's punt return style reminded me of Bronco great Billy Thompson in Thompson's rookie year. Thompson, not the fastest returner, would catch the ball and run it right down the field (with no "knowshon" dancing around). Decker showed that same style on his big return.

Still the Broncos looked bad Monday night. I suspect my two year streak of picking the final bronco won-loss record based on the results of the first game might end this year. I picked 5-11 if the Broncos lost to Oakland. As our Raider friend above would agree, 5 wins may be too much for this bunch.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Colorado Buffs just miss an upset over the Cal Bears

I attended my first Colorado home game in five years on Saturday and it was a great one! Colorado lost to Cal 36-33 in overtime in a very entertaining game. Here are some of the pictures and videos I took.

Our seats were high in the South End Zone, section 209.

Though we were only 10 rows from the top of the stadium we had a great view of the field on a beautiful September day in Boulder.

The Colorado band entering the stadium.

And playing the Colorado Fight Song before the game.

The highlight of the pregame festivities is the run by Ralphie the Buffalo leading the home team on the field.

We had a great view of the action, especially when the action was near the South End Zone.

The CU students dressed in gold stood for the entire game.

The rest of the stadium was packed, too.

The Buffs tied the game in the final minute to force overtime. Here's the view of that field goal attempt from our seats.

But the Buffs lost in overtime 36-33. Though disappointed with the ending, this was a great day of college football in Boulder.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Going for the three-peat: my 2011 bronco predictions

This year I again will be predicting the Broncos final win-loss record based on the results of the first game.

Two years ago I wrote this:

"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."

The Broncos did beat the Bengals, did start out 4-0, and did finish 8-8.

Then last year I wrote:

"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."

The Broncos did lose to Jacksonville, won at Tennessee, but in the end the team did finish with a 4-12 record as I predicted. At the time that was seen as a very pessimistic prediction.

Now I am not claiming to be Nostradamus - I could easily have missed on that 2009 prediction if it weren't for that miracle finish in Cincinnati - but I do think the first game tells a lot about what type of team the Broncos will have for the current season. Things I'll be looking at for that opening Monday night game against the Raiders:

The Bronco pass rush has no doubt improved with Elvis Dumervil back and rookie Von Miller on the other side. How will this duo perform in "real" NFL action against an offense game planning against them, instead of the basic offensive schemes they faced in the preseason?

Is the Bronco run defense improved? Last year the Raiders ran for 328 yards and 5 td's in their blowout 59-14 win at Denver. Monday night will be a good test for the Bronco defense.

Will Bronco rookie right tackle Orlando Franklin hold up against the Raider pass rush? Franklin looked good in the run game in the preseason, but struggled in pass protection at times.

On to the predictions ...

If the Broncos beat the Raiders Monday night, they'll get off to a surprising 4-1 start before finishing the season with 8 wins and 8 losses. I'm calling for early season upset wins at Tennessee and against San Diego at home. The long season will wear on the Broncos shallow depth, however, and much like 2009 they won't finish the season as strong.

If the Broncos lose to the Raiders Monday night, they'll only improve slightly from last year's 4 win total, finishing with 5 wins and 11 losses. The Broncos have everything going for them Monday night - first home opener in years, sellout crowd against their most hated rivals, and a new coaching staff to put the nightmare McDaniels years behind them. If that is not enough to beat the Raiders, it will be another long season. I do think even if the team does finish with just 5 wins the future looks bright. The 2011 college draft looks better than the previous two years under McDaniels. John Elway and the new management team just needs a few years to rebuild the roster.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

South Standers Welcome Back "Half A Loaf" Lou in a Bills/Broncos 1973 Preseason Game

As I look forward to attending the Bills/Broncos preseason game Saturday night I think back to a memorable moment in a Bills/Broncos preseason game in 1973.

On a Saturday night ex-Bronco coach Lou Saban returned to Denver for the first time as Buffalo's coach after 4 1/2 years of losing seasons as the head man in Denver. I grew up going to games in the South Stands, and on this night the South Standers had a special "welcome back" surprise for Coach Saban.

The game Lou Saban was most known for in his Denver tenure was a 10-10 tie with the Miami Dolphins during the 1971 season's opening weekend. In that game the Broncos got the ball with less than 2 minutes to go on their own 20 with the score tied. Rather than try to win the game, Saban called three plays on the ground to run out the clock. I heard the boos all around me in the South Stands as the fans were not happy with Saban's conservative play calling. After the game Saban was asked why the Broncos did not try to win the game. "Half a loaf is better than none," was Lou's reply, satisfied with the tie.

That remark was the beginning of the end for Lou Saban in Denver, who thereafter was always known as "half a loaf" Lou to the Denver fans. Saban resigned as Broncos head coach mid-season in 1971.

Back to that 1973 Bills/Broncos preseason game. South Standers tend to hold a grudge. When Lou Saban and the Bills took the field that Saturday night suddenly I saw half loaves of bread flying out of the South Stands from all around me onto the field. I'm not talking one or two loaves - it was hundreds! I did not get word of this mass South Stand protest myself, otherwise I would have invested $1 in a loaf and joined in the fun!

Sadly, I don't see the same spirit as those old South Standers had at Bronco games today. When I was at a Bronco QB Club meeting earlier this week the four retired Bronco vets commented how the team had lost its home field advantage moving from the old Mile High. The crowd noise and fan fervor just isn't the same at the new place.

I read this week that the Broncos home field is going to be renamed "Sports Authority Field At Mile High". As the Denver Post reports, one of the first interior changes will be to paint many of the interior pillars with:


Are you kidding me??!! I can imagine Al Davis and Raider Fans are laughing at what the once mighty Bronco home field advantage has become. This phrase sounds like something dreamed up by a marketing executive rather than a true Bronco fan.

While we can't throw stuff on the field anymore, like those 70's South Standers used to do, when the Raiders visit on opening weekend I say a loud "Boo!!!!!!" will suffice.

PS Those days when Lou Saban coached the Broncos weren't all bad. Read about the top 5 Bronco wins I remember from the Saban days in a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.

PSS Trivia question: Without looking it up, who scored the only touchdown for the Broncos in that 1971 Dolphins game? This player was later traded for one of the greatest Broncos of all time, a Ring of Famer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Visit With Four Bronco Old Timers

Who is the only Denver Bronco offensive lineman to catch a touchdown pass from Craig Morton and John Elway?

I discovered the answer to this question and more at a meeting of the Denver Bronco Quarterback Club on August 15, 2011.

Bronco veterans Dave Studdard, Haven Moses, Tyrone Braxton, and Ron Egloff (pictured left to right) spent one hour answering questions from the fans attending. My impression of each:

Dave Studdard: He is the answer to the trivia question! He told of catching a td pass from Craig Morton in the great comeback win over Seattle in 1979 (the Broncos came back to win that game after being down 34-10 in the 3rd quarter). Studdard was full of jokes throughout the night and seemed to be enjoying his retirement from pro football. A TV was showing the Texans/Jets preseason game and Dave said "my son is playing in that game!" When asked about Tim Tebow Studdard didn't think much of the young bronco qb. "There's a reason 31 of the 32 NFL teams passed on him," Studdard said.

Haven Moses: The oldest vet and one of the heroes of the 1977 Bronco Super Bowl team, Haven gave a number of interesting observations on his playing career and the game today. He praised the fans and said the 77 team's relationship with the fans was an important part of the Broncos success that year. He said players back in his day were much more involved in the community than today's players (and that today's players make a lot more money!). He said the 1977 Broncos really put team goals ahead of individual accomplishments. He was asked about the recently completed collective bargaining agreement. He said not much attention was given to the older players in the negotiations but he does hear their pension may go up from $200/month to $1000/month. Moses was another old Bronco that didn't think Tebow deserved to start over Kyle Orton, and he thought the Broncos didn't treat Orton well in benching Kyle for Tim late last season.

Tyrone Braxton: Tyrone also had praise for the Bronco fans, "without the fans there would be no football". Tyrone currently works for the State of Colorado at the Gilliam Youth Dentition Center. He is actively involved in mentoring the youth at the Center, and recently organized a football "training camp" at the Center along with ex-Bronco Tom Nalen. On Tebow Tyrone likes Tim's heart and said Tim's commitment to training reminded him of John Elway. Elway led offseason workouts in Tyrone's day. When Tyrone played a year with the Dolphins he noticed Dan Marino wasn't near as dedicated to workouts as Elway was.

Ron Egloff: Ron is very involved in the Broncos alumni, organizing basketball, golf, and charity appearances. Egloff commented how Haven Moses torched the Raiders for two touchdowns on a frozen field in the 77 AFC Championship game (a special memory).

Overall it was an entertaining meeting to reminisce about better days with these old Bronco vets. As I was leaving I shook Haven Moses' hand and said "thanks for 77" (as a 21 year old I sat in the South Stands that year for the AFC Championship and other home games). Haven replied, "we'll get back there." He is still a Bronco at heart.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bronco training camp in pictures 8/4/11

I made my annual visit to Denver Broncos training camp on August 4th. Here are some pictures and early impressions of the team:

The Broncos have a nice setup for visiting fans as you can sit close to the action on one sideline. This night started out rainy so it diminished the size of the crowd some. My son and I sat on the 20 yard line and found much of the action was on our end of the field.

All eyes were on Tim Tebow. He looked the same to me as last year. He is not as accurate a passer as Orton and Quinn, but he is always a running threat.

Here's a shot of Tebow making a good gain after scrambling out of the pocket. He still has the tendency to run from the pocket too soon. The Broncos also worked on several designed running plays with Tebow (including option plays). I wouldn't be surprised if we see Tebow used much like last year in short yardage situations if he doesn't win the starting job.

Orton looked the best of the quarterbacks to me - much more accurate than Tebow on the short to intermediate passes. On this night Orton's long passes were off as he missed on several big gains.

I didn't see Orton and Tebow interact much at all during the practice. Orton did spend a lot of time talking to Brandon Lloyd during the stretching period. I'm sure Lloyd is happy to have Orton still around.

Brady Quinn looked much more composed to me than he did last year when I visited camp. The difference between Quinn and Orton wasn't that much.

Knowshon Moreno has slimmed down from last year, and there were a number of times he was split wide in a formation. I still like Knowshon as a receiving threat. On this night I thought Willis McGahee looked the best of the running backs. Willis is bigger than Knowshon and had one nice run on a cutback where he showed good burst through the line.

I've read rookie tight end JT Thomas has been the surprise of camp and I thought he looked good tonight.

Rookie offensive tackle Orlando Franklin is huge! He'll be an asset in the running game but I sure wish the Broncos had re-signed Ryan Harris. Franklin is going to need some work in pass protection.

Robert Ayers (#91) looked beefed up to me compared to last year when he played linebacker. I liked how Ayers played the run last year before he got hurt and I think he can be more effective at his natural position this year of defensive end.

I thought the receivers as a whole looked very good. Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal are breakaway threats while Eric Decker (#87) gives the team some size at the wideout until Demaryius Thomas comes back.

Speaking of Demaryius (#88) he watched practice and is supposed to be back later in the year. It was good to see he was out of a cast as he recovers from a torn achilles.

Head coach John Fox oversaw the practice, pretty much letting his assistants do the coaching while stepping in periodically to talk to a player (like here with Brandon Lloyd)

The practice concluded with a goal line drill, with all the players gathered around cheering their offensive and defensive units, respectively. The highlight here was a great stick by rookie linebacker Nate Irving dropping a running back for a loss. I didn't notice #1 pick Von Miller much tonight but I was paying more attention to the quarterbacks and offensive skill positions.

Overall it was another good visit to camp. It is rare that you can get this close to see NFL players in action.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Time for O'Dowd to go?

The Rockies Saturday night traded their best pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, to the Cleveland Indians for a bunch of prospects. I hate to see the Rockies resort to trading their top talent in order to get more depth in the organization. If General Manager Dan O'Dowd and the scouting department had done their jobs right this decade depth would not be a problem.

When O'Dowd first came to town in 1999 I was a Rockies season ticket holder. I attended O'Dowd's first meeting with the season ticket holders in the club level at Coors Field. I remember sitting right behind new manager Buddy Bell. I was not that impressed with Bell at the time and thought "I sure hope O'Dowd is right about him". The Bell hiring was one of several mistakes O'Dowd has made in his tenure.

O'Dowd's master plan as he outlined it that day was to eventually have a continuing flow of young talent from the minor league system. This plan has not come to fruition. Hyped prospects like Ian Stewart, Chris Ianetta, Dexter Fowler, Chris Nelson, and others just haven't produced at the major league level as expected. Instead the team has to resort to trades and marginal veteran free agent signings to make up for past draft mistakes. Ubaldo did not have to be dealt for salary reasons like Matt Holliday. He had a club friendly contract for a pitcher of his caliber for a couple of more years.

The O'Dowd regime has done some good things in Denver (including finding a talent like Ubaldo). And from a baseball standpoint the Jimenez trade doesn't sound terrible. The Cleveland prospects are decent. Maybe the Rockies are right in dealing Jimenez now if Ubaldo's struggles this year are a sign of long term problems. Regardless, if the organization had the depth it was suppose to Ubaldo would not have needed to be traded.

Because of the lack of production overall from the farm system I think after the season is over it is time for a change at the top. O'Dowd has had 12 years to build a productive minor league talent pipeline, and it just hasn't happened.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Worst Bronco moment

On NBC's Pro Football Talk today they are asking what is the worst Broncos moment since the last work stoppage.

I weighed in with this comment:

Losing the 2006 AFC Championship game at home to the Steelers. The Broncos were 8-0 at home that year, and had never lost an AFC Championship game at home in their history (3-0). Whoever won that game was going to beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. How different would Mike Shanahan’s resume be if he had 3 Super Bowl wins (and 1 without Elway)? Cutler probably would not have been drafted (Plummer as a SB winning qb is just fine, thank you). Win that game and Shanahan still is Broncos head coach today.

Other than that, McDaniels horrid player personnel decisions, such as trading a future #1 for Alphonso Smith, and then giving up on Smith 1 year later.


I didn't even mention the great playoff win against the Patriots the week before which made this Steeler loss especially hard to take. Pittsburgh came in with a starting rookie quarterback with a thumb injury - I was really shocked the Broncos lost this game. And it had long term implications that we Bronco fans are still feeling to this day.

I haven't been blogging much in the last few months but plan to start again as we enter the busy Fall sports season (hopefully the NFL and NBA get their labor problems solved!)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Colorado Buffs Spring Football Practice

I attended the first hour of the scrimmage today. No pictures allowed inside - as you can see from the photo I took entering the practice fields it was a beautiful spring day. My impressions:

Senior Tyler Hansen looks really good - easily the best quarterback out there. He threw a beautiful deep touchdown pass to a streaking Paul Richardson up the sidelines. I was watching on the sidelines as the ball came sailing towards me - the ball was perfectly placed and Richardson showed good speed and hands on that play. Besides that pass Hansen was pretty much on target all scrimmage. The offense featured a number of short passes to the tight end and backs with some deep passes mixed in when Hansen was taking snaps.

Hansen better not get hurt as the other quarterbacks were not impressive. Nick Hirschman was throwing floaters, many of which were not accurate. "Keep it down or get off the field!!!" I heard a coach bark from the sidelines (probably qb coach Scherer) after one of Hirschman's errant throws. Hirschman looked better in pre-scrimmage work, but once the hitting started he was off. On another play he was stripped of the ball on a sack with the defense recovering. Junior college transfer Brent Burnette didn't pass much in the series I saw - the Buffs mostly worked on their running game that series.

In addition to the td catch Richardson was very impressive. He made a great one handed catch on another Hansen pass.

At RB Speedy was Speedy (Rodney Stewart looked good). One player I was not familiar with, Josh Ford, had a nice long run up the sidelines, showing good elusiveness and speed.

On defense none of the cornerbacks stood out. I saw Makin Pugh, Deji Olatoye, Jered Bell, and Hunter Harrison playing cornerback. On the roster sheet it said Harrison is ineligible for this year. Replacing two top corners will be a big priority for the Buffs this year. Conrad Obi and Eric Richter provide good size in the interior of the defensive line though I didn't think they were disruptive today.

I've attended a few scrimmages when Dan Hawkins was the coach and I could tell the culture has changed. Hawkins was pretty much a passive observer letting the assistants coach. New head coach Jon Embree gets into it. Embree was yelling at players throughout the scrimmage. "You are better than that, #22!!!" he barked on a goal line drill ( think that was directed at Arthur Jaffee). Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy was vocal, especially in goal line drills. When one of his backs scored he'd yell "go celebrate!!! go celebrate!!!" Playing with emotion is a high priority for Bieniemy. The other coach who was yelling alot was wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy.

Overall, I thought the offense looked pretty good with Hansen at quarterback. No one stood out to me on defense though I was focusing more on the play of the quarterbacks, running backs,, and wide receivers. I feel good about this staff and I look forward to the days when they have better talent to work with. Before then the Buffs just better hope key players like Hansen and Richardson stay healthy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thumbs up on the Carmelo trade

I liked the Carmelo Anthony trade to the NY Knicks earlier this week from the Nuggets end. Carmelo wanted out of Denver and the Nuggets got a good package considering the circumstances. Two players coming to the Nuggets I especially like:

Danilo Gallinari 6'10 forward

I've had my eye on Gallinari since the Fall. In preparation for my annual fantasy draft I had targeted Danilo as a player I wanted, and one of the better up and coming young players in the NBA. I drafted Gallinari in the 4th round of my league, which drew some surprise responses from other owners. Danilo did start the season slow, hampered by an injury, but he's been playing much better recently.

What drew me to Gallinari was this scouting report I read in the Basketball Prospectus before the season:

"It’s hard not to compare Danilo Gallinari to Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani. They’re both tall. They’re both Italian. They were both high lottery picks. They both like to shoot a long ways from the basket. Whereas Bargnani has developed in fits and starts, Gallinari’s second year showed a clear progression over his first. He looks like a legit starter in the NBA with the potential for more to come.

Gallinari is already one of the NBA’s deadliest perimeter shooters, and last year’s .381 mark from behind the arc could prove to be on the low end of what he shoots from long range. However, he is more than just a spot-up shooter. Gallinari attacked the basket to get a fifth of his shots at the rim, where he converted at near the league average despite lacking strength. Gallinari also drew fouls at an above-average rate. 21 percent of his shot attempts were long twos, and while the .380 he shot there isn’t terrible, you’d like to see him get that up to a Korver-esque .460 or so. Otherwise, he needs to cut down on that portion of his game.

Gallinari’s passing skills improved as well, but they’re still not quite as good as they need to be, particularly if he ends up playing a lot of shooting guard this season. On defense, Gallinari is way better than expected. He moves well and uses his length to bother shots. Teams look at him and drool like he’s a New York strip, so 20 percent of his defensive possessions came against isolations. (And why wouldn’t you isolate him? He looks like a tall 12-year-old.) He responded by allowing .860 points per play in those situations, which puts him right at the league average. If he plays more twos, however, he’ll probably suffer against isos. The rest of Gallinari’s defensive profile looks solid. He’s a future All-Star."

This highlight reel of Gallinari last season shows he has talent:

The other player I like in the deal is Timofey Mozgov, who shows good mobility for a big man in this highlight reel:

Also coming to Denver are nba regulars Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton making the Nuggets one of the deepest teams in the league, albeit without a superstar like Anthony.

In watching the post trade Nuggets last night, before the arrival of the new players, they reminded me of Larry Brown's first Nuggets team in the 70's. A running team that plays good defense with no established star. That 1974-75 Nuggets ABA team had the best record in basketball (65-19) and an amazing 40-2 record at home.

The key to successful basketball in the Mile High City is to play the running game. Visiting teams not accustomed to the high altitude are no match for a well conditioned Nuggets team. In listening to Nuggets coach George Karl last night that is exactly his plan - to run and play good defense - and he now has two former North Carolina point guards to coordinate that style of play (Ty Lawson and Felton).

Like many Denver basketball fans I will miss Chauncey Billups. With the 34 year old Billups, though, the Nuggets played a slower half court game to setup Anthony.

While Carmelo Anthony was a great talent, I think he was one dimensional. A great offensive player but a liability on the defense. I think the Carmelo Anthony Nuggets had their best chance for an NBA title in 2009. That year they reached the NBA Western Conference Finals and outplayed the eventual champion Lakers in the first two games (splitting those games 1-1). The Lakers rebounded to take the Series 4 games to 2, and swept Orlando in the Finals. Carmelo played well in the Laker series, but not at the superstar level needed to carry the Nuggets to the championship.

I am hearing younger fans lament the loss of Anthony and that Anthony led the Nuggets to their best basketball in team history. I disagree. The 70's Larry Brown Nugget teams were better playing an up tempo style. Perhaps the 2011 Nuggets will play like those 1974 Nuggets with no established super star. It'll be fun to watch.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sharpe can in part thank Wade Phillips for the HOF

Congrats to Shannon Sharpe for his Hall of Fame induction notice over the weekend. One key head coach in Sharpe's NFL career may come as a surprise: Wade Phillips.

Wade had an uneventful two years as Bronco head coach in 1993 and 1994, and he didn't do well as the Cowboys head coach either (fired midseason in 2010). The one thing Wade did do as Broncos head coach was recognize the unique talent he had in Sharpe. Phillips featured Sharpe prominently in the Denver offense; Shannon's 81 receptions in 1993 and 87 receptions in 1994 on Wade's Bronco teams were the highest single season totals of his whole career. Compare that to Sharpe's 7 catches in his rookie season and 22 catches in his second season under Dan Reeves. In Sharpe's 3rd year under Reeves he did better (53 receptions and 2 td's) but hardly the Hall of Fame type of numbers he put up under Phillips and later in his career.

Sharpe was a 7th round draft choice by Reeves and I think for a couple of seasons Dan didn't know what to do with him. Too slow to be a wide receiver and too small to be a tight end. Wade Phillips recognized Sharpe as a unique hybrid type of player, and featured Sharpe prominently in 1993 and 1994. John Elway, when commented about Sharpe over the weekend, said Shannon gave defenses matchup problems. Sharpe was too big to be covered by the typical cornerback, and too fast to be covered by a linebacker.

I wonder what current Bronco player can blossom under new coach John Fox's direction, just like Sharpe did under Wade Phillips. My early vote goes to Robert Ayers. Ayers had a good start to his 2nd season before breaking a foot. Entering his third season, I think Ayers will be more at home in Fox's planned 4-3 defense as a defensive end, rather than the linebacker Josh McDaniels tried to make him to be.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

CU Football Recruiting lunch

Today I attended the annual University of Colorado recruiting luncheon at the Hyatt in downtown Denver. I've been to this lunch 3 times in the past (all under the Dan Hawkins regime). As you might guess today's lunch was a more upbeat positive event compared to those past lunches.

Pac 10 commissioner Larry Scott opened the lunch saying he was impressed with the enthusiasm of the CU fan base and that in visiting the other schools in the conference those schools are telling him CU is a great fit for the Pac 10. In the spirit of recruiting, he brought new CU head coach Jon Embree on the stage and gave him a Pac 10 hat to welcome Jon to the conference.

Next Eric Bieniemy, former great CU running back and current offensive coordinator, said a few words. EB said it was great to be back. He described his recruiting trip as a high school senior, where he came over the hill on US 36 to see all the snow and the city of Boulder with the Flatirons in the background. He knew then that this was the place for him, and over the years it became a special place. He said buffs "always run in packs" and "I was coming all along" if anyone doubted he would return to Boulder after missing out on the head coaching job. He then introduced Rashaan Salaam, CU's only Heisman trophy winner.

Salaam was soft spoken, saying he was not much a public speaker, but then he went on to give a moving account of his growing up years and recruitment to CU. He told of playing 8 man football in San Diego when coach Mac and Brian Cabral recruited him to CU. He read a letter that he wrote when he was a kid playing Pop Warner football. In that letter he said he wanted to win the heisman trophy and play for the LA Raiders for 16 years. He said in that letter he wanted to buy his mom's elementary school, turn it into a college, and put a statue of his Mom outside. Fast forward to the present day, Rashaan told how he can't wait for the alumni like himself to be more active in the program again. As part of the day's fund raising, people could buy a picture taken with Salaam and the heisman trophy. I thought bringing Salaam back was a nice touch to the luncheon, and keeping with the theme of the day of emphasizing the football tradition at CU.

No CU football luncheon would be complete without a speech by former coach Bill McCartney. Coach Mac was in fine form once again, saying that it was hard to contain the joy he was feeling, that the Buffs are on the verge of something great. Two things make him optimistic: joining the Pac 10 is a perfect fit for the program, and Embree and his staff are a great choice to lead the Buffs.

Coach Mac told a story that he liked to tell recruits in his day. He said a survey was done of all the universities in the country grading them on a 1 to 5 scale in 3 areas: social, academic, and quality of life. No school scored a 15. Four schools scored a 14, and CU was one of those. CU was the only school of those four that played Division I football. The message: this program has alot to offer recruits.

He then went on to say how Embree is the right man to lead the program. He told the story of how Embree was the leading high school player in Colorado, yet Embree turned down USC, UCLA, and Ohio State to sign with a then downtrodden Buff program. In his sophomore year Embree set a record for receptions by a tight end (51) including 8 in a game against UCLA. The next year, though, Coach Mac switched to the wishbone, an offense that does not feature the tight end. "Whatever is best for the team," was Embree's reply when Jon was told of his new role as a blocking tight end. Mac said that set the stage for Jon being a great coach, as a coach often has to emphasize the team over the individual in his players. Mac said the staff Embree has assembled "matches up" to any staff he had at CU (and as you know Coach Mac had some great staffs in the CU glory days)

Coach Mac finished comparing the state of the program to limestone, that with heat, pressure, and time limestone will be transformed to marble. He said the program is not ready to dominate the pac 10, not by a longshot. He encouraged those in the crowd to give the new staff time, to fill Folsom on Saturdays, and to help financially with the program.

Coach Embree was next, and he spent most of his time talking about his new staff:

Greg Brown - in the nfl 15 years, coached both of CU's Thorpe winners. The current DB's are excited to work with Brown as defensive coordinator

Tuiasosopo dline - coached with Meyer at utah, coached at utah state when they had great lines. Can teach, good at establishing relationships with kids

Kanavis McGhee dline - embree had his eye on kanavis as a coach for a long time, and had told Kanavis wherever he was a head coach, Kanavis would be joining him no matter what "even if it was at UTEP"

Brian Cabral linebackers run game coordinator - the only assistant to get a standing ovation, Embree complemented Cabral for "righting the ship" (his interim coaching stint) and told a story of Cabral's recruiting prowess in Hawaii.

JD Brookhart special teams, tight ends - grew up with Jon. JD was a successful businessman when he contacted Embree asking how he could get into coaching. Brookhart worked for Shanahan for 2 years, and at Pitt.

Steve Marshall - great at working with different personalities to get them to gel as a unit, like the 2001 CU offensive line that destroyed Nebraska 62-36. Worked in the NFL for 6 years and then at Cal.

Bobby Kennedy - Boulder native returning home, successful at Texas with Biletnikoff award finalists. Good recruiter.

Rip Scherer, qb coach - Embree said in looking for a qb coach he asked 5 of his contacts in the NFL for recommendations. Scherer was the only name on all 5 of the lists. It took awhile to get him to CU but he'll pay dividends - a great teacher of technique

Eric Bieniemy - Embree told how he got EB into coaching initially. He prepped EB for his interview with Barnett for the job as CU running back coach. Barnett was so impressed he stopped the interview after 10 minutes and told Embree "you set me up - you knew EB would be good". EB and Embree coached together at CU and UCLA. At UCLA they were coming off a 10-2 season when they both left for the NFL within 2 weeks. "Our goal was always to come back to Boulder together," said Embree

Jayshon Sykes - a great help in the transition between staffs

Darian Hagan - an example of a team player, Darian took the role of recruiting coordinator and played a big part in the successful recruiting of the current crop. Embree eventually wants to get Hagan back on the field coaching.

Embree then talked about his philosophy. He wants to change the standard of how "we do things. Instead of hoping to win, expect to win. Even next year." He wants to bring traditions back, such as putting a gold brick in the wall at Dal Ward when the Buffs beat a top 25 team (the brick is gold, the score is in black). He wants the first brick to be the win over Hawaii to open the 2011 season.

On the recruiting process, Embree said he spent the first 2 weeks meeting with every player to find out what the team had, emphasizing the weight training and academics for each player. He then spent alot of time putting the staff together and watching film of every game. He thought the current team was not balanced (with only 2 quarterbacks for example) and the goal of recruiting was to fix that. He told the staff on recruiting "we have 13 days to get this done and we can't miss." While there were 6 or 7 he wanted that the Buffs didn't get, "we flipped 7 commitments from other schools."

The class as a whole brings athleticism, speed, and toughness - three characteristics he wants to build in the Buffs. "Even the offensive guys will hit you" He didn't talk about the individual recruits much but singled out the 2 Colorado signees (Mustow and Daigh) and emphasized how he wants to do well recruiting Colorado in the future.

A highlight film, narrated by Buff announcer Mark Johnson, was then shown of each of the recruits. I was especially impressed with running back Malcolm Greer's balance on one run, and his stiff arm on another run. The sheer size of Stephan Nembot was also impressive.

To conclude the luncheon the new staff took the stage to sing the CU fight song with the crowd.

It was a fun and inspiring day for Buff football fans and an indication that better days are ahead. I attended Dan Hawkins first luncheon and I must admit I was fooled by Hawkins at first (thinking he'd be successful at CU). In comparing that lunch to Embree's today I would say Hawkins talked alot about himself. Hawk said during that lunch "you know who the division 1 coach with the best winning percentage is? You are looking at him!" Embree by contrast today talked about putting the team above the individual (also emphasized by McCartney). Bringing back successful coaches and players from Colorado's past to lead the Buffs into the Pac 10 is a good move. I expect next season will have its struggles, but as Coach Mac said I think the Buffs have the right leadership in place now and fans just have to give them time.