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.