Tuesday, December 16, 2014

David Treadwell at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

Former Broncos place kicker David Treadwell was the guest tonight at this month's meeting of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  Treadwell had some interesting comments about the current Broncos team and about his playing days in Denver.

Treadwell thinks the Broncos are playing their best football right now.  He likes how the offense has changed since the St Louis loss - "we can't just rely on the pass anmore.  The running game is much better and the defense has stepped up," he said.  He thinks if the San Diego game was one month ago the Broncos would have lost.  The one concern he has with the team right now is the linebacker depth.  "We are down to playing our inexperienced guys," he said.  Though the Broncos do like rookies Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson.  "Unlike the offense I like a lot how Jack Del Rio (Broncos defensive coordinator) plays all his guys," Treadwell said.

On the Broncos kicking game Treadwell is happy to see Conner Barth handling field goals and Brandon McManus as the kickoff man.  I asked when he was with the Broncos did he mind that he was in a similar situation - with Treadwell doing the place kicking and Brad Daluiso doing the kickoffs.  "Not at all," Treadwell said.  "Kickoffs were from the 30 yard line back then and Brad had a stronger leg.  Having Brad to the kickoffs kept my leg fresh for field goals.  When I did both jobs my leg would get tired late in the season."  Treadwell said the 53rd man on the roster is usually just a special teams guy, anyway, so he didn't see a big difference with the 53rd man being a kickoff specialist now (McManus) instead of a returner (Isaiah Burse).

Treadwell was asked why the Broncos let Matt Prater go.  While Treadwell was reluctant to share all he know about the situation, he did say Prater had a drinking problem and the Broncos knew Prater would be suspended back in April.  The Broncos wanted Prater to go to rehab before training camp which Prater did not do, and then Prater had a mediocre preseason kicking the ball.  The Broncos had enough and let Prater go, plus they liked the potential of Brandon McManus.  Treadwell said in his time with the Broncos coach Dan Reeves would help players with alcohol problems since Reeves' brother was an alcoholic.  He said Reeves even tried to help golfer John Daly with his drinking problems, and had Daly out to Broncos practice several times, yet Daly never could beat the bottle.

Treadwell was asked if CJ Anderson should have been the #1 back in the preseason.  "CJ came into mini camp overweight, and that set him back.  CJ was told if you don't lose weight, you won't make the team," Treadwell said.  He felt Montee Ball was the best all around back headed into training camp based on Ball's pass protection and play late last year, but then the appendectomy set Ball back and in compensating for that Ball injured himself further.  Treadwell thinks CJ is the Broncos best back, now that CJ is in shape, and that Ball could still be effective next year once Ball gets healthy.  Ronnie Hillman is best suited for a Darren Sproles type of role (3rd down back) and not as a runner between the tacklers.

On the NFL rule proposal to narrow the goal posts, Treadwell thinks it would have an impact.  He said when he was at Clemson he practiced with narrower goal posts and when he got into a game the distance between the regulation goal posts looked huge.  He did say it was more difficult to kick in college than the NFL since in college the hash marks are farther apart.

I asked Treadwell what his most memorable field goal was for the Broncos.  He said the 28 yard field goal to win the playoff game against Houston in the 1991 season.  In that game the Broncos had a great drive at the end (Treadwell labeled it "the Drive II") converting two fourth downs.  He said on that play coach Dan Reeves had told holder Gary Kubiak to throw an incomplete pass if the snap was bad, because the field goal try was on 3rd down.  Well the snap turned out to be one of the worst of the year, with the ball rolling back to Kubiak.  Treadwell had to stop in his motion but still was able to make the kick.  "Why didn't you throw the ball away??!!" Reeves asked Kubiak as Gary returned to the sideline, not enjoying the moment of victory as much as Reeves could have.

Treadwell had other interesting comments about the current Broncos and his days in the NFL.  I always enjoy these Bronco QB club meetings with a chance to hear from NFL insiders like Treadwell and the opportunity to ask questions.  Treadwell was great in answering our group's many questions and in signing autographs afterwards.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Visit to Bronco Headquarters

Tonight I had the opportunity to visit the Denver Broncos Headquarters at Dove Valley with the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.

The Broncos are doing lots of renovations to their facility.  Here's a picture of the new lobby area:

The trophy case is much bigger than when I visited last year.

The Broncos two Lombardi trophies highlight the display.  Plenty of room to add more of these - how about another one in February?!

In front of the Lombardi trophies were the Broncos two championship rings.  Here's a closeup of one:

After some time in the lobby, we were escorted to another building to be in the audience for the Broncos Huddle weekly TV show taping.  Along the way we got a view of the practice field.  Notice the hill where the fans sit during training camp.  This area has been extended and all the trees have been removed. 

The new indoor practice facility, completed in November, towers over the complex.  Joe Ellis of the Broncos later told us this is one of the most modern indoor facilities in the NFL, with a full 120 yard practice field and 9 yards of space on the sidelines.

Then it was back inside for the Broncos Huddle taping.  We sat in the audience and listened to Channel 9's Rod Mackey and player host Emmanuel Sanders talk about last week's game.

The player guest on this week's show was Broncos running back CJ Anderson.  Here CJ demonstrates to us how he carries the football to avoid fumbles.

Mackey asked Sanders how it liked the run oriented offense the last two games.  "I love it!" Sanders replied.  "CJ brings another dimension to the offense," Sanders said.  CJ received lots of praise from Mackey and Sanders, and responded humbly, "Give it to the big fellas up front.  I try to run to the open space they create."  CJ said he's not the fastest guy, but "I like to be nasty in my running style.  This is what you are going to get for 60 minutes."  Sanders said, "That's the type of running back you want in the cold games of December and January, where the defenses are wearing down."

Sanders remarked how CJ worked hard in practice early in the season despite not seeing much playing time.  Sanders asked CJ if he had any advice for youngsters watching.  "Your dreams never die until you give up on them," CJ said.

After the TV recording finished, Broncos President Joe Ellis came out for a special question and answer session just for members of the Quarterback Club.  I asked him if the renovations will be ready for training camp next summer.  "Yes," Ellis replied, "we want the fans back for training camp."  Ellis went on to say there will be more room for fans, with a new concession area and bigger team store.  Fans will get to peek through the glass of the indoor practice facility, too.

Ellis was asked the status of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.  "He's doing the best he can.  His Alzheimers is now in an advanced stage and it is difficult for him and his family." Ellis replied.

Ellis told us the renovations included a new kitchen.  The Broncos no longer have to bring in catered food.  Rather they have their own chefs now and cook everything on site.

Ellis answered other questions.  He recognized our club's 50th anniversary this year.  How often do you get a chance to meet with the President of an NFL franchise in a small group setting?  The Denver Broncos Quarterback club gave me that opportunity tonight!

Overall it was a fun and informative evening to get a behind the scenes look at how the Broncos operate.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rick Upchurch at the Bronco QB Club

New Denver Broncos Ring of Famer Rick Upchurch inspired a crowd of long time fans at the dinner meeting of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club on Wednesday night.

In introducing Rick I told of my first memory of his outstanding career.  On September 21, 1975 I was a 19 year old sitting in the South Stands at the old Mile Hi Stadium watching Rick's first game in the NFL.  And oh what a game he had!  Three receptions for 153 yards, including a 90 yard touchdown pass from Charlie Johnson.  A 13 yard TD run off of a reverse, 88 yards in kickoff returns, 30 yards in punt returns, for 284 total yards.  A Bronco rookie record that still stands to this day.

This was only a hint of the great career Rick would have.  A four time Pro Bowler, a five time Associated Press All Pro, named to the 1970's All Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and more - Rick's induction into the Broncos Ring of Fame earlier this season was long overdue.

Rick told us of his growing up years in Ohio.  Chicago Bears great Gayle Sayers was his hero, and he would imitate Gayle's moves while playing with his dog in the backyard of his family's Toledo, Ohio home.  In high school he played baseball and ran track.  Baseball was in Rick's roots - his grandfather played in the Negro Leagues.  "Baseball is a sissy sport," his track coach told him at the time. This coach encouraged Rick to try out for the football team. 

"You are never going to be anything," Rick's aunt would tell him.  Rather than becoming discouraged, Rick used his aunt's words to prove her wrong, to motivate him towards bigger goals.  "Any negative can be a positive," Rick says he tells kids today.  "Every bad play means we can get better."

After a stellar college career at the University of Minnesota, Rick was drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 1975 draft.  Rick relates, "John Ralston didn't want me."  The Broncos head coach was encouraged to draft Rick from assistant coach Doc Urich, the team's Big 10 scout.  "Doc said if I wasn't rookie of the year, he'd buy the coaching staff a steak dinner," Rick said Urich told him years later.  "John Ralston told Doc 'if Upchurch isn't rookie of the year - you're fired!'"  Rick was to prove Urich right with his amazing first game and impressive rookie season.

A deeply spiritual man, throughout his stories Rick would tell what his faith meant to him.  "God has a plan for us," Rick says.  "He will point you in the right direction when you pray.  God carries me on my journey - He's had me in His hands all the time."

Rick recalled the miracle 1977 team that defeated the mighty Oakland Raiders to earn a spot in Super Bowl XII.  Earlier that year the Broncos had upset the Raiders in Oakland.  "It's all over fat man!" linebacker Tom Jackson yelled at Raiders coach John Madden.  "Keep it down, Tom! We have to play these guys again!" Rick recalls telling Jackson.  Sure enough, the Raiders easily defeated the Broncos in Denver two weeks after this upset, but the Broncos were to have the last laugh with their AFC Championship win.  "We thought we'd beat Dallas in the Super Bowl," Rick remembers. "I thought we were evenly matched, but we had the edge in special teams."  While the Broncos did lose to the Cowboys that day, Rick had an 86 yard kickoff return that led to the Broncos only touchdown, and got Denver back in the game in the second half.  That return was the Super Bowl record for longest non-scoring kickoff return for many years.

Rick has fond memories of the Broncos fans, and now that he is back in Denver (having recently moved here with his wife Donna) he wants to reconnect with his many supporters.  "It was you fans that helped this man grow," he told the QB Club crowd.  "When times look like they are bad, you cheer the team on."

Today Rick is battling leukemia.  Though in remission the past two years, Rick still undergoes chemo therapy every day.  "My white blood cell count was 130,000 when I was first diagnosed," Rick said.  "Being inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame came at just the right time," his wife Donna said.  

I've been attending Denver Bronco Qb Club meetings for over 10 years, and this was one of the best.  Rick Upchurch was gracious in signing many autographs and telling stories of his playing days.  Donna had told me this was not one of Rick's best days health wise, but he did not want to let the fans down and he kept his Bronco QB club commitment.  You would have never known Rick was having health issues as he was positive, smiling, and engaging the whole evening with every fan he met. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hockey excitement is back in Denver, but did the Avs overachieve last year?

Between periods of last night's Colorado Avalanche home opener the team picked a lucky fan who would win a car if the Avs scored in the first 30 seconds after the intermission.  The fan never had a chance!  The Avalanche not only failed to score in the first 30 seconds for this fan, they haven't scored a goal in their opening two games.

It was good to see excitement about hockey and the Avs back in the Mile Hi city.  I took the above picture at the opening faceoff.  As you can see the game featured a sell out crowd with everyone in their seats for the drop of the first puck.  The Avalanche' excellent video department had another good pregame production last night:

Unfortunately the game did not match the pregame hype.  The Wild again outplayed the Avalanche, winning 3-0.  While I don't consider myself as knowledgeable about hockey as I am about football, here's what I noticed last night:

  •  If Tyson Barrie doesn't get hurt in last season's first round matchup against the Wild , the Avs win the series.  I thought Barrie was the best player on the ice for the Avs.  For a franchise who has had trouble finding a good "offensive" defenseman in the past, the Avs now have a good one in Barrie.
  • The new additions didn't impress me.  jarome iginla seemed a step slow.  At one power play he was playing the point - what's up with that?  He needs to be in front of the net on power plays.  Iginla is a notorious slow starter so there's still hope he can return to the 30 goal level he was at last year with the Boston Bruins.
  • Minnesota had a power play in the first period where they had 9 shots on goal and the puck never left the zone.  It was the most dominant power play I've ever seen without a team scoring.  The Wild are very good and if they continue to get good goaltending, like they did last night from Darcy Kuemper, they will be tough to beat.
  • Goalie Sergei Varlamov was solid in net, showing the same form as last season when he was a Vezina trophy finalist (given to the NHL's top goalie)
The Avalanche now go on the road for four games, including matchups with eastern powerhouses Boston and Montreal.  A key to the surprise season last year was the Avs fast start (winning their first 6 games and 12 out of their first 13).  This year could be the opposite, as I see the Avs could be 1-5 or worse after this tough road trip.

It's too early to give up on this team yet.  The Avs still have a good base of young talent (MacKinnon, Landeskog, Duchene, and more).  But I think they are more of a borderline playoff team this season, which was the expectation going into last season before the team's surprise division title.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Good Year, but the Broncos won't get as far as they did in 2013

Every year I post my prediction on this blog before the first game for the Denver Broncos season. Here are my thoughts for 2014:

The Broncos will again have a successful season, winning the AFC West with a record of 11-5.  They will not make it to the Super Bowl, however,  losing on the road in the playoffs at New England.  Reasons?:

1.  The Broncos have a difficult schedule this year, being matched with the NFC West for their out of conference games.  Playing the defending Super Bowl champ Seahawks on the road in addition to the 49'ers and Cardinals are tougher matchups than the NFC East teams the Broncos played last season.

2.  The Broncos again draw New England on the road in the regular season, where they have lost the past two seasons.  New England figures to be stronger this year with Rob Gronkowski back at tight end and a full off season to address their depleted defense (adding Darrelle Revis at cornerback).  While Denver overcame the Patriot loss to still claim the AFC West #1 seed in each of the past two seasons, I don't see that happening in 2014.  The home field advantage will be key in the playoffs, allowing the Patriots to beat the Broncos on their home turf in the AFC Championship game.

3.  The Broncos ARE improved in 2014, provided they stay healthy.  The defensive additions of Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and TJ Ward will give the team a better defense.  However Ware and Talib have been injury prone the last two seasons and I wonder if they can stay on the field for the full 16 game schedule.

4.  Peyton Manning will again have a stellar season.  The Broncos will miss Knowshon Moreno, though, with Montee Ball not matching Knowshon's 2013 production.

5.  Seattle looks awesome.  They remind me of the young 1993 Dallas Cowboy team that won their first Super Bowl the previous season, and were even better the next year in winning the championship again.  Having Percy Harvin for a full season, the continued maturation of quarterback Russell Wilson, and the best defense in the NFL will lead the Seahawks to a second straight Super Bowl title.

Playing Seattle on the road in game 4 will be the litmus test for this 2014 Broncos team.  Will the improvements on defense, a beefed up offensive line (with Ryan Clady back), and a full offseason for offensive mastermind Adam Gase to figure out how to attack the Seahawks D lead to a different result than Super XLVIII?  The Broncos don't have to win this game, but if they can play the Seattle close and neutralize Seahawk's pass rush, that'll be a good sign that Denver can exceed my predictions above.  That's what I'm hoping for.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PGA Tour Comes To Denver

This Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a practice round for the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver - the first PGA tour event in the Denver area since the International at nearby Castle Pines closed shop in 2006.  Cherry Hills is a storied course that has hosted three US Opens, including the 1960 US Open - considered by golf historians one of the greatest tournaments ever.  That championship featured Arnold Palmer coming back from seven strokes behind on the final day to win, edging out golf legend Ben Hogan and a young Jack Nicklaus.

Arnold Palmer's 1960 victory is still remembered fondly around the course, including this plaque at tee box #1.  Palmer was to drive the green and make a birdie on this 345 yard par 4 hole.  Could today's golfers perform the same feat?

We were fortunate to find a viewing balcony immediately behind the first tee.  The format this day was a "pro-am", with a PGA tour pro playing 18 holes with three amateur partners.  The amateurs paid $12,000 each for this privilege!  Here PGA Pro Henrik Stenson meets his playing companions.

What I liked best about our position behind the first tee was how close we could get to each golfer - we had an unobstructed view.

The best drive we saw this day was from Sergio Garcia, who hit a powerful shot to the green, 345 yards away.  "Best shot of the day," said a Cherry Hills official monitoring the first tee.


Sergio's Spanish heritage was evident from his choice of golf club covers on his bag!

The highlight of the day was the opportunity to follow the number one golfer in the World around the course for a few holes - Ireland's Rory Mcilroy!

 We could get very close to Rory during his round.  Though small in stature compared to some of the other players we saw, no one can hit a golf ball farther than Rory.

It was fun to see Rory's long tee shots from behind.

I also enjoyed seeing some of the legendary holes at Cherry Hills.  Here is the island green on hole 17.  Ben Hogan hit into the water on this hole ending his hopes of winning the 1960 Open.

I hope the BMW Tournament will lead to the PGA Tour returning to the Denver area for future tournaments.  I have a feeling Cherry Hills will host another US Open or PGA Championship some day, now that the course has been modified for today's big hitters.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Three incredible Avalanche home games (Minnesota series 2014)

Avalanche/Wild Game 5, 4/26/14

I've been to all the Avs home playoff games so far and they've been incredible.  Game 1 had the end of game drama (with the Avs avoiding a loss in the last seconds then winning in OT), Game 2 showed the amazing skills of Avs rookie Nate MacKinnon with some of the prettiest goals you'll ever see, Game 3 was a combination of games 1 and 2 (late game drama and Mackinnon stars again)

Watching Nate MacKinnon reminds me of the feelings I had as a Denver Broncos fan in 1983 during John Elway's rookie season.  I could tell Elway had the tools to be a future Hall of Famer, and I looked forward to many fun seasons of watching the Broncos with Elway under center.  MacKinnon's reign as one of the top players in the NHL has just started (he's only 18 years old!)  Barring injury Nate will give Avalanche fans many years of thrills ahead, just has he has done in the playoffs so far.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Playoff hockey is back!

The Pepsi Center was rockin last night! I took this picture from the cheap seats at the opening faceoff. I've been to most Av playoff games since the 90's (I was even at the only Colorado Rockies playoff game in 1978 vs the Flyers) - there is nothing like playoff hockey!

Last night's thrilling, come from behind 5-4 Avalanche win in overtime will go down as one of the best playoff games ever in Denver. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Rooftop At Coors Field

Wednesday afternoon my wife Anne and I took in an afternoon Rockies game at Coors Field - the first Rockies game we've attending in three years.  I have always been a Rockies fan, and once I had season tickets in the 90's, but in recent years I have found it more difficult to attend games in person.

On this sunny April day, though, I wanted to once again see the Rockies with my own eyes to check out this season's team and see the changes to Coors Field.  The most prominent change is the new Rooftop section (shown above) high above the right field wall.

The Rooftop draws quite a crowd, even for this game on a weekday afternoon where the overall attendance at 20,000 was less than what the Rockies typically draw on the weekends.  For most games rooftop tickets are $14 which includes a $6 concession credit.  Ticket buyers can choose to stand in the rooftop area or sit in the general admission section of Coors.  If you choose to stand, arrive early to get a spot on the rail for a view of the field!

Here's a picture I took before the game from the rail on the Rooftop.  As you can see, you are far from home plate, and balls hit to the wall in right field are not within view.  Still this section allows fans to be part of the action for a bargain price.

Also featured as part of the Rooftop are a variety of food and drink options.

Away from the action fans can relax on these comfy couches and watch the game on the hi-def monitors.

Not needed on this sunny day, but for those cold early season night games fans can warm up next to this fire pit behind the concession area.

Here's the view from the general admission section that rooftop ticket holders have access to.  Our seats were in another section, but after the second inning we chose to sit in general admission for the shade and cool breeze at the top of the stands.

Would I purchase Rooftop tickets for a future game?  Probably not, as I had trouble picking up the flight of the baseball from this far away.  I prefer the upper deck behind home plate, where I used to have my season tickets, if I don't want to pay the higher prices of the lower level or club level.

Still I think the Rooftop is a good addition to Coors Field.  It drew a younger crowd this day, most of whom seemed more interested in socializing than watching the game itself.  But that's OK - part of the beauty of baseball with its slower pace is enjoying the sunshine and the company of the people you are with.

For more information on the Rooftop check out this FAQ from the Rockies.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cure for the Super Bowl Blues - Listen to Cecil Lammey!

Last night I attended a talk by ESPN's Cecil Lammey, one of my favorite NFL analysts, at a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club meeting.  Bronco fans have been in a general state of depression after the blowout Super Bowl loss to Seattle in February.  Not to worry, according to Cecil, the future looks bright.  "John Elway has always turned negatives into positives," Cecil says.

Cecil reviewed John Elway's history, going back to when Elway was originally drafted by Baltimore.  The Elways did not want John to play for the Colts owner, Robert Irsay, or the Baltimore coach, Frank Kush.  John worked his way out of this by forcing a trade to the Broncos.  Turning a negative into a positive.

Then once with the Broncos, Elway played for a coach who stunted Elway's growth with very conservative game plans.   Run-Run-Pass was a common 1st-2nd-3rd down play strategy under Reeves.  Did John get depressed?  No!  Instead he used his time under Reeves to work on his touch passing, a skill that served Elway and the Broncos well with the Bronco Super Bowl teams later in his career.  Again John turned a negative to a positive.

Cecil mentioned other disappointments in Elway's career as a player and GM.  The Jacksonville playoff loss in 1996, the Baltimore playoff game in 2012, losing Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator last year - with each negative Elway turned the situation to a positive.  Fans can have hope he'll do it again after the Seattle Super Bowl loss this year.

Cecil had other "insider" nuggets he shared with the 60+ club members in attendance:

1.  In the 2012 draft the Broncos liked 3 quarterbacks: Russell Wilson, Brock Osweiler, and Nick Foles.  Wilson and Foles have already had success early in their NFL careers, and according to Cecil Osweiler will, too, when he gets his shot after Manning retires.  Osweiler has improved his footwork and throwing motion greatly while serving as Manning's backup the last two years, and Peyton's mentoring has helped, too.  "Don't believe xxx who says Osweiler won't be the next Bronco quarterback after Peyton retires," said Cecil.  "Brock can be the starter.  He would have been the first qb taken in the 2013 draft had he stayed in school."

2.  The Broncos would have drafted Russell Wilson had Peyton Manning not signed with the Broncos, according to Cecil.  When Cecil asked Wilson how he'd like being a backup to Tebow at the 2012 NFL Combine, Wilson was confident he'd be the starter.  "I want to be known as a passer, not a runner," Wilson told Cecil at the time.

3.  The Broncos have their own tradition of success to build on.  They are not trying to be a copycat of Seattle.  New free agent signee TJ Ward is a strong safety in the Steve Atwater mode - a hitter and trash talker.  He could provide a swagger to the defense that has been missing since Al Wilson retired.  Champ Bailey was a great player, but he didn't talk much.  Ward is different; he can be a vocal inspiring leader for the team.  Free agent cornerback signee Aqib Talib has a great attitude now, according to Cecil's sources, after having some discipline problems in his younger years.  Talib adds toughness to the secondary - a quality the player he replaces, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, did not have. The 3rd free agent signee, Demarcus Ware, was so excited to be a Bronco he was shaking the podium at his initial press conference.  Cecil thinks Ware, in addition to his pass rush skills, will be a good mentor to Von Miller, filling the leadership role Elvis Dumervil had two seasons ago with the team.  Ware was playing out of position with a bad elbow last year.  In watching film Cecil thinks Ware still has it and can get double digit sacks next season.  Ware is an upgrade over Shawn Phillips.

4.  The Broncos still need a middle linebacker.  The best in this draft class is CJ Mosely of Alabama, a MLB who can cover and thus can play all three downs.  The Chicago Bears, though, love Mosely so the Broncos would have to move up 17 spots in the first round to have a shot at Mosely.  Unlikely?  Probably, but Elway has a way of getting things done. 

5.  Eric Decker did not want to leave the team.  Decker was one of the most upset players after the Super Bowl loss.  This was Decker's one shot to get big money in free agency.  Cecil thought he'd get a contract in the 5 years for 50 million range but Decker signed for less than that.  Cecil was surprised Decker signed for less than what the Dolphins Brian Hartline got - Decker is the better player.  Still the Broncos were not going to pay him that much - Denver never made an offer.

6.  He doesn't expect the broncos to sign an offensive lineman in free agency.  An unknown who is still on the team is 2013 6th round draft choice Vinston Painter, a tackle, who could help.  He doesn't think Orlando Franklin will be successful if he moves inside to play guard.

7.  Adam Gase is a future head coach - a rising young star.  Cecil likes John Fox but Gase could be the next great Bronco coach.  Gase and Manning yell at each other in practice, Gase as a young coach was not intimidated by Manning and got the best out of Peyton this season.

I asked Cecil what he would recommend for the Broncos to draft.  He threw out some names of his favorites:

Round 1: You never have enough pass rushers.  Dee Ford Auburn defensive end. "He has a great 1st step and loves the game."

Round 2: Very deep draft for wide receivers.  Broncos should be able to get a good one in this round -
Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt - a "decker clone".  Clutch, great hands.  Jerry Rice's cousin.
Jarvis Landry LSU - not an athletic freak but knows how to get open
Paul Richardson Colorado - in combine workouts Cecil couldn't tell much difference between Richardson and the clear #1 choice at wr this year (Sammy Watkins).  Richardson should be a top 15 pick based on ability, this year's Desean Jackson, but he'll slip due to his injury history and slight build.  Cecil thinks Richardson will be this year's Keenan Allen (the Chargers prize 2013 rookie who went in the 3rd round last year). 
Cecil hopes the Broncos do not draft Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State who Cecil thinks is overrated.

Round 3: Middle linebacker such as Chris Borland of Wisconsin or Stanford's Shayne Skov.  Skov plays with an attitude and could appeal to Elway who wants a tougher defense

Round 4: Chris Davis Auburn.  Can play nickel corner and be the return man to replace Trindon Holliday.  Davis was the hero of the Alabama/Auburn game with his missed field goal return to win the game.

Late round sleeper: Isaiah Crowell alabama state.  He was a freshman phenom, Adrian Peterson like.  He was kicked out of Georgia on a weapons charge.  He's a good kid according to the Alabama State coaches but will slip because of his checkered past.  "He could be the best back in the draft," says Cecil.  Will he be willing to accept a backup role and play special teams? That's a question mark with Crowell.

The running backs are better in this draft class than in 2013.  25 draftable backs.

Zac Dysert is not the answer as 3rd string Broncos QB, in Cecil's opinion.  The Broncos had a private workout with Wyoming's Brett Smith who the team likes.  Smith wasn't invited to the combine yet was better than most of the combine qb's.  Bryn Renner of North Carolina is another late round possibility - Renner has the endorsement of Peyton Manning.


Overall it was a great evening of football talk from Cecil.  I could have listened to him for another hour.  It got this Bronco fan excited about the 2014 season, rather than thinking back to that disappointing Super Bowl loss.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Worst Bronco Super Bowl Loss Ever

Well, so much for my NFL prognostication skills.  My pick of the Broncos over the Seahawks "by 10 to 20 points" was way off as Seattle easily defeated Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl 48.  I think this was the worst Bronco Super Bowl loss ever.

Before I get to that, in my game prediction I was right about what to "fear" about the Seahawks:

"Why Seattle has a chance:
Turnovers.  Seattle's defense is opportunistic, and Peyton Manning has thrown crucial interceptions in playoff losses in the past (like his game clinching interception to Tracy Porter in Super Bowl 44, and his overtime interception in last year's Baltimore playoff game which led to the Ravens victory that day."

Turnovers really hurt the Broncos this game, starting with the first snap that sailed over Peyton Manning's head for a safety.  The biggest play of the game was when the Broncos, down 15-0, were driving for a score late in the first half only to give up a 69 yard interception return for a TD to Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith.  A 22-0 deficit at the half is a whole lot worse that 15-7.  The Broncos had four turnovers in the game to the Seahawks' none.

"The preseason game.  The Seahawks beat the Broncos in this season's preseason matchup, winning 40-10.  The preseason doesn't mean much, you may ask?  Well that day Seattle physically dominated Denver, even when the starters for both teams saw action in the first half.  Over the years I've seen physical teams like the Seahawks beat finesse teams like the Broncos in playoff games more often than not."

I felt like I was watching a replay of the preseason game, in that Seattle physically dominated Denver in the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks punished the Bronco receivers and got more pressure on Peyton Manning than I expected.

"Percy Harvin.  Seattle wide receiver Percy Harvin has missed most of the season due to injuries.  He is reportedly healthy now and will be a key player for the Seahawks on Sunday.  The last time the Broncos faced Harvin, when he played for Minnesota, he had 156 receiving yards, 2 td's, and also carried the ball 5 times out of the backfield.  The multipurpose Harvin is also a threat on punt and kick returns. "

Percy Harvin was HUGE in the Super Bowl.  A factor in the first half in the rushing game (2 rushes for 45 yards), Harvin clinched the game for the Seahawks with a kickoff return for a TD to start the second half.

"Russell Wilson's mobility.  Bronco fans are sure to remember the scrambling ability of Tim Tebow from the quarterback position.  Seattle's Russell Wilson has that ability to make plays with his feet, too, and with a much more accurate arm than Tebow has"

Wilson was able to convert several key third downs with his scrambling ability - either running for the first down or avoiding the Bronco rush to complete a pass.  Wilson was not sacked in the game.

So why do I think this was the worst Bronco super bowl ever?  The Broncos have only been favored in two Super Bowls that they ended up losing - this one and the 42-10 loss to Washington in Super Bowl 22.  Most Bronco fans, including me, really thought they'd win both games.  The Washington game at least had a thrilling 1st quarter, where the Broncos scored on their first play from scrimmage (a long pass from John Elway to Ricky Nattiel).  Denver led 10-0 after the first quarter in that game before falling apart. This Seattle Super Bowl had no such redeeming moments.  The Broncos were out of it right from the very first play.

Still, it was a fun season, with Peyton Manning and the Broncos record setting passing game and with two very satisfying home playoff wins to reach the Super Bowl.  And as much as the loss stings this longtime Bronco fan, at least the franchise HAS won a couple of Super Bowls.  That makes this loss easier to take.  I think of the Buffalo and Minnesota NFL fans whose teams have never won the Vince Lombardi Trophy (in 8 attempts).  Many other teams, like Cleveland and Detroit, have never even reached the big game.

I predicted this Super Bowl would be the reverse of the 1977 Denver Dallas Super Bowl.  In reality it was very similar to that game.  The Cowboys Doomsday Defense dominated the Broncos back then (the Broncos had 8 turnovers in a 27-10 loss).  Seattle repeated the feat in this season's Super Bowl, winning the turnover battle and shutting down the vaunted Bronco offense.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Reverse of 77: I pick the Broncos over Seahawks in the Super Bowl

Turn the clock back to the Broncos first Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 1977 season.  Denver, led by the best defense in the league, a terrific home field advantage, and just enough offense to be dangerous beat two perennial power house teams at home in the playoffs (the Steelers and defending Super Bowl champ Raiders) before meeting Dallas in the Super Bowl.  That veteran Cowboy team handled the upstart Broncos easily, 27-10.

The Seattle Seahawks this year remind me of that 77 Broncos team.  With the best home field advantage in the NFL and the #1 defense, Seattle beat what I felt was a superior San Francisco team in the NFC title game in a highly emotional game.  Just like the Broncos beat a better Oakland team to win the AFC in 1977.  The clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Broncos in Super Bowl XII, just as I feel it will for the Seahawks in this year's Super Bowl.  I believe the Broncos will win.

Now I admit I am a Broncos homer, a lifetime fan and long time season ticket holder.  On this blog I correctly picked the Broncos playoff wins over San Diego and New England.  Super Bowl 48 won't be a slam dunk for the Broncos, I'll give some reasons to fear the Seahawks below, but I think in the end the Broncos experience in the big game at the quarterback position will win out.

Why I like the Broncos to win on Sunday:

Peyton Manning.  He's had the best season of his career, he's healthy, and he has one Super Bowl championship under his belt.  By contrast Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is only in his 2nd year making his first appearance in the Super Bowl.  Wilson struggled with his passing in his last four games, only passing over 200 yards once.  Manning is coming off a 400 yard passing game vs New England in the AFC Championship.

Other Super Bowl Experience.  Broncos head coach John Fox lost a Super Bowl when he was coaching Carolina, and he was New York's defensive coordinator for the Giants 2001 Super Bowl team.  In addition to Manning, the Broncos have Wes Welker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and exec John Elway who have played in the big game before.  Seattle's head coach, Pete Carroll, has never been to a Super Bowl as a coach or a spectator, and little used receiver Ricardo Lockette is the only Seahawk with any Super Bowl experience.  The history of the Super Bowl is full of losing teams that made their first appearance in the game (like those 77 Broncos).

Denver's rushing defense.  Seattle's biggest threat is running back Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Seahawks two playoff wins.  The Broncos enter the Super Bowl playing their best rush defense of the season, holding the Chargers and Patriots to under 70 yards rushing in each game.

Today's NFL.  An old axiom is "good defense always beats good offense".  That no longer applies in today's pass happy NFL, where teams with good offenses have had success in the Super Bowl.  Three of the past four Super Bowl winners have scored over 30 points in the game.  

Why Seattle has a chance:

Turnovers.  Seattle's defense is opportunistic, and Peyton Manning has thrown crucial interceptions in playoff losses in the past (like his game clinching interception to Tracy Porter in Super Bowl 44, and his overtime interception in last year's Baltimore playoff game which led to the Ravens victory that day.

The preseason game.  The Seahawks beat the Broncos in this season's preseason matchup, winning 40-10.  The preseason doesn't mean much, you may ask?  Well that day Seattle physically dominated Denver, even when the starters for both teams saw action in the first half.  Over the years I've seen physical teams like the Seahawks beat finesse teams like the Broncos in playoff games more often than not.

Percy Harvin.  Seattle wide receiver Percy Harvin has missed most of the season due to injuries.  He is reportedly healthy now and will be a key player for the Seahawks on Sunday.  The last time the Broncos faced Harvin, when he played for Minnesota, he had 156 receiving yards, 2 td's, and also carried the ball 5 times out of the backfield.  The multipurpose Harvin is also a threat on punt and kick returns.  

Russell Wilson's mobility.  Bronco fans are sure to remember the scrambling ability of Tim Tebow from the quarterback position.  Seattle's Russell Wilson has that ability to make plays with his feet, too, and with a much more accurate arm than Tebow has.

Yes, the Seattle matchup won't be easy for Denver.  I expect Sunday's game to be close through three quarters, with the Broncos pulling away at the end to win by 10 to 20 points.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My pick: Broncos over Patriots in AFC Championship game

This morning I have a feeling of excitement I've only had five other times in my life - the anticipation of attending an AFC Championship game in Denver.  I will get to my prediction on today's game in a bit.  First a brief look back at those other AFC Championship games:

January 1, 1978: Denver 20 Oakland 17
Whatever happens today, it will not top this game in terms of what it meant to the Broncos franchise and to the city.  A first time playoff team, the Broncos had beaten the powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers the week before and faced another tall test in the defending Super Bowl champion Raiders.  "The Broncos are going to the Super Bowl!!!!" was long time Bronco announcer Bob Martin's call as the final seconds ticked off the clock.  This game was the best sporting event I ever attended in Denver.

January 17, 1988: Denver 38 Cleveland 33
A rematch of the historic "Drive" game of the year before, this high scoring affair had its own drama at the end when Cleveland's Earnest Byner fumbled as it appeared he was going in for the tying touchdown in the final seconds of the game.  I was in the South Stands and had a clear view of the fumble - the transition from impeding doom to exhileration among the bronco fans in the stadium was something I'll always remember.

January 14, 1990: Denver 37 Cleveland 21
The only easy victory of the AFC Championship games played in Denver, this game did not have the drama of the previous Broncos/Browns title matchups.

January 17, 1999 Denver 23 NY Jets 10
The Jets were ahead 10-0 in this game in the 3rd quarter before the Broncos stormed back with 23 straight points to win going away.  On a very windy day in the last playoff game played at the old Mile High Stadium, this one was tense for more than one half of the game before John Elway and Terrell Davis got it in gear in the second half.  Current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was the Jets defensive coordinator that day.

January 22, 2006: Pittsburgh 34 Denver 17
The only AFC Championship loss at home for the Broncos, this game was the reverse of the 1990 game.  Pittsburgh raced out to a 24-3 lead in the first half and the Steelers were never challenged.  Many Bronco fans rate the 1996 season Jacksonville playoff loss as the worst home loss in franchise history.  I disagree - I think it was this game.  In 1996 I doubt the Broncos would have won the Super Bowl as they would have faced a Green Bay team at its peak under Brett Favre.  If the Broncos had beat Pittsburgh I am confident they would have won the Super Bowl against an overmatched Seattle team as the Steelers did two weeks later.

On to today's game.  I'm confident the Broncos will win.  The weather will be good (high in the 60's with little wind) - perfect for Peyton Manning and the Broncos pass oriented attack.  Manning has all his weapons for this game (they didn't have Julius Thomas for the first New England game, and Welker missed some games at the end of the season).  Losing Chris Harris is no doubt a blow to the Broncos defense but they've had all week to come up with a plan to compensate for that, not an in game decision like what happened against the Chargers.  Tom Brady historically has not played well in Denver.

I'd feel very differently if the game was in New England (before the season I predicted an AFC Championship game loss for the Broncos assuming the game would be at the Patriots' home field).  Of the previous 5 afc title games in Denver I was most confident the Broncos would beat the 6th seeded Steelers and their rookie quarterback in 2006, and least confident they'd beat the Raiders in 1978.  Both of those games did not turn out like I expected, so a Patriots win today would not be a total surprise to me.  But my gut tells me the Broncos are headed to the Super Bowl later this afternoon.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Expect Peyton's revenge on Sunday

Peyton Manning's team had the division title all but wrapped up when they faced another AFC playoff contender in a December regular season home game.  Manning's high powered offense was sure to beat this marginal AFC playoff hopeful right?  Wrong!  This AFC team upset Manning's team that day, in one of the biggest surprises of the NFL season.

The San Diego Chargers defeating Peyton Manning's Broncos last month in Denver?  No, the season I am referring to was 2003, when the Denver Broncos beat Manning's Colts in Indianapolis in the second to last game of the season.  The Broncos won that day with a strong running game (136 yards from Quintin Griffin and a defensive scheme that confused Manning, holding Peyton to 146 passing yards and no td's.

That 2003 Denver upset was very similar to this season's Chargers win in Denver.  San Diego kept the ball away from Manning with a strong running game, just like the 2003 Broncos did from Peyton's Colts.

Was the 2003 Bronco win a preview of what would happen when the two teams met in the playoffs two weeks later, again on Peyton's home field?  No!  Manning's Colts easily won the playoff rematch, 41-10.  Whatever Denver did on defense the first game did not work in the rematch.

I expect the same type of result tomorrow.  Peyton Manning, with two weeks to prepare for the Chargers, will have a much better day than he did in the regular season Charger game.  Fans seem to think that because San Diego played Denver so tough in the December regular season game, that they can duplicate the result in the playoffs.  I think Peyton gets his revenge against the Chargers and the Broncos win on Sunday, just like Peyton's Colts got their revenge against the 2003 Broncos in the playoffs.