Thursday, December 28, 2017

My Top Ten Colorado Sports Moments of 2017

Nolan Arenado's walk off game winning homer for the cycle is #1 on my "Top Ten Colorado Sports Moments of 2017" (photo courtesy of MLB)  Here's this year's list:

10.  Avalanche 4 NY Rangers 2, Opening Night, 10/5/17 - The 2016/17 season was one to forget for the Colorado Avalanche.  "The 22-56-4 record, for 48 points, not only was by far the franchise’s worst in its 21 seasons in Denver, it was the worst in the NHL since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers went 14-57-7-4 for 39 points," as reported in the Denver Post.  The surprising win on the road in the season's opener, on the league's biggest stage (Madison Square Garden) signaled that better times were ahead for the Avalanche. While the Avs are still out of a playoff position at year's end (17-16-3 as of 12/28), the team is on the upswing and the opening night win against the NY Rangers was a start to a much better season.

9.  Nuggets 96 Golden State 81, 12/23/17 - I had my top ten list all set then the Nuggets worked their way into my list with a stunning road win against the defending champ Warriors just before Christmas.  The win stopped Golden State's 12 game winning streak.

8.  Avalanche trade Matt Duchene, 11/5/17 - It was no secret Matt Duchene, the #3 pick overall in the 2009 draft, wanted out.  Duchene demanded a trade over a year ago, and Avs GM Joe Sakic received much criticism as Sakic failed to make a deal over the many months of Matt's discontent.  But in the end Sakic got a great haul for Duchene - promising young defenseman Sam Girard, other prospects, and a bunch of draft picks.  After the trade Nathan MacKinnon stepped up his play to become one of the best players in the NHL this season.  Well done, Joe Sakic!

7.  Gary Kubiak resigns as Broncos head coach, 1/2/17 - Just one year after winning the Super Bowl, Gary Kubiak resigns as Broncos head coach.  Any Bronco coaching change is big news, and this one was more of a shocker given the success the Broncos had achieved under Kubiak.

6.  Rockies 2, LA Dodgers 1, home opener, 4/7/17 - The first of four Rockies moments on my list. The Rockies home opener is always a special event on the Denver sports calendar, and this win was extra sweet as home town boy Kyle Freeland wins his first ever start in the majors in front of a sellout crowd at Coors Field.

5.  Broncos 42, Dallas 17, 9/17/17 - The only Bronco game on my top 10 list.  Everything went right for the Broncos this day as they beat America's team (the Dallas Cowboys) in an early season stunner.  The season as a whole was a big disappointment for Denver fans, but at least for one day the Broncos were the talk of pro football with this dominating performance.

4.  DU Pioneers 3, Minnesota-Duluth 2, National Championship Game, 4/8/17 - The DU hockey team wins its 8th National Championship with a narrow, nail-biting 3-2 win over Minnesota-Duluth.  The Pioneers stellar 2017 and championship gave Denver hockey fans something to cheer about in lieu of the Avalanche' disappointing season.

3.  Rockies 3, Atlanta 0, 8/14/17 - In his first game back after a cancer diagnosis in the spring, Rockies starter Chad Bettis pitches seven shutout innings at Coors Field to defeat the Braves.  Bettis comeback and amazing performance made news beyond baseball, inspiring many whose lives have been affected by this debilitating disease.

2.  Rockies 10, White Sox 0, 7/9/17 - Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland's second appearance on my list, as he takes a no hitter into the 9th inning against the White Sox.  Freeland ends up pitching a one hit gem in what I rate as the best performance by a Rockies starter at Coors Field ever. 

1.  Rockies 7, San Francisco 5, 6/19/17 - In front of a packed Father's Day crowd at Coors Field, Nolan Arenado hits a 3 run homer in the bottom of the 9th to give the Rockies a come from behind win over the Giants.  If that weren't dramatic enough, Arenado's blast also completed the cycle for the Rockies 3rd baseman, only the 8th cycle in Rockies history.  The playoff bound Rockies were the top story in Colorado sports in 2017, and Arenado's performance this day was the highlight of an outstanding season.

Monday, November 13, 2017

DeMarcus Walker at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

Broncos second round draft choice DeMarcus Walker spoke to the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club tonight at Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver.  DeMarcus is a very impressive young man!  Though he hasn't seen much playing time this year, by his comments I got the impression that he will be a force in the Broncos defense in the future.  Here is a summary of some of his comments:

I am thankful to bronco country.  The broncos are a great team to be a part of.  I love being a Denver Bronco.

I had never been outside of florida before coming to Denver.  I love it here.  Denver helped me grow as a person.  It took me awhile to get used to the altitude.  It was initially a struggle.  During my vacation I came here to train so I could get used to the altitude.

I model my game after von miller - he’s the best ever.  He’s teaching me stuff - I’m just waiting my time to be put into games.  Before the preseason game vs San Francisco the defensive linemen went to a local park to relax during our free time.  Von shows up with his personal trainer and asked “want to work out with me?”  Von has an incredible work ethic.  I want to be better than Von.

How does pro football compare to your college career at Florida State?  The speed of the game is the same.  The devil is in the details.  I have to pay attention to the details much more in the pros.

What position do you like to play?  I like playing on the edge where I can use my quickness.

Did the Broncos show interest in you before the draft?  I had no clue the broncos would draft me.  I ran into Bill Kollar (broncos dl coach) at the combine and he asked, “can you play a 4 technique?” I said yes and that was it - he walked away.  

Have you adjusted to the cold?  Nike takes good care of us - they have a double layer glove that is very warm.  But cold is all in your mind - I don’t care how cold it is when I play.

I’m waiting my opportunity.  I’m putting in the work.  Just Von is ahead of me.  

After his talk DeMarcus signed autographs and took pictures with the Bronco QB club members in attendance.  My impression of DeMarcus certainly changed this night.  I think he can be next year's Adam Gotsis - a rookie who didn't play much in his first year who will become an integral part of the Broncos defense in his second year.

Monday, September 4, 2017

My 2017 Broncos Prediction

As a long time Bronco fan I'm not too optimistic about the upcoming season.  Here are my annual predictions:

Sep. 11    Chargers    Los Angeles Chargers  
LOSS - Chargers are better than a lot of people think.  They have a good young defense, a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers, and a good group of receivers.  Keenan Allen has burned the Broncos before and he's healthy now heading into week 1.  I think the Broncos will take a few games to adjust to a new offensive system.
Sep. 17    Cowboys    Dallas Cowboys
WIN - I'm assuming Ezekial Elliott will miss this game (suspended).  The Broncos defense wins this one as 2nd year Cowboy QB Dak Prescott struggles against the No Fly Zone
Sep. 24    Bills    at Buffalo Bills
WIN Bills are terrible this year
Oct. 1    Raiders    Oakland Raiders 
WIN The offense starts to get it in gear with a win over the arch rival Raiders
Oct. 15    Giants    New York Giants 
WIN Now we are rolling!  The Broncos build on their early season momentum to go to 4-1.
Oct. 22    Chargers    at Los Angeles Chargers
LOSS See game 1 - Chargers are better this year
Oct. 30    Chiefs    at Kansas City Chiefs
LOSS Chiefs are my pick to win the divison
Nov. 5    Eagles    at Philadelphia Eagles 
LOSS It seems every year the Broncos lose to a mediocre team on the road.  This year it's in Philly.
Nov. 12    Patriots    New England Patriots 
LOSS Patriots just too good this year to overcome their traditional struggles in the Mile Hi City
Nov. 19    Bengals    Cincinnati Bengals
WIN Broncos get back on track with a quality win over the Bengals
Nov. 26    Raiders    at Oakland Raiders
LOSS The Raiders outscore the Broncos
Dec. 3    Dolphins    at Miami Dolphins
LOSS The Broncos wish they had hired Miami coach Adam Gase when they had the chance.
Dec. 10    Jets    New York Jets
WIN Jets are even worse than the Bills this year
Dec. 14    Colts    at Indianapolis Colts 
LOSS Indy has not been kind to the Broncos in recent years
Dec. 24    Redskins    at Washington Redskins
LOSS The season downturn continues with another road loss
Dec. 31    Chiefs    Kansas City Chiefs
WIN Like last year's finale against Oakland, the Broncos win the last game of the year at home with the Chiefs resting some of their regulars for the playoffs.
OVERALL RECORD: 7 wins 9 losses
This year will be similar to Josh McDaniel's first year, where the team got off to a surprising 6-0 start under a new coach before fading in the second half of the season (finishing 8-8 that year). I think Vance Joseph will be a better coach than McDaniels but this team will continue to struggle offensively.  The defense will be solid.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Rod Smith at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

Denver Broncos Ring of Famer Rod Smith entertained a Broncos QB Club crowd Thursday night with stories of his playing days and from his new book "The Rod Effect".  A summary of some of the comments Rod made this night:

"John Elway told me I have two of John's best five plays of John's career," Rod said.  Number one was the first catch of Rod's career, as described on

"In Week 3 of the 1995 season, Denver and Washington were tied at 31 points apiece. With six seconds left in the game, the Broncos offense faced a fourth-and-10 at the Redskins 43-yard line. Quarterback John Elway dropped back at the Washington 43-yard line and launched a deep pass toward Smith.  Smith leaped over future Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green to haul in the game-winning touchdown as time expired — the first catch of his career."

"I sucked on special teams that day," Rod said.  "We only had four wide receivers active, and the Redskins had a hard hitting safety that knocked out the other wide receivers we had.  So they had to play me."  The hardest part of that play, Rod relates, was dealing with his massive teammates jumping on him in the end zone celebration.

The other big play was Rod's 80 yard td catch in Super Bowl 33 vs the Atlanta Falcons.  "That play was not in the game plan," Rod relates, "we drew it up on the sidelines.  Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak saw a weakness in the Falcons coverage and we took advantage of it."

Who were the toughest defensive backs he played against?  "James Hasty, Dale Carter, and Charles Woodson," Rod replied.

Rod told us how special it was to play under owner Pat Bowlen.  "When I was a rookie I was told, 'Mr Bowlen wants to see you'  I thought, 'what did I do?'  But Pat was great - we talked for 45 minutes about life.  He really cared about the players.  The Bronco alumni are always welcome back - that's not true of how other teams treat their former players.  On the road every player had his own room (even for home games I had the same room the night before a game at the Inverness Hotel).  Other teams ask you to double up with a roommate.  Players have different sleeping habits.  The extra expense Pat took for private rooms really helped us get ready for game day."

Rod described his unusual pregame meal ritual.  "The team meal was at 10 am.  That's too early for me to eat!  4 hours before game time??  So I'd checkin for the team meal but not eat much, then I'd go to burger king and get a chicken sandwich and fries.  I'd eat 1/2 of the sandwich and fries before the game, and eat the rest at half time.  One time a rookie ate the second part of my meal before I got to it at half time.  I hazed him the rest of the year!"

On the current team Rod told us some tidbits John Elway shared with him. Sorry readers, Rod said that was confidential to our meeting (you'll have to attend our future meetings to get some real juicy broncos inside info!)  But Rod did say that John feels the team is much improved in the offensive line and that'll make a big difference.

Rod was very gracious in interacting with us at our meeting this day, staying for hours signing autographs and taking pictures with the long time fans of the Broncos QB Club.  We were also honored to have former Broncos placekicker David Treadwell give his opinions on the current team before Rod spoke.

You don't want to miss out on our future meetings!  The club now meets at the Blake Street Tavern near Coors Field.  As you can see from the picture below, we had a full house for David and Rod!  Visit us at for more info.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Billy Martin and the Denver Bears


Legendary New York Yankees manager Billy Martin got his first managing job in Denver - taking over for the Triple A Denver Bears midseason in 1968.  The Bears had a record of 7 wins, 22 losses when Martin took the helm, and under Martin’s fiery leadership the team had a complete turn around, winning 66 games and losing 50 in their remaining games. 

The success with the Bears led to Martin being promoted as manager to the American League Minnesota Twins the next season.  Martin would never manage in the minors again, serving as manager for the Twins, Tigers, Rangers, A's, and of course the Yankees over his career.

One of the stars of that Bears team, third baseman Graig Nettles, would later star for Martin’s New York Yankee teams.  Art Fowler was Martin's pitching coach for the Bears - Fowler also followed Martin to serve as pitching coach in New York.

And Denver came calling again to Billy Martin when the Colorado Rockies were awarded a National League franchise in 1993.  “The Colorado people were going to let Billy run the whole show," said Billy's wife Jill (1).   Had Martin accepted that offer, the Rockies of the 1990's would have looked very different I'm sure!

During that 1968 season the Denver Bears hosted a “kids day” at the stadium for area youth baseball teams.  I played second base for my team and I was in attendance that day.  Billy Martin was always very personable with the fans, and he was on this day, too, giving a small group of young second basemen (including me) personal attention in showing us the finer points of playing the infield. 

As a baseball fan all my life, I always remember the job Billy Martin did to turn around that 1968 Denver Bears team.  It impressed on me that a good manager in baseball can have a positive effect on a team more than a head coach in any other sport.  The Colorado Rockies of today are proof of that too, with new manager Bud Black leading the team to the best record in the National League as of May 27th.

(1) from the book Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius by Bill Pennington, page 475.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Broncos Defeat Hot Dogs??

Broncos defeat the Hot Dogs???  In a 1969 game against San Diego the Broncos were shutting out the Chargers when suddenly the score read “Denver 13 Hot Dogs 0”!  “Bush league!” were the cries from the San Diego team and fans - you don’t mess with the scoreboard in a pro football game!    I was sitting in the South Stands at the old Mile High Stadium for that game.  As we all laughed at the scoreboard we later found out it wasn’t the Broncos who changed the score - turns out a fan had snuck into the scoreboard and changed the lettering of “San Diego” to “Hot Dogs”. 

This game also had significance in that it was the first time the Broncos had shut out an opponent, as the final score did turn out to be Denver 13 San Diego (Hot Dogs) 0.

As we walked out of the stadium that day my friend who sat by me that day said, “They could have spelled something a lot worse than Hot Dogs!”

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Lou Saban's Broncos

The Denver Broncos were one of the worst teams in pro football under Lou Saban’s coaching in the late 1960’s/early 70’s - or were they?  Saban’s won/loss record was bad during his Broncos coaching tenure (20 wins, 42 losses, 3 ties over 4 1/2 seasons).  But during those years the Broncos beat the defending Super Bowl champions TWICE in early season home games.  In 1969 the Broncos upset the New York Jets 21-19, and the following year the Broncos defeated the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs 26-13.  As a young Bronco fan I was in attendance at both these games, and it gave Denver fans false hope that the Broncos would be contenders in those years.  While Denver went on to have losing records in 1969 and 1970, those games were the start of an impressive home field advantage for the Broncos.  In their history the Broncos have a remarkable winning record at their Mile High Stadium home, highlighted by 24 consecutive home wins from 1996-1998, and defeating Tom Brady's Patriots 3 times in playoff games at Mile High.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Spencer Haywood's Amazing Season

(this is the first in a series of posts about my Denver Sports Memories)

The pro basketball team in our town once had a player who averaged 30 points and 19.1 rebounds for the entire season! And that player changed the face of basketball forever.  Spencer Haywood put up those gaudy numbers for the American Basketball Association Rockets during his only season in Denver (1969-1970).

Back in the 1960’s the NBA had a rule that college players could not enter their league until the player completed his college eligibility.  Haywood was the first to break the mold - jumping from college to the ABA Rockets after his sophomore year.  After his one year in Denver Haywood challenged the NBA’s college eligibility rule, and was allowed to play for the Seattle Supersonics, opening the door for college players to leave their ncaa teams early.

Today “one and done” college players, entering the NBA after one year of ncaa baskerball, are common place (ask the University of Kentucky!)  But Haywood’s one year was the best I have ever seen by a pro basketball player in Denver - even better than later more well known Denver stars like David Thompson and Alex English.  I remember watching a Rockets game with a friend where Haywood hit a 15 foot turnaround jumper over a defender from an impossible angle.  “Whoa!!” my friend and I said as we looked in each other in amazement.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ryan Harris at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

Super Bowl 50 Champion Ryan Harris is a 10 year veteran of the NFL.  Ryan was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2007 where he played offensive tackle. Ryan also played for  the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and most recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ryan played college football at the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated two degrees in Economics and policy, and Political Science. Ryan is originally from Minnesota and currently resides with his family in Denver, CO.

Off the field, Ryan believes that together we can change the world. He believes that "It is your right to be extraordinary."  that when we embrace that right, we will create positive change in the world. Through our commitment to educate ourselves, invest in our communities and act on our passions, real change happens.

We hosted Ryan at our April 2017 meeting of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  And oh what a meeting it was!  Ryan gave an awesome speech.  He skillfully weaved in stories from his NFL playing days (especially his experiences on the Super Bowl 50 Broncos championship team) and turned those into life lessons that inspired us all.   After his speech he took questions from our group of longtime Bronco fans.  I paraphrase some of his comments below.

The Super Bowl Ring

As the picture above shows, Ryan was wearing his Super Bowl 50 ring - a ring with 212 diamonds.  "When I played for the Steelers last year, some of my new teammates said 'we should have beat you!' (in the AFC divisional round, a game where the Broncos came back in the 4th quarter to win 23-16).  In response I just showed them the final score embedded in the ring."

Key to the SB 50 Champions

"We had great leaders on that team.  DeMarcus Ware was the best leader I ever played with.  DeMarcus would give me tips during a game.  Peyton Manning would frequently quiz us to make sure we understood the game plan.  The veteran leadership on that team was so important to our success.  We had fun, too.  Peyton would sing after every win."

On Yoga

"I've done yoga for 15 years.  Other players would laugh at me.  Then in the past two years many of my teammates started doing yoga, too!"

On the SB 50 coaching staff

"Gary Kubiak was phenomenal.  He understood us since he once was an NFL player.  Rick Dennison (Rico) was amazing, too.  Rico believed in me - he recruited me to the Houston Texans and again to the Broncos when he came back to work on Kubiak's staff.  Rico changed my life."

Who was the toughest pass rusher you faced?

Von Miller
Tamba Hali KC Chiefs
Terrell Suggs Baltimore Ravens

"When I came back to the Broncos I was happy I wouldn't have to face Von twice a year, then I realized I had to go against him every day in practice!  Von would tell me 'you did your film work' if I stopped him on one play, then say 'are you ready for this?' before beating me with a new move.  Playing the offensive line is like being a pitcher in baseball.  You can't throw a fastball with every pitch.  I had to constantly come up with new strategies to stop the top pass rushers like Von."

Who will play left tackle for the Broncos?

"Donald Stephenson is capable.  Ty Sambrailo played well when he was healthy."

Should the Broncos take a tackle in the first round of the upcoming draft?

"No.  Cam Robinson of Alabama is projected to go in the first round.  Alabama does not play a pro style offense.  Ryan Ramcyzk of Wisconsin is another projected 1st rounder.  He only played one year at tackle in college.  I like Texas A&M's Avery Gennesy in the second round or Florida State's Roderick Johnson in a later round."

On who this year's starting quarterback will be:

"Both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are talented.  Trevor has started 14 NFL games and made some great throws last year.  John Elway wants to win games and Trevor's experience gives him the edge."

What's the loudest stadium you have played in?

"Any game in Seattle.

Playing at Kansas City in our Super Bowl 50 season.

But the loudest was the AFC Championship game against the Patriots when we stopped New England on the game clinching two point conversion.  That noise was filled with joy (of the Bronco fans)."

Ryan graciously stayed a few minutes to talk to QB Club members individually after his speech, signing many autographs. 

As a recently retired athlete, you can hear Ryan weekdays at 3PM on AM 950 Altitude Radio's the Kreckman and Harris. Tune in, subscribe to the shoes podcast, or come hear him as speaks around the nation and become a part of his mission to change the world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cecil Lammey at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

For the seventh consecutive year 104.3 The Fan's NFL Insider Cecil Lammey spoke at the Denver Broncos Quarterback club's March meeting, giving us his opinions the Broncos offseason so far and a preview of the team's needs for the upcoming NFL draft. Listed below is a summary of some of Cecil's comments:

On the coaching change: Initially Cecil thought Kyle Shanahan would be a better choice as the next Broncos head coach. But now he thinks the team of head coach Vance Joseph, offense coordinator Mike McCoy, and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave is a stronger group than what Kyle Shanahan would have offered. "McCoy will get back to running the ball," Cecil said. "He'll have a versatile offense that'll be different every game." Coach Joseph will be "stern but fair" in dealing with the team's young quarterbacks. Cecil said Trevor Siemian was hurt last year but the team didn't have enough confidence in Paxton Lynch to start Lynch while Trevor was injured. "Trevor should have never played the Thursday night game against San Diego," Cecil said. Siemian was one of the hardest working players on the team. "In the Super Bowl year Trevor beat Peyton to the Broncos facility every day," Cecil noted. Paxton's work ethic was not near as strong but that can change under Joseph.  
On the Bronco free agent signings so far:
Guard Ronald Leary was a great acquisition in the area of the team's greatest need (offensive line) Defensive tackle Domata Peko will be a good replacement for Malik Jackson. Defensive tackle Zach Kerr, at 6'1" 330 pounds, will be more disruptive than the departed Sylvester Williams at nose tackle.  
On the upcoming NFL draft:
 This is a great class for defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. This is one of the best tight end classes ever, like 1983 was for quarterbacks. "Every tight end I saw at the Senior Bowl is better than what the Broncos have now," Cecil said. The draft is weak at quarterback and offensive line. Christian McCaffery would be a great first round pick for the Broncos. Cecil is hearing the Raiders want Christian, but the Broncos pick ahead of the Raiders in the first round. The teams ahead of the Broncos in the draft order considering Christian are the Panthers at #8 and the Colts at # 15. "Take Christian in the first round and get a quality tight end a round or two later," Cecil says. If McCaffery is gone by the Broncos pick, Cecil likes Jabrill Peppers defensive back Michigan or Rueben Foster linebacker Alabama as possible Bronco first round selections. "Foster plays like a young Ray Lewis," Cecil said.

Cecil spoke for 30 minutes and then spent 30 minutes answering our club's many questions. It is always good to get the inside scoop on the Broncos and the NFL from Cecil's annual appearance at our club! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Insights from a NFL official at the Bronco QB Club

At a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club meeting last week I had the privilege of meeting an active National Football League official.  Scott Novak is a side judge on Carl Cheffers crew during the regular season.  Cheffers worked Super Bowl 51.  Novak didn't have enough seniority to officiate in that game (we learned that NFL officials have to have at least 5 years experience to work the Super Bowl).  But Novak has worked many an NFL game (including this year's Atlanta/Seattle playoff game) and he had many interesting insights into the life of an NFL official.

As a side judge Novak gets to make those difficult pass interference calls.  He also manages the game clock.  He worked his way up the officiating ladder by first doing Little League football games, then high school, then major college conferences (the mountain west and the big 12) before finally getting his big break to work the NFL.  "The NFL game is a lot faster than the ncaa," Novak said, "the players hit a lot harder than you think."  The toughest level to officiate at?  "Little league - the parents drove me crazy!"

After giving us an overview of his job as an NFL official Novak responded to our many questions.  I paraphrase some of the answers he gave below:

Would officiating in the NFL improve if there were full time officials?

"I spend 40 to 50 hours a week on officiating during the season in addition to my regular job.  I don't think having full time officials would change much at all - the current officials put in a lot of work."

What was your most memorable game you worked?

"The Pittsburgh/Cincinnati playoff game last year was memorable.  There were strong emotions from both teams.  I have to be the calmest person on the field.  When a coach yells at me, I reply 'thanks coach, appreciate that.' 

The most memorable games for me are when I screw up - I want to get every call right.  I'll know on the plane home if I made a mistake.  We get a thumb drive of the game's plays before we leave the stadium (we get a police escort to the airport)"

How are you evaluated?

"I get graded on every play in every game.  I can get downgraded for not being in the right position.  Every play gets put into the NFL computers.  The best officials get to work the playoff games."

Would it be better to have the same crew work the playoffs instead of an all star crew?

"When Mike Periera (now with the Fox network) was the head of officials he liked to keep the crews together for the playoffs.  Now they pick officials from different crews to work the playoff games.  It doesn't make a big difference.  In the Atlanta/Seattle playoff game I worked with a guy I had never officiated with before but we adjusted."

How are the physical demands of the job?

"I run 5 to 8 miles during every game.  During extremely cold games you'll see the players go to heaters on the bench.  We can't - we're on the field for every play."

I got a new respect for officials in listening to Novak talk about his job.  He displayed his cool demeanor in answering our many questions.  "We're fans of the game - we love the game," he said.  When he makes a mistake he says "I have to forget about the last play and focus totally on the next play."

Novak showing us his #1 side judge jersey

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Welcome Vance Joseph!

While my first choice was Kyle Shanahan, I like the Vance Joseph hire as the new coach of the Denver Broncos. The more I read about Joseph the more I like him.  Players and coaches around the league have good things to say about Vance.  He's good with the x's and o's and good with relating to players.  He's a good talent evaluator.  One faulty assumption I made was that if the Broncos hired Kyle they'd be more likely to keep Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator.  That's not necessarily true (it sounds like Wade could be gone regardless of who the new head coach was to be).  I like the offensive coordinator possibilities.  If it's Mike McCoy I liked how McCoy was flexible and tailored his offense around the players he had (like in the Tebow year) rather than trying to fit the players to his system.

People may point to Joseph's 28th ranked Miami defense this season, but the Dolphins D played pretty well at the start of the season before injuries struck (holding the Seahawks to 12 points in Seattle in the season opener, and holding the Steelers to 15 points in an October win)

I still think Kyle Shanahan has a lot of potential, too, and I hope Shanahan ends up in the NFC (not within the division to the Chargers)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thanks Gary Kubiak, a trip down memory lane with past bronco coaches

With the retirement of Gary Kubiak I came across this list of all the past Denver Bronco coaches (not counting interim coaches like Eric Studesville).  More on Kubiak in a bit.  I've followed this team since I was a kid in the 60's - here's my opinion on each past Bronco coach:

1. Frank Filchock 1960-61 - before my time
2. Jack Faulkner 1962-1964 - ditto but he did lead the hapless Broncos to a 6-1 record his first year including a sweep of the Raiders before the team ran out of gas (finishing 7-7)
3. Mac Speedie 1964-1966 - made the infamous Jackie Lee trade. From an old LA times article:
"The Broncos traded the Oilers a first round draft pick and Bud McFadin, one of the top defensive tackles in the AFL and in exchange, the Oilers would give the Broncos Jacky Lee...for two seasons. At which point, Lee would then return to Houston!" Yikes!  Worst trade in Bronco history.
4. Ray Malavasi 1966 - didn't do much here but later had success with the Rams. leading them to the Super Bowl
5. Lou Saban 1967-1971 (pictured above) - a better coach than most Bronco fans would admit. Improved the Bronco infrastructure. Featured Floyd Little in his offenses, as he would later do for the Bills with OJ Simpson.  Trading two #1's for Steve Tensi was Lou's big mistake.  Saban's overall record was a disappointment here.
6. John Ralston 1972-1976 - great talent evaluator, some of the best Bronco drafts were under Ralston.  Not so great of a team leader, as vets did not buy into to his college "rah rah" style, which led to his ouster in a player revolt.
7. Red Miller 1977-1980 - the opposite of Ralston - a great motivator, suspect talent evaluator.  Will always have a place in Broncos lore in leading the 77 team to the Super Bowl.  Betting on Matt Robinson to be his franchise qb did him in.
8. Dan Reeves 1981-1992 - led the Broncos to 3 super bowls, recruited Mike Shanahan as an assistant.  A lot of his success could be attributed to Elway, who Dan did not have a role in acquiring (that was the then owner Edgar Kaiser's doing)  Still a good coach overall.
9. Wade Phillips 1993-1994 - questionable time management in games, but under Wade Shannon Sharpe emerged after not having much of a role in the Reeves offense.  A much better d-coordinator than head coach.
10. Mike Shanahan 1995-2008 - brilliant offensive strategist, good motivator, questionable in player personnel decisions (draft & free agency). Still the best coach the Broncos have ever had.  Thanks for the 2 World Championships, Mike.
11. Josh McDaniels 2009-2010 - disaster. enough said.
12. John Fox 2011-2014 - too conservative (taking a knee at the end of regulation in baltimore playoff loss) A decent manager of player egos though and he did bring on Adam Gase, now with the Dolphins and a rising young star in the NFL coaching ranks. Peyton Manning had a lot to do with Fox's success.
13. Gary Kubiak 2015-2016 - like Fox conservative but a good people manager.  Bringing in Wade as d-coordinator was brilliant (though that and the player personnel decisions on defense were more GM Elway's doing)  Kubiak will always have a place in Broncos history for leading the team to the SB 50 win.

And owner Pat Bowlen had a huge role in the Broncos successful years under coaches 8-13, never going cheap when it came to player acquisitions.  The current Rockies and Avalanche/Nuggets owners could learn a lot from Bowlen's deep pockets and hands off ownership style.

As for who the next coach should be, I like Kyle Shanahan because:

1. His offensive game plan for the Falcons/Broncos game this year was the best I've seen against the tough Denver defense. Not just one or two big plays but the Falcons consistently took advantage of mismatches.

2. His youth doesn't concern me. This isn't the 2nd coming of Josh McDaniels. Kyle's been coaching with more than one NFL team (not just the Patriots like Josh) - he's been an offensive coordinator in the league since 2008. Being the son of Mike Shanahan Kyle has to know about the Broncos culture, too - he's not going to do a complete overhaul like Josh tried to do.

3. Speaking of Mike Shanahan, Mike is one of the best offensive game planners I've ever seen. If Kyle comes it would be great to get Mike, too, in some capacity. Let Mike study opponents in his Denver castle and feed ideas to Kyle. Just keep Mike out of the draft room.

4. Kyle would likely keep the defensive staff intact and let Wade handle the defense, while he applies his new ideas to the Broncos offense. I like the idea of hiring an innovative, young offensive minded coach given the Broncos strength on defense and weakness on offense. 
While I am sad to see Gary Kubiak go, I think the Broncos have the opportunity to be better next year if they hire the right head coach.  I'm hoping it's Kyle Shanahan.