I love top 10 lists. I love top 100 lists. In fact, I love 101 Jeers on SportsNation so much that I sacrificed my normal pre-boarding bathroom routine and my A-boarding ticket on a Southwest flight back home from Texas so I could watch numbers 24-16 without sound in the A-Concourse Bar.
Which, tangent here, speaking of Southwest flights and boarding tickets, do any of you operate like me where you set three or four different alarms so you are sure that exactly 24-hours before your departure time you are ready to get that primo A-seat ticket? Lest you be cursed with a lowly B30-60 or back-with-the-leper-colony- C ticket-people and are forced choose a middle seat between:
a) Grandpa with the scratchy/flaky skin problem
b) Woman with two babies trying to fly for cheap by bouncing a screaming child on each leg OR
c) Bald muscle builder dude from those Bow-Flex commercials who makes it very uncomfortable for you to use that nice arm rest because you are constantly dodging his expansive shoulders and trying to hide the fact that the Jonas Bros. just shuffled onto your iPod. "No sir that’s actually my sister’s song… I don’t even know what S.O.S means… No she’s thirteen... Can I buy you a Myoplex?"
So instead you spend an enormous amount of energy just getting ready for that mad-grab at exactly 1440 minutes before takeoff which almost always end in a 3-2-1 NOW, no wait click NOW, NOW, NOW. B-27? DAMNIT! GOD! I FLY YOU 24-7 AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO ME?!
Anyway, this extra ten minutes forced me to down another six dollar Bud Light which combined with my lack of pre-boarding bathroom routine turned out to be a real bummer about 37 minutes later. Naturally, a woman who probably starred in the movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman… as the Mad Black woman, fell asleep between me and the oh-so-close-I-can-smell-the-toilet-puck lavatory. And you never wake that lady up. I saw the movie.
Such is my love for top (insert number here) lists that I have to actually avoid looking at certain channels on my TV guide lest I get sucked into a VH1 top 45 songs marathon from the 1980’s while attempting to simply get to the Weather Channel and my wife finds me eleven hours later sitting in the exact same spot with a new-found expansive knowledge of both music from the 1980’s and Snooki. Damn you VH1. Damn you.
I have decided, in the spirit of the season and to feed my love of lists, to compile a top 10 list of my favorite Bronco moments of the past season. As those of you on MHR get to know me better you will begin to understand that I am a naturally positive person. I hate dwelling on the negative. You complain about a 4-11 season and I’ll immediately think #3 draft pick and a CB from Clemson whom I can neither pronounce nor spell correctly. You tell me McDaniel’s traded away all our talent and screwed our team for the next four years and I’ll think he put it all on the line to get us Tim Tebow who has given us one of the most entertaining seasons since we went 13-3 and more hope since we won our last Superbowl. You tell me our defense is holier than the Pope and I say don’t talk sh*t about the Pope, that’s probably how we got Doomed in the first place. Life and football are just too short to dwell on the negative, plus it screws with your libido. Look it up. Doctored. (think, HIMYM reference)
So here goes, my top 10 moments of 2010. Just a fair warning, there’s a lot of Tebow here so if you are sick of Tebow-talk you might want to go find a top-50 greatest hairband marathon on VH1… we’ll probably be experiencing it together.
10. Week 3 – Orton 476 yards passing
Orton may have benefited from a few blowout games to pad his stats down the stretch of his season but it was this game vs. the Colts that I thought he really stood out. 476 passing yards is a monster number and he did it against the team that was in the Superbowl just last season. It’s pretty incredible that a QB can pass for 476 yards and score only one touchdown but still, I began to think that if we could just pull this kind of offense together down the stretch we were looking at a real shot at making the playoffs. Alas, it was not to be but after our loss to the Colts I was truly ready to believe this team was better than we had anticipated. That hope lasted till the minute we were mathematically eliminated.
I will say this for Orton. The guy is obviously a system QB and when he becomes the starting QB for a team with an offensive line that can support him for an entire four quarters he won’t need elite receivers to be a good NFL quarterback. If he ends up coming back to Mile High Stadium with another team in the future, I’m not sure I’ll be too excited to see him passing against us.
9. Tebow’s Haircut
I was in Las Vegas for the preseason games and my fantasy football draft when the pictures first came out and let me tell you, I can only think of a few moments that I have been more proud to be a Bronco fan. When you are surrounded in a sports book by hundreds of fans, each wearing their own team’s jersey’s, everyone macking on the same hot cocktail waitresses, and all glued to four different meaningless football games in an effort to get some kind of pre-draft insight (eff you Jhavid Best), when your boy Tebow makes the highlight reel looking like Friar Tuck with a goofball smile you stand a little taller in your Bronco hat and jersey. You get a lime in that Corona. You order the 11-dollar Jack and Coke instead of the $3 well. This guy didn’t refuse to pick up his veteran players pads. He played the good sport, gave the rookie respect an NFL player must give and turned it into one of the best PR moves of his young career.
I’ve been to only two Broncos game’s this year. The KC blowout and the Texans game on Sunday. Both were special in their own ways but there was something especially unique about the Texans game. While our playoff chances were over three weeks ago you didn’t get the sense that was the case for one minute during the epic comeback that was last Sunday. Which is kind of amazing considering that during the first half of futility I spent much of the game with my head in my hands downing beer and telling myself this $10 carbon burger and fry plate is actually pretty good, and that Tebow really wasn’t trying to kill Jabar Gaffney with that high screen pass. Then something went Magnetic Baby at the start of the second half.
Think, if you will for a minute, about the last time you really felt Mile High Magic. Read Alexander Wall’s post "Tapping The Source". When did you feel that last? Because it was back at Mile High on Sunday. The Rockies fans among us understand Lodo Magic. We’ve come to expect and appreciate that. It’s unique. I will still contend that in my relevant adult life The Slide is the single most incredible moment of my sports experience. Unfortunately, Mile High Magic has been slow to keep up but on Sunday, man, on Sunday there was something moving through the stands. I’m sure you know what I am talking about. It’s that collective buzz where everyone is chatting around you. The fans were locked in on Sunday. It felt really good. It felt right.
7. The Tim Tebow Documentary Trailer
I saw it here on MHR first and let me tell you, that could very well be the most incredible three minutes of football film behind MAYBE the scene in Rudy when he steps onto the Notre Dame field. If you somehow haven’t seen it, here it is. I’ve seen it probably thirty times and it never gets old. This is where my Tebow moment happened. Trust me, those of us who think we get Tebow remember when that moment hit. The moment where you are just like "This kid is something I have never seen before."
I love how one of the commenters on MHR put it, and I can’t remember exactly how he/she said it but the gist of it was Tebow is not the next John Elway. Tim Tebow is the next Tim Tebow and he doesn’t need another comparison. This is why this kid is so magnetic. He is a breath of fresh air into the NFL… and somehow we got him. We don’t need another John Elway in Denver. His legend is what it is. Nobody can take that away. We have John Elway and we had John Elway Toyota. I’ve said it many times before but we have to fondly remember the days of our Superbowls and move on. Tim can be the face of a new Broncos organization. We’ll always have and cherish our Elway years. Maybe our kids will remember their Tebow years and buy cars from Tim Tebow Toyota. Watch the documentary again. Respect.
"When you die, there’s going to be a tombstone. It’s gonna have your name, the year you were born, it’s going to have the day you die. In between there’s going to be a dash and that dash is going to represent everything you did in your life, good and bad. It’s how you’re remembered." Somewhere in Tebow’s dash there’s some Mile High Magic.
6. KC Game 1 and the non-shake.
This game was fun from the get go. It’s probably the only thoroughly stress free and enjoyable Broncos game we’ve been able to see all year. Orton seemed to be in control of his offense and while he didn’t pass for more than 300 yards he did throw for 4 TD’s… which causes one to kind of scratch their head in amazement that he could throw for nearly 200 yards less than he did versus the Colts yet throw for three more touchdowns. Just goes to show that you simply can’t ever discount the power of a strong running game.
Who knows why Todd Haley decided to play the five year old at the end of the game. To suggest that we were running up the score after the season we’d been having is nearly more embarrassing than the loss itself. What I love most about this moment, at least at the time, was that it ignited a rivalry in Bronco Country that had been dormant for the past few years. I would need a more tenured Bronco fan to accurately take me through the stages of Bronco hatred through the years but there was a time when the Broncos and Chiefs weren’t so fond of each other. I feel like that rivalry has been overshadowed by our rivalry with the Raiders and more recently, with the Chargers and their douche of a QB.
This missed handshake though, it had the potential to turn the heat up on a dormant emotion with a team that is beginning to become relevant again. I would have loved to have seen that simple gesture of disrespect turn into something that burned these two teams for years into the future. Once again, with McDaniels departure Todd Haley just ends up looking like some kind of clairvoyant d-bag. That’ll never re-spark an old rivalry.
5. Lloyd’s TD catch and Tom Cable’s Face
I think the media needs to take a step back from Tebow for a few minutes and give some credit where credit needs to be given. Brandon Lloyd is making Tebow look like an all-star. I know QB’s get most of the credit and take most of the blame but in Tebow’s case Brandon Lloyd has shown up to play and he’s brought some serious game. The real trick is that he makes it look so effortless. I can imagine that while he’s leaping three feet into the air over his defender he’s debating if he wants to get Chinese food or the Royal treatment for dinner. Brandon Lloyd is catching passes he has no business catching and this particular one is no exception. On his butt, in the corner of the endzone while two Raider defenders are bouncing the ball between themselves and he catches it so cleanly that when he slides out of bounds there is no doubt that it was a TD catch. But the cherry on top was Tom Cables face after the catch was called a touchdown. You know Randy Hanson was rubbing his jaw somewhere.
This moment will be a Tebow classic. His first NFL touchdown pass as a starter is everything that everyone has said about him for the past four months. The ball just found a way to get down when it did. The entire national media passed this play off as pure luck and maybe a little bit of that Tebow aura that sometimes good things just happen to him, unexplainably. Granted, I don’t think the Broncos will be thrilled to see him make a habit of throwing passes like that into double coverage in the future, but you can’t deny that luck or no luck, sometimes the difference between a perfectly brilliant pass, a perfectly lucky pass, and perfectly terrible pass, is about .2 seconds and one defender step. As long as Brandon Lloyd continues to play at this level Tebow can continue to throw passes within a certain margin of error and get away with it. Brandon Lloyd is showing off his inner Fitzgerald and I’d argue that there is no other receiver in the entire NFL that you’d want your starting rookie QB to be passing to than the Fitz.
Josh McDaniel’s may have fallen from grace here in Denver but I think what I will miss most about him is the fact that Tebow can no longer train under him. Josh, for whatever reason, has the ability to bring QB’s that normally people might pass over as mediocre and turn them into NFL elite caliber QB’s. I don’t think it’s fair or right to watch Tebow and not recognize that what we are seeing is a by-product of what must have been hundreds of hours and thousands of passes worth of work that the two of them put in together. It’s probably true to say that McDaniel’s believed in Tim Tebow long before any of us did. It’s a shame someone who was so on-board with his development, someone with Josh’s kind of pedigree, was unable to capture his fanbase in the same way his star draft pick did and it ended up costing him his job before he could truly turn Tebow into the monster we all see lurking beneath and trying to break through.
I’ll be honest with you here. When Tebow took off through that seam and started running for that endzone I started losing my mind. I hadn’t seen something so exciting from a Broncos player all season and coming from the one guy you were backing the most? Four months of pent up emotion was satiated in about four seconds. Can you imagine what that would have been like if he’d done that in Denver? Mass hysteria. Hell, it was mass hysteria in my house and it was just one of me. I know that this turned out to be a broken play, and perhaps I’m one of the few that feel this way, but that just makes what happened all the more special.
The number of QB’s that can perform admirably when all factors are in their favor are not rare in the NFL. If you call a play and everything goes down exactly as it’s supposed to and you execute, that’s great, that’s expected, and that’s average. But the reality of the NFL is that plays only sometimes work out exactly as planned. Thus, the devil becomes the details. How do you make something from nothing? How do you fix a broken play when you have to make a confident, quick decision in just a few seconds? The difference between an elite QB and an average QB is often that an elite QB confidently throws a pick in this situation while an average one just hopes for the best. Somewhere on Tebow’s draft profile there was this line in small print:
"Excels when the play breaks down."
It’s probably crammed somewhere between awkward throwing motion and "was homeschooled". I don’t understand how this is so completely overlooked. The ability to adapt to a circumstance that is beyond your control and then take control and produce like Tebow does is not a common trait among NFL quarterbacks. It is, however, a common trait among elite athletes in all sports. Let me put it into perspective. The expectations of Tim Tebow, while nobody is willing to say it out loud, are sky high. Impossible maybe. They are merely tampered with phrases like "he’s a rookie" or "it was bound to happen". They are catch phrases of the mild-mannered and healthy skeptics (whom I admittedly try my damndest to be like). However, you know your QB has a plethora of in-the-closet fans when a play breaks down and him turning it into a 40-yard touchdown becomes a "mistake".
Normal rookies get this kind of reaction:
"Claussen made a rookie mistake and misplayed the call. He made a veteran move by throwing the ball away instead of taking the sack."
"Sam Bradford is showing skills far beyond his one season in the NFL last Sunday when he made a rookie mistake by misplaying a simple handoff to Steven Jackson and taking it to the sideline for a gain of four instead of trying to make something out of nothing by passing the ball into coverage."
Tim Tebow makes either of those decisions and I guarantee you Warren Sapp is on NFL Live saying Tebow is continuing concern his team and fans that he may not yet, or ever be, an NFL ready QB. You know what it would have taken for Tebow to get the same kind of respect?
"Tim Tebow flubbed a handoff to Buckhalter last Sunday against the Raiders and then proceeded to stiff-arm the rushing linebacker to the ground while escaping to his right and then throwing a laser pass across his body through six Oakland defenders and the entire football field to Brandon Lloyd who fought off double coverage to catch a ball placed perfectly in the back of the endzone for a touchdown. A rare play that also happens to be worth 8 points. "
Why is that? Because the expectation of him is not that of a rookie. It’s that of the perhaps the "greatest college football player of all time", and honestly, how do we limit our expectations with that kind of resume? In many ways, it’s Tim’s own fault… but he understands that better than most of us.
Adaptation my friends. It’s not just a lame movie starring Nicholas Cage. It’s the ability to create something good from a broken situation. To paraphrase Mr. Bena, it’s the ability to create a Monet with only watercolors and a toothbrush. I’ll do my best to not get too carried away here but Buckhalter made that play happen by recognizing the breakdown and immediately going into block mode. Has anyone else noticed Buckhalter has significantly stepped up his game since Tebow started? I’m not saying he doesn’t make that same block if Orton is starting, I’m saying why would he make that block knowing Orton isn’t moving anywhere? What else can Bucky do except try and get some kind of leverage for a block as the defense crashes in to buy Orton time for a sketchy pass?
A team that can anticipate and adapt together cannot be easily beaten. Tebow was simply the watercolor that the rest of his Broncos team used to create a touchdown out of nothing. That should have been the story of that play. Not Tebow’s run, but the adaptation of an entire Broncos offense. My greatest hope is that as Tebow settles in as our franchise QB and being a Tebow fan means nothing more than being a Broncos fan. They will simply be one and the same. That’s the biggest way I really want him to be like Elway.
3-2: Reserved For The Chargers Game
I’ve spent the majority of the past two days watching press conferences and replays of Sunday’s game. I’ve decided, and would love to hear your opinion, that one of the biggest things Tebow needs to work on is his touch from 10+ yards out into the redzone. Four or five times he overthrew his target, probably mostly on purpose, but at least once or twice he was gunning for the TD and missed. It’s a finesse throw that once he nails down will become a devastating option in his redzone arsenal.
I’m not big into pre-game predictions because:
a) I’m very bad at them, and
b) I believe in God and karma and I don’t like tempting either of them
That said I think if Tebow can play like he did against the Texans next week, if Bucky continues to step his game up, Tebow’s receivers continue to impress, and Tebow can get a feel for that finesse pass into the endzone… we’re about to witness something very special. Don’t discount the moment that this organization has gained from just one win. Sometimes a very little can go a very long way… and last week wasn’t just a very little.
Insert rational skeptic comment here:
Tebow is going to make mistakes going forward (possibly the most unnecessary statement of all time). He is going to have a very bad game at some point in our near future. Development demands it. To be great in the NFL demands it. The question becomes are we so sold on our QB like he is sold on the Broncos that we are willing to look past that game when it gets here, even if it is next week, and go all in this kid from the Swamp? Are you willing to say absolutely? Count me as 1.
You tell me this game was meaningless. You tell me that when we took the lead with a few minutes left that somehow losing it in the final few seconds wouldn’t have been utterly devastating. You tell me that a 3-11 team can’t inspire a stadium full of despondent fans to the point where they are cheering and hugging and screaming like we just clinched the playoffs. You spend one minute listening to Tebow talk and you tell me that this year is a loss.
I was sitting in section 508, row 27, seat 7 when Tebow lined up at the 6 yard line after taking his Broncos all the way down the field when I realized that I had seen this before. I had seen this before against the Jets. I had seen this before against the Niners. I had seen this twice against the Chiefs. This was something we Broncos fans had witnessed all year long. Tebow absolutely locking down touchdowns from six yards out or less. That’s when my heart started racing. That’s when I realized that Tebow was about to put us into a position to tie a game that we’d been written out of only 20 minutes ago. Then I noticed everyone around me was sensing the same thing. The entire collective of 67,000 fans was beginning to realize that we all had seen this before and it always ended the exact same way… a touchdown. Is this really about to happen?
The second that ball was snapped tunnel vision set in. As a fan you are locked in. I was no longer freezing my ass off. I couldn’t hear the frat boys behind me mockingly chanting Tebow Mania, although I’m pretty sure even they had quit. A guy and his wife were holding each other like he was heading out to Afghanistan. The Texan fan in his Foster jersey was holding had his hands on top of his head. The woman with the annoying CBS sign trying to get on television quit shouting. My buddy next to me no longer had to pee. If this wasn’t the Force at work I don’t know what hell else it was. The Broncos were using a Jedi mind trick.
Tebow faded to his right to pass and collectively the entire stadium sucked in breath." Oh sh*t he’s going to throw it" I guarantee you was the thought shared by thousands. Then he balks and turns back the other way. Every head in the stadium pivots. Open field to his left. Nothing but a defensive end and the endzone. Like a book you’ve read multiple times everything started falling into place. Once Tebow tucked that ball and began to run every fan in that stadium began screaming and jumping. It was pandemonium.
It was Mile High Magic.