As I sit here staring at my McFarlane Sports Picks Tim Tebow NFL Series 23 figurine...I start to think about the Broncos past, present, and future(I sell jewelry) and wonder how the fan base has become so fragile. I go back in my mind to the 2005 season, AFC Championship vs the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just a week before, the Broncos disposed of the Patriots for Tom Brady's first ever postseason loss and would earn the right to host the AFC Championship as the Steelers took care of the #1 seed Indianapolis Colts after a DB decided to give Big Ben a chance to tackle him saving what would have been a game-winning interception. So the stage was set, the Denver Broncos would play in front of their home fans, where they were 9-0 on the year, and better yet the Seahawks would be awaiting the winner of the Denver-Pittsburgh clash...that day someone somewhere had to have smashed a mirror.......
2005 AFC Champ
The Pittsburgh Steelers converted 3rd and long after 3rd and long and our defense could never get off the field. Jake Plummer didn't have the greatest of days either against a Steelers defense that had suddenly become dominant in the postseason. A golden opportunity for a 3rd Lombardi trophy for Mike Shanahan and the Broncos had been squandered. Shanahan had the chance to win a Bowl without Elway and quite possibly punch his ticket into the Hall of Fame with 4 Super Bowls to his name(3 as Head Coach, 1 as dominant offensive co-ordinator with SF). Shanahan had to be sick.
After 3 months of reviewing game tape of Plummer from the past season, Shanahan decides that maybe Plummer isn't capable enough to take the Broncos to the promised land. Shanahan sees a young mop-headed kid from Vanderbilt with a rocket-arm and an ability to make plays with his legs and is reminded of 6 seasons before when John Elway had brought Denver two Super Bowls. The similarities Shanahan saw were enough to decide to trade up in the draft with the Rams and snag Cutler with the 13th pick.
2006 Training Camp
Cutler begins to impress coaches and teammates alike with his arm strength. The MSM, always on the lookout for a good controversy in the Mile High are quick to praise Cutler's ability as well.
2006 Season (Plummer dethroned by Cutler)
Although posting a 7-2 start, Jake Plummer is feeling the heat week in and week out as his stats are not up to par with where he should be. Plummer might be trying to hard to make plays and the MSM once again is feeding into the developing QB controversy as every time a Plummer interception or incompletion for that matter happens, the cameras quickly shift to Jay Cutler on the sidelines. Two losses later and a 7-4 record, Shanahan decides that the team is not going to be capable of getting to the Super Bowl this year and puts the rookie in to gain some experience for the 2007 season.
2006 vs Seattle (Al Wilson, Brandon Marshall)
In Cutler's first start, Jay shows some flashes of brilliance but matches that with just as many rookie mistakes on his way to an OT loss. Brandon Marshall ties the game late after making a nice stiff arm and run for a long TD and is now on the map. Al Wilson goes down in what proves to be the biggest blow of any hope the Broncos had at making a run in 2006, maybe even in 2007.
New Year's Eve, 2006 (Loss vs SF, and the death of Darrent Williams)
The Broncos are at home and their rookie QB now has 4 NFL starts under his belt and Denver has an opportunity to lock up a playoff birth by beating a 49er team that was not very good. This was my first and only home game I have been able to attend(live in CA). Seated in the corner end zone section near the Broncos tunnel, I notice a group of fans sporting authentic Darrent Williams jerseys and pretty big gold chains. I think these guys have to know Darrent personally and my suspicions are confirmed as the Broncos run out onto the field and Darrent takes the time to find his friends in the stands and enjoys a laugh with them, exposing that signature smile of his that temporarily lights up the whole stadium. The Broncos fail to cash in on many early chances to put the Niners away early and it ultimately comes back to haunt them, as I sit in disbelief watching the 49ers run off our field with the overtime win. I go to sleep around 11pm at the Marriott Quorum across the street from a Denver hospital near Speer Blvd. I didn't even stay awake for New Year's I was so sick about the loss. The next morning my buddy out in CA calls me and tells me Darrent Williams had died. The game didn't matter anymore.
While the fans and team were still dealing with the tragic death of Darrent Williams, Damien Nash died suddenly after playing in a charity basketball game of an apparent pre-existing heart condition.
I make my way out to Candlestick Park to check out the first Preseason game of the year and although it was just a meaningless preseason game, I am happy the Broncos were able to grab their first win while I was in attendance. My other two games were heartbreaking OT defeats at the hands of the Chargers at Qualcomm in 2002 and the 49er season finale the year before. Jay Cutler and Travis Henry lead the Broncos down the field as they score on the first possession of 2007, giving Bronco fans a ton of hope for the upcoming season. After the game, I get Dre' Bly's hat, almost get Chris Kuper's glove(had i snatched from my grip), and I beg and plead for Cutler's towel from 5 feet away and Jay exhibits the douche face that only he can exhibit as he tosses the towel 30 feet above me into the stands where a plethora of 49er fans grab at it.
The Broncos underachieve this season and finish 7-9, and lost to the Chargers 41-3, one of the most embarassing home losses in team history.
2008 Season (Promising offensive draft, the firing of Shanahan)
Ryan Clady and Eddie Royal are drafted and the makings of a great offensive team start to take form. Also, with a 7th rd pick received from Tampa Bay for compensation in the Jake Plummer deal, the Broncos draft a FB named Peyton Hillis out Arkansas. The Broncos start off quick out of the gate with two divisional wins and a shootout win against an up and coming Saints team. The Broncos are aided in two of these victories...one Ed Hochuli, the other a missed FG by the Saints late in the game. Eventually, injuries and lack of defensive talent would prove to be the undoing of the 2008 Broncos as they collapsed down the stretch and failed to make the playoffs for 3rd straight year.
2009 Season (The hiring of Josh McDaniels)
After the firing of Mike Shanahan, the Broncos hire another hot offensive mind and despite the inexperience of McD, he is handed full reign over the entire Broncos organization. A lot of Shanahan's guys are rightfully cut and replaced by many free agents and rookies. Mike Nolan is brought in as Defensive Coordinator in a move many fans love. Controversy brews as word gets out that the franchise QB is on the trading block. Eventually, Cutler is traded in a move that infuriates much of the fan base. The Broncos start out 6-0 and Denver football is suddenly as exciting as it has been since 2005. The fans begin to trust in McD's vision for the team. An inner power struggle or who knows what...between Nolan and the micro manager McD happens and the overachieving Denver defense crashes back down to earth as the Broncos finish the season 2-8, posting an 8-8 record.
2010 Season (Oh boy...)
Where to begin? The Broncos part ways with Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, and up and coming fan favorite Peyton Hillis. The core of the 2007 unit that many fans believed would be intact for years and would win Super Bowls with the help of a strong defense was all but gone. Cutler, Scheffler, Marshall, Hillis were all gone. Overlooked were the departures of key coaches...Rick Dennison, Bobby Turner, and Mike Nolan parted ways and new to the staff were McD's brother Ben McDaniels, as well as Eric Studesville.
McD had a much better draft in 2010 than in '09. Although the jury is still out on the first rd picks from this class...There are 3 starters in Decker, Walton, and Beadles...as well as Squid. If Tebow and D Thomas produce by next season, this may actually be looked back as one of the better drafts of the last 10-15 years.
Amidst a 4 game losing streak that left the Broncos with a 2-6 record, McDaniels is involved in Spygate 2 and brings more controversy and embarrassment to our proud franchise. Fans are starting to really cry out for McDaniels head as well as wonder what they have in this #15 guy Tebow.
McDaniels is eventually fired and Tebow shines in his 3 game stint as QB for the Denver Broncos and looks to be the future of the franchise.
As predicted, the Denver Broncos are going to be one of the teams more dramatically impacted by the NFL work stoppage. A new coach, a new GM, a new QB...a lot of things to work on in so little time. The trade of Orton never materializes, and Orton shines in training camp and is able to hold off Tebow and Quinn for the starting job.
Fan expectations are high heading into the season as the defense appears to be rocking. VonDoom wreak havoc in the preseason and the 1-2 punch of Moreno and McGahee look legit. We all know the Broncos lack depth at just about every position but choose to ignore this fact as we all drink our Kool-aid and toss out predictions of 10-6, sometimes even better. The lack of depth shows right away as injuries mount. Dumervil's and Bailey's absences seem to hurt the most as the secondary is torched for three straight games. The Broncos currently sit at 1-3, in danger of falling 3 games behind first place, including two home divisional losses.
-The drafting of Jay Cutler after Jake Plummer's 13-3 season
-The benching of Jake Plummer
-Missinig the playoffs after a 3-0 start...and 3 game division lead with 3 to play
-The death of Darrent Williams, Damien Nash, and Kenny McKinley
-The treatment of LB Al Wilson
-Brandon Marshall's growing off field issues
-The firing of Mike Shanahan
-The hiring of Josh McDaniels
-The annoying "Patriots West" nickname followed by...
-The signing of Lamont Jordan
-The trade for Laurence Maroney
-The signing of Jarvis Green
-The trading of Jay Cutler
-The trading of Tony Scheffler
-The trading of Peyton Hillis
-The drafting of Tim Tebow
-The drafting of Alphonso Smith
-Missing the playoffs after a 6-0 start
-The loss of our homefield advantage somewhere in this timeline
-Mike Nolan mysteriously leaving
-Ben McDaniels mysteriously hired
-The whole revamping of an offense that appeared "to the fans" to be on it's way up with 6, 88, 15, 22 and the zone-blocking scheme
-The Hoodie tribute every Sunday on our sidelines
-The rumors of Pat Bowlen's declining mental health, with fuel to the fire added by various decisions
-The Spygate 2 scandal
-The 59-14 home loss vs Oakland
-The firing of Josh McDaniels during the season
-The hiring of John Fox coming off a 1-15 season
-The retaining of Brian Xanders
-The hiring of John Elway
-Not drafting a DT in 2011
-Who is John Elway's Quarterback?
-Not being able to trade Kyle Orton
-Naming Kyle Orton starter
-Tim Tebow getting ripped by the media
-Tim Tebow praised by the media once Orton struggles
-Full blown QB controversy
-Too many losses and not enough excitement in the past few seasons
-a sense of meaningless reps by Orton in 2011
-Tebow's contract incentives possibly keeping him on sidelines
-Orton's "split milk, best chance to win, etc, etc, etc
I have listed many happenings over the last 6 years of Broncos football and I have surely left out a few as well. While I agree with some of these moves the Broncos have made, they are all controversial to some point and as a team's fan base grows fragile by the year...every controversial decision, no matter how small is magnified. After so many "pies in the fan's face" over the past 6 years, some Broncos fans are wondering which pie will be the next one to go into their face?...Shanahan successful in WSH? Cutler wins a SB before Denver? McD learns his lesson in Denver and succeeds elsewhere? The one the fans dread the most after seeing other fan favorites leave town and enjoy success elsewhere...is the possibility of Tebow enjoying Super Bowl victories somewhere other than Denver...without being given an ample opportunity to lead the Denver Broncos.
There have been more than a few bright spots over the past 6 years as well, some of those which I believe are included in the list above. Much of Broncos Country believes in the direction the team is headed...we as a fan base just need to give our front office and players the time necessary to right this ship.
I have a vision of Elway, Tebow, and Von Miller smiling and enjoying a laugh hoisting the Lombardi trophy...there is a Broncos player in the shadows I can't quite make out...but whichever team the Broncos stole that guy from, they have to be feeling like a pie just went into their face. Here's to the Broncos dishing out the pies the next few seasons...at least!!!