This post is the result of a year of ridiculous highs and lows. Too often I realize that I take this sport so seriously I get caught up in the personal experience and forget how much of a community experience football is meant to be. My goal with this post was to get the feedback from some of the MHR Staff and my fellow MHR contributors and put together an end-of-year montage of sorts. It turned out to be a lot more. I have greatly enjoyed getting your feedback and creating what ended up being real journey for me.
As often happens when you spend time researching and writing you find that by the time you are done you end up in an entirely different place than where you started. This particular project was no different. The hours I spent putting this together were filled with smiles, depression, and even some tears. I will walk away from this post with a new appreciate for my team and for the fans that make up this community and fill up Mile High Field. This sport is too special to let a bad year force us to lose faith.
This post is in no way the result of simply my work. I really appreciate the time and effort that many of you took to give me your opinion on this year. These kinds of projects only work when the community is willing to participate and you guys really showed up.
I wanted to send a special thanks out to everyone who responded to me through the message boards and email. It means a great deal to me and made this one of the most enjoyable writing experiences I've had so far this year.
I also wanted to send a special shout out to Jeremy Bolander for his song suggestion. This is an example of one of those instances where I began this project with one thing in mind and ended up in a completely different place. The power of that particular instrumental was the stepping stone that took me through a musical journey that was extremely profound for me and went beyond just this post.
Before you begin reading, be sure to click the link below and get the music started. It only works if you do. Be sure and take your time. It's not meant to be read quickly and I decided not to make this just a video because I like the loose art that is music and the written word. We can each experience it in our own way.
So to all of my fellow MHR members and Bronco fans, it has been quite a ride this season and for all the valleys and troughs we've been subject to this year, I very much look forward to the future of Bronco Country and celebrating next year together when we begin to right this ship.
As always, God Bless and Go Broncos!
The Anger. The Melancholy. The Pain.
Monday morning after the SuperBowl is the worst Monday of the year. It's worse than the Monday after New Year's. It's worse than the Monday after St. Patty's Day weekend. It's worse than the Monday after your buddies bachelor party. It's the morning when you wake up hungover and realize that the NFL season is finally over. Weekends will not be the same again for another eight months. The post-NFL season hangover usually takes me a few weeks to get over. It's especially bad this year because we have no guarantee of a next season yet... and even if we have a next season we can't be sure how much time our Broncos will have to prepare for it.
During a season which ended in such a fashion that a win was nothing more than a moral victory and a lower draft pick, the fans of Bronco Country are left with too many questions unanswered, too many promises unkept, too many unfamiliar faces joining the family and too many familiar faces moving to unfamiliar territory. It is very difficult to fight that feeling of melancholy that attempts to permeate a time that every football fan expects to spend celebrating. We've seen some difficult times as Bronco fans this year haven't we?
We saw our star defensive linebacker sidelined with a season ending injury. It was only the beginning of an ever growing list of pre-season injuries that went a long way to crippling our defense and driving it into the basement of the NFL.
We watched what was supposed to be our powerful offense stutter and falter in the fourth quarter over and over again as our defense let football game after football game slip away.
We suffered an excruciating loss to the Jets in the final seconds of what would have been a critical win because of a boneheaded pass interference penalty. It merely set the stage for the disappointment to come.
We watched as the one game our defense became dominant our offense went dormant against a team we had just scored 49 points against 3 weeks earlier.
We watched as the players our head coach had traded away begin to shine for their new teams while we were forced to watch the results of those trades either sit the bench or under-perform.
We will never forget the beatdown the Raiders dealt to us in week 7. The entire collective of Bronco Country hung their heads. What could any of us say? For nearly all of us, it was the lowest point we could remember. What had happened to our team? The Raiders? Really?
"After the Raiders loss I could not even get mad, I was just honestly sad, I went to the local Brew pub and could not even defend the team as everybody the rest of the night gave me crap for wearing my #24 Champ jersey." - JMcDaddy
The loss to the Oakland Raiders at home like we did marked the lowest point of this season for me and has left a bitter taste in my mouth that will not go away for quite some time.
"Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking." - Jim McMahon
We lost our coach, a man hated by most, loved by some, and probably not understood by all. A man who before even two seasons had been completed had fans claiming things like "Not our Coach!' and using every McJoke they could come up with. A man who will be missed by fans who enjoyed his young enthusiasm.
The effects of his personnel decisions will probably not be fully understood for the Broncos for another few years, but his exit marked the end of an era, the closing of a chapter, and the beginning of something new. That's the beautiful thing about change though, there is always at least one sliver of hope that one can latch on to if they are willing to look carefully. Hope is a powerful thing like that.
Yet, for all the pain we felt watching our Denver Broncos lose, the most excruciating pain was perhaps the loss of one of our own. As fans of the NFL we tend to take this game very seriously, but never is the NFL exposed for the game that it really is and the truly important things in life illuminated than when we lose one of our own. The death of Kenny McKinley was a wound that never fully healed. Like Darrent Williams, a scar that will never fade. Anyone that suggests Broncos aren't family does not understand what this organization means to fans, what it means to its ownership, and what it means to its players. The only thing more deafening than the roar of the Bronco crowd in a victory is the silence from 70,000 respecting their dead. The silence of one empty locker. How quickly we remember that football is merely a game and who we are as people is so vastly more important.
"I've had the opportunity to have two draft classes here in two years and I'm not sure that anyone one of those kids enjoyed the phone call as much as Kenny did, and that was him. He was excited about it, and was looking forward to the opportunity, and that is what he brought every day. We are certainly going to miss him around here." - Josh McDaniels
Sometimes the greatest gift a parting person can leave in death, is the ability it leaves those behind to come together, if even for a little while.
"If we lack anything as diehard fans, its an understanding that these players and front office personnel and coaches are all people, and for a few days [after Kenny McKinley's death], that idea took center stage, and brought out the best in us." - Jeremy Bolander
The Positives. The Smiles. The Smoke and Mirrors. The Future.
But in a season with so much pain, sadness and disappointment we still have much to look forward to and be thankful for.
We saw the resurgence of Brandon Lloyd's career as he made both Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow look fantastic. Making the Pro-Bowl for the first time in his 8th year in the NFL is a testament to his resilience and he deserved every Pro-Bowl vote he received. Considering the shock and confusion that was the Brandon Marshall trade last year, Brandon Lloyd was exactly what Bronco Country needed.
The one bright spot on our defense is a Bronco legend that we may not ever see again in a Bronco uniform. Through the good and through the bad Champ Bailey has always been a shining spot to this organization and he will always be remembered as one of the greatest athletes to ever play for the Orange and Blue. The selfish fan in me wants nothing more than to see Champ Bailey remain a Denver Bronco. If he does move on I can only wish him the best and hope that whichever team he ends up with will do for him what we could not and win him a Superbowl. Champ, just like Shannon Sharpe, you'll always be a Bronco in my book.
We've seen the promise of a young QB. A young athlete that has energized a depressed fan base into believing that he will stop at nothing to be successful, and if succeed he cannot at least no one will say he didn't leave his everything between two sidelines and some hash marks. His presence was so powerful that the moment he became a Denver Bronco he began setting records in jersey sales and the very first game he officially started he set a Bronco QB record for longest rushing touchdown. For better or worse, Bronco Country began dominating Mile High with Orange, Blue and the number 15.
In the aftermath of Tim Tebow's celebrity and success, another Denver Bronco has begun to be forgotten by many. His accomplishments have been written off as inconsequential and his supporters continue to dwindle by the week but I don't think that any Bronco fan can completely deny that in the wake of our pathetic season Kyle Orton wasn't, at times, at least one bright spot.
To some of us, his fourth quarter led comeback against the Tennessee Titans was the high point of the season. Perhaps it could be argued that it was far more than just Kyle Orton's play that led to our victory, I think many of his supporters would argue that that is exactly why the Broncos comeback victory over the Titans was so fantastic, we won it as a team. Credit couldn't, and wasn't, given to simply one individual person. In the realm of football, where the difference between a loss and a victory often has far less to do with the performance of one person than it does the performance of a team as a whole, shouldn't we be more concerned with how our team plays as a whole than does one single part of it? The Titans game
"...was tense. Great play by both the ST and the offense in those last couple minutes."- maxwellsdemon
As maxwellsdemon has been trying to convince us for the past few months, it is all about the team and if you lose the team in the celebrity of one or two individuals, whether it be players, head coaches or front office personnel, in the end what have you really gained? I appreciate that about you maxwellsdemon, it is too easy to forget that football is all about the team.
As long as the Broncos struggle and Kyle Orton starts it will be like playing away from home every week. It is a bum deal any way you cut it and if Kyle Orton's future is not in Denver what more can we do than wish him the best. However, if his future is in Denver many of us Bronco fans must come to terms with ourselves and decide in the end what is greater, one single player or our team as a whole? After all, what do Pro-Bowl stats truly mean for a single player if the team loses in the end?
The Kyle Orton decision and many more lie on the shoulders of two important new additions to the Broncos organization. This year we welcomed the greatest Bronco to ever set foot in Mile High Stadium back to the organization. John Elway was once again reunited with his beloved football team and it wasn't a minute too late.
Even as he learned to navigate the tricky social media known as Twitter he was interviewing and hiring our new head coach, Mr. John Fox. Together, the two of them have promised us transparency and a focus on things that have long been forgotten in the previous Bronco regimes.
They represent a promise that things are about to get better, and that they are about to get better quickly.
The Promised One
There is one player, however, left behind from the McDaniels era that has captured the minds of Bronco fans across the country. From the second he was selected at #25 in the draft less than one year ago he has set afire a new desire among Bronco Country to see this young college star find success as a Denver Bronco.
I must confess, if Tim Tebow is to be the future of the Denver Broncos I for one cannot wait to see where the future of this organization is headed. Experts will all argue mechanics and throwing motions until they are blue in the face and will never reach a conclusion. However,
No one will argue brute desire.
No one will debate undying will.
"Against all comers. Bring em on. You against Tim Tebow. They're throwing each other around. When your guy, and I don't care what other position you talk about, when the guy that's talking in the offensive huddle has that kind of heart, and he's that kind of fighter, you have a chance every Sunday." - Chris Collingsworth
No one can say to a man you cannot, when that man's will is so strong that cannot is nothing more than one more obstacle in the way of just did.
"I want to be remembered as the guy who gave his all, whenever he was on the field." - Walter Payton
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." - Tim Notke
I went to only two Bronco games this season. The blowout versus Kansas City, and the comeback win versus the Texans. Both were amazing in their own way. I was born a skeptic. I was born a doubter. When Tim Tebow was drafted I was allured by his celebrity but not so brave to think that he was going to be the glue that held much of Bronco country together in what was going to be on of the worst seasons of its lauded history.
Yet, when I watched fans in person and on TV I began to realize just how important it is for a fanbase to believe in something. For a fanbase to believe in someone. Without it we become disinterested.
Ladies and Gentlemen, for everything that Tim Tebow is not as an NFL player yet, he has been as a leader. Not just for his team but for the fans.
It doesn't really matter if you hate the guy, if you love the guy, or if you simply don't allow yourself to care enough about the guy. Much of the Denver Bronco 2010 season will be remembered for two things, that we were the worst team in Bronco history, and that at the very end Tim Tebow gave the fans something to hope for in the future.
For many fans, Tebow's play was the highpoint of this season. His 40-yard TD run against the Raiders was electrifying.
For a huge number of fans their greatest Bronco's moment of this season was:
"Tebow’s game winning touchdown against the Texans. My son got us tickets ten rows back in the north end zone so they came right toward us." - Trinidad Jack
My buddy and I were sitting at the 50-yard line and 3 decks up when this happened. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had been 10 rows back.
His comeback win over the Texans was the kind of comeback win we hadn't seen in much too long and the excitement and drive he showed to his team and fans that day was absolutely staggering.
Had Tebow completed his near comeback against the Chargers it would have truly changed the landscape of this entire offseason.
I know Tebow is a lightning rod player. I know that he is loved by many, hated by some, and to others he is just an over hyped young athlete with too much to prove to warrant his current celebrity. Yet we as fans experience this game in many different ways and for a lot of us Tim Tebow brought back something that had been missing from our organization over the past year. As a Bronco fan, that alone makes him my rookie of the year.
The Broncos of Yesteryear
Even if there may be little to be excited about from our Broncos this season, we can all be excited for the two Denver Broncos that were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.
Floyd Little, a halfback who rushed for more than 6300 yards with the Denver Broncos over 9 seasons, led the NFL in rushing yards from 1968 to 1973 and a charter member in the Broncos Ring of Fame, finally saw his name selected and his place in Canton officially reserved.
At the end of the 2010 NFL season, Shannon Sharpe finally got what was due him. For many of us, Shannon Sharpe is without a doubt the greatest tight end to ever play the game. He was the player that ushered in the new era of tight ends, the era in which new tight end greats such as Tony Gonzalez are a part of. The fact that it took him so long to get into the Hall of Fame is hard to believe, but Sharpe has finally been given the highest credit that he has deserved for so long.
In a tearful interview Shannon Sharpe explained how deeply grateful he was for his Denver Broncos, for his grandmother, and for his brother Sterling who all played huge roles in his success as a player. Shannon Sharpe is the kind of guy that will always have something to say, and a lot of it. Even if we can't always understand it all, I have no doubt that his acceptance speech later on this year will be the longest of all time and there will be tears. Man I miss watching him play.
"I won't talk about someone's mother. I won't talk about their girlfriend or their wife. But if you have a deformity, I would talk about that." - Shannon Sharpe (probably not going to be in his induction speech)
Congratulations to our 2010 Hall of Fame Class Inductees. We may have gone 4-12 as a team but adding two more Broncos to the Hall of Fame is an amazing success any way you look at it. We can always be proud about that.
A Brand New Day
Starting March 4th we may not know what the future of the NFL looks like. We won't know until the Players Union and Owners find some way to cut the 9 billion dollar pie that is this golden goose of the sports world. While executives meet and argue over what is fair and what is right, the fans are left out in the cold wondering what next August is going to look like.
I have faith that the NFL will get things worked out with the players. This game is too great for it to be locked out because of money. For every dollar that the players and the ownership set to make with a new deal, if the NFL season is locked out they will lose hundreds more as dejected and disgusted fans pocket their cash.
No, I believe a brand new day and a brand new era of the NFL is coming.
I believe that a brand new day is coming for the Denver Broncos under their new leadership and I cannot wait to see how everything begins to fall into place.
But most important I believe that the fans of the Denver Broncos are going to finally begin to find some kind of stability and watch as their team begins to fight its way back to its old success.
I believe that all this petty infighting and mudslinging is going to take backstage to new found excitement.
MHR, the amount of text, debate, and conversations that have been written on this site alone is enough to fill up a set of encyclopedia's worth of pages. There isn't any doubt how much this team means to all us. My hope is that this next year will mark the beginning of the upward climb for our organization.
Regardless of what happens with the CBA, I hope that we can all at least agree that what has begun is positive, it is good, and it is what it is. It's easy to look back and think what could have been. I am guilty of this more than most. I have to force myself to remember that it is always darkest before dawn and that if we truly believe that John Elway, John Fox and Pat Bowlen have a plan to get us back on track, then dawn is about to break.
A brand new day is about to begin.