And so here we are - the bittersweet end to a rather heartbreaking season.
But having had a season at all is truly something worth celebrating because it wasn’t a guarantee back in August, and though the season we survived was not the one we asked for, it still brought three hours a week where we could focus our attention, hope, anger, disappointment and sometimes even elation on something other than the bleakness of so much around us.
I, for one, was grateful for the Broncos every week - even that #$& %^@*#% New Orleans game. And I’ll be missing even the biggest blowout games for the next three months when there is no Broncos football to meet together and talk (yell) about.
I love that our final UFG poster of the season is a rookie to the series. It’s another perfect metaphor for this season where the team has relied on so many new guys to carry out the game plan.
And the fact that his handle - PositivIntegral - is its own sort of metaphor for teams and life is perfect:
“I think football team building (and life) are cumulative; the area under the curve, if you will. It’s fun to go from despair to rapture 30 times in three hours, 16 (or, gods willing, 17+) times per year,” he told me when I asked about the MHR handle. “But to win, you have to have a long game, period.”
So here’s to the long game of building this team into something so much better...but also beating the #&$% out of the Raiders tomorrow ;)
F*ck the Raiders. Every single day of the week.— Brooks (@KingBrooks6) January 1, 2021
Week 17: Raiders at Broncos
MHR - One. More. Game. Before getting into the Raiders, what are some of your thoughts overall on this season?
PositivIntegral: How many swear words can I use before we can’t post this? No, really, this season, and 2020 in general, was a learning experience; the goal was survival, and some people literally didn’t. I want to respect how hard it was on all of us, including every Broncos player, coach, and janitor. Moment of silence.
MHR - We both know the Broncos aren’t going to go out and “try to lose” the game. And even though fans fall on different sides of the “is it better to lose this weekend or win” debate, what are your thoughts on how either a win or a loss affects the team overall - heading into the offseason, coaching changes, draft position, whatever.
PositivIntegral: I’m with you, Just_JoRo (See March 31, 2020 podcast) and others; never play to lose; getting a slightly higher probability of a “hit” on draft Day 1 is worth $0.05; a fighting, mutually trusting, optimistic team culture is worth a million bucks. Something we don’t discuss enough is that, for the current team, draft day means one or six of these guys in the trenches with you right now are getting replaced with a new puppy in a few months. Let that have its own place, it has no place in the current season.
MHR - The Raiders embarrassed the Broncos in their previous outing, and this time around the Broncos defense doesn’t even have a starting cornerback or edge rusher. How does the Broncos defense mitigate damage and what has to come from the offense to make this a win?
PositivIntegral: I think the Broncos defense has had some intriguing blitzes this year end this might be the game to invent a few more, to take advantage of what little we have left - youth and speed. As for the offense, I would like to see this game be a preview just how good we can be. Doesn’t mean every play has to go perfectly, but I want a lot to look forward to during the long dark offseason.
MHR - Obligatory Drew Lock question, part 1: How did you feel about his game against the Chargers? Is he showing the kind of improvement that translates to a big jump next year, in your opinion?
PositivIntegral: OK, cards on the table: myself being lousy at soccer in HS and my undersized, empathic son getting mauled for one rec league season are the closest I’ve come to knowing what’s really going on in football. I want to watch the nuanced handwork of the big uglies, but my eyes are slaves to the camera and follow the ball, so I’ll answer from the heart, not the brain - Drew Lock is The Guy. He has fun, invites his teammates to care and look forward, he can scamper and heave it, and the chatter that his foot- and eyework have improved through this dumpster-fire season are good enough for me. He’s going to light it up next year, and (see below) the long ball may be what differentiates us and leads us to the promised land. How fun will that be?!
MHR - Obligatory Drew Lock question, part 2: John Elway seems dedicated to rolling with Lock in 2021 but Elway always looks at all options. Would you like to see the Broncos bring in a veteran to compete? Bring in another rookie for depth? Do nothing else?
PositivIntegral: I’m a Brett Rypien guy; want him to be the next Kubes. But I’ll root for whoever is behind center, and if the powers that be want a mentor, I can see Dalton or Fitzpatrick. Tired of us lying to ourselves, a la Flacco and Keenum, though. If we are going to lose, I’d rather lose with Siemian or Orton, etc, who at least were Broncos.
MHR - Melvin Gordon’s signing last year was controversial with fans, yet he has been the most consistent running back on the team this year and is close to gaining 1,000 yards. Because of his likely coming suspension over the DUI, Broncos could decide to part ways or restructure his contract. Would you like to see him stay in Denver?
PositivIntegral: I am kind of the boss of a kind of anarchistic 36-person engineering and surveying business; if I fired everybody who screwed up, I’d have zero employees, with myself one of the first holding a pink slip. I think trusting the talented, if occasionally infuriating, Gordon to put his head on straight says a lot more than firing him would, especially for a young team who is starting to form an identity; you gotta have trust. Nothing happens without trust. Scapegoating dissolves trust. I do want to see another great year out of 1B Lindsay though; since he and I have exactly the same stats at 5-8, 190, even if my pounds are, um, distributed a bit differently.
"It's not the season I wanted individually or team-wise, but definitely looking forward to changing that next year."— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) December 30, 2020
With 1,000 yards within sight, @Melvingordon25 hopes for more in 2021 » https://t.co/9Yewh7QazZ pic.twitter.com/WyYuzzhlzK
MHR - The young offense has had its ups and downs all season but still has shown some great play from both rookies and all the young receiving targets - Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Noah Fant, DaeSean Hamilton - and Tim Patrick has been a really reliable big target. Is the future still bright with this crew next season?
PositivIntegral: “Bright” doesn’t come close; the future is effing blinding!!! For starters, we get Sutton back; he’s under contract for one more year, and while I’m sure he talked the good talk on the WR zoom meetings, I think he in particular would have been a great leader on the field. What excites me is that, of all our positions, I don’t think you can talk “upgrade” of the Broncos Wide Receivers; maybe side-grade to a different style, but this is a crazy talented and deep group, that cannot be derailed by injuries as easily as most teams, since we have a Patrick to back up our Sutton, and a Hamilton and Spencer for our Hamler, etc.
MHR - I asked this question last week, but it’s a good one this week as well - do you think we have the pieces in place already for the offensive line as we move into the offseason or are there still some starting pieces missing? Would you go with the draft or free agency to fill them in?
PositivIntegral: The O-line is a tough one, ain’t it? I’ll answer “neither” - we have to look to the last two years’ drafts and hope we did enough. In Munchak we trust, and save the $ for filling inevitable injury holes, here or elsewhere, and maybe someone’s cap casualty can help.
MHR - This week the defense has another huge missing piece since Shelby Harris has been placed on IR. Will that be a big blow or are you confident in the guys behind him who have filled in several times this season?
PositivIntegral: Harris’ batted balls have been one of the most fun parts of this season; I could watch those all day long. As for the backups, I respect their heart and effort, but if (practice squad WR triaged in to play QB) Kendall Hinton’s hall-of-fame earning game taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you literally run out of bodies with enough skill and practice to play the positions - and that has happened a half dozen times this year. Edge rushers and ILBs and safeties (welcome back, Philly Will) will be our strengths this game. Speaking of Hinton, I like how that game brought out MHR’s dislike of Commissioner Goodell; I abhor suits on principle, and Goodell is the suitiest suit to ever strap on a kulturstrick, followed closely by Joe Ellis; can’t wait to see a human, warts and all, owning the team in the near future. Trust funds ruin lives.
MHR - Michael Ojemudia fared decently against the Chargers while De’Vante Bausby struggled and ultimately was benched for the new practice squad corner acquired the week before. How do you feel about this patchwork secondary going against Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor?
PositivIntegral: See above. Raiders WRs are bad people, though. They are steal-little-kids-lunch-money and intentionally-breathe-coronavirus-in-their-grandma’s-faces kind of people, just like the rest of their homeless team. We gotta pay them back with dividends and interest on Sunday; doesn’t matter who’s lining up against whom.
MHR - Name a player on offense and defense that has really stood out to you so far this season and why.
PositivIntegral: Wow, too many to mention; I love this young team with a few quality, high-character vets, but more to the point, I think Fangio is building a no-excuses, scheme-solid defense and an offense that has up-the-middle run and deep pass prowess. You can’t do EVERYTHING great, and I loathe the copycat-league mentality, because being a shadow of what worked last year is, in my opinion, almost guaranteed to not work next year. We have to play the blind chess game and find something that other teams are not built to stop next year, and this juggernaut defense and two-trick offense I see coalescing are more likely to win than some other moves we could make.
MHR - Every offseason means changes to the roster. Next season could mean a Broncos team without Shelby Harris or Justin Simmons or Von Miller - or all three. Which players do you think NEED to remain Broncos, even if you want all of them to?
PositivIntegral: All three will ALWAYS be Broncos, even if The Man makes them change their shirts for a few years.
MHR - What is your favorite memory of a good rivalry game between the Raiders and Broncos?
PositivIntegral: the one we are about to watch, baby!!!
Stats for Drew Lock? 25/35, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Stats for each Broncos RB? Gordon, 21 for 120, 1 TD; Bellamy, 4 for 50, 1 TD; Freeman 5 for 20 but with one of the TD passes
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each Broncos’ receiver? Jeudy for 1 million yards and 10 TDs; we won’t see the rest for the tears of joy on all our faces
Longest FG for McManus? NFL record, why not?!
Number of sacks to Lock? 3 but he’s scrambling on each of ‘em
Number of sacks to Derek Carr/Marcus Mariota? 3 by my homeboy Reed alone, 3 by our other men
Broncos player with the most tackles? Chubb - 12 tackles, 4 for loss
Who gets the most sacks? Malik Reed, who looks like such a nice “would be happy if my daughter brought him home to dinner” guy to boot
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 0/1/0 - that kind of year
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? All of them
Final Score? 34-21, Broncos win!!
By no means was 2020 the year any of us expected — especially here in #BroncosCountry.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 1, 2021
But as this difficult & unprecedented year comes to a close, we’re grateful for the ability to play a full season, the greatest fans & the confidence that better days are ahead.
, @Broncos pic.twitter.com/I96cU0rY9M
Favorite Broncos game EVER? I’m more of a “favorite moments” guy, and that Steelers game with DT’s walk off and the day Von schooled the patsies on the way to SB 50 are on recurring loops in my aging brain
Team you hate to lose to the most? Chiefs, no question; that s**t has to end soon
Non AFC West team you hate to lose to the most? Yeah, all of ‘em
Team you love to beat? Cowboys. I spent a few young years in Texas and was miserable there, right before moving to Grand Junction; I blame the Cowboys for my lonely 5-year-old self
Favorite time Broncos were the underdog and won? Every time; nothing I love more than being an underdog
Which game is tougher? The game of not firing your current coach/GM/etc when they are in the middle of the sculpture. Do you hear me, Ellis? Sorry about what I said about your suit...
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? The next one who makes a Raider look silly.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Impossible. For every Von, there’s a Malik; for every Elway there’s a Lock. Let’s go own the future; the past has been a mixed bag.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Cushenberry has shown up.
Superstitions on game day? I try to go on a run, with the number of miles or 0.1 miles matching a Bronco’s number who I think needs to have a great game. I’m not saying they won SB 50 entirely on my effort, but I put in a solid 5.8 hill miles that morning in my Emmanuel Sanders jersey. Just sayin.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Is it just me, or is commentating getting lamer? More guys like Nate Burleson and Tony Romo, please. I like listening to Dave Logan while watching the muted TV.
Favorite sports cliche? The ones I coined for this article.
Favorite sports movie? Life.
Favorite gif? I can’t figure gifs out, I’m 46 fercrissakes.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
Every thinking person is a Broncos fan. I lived on the western slope and carry my fandom wherever I go.
So sad to hear of Floyd Little's passing today but happy that we highlighted "The Franchise" last week in our #UltimateFanGuide.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) January 2, 2021
Every #Broncos fan owes him a #MileHighSalute for the fact that this team is still in Denver.