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2011 Broncos/NFL preview

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VISION In 16 years as a player, John Elway became a hero in Denver. Now he puts that status on the line to rebuild the Broncos. »2F

A look at what Elway considers the key positions to turn around the Broncos’ franchise. »8-11F

Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Jerry West offer suggestions for Elway’s transition. »5F

Know your team: Who’s playing where for the Broncos on offense and defense. »12-13F

Who will be the best in the AFC West? A look at each team in the NFL, division by division. »15F John Leyba, The Denver Post

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“What it comes down to for me is we have to put a good product on the field and win football games. That’s the bottom line.” By Mike Klis The Denver Post

isodes in the last four or five years. “This has to be a place that wins, but it also has to be a place where Broncos fans never lose their connection. It has to be a place where people realize that when players come in here, they’re coming in to be a Denver Bronco and not bringing other players in to the Denver Broncos, if you know what I mean.” Finally, Elway sees the Broncos regaining their Mile High Mystique. Altitude should be the greatest home-field advantage in sports, yet the Broncos have gone 20-21 at home since beating New England in a 2005 divisional playoff game, the team’s only postseason victory in the post-Elway era. In the Elway Era Part II, the former quarterback knows that step one is regaining home dominance. “The home-field advantage is created by the defense,” he said. “The crowd noise starts with the defense. When we’re on the road, my experience is when you go to a place that has a good defense, the crowd noise makes them that much better.”

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e picked up John Elway from the time he left college and have watched him ever since. We have seen him struggle early on with the nuances of playing NFL quarterback and life as a celebrity. We saw him perform The Drive and get creamed in Super Bowls, and then the sports world joined in to watch him go out on top.

We continued to follow Elway after he finished playing. We saw him pitch cars. We saw him get serious about golf and the high-end restaurant business. We watched as he carried himself humbly, proudly, professionally, always with a certain regality. We have seen him cry and we have seen him goofy. If there is a more infectious smile in the Rocky Mountain region, it’s not nearly as recognizable. But has anyone ever seen John Elway lose it? Get so mad he creates an indelible scene? We’ve seen him irritated, disgusted. We know he and Dan Reeves didn’t agree on how to run an offense. But for a guy who has been burdened the past 28 years of living beneath the brightest spotlight in Denver, the highest-powered microscope in Colorado, we have never seen Elway snap. “I hate to lose,” Elway said. “But I’ll tell you about my temper. I showed my temper one time in a YMCA basketball game when I was in the fifth grade.” His dad, mentor and best friend, Jack Elway, made John sit out the next two games. Not the first quarter of one game. Two full games. “He said, if you ever act like that again and you don’t control your emotions — especially when things aren’t going well? You’ll never play again,” Elway said. “I never forgot that. I do get mad. I hate to lose. But I go the other way. When I get mad, I get quiet.”

Give ’em enough rope

A new challenge as an exec We are now watching Elway move on to the next stage of his life. In January, with the Broncos’ franchise playing at its least competitive level since the mid-1970s, the ultimate franchise quarterback was hired by owner Pat Bowlen to take control of the franchise. At 50 years old, Elway became executive vice president of football operations. In his new occupation, perhaps Elway’s economics degree from Stanford is as important as his Hall of Fame pedigree as an NFL quarterback. He’s not the first famous player to become an executive. Some, such as the NBA’s Jerry West, the NHL’s Bobby Clarke, MLB’s Nolan Ryan and the NFL’s Ozzie Newsome, were successful. “John will understand the winners and the losers in the makeup of the team,” Ryan said. “The position he played and the level he played on, and the length of time, he has a real feel. “The side that’s going to be a challenge for him is that as a player, whether it’s football or baseball, there’s so many facets of responsibilities that he has now. So he’s going to have a learning curve there. The scouting end of it, the signing of people. Making sure you get the right makeup of people to bring into your organization. That’s a learning curve, because as a player you’re not exposed to that side of it.” Some, such as Matt Millen and Dan Marino, came to realize their calling was in playing, not managing, though the Detroit Lions kept Millen on for years, while Marino bowed out of a corner office before getting pictures on the wall. “Talk radio, that’s one thing I hope he doesn’t pay attention to, because it would drive you crazy,” West said. “Everybody has an answer. As a player, he never was going to be vilified. As an executive, you’re kind of a different target.” Bring it on, Elway said. He may have

John Leyba, The Denver Post

King of comebacks Instilling pride in Broncos name the first step in a return to Mile High Magic been mostly worshipped as a quarterback god in Denver, but as he remembers it, he was not without critics. There was a time when fans actually thought Gary Kubiak was the better quarterback. There was a time when a nation wondered if Elway could win the big one. “I’m with Jerry West,” Elway said. “Last year I would turn (sports talk radio) on every once in a while, and I’d hear all the negative stuff and I said, ‘Well, I kind of feel at home now.’ But that’s one reason why I actually got back into this, where your opinions actually matter.”

Righting a listing ship Elway has a vision for the Broncos. It’s a vision with noticeable traces of nostalgia, yet not clouded with emotion. “No. 1, I’ve always thought about this organization and it always representing class,” he said. Bowlen, shy by nature, may appear cold and distant to some. But there always was elegance to his manner. More impressive to the fan base, Bowlen gained a reputation for hiring the best coaches and spending whatever necessary to bring in the best players. And the Broncos won more than any

team for a while there. Then came the past five years, 2006-10, when headlines associated with the Broncos were for all the wrong reasons. A player murdered. Another player committed suicide. A star quarterback who clashed with a coach to the point of forcing a trade. A star receiver who was constantly in legal trouble. “I’m not trying to say it hasn’t been run with class, but I think there’s been a lot of episodes in the last four or five years that we never had before,” Elway said. “We’d have one or two players who would mess up every once in a while, but there’s been some serious ep-

When he was a high school freshman in Pullman, Wash., Elway’s favorite teams were the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Dallas Cowboys. Recall the top teams of the early- to mid-1970s and it can be stated that as a sports fan, Elway was the ultimate front-runner. What, you want a lifelong Cubs fans to take control of your team? When Bowlen put Elway in charge of his football department, the Broncos were in disarray. They finished the previous five seasons without a playoff appearance. They were coming off a 4-12 season. They had fired kid coach Josh McDaniels, whose greatest shortcoming may have been his emotional volatility. And their starting quarterback, Kyle Orton, had requested a trade, worried that the franchise would turn to the wildly popular but unrefined Tim Tebow. Yet Elway was unbowed. The trade never materialized and Orton again is the starting quarterback. Tebow will get another year to work on his greatest deficiency, which is passing from the pocket. After the hiring of John Fox as head coach, how to best handle the Tebow situation is Elway’s first real challenge. And because Tebow is not the starter, there is a strong faction of fans who are second-guessing the Broncos’ new front-office boss. “Everybody’s going to have an opinion, and that doesn’t bother me,” Elway said. “That’s what makes the NFL great. That’s what makes people passionate about the Broncos’ world, the NFL’s world. I don’t begrudge anyone for having an opinion. What it comes down to for me is we have to put a good product on the field and win football games. That’s the bottom line.” And, he knows there is a stigma that great players do not necessarily transition well to management. “I’ll say this: Great players maybe don’t make good coaches,” Elway said. “But the position I’m in is different than coaching. I think the reason great players don’t become great coaches is a lot of stuff he does (as a player) is reactionary. And therefore he can’t explain how to do something. Whereas in an executive position, it’s not so much football on the field, but personnel, working with people, working as a team.” Elway knows he’s only as good as Brian Xanders handles his general manager duties, how Fox coaches, how Keith Kidd analyzes the league’s pro personnel, how Matt Russell scouts college players. “When I was the manager of the offense, it was a lot like being the manager I am now in the front office,” Elway said. “It’s how I work with people, how I manage people. How to get the most out of them. I believe in giving them the rope to do their job and trust them to do their job.” Mike Klis: 303-954-1055 or mklis@denverpost.com

Elway through the years» College

NFL career

Business ventures

Colorado Crush

Back to Broncos

John Elway was a consensus All-American and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting his final year at Stanford, after a prolific career in which he completed 62.1 percent of his passes and threw for 9,349 yards and 77 touchdowns. Elway also was a highly touted baseball player, and was a first-round draft pick by the New York Yankees in 1981.

Elway, the No. 1 pick in the 1983 draft by the Baltimore Colts, came to Denver in a trade. He retired 16 seasons later as the best player in franchise history and the most popular athlete in the state after leading the Broncos to Super Bowl championships in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. He was the NFL MVP in 1987, made nine Pro Bowls and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Even during his playing career, Elway also was a businessman, with an extensive network of car dealerships in the Denver area. He sold those dealerships to AutoNation in 1997 but has returned to the car business with two other dealerships. Elway owns two local, upscale steakhouses that bear his name, with another scheduled to open in Vail later this year.

Elway was president and CEO of the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League, which he co-owned with Pat Bowlen and Stan Kroenke. The Crush won the AFL championship in 2005. “I was the first employee, and I started that thing from the ground up,” Elway said about the Crush. “Now, granted, it is not the NFL, but it is good front-office experience.”

Elway officially rejoined the Broncos on Jan. 5, 2011, when the team appointed him as the executive vice president of football operations. Elway and the Broncos had grown distant after his retirement, but he took on a more active role with the team in recent years. Elway said he never wanted to coach, but that he has long desired a front-office role. Lindsay H. Jones, The Denver Post


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Elway’s way clear to Broncos New executive’s plan for restoring power “takes everybody in this building to do it” By Jeff Legwold The Denver Post

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ucked behind designer shades, looking every bit the Sunday hero so many remember him to be, John Elway the Hall of Fame quarterback is now John Elway the NFL personnel executive. A champion and football legend, Elway was asked by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to take the football-operations helm of a rudderless team and return it to what it once was. Although he is just months into his new job with the Broncos and new to a career as a talent evaluator, he has the power of knowledge. He knows how it looks from the top of the mountain. “Absolutely, I hope I know it when I see it,” Elway said. “In ’97 when we won it, we were highly motivated after losing to the Jaguars in ’96. We were talented and motivated and we worked together the best. But in ’98, we were better than everybody that year. We were motivated, we were good, we were very good. We were experienced, we were tested, we played for each other. We were the best.” How will Elway recapture what he was part of? As one of the best players to have ever buckled on a helmet, is he the man for this substantial job? “Well, we’ve only been together here seven months. It all takes time,” Elway said. “I’m confident we can return this franchise to what we all expect it to be. There is no question we can do that. But it takes everybody in this building to do it, upstairs, downstairs, everybody, and to get players and coaches who believe in the vision. “Because winning is everybody. It’s working together, it’s working for each other. I don’t care what you’re trying to accomplish, it won’t get done if there are people pulling in different directions. When we were the best, we were the most talented, but we also worked the hardest and worked the best together.” Elway said he has a mixture of ideas he gleaned from influential coaches and personnel people he came to know during his playing career, includ-

ing former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, with whom Elway still consults. Elway weighs what the Broncos’ football decision-makers believe, including general manager Brian Xanders and coach John Fox. He ponders things he learned from his late father, Jack, a longtime coach and scout who once was Denver’s scouting director. “My dad’s philosophy was to always have speed and athletes,” Elway said. “His teams were always athletic and they always had speed. John Fox is very similar to my dad in that way. Speed and athleticism are at the top of the list.” That explains the Broncos’ 2011 draft board and why they made outside linebacker Von Miller the highest pick in franchise history at No. 2 overall. Miller was one of the most explosive, athletic players available in the draft. Miller also was the best pass rusher available, a position of prime value in constructing a roster. Many of the rest of the Broncos’ nine drafted rookies were among the most athletic players at their respective positions. “He has a good eye,” Fox said of Elway. “The position he played, how well he played it, gives him a perspective on the game.” In the months since Elway left a life of celebrity to roll up his sleeves to rebuild the Broncos, he has referenced the final month of his father’s life. Jack Elway died 10 years ago at age 69. In the weeks leading up to the 2001 draft, John Elway watched his father break down the prospects and prepare the reports. He asked questions, and got answers. Jack’s favorite player in that draft was an undersized QB

John Elway and Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton chat after a practice at training camp. John Leyba, The Denver Post from Purdue that some teams didn’t believe was big enough or good enough to make it in the NFL. Jack liked the kid’s competitiveness and his fire. “Drew Brees,” John Elway said. “Speed, athleticism, talent, but football must be important to them. They have to be guys who fight through tough times, believe in being part of a solution. That’s what you’re looking for. “I’m just in a bigger huddle now, trying to lead more people. But I love to learn and I love to be in all of the different situations, but also use those things as experience as you move forward. “My dad always said if your lips are moving, you’re not listening. I put my two cents in when it’s needed and I’m also all ears.” Jeff Legwold: 303-954-2359 or jlegwold@denverpost.com

Blueprint for building a winner John Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations, ranks the four most important positions when building an NFL team:

1. Quarterback

3. Left offensive tackle

“Far and away the most important position. You need the guy to win you a championship from the pocket, to be a leader, to make it go. And you’re looking for the athlete at the position who can operate from the pocket and get out when he needs to.”

“He protects the most important player’s blindside. You can’t play if the guys you can’t see coming keep hitting you. He has to be athletic, smart and tough, and you hope he’s there a long time.”

2. Edge pass rusher “I know the players who you didn’t want to see across from you, the disruptive players you had to game plan for.”

4. Cover cornerbacks “I just believe the coverage and the rush go hand in hand. The way you give quarterbacks fits is to get their receivers under wraps and to make them uncomfortable in the pocket.” Jeff Legwold, The Denver Post


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Elway knows father knew best John wishes Jack, a longtime coach who died 10 years ago, could still be his confidant By Terry Frei The Denver Post

Stanford’s John Elway, with father Jack nearby, announced on April 26, 1983, that he would play baseball for the New York Yankees rather than sign with the Baltimore Colts as the top pick of the NFL draft. Associated Press file If bloodlines are thrown into the discussion, there is considerable evidence that John Elway is — and will continue to prove himself to be — a savvy football man, which does not automatically follow being a great football player. He was born in 1960 in Port Ange-

les, Wash., where his father was beginning his coaching career at the high school level, and ended up going to high school in Southern California, when Jack was at Northridge. “I think early, I liked football. But I was an athlete, so I liked to play everything,” John said. “I think when foot-

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ball really became important was when I got to high school. I was a running back in Pop Warner, and in ninth grade I was the quarterback in the single-wing offense, and you can’t do very much there, right? “Then, when I went to California, when I was playing for Jack Neumeier

BEFORE

In his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech in 2004, John Elway said his father, Jack, “wasn’t just my best friend. He was my hero, my mentor, my inspiration.” The acknowledgement was tinged with regret. Jack had died three years earlier, at age 69. It’s safe to say that if Jack were alive today, he likely would be serving in an unofficial adviser role as his son goes through the early stages of his tenure as the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations. “I’ve been here seven months and I think about him all the time,” John said recently. John has an office on the second floor of the Broncos’ Dove Valley headquarters building — near where his father, as the team’s director of pro scouting, shared an office with Jerry Frei, another veteran former college head coach who served as the Broncos’ director of college scouting and later as a team consultant. “I knew they were both great talent evaluators,” Elway said. “One thing I wish I really could have done was spend more time with them, picking their brains when they watched film. I’ve thought about that many times. “Plus, the other thing is you get in certain situations and you’d love to have someone to bounce something off of. I think of that all the time too.”

at Granada Hills (High School), that’s when I got excited about throwing the football, playing the position and had some success. And I think also, there was some pride in the fact that my dad was a coach, so I wanted to make him proud of me. If you have a football guy who says, ‘You really played well tonight,’ that means a lot more than a fan. Not to discount the fan, but when you have somebody who has that knowledge of the game and they think you’re pretty good, that means a lot.” Jack got to say that a lot. His coaching background also played a pivotal role in Broncos history. Jack’s disdain for Baltimore Colts coach Frank Kush, the former Arizona State coach who generally was despised in the West Coast coaching fraternity, was at the heart of John’s refusal to sign with the Colts — even after they used the top pick of the 1983 draft to claim his rights. Less than a week after the draft, the Colts caved in. They traded Elway to the Broncos for quarterback Mark Herrmann, offensive lineman Chris Hinton and a future draft choice. Twenty-eight years later, Elway is running the Broncos’ football operation. He only wishes he could walk down the hall and ask, “So, Dad, what do you think?”

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Visions of Greatness» The executive office Just like John John Elway’s return to the Broncos as executive vice president of football operations represents a rarity in pro sports — a former Hall of Fame player running a team. The track record of Hall of Famers who have moved to the front office in recent years is mixed:

FOOTBALL Ozzie Newsome The Hall of Fame tight end with the Browns, at one time the position’s all-time receptions leader, has had a successful nine-year run as the Baltimore Ravens’ general manager. Even before he moved into the GM job, he was acknowledged as an NFL personnel and scouting guru.

Larry Wilson The hard-hitting defensive back, a Canton inductee in 1978, was the Cardinals’ vice president and general manager from 1988-93 and served as VP until 2002. The franchise’s lack of success in the period generally was attributed to weak ownership rather than Wilson’s work.

BASKETBALL Joe Dumars Dumars was a versatile guard with the Pistons who has earned widespread praise during his 11-year run as the team’s director of basketball operations, or its de facto general manager. The Pistons won the NBA championship in 2004 and made the Eastern Conference finals six years in a row.

Isiah Thomas On the other hand, Dumars’ backcourt partner with the “Bad Boys” was an unmitigated disaster on every level during his run as the New York Knicks’ president of basketball operations from 2003-08. He’s now the men’s basketball coach at Florida International University in Miami.

Larry Bird After three seasons as the coach of his home-state Indiana Pacers, a run that included NBA coach of the year honors in 1998, “The Legend” stepped away from the bench. He returned to the Pacers in 2003, though, and has been their president of basketball operations ever since, with mixed results.

Jerry West The legendary Lakers guard had a terrific 20-year run as the team’s GM, then moved to the Memphis Grizzlies to serve in the same job from 200207. He accepted a consulting position with the Golden State Warriors this year, receiving a minority ownership share in the franchise.

Elgin Baylor One of the NBA’s great all-around forwards, Baylor served — or should that be “survived”? — for 22 years as the GM of the lowly Los Angeles Clippers. He was named NBA executive of the year in 2006, two years before he was fired.

BASEBALL Nolan Ryan There has been speculation about John Elway eventually becoming a significant part of Broncos ownership, and Ryan’s experience with the Texas Rangers is an example of how that can be pulled off. The Hall of Fame pitcher became team president in 2008, then added owner and CEO labels the next year after he and Chuck Greenberg won an auction to take control of the troubled franchise. The Rangers were in the World Series last year.

Hank Aaron Baseball’s all-time home run king of the pre-steroids era has been senior vice president and assistant to the president with the Atlanta Braves since 1980 and as such has been involved with the team’s front office and personnel evaluation, and as an ambassador for the game.

HOCKEY Steve Yzerman Detroit’s Hall of Fame center, one of the most respected players in the NHL, served an apprenticeship under longtime GM Ken Holland, then moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning to become president and GM before last season. With Yzerman making a handful of moves to nudge along the Lightning’s rebuilding, Tampa Bay became one of the league’s success stories last season.

Bobby Clarke The gap-toothed heart and soul of the “Broad Street Bullies” in Philadelphia had what generally is considered a successful career in NHL front offices, serving as GM with the Flyers (twice), Florida and Minnesota. Burned out, he stepped away from the GM role in Philadelphia five years ago and now is the team’s senior vice president. Terry Frei, The Denver Post

Rangers exec Nolan Ryan, with former President George W. Bush, left, had 324 wins as a Hall of Fame pitcher. John F. Rhodes, The Dallas Morning News

Pitching for knowledge Nolan Ryan says ex-QB “has real feel” By Mike Klis The Denver Post

arlington, texas»

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all of Famer Nolan Ryan was in his box seat close to the Texas Rangers’ dugout when he got word that someone from out of town wanted to talk to him about Hall of Famer John Elway. At the time, Ryan was sitting with George W. Bush and Laura Bush. You know, the former president and first lady. Then again, there’s Elway. The message Ryan sent along was something to the effect of: I’ll be right there. Then again, Ryan has more in common with Elway. They arguably were the hardest throwers ever in their sports. One is inducted in Cooperstown, the other in Canton. Both are executives in charge of teams for whom they once starred. Both expressed interest in going past the executive level to ownership. Ryan already has executed his strategy, heading up a partnership that bought out the Rangers from bankruptcy court a year ago. “I think it helps if you have some skin in the team,” Ryan said in his familiar Texas drawl. Minutes after making sure his VIP guests were comfortable, Ryan was in a hallway that leads to the Rangers’ indoor batting cage, discussing the challenging transition of going from Hall of Fame player to overseeing a franchise charged with finding future Hall of Famers. Or at least championship players. “I don’t profess to be a football expert,” Ryan said. “But from what I have seen, I’m a believer that — those two-minute quarterbacks? There’s a separation in those guys. You got a lot of talented quarterbacks who in the final two minutes suddenly throw the ball behind a guy, or lead him too far, or something just doesn’t click. Some people have it and some don’t.” Rangers star Josh Hamilton walked out the side door of the locker room and into the door that led to the batting cage. Ryan never broke his thought. “I think that’s going to be John’s challenge,” he said. “He not only has to find a talented quarter-

back, or talented player, he has to find a twominute quarterback, or a player who plays his best when the pressure is highest.” What Elway has to find, in other words, is the next Elway. If Elway and the Broncos have one on their roster, it’s not apparent. Kyle Orton averaged 314 yards passing through eight games last season, yet the Broncos at that point were 2-6. For Orton to make the leap from a top-15 NFL quarterback to the top 10, he has to put a few more fourth-quarter comeback victories on his résumé. Tim Tebow seems to have the intangibles for developing into a fourth-quarter quarterback. But first he must develop into a decent enough passer so that he can get on the field in the first quarter. It can be said that Elway’s first real challenge as the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations is what to do with Tebow, a player he didn’t draft. In baseball, every team has two or three Tebows. If football operated like baseball, Tebow would be the Single-A pitching prospect working out his throwing kinks in the low minors. “The scouting end of it, the signing of people, making sure you get the right makeup of people to bring into your organization — that’s a learning curve that John will have to go through because as a player you’re not exposed to that side of it,” Ryan said. “I know way more today about it than I ever have, and I’m still in a learning curve because I had never scouted. Scouting and projecting players, I think that’s the hardest thing there is to do.”

Ryan was once a Tebow. In 1969, Ryan was a spot starter and long reliever for the “Miracle” Mets. After the 1971 season, Ryan’s career record was 29-38. He had chronic blister problems. He had 137 strikeouts in 1971, but he also had 116 walks. Although he was only 25 and was developing into the hardest thrower in baseball, the Mets gave up on him and traded him to the California Angels. Oops. The erratic hurler soon became the Ryan Express. Ryan finished his legendary career with 5,714 strikeouts and seven no-hitters, records that likely will stand forever. “What I have to do with some of these young guys who are raw is I have to think back on how I was at that age,” Ryan said. “What was going through my mind and how I have to have patience with these kids.” As players, Ryan and Elway were known as extraordinary competitors. Elway hated losing so much, he pulled off an NFL-record 47 fourth-quarter comebacks. Ryan was so competitive, he often was viewed as … what’s the best way to put this? “Not a very nice person?” Ryan said, smiling. “Let me help you.” It wasn’t just Ryan’s 100 mph fastballs. It was 100 mph with a side of attitude. Was taking on front-office responsibility the result of a competitive void that needed to be filled? “No, I think there’s a percentage of us who welcome the challenge to be able to set the direction of the organization,” said Ryan, 64. “I felt like I had that to offer. I wanted that challenge. I think if you can be successful at it, it can give you a satisfaction.” In 2008, Ryan became president of his former team that had finished last, or next to last, the previous eight seasons in the four-team American League West. Just two years after Ryan took charge, the Rangers stunned the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and reached the World Series for the first time. This year, Elway takes control of a Denver franchise that is coming off a 4-12 record and hasn’t reached the playoffs since the 2005 season. Can Elway help bring the Broncos back to the Super Bowl for the first time since he was their quarterback? “He understands the winners and the losers in the makeup of the team,” said Ryan, who has met Elway but doesn’t know him well. “The position he played and the level he played on, and the length of time, he has real feel.” Building a team, though, doesn’t match the rush of adrenaline from pitching a perfect game or winning a Super Bowl. “No, it doesn’t,” Ryan said. “The challenges are different. But I can tell you this: The night we beat the Yankees to win the American League — that was one of my top-five sporting events. I tell people this all the time: Anybody that was a Rangers fan in the stadium that night went through an experience they will never forget. They walked out of there saying, ‘Man, I am glad I was here tonight.’ ”

West can relate to Elway’s new job By Benjamin Hochman The Denver Post

He’s eternally lathered in clutch. His late-game heroics became his identity. He defined a franchise for a generation, stories of his lore passed down to the next. And when his playing career was over, he took over, becoming the top executive for the team he loved like a family member. John Elway’s persona is now that of Jerry West, basketball’s Mr. Clutch, who was the general manager of the Magic-Worthy-Kareem Lakers and then built the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, getting fitted for seven NBA championship rings along the way. “He will feel a sense of pressure,” West, 73, said of Elway, the Broncos’ new top football operations executive. “Most players who accomplish something at a high level, they like that feeling. I know I liked it. To me, it was just a different type of competition, yet similar, to being an athlete.” Most sports fans probably know West best as “The Logo,” the silhouette seen on the NBA’s red, white and blue insignia. But here’s how good West was: In 14 seasons, from 1960-74, he played in 14 All-Star Games. The Lakers Hall of Famer said his decision to get into management was simple, a natural extension of his basketball career. At times, especially early on, he got frustrated when things would go wrong

Jerry West was a legendary Lakers guard and general manager. Nathaniel S. Butler, Getty Images on the court and he couldn’t just lace up his Chuck Taylors and ride to the rescue. But West thrived as an executive because he prided himself on, well, pride, as well as “concentration, dedication and work ethic. … But I don’t like the word work, because for me, it’s a labor of love,” he said. West also became famous for his vision, the ability to spot something in a player that others overlook, most famously with Kobe Bryant, whose No. 24 will someday be in the rafters at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with West’s No. 44. Part of West’s greatness on the court and, ultimately, off

it was his ability to blend with his teammates. “If you play on good teams, I’m darn sure that there’s chemistry there,” West said. “And in the back of John’s mind, he’s hoping he can have the same chemistry of when he was winning. I’ll guarantee that’s something he thinks. “As a football player, he was at the most important position. And I think that would give him tremendous insight when you’re looking at players and trying to put a puzzle together.” While it’s easy to make the West-Elway connection because both took over their old teams, the connection now can be made to West’s run with the Memphis Grizzlies. See, the abysmal Grizzlies hadn’t won more than 23 games in any season by 2002, when West became their boss. Memphis built up from the bottom and has made three consecutive playoff appearances. “I had a couple years in Memphis where I felt the same exhilaration as I did in Los Angeles, because that team had only won 23 games,” said West, now an executive board member for the Golden State Warriors. “It was one of the things I’m most proud of. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever been involved with, but also one of the most gratifying.” Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or bhochman@denverpost.com


6F» SPORTS

thursday, september 8, 2011 B the denver post B denverpost.com

6

Big fan of big picture Any chance Elway ignores defense as Broncos exec? No way By Terry Frei The Denver Post

John Elway knows defense. You can’t play quarterback in the NFL for 16 seasons, whether as a journeyman or a Hall of Famer, and not understand the strategies and nuances on the other side of the ball. So it would be wrong to conclude that Elway’s natural tendency in his new role as the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations is to fixate on offense. It would be more accurate to say Elway brings a quarterback’s outlook to the personnel decision-making process, yes, on both sides of the ball. Such as his decision to select Von Miller, a speedy pass-rushing linebacker, with the second choice of this year’s NFL draft. From his quarterback’s eye — having firsthand knowledge of what a Derrick Thomas-type linebacker can do to an offense — it was an easy choice. Certainly, Elway is looking at defenses differently now, nearly 13 years after taking his final presnap visual survey of what he was about to attack. As a player, he would scan the field, assess what might be coming — and from where — and make rapid-fire decisions, whether to audible or change the protection scheme. Or, as the play unfolded, his thinking would be affected by what the defense was doing, strategically or athletically. “As a quarterback, you understand coverages, you understand fronts, you have to be able to read the defenses,” Elway said. His role now is much broader. That’s the case when he’s judging a Denver defense from the sideline during practice, on video in his office or watching from his box at a game. And that’s the case when he’s evaluating talent, either on the roster, the collegiate level or within the NFL. He is an executive, looking at the big picture. “As a quarterback, when I look at defenses, I’m so used to looking at schemes; when we go and evaluate players I have to get my eyes off the scheme and concentrate on the player,” Elway said. “That’s the transition that I’ve had to make. Forever, I would look at corners and get a feel for how good they were and what they could do. But for the most part, all the other stuff was all about schemes, what they were doing

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Elway’s motor gets fuel from competition +By Terry Frei The Denver Post

John Elway was a legendary QB, leading the Broncos to NFL championships in his last two seasons as a player. He knows the other side of the ball too. John Leyba, Denver Post file within the defense rather than each individual player in the evaluation process. Now, you just pinpoint a player and evaluate him, whether a defensive lineman or a corner or a safety.” Beyond judging personnel, Elway can bring up questions about defense with the coaching staff, with considerable credibility. “Where we are here, and with the (defensive) experience we have with John Fox, he’s

obviously going to overrule anything I may think,” Elway said, smiling. “I’m going to throw some things out there with what I might think defensively, but I’m not going to overrule John Fox, with his experience and his track record of success and what he’s done defensively. I look at him and listen to what he thinks of different players. He’s a guy I can learn a lot from.”

After retiring as an NFL player in early 1999, John Elway kept competing — in the sports arena and outside of it. From 2002-09, Elway was co-owner and chief executive officer of the Arena Football League’s expansion Colorado Crush, a role that involved everything from tending to football and marketing details to touching base with fellow team owners Stan Kroenke and Pat Bowlen. In 2003, he was the league’s executive of the year. In 2005, the Crush won the league championship. In partnership with fellow AFL franchise owner Jon Bon Jovi, he even made a couple of memorable — and hilariously self-deprecating — television commercials. Before he stepped back into Broncos’ management — he runs the football operations now — Elway was a consultant for the team for a year. Along the way, Elway was involved in the automobile business, serving as commercial spokesman for dealerships that bore his name. He sold his interests and his name disappeared from the marquees for a few years but he returned to the automobile wars last year when he and partners Mitch Pierce and Todd Maul opened the John Elway Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership in Greeley. They also bought the venerable Burt Chevrolet this year in Englewood and renamed it John Elway Chevrolet. Maul, a former AutoNation executive, runs the business with Elway primarily serving as an investor. “To me, no matter what you do, you’re competing to be the best you can be in whatever it is,” Elway said. “The competition side, the competitor in me, is what makes me work hard. Here, I want us to be as good as I can be. I think competitiveness makes you what you are. “To me, that’s what makes something important to somebody. Now, you go about it differently. Obviously, I won’t be throwing and pulling the trigger there. But the competition side makes me want to be good at what I do. That makes me do whatever it takes to be good.” In “retirement,” Elway also was visible as a frequent competitor on the celebrity golf circuit, at one point serving as spokesman for the John Elway Celebrity Golf Classic from 2000-04 in Broomfield. That tournament ended its run when Sun Microsystems decided to bow out as sponsor. In July, he competed in the Celebrity Players Tour’s top event, at Lake Tahoe. He tied for 15th. Now his competitive strain, and his drive, is back in the spotlight at Dove Valley.

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the denver post B denverpost.com B thursday, september 8, 2011

6

SPORTS «7F

Broncos quarterbacks in the post-Elway era John Elway, a Hall of Famer who started his Broncos career in 1983, retired after the 1998 season with back-to-back Super Bowl championships.

1999

2007

Brian Griese, 13 starts; Chris Miller, three starts; Bubby Brister

Jay Cutler, 16 starts Cutler finished with the third-best completion percentage (.636) and the seventh-most passing yards (3,497) in team history, but the Broncos went 7-9 and didn’t make the playoffs. Cutler, a former Vanderbilt star, became the first player in Broncos history to start his career with at least one touchdown pass in nine consecutive games. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Cutler 467 297 63.6 3,497 20 14 88.1

Brister entered camp as the starter after going 4-0 in starts for an injured John Elway in 1998 but was demoted in the preseason by coach Mike Shanahan, who gave the job to Griese. The Broncos started the season 0-4, and that was the good news. Terrell Davis was lost for the season in Game 4 when he injured his knee trying to make a tackle after a Griese interception. Denver finished 6-10, last in the AFC West. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Griese 452 261 57.7 3,032 14 14 75.6 Miller 81 46 56.8 527 2 1 79.6 Brister 20 12 60.0 87 0 3 30.6

2008 Jay Cutler, 16 starts

Jake Plummer (16) came within one victory in the 2005 season of leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Plummer was a Denver quarterback from 2003-06. Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post file

Cutler threw for more than 4,500 yards, completed better than 62 percent of his passes, had 25 TD passes and produced an 86.0 rating. That earned him a ticket out of town after the season when he wouldn’t return phone calls from new coach Josh McDaniels or team owner Pat Bowlen after McDaniels had the audacity to listen to a trade offer. The Broncos’ 8-8 record in 2008 tied them for first in the division, but the Chargers had the tiebreaker and got the playoff berth. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Cutler 616 384 62.3 4,526 25 18 86.0

2003

2005

2009

Jake Plummer, 11 starts; Steve Beuerlein, two starts; Danny Kanell, two starts; Jarious Jackson, one start

Jake Plummer, 16 starts

Kyle Orton, 15 starts; Chris Simms, one start

Plummer was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate (but didn’t make the trip to Hawaii because of an injury) after leading Denver to a 13-3 record and the first playoff win of the post-Elway era, 27-13 over New England. But he threw two interceptions in the AFC championship game and had a meager 66.4 passer rating on the big stage. The Steelers left Denver with a 34-17 victory and a berth in Super Bowl XL. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Plummer 456 277 60.7 3,366 18 7 90.2

Orton, the anti-Jay Cutler, posted career highs in five categories (attempts, completions, yards, TD passes and QB rating), had a career low in interceptions and set a team record by having 10 games with a passer rating of 90 or better. However, the offense sputtered and the defense fell apart after a 6-0 start in Josh McDaniels’ rookie campaign. Denver finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs — again. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Orton 541 336 62.1 3,802 21 12 86.8 Simms 17 5 29.4 23 0 1 15.1

2000 Brian Griese, 10 starts; Gus Frerotte, six starts Griese led the NFL in passer rating (102.9) and earned a berth in the Pro Bowl as the Broncos made the playoffs as a wild-card team with an 11-5 record — and then got stomped 21-3 by the Ravens in Baltimore. Griese’s memorable moment was a Monday night win over the rival Raiders while playing with a separated throwing shoulder. Frerotte went 4-2 in his starts and set a Broncos record with 462 yards passing against San Diego. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Griese 336 216 64.3 2,688 19 4 102.9 Frerotte 232 138 59.5 1,776 9 8 82.1

2001 Griese threw a touchdown pass in all 15 games he played. But Denver finished 8-8, third in the AFC West and out of the playoffs. Griese had 23 scoring passes, sixth-most in team history, but also threw 19 interceptions. Wide receiver Ed McCaffery was lost for the season after breaking his leg in the opener vs. the Giants. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Griese 451 275 61.0 2,827 23 19 78.5 Frerotte 48 30 62.5 308 3 0 101.7

Free-agent signee Plummer engineered the Broncos to a 10-6 record, good enough for second in the AFC West and a playoff berth. But the Colts hammered Denver 41-10. Plummer went 9-2 as a starter and had the best passer rating (91.2) of his career. Plummer missed games with shoulder and foot injuries. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Plummer 302 189 62.6 2,182 15 7 91.2 Kanell 103 53 51.5 442 2 5 49.1 Beuerlein 63 33 52.4 389 2 5 49.0 Jackson 9 4 44.4 41 0 1 18.5

2002

2004

Brian Griese, 13 starts; Steve Beuerlein, three starts

Jake Plummer, 16 starts

Brian Griese, 15 starts; Gus Frerotte, one start

The Broncos got off to a 3-0 start and were 6-2 before fading to a 9-7 record that didn’t merit a playoff berth. Griese was 8-5 as a starter and improved his QB rating to 85.6, up seven points from 2001. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Griese 436 291 66.7 3,214 15 15 85.6 Beuerlein 117 68 58.1 925 6 5 82.7

Plummer broke John Elway team records with 4,089 yards and 27 TD passes. Plummer threw every pass for the team, the first time that happened in Broncos history. Denver repeated its 10-6 record and runner-up division finish — and was trounced again in the playoffs by the Colts 49-24. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Plummer 521 303 58.2 4,089 27 20 84.5

2006 Jake Plummer, 11 starts; Jay Cutler, five starts After losing the season opener, the Broncos reeled off five consecutive wins and were 6-2 at the halfway point. But two straight November losses to division rivals San Diego and Kansas City prompted Mike Shanahan to turn to Cutler, the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Cutler went 2-3 in his starts, throwing nine TD passes and five interceptions. Despite no playoff berth in a 9-7 season, Broncos fans thought they’d have a rifle-armed QB for a long time. So they thought. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Plummer 317 175 55.2 1,994 11 13 68.8 Cutler 137 81 59.1 1,001 9 5 88.5

2010 Kyle Orton, 13 starts; Tim Tebow, three starts Orton opened the season with 1,419 yards passing in the first four weeks. Only Kurt Warner with St. Louis in 2000 had more yards in the first four games. Orton threw only nine interceptions in 498 attempts, with the 1.8 percentage setting a Broncos record. With Josh McDaniels gone and the season lost, Tebow started the final three games and got a win in the penultimate game vs. Houston. Player Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rtg Orton 498 293 58.8 3,653 20 9 87.5 Tebow 82 41 50.0 654 5 3 82.1

Passing the time. A look at the quarterbacks who have followed John Elway’s footsteps as Broncos quarterbacks. »denverpost.com/mediacenter

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8F» SPORTS

thursday, september 8, 2011 B the denver post B denverpost.com

Elway’s vision»

6

A look at quarterbacks

NewMcDonaldHYUNDAI boss looking for mirror image

By Lindsay H. Jones The Denver Post

Top Broncos QBs 6500 South Broadway Blvd. Littleton, Colorado 80121 John Elway

There is odd symmetry to the fact that the NFL player who defined the term “franchise quarterback” is now charged with finding or developing the next one. For more than a decade, the Broncos have been on a quest to find the next John Elway, the quarterback who can combine superior football talent, a knack for winning in clutch situations and off-field charisma. “That’s always the big trick, trying to evaluate who those guys are,” Elway said. “They don’t come around every year.” It wasn’t Brian Griese or Jake Plummer. It could have been Jay Cutler, who had the physical prowess but struggled with the public image of being the face of the Denver franchise. Maybe it’s Tim Tebow, who has the leadership and personality parts down but is trying to prove he can be a pro-style quarterback. Would Elway, now that he has an office instead of a locker at Dove Valley team Broncos QB Tim Tebow, signing autographs for fans, has much more popularity headquarters, like a carbon copy of him- than pro success entering his second NFL season. Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post self? Sure, and Broncos fans would agree. But Elway understands that a franchise “There’s the stuff you can see on film, but With the right grooming and right team quarterback can come in different forms. there’s so much more that you can’t see on around him, a franchise quarterback can Peyton Manning has the whole package: film that you have to do through research.” be built. And once that happens, the rest of arm strength, smarts, leadership. Drew And that’s where the Broncos are now the team can be built around him. Brees doesn’t have the stature, but he has with Tebow, a player who former coach “A franchise quarterback is the guy you HYUNDAI CERTIFIED O AL Tyou RtoA guts and accuracy. Philip Rivers’ delivery Josh McDaniels believed could be the knowL has theC ability to take theD $14,000 makes football purists wince, but he piles long-term quarterback of the future in Den- $3,500 promised land, and that’s a world champiup yards and victories. Michael Vick ver. But for Elway, Tebow is still brand onship,” Elway said. “A franchise quarter$14,600 $4,000 doesn’t fit the traditional QB mold, but the new. The research part is in progress. back can make up for a lot of other weak$17,980 Eagles like him so much, they just gave him Though Elway said there are consensus $5,000 nesses on your football team — and get $18,700 a six-year contract worth $100 million. franchise quarterback candidates — the $5,500 you a lot better in a hurry.” “You look for those traits that you see$19,400 in players selected with the top five picks of $22,400 each quarterback that you believe can the draft — a franchise quarterback $6,600 Lindsay H. Jones: 303-954-1262 translate into a franchise guy,” Elway said. doesn’t have to arrive in the NFL that way. $7,000 or ljones@denverpost.com $22,500

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1983-98 When it comes to Broncos’ quarterbacks, there is Elway, then there is everyone else. The Hall of Famer started more games (231) than any other Bronco and led the team to five Super Bowls and two titles in his 16-year career.

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er QBs were drafted in 1983’s first round. $17,500 “Once you get in the league and you’re $18,000 competing against them, you like to watch $19,000 them to see what they’re doing,” Elway said. “You’re comparing and trying to learn from what they’re doing, whether it’s on film or on television.” Elway and Marino played against each other only three times in their illustrious NFL careers, surprising considering how frequently their careers are linked. Marino and the Dolphins won both regu-

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the denver post B denverpost.com B thursday, september 8, 2011

6

Elway’s vision»

SPORTS «9F

A look at pass rushers

Rushing QBs is Miller’s trademark By Lindsay H. Jones The Denver Post

On his first day in Denver, the afternoon after he was the No. 2 overall pick of the NFL draft, rookie outside linebacker Von Miller made quite an impression on his new boss. Before the draft, John Elway had met the former Texas A&M star at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis and during a private workout on Miller’s college campus in College Station. That gave Elway enough time to see Miller’s potential as a pro pass rusher. So much so that Elway, ever the quarterback, said he was thrilled to see Miller at Broncos headquarters — with a caveat. “As long as he doesn’t stand behind me,” Elway joked. In Miller, the Broncos believe they have a future NFL star and a player to pair with 2009 league sack champion Elvis Dumervil to create havoc on opposing quarterbacks. When Elway looks at Miller, he sees the type of pass rusher who once terrorized him on the field. That’s part of the reason the Broncos used the highest draft pick in franchise history on a pass rusher. “There’s no question that his pass rush ability is what separated him, in our minds, from everyone else,” Elway said of Miller. The Broncos already had one elite pass rusher, even if Dumervil doesn’t fit the prototypical sack king standards. Dumervil, a fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft, stands only 5-foot-11. But he has long arms and an extraordi-

Great bookend pass rushers create nightmares for QBs John Elway’s biggest nightmares came in pairs. Sure, Derrick Thomas and Howie Long were terrifying enough on their own. But Neil Smith and Greg Townsend were the ones who helped created the type of pass rush that gave Elway fits in the AFC West. “It was really the combo,” Elway said. “When you look at a great pass rush — you can eliminate one, or at least help take care Kansas City’s Derrick of one. But the ones I remember, I remember Thomas, left, and Neil the combination of the two.” Smith. Associated Press file Thomas, the Chiefs Hall of Famer, recorded 16 of his 126K career sacks against Elway in the 10 seasons they played against each other. Smith sacked Elway 15 times (17 percent of Smith’s 85K Chiefs total) from 1988-96 before he left Kansas City for Denver to become Elway’s teammate — and a key piece of the Broncos’ defense that won back-to-back Super Bowls. “Those guys created huge problems,” Elway said. As did Long and Townsend, the Raiders’ pass-rush pair from the 1980s to the early 1990s. That duo combined for 191K sacks in their Raiders careers. “Howie was different because he was quick in the middle, created quick pressure and was one of the only guys I could never get offside,” Elway said. Lindsay H. Jones, The Denver Post

After an impressive preseason, Broncos rookie outside linebacker Von Miller, right, appears to be headed for stardom. John Leyba, The Denver Post narily quick first step. In four seasons with the Broncos, he has 43 sacks. With Dumervil back after missing the 2010 season with a pectoral tear, there was a perception the Broncos could — and maybe should — look elsewhere when using the No. 2 pick. “A lot of teams can nullify one good pass rusher. But the more good pass rushers you have, the less ability the

offense has to eliminate that one good pass rusher,” Elway said. “As a whole it helps us, and it puts an offense in a difficult situation when facing us: Which pass rusher are they going to take care of?” The Broncos have Miller and Dumervil under contract through 2014, and possibly 2015, should the team exercise the fifth-year option on Miller’s

rookie deal. That’s a significant number of years and dollars — $21 million guaranteed for Miller through 2014 and $68 million for Dumervil through 2015 — for only two players. If Dumervil can return to his all-pro form of 2009, when he set a team record and led the NFL with 17 sacks, and Miller turns into the player Elway and other Broncos officials believe he

can be, it will be money well spent. “The best pass defense is a pass rush,” Elway said. “Eventually someone is going to get open if you don’t have a pass rush. The quicker you can make the quarterback make a decision, the shorter time a cornerback has to cover a guy or drop in zones. That’s how you create the turnovers, the bad throws and the misreads and errant throws.”

Top Broncos pass rushers NFL reporter Lindsay H. Jones lists the the top three Broncos pass rushers of all time: Elvis Dumervil 2006-present Among the league’s best pass rushers, Dumervil returns after missing all of 2010 because of a torn pectoral muscle. He had 17 sacks in 2009 to lead the NFL.

Simon Fletcher 1985-95

43 Career sacks for Dumervil, a number that puts him into the top 10 for sacks in team history in only four seasons

Karl Mecklenburg 1983-94

97.5

Fletcher had five consecutive seasons of double-digit sacks from 1989-93, including a career-high 16 in 1992. That record stood as the most in team history until Elvis Dumervil’s 17 in 2009.

Mecklenburg, a linebacker, had two four-sack games in the 1985 season, and made six Pro Bowls and seven postseason appearances in his 12-year career.

Career sacks, the most in team history

79 Career sacks, second-most in team history

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10FÂť SPORTS

thursday, september 8, 2011 B the denver post B denverpost.com

Elway’s vision

6

A look at left tackles

Clady key to Broncos’ block party By Lindsay H. Jones The Denver Post

Top Broncos LTs

John Elway remembers exactly what it felt like to take a snap and drop back in the pocket only to be drilled from behind by a 275-pound defensive end. In his 16-year career, Elway was sacked 516 times, more than any other NFL quarterback except Brett Favre, who claimed that title last year in his 20th season. Now that Elway is running the Broncos’ front office, it’s no wonder he values offensive lineman Ryan Clady more than any other player. Clady is a fourth-year left tackle and the player most responsible for keeping quarterback Kyle Orton upright. “You can usually get away from the things you can see, but it’s hard to dodge the things you can’t see. That’s why it’s so important on that back side,� Elway said. Clady is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s best players at his position, a prototypical left tackle at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds. Clady’s footwork, though, might be his best asset because he is nimble and quick in pass protection. In 2008, his rookie season, Clady made the all-pro second team after allowing only half a sack. The Broncos allowed only 12 sacks that season. Clady, a Boise State product, earned his first Pro Bowl selection the next year. Clady didn’t miss a snap last season despite April knee surgery that repaired a partially torn patellar tendon. It was clear, however, that the former first-round draft pick wasn’t the same player last year as he was in 2009. He is confident he can regain his all-pro form this year.

NFL reporter Lindsay H. Jones lists the top three Broncos left tackles of all time:

Gary Zimmerman 1993-97

2

Zimmerman, who started his career in Minnesota, went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He started 76 games for the Broncos and retired after helping the team win the Super Bowl at the end of the 1997 season.

Ryan Clady 2008-present

48

“It’s been a nice offseason for me to get that knee back to where it needs to be so I can play at the level I want to play at,� he said. Clady joined the Broncos when they still were using Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. It fit Clady’s style, but he has shown he can be just as effective as a power blocker. That is important, considering how much the Broncos are planning to run the ball this year. “In this training camp, he’s really improved his run blocking too,� Elway said. “So we hope that he can stay here for a

Clady, the No. 12 overall pick in 2008, is considered one of the premier left tackles in the game despite playing on a surgically repaired knee last year. The Broncos are hoping he’s back to his 2009 all-pro form.

Consecutive starts since he was drafted in 2008, one of only five players from that class to start every game

Offensive tackle Ryan Clady quickly became one of the best draft picks in Broncos history, shining as a first-round rookie in 2008. Joe Amon, Denver Post file long, long time and be that cornerstone, because he’s got that ability to be that guy.� The Broncos are hoping to find “that guy� on the right side of the offensive line as well, a bookend tackle to pair with Clady, who is under contract through 2012. Denver used a second-round pick this year to draft Orlando Franklin, a 6-7, 330pound tackle from Miami. While Clady’s strength always has been his pass blocking, Franklin is ahead of the curve in run blocking but needs work to become an elite pass protector.

All-decade teams, 1980s and 1990s, to which he was named, a prestigious and unique honor

Dave Studdard 1979-88

2

Studdard started 133 games for the Broncos, mostly at left tackle, in his 10-year career.

Super Bowl starts in 1986 and 1987

Zimmerman a cornerstone tackle Offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman ended up in the Hall of Fame after playing for Denver from 1993-97. Associated Press file

John Elway spent much of his playing career on the run, trying to race away from whatever defensive player was chasing him. What a relief it was, then, when the Broncos managed in 1993 to sign offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman, who was regarded at the time as the NFL’s best left tackle. “Not only did he help us to see what it took to be great, he was also a very good technician to where he could help every-

body else and talk through different things, what he saw and why he was doing what he was doing,� Elway said. Zimmerman, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008, was Elway’s key pass protector late in his career. He also was the leader of an offensive line that blocked for running back Terrell Davis. In Super Bowl XXXII, the Broncos rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns

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the denver post B denverpost.com B thursday, september 8, 2011

6

Elway’s vision»

SPORTS «11F

A look at cornerbacks

Bailey still a Champ in matchups By Lindsay H. Jones The Denver Post

It’s one thing to keep up with the NFL’s fastest wide receivers and swat down a deep pass a couple of times a game. It’s another thing altogether to completely eliminate one side of the field or neutralize another team’s best offensive players. Darrelle Revis has his “island,” where many Pro Bowl wide receivers have disappeared. Nnamdi Asomugha could make fans watching Raiders games forget he was playing. That’s how little action he saw. There’s a reason true shutdown cornerbacks are rare. And there’s a reason they command big money. Even quarterbacks with the strongest arms and the best accuracy will usually avoid throwing their way. “This game is all about matchups and if you get a lockdown corner, the chances of that great receiver being successful go down,” said John Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations. The Broncos have their lockdown cornerback, veteran Champ Bailey, whose 48 career interceptions rank third among active NFL players. Bailey is 33 now, and quarterbacks have been trying to test him more in recent years. Bad idea. Just ask Kansas City’s Pro Bowl receiver, Dwayne Bowe. With Bailey assigned to shadow him in a game at Kansas City last December, Bowe was held without a catch and had only three passes thrown his way. At the time, he was the NFL’s hottest receiver. On one of those attempts, Bailey

Former Chiefs star Lewis was impossible to overlook When John Elway stared down the field and saw Albert Lewis patrolling the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive backfield, it was like Elway was looking at a giant. For years, Lewis, at 6-f00t-2, 205 pounds, was able to make Broncos receivers disappear. “Back in those days when we were playing them, we had the Three Amigos, and he was longer and taller than our guys, and a lot of Albert Lewis intercepttimes he would just engulf them,” Elway ed 42 passes in his NFL said. career. Getty Images file Indeed, Lewis was a physical freak compared with the Broncos’ trio of Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson and Ricky Nattiel, none of whom measured 6 feet tall. Of Lewis’ 42 career interceptions, five came off Elway. “Sometimes things took you his way, but you didn’t have a whole lot of confidence that things were going to be wide open. If you did complete something on him, you were going to have to make a very good throw,” Elway said. Other than Lewis, who was a two-time all-pro and four-time Pro Bowler, Elway said Raiders cornerback Mike Haynes was the most challenging to face. Haynes, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had 18 interceptions with the Raiders from 1983-89. Broncos corner Champ Bailey, breaking up a pass vs. the Raiders in 2009, has had what appears to be a Hall of Fame career. John Leyba, Denver Post file drew an offensive pass interference call, a sure sign that a receiver is getting frustrated with blanket coverage. Bailey has spent most of his Denver career lined up at left cornerback. New Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, a former defensive backs coach, is moving Bailey inside to the slot position when the Broncos are playing the

Lindsay H. Jones, The Denver Post

nickel package — a position switch that will match Bailey with the opponent’s hot receiver and make it more difficult for a quarterback to avoid Bailey. “I like how we’re putting Champ in the slot,” Elway said. “It gives you that ability to shut down people, make big plays and get interceptions.” Bailey’s new contract through 2014

that he signed in the offseason almost ensures he will finish his likely Hall of Fame career as a Bronco. But it also means Denver needs to find a young replacement. The Broncos have three second-year cornerbacks to team with Bailey and 33-year-old André Goodman, but they may have to use a high draft pick if they want to find a

true shutdown cornerback. The Broncos heavily scouted the top cornerback in the 2011 draft, LSU star Patrick Peterson, but decided that drafting a top pass rusher (Von Miller) was an immediate priority. “The more of those top guys you have, the better off you’ll be,” Elway said.

Top Broncos CBs NFL reporter Lindsay H. Jones lists the top three Broncos cornerbacks of all time: Champ Bailey 2004-present The longest-tenured Bronco, and still an elite cornerback, Bailey re-signed with Denver in February. He’s now under contract with the team through 2014.

30 Interceptions since becoming a Bronco in 2004

Louis Wright 1975-86 Orange Crush alum played in 166 games during his Broncos career and was selected to five Pro Bowls, including three straight from 1977-79.

2 Super Bowl appearances, one early in his career (1977) and one at the end (1986)

Willie Brown 1963-66 Brown played the bulk of his Hall of Fame career with the Raiders after the Broncos traded him in 1967. He made four Pro Bowls and was on one Super Bowl championship team.

9 Interceptions in 1964, only his second season in the American Football League

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12F» SPORTS

thursday, september 8, 2011 B the denver post B denverpost.com

Offense

6

By Jeff Legwold, The Denver Post

Knowshon Moreno improved his rushing average from 3.8 in his rookie season to 4.3 in 2010. He hopes less will be more this season, as he has lost weight. Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Starters» WR Brandon Lloyd

RT Orlando Franklin

QUARTERBACKS

An overnight sensation eight years in the making. After not starting more than five games in any season since 2006, Lloyd led the NFL in receiving yards in 2010 and earned his first Pro Bowl berth. He is the Broncos’ unquestioned No. 1 option on the outside. Did you know? Lloyd was a three-time Missouri state high jump champion in high school.

Broncos were smitten by Franklin’s proficiency as a run blocker with the Miami Hurricanes, a big reason Denver made him a starter almost from the moment he was selected him in the second round of this year’s draft. Still has work to do in pass protection, but Denver can help him by lining up a tight end next to him. Did you know? The native of Jamaica spent much of his childhood and three years of high school living in Toronto.

No. Name 8 Kyle Orton 9 Brady Quinn 15 Tim Tebow

LT Ryan Clady After his 2009 Pro Bowl season, tried to play his way through his rehab from knee surgery in 2010. NFL personnel executives said it showed in his play, but he showed quickness and nimble feet this preseason. If the Broncos succeed up front, he will be a big reason. Did you know? Clady is one of only four players in the league from the 2008 draft to have started the first 48 games of his NFL career.

23 Willis McGahee 6-0 235 29 27 K. Moreno 5-11 200 24 35 Lance Ball 5-9 215 26

9 Miami 3 Georgia 3 Maryland

FULLBACK 46 Spencer Larsen 6-2 243 27

4 Arizona

6-5 255 23 6-5 252 23 6-4 252 27

R Portland St. R Nevada 4 UC Davis

WIDE RECEIVERS 12 19 84 87 88

Matthew Willis Eddie Royal Brandon Lloyd Eric Decker D. Thomas

6-0 190 5-10 185 6-0 188 6-3 218 6-3 229

27 4 UCLA 25 4 Va. Tech 30 9 Illinois 24 2 Minnesota 23 2 Ga. Tech

CENTER 50 J.D. Walton

6-3 305 24

2 Baylor

GUARDS Daniel Fells caught two TDs for the Rams in 2010 (six starts). John Leyba, The Denver Post

TE Daniel Fells Fells was a Broncos free-agent signee for only a few days before he appeared in the starting lineup. He is the blocker-receiver combination that Denver wants in the offense. Had a career-best 41 catches last season. Will be on the field in most down-and-distance situations. Did you know? Fells worked with Broncos tight ends coach Clancy Barone as a rookie in Atlanta in 2006.

Still trying to recapture the form that led him to 91 catches as a rookie in 2008. Had offseason hip surgery, then was bothered by pain in the other hip during training camp. Broncos are hopeful he can get some of the coverage off Brandon Lloyd in the passing game. Did you know? In 2008, Royal became the first player since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have a team’s longest run, reception, kickoff return and punt return in the same season.

C J.D. Walton After starting all 36 games of his Baylor career, Walton started 16 with the Broncos as a rookie. But league scouts believe all that work caught up to him down the stretch in 2010. Broncos need him to be a physical presence in their power running game. Did you know? Walton is the only center in Broncos history to make 16 starts as a rookie.

RG Chris Kuper Has 57 starts in his NFL career, including 15, 15 and 16 the past three seasons. Should flourish in Denver’s power running game demanded by new coach John Fox. A leader in the team’s informal workouts during the NFL lockout. Did you know? Kuper has missed only two games in his NFL career because of injuries, one in 2009 (ankle) and one in 2010 (knee).

Wt. Age Exp.College 225 28 7 Purdue 235 26 5 N. Dame 235 24 2 Florida

RUNNING BACKS

80 Julius Thomas 85 Virgil Green 86 Daniel Fells

WR Eddie Royal

Zane Beadles was selected by the Broncos in the second round of the 2010 draft, the 45th overall pick. John Leyba, The Denver Post

Ht. 6-4 6-3 6-3

QB Brady Quinn

TIGHT ENDS

LG Zane Beadles Broncos tossed Beadles into the action right from the start, giving him plenty of work in the 2010 preseason. He then started six games at right tackle last season and eight at left guard. Scouts say he played as if worn down through December, but he has been in the starting lineup since training camp opened. Did you know? Beadles was penalized only twice last season.

Reserves»

The roster»

A healthy Eddie Royal would take the heat off Brandon Lloyd. John Leyba, The Denver Post

65 68 71 73

Manny Ramirez Zane Beadles Russ Hochstein Chris Kuper

6-3 6-4 6-4 6-4

313 305 300 303

28 5 Texas Tech 24 2 Utah 33 11 Nebraska 28 6 N. Dakota

6-3 6-7 6-5 6-6

310 330 305 315

26 4 23 R 25 2 24 4

TACKLES 72 74 75 78

Herb Taylor O. Franklin Chris Clark Ryan Clady

TCU Miami S. Miss. Boise State

RB Knowshon Moreno Former first-round draft pick expected to split playing time with Willis McGahee, most likely at Moreno’s expense in the red zone. Moreno tried to improve his quickness and conditioning by losing weight in the offseason. Did you know? Moreno was one of five running backs in the NFL last season who averaged more than 10 yards per reception.

After being shoved to the side in 2010 by the team’s coaching staff, he has done well in the preseason.

QB Tim Tebow Released a New York Times best-seller in the offseason but is still looking to refine his game and throwing mechanics.

RB Willis McGahee Was the Broncos’ top target in free agency — he signed a four-year deal worth about $9.5 million. He’ll be the touchdown guy in the run game.

RB Lance Ball Tried to make the most of his chances when LenDale White was on the shelf in camp. Has to be a reliable spot player.

WR Eric Decker Has worked with the starters in camp and is looking at being the third wide receiver in the team’s three-wide look and a top returner.

WR Demaryius Thomas A bit of a surprise for the opening-week roster given he tore an Achilles tendon early in the offseason, but Broncos are hopeful he gets up to full speed quickly.

WR Matthew Willis Knows how to get noticed, with his second consecutive training camp with the Broncos in which he consistently made plays.

TE Julius Thomas Was coached well in only season of college football in 2010. Showed up to training camp making plays from Day One.

TE Virgil Green With his speed, he should have an impact in some of the Broncos’ passing-down packages, but needs to improve blocking.

FB Spencer Larsen

G/C Russ Hochstein

One of Denver’s best special-teams players and has made starts on offense and defense. Two-back formations will be used a lot more now that John Fox is Denver’s head coach. Did you know? In the 2008 season, Larsen became the first player in Broncos history to make starts on offense and defense in the same game (Nov. 16 against Atlanta).

Swing player who can start at three positions if needed: both guard spots and center.

G/C Manny Ramirez

QB Kyle Orton

T Herb Taylor

Veteran from Purdue was briefly on the trading block when training camp opened and likely is in his last year as a starter with the Broncos. Has thrown 41 touchdown passes and only 21 interceptions in his two years with the Broncos, who traded Jay Cutler for him. Did you know? Inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, he has thrown 52 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in his NFL career.

Did not play last season but spent time on the Broncos’ roster in 2009. Has worked almost exclusively at right tackle in the preseason.

The Broncos like his strength and straight-ahead power for their power run game. He can play both guard spots and center.

T Chris Clark Broncos claimed Clark on waivers last season, and he is the top backup at right tackle.

Editor’s note: Because the Broncos pick second on the waiver wire, they have a greater opportunity to juggle their roster. This roster was current at press time.


the denver post B denverpost.com B thursday, september 8, 2011

6

Defense

By Jeff Legwold, The Denver Post

Broncos linebackers Joe Mays (51) and Von Miller (58) provide a physical toughness to a much-improved defensive unit under coordinator Dennis Allen.

Starters»

DT Ryan McBean

DE Elvis Dumervil

MLB Joe Mays

DEFENSIVE ENDS

He is the cornerstone of the Broncos’ new defensive scheme and should have a big year in an aggressive attack that wants to get after opposing quarterbacks. Has shown no ill effects from a torn chest muscle that forced him to miss all of last season. Did you know? His 14 career games with at least two sacks is the fourth-highest total in league history for a player through his first four seasons.

After not being quite able to crack the starting lineup in his first three seasons as a pro, Mays has held off rookie Nate Irving and veteran Mario Haggan to earn the job. Mays will have to maintain his level of play to keep it. Did you know? The Broncos traded running back J.J. Arrington to the Eagles to acquire Mays. Arrington never had a carry in a game for the Broncos or the Eagles.

No. Name

Ht.

Wt. Age Exp.College

52 91 92 95

6-4 6-3 5-11 6-5

271 274 260 268

28 25 27 24

6-2 6-3 6-4 6-5 6-5 6-5

306 316 291 305 290 300

27 6 Fla. State 25 5 Florida 24 1 Wyoming 27 4 Okla. State 28 6 Mich. State 30 9 Texas A&M

5-11 6-3 6-1 6-1 6-3 6-3 6-0

250 245 242 240 274 237 229

26 23 29 23 31 22 25

6-0 6-1 6-1 6-2

210 196 200 217

37 16 Clemson 21 R UCLA 23 R Oklahoma 24 3 N. Dame

191 192 190 195 185

33 10 S. Carolina 33 13 Georgia 22 R Kansas 23 2 Mississippi 27 4 Auburn

DT Brodrick Bunkley The Broncos shipped a draft pick to the Eagles to give this former first-round pick a chance to bulk up their defensive front. Bunkley has shown flashes of top-tier ability at times but hasn’t had a 50-tackle season in his career. Did you know? He entered the NFL as one of the strongest players in the 2006 draft, having bench-pressed 225 pounds 44 times at the scouting combine.

DT Kevin Vickerson The Broncos were quick to re-sign him after the 2010 season — a two-year deal with a $1 million signing bonus. He had success in an aggressive 4-3 look when he was with the Titans. Did you know? He started 10 games for the Cologne Centurions in 2007, when he was named a first-team all-NFL Europe selection with 31 tackles and 3K sacks.

He is the Broncos’ highest draft pick in franchise history — No. 2 overall — and will play much of the time from the strongside linebacker spot. He was the best pass rusher on the board in this year’s draft. Did you know? He is one of two Butkus Award winners employed by the Broncos; the team’s director of college scouting, Matt Russell, is the other.

DE Robert Ayers After trying to fit into the Broncos’ 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker the past two seasons, Ayers said throughout camp he was confident he could contribute far more as a defensive end in the new scheme. He has to pump up the sack numbers — he has only 1K for his career. Did you know? Coach John Fox worked out Ayers as a defensive end before the 2009 draft.

LB Wesley Woodyard One of best special-teams players on the team — maybe the best — and also fits the speedy profile of the kind of player the Broncos want at linebacker. Will likely start the season opener against the Raiders and possibly Week 2 vs. the Bengals for the injured D.J. Williams. Did you know? Was the first freshman to be named a team captain in the history of the Kentucky football program.

6 3 6 4

App. State Tennessee Louisville Florida

DEFENSIVE TACKLES 77 79 96 98 99 94

Brodrick Bunkley Marcus Thomas Mitch Unrein Ryan McBean Kevin Vickerson Ty Warren

51 53 55 56 57 58 59

Joe Mays Mike Mohamed D.J. Williams Nate Irving Mario Haggan Von Miller W. Woodyard

SAFETIES

A 10-time Pro Bowl selection, Bailey re-signed with the Broncos because he wanted to stay in Denver and believed in coach John Fox’s plan to get the team back into the playoffs. With the Broncos’ focus on forcing turnovers, he is poised for a big year in interceptions. Did you know? After 21 interceptions in his first three seasons with the Broncos, he has had nine in the past four years combined.

20 26 28 30

Brian Dawkins Rahim Moore Quinton Carter David Bruton

4 R 8 R 9 R 4

N.D. State California Miami N.C. State Miss. State Texas A&M Kentucky

21 24 38 41 NA

André Goodman 5-10 Champ Bailey 6-0 Chris Harris 5-10 Cassius Vaughn 5-11 Jonathan Wilhite 5-11

SPECIAL TEAMS 4 B. Colquitt (P) 6-3 205 26 3 Tennessee 5 Matt Prater (K) 5-10 195 27 5 Central Fla. 66 L. Paxton (LS) 6-2 270 33 12 Sac. State

S Brian Dawkins

Matt Prater, kicker

Reworked his contract as training camp opened to reduce his pay and make it a oneyear deal. Many in the league believe he intends to retire at season’s end, and the Broncos hope he can go out with a big year and help their young safeties mature. Did you know? One of only three players in league history with at least 35 career interceptions and at least 20 career sacks.

Could have a big year if the Broncos can’t finish drives in the first year of a huge makeover. Has made 12 field goals of at least 50 yards with the Broncos. Did you know? In his three seasons with the Broncos, he has 67 touchbacks on kickoffs — third-highest total in the league over that span.

Played in only eight games last season because of injuries and may have trouble holding off Cassius Vaughn to keep this spot. Understands the game and makes good decisions but will have to show he still has the explosiveness to get himself to the right spots. Did you know? His 17 tackles in 2010 were the fewest in a season since his second year in the league in 2003, when he played in three games for the Lions — he had 11 that year. Editor’s note: Because the Broncos were to pick second on the waiver wire, they were likely to juggle their roster. This roster was current at press time.

DT Marcus Thomas Trying to overcome pectoral injury.

Not what NFL designates as a rookie because he was on practice squad last year.

DT Ty Warren Missed the 2010 season because of hip surgery. Now trying to overcome torn triceps to join team late this season.

DE Derrick Harvey Disappointment with Jacksonville as Jaguars’ first-round pick in the 2008 draft.

DE Jason Hunter Made transition from outside linebacker in last year’s 3-4 to end in the new 4-3. Continued to move up the depth chart.

LB Mario Haggan Former defensive end in contention for playing time at middle linebacker.

CORNERBACKS

It was Moore’s ball skills that lured the Broncos to select him in April. He had 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2009 to lead the nation’s major colleges. Will have to make an impact as an open-field tackler to keep the job. Did you know? He started 37 games in three seasons at UCLA, including 12 as an 18-year-old true freshman.

CB André Goodman

Couldn’t retain his starting job with the move to the 4-3, but he provides depth.

DT Mitch Unrein

LINEBACKERS

CB Champ Bailey

S Rahim Moore

Robert Ayers’ move to defensive end fits his game better. Tim Rasmussen, The Denver Post

Jason Hunter Robert Ayers Elvis Dumervil Derrick Harvey

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Reserves»

The roster»

LB Von Miller

SPORTS «13F

Special teams»

Britton Colquitt, punter Last season was his first as a starter in the NFL, and he finished with 44.6 gross yards per kick. He also tied for the league lead with six games with a gross average of at least 50 yards per punt. Did you know? In 2010, Colquitt and his brother (Dustin, of the Chiefs) were the first siblings to punt in the NFL at the same time since 1941.

Lonie Paxton, long snapper Has not missed a game in seven seasons and has played in every game in 11 of his 12 career seasons. The only exception was in 2003, when he played in 13 because of injury. Was unchallenged in training camp. Did you know? He is vice president of Active Force Foundation, which offers disabled persons the ability to pursue an active lifestyle.

LB Mike Mohamed Has shown he is a quick study by moving all over the defense in the preseason. Takes good angles to the ball and keeps himself in position to make plays.

LB Nate Irving Broncos opened training camp with the idea this rookie from North Carolina State would compete for the No. 1 middle linebacker job. He dropped to third on the depth chart, then injured his ankle.

LB D.J. Williams Veteran will be back in the starting lineup once his dislocated elbow heals. Expected to miss the season opener against the Raiders and the Week 2 game vs. the Bengals.

S David Bruton His potential playing time on defense took a hit when the Broncos used two draft picks this year on safeties.

CB Cassius Vaughn Pushed for playing time in almost every defensive package during training camp. Will be on the field in the nickel. Could be a starter before the season is over.

CB Chris Harris Kept the streak alive, making it eight consecutive years the Broncos have had an undrafted rookie on their 53-man roster. Harris did it with hard-nosed play.

CB Jonathan Wilhite Drafted in the fourth round in 2008 by New England. Played in 39 games for the Patriots, including nine starts.

S Quinton Carter Broncos see him as a potential replacement for Brian Dawkins. Until then, he will be playing special teams.


14F» SPORTS

thursday, september 8, 2011 B the denver post B denverpost.com

6

Broncos schedule» SEPT. 12

NOV. 13

Oakland Raiders

At Kansas City Chiefs

8:15 p.m. ESPN, KTVD-20 Football America will see John Fox’s first regular-season game as the team’s coach, and it comes against a longtime rival. Oh, and the last time the Raiders came to Denver, they left with a 59-14 victory.

11 a.m. KCNC-4 In four of the past five meetings between these teams, at least one has scored 33 points or more — and one of them has topped 40 points three times.

NOV. 17

SEPT. 18

New York Jets

Cincinnati Bengals 2:15 p.m. KCNC-4 Broncos are 11-2 at home against the Bengals, and it will be Cincinnati’s first trip here since Christmas Eve 2006.

By now, Broncos fans have had two preseason games to experience it and about a month to practice saying it: Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It’s a mouthful, but it’s just one of several changes Broncos fans will notice at home games this season. “There are a number of things related to that that will be welcome additions to the fan experience,” said Mac Freeman, senior vice president of business development. The cosmetic changes are underway, with new signage inside and outside the stadium. The permanent signs will match the Broncos’ color

518

Price per ticket

2:15 p.m. KCNC-4 This will be only the fourth time for the Broncos to play at Lambeau Field. They are winless in Wisconsin with three losses in Green Bay, to go with one loss and one tie in Milwaukee.

517 320 321 322 319 515 113 318 111 112 514 317 111 112 113 110 316 111 513 110 315 110 512 314 109 109 313 108 511 108 312 107 107 510 311 516

Green zone

$125

Yellow zone

$110

Orange zone

$85

Red zone club seats

$375

Gray zone club seats

$310

Orange zone club seats Teal zone

$195

Gate 2

$165 Gate 1

$90

Reserved seats at club level

Light blue zone

$70

Pink zone

$60

White zone

$45

ADA seating

509

310 106 106

508

309 105 105

507

308 104 104 307 103 103 306 102 305 102

506 505

BRONCOS

Dark blue zone club seats

Gate 3

San Diego Chargers 2:15 p.m. KCNC-4 Perhaps it should be a calculator giveaway day. In their five most recent trips to Denver, the Chargers scored 33, 32, 38, 41 and 35 points on the Broncos’ defense.

40 30 20 10

236 235

234 233 232 231 230

Gate 10

Ticket office: 720-258-3333

11 a.m. KCNC-4 It’s the Kyle Orton Bowl. This was a new contract away from being Orton’s return game, but the teams couldn’t finish the training-camp trade for the Broncos’ veteran quarterback.

2:15 p.m. KCNC-4 Given that Bill Belichick has tried to put a veteran roster together to make one more title run, this could be the best team that passes through Denver in 2011.

DEC. 24

At Buffalo Bills 11 a.m. KCNC-4 All of the Broncos faithful who wanted Denver to select Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus last April can get a look at the Bills’ rookie in this one.

Detroit Lions 2 p.m. KDVR-31 The Lions will bring a vastly improved, attacking defense to their first regular-season visit to Denver since 2003.

JAN. 1

Kansas City Chiefs

NOV. 6

At Oakland Raiders

Gate 6

123 123 337

534

124 124 338 339 125 125 340 126 126 341

535

Gate 7

536

Gate 8

2:15 p.m. KCNC-4 This will be the first time the Broncos play on New Year’s Day since they defeated the Raiders 20-17 in the AFC championship game in the 1977 season.

2 p.m. KCNC-4 The name of the Raiders’ home stadium may change every two years or so, but this always will be the site of Tim Tebow’s first Broncos start at QB.

Jeff Legwold, The Denver Post

Predictions for Broncos season»

537

228 229 Gate 9

MARK KISZLA

DAVE KRIEGER

8-8

8-8

Mediocre is two times better than last year.

John Fox knows turnarounds.

Let there be progress.

LINDSAY H. JONES

MIKE KLIS

7-9

11-5

JEFF LEGWOLD

How many wins are a new head coach and a healthy Elvis Dumervil worth?

Based on Broncos starters outscoring opponent starters 34-9 in the preseason.

The Denver Post

Game day online. Tweets, blogs, quotes, stats and fan comments. »denverpost.com/broncos

First-and-Orange. Daily Broncos online news and analysis. »blogs.denverpost.com/broncos

Q&A. Jeff Legwold takes readers inside the NFL. »denverpost.com/broncos

Tebow page. Photos, stories, columns and stats on the Broncos’ QB. »denverpost.com/timtebow

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Our loyal readers get special deals and exciting savings on everything from fast food to fast cars.

New England Patriots

At Miami Dolphins

Elway’s Top 10. Countdown of the best moments in the Hall of Fame QB’s career, from “The Helicopter” to the “Duck in Seattle.” »denverpost.com/mediacenter

It pays to be a Denver Post home delivery subscriber.

2 p.m. KDVR-31 Two words: Jay Cutler. It is Cutler’s first trip to play in Denver since the ugly he said/he said divorce that he and Josh McDaniels fashioned in 2009, which was a turning point for the franchise.

DEC. 18

127 127 342 304 101 101 538 504 100 128 303 100 128 343 539 503 302 100 135 134 133 132 131 130 129 128 344 540 345 502 301 129 135 501 541 300 135 134 133 132 131 130 129 346 500 542

All ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ticket sales will be made through the Broncos’ ticket office with a direct phone number just for disabled patrons. Call the special ADA seating telephone number, 720-258-3337.

DEC. 11

OCT. 23

OCT. 30

525 323 324 325 326 526 327 527 114 115 116 328 117 117 329 528 116 114 115 118 330 529 117 118 331 118 530 332 119 119 333 531 120 120 10 334 20 121 121 532 335 30 122 122 533 336 40 50

2 p.m. KCNC-4 Broncos get a look at QB Donovan McNabb. Also, look for former Broncos special-teams coach Mike Priefer to be aggressive in the kicking game.

Chicago Bears

OCT. 9

524

520 521 522

VISITORS

Mile High seating zones

At Minnesota Vikings

At Green Bay Packers

Gate 5 523

519

DEC. 4

OCT. 2

notice refreshed and brightened paint jobs and graphics at the gates and things like that.” There are less visible changes in the works, though, that should make tech-savvy fans happy. By midseason, a new antenna system will be in place that will significantly expand mobile phone and data service for Verizon and Sprint users. Freeman said a “state-of-theart” wireless Internet system also is planned, and will be tested late in the season with a debut in 2012. “The fan appetite for fantasy football, stats, other games, really everything football-related is tremendous,” Freeman said. “This will allow us to push more content through to the fans.”

Gate 4

2:15 p.m. KCNC-4 The Broncos are 1-4 in their past five trips to San Diego. In each of the Chargers’ four victories, they have outscored the Broncos by at least 20 points.

11 a.m. KCNC-4 When the Broncos left Nashville last season after a victory over Tennessee, they were 2-2. They went 2-10 the rest of the way.

Sports Authority Field at Mile High» Seating chart

At San Diego Chargers

At Tennessee Titans

New name translates into tech support at Mile High scheme of orange and blue, even though Sports Authority’s signature color is red. Sports Authority also is paying for the addition of another LED ribbon board that will run the length of the north end zone, similar to the other boards in the stadium’s corners. Stadium staff is updating the appearance of the inside of the stadium, a process that will continue throughout the season. It will include new paint, slogans and artwork. The first phase has a local feel with a display featuring helmets from every Colorado high school football program. “All that is tied to the Sports Authority transformation,” Freeman said. “Everyone will

NOV. 27

SEPT. 25

A temporary sign for Sports Authority Field was put up at the Broncos’ stadium but later removed. A permanent sign should be up this week. Karl Gehring, The Denver Post

By Lindsay H. Jones The Denver Post

6:20 p.m. NFLN, KWGN-2 Denver lost a tough one to the Jets in 2010 when Renaldo Hill’s pass-interference penalty set up a late New York score.

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A Different Class of Driver

WOODY PAIGE

7-9

7-9

In the end, they’re better but still need more depth.


the denver post B denverpost.com B thursday, september 8, 2011

6

AFC preview By Jeff Legwold, The Denver Post

West

North

San Diego Chargers

Baltimore Ravens

The Chargers were one of the most active teams in free agency, signing 13 veteran players. Before the 2010 season, the Chargers signed only five veteran free agents. If they get a contribution from safety Bob Sanders (age 30) and linebacker Takeo Spikes (34), the Chargers will return to their familiar perch atop the division. Prediction: 10-6

Newcomers include veteran wide receiver Lee Evans, who gives Joe Flacco another option in the passing game. Evans can help the offense put stress on a defense in all areas of the field. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis is entering his 16th season, so he has a lot of mileage. Can he still play at a high level? The Ravens hope they like the answer. Prediction: 11-5

Kansas City Chiefs

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Chiefs took a slow, steady approach to training camp this year. That strategy will be beneficial if they stay healthier than their AFC brethren. The bigger issue for the defending division champions is the constant rumblings that coach Todd Haley and general manager Scott Pioli are butting heads — a sure recipe for failure over the long haul. Prediction: 8-8

Newcomers include wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who could be a significant pickup for a team that usually stays on the sideline during free agency. The Steelers have a run-first approach to offense, but the 29-year-old Cotchery (358 career catches) gives them the ability to manipulate coverages more. And tailback Isaac Redman, who starred in the playoffs last season, is another weapon for Ben Roethlisberger. Prediction: 11-5

Cleveland Browns

Todd Haley coached the Chiefs to the AFC West title last season. The Associated Press

Oakland Raiders The Raiders had some injuries in training camp — notably tailback Darren McFadden’s fractured orbital bone and wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford’s broken hand. So the Raiders’ offensive game plan has been slow to develop. They hired longtime NFL assistant Al Saunders to implement his motion-heavy playbook. It’s his first stint with the Raiders since he was a team ball boy in 1963. Prediction: 8-8

Denver Broncos The talk of the town regarding Denver’s roster has centered on the quarterbacks. But the Broncos will go only as far as their reconstructed defense carries them. New defensive coordinator Dennis Allen wants to bring pressure on opposing passers from all angles. The defense will have to hold up against the run to make that work. Prediction: 7-9

East

Young quarterback Colt McCoy looks like he will fit just fine in new coach Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense, so there is a lot of optimism surrounding the Browns. But they need to be much better on defense to improve. The Browns didn’t finish better than 11th in the league in scoring defense in any of the past 10 seasons. Prediction: 6-10

Cincinnati Bengals From the mess that is the standoff with quarterback Carson Palmer to a team that has a lot of holes on both sides of the ball, the Bengals appear to be headed for another long, dreary season. Andy Dalton, a former Texas Christian star, likely will get a lot of playing time as a rookie QB. Dalton is smart, tough and has potential, but he’s entering his first NFL season without much help on offense. Prediction: 3-13

South

NFC preview By Jeff Legwold, The Denver Post

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is so good the Arizona Cardinals gave him $120 million over eight years to remain with the team. Christian Petersen, Getty Images

West

North

Arizona Cardinals

Green Bay Packers

Their offensive plans, which now include QB Kevin Kolb throwing to a $120 million receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, took a hit when RB Ryan Williams suffered a ruptured tendon in his knee in the preseason. Their two-deep is a huge question mark. Former Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson tore a biceps tendon, and they lack a top-shelf pass rusher. Prediction: 9-7

A young, deep team with a franchise QB in Aaron Rodgers showed a willingness to tweak things. The offense flashed a no-huddle look in the preseason that is sure to be a headachein-waiting for defensive coordinators. The biggest dilemma is their propensity to get Rodgers punished in the pocket. He has been sacked at least 31 times in each of the past three seasons, and the Packers gave up nine sacks in their first two preseason games. Prediction: 12-4

St. Louis Rams They have a potential franchise QB in Sam Bradford, who was cocooned in two-tight end and two-back looks last season as a rookie, but will not have that luxury this year in Josh McDaniels’ more open formations. They haven’t shown they can protect their most prized player in this preseason, and their run defense is an enormous question mark. Prediction: 6-10

Houston Texans It’s likely a make-or-break year for coach Gary Kubiak, and if it turns out to be the “make,” he’ll likely have defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and a juiced-up run game to thank. If Kubiak can mix RBs Arian Foster, who suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason, and Ben Tate with a productive passing attack and Phillips can turn Mario Williams into an outside linebacker, this team can make the playoffs. Prediction: 9-7

Seattle Seahawks After sitting on the sidelines in the QB derbies that were free agency and the April draft — they secured Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst — their offense sputtered through much of the preseason. The offensive line is a concern, especially in front of two quarterbacks still trying to prove they can be NFL starters. Prediction: 5-11

San Francisco 49ers

New England Patriots The Patriots were solid in the preseason, with and without their starters. But the front office, including coach Bill Belichick, believes the team can’t stand pat. That’s why pain-in-the-neck defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was acquired. Haynesworth has been a headache for coaches Jeff Fisher and Mike Shanahan. Belichick will attempt to get production from one of the NFL’s most talented and troubled players. Prediction: 13-3

Colts star Peyton Manning is coming off another neck surgery. Joe Robbins, Getty Images

New York Jets

Indianapolis Colts

For all of coach Rex Ryan’s “We’re the big dogs” bluster, this Super Bowl contender is thin on the offensive line. And the playbook may be a collection of screen passes and dump-offs from Mark Sanchez if wideout Plaxico Burress can’t resurrect his career after a jail stint. The Jets have to shine on defense just to compete with the Patriots. Prediction: 10-6

The Colts are chewing their fingernails because of Peyton Manning’s second neck surgery in 17 months. Manning missed the preseason, and his regular-season streak of 208 consecutive starts is in jeopardy. Another concern: The Colts aren’t what they used to be. Take Manning out of the picture, even for a short time, and trouble is on the horizon. Prediction: 8-8

Miami Dolphins

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Dolphins thought about trading for Kyle Orton but couldn’t work out a deal. So the offense stays in Chad Henne’s hands. Henne hasn’t been a star at quarterback, but he has the support of his teammates. Newcomers include former Saints running back Reggie Bush, who brings versatility to the offense. The line can’t afford to lose tackle Jake Long. Prediction: 7-9

If defensive end Aaron Kampman doesn’t play well after knee surgery, the Jaguars’ playoff hopes figure to take a hit. Jacksonville’s coach, Jack Del Rio, is on the hot seat. The Jaguars have a potential QB controversy involving rookie Blaine Gabbert and veteran David Garrard. And there is constant talk about the franchise being moved. Prediction: 7-9

Buffalo Bills

Tennessee Titans

The Bills are rebuilding and have to play a rugged schedule. They face the Chiefs, Raiders, Patriots, Eagles and Giants — in the first six weeks of the season. They didn’t draft a quarterback this year because they believe Ryan Fitzpatrick can handle the job. But the Bills need to get their running game going. The sooner, the better. If that doesn’t happen, Fitzpatrick will struggle. Prediction: 4-12

With RB Chris Johnson having just ended a messy holdout, it could be a difficult opening year for coach Mike Munchak. Rookie QB Jake Locker showed them more than they expected in the preseason. There is a lot of history in holdouts getting injured early after coming back to the fold. This team’s offense is in dire trouble if Johnson gets added to that list. Prediction: 6-10

They have a nice view of the work Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck — the 2012 draft’s likely No. 1 pick — will do. Luck’s former coach, Jim Harbaugh, turned up the heat for the 49ers in the preseason with plenty of full-contact work in practice just to see what he had. He likely got his answer — not much. They will have to rely on a defense that is strong at linebacker and hope for the best. Prediction: 4-12

East Philadelphia Eagles For all of the money they spent in free agency — led by the monster deal for CB Nnamdi Asomugha — they exited the preseason with significant questions at right tackle, which happens to be left-hander Michael Vick’s blind side. That’s no small issue, especially if Winston Justice’s surgically repaired knee doesn’t improve. Prediction: 11-5

Chicago Bears It remains to be seen if this team’s optimism is outpaced by its troubles in the offensive line. It surrendered nine sacks in one preseason game. The Bears also have a lack of depth at linebacker and a questionable secondary. Jay Cutler looks fit and ready at QB and has some potential help in WR Roy Williams and RB Marion Barber, but there are some significant question marks for this playoff hopeful. Prediction: 9-7

Detroit Lions QB Matt Stafford was borderline incredible in the preseason. The next step is for this team to keep its prized passer on the field for an entire season. He has started only 13 games in his two seasons because of injuries. The defense will play with an edge, and Ndamukong Suh likely will continue his climb into the defensive elite. This team hasn’t had a winning record since 2000. Prediction: 9-7

Minnesota Vikings First-year coach Leslie Frazier will try to add a little physical nature to a team that has not always shown it in recent seasons despite having RB Adrian Peterson. The passing game may feature backs and tight ends as primary options more than the team’s faithful are used to, but in this division they can’t take too many chances. Prediction: 6-10

Atlanta Falcons

QB Tony Romo has to prove he can lead Cowboys to a title. Adam Bettcher, Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys The time is now for QB Tony Romo. His stats are glossy with a 95.5 career passer rating — fourth all-time among those with enough starts — a 39-22 record as a starter and 64.1 percent completion rate. But Romo still is trying to convince many he’s the kind of leader who can lift a good team to great wins. He will have a better defense in his corner with Rob Ryan calling the shots. Prediction: 9-7

They didn’t do much in free agency, lost WR Steve Smith without so much as a chance to make him an offer, had GM Jerry Reese say the team would make the playoffs only to backpedal, and QB Eli Manning said he was in the same class as Tom Brady. Bottom line: One of their best pass rushers had knee surgery, and they may play in the most difficult division in the league. Prediction: 8-8

Washington Redskins

Patriots defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (92) hasn’t always been a happy camper.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has a Super Bowl title on résumé. Joe Robbins, Getty Images

South

New York Giants

Winslow Townson, The Associated Press

SPORTS «15F

Mike Shanahan’s offense will struggle if he has missed his bet that RBs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu can handle the job. Also, things look sketchy out wide with Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong among the team’s top three WRs. There isn’t much depth on defense, and a few injuries up front will derail things significantly. Prediction: 7-9

NFL personnel executives like how this team is trending, but many still believe it lacks enough team speed on defense to consistently push into legitimate Super Bowl contention. The Falcons have tried to fix it, but may need one more non-lockout offseason. They also open the season against five straight playoff teams from 2010. Prediction: 12-4

New Orleans Saints The Saints traded a second-round pick in the 2010 draft and their first-round pick in 2011 to get RB Mark Ingram. Ingram gives this team another Super Bowl shot if QB Drew Brees stays healthy. Their offseason workouts were immense 40-player affairs, and they feel their time is now. The biggest blip may be a defense that didn’t always tackle well in the preseason. Prediction: 12-4

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sobering reality alert: Yes, they are coming off a 10-win season they believe foretells good things to come, but nine of those wins came against teams with losing records. The Saints and Falcons are formidable roadblocks, but QB Josh Freeman is a savvy player with an enormous upside. Prediction: 7-9

Carolina Panthers The league’s worst offensive team in ’10 had to choose between a second-year QB who was ineffective at times in the preseason — Jimmy Clausen — and a rookie QB who was ineffective at times in the preseason — Cam Newton — before giving the nod to Newton. Prediction: 2-14

Broncos Special Section  

September 8, 2011

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