Dear Pat Bowlen: A Broncos Fan's Apology
Dear Mr. Bowlen,
I have been a Broncos fan since the day I was born. Seriously, I think the nurse wrapped me in a John Elway jersey when I made my debut.
Because of this, I’ve seen a lot of ups-and-downs for the local football team. I’ve seen Super Bowls and I’ve seen 6-10 seasons. I’ve seen big wins and record-setting losses. I’ve cheered and I’ve cried.
And through it all, I’ve remained extremely supportive of you and your decisions. You always seemed like an NFL owner who really cared about your fans and made decisions they could be proud of. You were level-headed and thoughtful.
But this past off-season, I have to admit, I thought you had gone crazy.
After all, you fired a future hall-of-famer in head coach Mike Shanahan. The “mastermind” was the guy who won us our only two Super Bowls, the guy who made us competitive year-in and year-out. He was practically the mayor of Denver, for crying out loud.
Then you replaced him with this 32-year old kid from New England who reminded me of the captain of my high school chess team. Josh McDaniels had as much head coaching experience as Lindsay Lohan, and here you were giving him the reins to one of the league’s most prestigious franchises?
What were you thinking?
And if things weren’t questionable enough at that point, I watched as McDaniels blew up the organization top-to-bottom. Assistants gone, veterans axed, a new (and challenging) system installed.
Then came the moment all Broncos fans will never forget. Your new hire traded our star, up-and-coming, Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears ! For Kyle Orton!
Was this McDaniels kid young and stupid? Were you watching all of this unfold or were you taking a long nap? Had you lost a bet with Al Davis, allowing him to control personnel decisions for a year?
The tumultuous spring continued into late summer with the saga of an unhappy Brandon Marshall , an underwhelming preseason and questions about McDaniels’ ability to hold things together. Just about every NFL expert picked the Broncos to be among the NFL’s worst in 2009.
Me? I predicted my favorite team would win six games.
Well, they have won six games. Out of six. And it’s difficult to imagine them losing even half of their remaining ten.
Six games in, the Broncos have outscored their opponents 133-66, including a mind-blowing 76-10 in the second half. A defense that was among the league’s worst the past few seasons is suddenly dominant under new coordinator Mike Nolan.
It appears you were right, Mr. Bowlen. And I was very, very wrong.
At the risk of making a gross understatement, McDaniels has won me over. I’ve had waiters at Chili’s who looked (and probably were) older than him, but he’s proving to have football knowledge far beyond his years.
His coaching this year has been impressive. His play-calling has been (as rumored) extremely effective. And his off-season moves-as shocking as they were-almost universally seem to be working out.
Thus far, he’s a lock to win NFL coach of the year. And he would deserve it.
Since I’m a Broncos fan, I will still fear a possible letdown. Heck, we held a huge early-season lead on San Diego last year, only to watch it slip through our fingers down the stretch.
But somehow, it seems different this time. It seems like we’ve got the right man in place to get the job done. It seems like the Broncos will be able to end a three-year playoff drought. It seems as if they may be far more than a one-and-done team when they get there.
It seems, Mr. Bowlen, that your most chaotic and criticized off-season may turn out to be your best.
I apologize. And I promise to keep my mouth shut for the remainder of the season.
Except to cheer on the orange and blue, of course.
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