Coach McDaniels was right. In a press conference recently, he commented about the less-than-spirited play of his team. Believe it or not, even in their injury decimated state, the Broncos still have a good team. They’re just not making the plays. Their biggest problem is that they often seem a step too slow as if they are just going through the motions instead of trying to win a game. That won’t cut it in any league, but it is especially true at this, the final level. The level that so many players work for but never attain. The opportunity of a lifetime that may be going to waste.
Even with Kyle Orton throwing the ball all over the field and tearing it up like a Pro Bowl general, his teammates remain virtually uninspired. You would think throwing a 42-yard touchdown pass on a rope would get some adrenal flowing among his peers, but it doesn’t. The defense just comes skipping out on the field after the kick off all ready to play hopscotch or jacks maybe but not football. They might as well be holding hands and singing nursery rhymes. After the opposing team shoves the ball down their throats, making a score of their own, the offense comes back on the field and pretty much waits for Orton to do something despite them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some Broncos who are playing exceptionally well and they deserve the recognition. In addition to Orton, Brandon Lloyd’s playing like a superstar without much support. The tight ends all seem to be wearing brick gloves and most of the other receivers have to have the ball hit them directly in the chest, but Lloyd is pulling in just about anything within five yards of his mitts. That’s the way a pro should play and why they make the big bucks. Kudos to Lloyd for doing his job and keeping this Bronco team from being a total embarrassment.
Justin Bannan is another who deserves kudos. When the Broncos signed Bannan, Jamal Williams, and Jarvis Green in the off season, many thought they’d really done something, but it was not to be. Green didn’t even make the team and Williams’ play has left him almost forgotten. Yet Bannan is still hanging tough and has Bronco fans just dreaming about what should have been from the three “J” boys - Justin, Jarvis, and Jamal - who are now just one.
Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt also deserve recognition. These two players are making solid, consistent. contributions to their team. J.D. Walton also deserves a thumbs up for playing tough at center despite being just a rookie. After that, there are just flashes and glimmers but not enough good, consistent, effort from the team as a whole.
Many athletes who realize their dreams and make it to the pros end up sitting on the bench because the guys in front of them are too good. They would love a shot at the opportunity to start but it never comes. Now I hate to see anyone get injured, even a minor injury, but injuries usually open the doors of opportunity for those guys relegated to the bench. Not so with the Broncos.
All through training camp the injuries piled up and opportunity kept rearing its head, but no one was able to hold on. The running backs got their shot the first day of training camp when both starters went down to injury. They responded as if they liked their nice, warm seats on the bench and were anxious to get back there. A carousel of backs were given the opportunity to show they were worthy of being starters in the NFL, and, yet, everyone’s still waiting for one of them to show he’s worth a paycheck. Heck, at this point, it would be nice if one could just fall forward. And it’s not just the running backs who have let opportunity slip through their hands. Almost every player at almost every position got the opportunity through injury to take over a starting job and not one wanted it badly enough to keep it. Not one.
We listened as first Robert Ayers and later Jarvis Moss told reporters how this year would be different, how he was going to excel, and how he couldn’t wait to show his stuff. We saw some stuff alright, but I’m not sure that what we saw is the same stuff that made them both first-round draft picks. Thanks for the stuff, guys.
Yeah, Coach McDaniels is right, and the fans all know it, but we fans will survive. We’ll go back to our regular jobs and regular lives whether the Broncos win or lose. For those Bronco players who can’t cut it, however, the ones who may not be happy going back to living regular lives, they are the ones who will really suffer. They’ve been given the rare opportunity to be millionaires, the rare opportunity to be professional football players, and, most of all, the rare opportunity to excel as starters. For the most part that’s proved too big a load to carry, and, at least up this point, they’ve fumbled away all their chances. Later when they’re not playing pro football anymore, they’ll have to live with those memories and the knowledge that they let once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip through their fingers.
This week, it will David Bruton’s opportunity to dance with fortune. The injury fairy left a starting assignment under his pillow that he pulled out, cheered about, and then proudly proclaimed he was going to use to prove himself a starter. We’ll see. Sunday, when the Jets come to town, if Bruton wants to follow suit and waste his opportunity the way so many of his teammates have, then he can be certain that Mark Sanchez will be more than glad to have it, and chances are good he won’t waste it. He’ll grab it with both hands, and hang on. The way a professional should.
(Author’s note: I am a devout, “orange-blooded” Bronco fan, and I love my team. I am not saying that I could do better than any Bronco player, or even as well. All I am trying to say with this article is how sad it is that these players can’t open the door when opportunity comes knocking)