$0.02: Broncos rising? | VailDaily.com

$0.02: Broncos rising?

Devon O'Neil
Vail CO, Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” When the Broncos finished 7-9 last year, it was only Denver’s fifth losing season in the last 32 years.

I had to look that up. Because as a non-Broncos fan, you really have no idea how reliably good this franchise has been since the ’70s.

You think of all the Super Bowl losses (four of them) and then you think of John Elway and Terrell Davis and the two straight titles they won in the late ’90s, and your gut tells you it was that success combined with Mike Shanahan’s incumbency that sets expectations so high every year.

The truth is, however, high expectations are met quite often by this team. Which is why the Broncos have a pedestal to reclaim this year, perhaps more than any team in the NFL.

Doomed by risky signings in the free agent market, Shanahan and Denver have won only one playoff game this decade ” despite four 10-win seasons in which the team also made the postseason. (Not that Bronco fans need to be reminded of that.)

When people start talking about third-year quarterback Jay Cutler finally breaking into a new echelon this season, it’s much more significant than, say, those same people jabbering that Vince Young and the Titans are expecting a similar breakthrough.

You see, the natives are getting restless. Barrell Man retired. Shanny-as-GM hasn’t worked out the way Pat Bowlen hoped (and yet everyone knows the owner will never fire his coach, creating a perplexing dichotomy). The whole anyone-can-gain-a-thousand-yards backfield plan has apparently come up short on anyones.

Yet with key imports all over the field, a swarm of hunger at tailback and one uber-talented manchild receiver in Brandon Marshall, Denver has all it needs to restore order. Except, well, the same ingredient it’s been missing since No. 7 left. A straight winner under center.

I believe what I hear, that Jay Cutler will one day be among Sunday’s best on a weekly basis. The difference between myself and the Broncos fans I know is, I don’t need to be in a rush to see that happen. …

College sports won last week when Colorado and Colorado State basically decided to continue their annual gridiron tilt as a home-and-home series, instead of playing at Invesco Field every year.

The reason I say this is if they play at Invesco ” a convenient locale given their robust Denver alumni bases ” each school gets more than $1 million. If they play on their respective campuses, the visitor is guaranteed about $650,000; the winner’s take varies by year.

Thus, probably not a smart move from a money standpoint, given that both state schools are underfunded; but an archrivalry game belongs on campus, for the good of the game if nothing else. …

It’s not our Stat of the Week, but do yourself a favor and look up Albert Pujols’ career numbers, as I did after learning he is now leading the majors with a .362 average.

There is no other player in baseball I’d say this for, but right now, eight years into his career, Pujols could never play another game and he’d still deserve to be a Hall of Famer. …

Stat of the Week comes to us from the Georgia Dome, where a pair of southern tanks met Saturday night in the season opener.

It was the college football game of the week across the country, pitting ninth-ranked, perennial underachiever Clemson against No. 24 Alabama, owner of 12 national championships and a new $4-million-a-year coach, Nick Saban.

Turns out Saban still has the magic when it comes to designing a college defense, as the underdog Tide rolled the Tigers ” who, I should expound, are known (and plenty feisty because of it) throughout the South as a joke of a “football school.”

Alabama gained 114 of the game’s first 115 yards, which tells you plenty, and also held Clemson’s touted tailback duo of James Davis (first-team all-ACC in 2007) and C.J. Spiller (runs the 40 in 4.25 seconds) to a combined 20 yards. I can guarantee few numbers stood out to other college coaches more than those did Monday morning. …

You have to be embarrassed as a Michigan fan when a team called the Utes beats your Wolverines soundly at the Big House and it’s not even that large a story, as it wasn’t when Utah won in Rich Rodriguez’s debut, 25-23. …

In parting, the LPGA Tour is trying to require all its players to speak English. This is the worst idea since the BCS, not to mention typically American ” if you’re going to beat us, you’re going to have to learn our language so you can explain to our press how you beat us.

Why don’t they just rig the wind and greens and rough to make it easier for Americans to win in the first place?

Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at devononeil@hotmail.com devononeil@hotmail.com.

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