Tuesday, December 16, 2014

David Treadwell at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club


Former Broncos place kicker David Treadwell was the guest tonight at this month's meeting of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  Treadwell had some interesting comments about the current Broncos team and about his playing days in Denver.

Treadwell thinks the Broncos are playing their best football right now.  He likes how the offense has changed since the St Louis loss - "we can't just rely on the pass anmore.  The running game is much better and the defense has stepped up," he said.  He thinks if the San Diego game was one month ago the Broncos would have lost.  The one concern he has with the team right now is the linebacker depth.  "We are down to playing our inexperienced guys," he said.  Though the Broncos do like rookies Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson.  "Unlike the offense I like a lot how Jack Del Rio (Broncos defensive coordinator) plays all his guys," Treadwell said.

On the Broncos kicking game Treadwell is happy to see Conner Barth handling field goals and Brandon McManus as the kickoff man.  I asked when he was with the Broncos did he mind that he was in a similar situation - with Treadwell doing the place kicking and Brad Daluiso doing the kickoffs.  "Not at all," Treadwell said.  "Kickoffs were from the 30 yard line back then and Brad had a stronger leg.  Having Brad to the kickoffs kept my leg fresh for field goals.  When I did both jobs my leg would get tired late in the season."  Treadwell said the 53rd man on the roster is usually just a special teams guy, anyway, so he didn't see a big difference with the 53rd man being a kickoff specialist now (McManus) instead of a returner (Isaiah Burse).

Treadwell was asked why the Broncos let Matt Prater go.  While Treadwell was reluctant to share all he know about the situation, he did say Prater had a drinking problem and the Broncos knew Prater would be suspended back in April.  The Broncos wanted Prater to go to rehab before training camp which Prater did not do, and then Prater had a mediocre preseason kicking the ball.  The Broncos had enough and let Prater go, plus they liked the potential of Brandon McManus.  Treadwell said in his time with the Broncos coach Dan Reeves would help players with alcohol problems since Reeves' brother was an alcoholic.  He said Reeves even tried to help golfer John Daly with his drinking problems, and had Daly out to Broncos practice several times, yet Daly never could beat the bottle.

Treadwell was asked if CJ Anderson should have been the #1 back in the preseason.  "CJ came into mini camp overweight, and that set him back.  CJ was told if you don't lose weight, you won't make the team," Treadwell said.  He felt Montee Ball was the best all around back headed into training camp based on Ball's pass protection and play late last year, but then the appendectomy set Ball back and in compensating for that Ball injured himself further.  Treadwell thinks CJ is the Broncos best back, now that CJ is in shape, and that Ball could still be effective next year once Ball gets healthy.  Ronnie Hillman is best suited for a Darren Sproles type of role (3rd down back) and not as a runner between the tacklers.

On the NFL rule proposal to narrow the goal posts, Treadwell thinks it would have an impact.  He said when he was at Clemson he practiced with narrower goal posts and when he got into a game the distance between the regulation goal posts looked huge.  He did say it was more difficult to kick in college than the NFL since in college the hash marks are farther apart.

I asked Treadwell what his most memorable field goal was for the Broncos.  He said the 28 yard field goal to win the playoff game against Houston in the 1991 season.  In that game the Broncos had a great drive at the end (Treadwell labeled it "the Drive II") converting two fourth downs.  He said on that play coach Dan Reeves had told holder Gary Kubiak to throw an incomplete pass if the snap was bad, because the field goal try was on 3rd down.  Well the snap turned out to be one of the worst of the year, with the ball rolling back to Kubiak.  Treadwell had to stop in his motion but still was able to make the kick.  "Why didn't you throw the ball away??!!" Reeves asked Kubiak as Gary returned to the sideline, not enjoying the moment of victory as much as Reeves could have.

Treadwell had other interesting comments about the current Broncos and his days in the NFL.  I always enjoy these Bronco QB club meetings with a chance to hear from NFL insiders like Treadwell and the opportunity to ask questions.  Treadwell was great in answering our group's many questions and in signing autographs afterwards.




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Visit to Bronco Headquarters

Tonight I had the opportunity to visit the Denver Broncos Headquarters at Dove Valley with the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.


The Broncos are doing lots of renovations to their facility.  Here's a picture of the new lobby area:



The trophy case is much bigger than when I visited last year.


The Broncos two Lombardi trophies highlight the display.  Plenty of room to add more of these - how about another one in February?!


In front of the Lombardi trophies were the Broncos two championship rings.  Here's a closeup of one:



After some time in the lobby, we were escorted to another building to be in the audience for the Broncos Huddle weekly TV show taping.  Along the way we got a view of the practice field.  Notice the hill where the fans sit during training camp.  This area has been extended and all the trees have been removed. 


The new indoor practice facility, completed in November, towers over the complex.  Joe Ellis of the Broncos later told us this is one of the most modern indoor facilities in the NFL, with a full 120 yard practice field and 9 yards of space on the sidelines.


Then it was back inside for the Broncos Huddle taping.  We sat in the audience and listened to Channel 9's Rod Mackey and player host Emmanuel Sanders talk about last week's game.

The player guest on this week's show was Broncos running back CJ Anderson.  Here CJ demonstrates to us how he carries the football to avoid fumbles.

Mackey asked Sanders how it liked the run oriented offense the last two games.  "I love it!" Sanders replied.  "CJ brings another dimension to the offense," Sanders said.  CJ received lots of praise from Mackey and Sanders, and responded humbly, "Give it to the big fellas up front.  I try to run to the open space they create."  CJ said he's not the fastest guy, but "I like to be nasty in my running style.  This is what you are going to get for 60 minutes."  Sanders said, "That's the type of running back you want in the cold games of December and January, where the defenses are wearing down."

Sanders remarked how CJ worked hard in practice early in the season despite not seeing much playing time.  Sanders asked CJ if he had any advice for youngsters watching.  "Your dreams never die until you give up on them," CJ said.

After the TV recording finished, Broncos President Joe Ellis came out for a special question and answer session just for members of the Quarterback Club.  I asked him if the renovations will be ready for training camp next summer.  "Yes," Ellis replied, "we want the fans back for training camp."  Ellis went on to say there will be more room for fans, with a new concession area and bigger team store.  Fans will get to peek through the glass of the indoor practice facility, too.

Ellis was asked the status of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.  "He's doing the best he can.  His Alzheimers is now in an advanced stage and it is difficult for him and his family." Ellis replied.

Ellis told us the renovations included a new kitchen.  The Broncos no longer have to bring in catered food.  Rather they have their own chefs now and cook everything on site.

Ellis answered other questions.  He recognized our club's 50th anniversary this year.  How often do you get a chance to meet with the President of an NFL franchise in a small group setting?  The Denver Broncos Quarterback club gave me that opportunity tonight!

Overall it was a fun and informative evening to get a behind the scenes look at how the Broncos operate.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rick Upchurch at the Bronco QB Club


New Denver Broncos Ring of Famer Rick Upchurch inspired a crowd of long time fans at the dinner meeting of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club on Wednesday night.

In introducing Rick I told of my first memory of his outstanding career.  On September 21, 1975 I was a 19 year old sitting in the South Stands at the old Mile Hi Stadium watching Rick's first game in the NFL.  And oh what a game he had!  Three receptions for 153 yards, including a 90 yard touchdown pass from Charlie Johnson.  A 13 yard TD run off of a reverse, 88 yards in kickoff returns, 30 yards in punt returns, for 284 total yards.  A Bronco rookie record that still stands to this day.

This was only a hint of the great career Rick would have.  A four time Pro Bowler, a five time Associated Press All Pro, named to the 1970's All Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and more - Rick's induction into the Broncos Ring of Fame earlier this season was long overdue.

Rick told us of his growing up years in Ohio.  Chicago Bears great Gayle Sayers was his hero, and he would imitate Gayle's moves while playing with his dog in the backyard of his family's Toledo, Ohio home.  In high school he played baseball and ran track.  Baseball was in Rick's roots - his grandfather played in the Negro Leagues.  "Baseball is a sissy sport," his track coach told him at the time. This coach encouraged Rick to try out for the football team. 

"You are never going to be anything," Rick's aunt would tell him.  Rather than becoming discouraged, Rick used his aunt's words to prove her wrong, to motivate him towards bigger goals.  "Any negative can be a positive," Rick says he tells kids today.  "Every bad play means we can get better."

After a stellar college career at the University of Minnesota, Rick was drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 1975 draft.  Rick relates, "John Ralston didn't want me."  The Broncos head coach was encouraged to draft Rick from assistant coach Doc Urich, the team's Big 10 scout.  "Doc said if I wasn't rookie of the year, he'd buy the coaching staff a steak dinner," Rick said Urich told him years later.  "John Ralston told Doc 'if Upchurch isn't rookie of the year - you're fired!'"  Rick was to prove Urich right with his amazing first game and impressive rookie season.

A deeply spiritual man, throughout his stories Rick would tell what his faith meant to him.  "God has a plan for us," Rick says.  "He will point you in the right direction when you pray.  God carries me on my journey - He's had me in His hands all the time."

Rick recalled the miracle 1977 team that defeated the mighty Oakland Raiders to earn a spot in Super Bowl XII.  Earlier that year the Broncos had upset the Raiders in Oakland.  "It's all over fat man!" linebacker Tom Jackson yelled at Raiders coach John Madden.  "Keep it down, Tom! We have to play these guys again!" Rick recalls telling Jackson.  Sure enough, the Raiders easily defeated the Broncos in Denver two weeks after this upset, but the Broncos were to have the last laugh with their AFC Championship win.  "We thought we'd beat Dallas in the Super Bowl," Rick remembers. "I thought we were evenly matched, but we had the edge in special teams."  While the Broncos did lose to the Cowboys that day, Rick had an 86 yard kickoff return that led to the Broncos only touchdown, and got Denver back in the game in the second half.  That return was the Super Bowl record for longest non-scoring kickoff return for many years.

Rick has fond memories of the Broncos fans, and now that he is back in Denver (having recently moved here with his wife Donna) he wants to reconnect with his many supporters.  "It was you fans that helped this man grow," he told the QB Club crowd.  "When times look like they are bad, you cheer the team on."

Today Rick is battling leukemia.  Though in remission the past two years, Rick still undergoes chemo therapy every day.  "My white blood cell count was 130,000 when I was first diagnosed," Rick said.  "Being inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame came at just the right time," his wife Donna said.  

I've been attending Denver Bronco Qb Club meetings for over 10 years, and this was one of the best.  Rick Upchurch was gracious in signing many autographs and telling stories of his playing days.  Donna had told me this was not one of Rick's best days health wise, but he did not want to let the fans down and he kept his Bronco QB club commitment.  You would have never known Rick was having health issues as he was positive, smiling, and engaging the whole evening with every fan he met. 



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hockey excitement is back in Denver, but did the Avs overachieve last year?


Between periods of last night's Colorado Avalanche home opener the team picked a lucky fan who would win a car if the Avs scored in the first 30 seconds after the intermission.  The fan never had a chance!  The Avalanche not only failed to score in the first 30 seconds for this fan, they haven't scored a goal in their opening two games.

It was good to see excitement about hockey and the Avs back in the Mile Hi city.  I took the above picture at the opening faceoff.  As you can see the game featured a sell out crowd with everyone in their seats for the drop of the first puck.  The Avalanche' excellent video department had another good pregame production last night:



Unfortunately the game did not match the pregame hype.  The Wild again outplayed the Avalanche, winning 3-0.  While I don't consider myself as knowledgeable about hockey as I am about football, here's what I noticed last night:

  •  If Tyson Barrie doesn't get hurt in last season's first round matchup against the Wild , the Avs win the series.  I thought Barrie was the best player on the ice for the Avs.  For a franchise who has had trouble finding a good "offensive" defenseman in the past, the Avs now have a good one in Barrie.
  • The new additions didn't impress me.  jarome iginla seemed a step slow.  At one power play he was playing the point - what's up with that?  He needs to be in front of the net on power plays.  Iginla is a notorious slow starter so there's still hope he can return to the 30 goal level he was at last year with the Boston Bruins.
  • Minnesota had a power play in the first period where they had 9 shots on goal and the puck never left the zone.  It was the most dominant power play I've ever seen without a team scoring.  The Wild are very good and if they continue to get good goaltending, like they did last night from Darcy Kuemper, they will be tough to beat.
  • Goalie Sergei Varlamov was solid in net, showing the same form as last season when he was a Vezina trophy finalist (given to the NHL's top goalie)
The Avalanche now go on the road for four games, including matchups with eastern powerhouses Boston and Montreal.  A key to the surprise season last year was the Avs fast start (winning their first 6 games and 12 out of their first 13).  This year could be the opposite, as I see the Avs could be 1-5 or worse after this tough road trip.

It's too early to give up on this team yet.  The Avs still have a good base of young talent (MacKinnon, Landeskog, Duchene, and more).  But I think they are more of a borderline playoff team this season, which was the expectation going into last season before the team's surprise division title.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Good Year, but the Broncos won't get as far as they did in 2013

Every year I post my prediction on this blog before the first game for the Denver Broncos season. Here are my thoughts for 2014:

The Broncos will again have a successful season, winning the AFC West with a record of 11-5.  They will not make it to the Super Bowl, however,  losing on the road in the playoffs at New England.  Reasons?:

1.  The Broncos have a difficult schedule this year, being matched with the NFC West for their out of conference games.  Playing the defending Super Bowl champ Seahawks on the road in addition to the 49'ers and Cardinals are tougher matchups than the NFC East teams the Broncos played last season.

2.  The Broncos again draw New England on the road in the regular season, where they have lost the past two seasons.  New England figures to be stronger this year with Rob Gronkowski back at tight end and a full off season to address their depleted defense (adding Darrelle Revis at cornerback).  While Denver overcame the Patriot loss to still claim the AFC West #1 seed in each of the past two seasons, I don't see that happening in 2014.  The home field advantage will be key in the playoffs, allowing the Patriots to beat the Broncos on their home turf in the AFC Championship game.

3.  The Broncos ARE improved in 2014, provided they stay healthy.  The defensive additions of Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and TJ Ward will give the team a better defense.  However Ware and Talib have been injury prone the last two seasons and I wonder if they can stay on the field for the full 16 game schedule.

4.  Peyton Manning will again have a stellar season.  The Broncos will miss Knowshon Moreno, though, with Montee Ball not matching Knowshon's 2013 production.

5.  Seattle looks awesome.  They remind me of the young 1993 Dallas Cowboy team that won their first Super Bowl the previous season, and were even better the next year in winning the championship again.  Having Percy Harvin for a full season, the continued maturation of quarterback Russell Wilson, and the best defense in the NFL will lead the Seahawks to a second straight Super Bowl title.

Playing Seattle on the road in game 4 will be the litmus test for this 2014 Broncos team.  Will the improvements on defense, a beefed up offensive line (with Ryan Clady back), and a full offseason for offensive mastermind Adam Gase to figure out how to attack the Seahawks D lead to a different result than Super XLVIII?  The Broncos don't have to win this game, but if they can play the Seattle close and neutralize Seahawk's pass rush, that'll be a good sign that Denver can exceed my predictions above.  That's what I'm hoping for.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PGA Tour Comes To Denver


This Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a practice round for the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver - the first PGA tour event in the Denver area since the International at nearby Castle Pines closed shop in 2006.  Cherry Hills is a storied course that has hosted three US Opens, including the 1960 US Open - considered by golf historians one of the greatest tournaments ever.  That championship featured Arnold Palmer coming back from seven strokes behind on the final day to win, edging out golf legend Ben Hogan and a young Jack Nicklaus.


Arnold Palmer's 1960 victory is still remembered fondly around the course, including this plaque at tee box #1.  Palmer was to drive the green and make a birdie on this 345 yard par 4 hole.  Could today's golfers perform the same feat?


We were fortunate to find a viewing balcony immediately behind the first tee.  The format this day was a "pro-am", with a PGA tour pro playing 18 holes with three amateur partners.  The amateurs paid $12,000 each for this privilege!  Here PGA Pro Henrik Stenson meets his playing companions.

What I liked best about our position behind the first tee was how close we could get to each golfer - we had an unobstructed view.


The best drive we saw this day was from Sergio Garcia, who hit a powerful shot to the green, 345 yards away.  "Best shot of the day," said a Cherry Hills official monitoring the first tee.

 

Sergio's Spanish heritage was evident from his choice of golf club covers on his bag!


The highlight of the day was the opportunity to follow the number one golfer in the World around the course for a few holes - Ireland's Rory Mcilroy!


 We could get very close to Rory during his round.  Though small in stature compared to some of the other players we saw, no one can hit a golf ball farther than Rory.


It was fun to see Rory's long tee shots from behind.


I also enjoyed seeing some of the legendary holes at Cherry Hills.  Here is the island green on hole 17.  Ben Hogan hit into the water on this hole ending his hopes of winning the 1960 Open.

I hope the BMW Tournament will lead to the PGA Tour returning to the Denver area for future tournaments.  I have a feeling Cherry Hills will host another US Open or PGA Championship some day, now that the course has been modified for today's big hitters.  
 



Sunday, April 27, 2014

Three incredible Avalanche home games (Minnesota series 2014)

Avalanche/Wild Game 5, 4/26/14

I've been to all the Avs home playoff games so far and they've been incredible.  Game 1 had the end of game drama (with the Avs avoiding a loss in the last seconds then winning in OT), Game 2 showed the amazing skills of Avs rookie Nate MacKinnon with some of the prettiest goals you'll ever see, Game 3 was a combination of games 1 and 2 (late game drama and Mackinnon stars again)

Watching Nate MacKinnon reminds me of the feelings I had as a Denver Broncos fan in 1983 during John Elway's rookie season.  I could tell Elway had the tools to be a future Hall of Famer, and I looked forward to many fun seasons of watching the Broncos with Elway under center.  MacKinnon's reign as one of the top players in the NHL has just started (he's only 18 years old!)  Barring injury Nate will give Avalanche fans many years of thrills ahead, just has he has done in the playoffs so far.