Monday, March 16, 2009

Karma's Bitch: The Denver Broncos

Twenty-five years ago, football fans were eagerly awaiting the NFL draft. There wasn't the ESPN/Mel Kiper hype that we have today, but none was needed that year. John Elway headed up the greatest quarterback class the NFL has ever seen. To say that Elway was highly regarded is an understatement. He had ideal size for an NFL quarterback with mythic arm strength. He was a fantastic overall athlete who also happened to be incredibly smart (earned a degree in economics while at Stanford.) The Baltimore Colts had the #1 pick in the draft and needed a quarterback. One problem: Elway refused to play for Baltimore. He threatened to play baseball instead if Baltimore drafted him. So Denver stepped in and traded for the rights to Elway. A year later, Mayflower trucks swooped in during the middle of the night moved the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis. Elway's selfish power play did not directly cause the Colts to move, the city of Baltimore had more to do with that, but nonetheless: Elway brought some bad, bad karma with him to Denver.

Elway's success in Denver is misunderstood today. People forget that there was a time when people talked about Elway's failures more than his successes. After 14 years in the league, he had plenty of individual accolades, but three horrible losses (and individual performances) in the Super Bowl. It was almost the perfect kind of karmic retribution. Sure you make the deal with the devil to get the great prize (Elway), but it can't bring you happiness (championship.) Then a karma curveball was thrown.

Mike Shananhan became the head coach of Denver. He had been mightily wronged by Raiders owner Al Davis, and now he was head coach in the same division as the Raiders. This virtually guaranteed success for Denver, and they went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls in Elway's last two seasons.

Denver continued to have success after Elway retired. However, after last season they abruptly Shanahan for no good reason. It was time for karma to finish off Denver for the sins it committed years before. Enter Josh McDaniel, hot shot new coach for Denver. Not satisfied with a young, Pro Bowl quarterback (Jay Cutler) that "the other guy" had drafted, McDaniel tries to trade that QB for a QB (Matt Cassel) that he coached last year as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. Here is where karma starts stepping in. The trade falls through, and instead the Patriots trade Cassel for way less than most thought he would command. Cutler finds out. First the Broncos deny everything. Then after meeting with Cutler over the phone and in person, they tell him to his face that they would be willing to trade. Now Cutler is demanding to be traded. It's almost too good to be true.

No comments: