Updated: January 2, 2010 at 12:00 am
Greg Rodriguez has walked away from the Denver Broncos, a team he followed almost his entire life.
“I thought I would miss it more than I do,” Rodriguez said. “It’s quite refreshing not to care.”
In April, on the day Denver traded Jay Cutler to the Bears, Rodriguez threw his collection of Broncos treasures into a steel can in his backyard on Prospect Street. He literally torched his past, watching all his years of devotion turn to smoke.
He told everyone he was done following the Broncos, and no one believed him, which made sense.
“I was passionate, passionate, passionate,” said Rodriguez, 43. “They were my team.”
Notice the past tense.
He might watch a few minutes of today’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. If he does, he’ll enthusiastically root for the Chiefs.
Rodriguez despises new coach Josh McDaniels, and swears he will only return to the Broncos fold after The Boy Wonder is discharged.
“I can’t stand to watch him in his Bill Belichick costume,” Rodriguez said. “McDaniels is just a jerk who needs to get his own personality. He has no idea how to handle people. He’s going to have a very mediocre career.”
When the Broncos jumped to a 6-0 record and inspired doubters (including me) to believe, Rodriguez remained steadfast. He proclaimed the Broncos would fold.
And they did. Denver has lost seven of nine and is in severe danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“I knew it would happen,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez sensed defenses would solve the Broncos offense. Kyle Orton, he said, lacks foot speed and arm strength.
In Rodriguez’s mind, the Broncos season could have been vastly different. The team, he believes, was on the brink of great days. Cutler wasn’t the second coming of John Elway, but he was close. That’s why Rodriguez responded with such fire to No. 6’s departure.
“If Cutler were here,” Rodriguez said, “the Broncos would be one of the top five teams in the NFL. I really believe that.”
I really can’t agree.
The Broncos finished 8-8 last season with Cutler. Barring a catastrophic collapse today, the Broncos will gain one victory under McDaniels and soon will be blessed with the two first-round picks from the Bears.
Orton isn’t spectacular and never will be, but he is steady and delivered a stronger season than Cutler, who has tossed 26 interceptions (so far) this season.
Of course, Rodriguez isn’t watching his former team with objective eyes. He watches the Broncos with eyes filled with anger because they once were filled with love.
He was a devout fan for decades. He still talks with admiration for Elway and Tom Jackson and Randy Gradishar and Terrell Davis.
He admits Sunday afternoons feel empty and odd. He once, like a few million other fans, considered the Broncos part of his extended family.
“You love to watch football and you love to have a team,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes, it feels kind of like a man without a country, know what I mean?
“You kind of wonder what to do with your Sunday sometimes.”