DENVER — Hey, Michigan man. Do you believe in the Madden curse?
“Shoot, actually, that was the first thing I thought of,” Broncos rookie tight end and UM grad Jake Butt said Saturday outside team headquarters.
Tom Brady’s on the cover, you know.
“But Tom Brady, he’s kind of like invincible. We'll see what happens.”
Here’s an early gift list for Von Miller, the team’s Santa Claus: 53 copies of Madden NFL 18. First stop, GameStop: Will Handsome Tom follow the doomed seasons of cover boys Drew Brees (career-high interceptions in his cover year), Michael Vick (broken leg), Donovan McNabb (back surgery)? At the rate the Patriots are operating this offseason, the next championship carried to Colorado will wear Rockies purple instead of Broncos orange.
It’s not you, Broncos. It’s them, the pains-in-the-you-know-whats up in New England.
General manager John Elway and the Broncos enjoyed an excellent offseason. I give it a ‘B-plus,’ the ‘B’ for boom or bust, the ‘plus’ for the professionalism that each newcomer has shown since they arrived. The Broncos addressed needs on the offensive line (headlined by first-round left tackle Garett Bolles, who, during a workout on Saturday, was so fired up his coaches calmed him down), defensive line (Domata Peko and DeMarcus Walker at the top), drafted a relay team of track stars (Carlos Henderson, Brendan Langley, Isaiah McKenzie, De’Angelo Henderson) and rolled the dice on Kansas City castoff Jamaal Charles, a talent so robust he’s totally worth the injury risk.
“Jamaal Charles has been a great player for a long time in this league, in this division,” coach Vance Joseph said, his first comments since the Broncos rattled the AFC West with the sudden signing. “If he’s healthy, he’s going to provide an element of speed that we need to be an explosive offense.”
The Broncos got better this offseason. Under Elway’s direction, they’ve gotten better every offseason that didn’t follow a Super Bowl parade. It’s a sweet trend, when you think about it.
One problem: the Patriots got better, too, and they were already the best. While other AFC contenders were patching holes with duct tape, the Patriots were adding cannons to their castle wall. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore would have been plenty, but the Patriots also added Broncos nemeses Kony Ealy (interception, forced fumble, two sacks in Super Bowl 50 with the Panthers) and Dwayne Allen (recipient of Aqib Talib’s eye poke with the Colts). Those are the kind of big-splash moves made by a franchise that knows the real wall — the one that smacked into Peyton Manning suddenly and without warning — remains an inevitable fate for a quarterback approaching 40. (Brady turns 40 on Aug. 3.) It’s deflating, but no one’s recorded a solution to the wall.
Somewhere along the way the Patriots passed the Raiders and Chiefs as the rival of choice around these hills. How do I know? The Nuggets don’t flash photos of the Raiders or Chiefs quarterbacks on the Jumbotron to encourage boos from the home crowd at Pepsi Center. They show Brady.
The Cowboys’ visit in Week 2 is the most expensive ticket on the Broncos schedule, home or road, with seats starting at $365, according to StubHub. (That gives you an idea how many Cowboys fans live along the Front Range. Against the Cowboys, Mile High will be the closest it’s been to a 50-50 crowd since the 2005 AFC title game against the Steelers.) The Patriots’ trip in Week 10 is next at $230. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Broncos win.
The Broncos owned the Patriots with Elway at quarterback (11-0), and he’s kept the property rights as an executive (2-0 in AFC championship games). The Broncos are 7-3 against Brady and Bill Belichick in Denver, 9-7 against them overall. These days you could say they share a duplex, even if the Pats splurged on a two-story condo across the street, built on top of everyone else.
If not for Miller, Manning and the “No Fly Zone” in the 2015 AFC title game — Broncos 20, Patriots 18 — the Patriots would be working toward a Super Bowl four-peat. But for as long as Vonnie Football is doing his Patriots act, the Broncos can win in Week 10, or at any place, at any time.
The Broncos are underrepresented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and on the Madden cover. They've never had one of the latter. Von was a finalist last year (when Rob Gronkowski got the nod and, ahem, missed 11 games). Tim Tebow once got consideration, too. EA Sports touts Brady’s first Madden cover as the “G.O.A.T. edition.” Considering the events of the last Super Bowl, Gazette colleague Woody Paige suggests, the cover should include the GOAT and the goat: Brady and Kyle Shanahan.
“Now I’ve heard there are some of you out there who might be worried about something called the ‘Madden curse,’” Brady said in a Facebook post. “There’s no such thing as curses. It’s a total myth.”
Bummer, since this is shaping into another two-game season for the Patriots: AFC divisional round (at home), AFC championship game (at home). Unless you believe in curses.