DENVER — ‘Tis the season to say nice things.
Problem is, I am assigned to write about the Broncos. They play the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium Sunday afternoon, Week 16 of another lost season. Think happy thoughts.
OK, here’s one: the late, great Demaryius Thomas once showed up to the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse dressed as Santa Claus. Best Santa Claus with a thick Georgia accent ever. The kids loved him.
They loved Santa too.
Then there are the Broncos, and this is when it gets tough to write nice things. The day after Christmas, they would be in the wrapping paper bucket, 50-percent off. If you are under 50, the Broncos have never been more irrelevant in your lifetime. The Broncos had zero Pro Bowlers when Pro Bowlers were announced Thursday. The Broncos (7-7) were joined by the Giants (4-10), Jaguars (2-12), Jets (3-11), Lions (2-11-1) and Texans (3-11) on the list of crummy teams without a Pro Bowl selection. This is the first time in 40 years the Broncos had zero Pro Bowlers.
The Broncos did not deserve a Pro Bowl selection. They’re 1-6 against teams ahead of them in the AFC playoff picture. Get the Broncos to the playoffs for once in six seasons, and Justin Simmons can make an argument. The Pro Bowl shouldn’t matter here. Annually it does.
Do you remember a single Pro Bowl snub when the Broncos were good? I sure don’t. I only remember when the Broncos were good.
The Broncos also were granted just one primetime game, because they are irrelevant. (A second was flexed.) They were joined by the Jets (3-11), Lions (2-11-1), Jaguars (2-12), Bengals (8-6), Texans (3-11), Falcons (6-8) and Panthers (6-8). Look at those records. The Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders combined for 12 primetime games, each one with at least three. The NFL’s schedule-makers did a good job.
Actions speak louder than words, and the NFL’s actions say the Broncos are more irrelevant than the Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders and peers with the Jets, Lions, Jaguars, Falcons and Panthers.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
The Broncos are not as bad as this makes them out to be. They’re really not. They’re a quarterback away from relevancy. Next Christmas there needs to be a real quarterback in place. There needs to be hope, and hope in person form would be a quarterback who gives you hope.
What’s worrisome is the new general manager has operated as if he is more intent on building a don’t-get-fired roster than a Super Bowl roster. George Paton came from the Vikings, and that’s the Vikings way. That’s worrisome, since it’s true that fortune favors the bold.
Paton’s Broncos passed on Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who will be named the AFC offensive rookie of the year. Eight months later, that decision still makes absolutely no sense.
I believe Paton has lofty aspirations for the Broncos, but we must see it in his actions first.
As far as Sunday at the “Death Star” in Las Vegas goes, the Broncos have lost five of six to the Raiders. It’s their worst stretch in the rivalry since a run from 2008-11 that spanned three Broncos coaches — Mike Shanahan, Josh McDaniels, John Fox. This stretch has spanned two coaches — Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio. Fangio has three games left in his third season as Broncos coach — against the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs. Fangio’s 5-10 against the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs. The Broncos sweeping their way into the playoffs would be an upset.
Truth is, I would much rather write nice things about the Broncos, especially this time of year. But it’s hard when they lose so often.
The Broncos coach often gets fired when he loses big to the Raiders. Wade Phillips got fired after the Raiders beat the Broncos 48-16 in 1993. McDaniels got fired after the Raiders smashed his Broncos 59-14 in 2010. Fangio is 1-4 vs. the Raiders. The win was by one point.
Not saying, just saying.
DT would have turned 34 on Christmas Day. Couple months before he turned 30, I asked him if turning 30 would affect his own plans. His buddy Calvin Johnson retired at 30, you know.
“I think it’s, uh, next year,” DT said with a laugh.
“December 25th counts as next year, right?”
Never waste a day.
The other day from his new workplace in Los Angeles, Broncos great Von Miller spoke of his relationship with Demaryius: “My mom and dad are super close with his mom and his dad.”
“Tomorrow is not promised,” Von said.
Think happy thoughts.
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)