Commentary

Orange crushing fans now

Updated: December 16, 2010, 5:56 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Bowlen, Tebow & McDanielsUS PresswireBroncos owner Pat Bowlen and the recently fired Josh McDaniels have created quite the buzz kill for Denver fans. And it has nothing to do with Tim Tebow's hair.

Denver has become a ghost town.

Phantoms people our streets.

We have two Elway's steak houses and one Shanahan's, yet the glory days of those men are 11 years gone now. We drown our sorrows in the green chile of Mark (Stink) Schlereth, departed now 10 years. The wind whistles down the empty seats at Mile Low Stadium.

We live in the past here because the present sucks like a Bissell factory. The future is flatter than Kate Moss. Remember how awful Tim Tebow's Friar Tuck haircut looked? That's how we feel inside everyday now.

These are the worst days in over 40 years to be a Broncos fan, and I know -- I've been one since 1965.

To wit:

We once had a wise and vocal owner, Pat Bowlen, who has disappeared. He's rarely seen anymore. Doesn't do interviews. Fires coaches and yet doesn't come to the news conferences. Bowlen admits he's suffering from short-term memory loss. With the way this team has been run in his place, he's the lucky one.

Things are so bad in Denver that we envy the Jets their coaches. At least they trip people.

We have a COO who is to great football minds what Hot Pockets are to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. His name is Joe Ellis. He is George Bush's cousin. Since he took over in 2008, he has waterboarded Denver fans.

For instance, he hired a then-32-year-old brat named Josh McDaniels, who turned out to be worse than Dutch Elm disease. Like the fungus-spreading beetles that have helped devastate our national parks, McDaniels destroyed us from the inside. Me, I prefer the beetle. At least that pest has taken a decade to do its worst. McDaniels took less than two years to turn a once great franchise into an empty husk.

McEgo and his sawed-off hoodie came in here and (A) hired a cheater; (B) drove off our talented players (Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Peyton Hillis); (C) acquired talentless players -- Brady Quinn (zero snaps this season), Alphonso Smith (traded for next to nothing) and Perrish Cox (recently charged on two counts of sexual assault); (D) got tsunamied by our most hated rivals, the Oakland Raiders, 59-14; (E) went 5-17 over his last 22 games; and (F) refused to give a sniff to the previously mentioned two-time national collegiate champion quarterback, Tebow. He was mercifully fired.

Proof positive that the Bill Belichick coaching tree has no limbs.

Some of us in Denver have a theory: This was an elaborate Belichick plot. McDaniels was sent by the Patriots coach as a Trojan horse. He came. He destroyed. He left -- and marched straight back to Belichick's house, where he was dismantled with a Phillips head screwdriver for data. No? Ever notice C3PO and McHoodie are the same height?

Things are so bad in Denver that we envy the Jets their coaches. At least they trip people.

It's becoming clear that the player McHoodie mortgaged our future (three draft picks) for -- Tebow -- is never going to get his chance, no matter how much we chant his name.

Even the new interim coach, Eric Studesville, a man with nothing to lose, won't play him. You get the feeling the team would start Rudy before Tebow.

Six rookie quarterbacks have started in the NFL this season and yet Tim Tebow lies fallow. It's like being in the Titanic band and still not getting a solo.

Tebow is undaunted. He could get a plastic bag full of gravel for Christmas and ask, "I'm getting a diamond mine?"

"They told me when I came out of junior high school that I'd never be a high school QB," he told me Wednesday. "They said I'd be a better linebacker and tight end. But I became a pretty decent high school quarterback. And then, in college, they said I couldn't throw. But we were able to have some success. I just know I have to be patient and wait for my chance."

Buddy, if your chance doesn't come this season, it ain't coming. The team was 3-6 and down 35-7 to San Diego and didn't play you. The team was losing by 30 points to the Arizona Damn Cardinals (being led by a third-string rookie, John Skelton!), and didn't play you. The team is 3-10 going into this weekend's slaughter in Oakland, Kyle Orton has bruised ribs and the team still has no plans to play you. Unless Orton loses both arms in a thresher accident, you're back to Clipboard Holding 101.

[+] EnlargeTim McKernan
an Honda/Getty ImagesBarrel Man would barrel over in his grave if he saw the Broncos playing like this.

What about asking for a trade?

"No, no. I'm blessed to be a Denver Bronco," Tebow insists. "I'm blessed to be getting paid to play a sport I love!"

But you don't play!

"Yes, I do. Every day in practice!"

What about trying Canada?

"Uh, well, I don't know. I haven't even thought about it."

Here's how Tebow's year has gone: The offensive line fined him for not getting them presents on HIS birthday.

We have a GM nobody's heard of. His name is Brian Xanders, although it's possible he doesn't exist at all, much like the Broncos' defense (last again this season in points allowed).

Across the league, coaches celebrate the gifts given them by Little Josh. They are especially happy in Cleveland, where they think Hillis could be an All-Pro. Meanwhile, the man McEgo got for him -- Quinn -- has even less chance to play than Tebow. Even Xanders hasn't heard of him.

"God has a plan for me," Quinn is fond of saying.

Yeah, He had one for Job, too.

The most faithful fans in the NFL are starting to lose faith.

Denver has a 40-year sellout streak going, but it's in jeopardy. Do you realize there were an estimated 13,000 no shows for the Broncos' home game with St. Louis? We used to go entire seasons with less than a thousand. I can remember being at one game and hearing the PA announce a whopping 24 no shows. More than 24 people have car trouble on any given Sunday. And the fans booed!

The times, they are atrocious.

Put it this way. If the Barrel Man were alive, he'd be sadly and fully clothed.


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Rick Reilly | email

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