Judge Ryan Keefer won't wear an orange barrel for anybody.
Stallions. Or Broncos. Whichever horse is more durable and brave-like.
Who would have thought that the National Football League could have its own television show, right? How about its own extensive set of videos through the NFL Films company? So in another wave of releases celebrating the chronological histories of long-established football franchises, Warner Brothers and NFL Films give fans of the franchise located in Colorado a crack at video immortality.
Born in 1960, the Denver Broncos are one of the members of the American Football League, and one of the participants of the AFL-NFL merger. However, what early success they had was comical, bordering on amateurish, as their uniforms were pieced together almost like high school hand-me-downs. Under the leadership of Coach Lou Saban (source of the infamous "They're killing me Whitey, they're…killing me!!!" clip from NFL Films), the team's success began to build wings in the late '60s into the early '70s (when Coach John Ralston took over the reins). After Ralston was let go, a coach named Red Miller took the reins and brought in a veteran quarterback named Craig Morton, who took Denver to new playoff heights, including a Super Bowl, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys.
Now, this next part is where I lose a fair portion of my objectivity. In 1983, a guy named John Elway, who was being closely mentored by his father, was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts. The Colts to that point (like the Broncos) had been dealing with futile circumstances, the Colts more so. So for whatever reason, Elway chose to refuse to sign a contract with the Colts if he was picked by them, and started to drop the possibility of playing for the New York Yankees, as he was an accomplished baseball player. So the Colts caved, and traded the crybaby, er, prospect, to Denver for some players and future draft picks. I mean seriously, if we're going to vilify today's athlete for wanting to play for a different team other than the one he was chosen to play for initially, let's not forget that ole' horseface did the same frickin' thing 20 years ago, and no one seems to give him the grief that others get.
Oh, the Elway trade seemed to work out for Denver, as he got the Broncos to three more Super Bowls in a five year period, losing to the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. The plateaus became a bit frustrating for Elway and the fans to take, and Coach Dan Reeves left his post as Head Coach, and Mike Shanahan was brought in to breathe new life into the team. Using some smart draft strategies (star running back Terrell Davis was a late round choice in the draft) and some clever free agent decisions, Elway and the team finally found Super Bowl success against the Green Bay Packers in 1997, Elway's 15th as a professional. He came back for one more year, and the team responded by defending their Super Bowl crown, this time against the Atlanta Falcons.
But wait, there's more! After Elway's retirement, Denver ushered in the Jake Plummer era. However, as of this writing, the Plummer era has done so well for itself that Plummer has been given the bench, despite a winning record and a team that is contending for a playoff berth. A kid from Vanderbilt named Jay Cutler has given the fans a chance to discover if he's the next link to Elway, or if he's another Mickey Slaughter.
The piece itself does focus on the team through the years, along with the fan following that has been built, but the fan following half is a little bit overboard. As a Broncos fan, do you really care about (or want to see) the guy who wore an orange barrel in the '70s as part of the vaunted "Orange Crush" defense? That's what I thought. But the two discs of Bronco folklore still focus on some of the more memorable names in Bronco history like Floyd Little and John Ralston, while giving a larger platform to some other recent Bronco standouts like Plummer, Elway and Shanahan, who are participants in the NFL Network's "In Their Own Words" segment, that includes interview recollections by the subjects for an hour. Most of them are topical, but the interesting one of the bunch comes from Shanahan, who discusses his history and his strained relationship with Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who he worked for as a Head Coach before coming to Denver.
All in all, the piece does do well by the fans of the Broncos, but it's nothing that a special on the NFL Network couldn't cover, as very little new ground is covered if you're a hardcore fan of football, least of all of the AFC West representative.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• "In Their Own Words" Segments with Mike Shanahan, John Elway, John Lynch and Jake Plummer
• Official Site
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