With a Title to Defend: Bronco-Mania Is at an All-time High
Started a few years ago, the Broncos’ “United in Orange” movement continues to gain steam. From this special light and sign display that was constructed for a recent playoff run, Broncos pride goes far and wide. Once, Denver’s mayor even renamed Bannock Street to “Broncos Boulevard.”
Forget red or blue. Colorado is an orange state, through and through.
And that has nothing to do with who’s running for office.
Put people together in a room, and they’ll talk about two things: first, the weather.
Then, it’s all about the Denver Broncos.
Go just about anywhere, on any day – it doesn’t have to be Sunday – and orange is in the air in the form of jerseys, T-shirts, hats, flags and more. Visitors and natives know just as the mountains lie to the west, the Broncos definitely rule the roost when it comes to the region’s most popular sports franchise.
That’s for good reason. Thanks to a Super Bowl 50 championship last February, Bronco-mania is at an all-time high.
It started with back-to-back titles, led by John Elway, in the late 1990s, and fans have been clamoring to stand on the peak ever since. As team president, Elway took a gamble on an injured and recuperating Peyton Manning prior to the 2012 season. Fans were excited, yet skeptical, that the quarterback could perform at levels previously seen in Indianapolis and take the Broncos to the next level.
All Manning did was lead a four-season run of deep playoff voyages. And after two playoff losses sandwiched around a Super Bowl blowout defeat, the Broncos ended a 17-year drought and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, as a dominant defense by and large paved the way to a third world championship.
Then, as expected, Manning retired and seemingly handed the keys to trusty backup Brock Osweiler, who did more than a capable job in leading the Broncos during a four-game run when Manning sat injured.
But when Osweiler bolted for Houston in the offseason, the Broncos brought in veteran Mark Sanchez and drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round of the NFL draft, giving plenty of intrigue into who would actually succeed Manning and usher in the season as defending champions.
Actually, that quarterback was on the team the whole time, and once again, fans are excited, and skeptical, about the new sheriff.
It’s Trevor Siemian. This lucky 13 won the battle over Lynch and Sanchez, who was released after the preseason. And, game by game, he’s starting to win over new fans.
“He’s doing all right,” says Valerie Chavez, proudly wearing her orange Broncos jersey with Manning’s name emblazoned on the back, as she watched games with her husband at a Colorado Springs sports bar. “I’m working on getting a jersey with 13 on it.”
Yes, the Northwestern graduate and last quarterback taken in the 2015 draft entered the season having never thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game.
He’s certainly not expected to carry the team – although many eyebrows were raised when he tossed four touchdown passes in an early-season win at Cincinnati.
That job goes to the defense, which pushes the envelope on civility and usually imposes its will on opposing offenses. The reigning Super Bowl most valuable player, Von Miller, signed a hefty contract after a contentious summer stare-down and anchors a unit that’s still the best in the league, despite the loss of a few pieces from last season’s champs.
“When Peyton left, there was a lot of uncertainty about who would be next,” says program manager Dennis Andis. “Throughout history, there have always been better teams that have gone through and won a Super Bowl with quarterbacks that haven’t been household names. I think the Broncos have a good shot to go back and repeat.”
And as the season hits the turn and the weather goes from outright balmy to blustery, Broncos devotees clad in orange will continue to congregate, en masse at pubs and sports bars, or in watch parties.
One thing is for sure. Last year’s championship doesn’t mean fans are expecting anything less, even with a new guy under center.
“Yeah, we’re spoiled,” Chavez says. “I’m very grateful to cheer for a team that has been so good over the years. I get out and cheer no matter who the quarterback is. When the Broncos win, people are happy.”
Trevor Siemian, who had never thrown a pass in a regular-season game, has succeeded future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Von Miller, the MVP of Super Bowl 50, leads a fearsome pass rush on defense, and has plenty of key pieces around him to make a run to the upcoming Super Bowl in Houston.
Denver meets AFC West rivals Oakland and Kansas City twice in the second half, which also features a key home game against New England on Dec. 18.