Tell me if this sounds familiar.
The Denver Broncos are coming off a 9-7 season that ended a string of consecutive playoff appearances. They entered training camp with big questions at the quarterback position. And on the Monday before the first preseason game of the season, Jay Cutler is all we’ll be talking about.
Yes, it’s 2017. But it’s just like 2007.
And like 2007, sports fans in Denver have their priorities misplaced.
Here in 2017, the Broncos are getting set to face the Chicago Bears in preseason Game 1 on Thursday, yet the buzz around Denver is about Cutler, the former Broncos and Bears quarterback, signing with the Miami Dolphins.
Cutler, who was headed for the broadcast booth before Ryan Tannehill messed up his knee, will reunite with his former coordinator, Adam Gase, now the head coach in Miami.
Of course he would.
But it was more likely for John Elway to pull his Mizunos out of retirement and line up under center than it was we’d see Cutler (or Colin Kaepernick or Tony Romo) under center in Denver.
Trevor Siemian and/or Paxton Lynch will be your quarterback, Denver. Accept it.
So why does it feel like 2017 is 2007 all over again?
Because the long-term future, the Broncos believe, belongs to a guy with a cannon for an arm who played his college ball at a university in Tennessee (note the lowercase “u”).
Before it was the Memphis Tiger it was the Vanderbilt Commodore.
And once again Broncos fans are wondering if a .500 record is on the horizon – let alone the Super Bowl – as year two unfolds for the young quarterback.
In 2006, Cutler took over in Week 13 for a “struggling” Jake Plummer (who was 7-4 as a starter). The Broncos went 2-3 down the stretch with the rookie at the helm, losing the season finale in overtime to miss the playoffs. Plummer was traded in the offseason and Cutler came into camp in ’07 needing to prove more than a few doubters wrong.
2016 didn’t unfold with nearly the same drama as 2006, but it did see the Lynch vs. Siemian debate grow in intensity as the Broncos stumbled in the second half and miss the playoffs for the first time this decade. With a new offensive coordinator whose game plan is better suited to his style of play, Lynch in his second year was expected to make a big leap forward.
Cutler didn’t exactly prove the doubters wrong. The Broncos went 7-9 and again missed the playoffs in 2007.
So far in 2017, Lynch has yet to make the leap, as by most accounts he still trails Siemian in the starting quarterback competition.
If quarterback play is the true indicator of a season, the Broncos very well could be on pace for a 7-9 finish.
2017, meet 2007.
Which brings us back to those misplaced priorities.
I distinctly remember making a phone call to one of the afternoon drive hosts on Mile High Sports Radio in the fall of 2007, less than two months into the station’s existence, and pleading with them to talk a little Rockies. The Boys on Blake, after all, were in the midst of a historic run that would earn their first and (so far) only National League pennant.
In that phone call, I was told, “It’s Broncos season. No one cares about the Rockies. We’ll talk Rockies if they get to the playoffs.”
Italicizing the “if” in that sentence doesn’t do justice to the condescension suggested about the notion of talking Rockies during football season. Perhaps rightfully so.
Until that point, the Colorado Rockies had made the playoffs only once in their existence. They were trying to end a string of six consecutive losing seasons. At the time, they were still in third place in the Wild Card standings (back when there was only one Wild Card team) and daylight was fading fast on the season.
But by Oct. 1, 2007, the Rockies were the center of the Denver sports universe.
The Broncos had just dropped to 2-2 on the season. They would not be above .500 the rest of the year.
The Rockies, meanwhile, defeated the San Diego Padres in the legendary “play-in” game – a game that remains one of the best of this century in all of Major League Baseball. They swept their way through the National League playoffs and stole the hearts of everyone in Denver.
Here in 2017, the Rockies are on pace for their best record in franchise history. They have a legitimate MVP candidate, one of the best closers in the league, and they’re one of the best fielding teams in baseball.
(Note: All of those things were true in 2007, as well.)
And they haven’t needed a miraculous September run to make it happen.
Nolan Arenado is having an MVP-caliber season. Charlie Blackmon has blossomed into a bona fide superstar. Greg Holland has the ninth inning on lockdown (minus Sunday’s blip). Mark Reynolds is having a storybook season. CarGo is starting to bounce back. A quartet of rookie pitchers is leading the way in the starting rotation. And Chad Bettis is on the verge of a return from cancer.
The Rockies are on track to play a 163rd game. (Because of course the Dodgers would have to be on track for the greatest season in their history the same year the Rockies are doing the same.) Yet the Rockies haven’t yet captured the hearts of the city. We’d rather pit Paxton against Trevor than celebrate Nolan and Charlie.
I get it. This is the Broncos’ town. It has been for 58 seasons and counting. It’s the reason Paxton is the featured image for this story (because it was more likely to make you click on it).
But the Boys on Blake deserve better right now. They’re in the heat of a Wild Card race, led by a new manager who so far has possessed the Midas touch, and management has made the moves necessary to make a run in the playoffs.
Don’t make the same mistake as 2007 and wait until October to throw your full support behind this team.
The Broncos will still be here when the Rockies have recorded their final out. The questions at quarterback will remain, and they’ll probably be around .500 at the time. Just like 2007.
The Rockies are playing their best baseball in 25 years. Don’t let it go to waste.
Featured Image Credit: Ryan Greene, 5280 Sports Network