“Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Whether you were raised during the heyday of the Apollo missions, Apollo Creed or Showtime at the Apollo, those five familiar words echo with gravity connoting the direst of circumstances.

Those words were, of course, made famous by Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell as he spoke them back to Mission Control in Texas on April 13, 1970 after the spacecraft carrying Lovell and his two pilots, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, had suffered an oxygen tank explosion that rendered one-half of their craft effectively left for dead over 320,000 miles from Earth.

The Denver Broncos, don’t have a problem. Yet.

And while it may be a bit clumsy or insensitive to compare the fate of three of mankind’s greatest explorers to a professional football team playing what is in fact just a game, there are parallels. Knowing that the three intrepid astronauts returned safely to Earth some 45-plus years ago softens the analogy somewhat, as well.

Apollo 13 had a problem. A big one. One that took every brain at NASA working around the clock, every resource available on land, sea and in space, and a hell of a lot of luck to return those three men to their families and their country.

Right now, the Broncos have experienced glitches. Manageable and minor bumps along the way that some might consider good fortune.

It was Lovell (or Tom Hanks’ portrayal of him, if you prefer) who quipped, “Looks like we’ve had our glitch for this mission,” after the Saturn V rocket’s center engine cut out shortly after takeoff. The mission was almost scrubbed before it hit orbit.

A glitch so early in the mission was usually deemed to suggest smooth sailing the rest of the way, so they pressed on. How little that proved to be true for Lovell, Swigert and Haise.

The Denver Broncos had been on the ground in Northern California for less than 48 hours and already their mission, deliver the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy, had suffered two minor, but not impossible to ignore glitches.

First, two of the Broncos team buses were involved in a minor fender-bender as the team was en route back from its practice at Stanford University on Monday. At the time of the accident no injuries were reported and the team returned safely to their team hotel before departing for the Super Bowl 50 Opening Night festivities later in the evening. Judging by the photos from the event, no one was worse for wear.

Early on Tuesday (the team’s off day), however, Denver’s KUSA 9News reported that several players were suffering soreness and headaches as a result of the accident, although none of the players were identified by name.

By Tuesday afternoon, when several coaches and players met with the media again, those injuries were being downplayed. Head coach Gary Kubiak was the first to address the crash.

“Obviously, it scared some guys. I mean, I think anytime you go through something like that, there were some guys that were a little…” Kubiak changed course, continuing on to say that his group was evaluated by team trainers and medical staff and all appear to be doing well. Still, there was a definite notion that the team was, if not injured, at least a little spooked by the incident.

Defensive end Malik Jackson confirmed that notion during his Tuesday press conference.

“I think everybody is fine,” Jackson said. “I think it was more just like, ‘Whoa,’ because I don’t think anybody has been in a car crash for a while, so for me, it was like, ‘Wow, I haven’t seen one of them in a while,’ so that kind of shook me up. But we’ve been through a lot of things, we’ll bounce back. It’s just a little hurdle on the road, everybody is still walking, everybody is fine.”

Just a little hurdle. No more than a glitch, we hope.

Then on Tuesday evening news of another glitch, this one not so minor, surfaced.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, a member of the Broncos practice squad was sent home after he was detained and questioned by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office in connection with a prostitution sting that occurred Tuesday afternoon.

Per the report, “Denver Broncos practice squad safety and Bay Area native Ryan Murphy was sent home after being questioned by authorities during a prostitution sting that involved his brother Tuesday, according to sources familiar with the investigation.”

Kubiak issued the following statement via team PR:

“Although practice squad safety Ryan Murphy was not cited by police, we decided it was best for the team if we continued our preparations for Super Bowl 50 without him.

“Ryan is returning to Denver but his status as a practice squad player has not changed at this time.”

Murphy is hardly an impact player. It would have required dire circumstances or a minor miracle for him to even be game day eligible, but the damage is done. His involvement in the situation, however formally legal it may prove to be, cast a bad light on his organization at an extremely inopportune time.

Denver was lauded for “leaving no man behind” on this trip – a departure from protocol from two years ago. Now it’s a safe bet that at least a few members of upper management (and the bean counters) aren’t too thrilled with the expense and the embarrassment Murphy has caused the team.

Murphy is effectively a non-factor on this roster, and this story will have blown over by kickoff on Sunday. Still, there will be questions on Wednesday. The seed of doubt about distractions will be planted. Another glitch in the mission has invariably occurred.

Denver doesn’t have a problem, yet. But many more glitches and the mission could be in jeopardy.

The continuation of these types of minor glitches could be come a problem in and of itself. There’s no telling when stirring the oxygen tank and a defective part added years ago could  put the whole thing at risk.

It’s time for the flight director to step up before the glitches become problems. Gary Kubiak now has to play the role of Gene Krantz (Ed Harris for those of you who didn’t read the book) and get everyone refocused and putting every last resource into making this mission a success.