For Denver Broncos fans, picking a rooting favorite for Super Bowl LIV is easy.
But, instead of simply looking at the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs are in the AFC West with the Broncos — and therefore must be rooted against — look a little deeper and simple which team to pick.
The San Francisco 49ers have two former Broncos players as well as Kyle Shanahan at head coach, the famous son of Mike “The Mastermind” Shanahan who led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins 20 years ago.
As for Shanahan the younger, Denver could have hired him back in 2017 but decided to go with Vance Joseph, which could be the biggest blunder of John Elway’s run as the team’s General Manager. Could the have made the playoffs or even be competing for another Super Bowl right now if Shanahan were the head coach? It’s possible.
Outside of Shanahan, there’s Emmanuel Sanders, who was on the Broncos as recently as earlier this year as well as center Ben Garland, a bit of a throwback.
Sanders was traded mid-season, and for a team-first player, a true showman and a complete competitor, Broncos fans have to be delighted he’s made it back to the Super Bowl. For most of his time in Denver — 2014-19 — he played second fiddle to Demaryius Thomas. But in 2018, Thomas was traded away and for a short time, Sanders was the No. 1 receiver.
This year, Courtland Sutton emerged as the team’s No. 1 receiving threat and Sanders moved back into No. 2 positioning. And, as it became clear the Broncos wouldn’t make the playoffs, they traded Sanders to the 49ers where he’s made a second Super Bowl of his career.
Sanders is undoubtedly one of the best receivers in Broncos history, finishing his career with the orange and blue ranked 10th in receiving yards (5,361) and 12th in receiving touchdowns (28). Despite his smaller size, Sanders was always willing to catch a tough pass in traffic and get lit up. He was also consistently laying out and diving for deep passes, somehow hauling them in for giant gains.
And then, there’s also Garland, who surely could have helped the Broncos offensive line this season if he were still part of the team.
Garland was an undrafted free agent signed by the Broncos in 2012 and didn’t play for the team until 2014, seeing eight games as a guard. He then missed the 2015 season before suiting up for the Atlanta Falcons from 2016-2018. This year, Garland was a backup lineman for the first half of the season, but his veteran ability to step into the starting lineup was needed due to injuries up front.
Garland has started at center since Week 15 and will continue in that role on Feb. 2 when the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs face off against one another.
Of course, Broncos fans want to root for anyone but the hated Chiefs. But, unlike all those Super Bowls featuring the New England Patriots when it’s simple to pick the other team just out of spite, this year, San Francisco’s former Broncos players give Denver fans a clear-cut favorite.