Twenty Six years after The Drive, I’m rooting for the Broncos to win the Super Bowl

the drive

the driveJanuary 11, 1987. Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Bernie Kosar throws a touchdown pass to Brian Brennan. The kick-off is muffed by Denver, pinning them on the two yard line.

My phone rings. It is my father, who was watching the game from work.

“We’re going to the Super Bowl!” he said.

He didn’t just mean the Browns. He meant the two of us. We were going to go. Price wouldn’t be an object. Nothing would have kept us out of the Rose Bowl to see the Browns in the Super Bowl. Nothing except John Elway.

Little by little, yard by yard Elway tore my heart out of my chest. I was fourteen years old, and I hated John Elway and the Broncos for taking away my Super Bowl trip. The following year’s AFC Championship game cemented it.

For years and years the Broncos were second only to the Steelers in terms of NFL teams I despised. Then after the team moved, they took a backseat only to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Elway himself slipped just behind Art Modell.

Watching the conference championship games unfold on Sunday, I was surprised by my reaction to it all. I want the Broncos to win the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning is the reason of course, not Elway. I really respect Peyton. It seems like no player in the NFL works harder or smarter. He doesn’t just win the chess match, physically he makes the throws as well. It’s one thing to know where the ball should go on every single play, it is another to get the ball there. Peyton gets the ball there. He also has fought back from a major injury and is playing even better than before. He’s also easy to root for. He gives his teammates credit. He seems genuinely humbled and appreciative when people recognize his achievements.

Even seeing John Elway on the podium holding up the Hunt trophy didn’t dissuade me. CBS had put up a graphic earlier in the game of the great QB battles in AFC championship game history. Manning and Brady have now squared off three times with a Super Bowl berth on the line. Manning has won two of the three contests. Elway and Kosar also met three times in the AFC title game. We know the results of those.

But here’s the reason I can watch the Super Bowl and root for Manning and the Broncos. Here’s why I can see that graphic and hardly flinch anymore.

With every 5-11 or 4-12 season, the chasm between the Browns of my youth and the team that plays football near the lake these days gets wider and wider. They are not the same team. They are not the same franchise.

That AFC title game yesterday was a quarterback clinic. Manning was nearly perfect. Tom Brady made a few mistakes, and that likely cost the Patriots the game and another shot at a Super Bowl.

The quarterback play from the Browns? Not even on the same planet as those two. Ever since Mike Polk said it in his infamous Factory of Sadness video the phrase has rung true. It’s like the good teams in the league are playing a different sport than the Browns.

So I will be cheering for the Broncos and Peyton Manning. I am certainly not telling anyone else who to root for. Had Phil Dawson and the 49ers made it, this would be a different piece.

  • bupalos

    Shouldn’t they have been going downfield more? It seems to me that Denver defense is pretty shoddy back there at times, and I didn’t feel like they tested it.

    But the O-line was pretty horrible, so there may not have been much to be done.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Great point on the Supersonics but at least OKC hasn’t won a championship.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Absolutely…they should have been hitting middle routes from the first half and not waited until late in the third quarter. There was plenty to ask questions about believe me.

    The o-line wasn’t a strong suit the fact they couldn’t run the ball didn’t help. But even then the pass blocking was decent enough.

    The Patriots were just missing to many important players. Gronkowski, Wilfork and Spikes were 3 pivotal players. But it’s the NFL every team was missing important players.

  • mgbode


  • mgbode

    Definitely (1) is crazier.

    For (2) it’s a definite stretch, but still possible:
    Houston gets dumb and takes Manziel. St.L trades Bridgewater to the Browns. Teddy has a rookie year much like RGIII or Russell Wilson leading the Browns to the playoffs. A fortunate 1st round pairing allows us to advance to the 2nd weekend.

    For (1), here are the teams that actually swept a divisional season series last year (let alone the 109 wins):

    and, you are asking to sweep the divisional favorites. heck, here are the best records in division last year:

    Texas 17-2 over Houston
    Cleveland 17-2 over Chicago-WS
    Oakland 15-4 over Houston
    KC 15-4 over Minnesota
    Detroit 15-4 over Cleveland

    And yes, it’s weird that they are all in the AL.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    They may one day but I don’t see it this season. I just wish there had been a Durantula in the drafts that the Cavaliers had when they had those two #1 selections. I know we had LBJ and that’s something that frankly was about as close to a miracle for sports that Cleveland will ever have but hell, I’m a Boston fan, I’m greedy, once is not enough!

  • mgbode

    also, you could compare their playoff record vs. NE :)

  • mgbode

    The Thunder definitely don’t have the odds in their favor just because they are in the West. That is going to be a grind especially compared to the cakewalks Miami or Indiana will have in the East.

    Out of the Western teams though, OKC has the best odds of getting to the Finals IMO.

  • DarkwingDude

    I’m glad I’m not the only Browns fan to maintain my sour grapes hatred of the Broncos and especially John Crybaby Elway after all these years.

    My only satisfaction after watching the Kids get kept out of the Big Show three times by the Broncos was each year Denver lost the Super Bowl, and I got to see Elway bawling on the sidelines. That’s a magical feeling.

  • CMCD

    Remembering this game still stings (as did the other Brown’s vs Broncos games back in the day). It makes my heart skip a beat and my stomach still sinks, just like it did the day I was watching this game. When it comes to the Brown’s and their downfalls, time does not heal, especially when we have regressed to this point of being absolutely pitiful.

    I was at the “battery throwing” game sitting in the dogpound, I did not participate in those actions and felt that they were wrong to do it, but, I still had a twitch of a smile on face as it was happening. BAD ME, BAAAAAD ME!!!;-{[)}