For health reasons, Gary Kubiak has stepped down as coach of the Denver Broncos. If you’re at all interested in the Broncos, or in football, or just in how a man of great character handles the difficult task of announcing that he’s walking away from his dream job, you might want to watch his retirement press conference.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice watching a great football game at home on the big screen via a Dish DVR. Skipping past the timeouts, skipping back to watch a great play a second time, pausing the game for a bathroom break — it’s pretty nice.
But today of all days, I wish I’d been there in Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High Field. I wish I could have dropped a couple of grand for that playoff ticket. Today was special. What a perfect day to attend a great football game — 65° and sunny, hardly a cloud in the sky, and practically no wind. What a great crowd — I heard longtime season ticket holders say it was the loudest ever since the old Mile High Stadium. What a great team performance in all aspects of the game — it was not nearly as close as the score (26-16 Denver) would indicate.
This was probably the best Broncos game to attend in person since John Elway retired. I wish I had been there.
Shannon Sharpe is one of the greatest characters in the world of professional football — articulate, funny, outrageous, charismatic, and genuine. He was also the best tight end ever to play the game. So said John Elway, and the record book backs him up.
Sharpe owns all the tight end records. He redefined the role. And he should have been a slam dunk (to mix sports metaphors) to go into the Hall of Fame two years ago when first eligible. This year, he's finally been inducted.
And just in time. His grandmother, who's in a nursing home, soon turns 89. Sharpe said his goal all his life has been to make his grandmother proud, because she's the one who made him the man he is. I'm sure she's been proud of him for many years, but this is the icing on the cake.
Tonight's 10PM local news showed video of him addressing the press, and I wish I could find that video. It was quite moving. There's a short one-on-one interview from ESPN on YouTube.
Congratulations, Shannon, and thanks for so many wonderful memories.
Knoxville's most entertaining attorney (and probably one of the most entertaining in the country), Anne McKinney, offered up this musical sendoff for former/temporary Vols coach Lane Kiffin, who slunk off to USC:
Well, Santa didn't give me the Christmas present I wanted — although it was close. With the help of some questionable calls by the refs and a critical 27-yard scramble on third down by McNabb (Limbaugh is right, he's a much-improved QB), the Eagles beat the Broncos by a field goal. Considering that they were two-touchdown favorites, I suppose it was a moral victory (and some bettors were happy).
But the loss means Denver is unlikely to make the playoffs. And has now faded in December for the fourth straight year. That sucks.
On the positive side, I was glad to see that Brian Dawkins got the welcome home he deserved — a standing ovation from the Philly fans, who are infamous for booing everyone, including Santa Claus.
Elsewhere in the NFL, the Colts lost for the first time. Because, with a five-point lead, Caldwell benched Peyton Manning early in the second half (and it was clear Manning didn't like it). That has to be the most chicken-sh*t move by a head coach in many a year. Hell, if you think the game doesn't matter, you don't care about winning, and you're so worried about an injury to your QB — why not just forfeit the damn game? That way you don't risk anybody getting injured!
You don't do that because you're being paid to coach, the players are being paid to play, and the fans are there to see you all give it your best. They didn't today.
Pull Manning in the 4th or if the outcome is no longer in doubt — sure. But in the 3rd with a five-point lead?
Let me get this straight: The Denver Broncos had a top-ranked offense, but one of the worst defenses in the league. Coach Mike Shanahan has always been an offense-minded guy. Owner Pat Bowlen fired Shanahan because he decided "it was time for a change."
So now he's hiring a 32-year-old offensive whiz kid and clone of Shanahan. Huh?
Well, at least with all the young, new players the Broncos have, the new coach will be older than most of the team.
I hope they thoroughly vetted secondary coach Dom Capers, whom McDaniels is reportedly bringing with him from the Patriots to be the defensive coordinator.
Will everyone who thought the Sooners would only score twice please raise your hands?
Hmm, that's what I thought. I think half of you with your hands up are lying. You other three guys must be rabid SEC football fans.
My hand was half-up. I wasn't that surprised by Oklahoma's mere 14 points, and I fully expected Florida to hold them to no more than 20-something.
Actually, what surprised me was how well Oklahoma's defense played — at least for the first half. But Florida eventually wore them down, and Tebow really made that triple option play work in the second half.
As I've said before, the SEC is clearly the strongest football conference, and especially when it comes to defense. I bet at least half a dozen SEC teams could hold the Sooners to less than half their average offensive output.
Which reminds me: Sam Bradford may have had the more impressive stats this year, but I still think Tebow is the better QB and should have won his second Heisman. His achievements were against those tough SEC defenses, not the largely porous ones in the Big 12.
Oh, well, Tebow is only a junior, and I suspect he'll be back next year.
It's probably small consolation to the Broncos, but the Indianapolis defense had even less success stopping Darren Sproles and the San Diego offense than Denver did. The diminutive Sproles (5'6" and 180-odd pounds) was simply phenomenal — 328 combined yards! Are you kidding me??
Manning and the Colts' offense had even more trouble than Denver with the Charger defense. The Colts wouldn't have been in the game except for two Charger turnovers (one by Sproles) and one of the most embarrassing brain-farts in the history of NFL football by the Charger defense, resulting in an easy Colts touchdown.
But thanks to those three lapses, it was an exciting game to the end. When, fittingly, the unstoppable Sproles scored a TD in overtime. I'm guessing his agent is ready to renegotiate his contract.
On a related (and belated) note, I was shocked by the firing of Mike Shanahan. Everyone knows his forte and focus is offense, and that certainly wasn't the problem. The Broncos had one of the best offenses in the league this year (despite ending up with seven running backs on injured reserve). It's the defense that sucked.
But what I really want to know is what's going through Cowboys coach Wade Phillips' mind these days. There's a good chance that he could lose his job to Shanahan for the second time in his career.
It was a pretty sorry season for the Vols. They finished 5-7, matching the most losses in 112 years of Tennessee football. Although they had one of the best defenses in Division I football (ranked 6th), their offense was virtually nonexistent (ranked something like 106th).
But today was fired coach Phil Fulmer's last game. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a coach whose players love him more. So today, the defense played up to their usual and the offense sucked it up and played one decent half. Tennessee 28, Kentucky 10.
Then they carried Fulmer off the field on their shoulders as if he'd just led them to a championship. It was pretty moving.
In his 16 years at the helm, Fulmer won more than 75% of his games. Among Tennessee coaches, his 152 wins are second only to the legendary Gen. Robert R. Neyland (who racked up four national championships, back-to-back undefeated seasons, and an entire regular season without being scored upon). This was only Fulmer's second losing season.
But the standards are high in Knoxville. A 10-4 record isn't good enough if it includes losses to Florida, Alabama, and LSU. I wonder if that young whippersnapper, Lane Kiffin (the fired Raiders coach rumored to be Fulmer's replacement) knows what he's in for at Tennessee.
(One sports columnist's not very flattering look at Kiffin is here.)
I bet you didn't know this: there's a city ordinance in Denver that requires all uses of the proper noun "Raiders," spoken or print, to be preceded by the adjective "hated."
So today the Broncos played host to the hated Raiders. And the outcome sucked.
That's the trouble with having to rely on lots of young players. Sometimes they provide the energy and enthusiasm that really makes a difference, like the previous two weeks. But sometimes they bring inexperience and errors.
But, really, most of the blame for today's humiliating defeat belongs to Jay Cutler. When he's on his game, he's every bit as great a QB as he thinks he is. But when he's off, he really stinks up the place.
Oh, well — the Chargers lost, too, so nothing much changed in the division.
And later tonight, 24: Redemption was good enough to make me forget the game. You've got to love a show where the first villain you see is a cowardly, duplicitous U.N. "peacekeeper" who keeps braying "We remain neutral!" and then sells out a bunch of kids. Now that's realism.