by Kevin Burton
Bronco Nation, sarcasm becomes you.
The new NFL season is underway, in case you hadn’t noticed. One team, the Denver Broncos, could have used a little more pre-season practice, not just for its players but for its coaching staff.
Denver blew a quite winnable game last Monday at Seattle, in part by fumbling twice on the goal line. It was a sloppy game all around. But the capper that reigned down criticism on Denver first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett was his decision to try a 64-yard field goal near the end of the game, instead of letting quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense attempt a fourth and five to keep the game going.
They missed the kick, they lost the game. That’s why I now call Hackett “Coach 64.”
Things didn’t go too much better Sunday.
“The Denver Broncos beat the Houston Texans 16-9 on Sunday. But it wasn’t pretty,” wrote Jason Owens of Yahoo Sports. “A series of game management miscues prompted boos from the Denver crowd in rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s home debut.”
“Then in a remarkable turn, the home crowd, frustrated by repeated delay-of-game penalties, counted down the final seconds of the play clock in the waning minutes — while Denver had the ball.”
That made me laugh out loud. Too good! Great fun that saved a grindingly bad game.
I haven’t been very Bronco-friendly during my NFL fandom. The teams I used to root for, Oakland and Cleveland, suffered some crushing defeats at the hands of Denver, especially Cleveland. Denver denied my teams a super bowl trip at least three times.
Also, I went to college in central Kansas, about midway between Kansas City and Denver. So my peer group was about equally divided between Chiefs and Broncos allegiance. I remember the Bronco fans being particularly obnoxious. They were insufferable in victory, surly and unapproachable in defeat.
So I haven’t had too much good to say about the Broncos or their fan base over the years. But this spontaneous display by the Denver fans was smart and funny.
My college sociology professor told me bad baseball is just as fun to watch as great baseball. This is true, as anyone who watched the dreadful Atlanta Braves on cable TV and then saw them turn it around and become a perennial contender in the 90s.
Bad football though, is just bad. Not talking about losing games here. We’re talking about coaching incompetence, indecision. Minor league stuff I have never seen on an NFL field until now.
So what did Wilson think of the counting?
“Issues with the clock and play calling have led to serious problems for the Broncos’ offense, particularly when it gets into the red zone,” wrote Keith Cummings on Mile High Huddle. “Wilson couldn’t really ignore the deafening ad-libbed countdown the fans rained down on him but when the subject was broached post game, he chose his words carefully.”
“Yeah, I guess that was helpful if needed. I guess they do that in basketball sometimes—you know I’ve been around some basketball players and stuff like that,” Wilson said. “This crowd was amazing tonight. Once again, how they were especially when the defense was out there with the game on the line—I know how hard that is as a quarterback hearing all of that noise and all that tenacity. That was great that our fans we’re really into it and just a great football crowd for sure.”
In that quote Wilson sounded oblivious to the mocking fans were giving the team. He’s been accused of being oblivious before. This was really, really hard to miss though.
“Broncos fans’ frustrations started to boil over late in the third quarter,” Owens wrote. “With Denver trailing 9-6 with 3:41 left in the third, Hackett opted to attempt a field goal on fourth-and-2 from Houston’s 36-yard line rather than go for the first down.”
“But the Broncos were slow to set up the kick as Hackett decided what to do in a situation that called for a fourth-down gamble. (Sound familiar?) Officials whistled the Broncos for a delay of game, and they ended up punting rather than attempting a 59-yard field goal after the five-yard penalty.”
“That’s when the boos rained down from the Denver crowd. Again, this was Hackett’s home debut.
“I don’t blame them,” Hackett told reporters of fans after the game. “I’d be booing myself. It’s frustrating.”
The booing was prosaic. The counting was poetry. Hats off to those fans.