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Denver Broncos News: Broncos' Mailbag


Mailbag: The power of rituals and superstitions, and the best competition beyond QB

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.*

Seeing that you would be flying all the way from Manchester, I'll try (although I notice you'd visit at the time of the international break, and you wouldn't miss any matches of your beloved United, so well-played there) ...

First of all, there's the game itself, which involves the teams that won the last three Super Bowls. They've also accounted for five of the last six AFC championships. These are the luxury cars of NFL franchises.

And while the Broncos' task appears daunting, remember this: For all of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's mastery of the NFL since Brady became the Patriots' starting quarterback in 2001, their team is just 3-7 in games started by Brady in Denver. A Broncos team led by Kyle Orton upset the Pats in 2009; another Denver side piloted by third-stringer Danny Kanell came within a third-and-6 pass of beating them six years earlier.

Then there's the weather -- well, that's a roll of the dice. Based on the last 20 years, you can expect an average high of 50°F/10°C and an average low of 26°F/-3°C, with an average temperature at the 6:30 p.m. MST kickoff of 38°F/3°C. But there's a wide distribution of temperatures; the median figure is 51°F/11°C, and six of the last 20 years saw Nov. 12 high temperatures of 61°F/16°C or higher. Of course, in 2014, the high temperature was 5°F/-15°C. So pack everything from shorts to long johns. But that's part of the fun of Colorado.

And no matter what time of year, Denver and Colorado are always smashing to visit. Snow will be on the mountains by then. Some ski resorts should be open, if that's your thing. If not, the air will be plenty crisp for hiking. If you hang around the city, the restaurant scene has never been better han it is right now. If you have poor meals here, you're just not trying.

And last, but not least, think of the great players you could see (presuming no injuries, of course): Brady, Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Butler, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders ... and the list goes on from there. Few games around the NFL should boast more top-shelf talent than Broncos-Patriots.

Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy will call the plays. That has been the plan all along and will remain that way. Head Coach Vance Joseph plans to leave the play-calling to his coordinators and focus on big-picture management of the team, which is a significant task in and of itself.

What position other than the obvious (quarterback) intrigues you the most headed into camp? I am thinking running back and tight end.

-- Joe Isakson

Both of those are important, but left tackle tops my list (beyond QB, of course). When you're building a team, your primary building blocks remain quarterback, edge rusher and left tackle. Two of those three are question marks heading into training camp.

Now, if the Broncos find their long-term quarterback and left tackle at training camp -- or by the end of this season -- they're in great shape for the future. But they have to get through the fiery uncertainty of competition to reach that point.


With all the WR and TE depth and former offensive coaches elsewhere, do you envision the Broncos trying to trade a player for a pick or help at OLB, NT or even ILB?**

-- Alex Aguilar

Maybe down the line, but not early in training camp. If further injuries strike at a depth-shy position like outside linebacker, then you might explore the market, but in doing so, you'd have to ask, "Are these players better than what is already on the roster?"

Take outside linebacker, for example. Kasim Edebali has experience and was an effective pass rusher in limited opportunities for the Saints, and Vontarrius Dora showed flashes during training camp and the preseason last year. Why not see if those two or some of the undrafted rookies can step up before looking elsewhere?

If any trades of players currently on the roster happen, they will come later, if and when injuries strike at other positions. And even then, it might be difficult to get a significant return. Wide receiver, in particular, is a position at which most teams feel they have a surplus to the point where they feel they're cutting NFL-worthy talent when they get down to 53 players.


Obviously we don't know yet, but when would you predict a QB is picked?**

-- Caleb Snook

I still would guess that a starting quarterback would be named at some point before the third preseason game, but who knows how this competition is going to go? Just sit back, let it unfold and hope that this season plays out to where the Broncos find a clear starter this year and don't have to go through this again for quite a while.

Last year, I noticed that when I wore a certain pair of underwear on game days, the Broncos were 6-1. So you can figure out the record for the other games. I'm sure you know what happens when underwear starts to go, and this pair is going. Should I try and salvage it for this year?

-- Frank Myers

Yes. And I would say that even if the record was 1-6.

Rituals are part of what connect us to the team or teams we love. We don't play, we don't coach. Instead, we have these activities that are nonsensical to others, but who cares? They make sense to you.

I know this from personal experience -- even though mine didn't have the good-luck charm of yours.

I had a ritual for Bucs road games during my teen years, when they were deep in the mire of a 14-year stretch of losing seasons. About 20 minutes before kickoff, I would adjourn to the kitchen to make myself a fried-egg sandwich on wheat bread with Duke's Mayonnaise (rituals are specific this way) and a slice of cheese. To get it just right, you had to place the cheese on top of the egg immediately after removing it from the pan, so it would melt properly. After it all came together, I'd pull out a large Buccaneers drinking glass with the old-school Bucco Bruce logo (I still have the entire set of glasses I used) and fill it to the brim with orange soda just in time for the start of the game.

Whether the kickoff was at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. or 8 p.m., my slavish devotion to the routine never changed. Any deviation drove me haywire.

Finally, I shared the details of this ritual with a girl in whom I had more than a passing interest. The revelation came in the midst of one of those soulful, meandering conversations that lingers for hours, gradually peels past small talk and cuts to the core of one's character.

A befuddled look crossed her face.

"Why are you worried about luck?" she asked. "They lose all the time, anyway."

I had no response. I sat there, catatonic for about 10 seconds, lost in the same realization Charlie Brown had in a Sunday Peanuts strip after he told his sister Sally that if he didn't put always put his left shoe on first, his baseball team would probably lose, to which she replied, "Have you ever won?"

This moment of clarity didn't mean I would change anything. For one thing, I like fried-egg sandwiches. For another, my egg-sandwich tradition actually did begin with some good luck, when I was 14 and the Bucs won their first two road games of the year at Detroit and Minnesota. Of course, in true Tampa Bay fashion, they lost their next 15 consecutive road games.

Undeterred, I kept on eating fried-egg sandwiches. I stopped for a couple of years in college, by which point their fried-egg record was 6-27, then picked it up for two more seasons, when they were a comparatively respectable 6-8 after my customary game-time meal. Then I had to go off and cover the sport for a living, and my full-time fan days came to an end.

As fans, we don't cling to superstition because there is any rational reason. We do it because, without realizing it, these rituals become as important to the experience of fandom as kickoffs and touchdowns.

Even now, I'm looking forward to Week 1 because with the Broncos playing on Monday night, I can fry an egg, whip up a sandwich, pull a 30-year-old glass out of the cabinet and pretend it's 1992 all over again as I watch the Bucs open the season against the Dolphins. I can even bust out my old 1992-model Zubaz hat just to complete the retro experience.

This is my way of saying, "Wear the underwear." Get a sewing kit, patches, duct tape, safety pins -- whoa, bad idea, strike that -- and put the pair back together. Then stride confidently into Week 1 knowing you've done your part to help your team, crazy as it may seem.

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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.





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