ENGLEWOOD—Like all people who hail from Philadelphia, Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus knows his cheesesteaks.
During a sitdown interview with 9News this week, his knowledge was quizzed.
The difference between a good cheesesteak and a bad cheesesteak is:
A. The Bun
B. The Bun
C. The Bun
D. All of the above.
“Yes,’’ McManus said. “A lot of the bun is the way they toast it. I don’t know if it’s the water in Philadelphia or something that makes it so good. People always say New York bagels are the best. Well, Philadelphia rolls are the best with the cheesesteaks.’’
The Broncos are playing Sunday against the 7-1 Eagles in the hometown of McManus, safety Will Parks and linebacker Zaire Anderson.
McManus was born in Philly, raised 25 miles north in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, went to high school in the neighboring town of Lansdale, and played his college ball at Temple University, whose campus is set within the city of Philly proper.
Philly is like an older brother. It’s OK for people who live there to complain about their city, but don’t you do it.
I have yet to meet anyone from Philly who hasn’t bragged about hailing from Philly. Parks’ twitter handle is PhillyWill11.
“A lot of people bash Philadelphia but I loved it growing up,’’ McManus said. “It obviously isn’t the cleanest city but I loved it growing up – just the passion of the sports town that they have and … the fans, unfortunately just lay it on the professional sports teams because they haven’t won a lot but they’re still passionate and it’s just a great place where I grew up and hold near and dear to my heart.’’
It’s different for Eagles fans this year. They all have Carson Wentz fever as the second-year quarterback has played well in leading Philadelphia to six consecutive wins and a 7-1 record entering their game Sunday (11 a.m. MST kickoff) against the Broncos.
McManus is going to have 136 friends and family there specifically because he’ll be kicking for the other guys. He returns just in time as it appears he has his leg swing back.
McManus has uncharacteristically missed a few this year. He missed only five out of 45 field goal attempts in 2015. He made all his big kicks, too, as he was 10 of 10 during the Broncos’ four-game postseason run that ended with a Super Bowl 50 ring on his finger.
He only missed five of 34 field goal attempts last year. This year, he’s missed five of 15. The good thing – and it is a good thing -- he’s been through this before. He struggled enough in 2014 to lose his job, although the Broncos kept his strong leg and young talent around for kickoffs and further development.
After not getting a chance two weeks ago in a 21-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, he made relatively short field goals of 27 and 34 yards and a 33-yard extra point in the tricky windy conditions of Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night.
“I feel good,’’ he said. “I knew I had a couple bad kicks. I wasn’t mentally worried about myself or my confidence. I just unfortunately had some bad kicks that resulted in misses.’’
The new contract extension he received the day of the Broncos’ season opener, he said, had nothing to do with his below-par start to the season. Speaking of par, that’s what it is. Just like the golf swing can come and go, consistency of swing is what separates NFL kickers from the others.
“There’s a lot of similarities with golf and kicking,’’ he said. “Obviously, golf is more of an upper body rotation where kicking is lower body. But it’s such a mental game more than a physical game with kicking. Each kick you’ve got to go out there and think, ‘I only have to make this kick. I don’t have to worry about making 10 in a row, or I’ve got to get to a certain percentage or something.’ You’ve just got to worry about making that specific kick that your approached with at that time.’’
Here's something even a weekend golfer may not know.
“One interesting point is, if you miss the kick by maybe a centimeter on the ball, 20 or 30 or 40 yards down the field it’s going to miss by yards,'' McManus said. "That’s how specific we are.’’
It’s not easy being a kicker. It’s not easy being a quarterback. The Broncos arrive in Philly with a shakeup at the most important position in team sports. Trevor Siemian has been benched for the first time after 21 career starts, replaced by Brock Osweiler.
In the Broncos’ locker room, the three specialists (McManus, punter/holder Riley Dixon, long snapper Casey Kreiter) dress a couple stalls down from quarterback row.
“Kickers and quarterbacks are good friends a lot of times so obviously it’s tough to see someone lose their job like Trevor,’’ he said. “Obviously, he knew he could play better and wasn’t putting up the points we needed to the way our defense has been playing.
“We’re familiar with Brock and he’s familiar with the offense with (offensive coordinator Mike) McCoy being here earlier.’’
Come to think of it, sometimes it’s not easy being anybody. In McManus’ second professional season of 2014, first with the Broncos, he co-founded an anti-bullying group with a friend.
McManus was a good athlete in high school and athletes generally aren’t bullied. Then again, social media was only just beginning to grow its fangs.
“Not that I’ve ever really been bullied when I was younger, but at the kicker position you miss a kick you’re going to get crucified on social media,’’ he said. “That’s how a lot of bullying happens nowadays. A lot of kids in schools and social-media-wise.
“So, I wanted to create a platform for these kids to feel safe to talk to. Sometimes they don’t want to talk to their parents and be a tattle tale so we wanted to create some way that these kids to talk to a guidance counselor or somebody at school.’’
North Penn High School and Temple get one of their former students back this weekend. The Broncos arrived Friday night for the game Sunday, but McManus won’t run the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Been there, done that, over and over again.
“Playing college football at Temple, we ran those steps a lot for early mornings, 4 a.m. conditioning,’’ he said.
Ah, Philly. The Liberty Bell. Independence Hall. The Rocky stairs. Betsy Ross’ sewing room. The Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.
“Best place is Dalessandro’s, by far to me,’’ he said. “It’s a little bit outside the city. But the best one in the city is Jim’s on South Street.’’