DENVER – It’s never dull around the Denver Broncos.
It may not always be pleasant. In fact, after finishing with a 6-10 one season after posting a 5-11 mark, there were more negative stories than good associated with the Broncos in the 2018 calendar year.
There were firings, draftings, signings, releases, records, a trade, a lawsuit, pursuits of quarterback, a quarterback pursuit of a neighborhood, a Hall of Fame nomination, criminal cases, and some pleasant surprises.
There was so much drama surrounding the 2018 Broncos, their best player, Von Miller, didn’t make our list of top stories.
Here are the top 9 Broncos stories of 2018 in order of what I thought stirred the most interest from Broncos Country:
1. Phillip Lindsay local guy does good
He has a magnetic personality, outsized hair on a tiny body, he grew up in Denver, he played for the Colorado Buffaloes, he was not invited to the NFL Combine, nor was he drafted. Yet, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and made history by becoming the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl.
Need anything else for a good story? Oh yes, he lived at home with mom and dad throughout his sensational rookie year. Not even a final week wrist surgery could ruin the best story in the Broncos’ season – although it’s perhaps fitting that even the best story had somewhat of an unhappy ending.
2. Elway chase of Baker and the Big Four
This was the longest story of the 2018 calendar year. It began at the Senior Bowl in late-January and ended with the NFL Draft in late-April – when Broncos general manager John Elway decided instead to take pass rusher Bradley Chubb.
But the intense examination of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen created exciting possibilities and fervent debate.
In the end, Elway likely would have taken Darnold had he slipped to the Broncos’ No. 5 spot, but when the young quarterback was taken instead by the New York Jets at No. 3, Elway was happy to take Chubb.
3. Vance Joseph fired
Despite solid improvement in year two, Joseph was fired after posting a combined 11-21 record in his two seasons.
His .344 winning percentage is the fifth-worst in Broncos’ history and the worst since Lou “Half a Loaf” Saban was fired with his .323 winning percentage during the 1971 season.
4. Beth, Bill Bowlen contest trust ownership control; Brittany states boss interest
It started as what appeared to be a bizarre publicity stunt. On May 31, Beth Bowlen Wallace hired a publicity firm to announce she was ready and qualified to become the Broncos’ controlling owner. One of Pat Bowlen’s oldest daughters from his first marriage, Beth Bowlen Wallace had turned the succession plan outlined in her father’s trust into a campaign, as if she was running for office.
The Pat Bowlen Trust responded with, pshaw! She’s not capable or qualified.
Then Brittany Bowlen, who will turn 29 next week, said during a charity function on October 20 she would like to one day become the controlling owner, adding she’s not ready but is working toward that goal.
Uh oh. Eight days later, uncle Bill Bowlen, a Beth Bowlen Wallace supporter, filed a lawsuit against trustees Joe Ellis, Rich Slivka and Mary Kelly, claiming, in so many words, the Broncos have deteriorated since Ellis became owner delegee in 2014. (Never mind that Super Bowl 50 trophy).
Call it Brittany vs. Beth. Call it Uncle Bill and Beth vs. Joe and the Trustees. The dispute is now in the hands of an Arapahoe County judge. Hey, Broncoland. All rise.
5. Case Keenum signs
That signing a free agent to an $18 million a year contract to become the new franchise quarterback can only be the No. 5 story speaks to how eventful – good and bad – this season has been.
Keenum was extremely competitive and savvy and he did give the Broncos a chance each week. But he fell short of expectations, which were to lead the Broncos to the playoffs. He was the 29th ranked quarterback with an 81.2 rating hurt by his 15 interceptions against 18 touchdown passes.
6. Demaryius Thomas traded
He was a couple years removed from his prime. Still, D.T. was the second-best receiver in Broncos’ history. Only Rod Smith had more catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions among Broncos’ receivers.
Exactly at midseason, Thomas was traded to the Houston Texans in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft. Thomas suffered a torn Achilles injury last week, leaving his career in question.
7. Paxton Lynch released
This is down the list – but still on the list – for 2018. But it might have been the No. 1 disaster in the Broncos’ big picture.
A first-round draft pick in 2016, Lynch didn’t even make it to his third season. He had four, underwhelming starts in his first two seasons.
Perhaps, the biggest indictment against Lynch is not one team picked him up after he became the Broncos’ final cut prior to the season.
8. Bradley Chubb leads draft class
Picking late in the draft from 2013-17, the Broncos had some big misses. But Elway and his top assistant Matt Russell rebounded nicely in 2018, thanks to having the No. 5 overall draft pick.
Chubb had a Broncos’ rookie record 12.0 sacks. Second-round receiver Courtland Sutton had 42 catches for 704 yards. The third round produced running back Royce Freeman, who rushed for 521 yards, and Isaac Yiadom, who became a No. 3 cornerback. The fourth-round garnered receiver DaeSean Hamilton and linebacker Josey Jewell, who both became starters.
And did we mention the undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay?
9. Chad Kelly released after Halloween jaunt
The Swag was highly popular among the Broncos fan base, as the former final draft pick outplayed former first-round pick Paxton Lynch in the preseason to win the No. 2 job.
But before Kelly could play, he became aggressive and confrontational during Von Miller’s downtown Denver private Halloween party. Kelly broke loose from security and started wandering around a nearby neighborhood until he wound up in the living room of a stranger’s home.
The man of the house beat Kelly with a vacuum cleaner hose. Kelly returned to the party and was about to leave when police arrested him on a criminal trespass charge.
Bonus selection: Pat Bowlen nominated as Hall of Fame contributor finalist
Through 2016, Mr. B’s Broncos had more Super Bowl appearances (7) than losing seasons (5) in his 33 years as Broncos owner. He also helped explode the league’s revenues through his work as NFL broadcast committee chairman. Nominated along with former Dallas Cowboys scouting director Gil Brandt as a Hall of Fame contributor finalist, Bowlen figures to receive rubber-stamp approval into football immortality from Hall voters on Super Bowl eve, Feb. 2, in Atlanta.
Honorable mention: Shelby’s end zone pick of Big Ben; Von Miller breaking Simon Fletcher franchise sack record; Incredible slew of season-ending injuries; Annabel Bowlen announce she too has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; Pacman signed; Adam Gotsis, A.J. Johnson cleared from rape allegations.