Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
For coaches at colleges outside the power conferences, validation for a job well done comes when bigger universities come calling, and that's what happened for Jim McElwain, who was hired by Florida after the end of the regular season. When he took the CSU gig following several strong years as offensive coordinator at Alabama, observers knew he might be looking at Fort Collins as a way station. But this sort of plan only works if a coach wins, and McElwain did, quickly turning around a moribund program and registering a 10-2 record en route to becoming Mountain West Conference coach of the year. He earned the promotion, and CSU is in a better place moving forward because he did.
Readers' choice: Jim McElwain
This is it, folks: the Broncos' last best chance to make it to the Super Bowl with Peyton Manning. It's 2016 or bust. Once PFM is gone, it's going to be a while before the team gets close again (can you say "rebuilding?"). So let's leave it all on the field this year.
Readers' choice: 2016
The list of Broncos who played worse last season than they did in the season before that is long, and there are a lot more names on it than just Peyton Manning's. Running back C.J. Anderson is a clear exception. At the start of the 2014-2015 campaign, the undrafted free agent from 2013 was an afterthought. But when neither Ronnie Hillman nor Montee Ball took control of the position, Anderson showed he belonged with a 51-yard touchdown catch-and-run versus the Raiders that may have been the single best Broncos play of the season, and more solid performances followed. With new coach Gary Kubiak expected to institute his venerated zone-blocking scheme, we can't wait to see Anderson take the next step to stardom.
Readers' choice: Peyton Manning
Justin Morneau has been around. He made his major-league debut in 2003 and followed up a long and successful stint with the Minnesota Twins with a brief stop in Pittsburgh before inking with Colorado — and in his first season with the Rockies, he batted a brawny .319 by way of 160 hits, seventeen of them home runs. And unlike more vaunted names, he was a relative paragon of health, playing in 135 games. He even earned a couple of MVP votes — evidence that his value to the Rockies shouldn't be underrated.
Readers' choice: Troy Tulowitzki
The Denver Nuggets have been a team in turmoil this season, losing their coach, several big names and plenty of games. But while other players started to phone it in, Kenneth Faried continued to work hard, which is why he remains a fan favorite. Although he's sometimes asked to do too much, he's also a freakish athlete whose energy and enthusiasm should be infectious for teammates. Under the next regime, we hope they will be.
Readers' choice: Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson (tie)
The Avs are loaded with young talents (including Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O'Reilly) who overachieved in 2013-2014 before coming back down to earth this season. But Jarome Iginla, one of the oldsters on the squad, just kept going and going and going. He's had a storied career since the mid-'90s, mostly for the Calgary Flames, and he's not done yet. Throughout the season, he's been among the team leaders in goals, points and plus/minus, all the while offering a steadying influence to a youthful roster in desperate need of one.
Readers' choice: Matt Duchene