Film and TV

Broncos Are Acting as Cheap as Kmart in Von Miller Deal, Says ESPN's Mike Wilbon

Last month, ESPN's Michael Wilbon raised the hackles of local sports fans by describing Coors Field as a joke.

Now he's going after the biggest sports icon in the state — the Denver Broncos — by comparing the franchise to Kmart and Target in its current contract negotiations with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.

This time, however, plenty of Broncos supporters are likely t agree with him.

As we noted yesterday, Miller has turned down a six-year, $114.5 million offer from the Broncos and team-runner John Elway over the portion of the contract that would be guaranteed. The Broncos are offering roughly $40 million, or two years. Miller wants three years — pretty common these days for a player of his stature.

On Twitter, Broncos loyalists overwhelmingly support paying Miller what he wants, as our top twenty tweets collection demonstrated — and Wilbon, speaking alongside Tony Kornheiser on yesterday's edition of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, does, too.

After saying that he doesn't think Miller will sit out the season in protest ("because we're talking about too much money"), Wilbon asked, "Why are the Denver Broncos suddenly going Target and Kmart? Why are they Southwest Airlines? Why are they a discount operation? What is it? Did somebody take John Elway's money away from him? What is it that they've now appointed themselves the money-saving team in the [NFL], as if John Elway can't pay the light bill" — an apparent allusion to the players Denver lost to other teams during the off-season, including quarterback heir apparent Brock Osweiler, who leaped to the Houston Texans.

Kornheiser nodded Osweiler's way, too, saying that by winning the Super Bowl in February, much to the delight of the squad's enormously enthusiastic fan base, the Broncos "guaranteed themselves two or three years of not having to do much, and they don't even have a quarterback and they're not going to do much."

But Wilbon wasn't finished castigating the Broncos' front office.

"Let's go back to Denver a second," he intoned. "We know any team in the NFL can do it. They have all the power, the players have none. So you only have a little bit of leverage at this point when you're in contract negotiations. But why? If you're Denver and you have all this money.... Tony, the revenue streams for the Denver Broncos — you mentioned that fan base, how rabid it is in that community. You know, you've been there. Why do they have to conduct business this way?"

In response, Kornheiser argued that the Broncos would probably love to slap a franchise tag on Von Miller for three years — something that would make him think about sitting out if he were in Miller's place (even though he doesn't think Miller will do so).

As is his wont, Wilbon took things one step further.

"If they keep this up, I'd like to come back with the ability to play for the Kansas City Chiefs and rub John Elway's nose in it," he said. "John Elway was a player. What's he doing? I understand that he's management now. But he just forgot? He doesn't remember anything from before then?"

That's a question plenty of Broncos fans are probably asking themselves right now.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts