Denver may still be a football town, but the Nuggets made major inroads this year that put the team on the radar of sports fans across the city. The Broncos, on the other hand, continued their mediocrity.
Keep reading for the biggest sports stories of 2019.
The Nuggets Dominated
The Nuggets emerged as one of the top teams in the NBA in 2019, thanks in large part to the transcendental game of do-it-all big man Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets seem poised to appear in the Western Conference playoffs this spring. But the West is stacked, and the Lakers pose a serious threat to the Nuggets.
Fortunately, our home team has an ace up its sleeve. In addition to counting Jokic and talented point guard Jamal Murray among its ranks, plus a deep bench, Denver has Michael Porter Jr. MPJ was once a consensus top overall NBA draft pick before health issues started to catch up with him.
But he's on the mend, and if he gets back to his old form, there's no doubt he'll take the team to great places.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team dominated this summer's Women’s World Cup, winning a second championship in a row after beating the Netherlands in the finals. And two Colorado natives helped the team to victory. Lindsey Horan, a Golden native, notched two goals and two assists throughout, and Littleton-born, Highlands Ranch-raised Mallory Pugh added a goal and an assist. They each scored their first World Cup goals in America’s 13-0 romping of Thailand.
The Broncos' Revolving Quarterback Door
Hopes were high that the addition of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco would end the Broncos’ quarterback woes. But the veteran QB turned out to be a bust, playing in only half of the team’s games before ending up on the injured reserve list. Even in the games he did play, Flacco posted severely mediocre stats.
Young journeyman quarterback Brandon Allen was featured in three Broncos games before it became apparent that he wasn’t ready to take over the offense, either. Thankfully, rookie Drew Lock has flashed potential in some of the games he’s started. Sure, he’s looked boneheaded at times, too, but we'll chalk that up to his rookie status.
The best hope for Broncos fans is that Lock develops into a decent quarterback and isn’t affected by the curse that’s hurt the Broncos since Manning retired.
The Rockies Hit a Wall
Rockies fans were pumped as the season kicked off in April. Fresh off making the playoffs, the team looked poised to again qualify for a wild card spot and maybe even make a run toward the World Series. But the Rockies never quite recovered after losing twelve of their first fifteen games of the season, and ended up finishing one game ahead of last place in the National League West.
There’s even more bad news: Nolan Arenado, who has been the heart and soul of the team for years, could be traded in the near future. It would probably be a good career move for him, since the Rockies don’t look like they're winning a championship anytime soon. But it’d be darn sad for fans to lose their All Star third baseman.
CU Football Shows Its Pedigree
The Buffs may have posted the same record this year as the year prior, winning five games and losing seven, but the key difference in 2019 was momentum. Under previous coach Mike MacIntyre, the Buffs started off 2018 hot, winning their first five games. MacIntyre got the ax after that horrific seven-game losing streak, and in came Mel Tucker, fresh off his stint as defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia.
Tucker’s team managed to again knock off Arizona State and Nebraska, and even added late-season victories against Stanford and Washington. The coach also landed a former five-star recruit in Antonio Alfano, after the 2019 high school senior decided to transfer from Alabama.
Turning around a football program that hasn’t known true success in decades almost always takes at least three or four years. Maybe this is just the beginning.
The Broncos and Denver Lose a Legend
In June, Denver lost one of its sports legends. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died at age 75 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Less than two months later, Bowlen was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, something that should have happened years ago.
Bowlen purchased the team in 1984. Under his ownership, the Broncos, led by quarterback John Elway, developed a winning culture that has lasted throughout much of the team's history. Peyton Manning was able to add one more Lombardi trophy into the Mile High City’s case during the twilight of his career.
..but the Family Drama Continues
Even while Bowlen was alive, his family fought over who would eventually take over the franchise. Bowlen's two eldest daughters have been fighting in court to wrest control of the team from the trustees who have run the team since 2014, when Pat ceded control to them. No doubt the former owner is rolling in his grave.
The highlight of the 2019 Broncos has been Courtland Sutton. The second-year receiver went over 1,000 yards in fourteen games, all while his team was mostly a dumpster fire at the quarterback position. Leaving college and quickly becoming a dangerous receiving weapon in the NFL is one of the hardest transitions to make in the league. The fact that Sutton did it so quickly — and probably could’ve done so even with Tim Tebow playing quarterback — shows that he has a high ceiling.
The key going forward will be whether Lock is legit and, if he is, whether he, Sutton and the rest of the offensive weapons get a competent offensive line to give them time to make plays.
End of an Era
The Colorado Rapids were awful again this season. But the one highlight of the year was fans getting to watch Tim Howard, the best-ever American men’s soccer goalie, during his curtain call. The legendary goalkeeper announced in January that he would be hanging up his boots at year’s end. His last soccer match for the Rapids, in October, was also his 100th appearance for the team.
Howard will surely be remembered for his heroic performance during the 2014 Men’s World Cup, when he made acrobatic saves and kept the U.S. in games it should’ve been blown out of. Colorado is lucky to have gotten three years of play from him.
What's in a Name?
Forget about Sports Authority or Invesco. Just call the place where the Broncos play Mile High Stadium, an elegant name that makes sense. But, no. The Broncos had to go and sell the naming rights to the field this year to Empower Retirement, a Greenwood Village-based company no one had heard of until the front-office announcement. So much for what we want...
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.