Trading Von Miller is a point of no return for the Broncos
Oct 23, 2019, 6:37 AM
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Emmanuel Sanders is gone. If John Elway and the Broncos are smart, Chris Harris Jr. will likely be traded next. Given his contract situation and age, it makes sense.
Some people think Von Miller should also be traded. That doesn’t make sense.
Sanders and Harris have a lot in common. In their prime, they were among the best at their position in the NFL. Both are all-time great Broncos.
They have something else in common: Neither are Hall of Famers.
Von Miller is a Hall of Famer.
Grouping Miller with and Sanders and Harris doesn’t exactly work. Miller is among the best players at his position, ever. Miller is an all-time great NFL player.
Players the caliber of Sanders and Harris are not easy to come by, but they are also not uncommon. Sanders and Harris exist on every team. Players like Miller do not.
Miller is only 30 and is healthy. People act like the guy is 50 years old and on Injured Reserve. Miller can still go. Miller can still be a game wrecker when utilized correctly (ahem, Fangio).
You do not trade Hall of Famers that are 30 years old. Trading Miller is perceived as a good move for the future, when in fact it is incredibly shortsighted.
The Broncos have been faced with this situation before.
In 1992, Dan Reeves famously had a deal in place to trade quarterback John Elway to the Redskins. Pat Bowlen stepped in and put a stop to that nonsense. Elway stayed and Reeves was gone a season later.
Elway was 32 at the time. The argument for trading Elway was that he couldn’t win The Super Bowl. In Elway’s final game, he won the Super Bowl. Against Reeves, the man who tried to trade him six years prior.
In 1995, 27-year-old Shannon Sharpe had established himself as the best tight end in the NFL and was a perennial Pro Bowler.
However, in 1996, reports leaked that Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan was looking to trade Sharpe (along with other players) to the Cardinals in exchange for defensive tackle Eric Swann. This trade seems really stupid today, but it was very real in 1996.
Sharpe retired with three rings and is in the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, most of you are googling “Eric Swann” because you have no idea who that is.
Elway and Sharpe were part of the 0-4 Broncos in 1994. The team seemed so far off, but with two Hall of Famers they were much closer than without them. Three seasons later in 1997, the Broncos were on their way to back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
Terrell Davis was the best player in the NFL. Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey had emerged as one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. The defense with Neil Smith, Alfred Williams, Steve Atwater and Bill Romanowski knew how to generate turnovers.
The Broncos turned it around.
With Davis running wild, Elway no longer had to carry the team. With Smith and McCaffrey, Sharpe did not need to be the focal point of the passing game.
In the 1997 AFC Championship Game, the Broncos were facing a crucial third-and-six late in the game. If they converted, they would be on their way to the Super Bowl. Shanahan and Gary Kubiak called a play that wasn’t in the game plan. It wasn’t a run to Davis or a pass to one of the young receivers; it was Elway to Sharpe. Hall of Famer to Hall of Famer.
Pass complete. The Broncos were on their way to San Diego to beat up on Brett Favre and his overrated Packers.
It’s hard to imagine the Broncos winning back-to-back Super Bowls without Elway or Sharpe. They probably don’t. Imagine the trajectory of this franchise had they traded either player.
Players like Elway, Sharpe and Miller play so well so often that it’s easy for people to take it for granted. Sanders and Harris make great plays. Elway, Sharpe and Miller play great. They make it so seamless that people don’t realize how rare they are until they’re gone.
Elway retired prior to the 1999 season. For the first time since 1983, the Broncos didn’t have No. 7 as their starting quarterback. They started 0-4 and finished 6-10. That same season Sharpe went down to injury and missed the majority of the season. The Broncos let Sharpe leave and sign with the Ravens that offseason.
In 2000, the Broncos seem to bounce back from losing Elway and returned to the playoffs. They lost to the Ravens in the Wild Card Playoffs. In that game, Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe scored a 58-yard touchdown. For Baltimore. Sharpe and the Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl. Sharpe still had it.
Don’t believe the Broncos felt a void left by Sharpe? Well, they acknowledged as much when they re-signed him prior to the 2002 season. Sharpe’s larger-than-life presence was missed in Denver.
I detest Ray Lewis as a person. I think the dude is total trash. Despite my disdain for the man, Lewis was a great player. Lewis won a Super Bowl early in his career with the Ravens. Then, the Ravens had some down years. Lewis’ play on the field declined in his later years. The Ravens could have moved on from him, but they didn’t. Lewis was interwoven into the identity of the franchise.
In 2012, Lewis clearly was on his last leg. His production was down and he was injured. The Broncos went to Baltomore that season and put a beating on the Ravens 37-3. Lewis was injured and didn’t play. But Lewis returned for the playoffs and was a major reason the Ravens beat the Broncos and went on to win the Super Bowl. His play was solid but his presence mattered the most.
John Elway, Shannon Sharpe and Ray Lewis are Hall of Fame Players. Elway and Lewis went out on top winning Super Bowls in their final seasons. Sharpe went on to win a Super Bowl after being discarded by the Broncos. Teams can replace Pro Bowlers. They can’t replace Hall of Famers.
If you think Hall of Famers are easily replaced, I ask this: How many playoff games have the Broncos played in since Peyton Manning retired?