Somewhere between Dan Reeves' snakeskin boots and Edgar F. Kaiser Jr.'s private jet is the new personality of the Denver Broncos.
The Denver Broncos: that funny football team everybody made such a fuss over back in 1977. Orange Crush, and all that. The Super Bowl, no less.
Forget that team.
It doesn't exist any more.
It expired somewhat unexpectedly about six months ago with a change of ownership and a subsequent change of coaching and management.
Gone is Gerald H. Phipps, the benevolent original owner who kept his nose in his construction and banking interests and out of his team's affairs, except to provide it with a seemingly bottomless pocketbook. The only thing he loved more than his team is his wife, Clara, he explained, and after a major operation last winter, she needed him more than it did.
Sweeping in to replace him came Kaiser, the grandson of industrialist Henry Kaiser, who built a vast fortune in automobiles, construction and shipbuilding. Some of that money would up in Edgar's pockets, and he put about $30 million into the purchase of Broncos.
Less than two weeks after the change of ownership, Reeves, the former Dallas Cowboy offensive coordinator, and Grady Alderman, an accountant and former player who had done some administrative work for the Minnesota Vikings, came into the picture.
Gone was Red Miller, the fiery longtime assistant who four years earlier had finally gotten the head coaching job he'd always dreamed of.
Gone, too, was Fred Gehrke, the general manager who had hired Miller in his first official act as GM.
Kaiser obviously wanted his own kind of people in those positions -- bring, young people. And he obviously wanted his own kind of franchise -- a consistent contender.
A consistent contender, after all, is what Kaiser bought . . . a consistent contender, he said, that lost money with alarming consistency.
That, said the previous administration, was only because it had recently expanded its facilities to accommodate its coaches and athletes. Kaiser said it was because the coaches and players were being paid too much, and he ordered his new management team to "bring the payroll into balance with the team's performance."
So, alderman and Kaiser's right-hand man, Hein Poulus, who has since become the club's chief negotiator, briskly went about trimming the fat. They eliminated a couple of puff positions in the organization and got tough in contract negotiations. They even tried to get Randy Gradishar, the perinnial all-pro line-backer, to take a cut in pay, presumably assuming the other "overpaid" players would fall in line behind him.
That didn't work very well. Gradishar refused to be downgraded despite threats of a trade. A number of veterans held out, including line-backer Fred Steinfort, two of the more prominent members of the team. Swenson recently signed; Steinfort is still negotiating.
Reeves has remained the one stabilizing factor. He has been attempting to install a new, Dallas-like multiple offense that so far has created nothing but multiple trouble.
"maybe we've given them too much," he said after last week's 33-7 loos to the New York Jets, a game in which the Broncos managed to showcase their offense for 15 of the 60 minutes. "We're probably going to cut it back some."
The trouble is, according to a number of players, there has been so much motion and shifting that the focus of concentration is on those aspects rather than on the basics of running, passing or catching. "It's a whole new concept for everybody," said Reeves.