UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Von Miller rewarded with Super Bowl encore

If knowing that Von Miller gets to play in another Super Bowl, albeit with the Rams, has you thinking that the Broncos blew it by trading him, I’m sure you’re not alone.

I’m sure many inhabitants of Broncos Country are muttering about the swap that brought second- and third-round draft choices from Los Angeles in return for the MVP of Super Bowl L. (That means 50.)

But I say: Stop it!

Instead of criticizing what, in the near future, may be looked upon as one of the turning points in Denver’s return to prominence, give General Manager George Paton credit for doing right by one of the Broncos’ waning stars while building for the future.

Professional athletes appreciate it when the team they’re with—if it’s not a contender—moves them to one with a chance to play for a championship ring. And that’s what the Broncos did for Von Miller.

Miller is 32 years old, which is getting up there in pro football, especially for linebackers (and running backs).  And this is his 10th season in the National Football League. He may not be playing any longer by the time those draft choices help Denver get back to the Big Game, whatever Roman numeral it is by then.

So, why not let him have another shot at the pinnacle of his sport?

“These opportunities, they don’t come often, I’m here to tell you that,” Miller has been telling his Rams teammates as they prepare for their first Super Bowl.

In Super Bowl L, when the Broncos beat Carolina 24-10 in Peyton Manning’s last game, Von Miller had five solo tackles and one assist, two quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. He played with another pass rusher of note, DeMarcus Ware, who that day had three unassisted tackles, two assists, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits.

The point of that breakdown is that Miller benefitted from having a real threat on the other end of the defensive front.

And that’s where he finds himself again this time. Only the other guy is named Aaron Donald, who is an even bigger threat than DeMarcus Ware, who set the Dallas Cowboys team record for quarterback sacks with 117 before he came to the Broncos for the last three seasons of his career. Ware is a member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.

Aaron Donald, widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, was the 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award recipient after being unanimously named an All-America in his senior season at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press three times (so far), and played in eight Pro Bowls in eight seasons. As of 2021 he has sacked the quarterback 98 times, forced 23 fumbles and recovered six, and has deflected 16 passes.

Donald attracts special attention, which usually means double-teams, in every game he plays, and Cincinnati is bound to do something like that when they face him on Sunday. That’s good news for Von Miller.

A look at Miller’s stats this season is instructive heading into this Super Bowl.

In seven games for Denver, he had 10 solo tackles, seven for a loss, and nine quarterback hits. In eight games for Los Angeles, he had 23 solo tackles, 12 for a loss, and eight QB hits.

I call that the Aaron Donald Effect.

It also should be noted that he amassed those L.A. numbers in 434 defensive snaps, while it took 835 snaps to achieve his 2015 numbers.

“We talk about competitive greatness all the time, being at your best when you best is required,” says Rams coach Sean McVay. “He’s illustrated that throughout the playoffs . . . He’s been outstanding, and we would not be here without him.”

This might lead some Broncos fans to circle back to lamenting the Miller trade. But remember, he didn’t have anyone of Aaron Donald’s caliber opposite him in Denver’s defense. And at the time of the trade, he had participated in only 76% of Denver’s defensive snaps, only 330. 

Does this mean Von Miller will be the MVP of another Super Bowl? Not necessarily.  Does it mean he’ll contribute to another Super Bowl championship?  Not necessarily.

What, then, does it mean?  Only that he has a chance at both, and that’s all any player on the back side of a great career could hope for.

“I’m hoping that Super Bowl 56 will be the highlight of my career,” he told the L.A. Times last week. “I’m hoping that the Von that I am on Sunday will be the best Von that I put forward in my whole career. 

“This is the biggest game of my life., and I want to gout out there and play that way.”

Thank you, George Paton.  Good luck, Von Miller.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 13 books, seven of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net. 

Von Miller rewarded with Super Bowl encore

If knowing that Von Miller gets to play in another Super Bowl, albeit with the Rams, has you thinking that the Broncos blew it by trading him, I’m sure you’re not alone.

I’m sure many inhabitants of Broncos Country are muttering about the swap that brought second- and third-round draft choices from Los Angeles in return for the MVP of Super Bowl L. (That means 50.)

But I say: Stop it!

Instead of criticizing what, in the near future, may be looked upon as one of the turning points in Denver’s return to prominence, give General Manager George Paton credit for doing right by one of the Broncos’ waning stars while building for the future.

Professional athletes appreciate it when the team they’re with—if it’s not a contender—moves them to one with a chance to play for a championship ring. And that’s what the Broncos did for Von Miller.

Miller is 32 years old, which is getting up there in pro football, especially for linebackers (and running backs).  And this is his 10th season in the National Football League. He may not be playing any longer by the time those draft choices help Denver get back to the Big Game, whatever Roman numeral it is by then.

So, why not let him have another shot at the pinnacle of his sport?

“These opportunities, they don’t come often, I’m here to tell you that,” Miller has been telling his Rams teammates as they prepare for their first Super Bowl.

In Super Bowl L, when the Broncos beat Carolina 24-10 in Peyton Manning’s last game, Von Miller had five solo tackles and one assist, two quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. He played with another pass rusher of note, DeMarcus Ware, who that day had three unassisted tackles, two assists, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits.

The point of that breakdown is that Miller benefitted from having a real threat on the other end of the defensive front.

And that’s where he finds himself again this time. Only the other guy is named Aaron Donald, who is an even bigger threat than DeMarcus Ware, who set the Dallas Cowboys team record for quarterback sacks with 117 before he came to the Broncos for the last three seasons of his career. Ware is a member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.

Aaron Donald, widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, was the 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award recipient after being unanimously named an All-America in his senior season at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press three times (so far), and played in eight Pro Bowls in eight seasons. As of 2021 he has sacked the quarterback 98 times, forced 23 fumbles and recovered six, and has deflected 16 passes.

Donald attracts special attention, which usually means double-teams, in every game he plays, and Cincinnati is bound to do something like that when they face him on Sunday. That’s good news for Von Miller.

A look at Miller’s stats this season is instructive heading into this Super Bowl.

In seven games for Denver, he had 10 solo tackles, seven for a loss, and nine quarterback hits. In eight games for Los Angeles, he had 23 solo tackles, 12 for a loss, and eight QB hits.

I call that the Aaron Donald Effect.

It also should be noted that he amassed those L.A. numbers in 434 defensive snaps, while it took 835 snaps to achieve his 2015 numbers.

“We talk about competitive greatness all the time, being at your best when you best is required,” says Rams coach Sean McVay. “He’s illustrated that throughout the playoffs . . . He’s been outstanding, and we would not be here without him.”

This might lead some Broncos fans to circle back to lamenting the Miller trade. But remember, he didn’t have anyone of Aaron Donald’s caliber opposite him in Denver’s defense. And at the time of the trade, he had participated in only 76% of Denver’s defensive snaps, only 330. 

Does this mean Von Miller will be the MVP of another Super Bowl? Not necessarily.  Does it mean he’ll contribute to another Super Bowl championship?  Not necessarily.

What, then, does it mean?  Only that he has a chance at both, and that’s all any player on the back side of a great career could hope for.

“I’m hoping that Super Bowl 56 will be the highlight of my career,” he told the L.A. Times last week. “I’m hoping that the Von that I am on Sunday will be the best Von that I put forward in my whole career. 

“This is the biggest game of my life., and I want to gout out there and play that way.”

Thank you, George Paton.  Good luck, Von Miller.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 13 books, seven of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net.