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Keeler: Deion Sanders, CU Buffs can do so much better than Pat Shurmur calling plays in 2024

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Keeler: Deion Sanders, CU Buffs can do so much better than Pat Shurmur calling plays in 2024


The only way Pat Shurmur reaches the College Football Playoff next winter is if a pal buys him a ticket.

Deion Sanders? Shedeur Sanders? Travis Hunter? The Buffs should be beating prospective offensive play-callers off with a stick. Not sticking Shedeur with another season of Pencil Pat pushing the buttons.

Yet when USA Today asked Coach Prime Monday if Shurmur, who put Teddy Bridgewater on a stretcher and Drew Lock in purgatory, would return as CU’s offensive coordinator, this was Sanders’ reply:

“Yeah,” Coach Prime said, “most likely.”

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Lordy, the man’s interviews for the “Coach Prime” TV show that debuts later this week must be pure gold. Because his offenses are anything but.

Sanders took the keys from Sean Lewis and handed them to Shurmur around Halloween. CU hasn’t won a game since.

Only three Pac-12 teams scored fewer points than the Buffs did — 20.25 per game — after Nov. 1. And Stanford, Arizona State and UCLA still averaged 2.6 league wins, or more than twice what CU wound up with once the dust settled.

Prime can do better. Can’t he?

I mean, yeah, half of a crummy offensive line has to be replaced on the fly. But the core pieces at the skill positions, if healthy, look sterling.

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Shedeur Sanders was a one-man offense last year. In 11 games, he broke CU’s single-season passing yardage standard. He was a touchdown toss away from tying the single-season mark there, too. He’s got an NFL arm with NFL shoulders, connected to an NFL head.

Surely, there’s another Sean Lewis type out there — a young, aggressive play-caller who’s just itching for a chance to help No. 2 smash records to his heart’s content. Someone begging for a chance to work with one of the top returning signal-callers in the country. For a chance to work with Hunter, college football’s most gifted superfreak.

Good offensive coordinators should be banging down athletic director Rick George’s door right now. If they aren’t, is it because they know something we don’t?

The Prime Plan has always been aimed at Year 2. New conference. New hope. The revamped Big 12 is imminently winnable, a hoops league stuffed with football middleweights. A perfect final ride for The Chosen Ones — Shedeur, Shilo and Travis — together in Buffs gold. A chance to push every chip to the middle of the table.

So why is Papa Sanders recycling this one?

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The cynic would say No. 2 is No. 1 when it comes to the CU offense, and retaining Shurmur offers the added bonus, in theory, of making Deion’s son even more attractive for NFL scouts in advance of the ’25 draft.

Shurmur brings a long NFL track record to the table, even if that record has more wild twists than Wolf Creek Pass. Perhaps Pops wants Pencil Pat teaching Shedeur a pro-style offense using pro-style terms at a pro-style clip.

Although wouldn’t Byron Leftwich bring those same NFL bona fides, without all that Broncos baggage?

Whatever Shedeur wants, Shedeur gets. If a conflict emerges between one of Sanders’ children and a coach, which one do you think Coach Prime is most likely to side with, consequences be damned?

“Pat and I communicate really well,” the elder Sanders said following a season-ending loss at Utah. “Pat and Sean communicated really well. Pat and Shedeur communicate really well. So I think he did a great job. I really did.”

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Twenty points per game? 0-4? Great?

Ask yourself this: Which coach would you rather have out on the recruiting trail preaching the gospel of Prime? Lewis, a 37-year-old who kept a PlayStation 4 in his office at Kent State for players to come in and use? Or Shurmur, who turns 59 next April? And who said two years ago, in front of a pack of NFL reporters, “I’m not a very social-media savvy guy.”

Sanders is on his phone selling everything to everyone, all the time. Shurmur thinks TikTok is the sound a watch makes after you wind it. What could possibly go wrong?

Yes, the staff is in flux, a remake-in-progress. Yes, a lot figures to change over the next eight or nine months. But the Buffs already lost a ’24 QB commitment with Lewis’ departure. Former defensive ends coach Nick Williams, one of CU’s most respected recruiters, just left the Buffs for the same job at Syracuse. Tim Brewster, another bag man, took his shouting to Charlotte.

And have you looked at CU’s fight card for next September?

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Best take care of business against North Dakota State in that home opener, kids. Because then it’s at Nebraska on Sept. 7, followed by a visit to CSU on Sept. 14. Even with a 12-team College Football Playoff field, those non-conference losses can come back to bite you on the backside. Unless you’re Nick Saban.

Asked Monday about the CFP next December, Sanders told 247Sports.com that “we plan on being in that situation.”

With Pencil Pat calling the plays?

Best plan for 6-6. Most likely.



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Keeler: Broncos, Russell Wilson, congrats! You just topped Dick Monfort, Nolan Arenado for worst trade in Colorado sports history.

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Keeler: Broncos, Russell Wilson, congrats! You just topped Dick Monfort, Nolan Arenado for worst trade in Colorado sports history.


Russ is cooked.

Dick Monfort should send the Broncos a thank-you card. Heck, throw in another $51 million check while you’re at it.

Because Greg Penner and George Paton somehow just got the Rockies, the dumbest franchise in town, off the hook.

Russ is cooked.

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The worst trade in Colorado sports history is official now. And it wears orange and blue.

After 12 bathrooms and 11 wins, the Broncos announced Monday what everybody knew was coming since Sean Payton flipped his visor in Detroit.

They’re cutting quarterback Russell Wilson at the start of the 2024 league year next week, almost exactly two years after acquiring him from Seattle for (deep breath): a 2022 first-round pick; a 2022 second-round pick; a 2022 fifth-round pick; a 2023 first-round pick; a 2023 second-round pick; tight end Noah Fant; defensive lineman Shelby Harris; and quarterback Drew Lock.

Paton bet the farm.

Pete Carroll laughed all the way to the bank.

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Russ is cooked.

Monfort should be doing backflips. The Rockies CEO seemingly had the title of “worst trade” locked up in perpetuity in 2021 when he handed third baseman Nolan Arenado, the Mike Schmidt of his generation, along with $51 million, to the stinking Cardinals for Larry, Moe, Curly, Shemp and Joe Besser.

Nolan’s averaged 30 homers and 100 RBIs in the three seasons since. The Rox have averaged 95 losses.

Heck of a bar, that. Yet the Broncos cleared it, even somehow managing to hit their head on the descent.

Arenado cost the Rockies $51 million and a generation of shame. Wilson’s divorce is going to cost the Broncos $85 million in dead cap money and $39 million in salary for next season. Russ landed a five-year, $242-million extension from Penner and Paton, $161 million of it guaranteed, and was out the door before the freaking thing even kicked in.

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Russ is cooked.

Paton should’ve known that, of course. He should’ve known that Big Russ was allergic to throws between the hash marks. He should’ve known that No. 3 was a lost cause in the red zone if Plan A — which became Courtland Sutton in 2023 — happened to be covered. He should’ve known that a 5-foot-11 quarterback who relied on his athleticism had put on weight and lost a step. Or three.

He should’ve known that bringing Russ meant bringing a personal coaching team, a personal social media team, a personal security team, a personal cook, a personal masseuse, personal everything. He should’ve known that Wilson, at 33, stopped being worth the baggage about the time that the Cards fleeced Monfort.

Russ is cooked.

Oh, the Broncos had their reasons. Even noble ones. No one would say it out loud, but Mission: Franchise Quarterback was a “go” the minute Lock’s development stalled, and Russ was always Plan B. The backup big swing. There is a thread in the loom of multiverse in which the Broncos really do consummate that trade for Aaron Rodgers two winters ago in order to pair him with his best bud Nathaniel Hackett — which is the only way you can justify the hiring of the latter, in hindsight.

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In this universe, our reality, Hackett and Russ were a disaster, a coach in over his skis and a QB1 past his prime. Sean Payton and Russ were better, but the egos were hilariously incompatible. Last August, they were Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi. By December, they were Bart and Homer Simpson.

Russ is cooked.

Wilson was supposed to hand the ball to Herschel Walker on the option read and get the heck out of the way. Only he misread the end and got a franchise stuck even farther behind the chains. The Broncos are staring at third-down-and-$85-million, and not even Payton has a play for that.

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Craft breweries tap suburbs south of Denver to succeed in challenging market

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Craft breweries tap suburbs south of Denver to succeed in challenging market


Since the founding of Parker’s Downhill Brewing in 2017, owners Jake Minturn and Doug Hyndman always planned to expand to multiple locations. By then, the craft beer market had matured enough the duo felt they couldn’t rely on the production and distribution model. Instead, they tried to build a welcoming space — and one with a vibe that could be replicated in new places.

After years of searching, Minturn and Hyndman finally found their ideal spot. Downhill Brewing’s second location in Greenwood Village opened at 9672 E. Arapahoe Road at the beginning of February in the former home of Peak View Brewing Co. Acquiring the defunct brewery afforded Minturn and Hyndman a turnkey spot that was close enough to their original location to leverage brand recognition, but far enough away so as not to cannibalize sales, they explained.

“We looked around everywhere kind of south metro,” Minturn said. “It came down to, for us, the feel of the taproom, location, traffic, (and) space. We weren’t dead set on Greenwood Village, it just ended up that Peak View was the ideal candidate we were looking for.”

Downhill Brewing co-owners Jake Minturn, left, and Doug Hyndman at Downhill Brewing in Greenwood Village on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

As craft breweries look for opportunities for growth amid a market downturn, they’re often finding themselves in the suburbs south of Denver where development is booming and residential communities are flourishing. A recent wave of brewery expansions includes legacy beer companies and newer producers who say there are untapped customer bases in these markets that they can serve with slightly less competition compared to the rest of the Front Range. Though the business climate remains challenging, one brewery’s demise means another’s chance to reach new drinkers in a fiscally sound way.

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The migration of breweries south makes sense to Martin Saylor, managing director at Evergreen-based 1stWest Mergers and Acquisitions, which facilitates beer business valuations and sales.

North of the Mile High City, pioneers like Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, and New Belgium Brewing Co. and Odell Brewing Co. in Fort Collins helped lay the foundation for the craft beer movement. That region was once considered the Napa Valley of beer, Saylor said. And by that comparison, the suburbs south of Denver could be considered deserts — albeit, deserts full of Millennial parents who were raised on craft beer.

In recent years, beer sales have lost market share to other alcohol options like spirits. And since Gen Z isn’t picking up pints like previous generations, it seems like a sound strategy to “follow the dads,” Saylor said. “You gotta fish where the fish are. As the population and demographic expands and is pushing south, it just makes sense to be there.”

Plus, Saylor added, vacant downtown office buildings, high rent prices and a growing homeless population make Denver less attractive to some small business owners.

Patrick Crawford, co-founder of Denver Beer Co., has also noticed the shift in locals’ daily routines. Many commuters now work from home, so while downtown Denver is quieter than it has historically been, “the suburbs have become a little more lively,” Crawford said.

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In December, the brewery opened its fifth location in downtown Littleton after taking over the space from another beer maker that closed. Residents there bring the whole family in the evenings, Crawford said. To cater to that demographic, Denver Beer Co. expanded its food menu there to include flatbread pizzas.

“There’s opportunities to capture the people who used to come downtown and drink beer in the Denver Beer Co. beer garden at 4 o’clock after working,” he said.

Denver Beer Co. opened its fifth location in downtown Littleton at the end of 2023. Because locals are working from home more and commuting to the city less, co-founder Patrick Crawford saw an opportunity to cater to drinkers and their families closer to where they live. (Provided by Denver Beer Co.)
Denver Beer Co. opened its fifth location in downtown Littleton at the end of 2023. Because locals are working from home more and commuting to the city less, co-founder Patrick Crawford saw an opportunity to cater to drinkers and their families closer to where they live. (Provided by Denver Beer Co.)

For many, like John Winter, president of Lone Tree Brewing Co., the price of available real estate was the primary decision driver in where to put down roots. Winter spent the better part of three years scouring the Front Range in search of a second location. New builds and buildings in planning fetched a premium price tag everywhere he looked.

So when Barnett & Son Brewing Co. in Parker decided to tap out, Winter jumped at the opportunity to take over the company’s space. Winter closed on the deal in late February and opened the new Lone Tree Brewing Co. on March 1. Why does he feel confident his business can succeed where another one didn’t?

“Between Lone Tree and Parker, there’s a great deal of residential that’s going in,” Winter said. “There’s still growth potential here. I think so much of the inner city within the Denver metropolitan area, while still there is selective building going on, this has still got land and available opportunities there as communities are built out.”

While now might seem like an inopportune time to expand, Saylor expects to see continued consolidation among breweries that have been over-leveraged since the industry’s heyday of seemingly endless growth. Businesses that are financially ready to strike can seize the moment with the freeing up of brewery real estate.

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Living the Dream Brewing Co. opened in 2014 in Littleton. It recently relocated to Highlands Ranch where it can provide a more comfortable taproom experience and keep thirsty regulars coming back for happy hour. (Provided by Living the Dream Brewing Co.)
Living the Dream Brewing Co. opened in 2014 in Littleton. It recently relocated to Highlands Ranch where it can provide a more comfortable taproom experience and keep thirsty regulars coming back for happy hour. (Provided by Living the Dream Brewing Co.)

In today’s market, locating a brewery within a residential area is a surefire way to build a robust well of customers, especially in the suburban sprawl where competition is less concentrated. Pedestrian-friendly brewery districts used to be a boon for business, but drinking habits have changed, said Jason Bell, founder of Living the Dream Brewing Co.

“People aren’t going to check out five breweries this weekend, but they are still going to their local spot,” Bell said.

Creating a comfortable taproom environment is the best way to ensure people return for another happy hour, he added. That’s why after a decade in its original home in Littleton, Bell needed to move his brewery, which lacked heat and air conditioning. He settled on Highlands Ranch where Grist Brew Co. was vacating two separate facilities, including a brewery and a small bar that only serves residents in Littleton’s Sterling Ranch. Both opened at the beginning of the year.

Moving to Highlands Ranch enabled Living the Dream to remain close to its core consumer base while also upgrading the taproom experience. Though the brewery downsized in terms of square footage, it’s now able to grow its onsite guest capacity and become more operationally efficient — both of which are essential for survival, Bell said.

“The breweries that have managed to really get a good foothold in their community are the ones that can ride this out,” he said.

Great Divide Brewery & Roadhouse opened its first location in Castle Rock in 2020. The concept has been so successful, it expanded with a second outpost in Lone Tree in Feb. 2024. A third one is set to open in Lakewood by the end of the year. (Provided by Electra Productions)
Great Divide Brewery & Roadhouse opened its first location in Castle Rock in 2020. The concept has been so successful, it expanded with a second outpost in Lone Tree in Feb. 2024. A third one is set to open in Lakewood by the end of the year. (Provided by Electra Productions)

When Brian Dunn opened Great Divide Brewing Co. in Denver in 1994, it was one of about 30 breweries in the state. Today, Dunn has roughly a dozen craft breweries as neighbors between Great Divide’s outposts in Lower Downtown Denver and the River North Arts District.

Dunn partnered with Vibe Concepts to open Great Divide Brewing & Roadhouse in Castle Rock in 2020. A longtime resident of central Denver, Dunn doesn’t see the allure of moving to the suburbs. But he can’t deny the business prospects there.

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Great Divide’s Castle Rock location, which includes a full-service restaurant, “exceeded our expectations,” Dunn said. So when Vibe Concepts approached him about opening a second one in Lone Tree, he was on board. The new Great Divide Brewing & Roadhouse opened on Feb. 22. A third location is expected to open in Lakewood by the end of the year.

“Castle Rock is just booming, absolutely booming. The south part of Denver is booming as well,” Dunn said. “It’s an area we could stand to build our name awareness.”

From an operational standpoint, labor costs are lower in suburban markets due to minimum wage requirements, said Robert MacEachern, Denver Beer Co.’s CEO. That’s an important consideration as the company plans further expansion. MacEachern said details of a  forthcoming location will be announced this summer.

“We’re looking forward to continuing our growth and south is definitely a direction we’re heading,” he said.

Subscribe to our new food newsletter, Stuffed, to get Denver food and drink news sent straight to your inbox.

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Stephen A. Smith does not want to return to Denver for NBA Finals

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Stephen A. Smith does not want to return to Denver for NBA Finals


The Boston Celtics won their 11th straight on Sunday and the Denver Nuggets vaulted into first place mid-afternoon thanks to some help and on the back of their own six-game winning streak.

The NBA seems to be shaping up for an NBA Finals matchup the world just missed out on last year, the Celtics against the Nuggets. And what could be better than finally seeing the leprechauns take on the pickaxes, they’ve easily been the two best teams in basketball the last handful of years. For Stephen A. Smith, a trip to Texas seems more appealing than what would be that incredible series.

“I’m not coming around to that (going to Denver,)” he said on ABC on Sunday after Boston’s win. “I’m holding out for the Clippers, I’m holding out hope for Dallas.”

ABC has the rights to the NBA Finals, and the whole barrage of buffoons who have said brainless things in the past, descended on the Mile High City last summer only to see the Nuggets go 16-4 en route to the club’s first championship. Later in the summer, ESPN fired two separate members of their main broadcast booth, who possibly not so coincidentally, had been cruel to Jokic in the past. A third ESPN broadcaster who has been highly critical of Jokic in the past was also demoted down the broadcast team depth chart.

It’s Smith’s second time in less than 24 hours that he has been upset by the Nuggets success. The outspoken star of ESPN unloaded on the Lakers after the Nuggets win in Los Angeles on Saturday night. On ABC’s postgame show, he gave almost zero credit to Denver for beating LeBron James’ crew for an eighth-straight time and focused solely on how the Lakers championship aspirations are not being met.

Smith seems to be just another in the long line of ESPN commentators who have begrudged against Denver’s success at best and have straight-up sabotaged it at worst. On top of the gripes about Jokic and the Nuggets now comes some weak hate for the city of Denver.

A city by the way that loves sports so much that it’s the center of the country’s smallest metro area to host a team in all five major North American leagues.

And Colorado certainly seemed good enough for Smith when he sent First Take and every other ESPN show on the road to Boulder for a weekend with Deion Sanders’ Buffaloes last fall. A few months later he’d throw out Deion Sanders’ name as a possible Nick Saban replacement at Alabama. Smith said while discrediting the state and insinuating success in the state wouldn’t be real, “Go ahead and be happy in Boulder, Colorado. God bless you… I was there twice in my life and the only reason for that was him.”

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But Smith wouldn’t be the first one to prefer Dallas and other cities over Denver, FIFA did the same when they picked World Cup hosting sites for the 2026 event. Though, in that case, the arena size made sense whereas on the hardwood, the Mavericks failed to make it to the playoffs last year and the Nuggets haven’t been that low since 2018.

A few years later now, we may have the answer to a couple of questions we had earlier in Denver’s build to this title team. Would Jokic need to become an All-Star or even an MVP to get a better whistle? He has done each and the whistle has not followed. And would Jokic’s Nuggets need to win a title to garner league-wide respect? The team accomplished their ring and for a short time had that respect but less than a year later, it’s almost all but been forgotten by the league’s main broadcast partner.

It’s these questions and answers that led to Michael Malone’s legendary vindictive quotes during and after the Nuggets playoff run. And it’s this very attitude by ESPN and their broadcasters that had the entire city of Denver boo-ing a member of the four-letter network’s crew, Lisa Salters, as she handed Jokic his Finals MVP.

Well here the Nuggets are again, back at the top of the West and the NBA’s biggest partner is vocally once more.

Maybe NBA star Kevin Durant said it the best one time on Twitter, “NBA fans don’t like anything about the NBA and it’s weird.”

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