DENVER — Three days after his unit — particularly, one player on his unit — inexplicably surrendered a game-tying touchdown with 31 seconds left in the Broncos’ 38-35 playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Ron Milus was out of a job.
The Associated Press reported that the Broncos fired their secondary coach on Tuesday.
Milus was the coach responsible for the tutoring of safety Rahim Moore, who allowed Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones to get behind him in the game’s waning moments. Moore then left the ground a moment to soon, allowing a 70-yard pass from Joe Flacco to find the receiver, and the receiver to find the end zone.
The Broncos went on to lose in the game in overtime after taking a knee to run out the final 31 seconds of regulation.
On Tuesday, Moore admitted to Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla that he was attempting to intercept the pass instead of doing what Milus — and every other secondary coach in his career — likely instructed him to do: knock the ball down.
It was a decision that was so inexplicable that the only conceivable explanation, in Kiszla’s mind, seems to be that Moore had his sights set on being “a hero.”
Instead, the decision made Moore to Denver what Bill Buckner is to Boston: a walking symbol of failure.
Now the question is whether Moore’s fate will be the same of Buckner’s.
Like Buckner, one of the key cogs in the Boston Red Sox’s lineup that helped the team reach the World Series in 1986, Moore did more than improve in 2012, his second year as a pro. He became the second most efficient tackler at the free safety position in the NFL.
But as great a year as Buckner and the Red Sox may have otherwise had in 1986, the only highlight stuck on repeat from that season is a ball bounding through Buckner’s legs.
And after making that crucial error — and therefore blowing the Red Sox’s chances at a World Series title in 1986 — Bucker lasted halfway through a season of consistent boos from his own home fans in 1987 before the team cut him.
As great a year as Moore and the Broncos had in 2012, the franchise has seen better. On the other hand, it has never seen a collapse worse than the one aided by Moore’s mistake in the closing seconds of Saturday’s game.
That’s why the lasting image history will frame from the 2012 Broncos season will be the one that shows a ball soaring past Moore’s fingertips.
To his everlasting credit, Moore owned up to his shortcomings and apologized to his team and their fans.
“I’m sorry it ended this way,” Moore assured Kiszla. “But, next year, it won’t.”
It was an encouraging vote of confidence that Moore cast for himself. But the question remains: Will the Broncos front office cast a similar ballot?
Or has Moore — confident or not; competent or not — become a walking Bill Buckner: too big a reminder for players and fans alike of the failure that brought the otherwise successful 2012 Broncos season to a close?
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