Looney Thoughts: It's a Numbers Game

Columnist Jason Looney weighs in on the tragic accident suffered by the Denver Broncos' Dwayne Carswell (#77) and ponders other significant numbers in Broncos' lore.

77 -- The jersey number of Dwayne Carswell.

Dwayne was involved in a car accident yesterday that ruptured his spleen and tore his diaphragm, among numerous other injuries. He's now in critical condition after undergoing five hours of surgery. Dwayne, our prayers are with you.

11 -- The number of years Carswell has been in the NFL.

11 -- The number of years Carswell has been with the Broncos.

42,643 -- The number of people who died in car accidents in 2003 according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

3 -- The number of people reading this column.

3 -- The number of people reading this column who are thoroughly depressed right now.

77 -- The jersey number of Karl Mecklenburg, member of the Broncos "Ring of Fame" at Mile High.

I have to admit, for a long time I had no interest in seeing anyone else wearing number 77. But my buddy Ike and I were discussing it earlier this year and we came to the conclusion that Carswell was the perfect guy to take the number over. For one thing, it's better if the number is given to a player on offense, since you don't want to see anyone on defense trying to use it. And if anyone else is going to re-define the number, Carswell is an excellent candidate since he makes for an interesting reflection of Meck. Consider: Carswell recently made the move from tight end to tackle, while Mecklenburg played his entire career as a nose tackle before the Denver Broncos gave him a shot at linebacker.

310 -- The position at which Karl Mecklenberg was drafted in 1983.

That's not a mis-print. 309 players were drafted before Mecklenburg, including John Elway (1), ESPN's John Clayton (288), and Fran Drescher (287).

[#undefined!] -- The position at which Rod Smith was drafted in 1994.

24 -- The number of NFL receivers that have gained 10,000 yards receiving, a group that includes the un-drafted Rod Smith.

10,081 -- The number of combined yards gained by a former number 80, the great Rick Upchurch.

4,369 -- The number of yards Upchurch gained receiving.

5,531 -- The number of yards Upchurch gained on kick and punt returns.

81 -- The jersey number worn by Steve Largent, former member of the Seattle Seahawks and Hall of Famer.

81 -- The jersey number worn by Steve Watson, who was better.

At least he was in 1981 when he gained 1244 yards and scored 13 touchdowns, better than any year Largent ever had. (Watson's career was cut short by injury.)

77 -- The jersey number of Broncos great Lyle Alzado.

42 -- The age at which Lyle Azado passed away.

3 -- The number of people reading this column who are now fastening nooses to the rafters above them.

27 -- The jersey number of Steve Atwater, who was just added to the Ring of Fame two weeks ago.

27 -- The jersey number of Darrent Williams, the rookie cornerback for the Broncos who has already shown himself to be a special NFL player.

But no matter how good he is, it seems a bit soon to be handing out this number, doesn't it? I've always thought that Atwater should have been named MVP of Super Bowl XXXII, a.k.a. the most important game in Broncos history. I'm serious. Watch the tape again and see if you think that any other player did more for his team that day than Atwater did. Sure, TD had 157 yards and 3 TDs (in just three quarters of play), but he also lost a fumble and had a pretty decent QB, receiving corps, and O-line around him. Atwater meanwhile had six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, but more importantly, he set the tone of that game. He set it early and he set it often, flattening every player who dared to try and make a play in front of him.

So, we can't hold off on this jersey number for a few years? Nobody, and I mean nobody, looked as good in a football uniform as Steve Atwater. And we're just going to start handing this number out to smallish rookies? I don't get it.

2 -- The number of free safeties in today's game that the average NFL fan can name. (But everyone knew the name Steve Atwater back in the day, and everyone feared it. Seriously, how is this guy not a first-ballot Hall of Famer??? Okay, okay… I'll move on.)

49 -- The jersey number of another decent safety who roamed the defensive backfield for several years, Dennis Smith. (Can you believe these guys used to be on the field at the same time? Okay, okay...)

53 -- The jersey number of Ring of Famer Randy Gradishar.

53 -- Look, let's not talk about that other guy who wore this number. Seriously, let's not talk about it. Ever. It didn't happen.

0 -- The number of good haircuts Jake Plummer has had since coming to Denver.

Much like Tatum Bell's number is helping to erase the memories of Clinton Portis, Denver's memories of Brian Griese are being supplanted slowly by Plummer's hair, which is re-defining the very word "greasy" itself.

7 -- Does anyone else remember being bothered by the sight of Craig Morton's number on that hotshot kid from Stanford? Come on, I can't be the only one...

But now this number means everything to Broncos fans. It means so much that we'll never see another player wear the number again.

Which is how it should be.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to save some of these other jersey numbers? Isn't it scary to see a young player donning a number that you've come to hold dear? Will we really have another 80 someday? How long before 30 comes back into play? What about 87? Or 84?

I don't know, but I do know one thing: I can't wait to see a big and jolly 77 dancing around in the end zone again.

Get well Dwayne.



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