Miller back on big stage 6 years after MVP performance
Zac Taylor texted Sean McVay after the Los Angeles Rams acquired Von Miller from the Denver Broncos in a midseason trade.
Not to congratulate him.
To thank him.
The Bengals had a trip to Denver coming up in December and Cincinnati’s head coach was grateful he wouldn’t have to worry about the Broncos’ career sacks leader blowing up his game plan.
“Little did I know,” Taylor said with a chuckle this week as he calculated ways to keep Miller from tormenting Joe Burrow the way he did Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50 six years ago.
Taylor said Miller commands special attention even at age 32 and on a team featuring Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.
“There’s no question,” Taylor said. “Von Miller is Von Miller.”
The same superstar who celebrated one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history with a record six-year, $114 million contract extension and what Peyton Manning labeled Miller’s “world celebrity tour,” a five-month jet-setting junket of television and dance studios, A-list parties and B-roll appearances.
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A return trip to the playoffs eluded Miller until six years later, following his Nov. 1 trade to the Rams, who cheered his addition by tweeting, “ We’re all in,” alongside a meme of actor John Malkovich splashing the pot at the poker table.
It was a bittersweet hand dealt Miller, who still says “we” sometimes when talking about the Broncos.
“When you win one, it creates this addiction, like you want it all the time,” Miller said. “And the last five years we haven’t even been close. So, to come to the Los Angeles Rams has been a true blessing.”
Broncos general manager George Paton acquired two second-day draft picks for Miller, who was in the final year of his contract. Paton also agreed to pay $9 million of the remaining $10.5 million of Miller’s 2021 salary, essentially buying the Rams’ second- and third-round selections in 2022.
“George Paton could have sent me to any team in the NFL and I’m sure he could have gotten more,” Miller suggested. “They paid the majority of my salary so I can come to the L.A. Rams. They sent me to a contender for a Super Bowl. And I will tell him, ‘Thank you, man,’ because I always felt it was more than just a football relationship with him.”
Miller described his decade-plus stay in Denver and half a season in L.A. as “kind of like having two kids. They’re totally different, but you love them both.”
After a slow start with the Rams, exacerbated by a sprained ankle, Miller has had seven sacks in his past seven games, including a strip sack and fumble recovery of Tom Brady in the Rams’ 30-27 playoff win over the Buccaneers.
Taylor first experienced the magnitude of Miller’s game back in 2010 when he was a graduate assistant at Texas A&M, working for his father-in-law, former Packers head coach Mike Sherman. Miller led the Aggies to a 9-4 record and would soon become John Elway’s first draft pick and the second selection overall behind Newton in the 2011 NFL draft.
“He’s part of one of the most special seasons I was ever a part of,” Taylor said. “Von took over games that season and helped us beat the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. So, I’ve always been very fond of Von. I’m very aware of his capabilities and how he can take over a game. I’ve seen it too many times to let that one slip by us.”
The NBC Sports broadcast crew featuring Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth that will work the Super Bowl pointed to the Rams’ win at Tampa on Jan. 23 as proof Miller is still a prime-time player.
“The basic question was, ‘Can he still disrupt the game and do what he did in that first Super Bowl?’ And I’ll use one of Al’s favorite answers that I give him back all the time is, ‘Hell yeah!’” Collinsworth said. ”... So it’s a pick-your-poison kind of situation for the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Sort of how it was when DeMarcus Ware lined up opposite Miller in Denver.
Back then, Ware was the savvy veteran who came over from Dallas and Miller the one asking all the questions.
Now, Miller’s the one serving as mentor on a team trying to win it all.
“Everything I’m doing here is really from DeMarcus in 2015,” Miller said. “I’m really the DeMarcus on this team.”
’What I’ve been trying to portray to the guys is we’ve got 60 minutes and then it’s football heaven,” Miller said.
And yet, you get the sense it’s not exactly paradise for Miller being away from his infant son and all of his friends and fans in Denver.
“I’ll always have orange and blue in my blood. I’ll always be a Coloradoan. I spent 10½ years there, a third of my life. My son was born there,” Miller replied when told a lot of Broncos fans are rooting for him to win another ring Sunday.
“I didn’t want to leave. I got traded, you know? If it was up to me, I’d still be in Denver trying to figure it out, man,” Miller added. “It feels good for the city to really understand that and for them to know that this wasn’t my choice. I always wanted to be a Denver Bronco forever and I’ll always be a Denver Bronco forever. You know, I’m just here working in L.A. right now.”
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