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Timeline 25: Looking back on the punter who jinxed Josh McDaniels

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

On March 6, 1995, The Fan was born. In the 25 years since, a lot has transpired on the fields, courts and ice in Colorado, giving the hosts and listeners who’ve been part of the station during that time plenty to talk about and debate.

During the course of the next few weeks, we’ll take a look back at that history, remembering the good times and the bad, the winners and the losers, the successes and the failures. It’s a series we’re calling “Timeline 25” and it continues today with a look at a one of the quirkiest tidbits in Colorado sports history – the punter who jinxed the Broncos.

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When it comes to the Josh McDaniels era in Denver, there are plenty of confrontations that come to mind. “Hurricane McDaniels” was constantly burning bridges.

The young head coach sent Jim and Jeff Goodman packing from the Broncos front office early in his tenure, famously clashed with Jay Cutler before ever seeing the franchise quarterback in person and caused Brandon Marshall to punt a football in frustration in practice.

McDaniels also got in trouble with the league for filming a 49ers practice before a match-up in London, had a personal beef with fullback Peyton Hillis that still causes whispers around town a decade later and butted heads with Chiefs head coach Todd Haley during a postgame handshake.

One run-in that tends to get overlooked, however, is the strange decision the head coach made during the Broncos bye week in 2009. Sitting with a perfect 6-0 record at the break, McDaniels decided to cut Brett Kern.

At the time, the punter was averaging 46.1 yards per kick. Clearly, he wasn’t causing any sort of on-field issue for Denver. The player who replaced him, veteran Mitch Berger, only averaged 42.0 yards per punt during the final 10 weeks of the season. He did cause plenty of problems for the Broncos.

That wasn’t the only thing that made the move a head-scratcher, however. There was also the fact that Berger was 37 years old, clearly on his last stop after playing for four teams in four years. Meanwhile, Kern was only 23, just starting a promising career.

After being released, the younger punter signed with the Titans. He’s still with Tennessee, having been a Pro Bowl selection in each of the past three seasons. Berger retired to his native Vancouver, where he owns bars and nightclubs; he also appeared on “Millionaire Matchmaker” in 2013.

But that’s not the strangest thing about the move. Cutting Kern also seemed to turn the tide for two different organizations.

After releasing the punter, the Broncos lost four straight games and eight out of their final 10 to finish 8-8, becoming just the second team in NFL history to start a season 6-0 and miss the postseason. Meanwhile, the Titans won five straight games and eight out of their final 10 games.

On the season, Kern went 14-2, even though the two teams he played for in 2009 each finished 8-8. It was strange occurrence, an oddity that defies explanation.

Just over a year later, McDaniels was fired as the Broncos head coach. He was let go in large part because Denver went 5-17 under the head coach after his decision to release Kern.

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