The Denver Broncos are one of the founding members of the American Football League that was formed in 1960 and are currently playing in the West Division of the American Football Conference in the NFL or National Football League. For the first 10 years of their existence they played in the American Football League until it merged with the NFL in 1970. Since then, the Broncos have become one of the more successful franchises winning two Super Bowls and seven AFC championships. Currently, they play their games in Denver, Colorado at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Although hardly competitive in the first 16years of their existence, since their first appearance Super Bowl XII in 1977, the Broncos have only had six losing season in that 35 year stretch. In addition to their success, the Broncos currently have four players in the NFL Hall of Fame, including Floyd Little, Gary Zimmerman, John Elway and Shannon Sharpe.
The History of the Denver Broncos
The teams was founded on August 14th, 1959 when Bob Howsam, an owner of a minor league baseball team was awarded the franchise from the AFL. The following year on September 9th, 1960 the Broncos won their very first game ever against the Boston Patriots 13 to 10. Another high point for the team occurred on August 5th, 1967 when they became the first AFL team to defeat an NFL team, the Detroit Lions 13 to 7 in a pre-season game. However, the 1960s were not kind to the Denver Broncos as they compiled a losing record of 39-97-4 in their first 10 years of being in the league. In fact, they were the only AFL team to never play in their championship game during those years.
The merger with the NFL in 1970 improved the team considerably as they hired John Ralston as their coach. Ralston guided the team to its first winning season and managed during his six year tenure to acquire three winning seasons in total, but no playoff appearances. His resignation after the 1976 season led to defensive coordinator Red Miller to take over the team and in the following year lead them to their first Super Bowl appearance under the guidance of aging quarterback Craig Morton. Despite a stellar defense nicknamed “Orange Crush” after the popular Orange soda, the Broncos were manhandled by the Dallas Cowboys 27 – 10. The rest of the 1970s and early 1980s saw little in the way of success for the Broncos until 1981 when they hired a very young Dan Reeves to take over coaching the team.
The Era of John Elway
Reeves struggled his first two seasons until an unlikely series of events landed him Stanford quarterback John Elway. The combination of Elway’s performance, Reeve’s coaching and the stingy “Orange Crush” defense led to six playoff appearances which included three trips to the Super Bowl during a twelve-year period. Unfortunately, the Broncos were beaten in all three appearances by lopsided scores including a 55 to 10 shellacking by the San Francisco 49rs in Super Bowl XXIV which remains a record in point differential.
Internal struggles and a feud that developed between Reeves and Elway led to the coach leaving the team after the 1992 season and the installment of Wade Phillips who did little to right the ship in terms of the Broncos success and he was summarily dismissed two years later. By 1995, former offensive coordinator Mike Shannon had taken over the team and by 1996 he drafted running back Terrell Davis who proved to be a seminal acquisition for the team.
In 1996, the Broncos registered an impressive 13 – 3 record, but were upset by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional playoffs. However, the following year both Davis and Elway led the Broncos all the way to the Super Bowl and faced the defending champion Green Bay Packers for Super Bowl XXXII as big underdogs. However, the rushing of Davis and heroics of Elway led the team to their first Super Bowl victory as they upset the Packers 34 – 19. Elway was named Super Bowl MVP and his “helicopter” spin when tackled for an important first down helped seal his legendary status in the NFL.
Elway played one more season where he led the Broncos to a relatively easy win over the Atlanta Falcons that were led by his former coach, Dan Reeves. Elway repeated as Super Bowl MVP and promptly retired as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
The Post-Elway Years
After Elway’s departure, the Broncos managed to make the playoffs for a number of years, but incurred a lot of up and down seasons during the first decade of the 21st century. The Broncos enjoyed their biggest success during the 2005 season where they went 13 – 3 and were defeated by the Pittsburg Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
In 2009, Mike Shannon was let go from the team and Josh McDaniels was hired. His tumultuous tenure at Denver didn’t last two seasons as he was fired in December, 2010, only to have the team taken over by interim coach Eric Studesville. McDaniels biggest impact was the drafting of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Although unheralded, Tebow led Denver to six straight wins and a playoff victory in 2011 before losing to the Patriots in the following game.
The Payton Manning Era
Released by the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning found his way to Denver for the 2012 season. The –previous addition of John Fox as head coach brought about immediate success after a shaky 2 – 3 start. The Broncos won 11 straight games and easily made the playoffs, but lost to eventual Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoffs.
In the following season, the Broncos made it all the way to the Super Bowl after a sensational season, including Peyton Manning setting a new total passing yards record, but they were defeated rather handily by the Seattle Seahawks.
Overall, the Denver Broncos are considered one of the most successful teams in the past 35 years. From the stellar contributions of John Elway, the stingy “Orange Crush” defense and now the current success of Peyton Manning, the Broncos are considered a real force in the NFL.