Quarterback John Elway joined the Denver Broncos in 1983 and retired after the 1998 season. During his 16-year career he guided the Broncos to two Super Bowl victories and three more Super Bowl appearances. Before his arrival, the team had reached the Super Bowl once. Since his departure, the team has won just one playoff game.
The Broncos were one of the original eight charter teams of the American Football League. During their AFL tenure they achieved two prominent firsts. They won the first AFL game, 13-10, over the Boston Patriots on September 9th, 1960. They were the first AFL team to defeat an NFL team. The Broncos defeated the Detroit Lions 31-7 in a 1967 preseason game.
The Broncos didn’t post a winning season until 1973 and didn’t reach the playoffs until 1977. However, that 1977 team featured the “Orange Crush Defense” and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton. Together they led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII.
However, the Broncos were tamed by the Cowboys, 27-10. Dallas’ “Doomsday Defense” forced eight turnovers and held the Broncos to just eight pass completions. It was the first of four Super Bowl blowouts Denver would suffer through.
Elway was originally drafted by the Baltimore Colts. Since he was also drafted by the New York Yankees, Elway had the leverage to demand a trade to just about any NFL team of his choosing. One of the teams Elway said he would play for was the Denver Broncos.
With Elway under center, the Broncos would play in three Super Bowls in a four year span. Super Bowl XXI, played after the 1986 season, saw the Broncos lose 39-20 to the New York Giants. The following year, they lost 42-10 to the Washington Redskins (the Redskins scored 35 points in the second quarter). Super Bowl XXIV, played after the 1989 season, featured the Broncos losing 55-10 to the mighty San Francisco 49’ers.
In 1995, the Broncos hired Mike Shanahan as head coach and one of the first things he did was draft running back Terrell Davis.
With “T.D.” in the backfield, Elway finally had the running game he lacked in the late 1980’s. The new “balanced” Broncos would win back-to back Super Bowls (XXXII and XXXIII) following the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
Super Bowl XXXIII, against the Atlanta Falcons, was Elway’s last game (minus the Pro Bowl). He not only went out as world champion, he went out as Super Bowl MVP.
Also of note, his victory in that Super Bowl came at the expense of Falcons head coach Dan Reeves. Before joining the Falcons, Reeves had coached the Broncos from 1981 to 1992.
Elway is also responsible for one of the greatest drives in NFL history. In fact, it’s so memorable that it’s simply called “The Drive.” In the 1986 AFC Championship Game, Elway led his team on a 98-yard, 15-play, game-tying touchdown drive on the road against the Cleveland Browns.
“The Drive” started with 5:32 remaining in the game and finished with just 39 seconds left on the clock. The Broncos would eventually win the game in overtime and advance to the Super Bowl.
The following year, the Broncos once against defeated the Browns in a game that has entered into NFL lore. Known as “The Fumble,” Browns running back Earnest Byner, who had dominated the Broncos defense all game, fumbled the ball on his way to a touchdown with 1:12 remaining in the game. The Broncos recovered and went on to win 38-33 and once again advance to the “Big Game.”
Before Elway came to the Broncos, the team had 24 different starting quarterbacks in 23 years. From Elway’s retirement in 1998 to 2013, the team has had four quarterbacks. So far none of them has been unable to thrive in the void left by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
Mike Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season and replaced by Josh McDaniels. During his 14 seasons with the club, Shanahan went 138-86 in the regular season and 8-5 in the postseason. He posted just two losing seasons.
The Broncos play in the AFC west along with their three main rivals the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
For 40 years the Broncos played in one of the NFL’s most venerated venues, Mile High Stadium. In 2001, the team moved into INVESCO Field at Mile High. The team has sold out every game since 1970 (minus two games in 1987 that used replacement players). They currently play at Sports Authority Field At Mile High.
As you might expect, the Broncos have one of the best home-field advantages in all of football. Not only because of their loud and raucous sold out crowds, but because the stadium is located at 5,280 feet, or one mile (thus the name) above sea level.