The NFL is a storied league. The Denver Broncos are a storied franchise. Throughout their history, fans have been delighted to be a part of some of the greatest moments in the NFL.
Denver is a big city with a small-town feel. The locals are extremely proud of their Mile High City but are also overly inviting to the troves of newcomers that come to visit the beautiful landscape. At the forefront of pride for the City of Denver are the beloved Broncos.
It’s a town that is painted in Orange no matter what month of the year it is. In triumph and defeat, the Broncos are the number one topic of discussion at the water cooler, coffee shop, or one of the many new micro-breweries.
Growing up with the Rocky Mountains as my backdrop gave me the first-hand experience of some of these heralded moments. Compiling them into a list of the best of the best was all but easy, but what the hell, “This One’s’ For Denver!”
- The Fumble, Earnest Byner Fumbles On Goal Line In AFC Championship Game
- Broncos Trade Clinton Portis For Champ Bailey
- Shannon Sharpe 3rd & 6 Conversion At Three Rivers Stadium In ’98 AFC Championship Game
- The Birth Of The Mile High Salute
- Super Bowl XXXIII Victory/ Elway Wins MVP
10. John Elway Is Hired As VP Of Football Operations/ General Manager
John Elway is the pride and joy of not just Colorado Sports, but the state of Colorado as a whole. I truly believe that if he ran for the Mayor of Denver or the Governor of Colorado, he would win in a landslide.
On January 5, 2011, Elway was named the Vice President of Football Operations, where he would have the final say in all football moves. After one season, Elway adopted the title of General Manager as well, giving him full control of all football related decisions.
This has certainly panned out for the Broncos. Since 2011, the Broncos have only missed the playoffs once (2016 after going 9-7), been to the Super Bowl twice (winning one), and won the division five times. He has also had the keen ability to lure big name free agents to Denver: Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders, Jamaal Charles, and Ronald Leary just to name a few. In a short time, Elway already began cementing his legacy as a possible Hall of Fame Executive.
9. Terrell Davis Pre-Season Special Teams Hit In Tokyo
After John Elway, Terrell Davis may be the most popular player to wear the orange and blue. What if I told you that his career was almost over before it began? During Davis’ rookie season, the Broncos took a preseason trip to Tokyo, Japan for an exhibition game against the San Franciso 49ers. Davis, a sixth-round pick, was muddled deep on the depth chart and was fighting for a roster spot. During the week in Japan, he called down to the front desk to check on flights back to the states, after deciding to quit the team. Luckily, for Davis and Broncos fans alike, the language barrier was too much and Davis gave up on the idea. Crazy right? Well, once suited up for the game, Davis was called upon to fill in on the kickoff team and the rest is history. He made his infamous monster hit on Tyronne Drakeford, made the roster, and became the starter during his rookie campaign. Thank God the front desk agent couldn’t speak English!
8. The Year 1977 – Orange Crush and BroncoMania
The Denver Broncos may have been founded in 1960, but they were truly born in 1977. After a myriad of losing seasons, veteran quarterback Craig Morton joined the team, along with head coach Red Miller after the ’76 season. The team, guided by the defense, known as the Orange Crush, shocked the football world going 12-2 during the regular season. They rode this emotion, along with great players such as Haven Moses, Otis Armstrong, Lyle Alzado, Tom Jackson, and Randy Gradishar into the playoffs where they won their first playoff game in franchise history on Christmas Eve in front of the largest crowd ever to view a Colorado sporting event (75,011). The following game they beat the hated Raiders after a pair of Haven Moses touchdown receptions en route to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. They may have fallen short against the Dallas Cowboys, but the ’77-’78 season will never be forgotten in Broncos folklore.
7. Terrell Davis Rushes For 2,000 Yards In A Single Season
There shouldn’t be a whole lot I need to say about this one. Only seven players in NFL history have ever rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season, and Terrell Davis is one of them. Davis needed 178 yards in the final game at home to accomplish the feat. He did just that, finishing with 2,008 yards and 21 touchdowns en route to MVP honors. He also led Denver to a second-straight Super Bowl victory.
6. Pat Bowlen Buys The Denver Broncos In 1984
Pat Bowlen isn’t as outspoken as Jerry Jones and hasn’t been as nationally recognized at Robert Kraft, but ask anyone with any brains and they will tell you that he has been one of the best owners in all of sports. He is the longest tenured professional sports owner in Colorado sports history and is the only owner of an NFL team to surpass 300 victories in his first 30 seasons owning a franchise.
Listed are some of the on-field success that has been garnered during his ownership.
- More Super Bowl appearances (7) than losing seasons (5)
- Highest regular season winning percentage of any NFL team (.611, 322-204-1)
- 21 winning seasons
- 13 division titles
- Nine Conference Championship Berths
- Three Super Bowl Victories
- According to a 2014 Harris Poll, the Broncos were recognized as “America’s Team”
Some off-the-field accolades:
- The Broncos have sold out every regular season and playoff home game since Bowlen became owner (in fact the team holds an NFL-record sellout streak dating back to 1970)
- He is responsible for the UC Health Training Facility, the Broncos state-of-the-art training facility
- He served on many NFL committees including the Chair of the NFL Broadcast Committee, where Bowlen was responsible for the NFL’s $18 Billion TV contract, the most lucrative single-sport contract in history!
- He has donated more than $25 Million to Denver Charitable Organizations
- More of Pat Bowlen’s accomplishments can be found here.
5. Peyton Manning Signs With Denver After Becoming A Free Agent
Peyton Freaking Manning. Arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He had already climbed up the record books and won a Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis before being released after having season-ending neck surgery. Thus, the Manning sweepstakes began. Early on, Manning stated that he did not want to play in the same conference as his brother Eli Manning, so that ruled out the NFC it seemed. The Tennessee Titans seemed like an early favorite due to Manning playing his college ball for the University of Tennessee, amid a number of other reasons.
But the Titans did not have the storied history or tradition of that of the Denver Broncos. They also did not have a Hall of Fame quarterback in their front office that promised to make Peyton Manning the greatest quarterback of all-time. Lucky for Denver, the Broncos did. Manning signed a 5-year deal worth $96 million.
The Broncos won the AFC West every year Manning was with the team, and went to two Super Bowls, winning one of them. In 2013, Manning and the offense put together the greatest statistical season in NFL history. He may have only played five seasons with the Broncos, but in Denver, he will always be remembered as Denver’s second son.
4. The Draft Trade That Made John Elway A Denver Bronco (For Life)
In 1983, a quarterback out of Stanford by the name of John Elway was the consensus number one overall pick. Heading into the draft, the Baltimore Colts owned the rights to the first pick, and Elway made it very clear that he would not play for the Colts. He even went so far to say that he would play baseball (for the Yankees who drafted him in MLB draft) before he would play for Baltimore. The Colts went ahead and drafted Elway before sending him to Denver for offensive tackle Chris Hinton, quarterback Mark Herrmann, and the rights to their 1984 first-round pick who went on to become guard Ron Solt.
At the time of his retirement, Elway finished first in wins by a QB (148), second in passing yards (51,475), third in passing touchdowns (300), and first in fourth-quarter comebacks (47). That trade panned out pretty nicely for the orange and blue.
3. Super Bowl 50 Victory / “This One’s For Pat!”
The 2015 Broncos were a team led by unbelievable defensive play. Peyton Manning missed half of the regular season due to injury, and even when he was on the field, was a mere shell of himself. Brock Osweiler filled in nicely, but you never felt like he was the guy to lead the team to the Super Bowl. That man would, in fact, be neither Manning or Osweiler, enter Von Miller.
The Broncos entered the postseason as the one seed but were forced to play two of the top offenses in the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. The defense held both Hall of Fame quarterbacks in check and propelled the team to their second Super Bowl in three seasons. This time they would not be denied.
Von Miller was a menace in the Carolina backfield, causing problems for regular season MVP Cam Newton all afternoon. His strip-sack that essentially ended the game earned him Super Bowl MVP Honors, where he joined a list of nine other defensive MVPs. This led to the moment that everyone had been waiting for. After Pat Bowlen’s iconic bellow “This One’s For John,” after Super Bowl XXXII, Elway re-lived the nostalgia for his owner shouting “This One’s For Pat!”
2. The Drive
This is probably a top 10 moment in NFL history, maybe even sports history, sorry Cleveland. January 11, 1897. It was a blistering cold winter day in Cleveland at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The field was littered with trash and dog bones from a raucous “dawg pound.” The Denver Broncos and John Elway huddled in their own end zone, the dilapidated ball resting on the two-yard line, 98-yards from where they needed to go. Over a course of 15 plays, and five minutes and two seconds, Elway led his offense to tie the game at 20 with only 37 seconds remaining in regulation. The Broncos would win in overtime on a Rich Karlis field goal, on their way to the Super Bowl. The Drive is cemented in sports history as one of the greatest comebacks ever.
1. Super Bowl XXXII Victory / Elway “Helicopter” Dive On 3rd Down
January 25, 1998. Every Denver sports fan has this date engraved in their minds. The first championship from the four major sports may have come in 1996 via the Colorado Avalanche (a definite top 10 moment in Colorado sports), but January 25, 1998, was different. It was THE championship that the city had been longing for. It was the moment that John Elway, the chosen son of Denver, was able to relinquish the ghosts of Super Bowls past (three to be exact) and cement his name in the annals of NFL lore.
By far the most climactic moment of Super Bowl XXXII came late in the game on a third down and six. Denver had been running the ball tremendously behind the legs of Terrell Davis, but Coach Shanahan opted to pass on this play. History had other ideas. The play broke down, and Elway scrambled. He scrambled for redemption. He scrambled for those three tough Super Bowl losses he suffered prior. He scrambled for his legacy. He scrambled for every fan of the Denver Broncos everywhere. Simply put, he scrambled for a first down. One of the most historic first down plays that will be recorded in the history of the big game. When you saw it you knew. The Denver Broncos were bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.
The game finished with a final score of 31-24, Terrell Davis took home MVP honors, Pat Bowlen gave his “This One’s For John” speech, and the city of Denver got the championship that it deserved. But through all of the confetti and celebrating, the moment most recognized will be that fateful third and six, when a man transformed to machine, and helicoptered his way into the history books.