Know thy enemy…
The history of the Denver Broncos:
It all started with a minor league baseball owner, Bob Howsam. He had just expanded the stadium that his team the Denver Bears used, to 34,000 person capacity anticipating his team becoming part of an upstart 3rd major league… however, the plans for this league collapsed leaving him stuck with a lot of debt and a stadium way too big for the minor league team he owned. He decided his best way out was to get a pro football team in Denver. After failing to get an NFL franchise, he opted to become part of the new AFL. This is where the Broncos tradition began…
Severely limited financially, Howsam clothed his first team in used uniforms purchased from the defunct Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz. Making the uniforms particularly joke-worthy were the vertically-striped socks that completed the Broncos’ dress. “They were the ugliest-looking things you ever wanted to see,” quarterback Frank Trupucka recalled. “The sizes were very small. I had to cut the armpits in order to be able to put the jersey on top of my shoulder pads, In order to raise my arm up.” Ugly uniforms is just one of the Bronco traditions that continues to this day.
Their first 10 years brought the worst record of any AFL team, 39-97-4. They were the only AFL team to not make it to the title game. In 1961, they replaced their original coach with Jack Faulkner. He symbolically burned their old black vertical striped socks in a public ceremony, which was followed by their first non-losing season, 7-7. However, after that they ran out of socks to burn and lost at least 10 games each of the next 5 seasons.
Some highlights for them from this era – in the opening game of the 1966 season – they played Houston and failed to get a first down with 26 yards of total offense. Also, they drafted such NFL greats like Dick Butkus and Merlin Olsen, who both chose not to play with Denver going to the NFL rather than the AFL.
In 1967 the NFL and AFL agreed on a merger. In order to do this they had to increase the capacity of their stadium to 50,000. If they failed the team would have likely moved to Chicago or Birmingham. Their number one draft choice this year, Floyd Little, actually played with the Broncos. However, he started his career going door to door with other teammates raising money for the stadium expansion. He probably was thinking being a Pro Football player wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
In 1968 the city of Denver purchased the stadium from the team and renamed it Mile High Stadium, leasing it back to the team. This allowed them to complete the required expansion. This highlights the only success the team had, as on the football field they continued to lose.
In 1973, they finally had their first winning season at 7-5-2. The Broncos had their first Monday Night Football game that year as well, when Don Meredith said his famous line “Welcome to the Mile High City and I really am!” Considering that they’ve sold out every game from 1970 on, he’s unlikely not the only one in the area that’s high.
Toward the end of the 70s the Broncos screwed up their tradition and started winning, so we’ll brush past this area, other than mentioning a few highlights:
In the 1997 season while they were in the midst of pursuing a perfect season, Shannon Sharpe refused to talk to the media (contrary to NFL rules)… Coach Mike Shanahan then listed him in the injury report as “TE Shannon Sharpe (laryngitis) probable”.
In 2008 the Broncos became the first team in NFL history to enter the final quarter of the season with a 3 game lead in their division and blow it.
In 2010, the Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels were fined $50,000 each for a videotaping the 49’rs practice. Hmm. Where did he learn that from? Josh may want to consider being a TikTok star.
In 2011 John Elway returned as GM. He hired John Fox as coach, “stealing” him from the Panthers after Fox went 2-14 the year before. The Tim Tebow experiment occurred this year, with the Broncos making the play-offs through some sort of divine intervention.
In 2012 Elway managed to get Peyton Manning to take over coaching – er, uh, quarterbacking the team. 2012 is also when Colorado legalized pot. There might be a clue there why Peyton decided to join the Broncos over all the other teams… They would have success until Peyton retired after 3 years. They snuck in a winning record in 2016, but have had losing records ever since.
So at least the Broncos story has a happy ending!