professional football team and one of five teams in the Western Division
of the American Football Conference (AFC) of the National Football
League (NFL). The Broncos play at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado,
and wear uniforms of blue, orange, and white.
Denver has been one of the AFC’s most consistent teams since the
mid-1970s. From 1977 to 1999 the team reached the playoffs 13 times and
the Super Bowl six times. Longtime Broncos quarterback John Elway
reached the NFL’s all-time top five in career passing yards, quarterback
rushing yards, and completions. Former head coach Dan Reeves compiled
one of the highest winning percentages (.581) in NFL history during his
12 seasons with the club.
Under head coach Mike Shanahan, the Broncos captured the first Super
Bowl championship in the franchise’s history by defeating the Green Bay
Packers in 1998. The team returned to the Super Bowl in 1999 and
defeated the Atlanta Falcons.
The Broncos became charter members of the American Football League (AFL)
in 1960. Despite strong defensive units that included cornerback Goose
Gonsoulin and tackles Dave Costa and Bud McFadin, Denver’s best AFL
win-loss record was 7-7 in 1962.
The Broncos joined the NFL when the NFL and AFL completed their merger
in 1970. In 1973 the Broncos posted a 7-5 win-loss record behind head
coach John Ralston, who won the coach of the year award. Running back
Floyd Little and wide receiver Riley Odoms powered the AFC’s top-rated
offense that year.
The Broncos steadily improved through the 1970s and surprised the league
in 1977 when they won a franchise-record 12 games behind head coach Red
Miller. The team captured its first-ever Western Division title with the
AFC’s top defense, which was anchored by end Lyle Alzado, linebacker
Randy Gradishar, and cornerback Louis Wright. Quarterback Craig Morton
piloted a steady offense, and the Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl,
where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys. Denver made the playoffs the
following two seasons but fell in the first round each time.
During the 11 years following the strike-shortened season of 1982,
Denver made 7 postseason appearances. As a rookie, John Elway led the
team to a playoff berth in 1983 and to 13 victories in 1984. In the
latter year, wide receiver Steve Watson and running back Sammy Winder
each enjoyed 1,000-yard seasons. The club once again fielded the AFC’s
top defense, this time anchored by linebacker Karl Mecklenburg and
safety Dennis Smith.
Reeves guided Denver to three Super Bowls in four years during the late
1980s, but despite offensive units that featured Elway, running back
Bobby Humphrey, and receiver Vance Johnson, as well as consistently
strong defenses, the Broncos failed to earn an NFL championship.
During the mid-1990s Denver remained a division power as the team’s
offense added wide receivers Shannon Sharpe and Anthony Miller and
running back Terrell Davis. The Broncos hired former San Francisco 49ers
offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan as head coach before the 1995
season. A year later he guided Denver to 13 regular-season wins and an
AFC Western Division title. In the playoffs, however, the Broncos were
upset by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Denver finished the 1997 season with a 12-4 win-loss record, earning a
wild card berth in the AFC playoffs. They bested the Jaguars, the Kansas
City Chiefs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers to advance to the Super Bowl.
In Super Bowl XXXII Denver defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24. The
team was led by Davis, who rushed for 157 yards. In 1998 the Broncos
posted a 14-2 win-loss record during the regular season. Denver defeated
the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets to gain its fifth Super Bowl
appearance. In Super Bowl XXXIII, the Broncos bested the Atlanta
Falcons, 34-19. After the season, Elway retired.
1978 XII Lost to Dallas Cowboys, 27-10
1987 XXI Lost to New York Giants, 39-20
1988 XXII Lost to Washington Redskins, 42-10
1990 XXIV Lost to San Francisco 49ers, 55-10
1998 XXXII Defeated Green Bay Packers, 31-24
1999 XXXIII Defeated Atlanta Falcons, 34-19
NFL History Guide