50 Years. Will the Broncos Ever Figure Out the AFC West?

DENVER - OCTOBER 24: Defensive end Richard Seymour #92 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates while the Raiders 59-14 over the Denver Broncos while walking off the field with teammates Nick Miller #89 and Ricky Brown #57 at INVESCO Field at Mile High on October 24 2010 in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

As I was writing an article for the Broncos Annual earlier this year about the legacy of the AFC West, I began to notice a disturbing trend from the Denver Broncos that has spanned its entire existence. That trend was an inability to consistently compete in the AFL/AFC West division. After Sunday's embarrassing defeat at home, I felt it was time to address this issue. For I think it runs much deeper than the typical kneejerk responses calling for Josh McDaniels' proverbial head, Orton benching, or whatever has been screamed about from various fans.

This fifty year conundrum has obviously not been solved.  I have inserted a chart below highlighting the key stats of divisional record and point differential. I only counted games between the true AFC West teams (Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers) as they have existed since the beginning and have always been the Broncos main rivals. That said, for a team that ranks in the top five or six all time in wins since 1975, owners of six AFC Championships and two Super Bowls - a 143-155-3 Division record is intolerable. Take away the 1960's and this team is still only slightly above .500. I wish I could have included the Raiders and Chiefs stats because those two teams understand division rivalry, but I'd like to post this article sometime this week

Denver Broncos AFC West Woes
Year Record Pt. Diff. Year Record Pt. Diff. Year Record Pt. Diff. Year Record Pt. Diff. Year Record Pt. Diff.
1960 1-5 -66 1970 2-3-1 -23 1980 1-5 -42 1990 2-4 -20 2000 4-2 +13
1961 1-5 -86 1971 1-5 -74 1981 4-2 +9 1991 4-2 +14 2001 3-3 0
1962 4-2 +44 1972 2-4 -32 1982 0-4 -68 1992 3-3 -36 2002 3-3 -12
1963 1-5 -125 1973 4-1-1 +23 1983 2-4 -61 1993 2-5 -12 2003 5-1 +105
1964 2-3-1 -76 1974 3-3 -10 1984 5-1 +30 1994 2-4 -40 2004 3-3 +16
1965 0-6 -54 1975 4-2 -7 1985 3-3 +1 1995 3-3 +5 2005 5-1 +68
1966 1-5 -109 1976 4-2 +33 1986 4-2 +18 1996 4-2 +35 2006 3-3 -28
1967 0-6 -133 1977 6-1 +50 1987 6-0 +72 1997 5-2 +88 2007 3-3 -19
1968 0-6 -132 1978 5-1 +30 1988 3-3 +38 1998 6-0 +102 2008 3-3 -31
1969 1-5 -76 1979 3-3 0 1989 4-2 +14 1999 3-3 -3 2009 3-3 +12

 

Suffice to say, the Broncos have never really been able to dominate their division. To highlight this fact, the Broncos have won just 8 Division Crowns in 50 years.  The Chargers have won the last four! Heck, the Raiders won three straight to begin this decade! One year, in the late 1980's, the Raiders won 7 games - they were 6-0 in the AFC West. I hate to talk the Raiders up, but man, at least they play their asses off against Divisional opponents.   The Broncos have also struggled to win divisional home games, which is even worse than being wholly average in division play. Going .500 most years isn't going to win division crowns, so at some point this organization is going to have to start taking division rivals seriously.

There were two coaches that really had the AFC West figured out and they were Red Miller and Mike Shanahan. In Red Miller's case I think it was more the players hatred of the Raiders themselves that caused them to be so competitive in divisional play. Mike Shanahan on the other hand, never had a losing record in the AFC West in all fifteen seasons he was the head coach, however, I think we can all agree that his grasp was slipping towards the end. 

Josh McDaniels, I hope, learned a valuable lesson today. Hating the Raiders means something and beating them means even more.

Fans like me don't care if you go 3-13 in a season so long as those three wins are at home and against the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers. You have discovered why it is we hate the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers. They rub victory in, the flaunt it as Richard Seymour did as he walked off the field, and they enjoy making you look bad. Never again. The only way to redeem yourselves in our eyes is to win the rest of your division games. Beat the Raiders in their house, beat the Chiefs and Chargers twice. PROVE TO US YOU BELIEVE IT MATTERS.

As for me, I'll continue to root you on for my love of the Denver Broncos transcends a horrifying 59-14 loss to the hated Oakland Raiders - at home - and I will continue to hope you will fulfill your DUTY to us fans. Yes it is a duty, it goes beyond the job you are simply paid to do. The Raiders and Chiefs coaches and players understand this, when will you?

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