Denver Broncos, A Fan's Request: Pick a Starting Quarterback and KEEP Him!

     There has been quite a debate raging here at MHR recently over which player fans would like to see start as the Broncos quarterback in 2011. There are those who are ardent fans of keeping Kyle Orton as the starter, and there are those who would like to help him pack. There are equally vocal supporters of Tim Tebow as the starter, and there are those who would like to see him get some more seasoning by being a backup. There are those who  . . . . never mind, I've not really seen anyone go out on a limb and advocate Brady Quinn as a starter.

     Let me start by saying that I really don't care who the starting quarterback is in 2011. I'm one of those naive fans who believes that the coaching staff knows way more about football than I do and trusts them to put the best player in on game day. No, what I'm concerned about is picking a starter and sticking with him long enough for him to lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl -- and that, my friends, takes time.

Take a jump with me and see what I'm talking about.

     As I mentioned above the jump, I really don't care who starts in 2011. I simply want the quarterback situation to be settled and to stay settled for quite some time to come. I want our coaches to pick and train up a quarterback who will be instrumental in getting Denver back in the Super Bowl.

     In the forty-five years since the Super Bowl Era started -- when the NFL's Green Bay Packers defeated the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I -- the Denver Broncos have had fourteen starting quarterbacks. That is a rate of approximately one starting quarterback every three years. From 1966 to 1971, none of Denver's quarterbacks had more than five seasons in the league (when they played for the Broncos) and none of them had more than three seasons with Denver. Charley Johnson was the first quarterback to bring extensive experience to the Broncos' starting position. He joined Denver for the 12th through 14th seasons of his career.

     Johnson was followed by Steve Ramsey (6th & 7th seasons in the league), Craig Morton (13th through 17th seasons in the league), Steve DeBerg (5th season in the league). Only Morton distinguished himself as a Broncos starter by leading Denver to Super Bowl XII.

     Then came the legend: John Elway -- sixteen seasons in the league, five Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl rings. In the twelve seasons since Elway's retirement, Denver has had four starting quarterbacks -- again, one about every three years. Why is this important?

     The goal, in my humble opinion is for Denver to become a team that has a realistic chance of competing for a spot in the Super Bowl more often than not. There are some interesting correlations between the quarterbacks with Super Bowl appearances, the number of seasons each one had in the league and the number of seasons each one had with his Super Bowl team. When we look at those two main criteria -- length of time in the league and length of time with a team -- we find:

A Quick Aside: You will note in the sections that follow, that I refer to the Super Bowl quarterbacks as those who won the Super Bowl and those who appeared in one. The only reason I did that was because I thought that "appeared in" sounded better and kinder than "lost."

One Season in the League

No quarterback has appeared in a SB in his first season in the league

One Season with the Team

One quarterback has won the SB in his first season with a team. Trent Dilfer won Super Bowl XXV in his 1st season with the Ravens. Dilfer was in his 7th season in the league.

Four other quarterbacks have appeared in Super Bowls in their 1st season with a team: Daryl Lamonica. Raiders, Super Bowl II, 5th season in the league; Craig Morton, Broncos, Super Bowl XII, 13th season in the league; Kerry Collins, Giants, Super Bowl XXXV, 6th season in the league; Jake Delhomme, Panthers, Super Bowl XXXVIII, 3rd season in the league. Notice that among those quarterbacks who made it the big game in their 1st season with a team, the least experienced of them was in his 3rd season in the league.

This means that only 2% of the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks won the big game in their 1st season with a team. Only 6.6% of all Super Bowl quarterbacks (winners and losers) have appeared in the championship in their 1st season. Historically, the odds of a quarterback getting to the Super Bowl in his 1st season in the league have been nonexistent. The odds getting to the big game in his 1st season with his team are only slightly better.

Two Seasons in the League

Three quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl in their 2nd season in the league: Kurt Warner, Rams, Super Bowl XXXIV; Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Super Bowl XL. One other quarterback has appeared in the championship game in his 2nd season in the league: Dan Marino, Dolphins, Super Bowl XIX.

This means that 6.6% of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks won the game in their 2nd season in the league, while 4% of all Super Bowl quarterbacks made their appearance in their 2nd season. Slightly better odds to win the championship in the 2nd season in the league, slightly worse to make it to the big game.

Two Seasons with the Team

Six quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl in their 2nd season with their team: Jim Plunkett, Raiders, Super Bowl XV, 10th season in the league; Doug Williams, Redskins, Super Bowl XXII, 7th season in the league; Kurt Warner, Rams, Super Bowl XXXIV, 2nd season in the league; Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI, 2nd season in the league; Brad Johnson, Buccaneers, Super Bowl XXXVII, 9th season in the league; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Super Bowl XL, 2nd season in the league.

Three other quarterbacks have made Super Bowl appearances in their 2nd season with their team: Billy Kilmer, Redskins, Super Bowl VII, 10th season in the league; Dan Marino, Dolphins, Super Bowl XIX, 2nd season in the league; Chris Chandler, Falcons, Super Bowl XXXIII, 11th season in the league.

Notice that out of these nine quarterbacks, four were in both their 2nd season with their team and their 2nd season in the league. Among the remaining five, the least experienced was in his 7th season in the league.

We find then that 13% of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks won it in their 2nd season with their team. We also see that 10% of all Super Bowl quarterbacks made their appearance in their 2nd season with their team. This is over double the percentage for winning the big game in the 1st season with a team. While better, this is still nothing to pin our hopes on.

Three Seasons in the League

Two quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl in their 3rd season in the league: Roger Staubach, Cowboys, Super Bowl VI; Joe Montana, 49ers, Super Bowl XVI.

Four other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 3rd season in the league: Joe Kapp, Vikings, Super Bowl, IV; Vince Ferragamo, Rams, Super Bowl XIV; David Woodley, Dolphins, Super Bowl XVII; Jake Delhomme, Panthers, Super Bowl XXXVIII.

This indicates that 4% of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks won the championship in their 3rd season in the league. 6.6% of the Super Bowl quarterbacks made their appearance during their 3rd season in the league. Not a particularly impressive likelihood of getting to the big game in the 3rd season in the league.

Three Seasons with Team

Two quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl during their 3rd season with their team: Earl Morrell, Colts, Super Bowl V, 15th season in the league; Roger Staubach, Cowboys, Super Bowl VI, 3rd season in the league.

Four other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 3rd season with their team: Joe Kapp, Vikings, Super Bowl IV, 3rd season in the league; Vince Ferragamo, Rams, Super Bowl XIV, 3rd season in the league; David Woodley, Dolphins, Super Bowl XVII, 3rd season in the league; Stan Humphries, Chargers, Super Bowl XXIX, 5th season in the league.

It was interesting to note that, with two exceptions, all of the 3rd season quarterbacks to make it to the Super Bowl were in both their 3rd season in the league and their 3rd season with their team. The two exceptions were: Earl Morrell, 15th season in the league, 3rd season with the Colts; Stan Humphries, 5th season in the league, 3rd season with the Chargers.

3rd season, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks represent 4% of the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, and third season quarterbacks represent 6.6% of all the quarterbacks to appear in the big game.

Four Seasons in the League

Six quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl in their 4th season in the league: Joe Namath, Jets, Super Bowl III; Jim McMahon, Bears, Super Bowl XX; Mark Rypien, Redskins, Super Bowl XXVI, Troy Aikman, Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVII; Tom Brady, Patriots, SB XXXVIII; Eli Manning, Giants, Super Bowl XLII.

Four other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl during their 4th season in the league: John Elway, Broncos, Super Bowl XXI; Drew Bledsoe, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXI; Kurt Warner, Rams, Super Bowl XXXVI; Rex Grossman, Bears, Super Bowl XLI.

This group of ten quarterbacks represents 11% of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl to-date. The winning quarterbacks represent 13% of all of the Super Bowl winners.

Four Seasons with Team

Seven quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 4th season with their team: Joe Namath, Jets, Super Bowl III, 4th season in the league; Jim McMahon, Bears, Super Bowl XX, 4th season in the league; Mark Rypien, Redskins, Super Bowl XXVI, 4th season in the league; Troy Aikman, Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVII, 4th season in the league; Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVIII, 4th season in the league; Eli Manning, Giants, Super Bowl XLII, 4th season in the league; Drew Brees, Saints, Super Bowl XLIV, 9th season in the league.

Eight other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in the their 4th season with their team: Ron Jaworski, Eagles, Super Bowl XV, 7th season in the league; John Elway, Broncos, Super Bowl XXI, 4th season in the league; Drew Bledsoe, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXI, 4th season in the league; Kurt Warner, Rams, Super Bowl XXXVI, 4th season in the league; Rich Gannon, Raiders, Super Bowl XXXVII, 15th season in the league; Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, Super Bowl XL, 7th season in the league; Rex Grossman, Bears, Super Bowl XLI, 4th season in the league; Kurt Warner, Cardinals, Super Bowl XLIII, 11th season in the league.

These fifteen quarterbacks represent 17% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 16% of the winners.

Five Seasons in the League

Five quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 5th season in the league: Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl IX; Jeff Hostetler, Giants, Super Bowl XXV; Troy Aikman, Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVIII; Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXIX; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Super Bowl XLIII.

Eight other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 5th season in the league: Daryl Lamonica, Raiders, Super Bowl II; Bob Griese, Dolphins, Super Bowl VI; John Elway, Broncos, Super Bowl XXII; Boomer Esiason, Bengals, Super Bowl XXIII; Jim Kelly, Bills, Super Bowl XXV; Stan Humphries, Chargers, Super Bowl XXIX; Neil O'Donnell, Steelers, Super Bowl XXX; Steve McNair, Titans, Super Bowl XXXIV.

Note: Jim Kelly was drafted by the Bills in 1983, but chose to play in the now-defunct USFL from 1983-1985, before joining Buffalo in 1986. Hence the difference between his NFL experience and that of John Elway who was drafted in the same year.

These thirteen quarterbacks represent 14% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 11% of the winners.

Five Seasons with Team

Six quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 5th season with their team: Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl IX, 5th season in the league; Jim Plunkett, Raiders, Super Bowl XVIII, 13th season in the league; Jeff Hostetler, Giants, Super Bowl XXV, 5th season in the league; Troy Aikman, Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVIII, 5th season in the league; Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XXXIX, 5th season in the league; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Super Bowl XLIII, 5th season in the league.

Six other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 5th season with their team: Len Dawson, Chiefs, Super Bowl I, 10th season in the league; Bob Griese, Dolphins, Super Bowl VI, 5th season in the league; John Elway, Broncos, Super Bowl XXII, 5th season in the league; Jim Kelly, Bills, Super Bowl XXV, 5th season in the league; Neil O'Donnell, Steelers, Super Bowl XXX, 5th season in the league; Steve McNair, Titans, Super Bowl XXXIV, 5th season in the league.

These twelve quarterbacks represent 13% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 13% of the winners.

Six Seasons in League

Five quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 6th season in the league: Bob Griese, Dolphins, Super Bowl VII; Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl X; Joe Montana, 49ers, Super Bowl XIX; Bret Favre, Packers, Super Bowl XXXI; Aaron Rodgers, Packers, Super Bowl XLV.

Four other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 6th season in the league: Craig Morton, Cowboys, Super Bowl V; Jim Kelly, Bills, Super Bowl XXVI; Kerry Collins, Giants, Super Bowl XXXV; Donovan McNabb, Eagles, Super Bowl XXXIX.

These nine quarterbacks represent 10% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 11% of the winners.

Six Seasons with Team

Five quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 6th season with their team: Bob Griese, Dolphins, Super Bowl VII, 6th season in the league; Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl X, 6th season in the league; Joe Montana, 49ers, Super Bowl XIX, 6th season in the league; Bret Favre, Packers, Super Bowl XXXI, 6th season in the league; Aaron Rodgers, Packers, Super Bowl XLV, 6th season in the league.

Three other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 6th season with their team: Craig Morton, Cowboys, Super Bowl V, 6th season in the league; Jim Kelly, Bills, Super Bowl XXVI, 6th season in the league; Donovan McNabb, Eagles, Super Bowl XXXIX, 6th season in the league.

These eight quarterbacks represent 8% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 11% of the winners.

Seven Seasons in the League

Six quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 7th season in the league: Bob Griese, Dolphins, Super Bowl VIII; Ken Stabler, Raiders, Super Bowl XI; Phil Simms, Giants, Super Bowl XXI; Doug Williams, Redskins, Super Bowl XXII; Troy Aikman, Cowboys, Super Bowl XXX; Trent Dilfer, Ravens, Super Bowl XXXV.

Seven other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 7th season in the league: Roger Staubach, Cowboys, Super Bowl X; Ron Jaworski, Eagles, Super Bowl XV; John Elway, Broncos, Super Bowl XXIV; Jim Kelly, Bills, Super Bowl XXVII; Bret Favre, Packers, Super Bowl XXXII; Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, Super Bowl XL; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Super Bowl XLV.

These thirteen quarterbacks represent 14% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 13% of the winners.

Seven Seasons with Team

Four quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 7th season with their team: Bob Griese, Dolphins, Super Bowl VIII, 7th season in the league; Ken Stabler, Raiders, Super Bowl XI, 7th season in the league; Phil Simms, Giants, Super Bowl  XXI, 7th season in the league; Troy Aikman, Cowboys, Super Bowl XXX, 7th season in the league.

Five other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 7th season with their team: Roger Staubach, Cowboys, Super Bowl X, 7th season in the league; John Elway, Broncos, Super Bowl XXIV, 7th season in the league; Jim Kelly, Bills, Super Bowl XXVII, 7th season in the league; Bret Favre, Packers, Super Bowl XXXII, 7th season in the league; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, Super Bowl XLV, th season in the league.

These nine quarterbacks represent 10% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 8% of the winners.

Eight Seasons in the League

No quarterback has won a Super Bowl in his 8th season in the league. Only two quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 8th season in the league: Jim Kelly, BIlls, Super Bowl XXVIII; Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XLII.

These two quarterbacks represent 2% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 0% of the winners.

Eight Seasons with Team

Two quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 8th season with their team: Len Dawson, Chiefs, Super Bowl IV, 13th season in the league; Steve Young, 49ers, Super Bowl XXIX, 10th season in the league.

Two other quarterbacks have appeared in a Super Bowl in their 8th season with their team: Jim Kelly, BIlls, Super Bowl XXVIII, 8th season in the league; Tom Brady, Patriots, Super Bowl XLII, 8th season in the league.

These four quarterbacks represent 4% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 4% of the winners.

Nine Seasons in the League

Six quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 9th season in the league: Roger Staubach, Cowboys, Super Bowl XII; Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl XIII; Joe Theismann, Redskins, Super Bowl XVII; Brad Johnson, Buccaneers, Super Bowl XXXVII; Peyton Manning, Colts, Super Bowl XLI; Drew Brees, Saints, Super Bowl XLIV.

No quarterback in his 9th season has made it to the Super Bowl and lost.

These six quarterbacks represent 6% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. These quarterbacks represent 13% of the winners.

Nine Seasons with Team

Three quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl in their 9th season with their team, all three were also in their 9th season in the league: Roger Staubach, Cowboys, Super Bowl XII; Terry Bradshaw, Steelers, Super Bowl XIII; Joe Theismann, Redskins, Super Bowl XVII.

No quarterback in his 9th season with his team has made it to the Super Bowl and lost.

These three quarterbacks represent 3% of all of the quarterback slots in the Super Bowl. The winning quarterbacks represent 6% of the winners.

     I stopped at the 9th season in the league and 9th season with a team is that the last time the Broncos went to the AFC Championship game, their staring quarterback was in his 9th season in the league, though only his 3rd season with the team.

Mean, Median and Mode

While this is all a nice little historical summary, the question should be asked what does this have to do with my original comment about wanting the Broncos to pick a starting quarterback and sticking with him for some time to come?

To find the answer to that question, let's take a very quick, very simple review of three mathematical terms: Mean, Median and Mode. The mean of a set of numbers is, simply put, their average. The median of that same set is the number in the middle of the set when it is arranged in order from the least value to the greatest. The mean separates the lower half of the set from the upper half. The mode is the number which appears most often in the set.

When we apply these three terms to the quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl, we find that the mean number of seasons in the league when they won is 7.4 seasons. The median number of seasons is 7.0. The mode is 5.6 (there were actually three sets with the same number of occurences -- 4, 7 and 9 seasons -- each with six quarterbacks . I asked my wife who teaches college math how to resolve this and was told to calculate the average of those three sets of numbers).

When we apply those three terms to the length of time each winning quarterback has been with his team, we find that the mean is 6.1 seasons, the median is 5.0 and the mode is 4.0.

Applying those terms to the quarterbacks with a Super Bowl appearance but no wins, we find that the mean is 7.5 seasons in the league, the median is 7.0 and the mode is 5.0. When looking at the number of seasons with their team, we find that the mean is 6.0 seasons, the median is 5.0 and the mode is 4.0.

What does this really mean?
The historical evidence is reasonably consistent.

Seasons in League Seasons with Team
Mean Median Mode Mean Median Mode
Winning QBs 7.4 7 5.6 6.1 5 4
Appearing QBs 7.5 7 5 6.0 5 4



The average length of time it has taken quarterbacks to reach the Super Bowl is seven seasons in the league and six seasons with their team. The mode, or most frequently occurring numbers are an average of five seasons in the league and four seasons with their team.

When we look at our current crop of Broncos quarterbacks, we find that we have:

Quarterback Seasons in League Seasons with Team
Kyle Orton 7 3
Tim Tebow 2 2
Brady Quinn 5 2



     Whether we choose to like it or not, Orton is the closest to both the averages and the means for seasons in the league and seasons with the team. Quinn is the next closest to those numbers, with Tebow having a fair distance to go.

     With this kind of history among Super Bowl quarterbacks, I believe it is absolutely vital that the Broncos commit to one quarterback as the starter and stick with him for at least the next five seasons. The post-Elway Era pattern of bringing in a new quarterback every three years on the average has got to stop unless the franchise's plan is to settle for an on-going process of mediocrity. So, ultimately, I care less about who Fox/Elway/Xanders put under center than I do about seeing the same quarterback there for the foreseeable future.

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