Water Cooler Quarterbacks: 2013 - - Best Broncos Offense Ever?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Comparing 2013 to the best Broncos offenses since 1970

I recently read an article by Pat Kirwan which discussed which team has had the "greatest" offense of all time. You can read that article here. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kirwan, he has been involved with the NFL in one way or another for the last forty-one years. He was a scout for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1983-86) and the Phoenix Cardinals (1989). He worked his way up through the coaching ranks of the New York Jets (1989-97) from being an assistant defensive coach to being named the team's Director of Player Administration. He has worked as a senior analyst for both the NFL and CBS Sports. He has authored a number of books about football.

In his article, Kirwan proposed using six criteria for evaluating an offense:

1)Offensive Scores (Passing TDs/Rushing TDs/FGs)
2)Offensive Yards (Passing Yds/Rushing Yds)
3)First Downs
4)Turnovers (Ints/Fumbles)
5)Team Record
6)Offensive Ranks (Overall/Passing/Rushing Ranks in NFL)

Given that Denver's offense has set multiple franchise and league records this season, I thought it might be fun to take a look at how the 2013 offense compared to other great Broncos' offenses, using Kirwan's criteria.

Now, I did set two parameters for this comparison:

1)Only offenses since the 1970 merger of the league were considered.


2)The offense had to have the passing game, the running game (or both) ranked in the Top-5 for the league for that season

There were sixteen offenses (including the 2013 one) that met these two criteria: 1972, 1973, 1974, 1987, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2013.

Three of these (1972, 1973, 1974) were crafted by head coach John Ralston and offense coordinator Max Coley then implemented by quarterback Charlie Johnson. One (1987) was put in place by head coach Dan Reeves and offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan and executed by quarterback John Elway. Head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jim Fassel put together one offense for Elway (1993). Next is the association of head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak which produced eight of the sixteen offenses -- four for Elway (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998); two for quarterback Brian Griese (2000, 2002) and two for Jake Plummer (2004, 2005). Shanahan produced a ninth offense along with offensive coordinator Rick Dennison for quarterback Jay Cutler (2008). Head coach John Fox, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and quarterback Peyton Manning produced one of the sixteen in 2012 while Fox and Manning along with offensive coordinator Adam Gase produced the sixteenth in 2013.

The method of comparision was very simple. I took Kirwan's six criteria:

1)Offensive Scores
2)Offensive Yards
3)First Downs
4)Turnovers
5)Team Record
6)Offensive Ranks

Then tabulated the statistics for each of the sixteen offenses. I ranked each team in each criteria from 1 to 16. A first place finish in a criteria earned a team one point, a second place two points, etc. I totaled the points. The team with the lowest total would be considered the best offense. Here is a summary of the scoring (first place team in each category is shown in bold):

72 73 74 87 93 95 96 97 90 00 02 04 05 08 12 13
Scores 15 13 16 13 11 4 8 5 2 8 7 6 8 12 3 1
Yards 16 15 14 12 13 8 10 9 6 2 7 5 11 4 3 1
1st Downs 15 16 14 11 13 8 10 9 7 2 4 6 12 5 3 1
Turnovers 15 9 11 16 7 11 14 3 2 4 6 9 1 11 7 5
Record 16 14 15 8 10 12 2 6 1 7 10 9 2 12 2 2
Ranks 12 16 15 5 14 8 1 3 7 4 9 13 11 6 10 2
Total 89 83 85 65 68 51 45 35 25 27 43 48 45 50 28 12

The Top-5 offenses from this group ended up being (in order): 2013, 1998, 2000, 2012 and 1997.

It certainly came as no surprise that the 2013 offense ended up with the best overall rating, given the fact that it held the top position in half the categories. Nor does it come as much of a surprise that the 2012 season along with the two Super Bowl-winning seasons (1997, 1998) were also in the Top 5 of the group.

One thing that did come as a surprise was that Brian Griese's (a quarterback who has been nearly reviled in some Broncos fan circles) 2000 offense was the third best of the group while Jay Cutler's (a quarterback who used to be pointed to as being an offensive success) 2008 offense ended up in the 10th spot.

For those of you who like to see the numbers behind the summaries they are posted below. I added the head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback, just for fun.

1972 1973 1974
Head Coach John Ralston Ralston Ralston
Off. Coordinator Max Coley Coley Coley
Quarterback Charlie Johnson Johnson Johnson
Scores 56 (19/17/20) 60 (22/16/22) 49 (18/20/11)
Yards 4472 (2634/1838) 4473 (2519/1954) 4485 (2328/2157)
First Downs 237 127 258
Turnovers 34 (23/11) 29 (20/9) 30 (17/13)
Record 5-9-0 7-5-2 7-6-1
Ranks 5/3/18 6/3/14 5/9/5

1987 1993 1995
Head Coach Dan Reeves Wade Phillips Mike Shanahan
Off. Coordinator Mike Shanahan Jim Fassel Gary Kubiak
Quarterback John Elway Elway Elway
Scores 60 (24/18/18) 66 (27/13/26) 72 (27/14/31)
Yards 5624 (3654/1970) 5461 (3768/1693) 6040 (4045/1995)
First Downs 331 327 344
Turnovers 36 (19/17) 28 (10/18) 30 (14/16)
Record 10-4-1 9-7-0 8-8-0
Ranks 2/3/12 5/4/18 3/7/5

1996 1997 1998
Head Coach Shanahan Shanahan Shanahan
Off. Coordinator Kubiak Kubiak Kubiak
Quarterback Elway Elway Elway
Scores 67 (26/20/21) 71 (27/18/26) 81 (32/26/23)
Yards 5791 (3429/2362) 5872 (3494/2378) 6092 (3624/2468)
First Downs 336 340 347
Turnovers 32 (17/15) 21 (11/10) 20 (14/6)
Record 13-3-0 12-4-0 14-2-0
Ranks 1/13/1 1/9/4 3/7/2

2000 2002 2004
Head Coach Shanahan Shanahan Shanahan
Off. Coordinator Kubiak Kubiak Kubiak
Quarterback Brian Griese Griese Jake Plummer
Scores 67 (28/21/18) 68 (21/21/26) 69 (27/13/29)
Yards 6554 (4243/2311) 6090 (3824/2266) 6332 (3999/2333)
First Downs 383 357 351
Turnovers 25 (12/13) 27 (20/7) 29 (20/9)
Record 11-5-0 9-7-0 10-6-0
Ranks 2/3/3 3/8/5 5/6/4

2005 2008 2012
Head Coach Shanahan Shanahan John Fox
Off. Coordinator Kubiak Rick Dennison Mike McCoy
Quarterback Plummer Jay Cutler Peyton Manning
Scores 67 (18/25/24) 65 (25/15/25) 75 (37/12/26)
Yards 5766 (3227/2539) 6333 (4471/1862) 6366 (4534/1832)
FIrst Downs 330 354 380
Turnovers 16 (7/9) 30 (18/12) 28 (11/14)
Record 13-3-0 8-8-0 13-3-0
Ranks 5/18/2 2/3/12 4/5/16

2013
Head Coach Fox
Off. Coordinator Adam Gase
Quarterback Manning
Scores 96 (55/16/25)
Yards 7317 (5444/1873)
Turnovers 435
First Downs 26 (10/16)
Record 13-3-0
Ranks 1/1/15


What do you think, is the 2013 offense the best since the 1970 merger? I believe so.


Go Broncos!!!!!

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