Recently I wrote a Fanpost entitled, Looking Back to Previous Drafts.
I ventured back through some of the greatest Bronco players of all time beginning in 1972. I did not go back to 1960.
Let me begin by stating it will take a while for me to explain one important issue that the present day Broncos lack. However we are on the path to fixing this issue. Let’s begin…
One of the great drafts was in 1973 when Coach John Ralston drafted
Otic Armstrong RB (8),
Barney Chavious DE (13),
Paul Howard G (13)
Tommy Jackson LB (14).
Six years later they were the core players that helped take the Broncos to their first Super Bowl. When the Broncos went to the Super Bowl these players were six year veterans DRAFTED by the Broncos. (How many Bronco six year draftee’s do we have on our roster?)
In addition to these players were other older Bronco draftees:
Paul Smith DT 10 Years
Billy Thompson DB 9 years
Lyle Alzado DE 7 years
Our great younger players then were:
Claudie Minor OT 4 years
John Keyworth RB 4 years
Randy Gradishar LB 4 years
Louis Wright DB 3 years
Rubin Carter DT 3 years
Rick Upchurch WR 3 years
Steve Foley DB 2 years
Larry Evens 2 years
Glen Hyde 2 years
Billy Bryan Rookie
Rob Lytle Rookie
Other great Players not drafted by the Broncos:
Kicker Jim Turner 14 years
Quarterback Craig Morton 14 years
Center Bobby Maples 13 years
Wide Receiver Haven Moses 11 years.
Turner had been a Bronco for 7 years, Moses and Maples each for 6 years. 1977 was QB Craig Morton’s first year with the Broncos.
Look at the foundation the 1978 Super Bowl team had from Broncos draftees. (Are we on this path?)
The 1978 SB Broncos had 10 players that had been together for six years. The 2014 Broncos had ONLY three players that had been together for six years, Champ Bailey, Matt Prater and Ryan Clady. When we look at the SB 2014 Broncos the most senior player drafted by the Broncos was 6 year veteran Ryan Clady who was injured and did not play.
The Broncos had three 5th year players, Britton Colquitt, Tony Carter and David Bruton. Although our views are subjective. I think many of us would agree that neither Carter or Bruton would come close to playing on the level of a Tommy Jackson LB, Steve Foley DB, or a Louis Wright DB. They are OK but not nearly as great.
I understand there were many reasons why the Broncos were horribly beaten in the 2014 SB. I am saying the cohesiveness and camaraderie of spending years together is a present are the Broncos lack. I also understand that the 1978 Broncos were defeated. Yet we could look at the 1997 / 1998 Bronco SB winners…
A quick glance of the Super Bowl Broncos
The 1997 Broncos had four players with 8 or more years together. John Elway QB 15 years Tyrone Braxton DB 10 Years
Steve Atwater DB 9 years
Shannon Sharp 8 years
The 1997 Broncos had many players that played together for 4 - 5 years... So when I wrote the Fanpost, Looking Back to Previous Drafts a portion of my intent was to draw attention to the fact that even though we want to win now our team was decimated before John Elway became Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
This is an important area which was lacking from the 2014 Broncos SB team. I cannot say how much weight should be given to the number of players that have been in the trenches together for years. However if we look back to the 2014 SB loss we can say what could have been and should have been and may have been if we had a foundation of players who had played together at least five years. The Broncos made a ton of rookie type mistakes that perhaps may have been eliminated if we had veteran players like in 1978 SB.
Here is an example of what I am saying
If we revisit this conversation at the end of 2016 how many of the 16 following players will still be playing for the Broncos?
The list of 16 Players
Von Miller LB,
Rahim Moore CB,
Orlando Franklin OT,
Nate Irving OLB,
Quinton Carter DB,
Julis Thomas TE,
Virgil Green TE,
Matt Prater K,
Jacob Tamme TE,
Chris Harris Jr. CB,
Matt Prater K,
Britton Colquitt P,
Tony Carter CB
David Bruton CB
If the remaining players from this list are on the Broncos roster at the end of 2016 they will have played 6 seasons together. If ten from this list remain they will match the 1978 SB Roster with 10 Broncos playing together on the same team for 6+ years. If the remaining players from this list are on the Broncos roster at the end of 2018 they will have played 8 seasons together. If four from this list remain they will match the 1997 SB Roster with 4 Broncos playing together on the same team for 8+ years. A number of these players will be gone! They will retire or be replaced by new draftees. Some will be gone like Zane Beadles and Eric Deckers and DRC - because of salary limitations…
Having great players stay on the same team for most of their career is an important part of building a foundation that only playing together provides. In the Fanpost
one of the points I was trying to make was John Elway’s FO team have made great strides in being astute in the draft selections with 20 of 23 players they drafted still on the roster. This is also an area where we applaud Pat Bowlen. Mr Bowlen has provided the resources. Go to the Broncos NFL Page. Look under staff. Notice the professional staff Mr. Bowlen pays to assist Elway in getting the most out of a draft pick even when you draft 31st in the draft.
I would like to share a little story about the old time Broncos after reviewing the history of Bronco owners.
Bob Howsam 1959 - 1961
Gerald Phipps 1961 - 1981
Edgar Kaiser - 1981 - 1984
Pat Bowlen - 1984 - Present
There is a very interesting article entitled The Life and Times of Fred Gehrke written by Peter Vischansky and published in the Pennsylvania Football news. This is a three page article that is very worth while reading. I want to quote several brief paragraphs to help establish what Mr. Bowlen has done as owner for the Broncos.
From out of the blue in 1964, a phone call came from an old football chum, Mac Speedie, who played on the University of Utah football team a couple of years behind Gehrke. Mac Speedie had landed the head coaching job with the Denver Broncos in American Football League. Speedie needed scouts and wanted Fred to become a pro scout for him. Gehrke, seeing this as a risky venture, said no. Time passed Speedie, ever persistent, and aware of Gehrke's football savvy, called and offered the aircraft industry executive a position of assistant coach/ director of player personnel for a salary of $10,000, a pay cut from his salary at Northrup Aircraft. Again, Gehrke declined, but Speedie, not willing to let Gehrke slip away, upped the offer to $12,000. Gehrke, tired of dealing with people on administrative end of aircraft industry, relented and accepted the post.
When he returned to Denver, Gehrke's first request to Speedie was,"Let's see the offices!" Those offices were next to the stadium. The new director of player personnel was pleasantly surprised to see a brick faced front on his offices. Unfortunately it was a facade disguising a metal military quanset hut ( a half -cylindrical type shelter with downward curved ceilings.) Ducking his head, he sat behind the desk anxious to get to work. A knock on the door, preceded the appearance of Gerald Phipps, the owner of the Broncos whom Fred had never met. When Phipps entered, Gehrke stood to greet him and promptly bumped his head on the ceiling. Mr. Phipps said, "Don't worry; it'll get better." 3 THE COFFIN CORNER: Vol. 22, No. 3 (2000) Gehrke thought, "How could it get any worse?" That question was answered upon inspection of the stadium and practice field. Bears Stadium, ( later renamed Mile High Stadium ), was an old baseball park with a capacity of only 37,000. It was necessary to set up bleachers on the east side of the stadium so it would resemble a football stadium. The dressing room was under leaky plumbing ; only two working shower heads were available to players. Players sat at little booths separated by chicken wire. The practice field, a downhill slope, measured only about 80 yards. It was impossible to run an out pattern to one side of the practice field because a fence was close to the sideline. Gehrke had seen better conditions in the semi-pro leagues.
In the Fanpost Looking Back to Previous Drafts I point out that the drafts in John Ralston time were 17 rounds which over the years became 12 rounds until today which is 7 rounds. The point is the Broncos had no resources, No money and No scouting department. When Dan Reeves came along it was still awful. This is in part how we drafted Ted Gregory in the 1st round.
Today thanks to Pat Bowlen the Broncos will compete down the line on every draft pick. And John Elway’s FO is determined to get the absolute best pick for each round. Providing this continues the NFL hasn’t seen anything yet, from the Broncos! I look for the Broncos under Pat Bowlen and John Elway to be the very Best in near future. I look for them to build the Broncos to be one of the most if not the most domination team in the NFL.
Mark Kiszla wrote in The Denver Post. ‘Sure, the NFL is transient work. Roster turnover is inevitable and, for the Broncos, it was absolutely necessary to erase a chunk of bad institutional memory after losing by five touchdowns to Seattle… Super Bowl money doesn't buy loyalty, so it's hard to expect Talib to become a man who strengthens the fabric of this team's personality to anywhere near the same extent as cornerback Chris Harris, who fought and scratched his way on the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2011… You can't sign a veteran from out of town and expect him to bleed orange. Only the draft can put the orange in the Broncos.’