Let's face it, Broncos fans are picky when it comes to the broadcasters. Denver fans are especially sensitive when certain people consistently sell them short.
Such is the case when Denver Broncos games are broadcast by CBS's B-team squad consisting of Dan Fouts and Ian Eagle (nothing against Ian Eagle). Quick to praise menial accomplishments of opposing teams and broadly overlook great play by Denver, it's apparent that Fouts finds it difficult to suspend bias. Great plays made by Denver are the result of luck or a momentary lapse in otherwise outstanding play by opposing teams. Credit rarely goes the Broncos way and when it does it's riddled with qualifiers that negates the sentiment entirely. Even when Denver is blowing an opponent out, Dan Fouts calls Broncos games as though Denver is just lucky to be in the league. It's something Broncos fans have noticed for years and it's time to look at why.
According to NFL Media Historian Elliot Harrison, Dan Fouts is the greatest Charger to ever play for the San Diego franchise. To get that designation, he had to be good. His career was a long one, playing exclusively for San Diego from 1973 to 1987. His career highlights include selection to the Pro Bowl 6 times, selection as a First-Team All-Pro twice, selection as a Second-Team All-Pro twice, and he was the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 1982. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and his jersey is retired in San Diego. Despite all these accolades, Fouts made it to the playoffs only four times in his career, losing the AFC Championship game twice.
So why does Dan Fouts hate the Denver Broncos?
Despite holding many single season passing records during his hall of fame career, Fouts was unable to beat the Denver Broncos with any consistency. Denver's 20-10 record against the San Diego legends' team is pretty remarkable.
The Denver Broncos, as a franchise, didn't have a winning record until 1973. From that year through to 1975, the Chargers only beat the Broncos once. In the Orange Crush years of 1976 to 1977, the Chargers were held to just 25 total points, being entirely shut out by Denver in the 1976 season. In 1978, San Diego hired 'Air' Don Coryell as head coach and Dan Fouts suddenly got a lot better because the Chargers would throw the ball more and run less under his leadership. In 1978 and 1979, the Broncos and Chargers would trade wins.
The Chargers lost the AFC Championship in the back-to-back years of 1980 and 1981. In those years, the Broncos split with them again. The strike-shortened 1982 season yielded a 2-7 record for the Broncos and is the only season of Fouts' career that his Chargers were able to sweep the Denver Broncos.
Enter John Elway
In 1983 the Indianapolis Colts were looking to trade John Elway before, during, and after the draft. As I stated in my article about why Boomer Esiason hates the Denver Broncos, Elway had a stigma about him, in part, because he claimed he wanted to play in warm weather. At the time, Fouts was in stalled negotiations for a contract extension with San Diego.
In ESPN's 30-for-30 Elway to Marino, San Diego went on record with Elway's agent, Marvin Demoff, that they wanted to bring John to their warm weather climes. It looked entirely possible when, well before draft day, San Diego acquired the 5th overall pick in the 1983 draft from San Francisco. Fouts had just been the league MVP, had been to two AFC Championships, and was looking to get paid. After the trade with San Francisco, it looked like the Chargers might just get Elway and send Fouts packing. Were it not for John Elway's desire to not play for the Colts, Fouts' negotiating position with San Diego would have been much stronger. In fact, in the documentary, Demoff notes that the Chargers likely used Elway as a leverage for their negotiations to get Fouts to take the deal he ultimately took. Ouch.
When John Elway joined the Denver Broncos, the Chargers fortunes against Denver didn't get any better. In the ten games that their careers overlapped, the Chargers won just three times.
To understand the impact of Elway on Fouts, you have to look at their careers. Fouts, from 1973 until the arrival of Don Coryell, didn't enjoy a single winning season. In 1980 and 1981, Fouts got close to a Super Bowl, but came up painfully short in two consecutive years. Then, Dan Fouts languished with the Chargers never making the playoffs again.
John Elway, on the other hand, won two AFC Championships and appeared in eight playoff games during the time their careers overlapped. It had to chap Fouts that Elway's success was immediate and seemed to come so easily. What worse, it had to look to Fouts like Elway squandered that success by getting torched in those two Super Bowls. He had to feel like he could have done better than Elway did.
Frankly, if a team owned you throughout your career and then was awarded a golden boy that threatened your job and interfered with your contract negotiations, you'd be pretty pissed off too. So the next time you hear Dan Fouts poo-pooing a Broncos touchdown or player during a broadcast, remember that's all he has against Denver. His actions on the field against the Broncos fell short, so his words have to take up the slack.
...and that's why Dan Fouts hates the Denver Broncos.