Way back in 1981, the orange and blue were quarterbacked by the valiant Craig Morton and led by the Orange Crush. Morton finished the year with two fourth quarterback comebacks and threw 21 touchdowns to 14 interceptions as the team went 10-6 and lost out on the playoffs because of their 7-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills in week eight. Had those Broncos played under the current 7-seed format, they would have made the dance as the sixth seed and traveled to San Diego to play the Chargers. Denver dominated their AFC West foe 42-24 in week four before falling 34-17 in week 13, a game where Morton got behind early and took a ton of hits on his way to a 344 yards, a touchdown, and three picks.
Those Broncos were snubbed from Hawaii as they missed the dance for the second consecutive year. The bottom fell out on them the following year, which lead to the trade for John Elway. Who has gone on to help the Broncos appear in seven Super Bowls, a perfect number for a legendary figure. Since the No Fly Zone carried Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl in 2015 the Duke’s become Ozymandias, with a roster bereft of talent that ever saw the postseason under his leadership. With Von Miller in Los Angeles, Brandon McManus is the only player who has firsthand experience of the last postseason run. Worst yet, if the Broncos can’t find a way to beat every other team in the AFC West to close the regular season they’ll miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. It’s the longest stretch since Gerald Ford in the White House.
That 1976 roster was quarterbacked by Steve Ramsey, who completed 47.4% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. They finished 9-5 thanks to the efforts of Otis Armstrong and a defense that held opponents to 14.7 points per game and would have made it as a sixth seed under today’s playoff rules. This would have given the Broncos a chance at the Pittsburgh Steelers during the apex of the Steel Curtain.
At 7-7, this Broncos team needs a three game sweep to finish the campaign with a winning record and have any realistic shot at the postseason. Should things go awry, this year’s roster would earn the dubious feat of being bad enough to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season when there are seven spots in the AFC playoff bracket and so irrelevant that no player made the initial Pro Bowl roster for the first time in 40 years. Should that occur, they’ll go down in NFL history for being equal parts bad and boring.