The history of the Denver Broncos American football club began when the team was chartered a member of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960. The Broncos have played in the city of Denver, Colorado throughout their nearly 50 year history. The Broncos did not win any championships as members of the AFL. Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Broncos have won ten division titles, and played in six Super Bowls, following the 1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 1998 seasons. They won Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII. Their most famous player is former quarterback John Elway, starting quarterback in five Super Bowls and holder of many NFL records. The Broncos currently play in the National Football League’s American Football Conference West Division (AFC West). Their current leadership includes owner Pat Bowlen, head coach John Fox, and quarterback Tim Tebow.
For much of their first three decades, excluding teams in Texas, they were the only major pro football team between Kansas City and California (and the only team in the Interior West). This distinction ended in 1988, when the Cardinals moved from St. Louis to the Phoenix area. The Broncos remain the only current AFC West (formerly AFL West) team to never relocate or change its nickname.
The Denver Broncos were founded on August 14, 1959, when minor league baseball owner Bob Howsam was awarded an American Football League charter franchise. Howsam had originally wanted to bring an expansion NFL franchise to Denver, but were denied a team by NFL owners under the leadership of Chicago Bears owner George Halas. The snub led Howsam and four others to start up a rival to the NFL which would begin play the following year. The Broncos received their nickname through a fan contest held in 1960.
The AFL years
Denver had the worst record of any original AFL team, with a record of 39–97–4 in the league. They were the only original AFL team never to have played in the title game during the upstart league's 10-year history. Despite their lack of early success, the Broncos produced some memorable games, such as the 38–38 tie against the Buffalo Bills in 1960. They were the first AFL team ever to defeat an NFL team, on August 5, 1967 when they beat the Detroit Lions 13–7 in a preseason game. The Broncos were also the first American professional football team to have an African-American placekicker, Gene Mingo, the first to have a receiver with 100 receptions in a season, Lionel Taylor, and the first starting African-American quarterback of the modern era, Marlin Briscoe.
The Filchock era
The Broncos began play in 1960, the AFL’s inaugural season, at Bears Stadium (later Mile High Stadium), longtime home of the Denver Bears. Their head coach was Frank Filchock, who choose Frank Tripucka as the Broncos' first starting quarterback. The Broncos won their first game, also the first AFL game, 13–10 over the Boston Patriots. However, the Broncos would end the season with a 4–9–1 record. After the season, Howsam, looking to sell his holdings in the Broncos, nearly made a deal with a San Antonio syndicate, but eventually a group led by Calvin Kunz purchased Howsam’s shares. At this point, Gerald Phipps became the Broncos largest stockholder.
The Faulkner era
Following a 3–11 campaign in 1961, the Broncos replaced Filchock with Jack Faulkner, who ritualistically burned the Broncos vertically-striped socks prior to the new season. Faulkner led them to a 7–7 record in 1962, their best record in the AFL. This .500 season was not, however, a prelude to success, as the Broncos would lose at least 10 games each of the next five years, during which they were led by four different coaches and over half a dozen starting quarterbacks.
The Speedie/Malavasi era
Mac Speedie replaced Faulkner five games into the 1964 season, breaking an eleven game losing streak by beating Kansas City 37-33. However, the Broncos would only win one more game in 1964, ending the season with a 2–11–1 record. The team improved only marginally in 1965, finishing with a 4-10 record. In the first game of the 1966 season, a 45–7 loss to Houston, the Broncos failed to record a first down and finished with only 26 yards of total offense, including −7 yards passing. After the 2nd game, Speedie resigned and was replaced by interim head coach Ray Malavasi, under whom the Broncos finished the season 4–10.
Denver came close to losing the Broncos in 1965, when a group of minority partners joined together with the intent to sell the team to interests based in Atlanta. However, a different pair of owners, Alan and Gerald Phipps, bought the team (along with Bears Stadium) and kept them in Denver. In the aftermath of the near loss of what was Denver's only professional sports team at the time, season ticket sales nearly tripled the following year.
The Saban era begins
In 1967, the Broncos hired Lou Saban, coach of the two-time defending AFL champion Buffalo Bills, as head coach. Saban's first order of business was to generate interest in the team to keep them in Denver. Playing at antiquated Bears Stadium, the Broncos needed to expand the stadium to 50,000 in order to meet the NFL's requirements for the merger. This required raising funds from businesses and the people of Denver. If unable to raise the necessary funds, the team was threatening to move to Chicago or Birmingham.
Saban decided to use his #1 pick for an impact player. With the 6th pick, he chose Syracuse All-America Floyd Little, the first 3-time All-America since Doak Walker. With the Broncos' past #1 picks, such as Dick Butkus and Merlin Olsen, fleeing to the NFL, Little became the first #1 pick to sign with the team. His signing created a landslide of enthusiasm for the Broncos. Little and other Broncos went door-to-door to elicit funds for the stadium, and he even rode buses to Wyoming, Nebraska and other nearby states to bring in money. In doing so, Little became known as "The Franchise" for his tireless efforts to keep the team in Denver.
Little proved to be every ounce as valuable on the field for the Broncos as well. Saban kept 26 rookies his first season including Little, along with numerous 2nd and 3rd year players. Little was the only bright spot in a dismal 3–11 season. He led the AFL and NFL in punt returns with a blistering 17-yard average. He also led the league in combined yards (rushing, receiving and returns). In 1968, he led the league again in combined yards and became the only player in either league to return a punt for a touchdown in both seasons.
In 1969, Little was clearly the best back in both the AFL or NFL. After just six games, he was more than 300 yards ahead of all running backs, piling up 700 yards when he tore up his knee and missed most of the season. He was named All-AFL for his efforts. In 1970, despite playing with a broken bone in his back and having a record 5 different starting quarterbacks, Little led the AFC in rushing.
In 1971, Little did it again. He not only lead the AFC in rushing, but also out-rushed any NFL player with 1,133 yards. However, even with Little's superb prowess and the likes of defensive end Rich Jackson creating havoc on defense, Saban could not bring the Broncos success. He finished in last place in the division in all 5 years of his tenure.
The Saban/Smith/Ralston era
In 1970, the Broncos began a home sell-out streak (not including games using replacement players) which has lasted to the present. During their first season as part of the NFL, the Broncos finished 5–8–1 and 4–9–1 in 1971. The team then went 5–9 in 1972, but continued to sell games out. In 1973, John Ralston coached the now-mature Broncos to a 7–5–2 record, the franchise's first winning season, including a dramatic tie with Oakland in Denver's first-ever Monday Night Football appearance that is still remembered as a pivotal game in Broncos history. During this game, announcer Don Meredith famously told the audience: "Welcome to the Mile High City and I really am!" The second game of the 1974 season was a 35–35 tie with the Steelers, the first tie to take place under the NFL's new overtime rules. The year ended at 7–6–1, for another winning record. In 1975, the Broncos dropped to 6–8, the final season for running back Floyd Little. Otis Armstrong took his place, and despite finishing 9–5 in 1976, the playoffs still eluded them.
Broncomania and the first Super Bowl appearance
Rookie coach Red Miller, along with the Orange Crush Defense (a nickname originating in the early '70s) and aging quarterback Craig Morton, led the Broncos to a miracle season in 1977. The team won the division with a 12–2 record, beating an injury-rattled Steelers team 34–21. In the conference championship, they faced their division rival and defending Super Bowl champion Raiders, winning a close game 20–17 and sending them to Super Bowl XII. Facing the Dallas Cowboys in the New Orleans Superdome, the Broncos played sloppily the entire game, turning the ball over eight times. They were ultimately crushed 27–10 by the Cowboys. Despite this disappointing loss to Dallas, their amazing season catapulted the franchise out of the basement and they since have enjoyed thirty years of consistency that few other teams have matched. The successful season also brought the phenomena of “Broncomania” to a fever pitch, with the team the talk of the town, selling 65,000 Super Bowl t-shirts in 48 hours. Earlier that year, superfan Tim McKernan, better known simply as The Barrel Man, began wearing only an orange-colored aluminum barrel, boots and a cowboy hat to games, a ritual he would repeat for thirty years. The 1978 season saw the Broncos finish 10–6 (the season having been extended to 16 games) and win the division again, but they were routed out of the playoffs by the Steelers in a 33–10 loss. Another 10–6 season and a playoff appearance followed in 1979, but three division losses reduced the Broncos to a wild card team. They lost to the Houston Oilers 13–7 in the Astrodome.
The Elway years
Quarterback John Elway arrived in 1983. Originally drafted by the Baltimore Colts as the first pick of the draft, Elway proclaimed that he would shun football in favor of baseball (he was drafted by the New York Yankees to play center field) unless he was traded to one of a selected list of other teams, which included Denver. During the 23 seasons prior to Elway's arrival, Denver used over 24 different starting quarterbacks.
Under Elway and head coach Dan Reeves (hired in 1981), the Broncos would become one of the most dominant AFC teams of the 1980s, winning 3 AFC championships (1986, 1987, 1989), with Elway winning the NFL MVP Award in 1987. The first two Super Bowl appearances were preceded by storied victories over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Championship game, each acquiring its own nickname: The Drive in 1987, in which the Broncos drove 98 yards to score a late game-winning touchdown, and The Fumble in 1988, in which Brown Earnest Byner lost the ball, and a game-tying touchdown, late in the game. However, the Broncos lost all three Super Bowls during this period, all by at least three touchdowns. In fact, Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers was the most lopsided Super Bowl in NFL history.
During the 1980s, the Broncos played in at least two storied Monday Night Football games. On October 15, 1984, the Broncos played a famed game against the Green Bay Packers during a major blizzard. The following season, on November 11, 1985, the Broncos won a Monday Night Football home game when a fan threw a snowball onto the field during San Francisco 49ers kicker Ray Wersching field goal attempt. 49er holder Matt Cavanaugh picked up the ball and threw it incomplete, losing three decisive points in a 17–16 loss. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Elway’s strong receiving corps of Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson and Ricky Nattiel was nicknamed the “Three Amigos.” Early in the 1980s, the Broncos were the first NFL team to play the song "Rock and Roll, Pt. 2" (AKA "the Hey Song"), during games.
Reeves was fired following an 8–8 1992 campaign and replaced with Wade Phillips, a move often attributed to Reeves stormy relationship with Elway Following campaigns of 9–7 and 7–9 in 1993 and 1994 respectively, Phillips was fired and the Broncos named former Broncos quarterbacks coach Mike Shanahan Head Coach.
In 1995, the Broncos debuted a new Zone blocking scheme under Mike Shanahan and rookie running back Terrell Davis, who would quickly emerge as an All-Pro running back. The Broncos established a tradition in 1996 where the offensive linemen do not talk with the media as a form of bonding. This was evident during the player introductions for the starting lineup on nationally-televised prime time games as the linemen would not introduce themselves. How they were introduced has varied over the years as sometimes, another offensive player introduces them and during other times, the announcers introduce the offensive linemen. Due to a rule change within the NFL in 2007, this tradition came to an end. For the 2007 season each player is required to make themselves available for media interviews. On a Sunday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the linemen introduced themselves.
In 1996, Shanahan’s second season, the Broncos went 13–3 and appeared on their way to another Super Bowl appearance. However, they were defeated by the Jacksonville Jaguars in a stunning 30–27 wild-card round loss. In 1997, the Broncos went 12–4, securing a wild card spot in the playoffs. Following playoff wins over the Jaguars, Chiefs and Steelers, the Broncos faced the heavily-favored Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Davis would lead the Broncos to their first Super Bowl victory, 31–24. Although Elway completed only 12 of his 22 passing attempts, throwing one interception and no touchdowns, he executed what was perhaps the game’s best-known play, known as The Dive, when he boldly ran for a crucial first down while surviving strong hits from two safeties as he jumped through the air like a propeller. Terrell Davis was able to overcome a severe migraine headache that caused him blurred vision and rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns to earn Super Bowl MVP honors.
The following season, the Broncos began the year by winning their first thirteen games. The first loss of the season came at the hands of the New York Giants, as Kent Graham hit Amani Toomer late in the fourth quarter to steal a 20–16 victory. The loss took the wind from the sails of what would have been a highly anticipated Monday Night Football matchup on the road against the Miami Dolphins for two primary reasons. First, the Broncos would have a chance at reaching perfection against the only franchise to achieve such a goal. Second, Elway would have gone head-to-head against Dan Marino for only the second time, an oddity of scheduling since both quarterbacks were drafted the same year and both played in the same conference. Elway would play his worst game of the season in a 31–21 loss, and the Broncos would finish the season 14–2. Adding levity to an intense quest for a perfect season, one week normally gregarious tight end Shannon Sharpe refused to speak to the media, leading Shanahan to add to the injury report: "TE Shannon Sharpe (laryngitis) probable." Terrell Davis became the fourth back to rush for 2000 yards (he would finish with 2,008) during the regular season and won the NFL MVP award. In the playoffs, the Broncos defeated first the Miami Dolphins and then the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game to advance to Super Bowl XXXIII. Following the win against the Jets, Elway took one final lap around the field in what would be his final game at Mile High Stadium. Two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Denver defeated the Atlanta Falcons, led by former coach Dan Reeves, 34–19 to win Super Bowl XXXIII and defend their title. Elway, playing in his final NFL game, won the Super Bowl MVP award.
The post-Elway years
Since Elway's retirement following the 1998 season, Denver has had only three losing seasons (1999, 2007 and 2010) and has made the playoffs as a wild card three times (in 2000, 2003 and 2004), and as a division champion once (2005). However, they have won only one playoff game since Elway's retirement.
The Griese era
Brian Griese, son of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese, took over as quarterback upon Elway’s retirement. Griese led the team from 1999–2002, compiling a record of 34–30. Though the team made the playoffs in the 2000 season under Griese, he never took a snap in the postseason for the Broncos. A shoulder injury he suffered during a gutty Monday Night performance against the arch-rival Oakland Raiders (in what would be, ironically, the final Monday Night affair at Mile High Stadium), shelved him for most of the remainder of the season. Thus, Gus Frerotte started the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, a 21–3 defeat. The Broncos would finish with winning records under Griese but miss the playoffs in 2001 and 2002.
The Plummer era
Former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer replaced Griese as quarterback prior to the 2003 season. He would lead the team to a 49–26 record and a 1–3 playoff record from 2003 to 2006. Prior to the 2005 season, the Broncos were plagued by early season success followed by late season flops. In both 2003 and 2004 they started the season 5–1 and ended 10–6.
After losing the 2005 season opener, the Broncos won five straight games, defeating the San Diego Chargers, 20–17, the Kansas City Chiefs, 30–10, the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20–7, the Washington Redskins, 21–19, and the two-time defending champion New England Patriots, 28–20, on October 16. Denver lost the next game to the New York Giants on October 23 by a final score of 24–23, in the game's final minute. The following week, the Broncos routed the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, 49–21, on October 30. In that game, the Broncos became the first team in NFL history to have two players, Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell, rush for over 100 yards and another player, Jake Plummer, pass for over 300 yards in a single game. Denver then defeated the Oakland Raiders on November 13, 31–17. The next game, the Broncos shut out the New York Jets 27–0 in Denver on November 20. It was the Broncos' first shutout win since 1997 (when the team blanked the Carolina Panthers that season). Denver then went on to defeat the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, winning in overtime, 24–21, on a Jason Elam 24-yard game-winning field goal. One of the key plays prior to the field goal was a 55-yard run by Ron Dayne, who filled in for the injured Tatum Bell. Denver lost to the Chiefs in the next game, 31–27, on December 4, but won against the Baltimore Ravens the following week, 12–10. On December 17, the Broncos defeated the Buffalo Bills, 28–17. On Christmas Eve 2005, the Broncos clinched the AFC West division title, as they finished with a record 8–0 at INVESCO Field at Mile High by defeating the Oakland Raiders, 22–3. On December 31, 2005, the Broncos got season-win number 13 in a season-sweeping on the road against their division rivals, the Chargers, with a final score of 23–7.
The Broncos entered the playoffs for the third consecutive year with the momentum of a four-game winning streak. Denver finished the regular season with a record of 13–3, tying them with the Seattle Seahawks for second best overall record in the league, behind the 14–2 Indianapolis Colts. Denver was seeded number two in the AFC behind the Colts. On January 14, 2006, the Broncos defeated the two-time defending champion New England Patriots, 27–13, in the divisional round – denying the Patriots from becoming the first NFL team ever to win three consecutive Super Bowl championships. The last team with an opportunity of winning three consecutive Super Bowls before the Patriots were the Broncos themselves. The Broncos' playoff run came to an end after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship, 34–17, on January 22, 2006. Denver turned the ball over four times and were outscored in the first half, 24–3. The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL.
The Cutler era
The Broncos surprisingly drafted a quarterback, Jay Cutler, following the season in which Plummer nearly led them to the Super Bowl. Plummer’s erratic 2006 performance led to his benching in favor of Cutler 12 games into the season. Cutler would go on to lead the Broncos to a 2–3 record in the team's last five games. The Broncos finished the 2006 season tied for the last Wild Card spot with the Kansas City Chiefs, with a 9–7 record, but lost the tiebreaker due to the Chiefs owning the better AFC West record (4–2 to the Broncos 3–3).
The 2006 season marked longtime wide receiver Rod Smith's last season as a Bronco after 13 seasons. A hip injury that would later require two hip replacement surgeries effectively ended Smith's career prior to the 2007 season, and Smith officially retired in July 2008.
2007 marked Jay Cutler's first full season as the Broncos' starting quarterback. However, the team suffered through several injuries to key players, including Rod Smith, Tom Nalen, Ben Hamilton, Javon Walker, Jarvis Moss and Ebenezer Ekuban, and finished the season with a 7–9 record, the team's first losing season since 1999. Perhaps the most notable event was a Monday Night Football home loss to the Green Bay Packers, in which the team set a franchise record for tickets distributed for the game, with 77,160 tickets (76,645 fans attended the game). 2007 also marked longtime placekicker Jason Elam's last season in a Broncos uniform after 15 seasons. Elam played with the Atlanta Falcons from 2008–2009, before retiring as a Bronco in March 2010.
In 2008, Cutler passed for 4,526 yards, breaking Plummer's Broncos record for passing yardage in a single season. However, 2008 was the third consecutive year the Broncos failed to make the playoffs, this time in spite of holding a three game lead over the San Diego Chargers with three games left to play.
In 2008, the Broncos got off to a 4–1 start, which included a controversial home win against division rival San Diego Chargers, but struggled through a mediocre stretch in the middle of the season. After 13 games, the team was sitting in first place in the AFC West, with an 8–5 record, three games ahead of the Chargers, who were 5–8. However, in the next two weeks, the Broncos suffered back-to-back losses to the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills, while the Chargers won two straight. This set the stage for the 2008 season finale, when the Broncos and Chargers met at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium to decide the AFC West division title. The Broncos were blown out 52–21 by the Chargers, and would become the first team in NFL history to enter the final quarter of a regular season with a three-game lead and squander the division lead. The Broncos and Chargers finished the season tied at 8–8, but the Chargers won the AFC West based on a better division record (5–1 to the Broncos 3–3). The Broncos missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
On December 30, 2008, two days after the disastrous season-ending collapse in San Diego, Mike Shanahan, the longest-tenured and winningest head coach in Broncos' franchise history, was fired after 14 seasons. Two weeks later, on January 11, 2009, the Broncos hired former New England Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the team's new head coach. Three months later, following a turbulent transition from the Mike Shanahan era to Josh McDaniels, the team traded Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears for quarterback Kyle Orton.
The Orton era
With their new quarterback, Denver began 2009 well by winning the first six games. The first three wins included a rally at the Cincinnati Bengals, 12–7, as well as relatively easy wins vs. the Cleveland Browns, 27–6, and at the Oakland Raiders, 23–3. The next three wins came against a tougher stretch of opponents, vs. the Dallas Cowboys, 17–10, vs. the New England Patriots, 20–17 in overtime, and at the San Diego Chargers, 34–23. The Broncos' revamped defense played a huge role in each of the six wins.
But after the bye week, the team suddenly collapsed, losing four in a row. They managed to break their losing streak, with back-to-back routs of the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs. Those would be the Broncos' last wins, as they dropped their remaining four matches, including a one-point loss to the Oakland Raiders at home followed by a close 30–27 defeat at the Philadelphia Eagles. Denver's last hope of getting into the playoffs ended with a 44–24 home loss to Kansas City. Ending the season with an 8–8 team record, Kyle Orton had 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3,802 yards and a quarterback rating of 86.8.
While starting out with a 6–0 record, an ankle injury against the Washington Redskins and injuries to the offensive line caused Orton to struggle late in the season. Despite putting up 431 yards in the regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was two interceptions from Orton that brought the Broncos' season to a close and ended Denver's chance of a playoff appearance.
Notable offseason roster moves included the trades of fullback Peyton Hillis (to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (to the Miami Dolphins for draft picks) and tight end Tony Scheffler (three-team trade with the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles), as well as the draft selections of Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and All-American Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow was a heavily-hyped draft pick, partly because Denver traded three draft picks to select him.
On August 4, shortly after the start of training camp, the Broncos suffered a devastating blow to their defense, when outside linebacker/defensive end Elvis Dumervil suffered a torn pectoral muscle in practice. Though there was speculation that Dumervil would be able to return as early as November, he was placed on Injured Reserve on September 3, and will miss the entire 2010 season. Also on August 4, the Broncos added free-agent running back and Denver native LenDale White to their roster. However, on September 2, during the team's last preseason game (at the Minnesota Vikings), White suffered a torn Achilles tendon, and will miss the entire 2010 season. On September 4, wide receiver Brandon Stokley was placed on injured reserve, and later released.
The Broncos opened the 2010 season with a 24–17 loss at the Jacksonville Jaguars, in which the teams alternated scores, but the Broncos never led in the game. On September 14, two days after the loss to the Jaguars, the Broncos acquired running back Laurence Maroney in a trade from the New England Patriots (for a 2011 fourth-round selection). In Week 2, the Broncos cruised to a relatively easy 31–14 win against the Seattle Seahawks, in the team's home opener. On September 20, just a day after the win over the Seahawks, tragedy struck the Broncos organization, when wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead in his Centennial, Colorado home of an apparent suicide, at the age of 23. In Week 3, the Broncos lost 27–13 at home to the Indianapolis Colts. Kyle Orton threw for a career-high 476 yards, but the Broncos were plagued by red-zone miscues. In Week 4, the Broncos rallied for a 26–20 win at the Tennessee Titans. In Week 5, the Broncos lost 31–17 to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, a venue that has been none too kind to the Broncos. In Week 6, the Broncos suffered a heartbreaking 24–20 loss at home to the New York Jets, aided by a costly pass interference penalty on safety Renaldo Hill that enabled the Jets to rally for the win in the game's final two minutes. In Week 7, the Broncos were annihilated 59–14 at home by the Oakland Raiders for their worst loss since 1963. In Week 8, the Broncos lost 24–16 to the San Francisco 49ers. The game was played at Wembley Stadium in London, England, as part of the International Series.
Following the team's Week 9 bye, the Broncos cruised to a relatively easy 49–29 home win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 10. Kyle Orton had a career-high four touchdown passes and threw for 296 yards. His passer rating was 131.5 earning him the title of AFC offensive player of the week. In Week 11, the Broncos were no match for the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football, losing 35–14 at Qualcomm Stadium.
On November 27, 2010, just a day before the team's 36–33 home loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 12, the Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels were fined $50,000 each as a result of a videotaping scandal, during the team's aforementioned Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers in London. In Week 13, the Broncos fell 10–6 at the Kansas City Chiefs, clinching the team's third losing season since 1998 and removing them from playoff contention. Afterwards, Josh McDaniels was fired and running backs coach Eric Studesville took his place for the remainder of the season. McDaniels's tenure as head coach, which had gotten off to a good beginning with the team's 6-0 start to the 2009 season, ultimately turned into a total fiasco with a win/loss record of 11–17 before his firing, combined with the Raiders disaster, the expenditure of first-round draft picks on Tim Tebow (who could have been taken in the second or third round), the videotaping episode, and the trading away of key players such as Brandon Marshall. In Week 14, the Broncos were crushed 43–13 at the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 15, the Broncos lost 39–23 at the Oakland Raiders, in Tim Tebow's first career start. In Week 16, the Broncos rallied for a 24–23 win over the Houston Texans, on the strength of Tim Tebow throwing for 308 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for another touchdown. In Week 17, the Broncos fell 33–28 at home to the San Diego Chargers to finish 4-12.
Afterwards, John Elway returned to his old team as general manager. McDaniels' replacement as HC was (surprisingly enough), John Fox, who had been fired from Carolina after that team finished 2-14. After taking LB Von Miller from Texas A&M with the 2nd pick in the 2011 draft, the Broncos' off-season was marked by waffling over the fate of Kyle Orton. It was widely expected that he would be traded to Miami where he could be reunited with Brandon Marshall, but negotiations broke down and he remained a Bronco.
Tim Tebow was relegated to 3rd string QB behind Orton and Brady Quinn as the Broncos opened on MNF against their rival Raiders. There was no repeat of the 59-14 blowout, but an extraordinarily sloppy game ensued as both teams racked up penalties. In the third quarter, Orton threw an interception that the Raiders used to set up a 63-yard FG by Sebastian Janikowski (only the third in league history) and eventually win 23-20.
- The Broncos all-time regular season record (as of the conclusion of the 2009 season) including AFL games is 394–352–10.[dated info] Their record since joining the NFL in 1970 is 355–255–6.
- Their all-time playoff record is 17–15.[dated info]
- John Elway is the Broncos all-time leading passer, with 300 touchdowns and 51,475 yards passing.
- Terrell Davis is the Broncos all-time leading rusher, with 60 touchdowns and 7,607 yards rushing.
- Rod Smith is the Broncos all-time leading receiver, with 68 touchdowns, 11,389 yards receiving.
- Jason Elam is the Broncos all-time leading scorer, with 1,786 points. He also holds the record for games played as a Bronco, with 236.
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- Jones, Lindsay H. (April 16, 2010). "Broncos' Orton signs tender for 2010". Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_14899125.
- Caldwell, Gray (March 14, 2010). "Broncos Acquire Quinn". denverbroncos.com. http://www.denverbroncos.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/Broncos-Acquire-Quinn/cab5d44a-7892-11df-ba56-acc8e62813e9. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
- "Marshall Traded to Dolphins". denverbroncos.com. April 14, 2010. http://www.denverbroncos.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/Marshall-Traded-to-Dolphins/ca6cb4bd-7892-11df-ba56-acc8e62813e9. Retrieved April 14, 2010.
- Caldwell, Gray (April 20, 2010). "Scheffler Traded to Lions". denverbroncos.com. http://www.denverbroncos.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/Scheffler-Traded-to-Lions/ca5d2904-7892-11df-ba56-acc8e62813e9. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
- http://www.denverbroncos.com/page.php?id=334&storyID=10052 Broncos Pick Two in Primetime
- Legwold, Jeff (August 5, 2010). "Broncos' Dumervil could miss season with chest injury". denverpost.com. http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_15683159. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- http://www.milehighreport.com/2010/9/3/1668832/broncos-to-place-elvis-dumervil-on Broncos To Place Elvis Dumervil On Injured Reserve
- Hiatt, Gabe (September 4, 2010). "Regular Season Roster Announced". denverbroncos.com. http://www.denverbroncos.com/news-and-blogs/article-1/Regular-Season-Roster-Announced/ffb6eb77-2beb-41d4-aee0-757731294e14. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
- Klis, Mike (September 14, 2010). "http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_16073675". denverpost.com. http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_16073675. Retrieved September 14, 2010.
- Bunch, Joey (September 20, 2010). "Broncos WR Kenny McKinley found dead in apparent suicide". denverpost.com. http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_16127852. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
- Jones, Lindsay H. (April 1, 2010). "Elam back as Bronco to kick off retirement". Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/premium/broncos/ci_14797263.
- Broncos History on NFL Hall of Fame Site
- Broncos Uniform History
- Broncos AFL History
- Sportsecyclopedia Broncos 1960–present
- All-time regular season record
- CBS Broncos history page
- Pro Football Reference page
- Larry Gordan, “Barely Audible: A History of the Denver Broncos” (Graphic Impressions, 1975) ISBN 978-0914628019
- Woodrow “Woody” Paige, “Orange Madness: The Incredible Odyssey of the Denver Broncos” (Crowell, 1978) ISBN 978-0690017762
- Terry Frei, “'77: Denver, The Broncos, and a Coming of Age” (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2007) ISBN 978-1589792135
- Larry Zimmer, “Stadium Stories: Colorful Tales of the Blue and Orange“ (The Globe Pequot Press, 2004) ISBN 978-076227667
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