With the obvious fact that Super Bowl XLV pits two legendary franchises with already illustrious championship game histories, let’s take a moment to note that the Denver Broncos also have a storied Super Bowl history.
While it has not been added to in recent years, I was reflecting the other day on my 34 years with the Broncos and on my years as a season ticket holder preceding employment.
Any fan who has been following the Broncos since that first playoff game in 1977 (and many newer fans likely do not even realize that in the first year the Broncos made the playoffs, they also advanced to the Super Bowl) we have seen it all.
This does not mean we do not care if we see it again-quite the opposite, in fact. But Broncos fans have watched their team win, and lose, the Super Bowl as a favorite, as an underdog, as the home team, and as the road team.
The only thing we have not done in the game is produce a tie, which is impossible!
In Super Bowl XII in New Orleans, the Broncos were the home team, wearing their orange, big underdogs to the Dallas Cowboys, and Broncomania had the skids put on it momentarily when Dallas thumped a Denver team that was not as good, but which also was victimized by turnovers all day long. Dallas, 27-10
In Super Bowl XXI Denver was again an underdog, this time to the New York Giants at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Broncos were the road team wearing white, and took an early lead. Things really looked good when the Broncos had a first and goal at the Giants’ one, but Denver could not get the touchdown and then Rich Karlis set a Super Bowl record-a bad one-twice in the same quarter. He missed the shortest field goal attempt in Super Bowl history at the end of that fourth and goal, and then, still in the second quarter, beat his own record with a shorter miss!
Then the Giants scored a safety just before the half, and momentum was switching. The league wanted to play a song symbolic of each region at halftime, and the Broncos really got the short end of the stick on that event. John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” was played as the teams headed into the locker room, and then, as both teams came back onto the Rose Bowl field for the second half, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” was played and the Giants fans in attendance went crazy. The second half was all New York. New York, 39-20.
The following year we went back, this time Denver as a four-point favorite, the “home” team playing the Washington Redskins in San Diego.
Denver scored quickly and had a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
I remember vividly that Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard happened to sidle up to me as the second quarter began and noted, “Boy, you guys are kicking our butts.”
As in on cue, the Redskins woke up behind Doug Williams. Washington had the lowest scoring offense ever to get to the Super Bowl, so naturally (?) the Broncos just could not stop them, and Washington went on to rout the Broncos with 35 unanswered points in the second period. The 35 points came without benefit of a turnover or a big kick return-just one of those crazy quarters you cannot explain. Redskins, 42-10 final.
Still, the Broncos were the only AFC team to make consecutive Super Bowls in the 1980′s.
Denver was back again in 1989, this time in New Orleans once again, and this one was really no contest, as San Francisco was way too much for Denver in a crushing 55-10 contest.
But the Broncos had made the Super Bowl three times n four years, a tremendous accomplishment which remains underrated in its own right.
Much like the Buffalo Bills going four times in a row-does anyone really have any idea how hard that is to do, with the sting of heartbreak still so vivid, repeating another championship year?
It all turned for Denver, as everybody knows, with one of the greatest teams in the history of pro football. The Broncos, as everyone knows, won back-to-back world titles in 1997 and 1998.
In the 1997 game Denver was the biggest Super Bowl underdog to win the championship since the Joe Namath-led New York Jets in Super Bowl III. Denver was a betting underdog by 13 (or more) points to Green Bay, but that was a superlative Broncos team that knew just how good it was.
I can still remember Mike Shanahan’s pregame speech as he sent the Broncos out to win Super Bowl XXXII. He just looked around the room at a team that was very confident in what it was about to do, and he said, “Okay, let’s go show the world what this team is about.”
On that day, Green Bay had no idea what was coming its way. Local San Diego hero Terrell Davis ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns on his way to the most valuable player trophy in his hometown-a true storybook ending to a fantastic season. Denver became the first AFC team to win the game in 14 years. Broncos 31-24 as an underdog, but home team wearing home jerseys in a very familiar “home” stadium, the AFC West friendly San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.
The following year everyone knew the Broncos were the best team in football so there were no surprises.
The Broncos went a calendar year-that’s right, a year-between defeats from late 1997 until December 1998-and they were installed as a big favorite as the visiting team, over Atlanta in Miami’s Pro Player Stadium.
It was a thumping by the Broncos, 34-19.
Denver became just the sixth franchise in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls and, including the Broncos’ 13-3 record in their ill-fated 1996 campaign could boast the best three-year record in pro football history.
A great accomplishment for any franchise.
This time John Elway was the Super Bowl MVP, and I vividly remember saying to him as we headed for the podium after the game, “I’ve been waiting 16 years to say this to you, John, but after you celebrate tonight, you have an 8:30 press conference tomorrow to talk to the press, with the commissioner, and pick out your car.”
John, who by then had the ownership of approximately 17 car dealerships in the metro Denver area, threw back his head and could not help but laugh playfully at the thought that he was going to get a free car.
Those were some great days and great memories.
The memories are a part of Broncos Country forever, but part of forever is the future, and the future goal is unchanged.
There is a rekindled spirit within our franchise, and the past presages the future.
Tags: Super Bowl XLV