By 1976, the Broncos were maturing. A series of productive drafts brought together the pieces of what would become one of the most famed defenses in league history:
The Orange Crush.
Although there were stars like Louis Wright, Tom Jackson, Randy Gradishar and Billy Thompson, all of whom are in the Ring of Fame, the unit was always greater than the sum of its parts. Its improvement was incremental until defensive coordinator Joe Collier changed the base formation from the 4-3 to the 3-4 during the 1976 season.
What had been a good defense turned into a power that was both irresistible force and immovable object.
With Craig Morton and new head coach Robert “Red” Miller arriving in 1977, the Broncos would taste elite success for the first time in their history, and in doing so lay the groundwork for Broncos teams in the decades that followed. The Orange Crush was the Broncos’ first championship team, and the first to set the lofty standards that linger decades later.