The Broncos moved to new suburban executive offices with an adjacent practice field and locker room facilities.
FINALLY ON THE FOOTBALL MAP
Survival had been the focus of the Broncos’ first seven seasons. Trying to build a contender would be the goal of the seasons that followed.
The Broncos didn’t have to worry about stability any longer. Thanks to fans and local businesses, who raised millions of dollars, Bears Stadium was to be renovated and enlarged, eventually taking on its famed name of Denver Mile High Stadium. Lou Saban was the new head coach and general manager, and a new facility in Adams County was under construction.
Just as important, the merger created a common AFL-NFL draft. No longer would the Broncos use first-round picks on players they were unlikely to sign because of their limited budget; this time, they could draft a player and expect to keep him.
But the Broncos’ call was not the one Floyd Little expected.
“The only way I got to Denver was because of our sports information director at Syracuse, Val Pinchbeck. Lou Saban had decided to draft Gene Upshaw and then he asked Val what kind of guy Floyd Little is. Val told him that I was a good guy, but said he knew the Broncos were going to draft Upshaw. Saban said, ‘Well, we are going to draft Floyd Little.’ That is how I got to Denver.”
At first, Little wasn’t happy. But then he visited Denver.
“Then I came to visit in April sometime and the weather was absolutely gorgeous and I fell in love with Denver. Growing up on the East Coast I never really knew where Denver was other than the history and the (covered) wagons were traveling through on the way to the gold rush,” he said. “But I didn’t know where Denver was. I wasn’t happy when I was drafted by Denver, but I was happy that I was (drafted) and it turned out very well.”
Little became a Hall of Famer, and Saban increased the professionalism and discipline on the roster. But the work didn’t bear any fruit in 1967, when Saban pinned his hopes on youth. Thirteen of the Broncos’ 22 starters early in the season were rookies or second-year players, including Little, and at one point in the season, 32 of 40 players on the roster were rookies or second-year players. There was so much roster shuffling that at times, the new headquarters resembled the bustling hub terminal at Denver’s Stapleton Airport.
“Your main goal is to instill the winning habit as soon as possible,” Saban proclaimed. “Bronco fans have been patient, but patience is a bad word.”
But it would be required. The 1967 Broncos finished 3-11, including six losses by 14 or more points. The high point of the season actually came in the preseason, when the Broncos became the first AFL team to beat an NFL squad, taking out the Detroit Lions.