Stars emerge as the Sixties depart

As the 1960s ended, Lou Saban’s Broncos were finally inching forward.

In 1969, they defeated Joe Namath and the defending Super Bowl champion Jets at home in Week 2, and stood at 4-4 in early November before losing four of their next five games. Tickets were moving at a brisk pace. The AFL was legitimizing itself with back-to-back Super Bowl wins, and as the Broncos moved to the massive, 26-team NFL, the leagues had achieved parity — and Denver had big-league status.

But after fighting to establish and save the franchise in the first decade, the Broncos and their fans would want much more in the years to come — starting with that first winning season.

It wouldn’t happen in 1969.

After defeating the Chargers 13-0 for the first home shutout in team history, the Broncos went on an 0-4-1 skid before a season-ending win over Cincinnati salvaged a 5-8-1 finish.

Although the Broncos didn’t emerge in 1969, Floyd Little did. He earned first-team All-AFL honors despite missing five games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 105.2 yards from scrimmage per game. Wide receiver Al Denson also racked up 10 touchdowns, while Rich “Tombstone” Jackson accumulated 12.5 sacks.

With Jackson, Little, rookie defensive back Bill Thompson and defensive lineman Pete Costa, the Broncos had some talented pieces. But it would still be a while before they came together as a whole.

1969 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/14 Boston Patriots 35-7
9/21 New York Jets 21-19
9/28 at Buffalo Bills 28-41
10/5 Kansas City Chiefs 13-26
10/12 Oakland Raiders 14-24
10/19 at Cincinnati Bengals 30-23
10/26 at Houston Oilers 21-24
11/2 San Diego Chargers 13-0
11/9 at Oakland Raiders 10-41
11/16 Houston Oilers 20-20
11/23 at San Diego Chargers 24-45
11/27 at Kansas City Chiefs 17-31
12/7 at Miami Dolphins 24-27
12/14 Cincinnati Bengals 27-16

1969 offense

Pos Player Starts
WR Al Denson 13
LT Sam Brunelli 14
LG George Goeddeke 14
C Larry Kaminski 14
RG Bob Young 14
RT Mike Current 14
TE Tom Beer 8
TE Dave Pivec 5
TE Tom Buckman 1
WR Mike Haffner 9
WR John Embree 5
QB Steve Tensi 12
QB Peter Liske 2
RB Floyd Little 9
RB Frank Quayle 1
RB Tom Smiley 10
RB Fran Lynch 7
RB/WR/KR Wandy Williams 2
K Bobby Howfield 0

1969 defense

Pos Player Starts
LDE Rich Jackson 14
LDT Rex Mirich 2
LDT Jerry Inman 11
LDT Paul Smith 1
RDT Dave Costa 14
RDE Pete Duranko 14
LLB Carl Cunningham 14
MLB John Huard 14
RLB Frank Richter 6
RLB Chip Myrtle 8
LCB Grady Cavness 14
RCB/PR Bill Thompson 14
SS Charlie Greer 9
FS Tom Oberg 7
FS George Burrell 7
P/SS Gus Hollmon 5

Record: 5-8-1
Fourth place, AFL West