January 17, 1970
Rich Jackson, Dave Costa, Floyd Little, Mike Current and George Goeddeke play in All-Star Game on West team
As the Broncos’ second decade began, Lou Saban had not exhausted the reservoir of credibility and fan goodwill he carried with him from Buffalo via a one-year stop at Maryland.
Floyd Little was everything the Broncos had hoped he would be; had he not suffered a late-season knee injury, he would have likely led pro football in rushing yardage, and his 5.0-yards-per-carry average made him the most potent ground threat who had ever played for Denver.
Each of Saban’s first three seasons had seen incremental improvement, from 3-11 in 1967 to 5-9 in 1968 and 5-8-1 a year later. Even the uniforms had changed; the iconic “D” with a horse was introduced in 1968, and would have a longer reign than any Broncos logo to date.
But the AFL-NFL merger created new divisions, and thrust the Broncos into treacherous waters. Denver’s placement in the AFC West meant that the road to the playoffs went through defending world champion Kansas City and perennially powerful Oakland.
It was not a road the Broncos could successfully navigate, as they finished a disappointing 5-8-1 to open the 1970s. Pete Liske, Al Pastrana and Tensi all started at quarterback, but none could establish himself as a long-term solution. Little racked up a then-career-high 1,062 yards from scrimmage before his knee injury and Jackson notched 10 sacks.
But after a 4-1 start, the Broncos lost seven of their last nine games to finish 5-8-1 and crank up the heat on Saban, who had yet to get the team over the hump.