Until 1983, the Broncos’ best quarterbacks were hand-me-downs—from the CFL (Frank Tripucka), Houston Oilers (Charley Johnson), and the New York Giants (Craig Morton).
John Elway was different: a freshly-minted athletic wonder who was considered the best quarterback prospect in a generation. And he spent 16 years living up to even the loftiest of expectations — and in turn forever increasing the expectations Broncos fans have of their favorite team.
The Broncos were — and are — Colorado’s passionate sports love. But never has Denver loved a player more than Elway, who would justify that love for 16 brilliant seasons.
The Broncos had just two losing seasons with Elway under center, went to the postseason 10 times, won the AFC five times and finally, gloriously, won back-to-back Super Bowls in Elway’s final two seasons as a player.
John Ralston’s drafts had made the Broncos into winners. The Orange Crush, Red Miller, Joe Collier and Craig Morton made them championship contenders. But it was Elway and his teammates who made the Broncos champions and turned the Broncos from a regional obsession into a team with a massive national following that has only continued to grow through the 21st century.