Back to the postseason

Wade Phillips first joined the Broncos in 1989 with two daunting tasks: rebuild a declining defense, and successfully replace the best assistant coach the Broncos had ever known, long-time defensive coordinator Joe Collier.

Phillips was worthy. With the drafting of Steve Atwater revitalizing the defense, the unit finished in the league’s top five two of Phillips’ first three years on the job. After rumblings of interest in bringing back Mike Shanahan, owner Pat Bowlen promoted Phillips to replace Dan Reeves, and there was merit to the choice; his personality brought some changes to the atmosphere.

“Is it different?” asked Elway during the 1993 training camp. “Well, for one thing, it wasn’t much of a day at camp (in 1992) if there weren’t at least five or six fights. There’s not all that tension out there this year, the fear for jobs. There’s none of that intimidation.”

Phillips hired Jim Fassel as offensive coordinator and opened up an often-conservative attack; Elway responded with the best statistical season of his career to that point.

The alterations on the sideline re-energized No. 7; he seemed looser and more relaxed, and the offense allowed him to use his howitzer right arm more than ever before.

But after a 9-5 start to the 1993 season, fortunes began to turn against Phillips. On Dec. 26, the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers strolled into Mile High Stadium on a Florida-like, 57-degree day and stunned the Broncos, 17-10.

A week later, the Raiders came from behind for a 33-30 win that forced the wild-card rematch one week later to be played in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The second leg of the two-week series wasn’t close; the Broncos fell, 42-24 to end their season in the wild-card round.

The Broncos wouldn’t play in another playoff game for nearly three years.

1993 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/5 at new york jets 26-20
9/12 san diego chargers 34-17
9/20 at kansas city chiefs 7-15
10/3 indianapolis colts 35-13
10/10 at green bay packers 27-30
10/18 los angeles raiders 20-23
10/31 seattle seahawks 28-17
11/7 at cleveland browns 29-14
11/14 minnesota vikings 23-26
11/21 pittsburgh steelers 37-13
11/28 at seattle seahawks 17-9
12/5 at san diego chargers 10-13
12/12 kansas city chiefs 27-21
12/18 at chicago bears 13-3
12/26 tampa bay buccaneers 10-17
1/2 at los angeles raiders (OT) 30-33
1/9 at los angeles raiders (afc wildcard game) 24-42

1993 offense

Pos Player Starts
qb john elway 16
rb rod bernstein 14
rb robert delpino 5
rb glyn milburn 1
rb reggie rivers 2
wr vance johnson 8
wr arthur marshall 9
wr derek russell 12
wr cedric tillman 3
te jerry evans 2
te reggie johnson 12
te shannon sharpe 12
c keith kartz 11
t russell freeman 14
t don maggs 2
t gary zimmerman 16
g brian habib 16
g jon melander 6
g/c dave widell 15

Oct. 3, 1993: CB Louis Wright is inducted into the Ring of Fame at halftime of a game against Indianapolis.

1993 defense

Pos Player Starts
de shane dronett 16
de willie oshodin 5
de dan williams 11
nt darren drozdov 2
nt greg kragan 14
lb mike croel 16
lb simon fletcher 16
lb karl mecklenburg 16
lb dave wyman 16
cb ronnie bradford 3
cb tyrone braxton 16
cb charles dimry 11
cb frank robinson 2
s steve atwater 16
s darryl hall 2
s dennis smith 14

Feb. 6, 1994: The Broncos are represented in Pro Bowl game by John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Atwater and Dennis Smith.

Record: 9-7

third place, AFC West