One of the more interesting things to look at is a time line looking at the primary starting quarterbacks an NFL team has had. By looking back at a team’s history of quarterbacks we are reminded of some of the great and not-so-great quarterbacks that have played in the NFL. Here is a look at the starting quarterbacks of the Denver Broncos through the team’s history.
The Denver Broncos came into existence and their first decade in pro football was less than stellar. During the ten seasons from 1960 through 1969, the Broncos only had one season where they finished with a record of .500 or better. That season was 1962 and their record was 7-7. Part of the reason for these early struggles were the instability at the head coach and quarterback positions. The team went through five different head coaches in their first decade and seven different primary starting quarterbacks. The first quarterback in Broncos history was Frank Tripucka. Tripucka is an interesting story as although he was the Broncos quarterback, he already had pro football head coaching experience as he had held that position while with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before coming to Denver. After Tripucka came Mickey Slaughter, Jacky Lee, John McCormick, Max Choboian, Steve Tensi, and Marlin Briscoe as primary starting quarterbacks before the 1960s ended.
The new decade started with a new quarterback at the helm of the Broncos offense, that man was Pete Liske. Liske would not go down in history with the Broncos fans as that year would be his last with the team. They would however go 5-4 with Liske as the starter. Steve Ramsey would then become the leading passer for the Broncos during the 1971 and 1972 seasons before being demoted to the second string when Charley Johnson became the starter. Ramsey would return as the starting quarterback for the 1975 and 1976 seasons before turning the reins over to Craig Morton who would lead the Broncos to the first real success the team had ever experienced, immediately making the playoffs and then an appearance in the Super Bowl following his first season with the team. Morton would stay as the starting quarterback throughout the rest of the decade.
The 1980s started out right where the 1970s had ended at the quarterback position for the Denver Broncos with Craig Morton leading the way during the first two seasons of the new decade. The next season the offense was turned over to a young Steve DeBerg who led the team to a disappointing 2-7 record during the strike shortened 1982 NFL year. In 1983, the groundwork for great seasons to come was laid when the Broncos traded for rookie quarterback John Elway who had been drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Elway would payoff almost immediately for the Broncos leading them to Super Bowl appearances following the 1986, 1987, and 1989 seasons. Unfortunately, the Broncos would lose all three of those appearances.
With a future hall of famer like John Elway leading their offense, the 1990s also saw few changes at the starting quarterback position. Elway would lead the team through the 1998 season when he would retire. Before he did though, he would spur them on to Super Victories following the 1997 and 1998 seasons. The last year of the decade, 1999, would see the team’s offense turned over to the highly rated son of another member of pro football’s hall of fame, Brian Griese.
The new century would see Griese show promise at times as well as struggle at other times. Griese would stay as the Broncos’s primary starting quarterback for four seasons before the team went in a different direction by signing highly touted free agent quarterback Jake Plummer. Plummer had experienced moderate team success and great personal success as the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals and made an immediate impact on the Broncos returning them to the playoffs during the 2003, 2004, and 2005 seasons. During the 2006 season the team would turn its offense over to rooke Jay Cutler who would stay in that position late into the decade. Cutler showed a lot of promise, but after a couple of seasons was traded to the Bears in a package that brought back Kyle Orton. Orton spent two seasons as the quarterback of the Broncos. 2011 would see a big splash made when Tim Tebow took over as the team’s quarterback. The biggest splash of all though would come the next season in 2012. As Tebow continued his NFL career with the New York Jets, the Broncos would turn their team’s fortunes over to former Colts quarterback, and future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning. Two years later, the Broncos would appear in Super Bowl XLVIII, losing to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Broncos, like most NFL teams, have experienced their greatest success when they have gone through periods of stability at the head coach and quarterback positions. The team has had roughly the same amount of primary starting quarterbacks in the last thirty seasons as they had in their first ten seasons.