It has been a long-awaited return for the Denver Broncos who haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 1999, where they defeated the Atlanta Falcons by the final score of 34-19. We would find out that it would in fact be John Elway‘s last game in a Bronco uniform as the All-Pro quarterback was set to retire after two-straight Super Bowl victories. Here is a brief look at the Broncos quarterback history up until this date.
John Elway’s departure would set up the Brian Griese era in Denver. He would lead the Denver Broncos to the playoffs in the 2000 season supporting an 11-5 record but would suffer a season-ending shoulder injury that forced him to sit out the postseason. Back-up quarterback Gus Frerotte would take over the starting reigns in the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens but would end up taking the loss, 21-3. Griese wouldn’t be the same after the injury as he led to the Broncos to a 23-25 record after that as Denver missed the playoffs during the 2001 and 2002 season.
Denver would look for a replacement for Brian Griese and would sign free-agent Jake Plummer who originally played for the Arizona Cardinals. Denver would sign “Jake the Snake” to a 7-yr, $40-million dollar deal in the offseason and Jake would have a solid run. During the 2005 NFL season, Plummer led the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 record while clinching the AFC West Division Title. The Broncos were set to take on the New England Patriots who held a streak of ten consecutive playoff wins. Denver would snap that streak as Champ Bailey made a key interception late in the game in the red-zone that he took 100-yards to the opposing 1-yard line. Denver would come away with the victory 27-13 but would face a test in the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
The Steelers would be led by second-year pro Ben Roethlisberger who completed 17 touchdown passes and just 9 interceptions during the regular season. Ben was too much for the Broncos in the second quarter as he completed two touchdowns as Pittsburgh took the win by the final of 34-17 and sent the Broncos home. Plummer would lead the Broncos to a 49-26 record during his tenure with the Broncos but was 1-3 in postseason games.
Denver was looking to move forward by selecting a quarterback in the 2009 NFL Draft and they would select Jay Cutler with the 11th overall pick just a season removed of going 13-3 and nearly making the Super Bowl. Plummer would throw for 11 touchdowns and 13 picks as Denver decided to pull the plug on Plummer after a 7-4 record and turn to the young flame thrower Jay Cutler. It turned out to be a bad move as Denver lost three out of their last five; including a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in their final regular season game, failing to clinch a playoff spot. 2008 would mark a rough year for the Broncos but Jay Cutler would pass for 4,526 yards, breaking Jake Plummer’s Bronco record for most passing yards in a season (later surpassed by Peyton Manning). Denver would start the season 4-1 but finished the season 8-8 after getting blown out by division rival San Diego Chargers; failing to make the playoffs yet again. Head coach Mike Shanahan would be fired following the collapse and paved the way for new head coach Josh McDaniels. McDaniels would trade the Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears for Kyle Orton and two first-round draft picks after just two full-seasons as the Broncos quarterback.
Kyle Orton could do no wrong by starting the 2009 Denver Broncos season off with a 6-0 record, shocking the entire National Football League. Denver would go on their bye-week on top with six wins and no losses and it would all go downhill from there. Denver would go 2-8 for the remainder of the season as the Kansas City Chiefs ended the Broncos playoff hopes at home, losing 44-24 to end the season at home. Josh McDaniels would roll the dice in the 2010 NFL Draft as he took quarterback Tim Tebow in the first-round, 25th overall but had no intentions of starting the Heisman Trophy Winner right away. Kyle Orton and the Broncos would start the 2010 regular season off with a 24-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and that set the tone for the remainder of the season. Denver would go 3-10 under Kyle Orton and Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels would be fired after week 13, which promoted running backs coach Eric Studesville to interim head coach. He would give Tim Tebow the opportunity to start the remaining three games of the regular season. Tebow would go 1-2 in three starts and would leave an impression going into next season as he would pass for 307 yards against woeful secondary of the Houston Texans.
Denver was under new management to start the 2011 season as John Fox was signed as the new head coach and former quarterback John Elway moved into the front office. Denver would start Kyle Orton to begin the season but he would go 1-4 and was pulled for Tim Tebow who almost led a comeback against the San Diego Chargers in week 5. Tebow would lead the Broncos on a six-game winning streak during the middle of the season but would lose the final three-games of the season as they headed into the Wild Card Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow would push the Denver Broncos to their first postseason appearance since Jake Plummer was quarterbacking the team back in 2005. Denver and Pittsburgh were all knotted up heading into overtime at 23-23 as Denver won the toss and elected to receive. Tim Tebow would drop-back and connected with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on a slant route that he took to the house for the game-winning score. Tebow passed for 316 yards with 2 touchdown passes as he gave the Broncos organization their first playoff win since 2005. The excitement would be short-lived however as the following weekend the Broncos would be bounced by New England in the Divisional Round game by the final of 45-10, ending Denver’s magical season.
Tebowmania looked to have run its course as Denver led by John Elway in the front-office would sign Hall-of-Fame bound quarterback Peyton Manning in the offseason; saying that the time to win was now. Denver would sign Manning to a five-year, $96-million dollar contract and he has lived up to every penny. Although he looked to be shaking off the cobwebs due to his neck surgeries, Manning and the Broncos started the season 2-3 and felt they had something to prove. The Broncos would win the remaining 11 games on the schedule as they finished the season with a 13-3 record, clinching the AFC West and a first-round bye. Denver would face the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round and the season didn’t end on how they planned it. Joe Flacco would connect on a hail-mary late in the game to send the game into overtime and you know the rest from there on. Denver would lose on a 47-yard field goal attempt by Justin Tucker to upset the number one-seeded Denver Broncos; ending their season on a sour note.
This season has been an incredible ride as Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos to yet another 13-3 record while clinching the AFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs yet again. Peyton would also set single-season records including touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477) in what was arguably his best season of his 16-year career at the age of 37. Denver would finally get the monkey off of their back in the Divisional Round Game as they would defeat the San Diego Chargers by the final of 24-17. Next week however, they would face a tough challenge in the AFC Championship Game as they were set to take on the tandem of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Peyton would silence the critics about all of the “legacy” talk surrounding him as he passed for 400 yards to go along with 2 touchdown passes to defeat the New England Patriots 26-16 as Denver was crowned the AFC Champions and would move on to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Peyton now has the chance to win his second Super Bowl in his prestigious career and he has put the Denver Broncos back on the map as a legitimate title contender year in and year out. It took 15 long years for the Denver Broncos to reach the Super Bowl and the organization and their fans deserve it ever so much. The Broncos will take on the Seattle Seahawks February 2nd in East Rutherford, New Jersey at MetLife Stadium, for the right to be crowned Super Bowl Champions.