Mount Rushmore: The Four Most Impactful People In The Denver Broncos History
In sports, fan bases always argue with each other what team is better, who is the better player, and who is going to win this year. You even have internal debates with different levels of fans on who the best player on your favorite team may be. On the grand scale there is always the talk of who is the best of all time but what about the top influencers on one team? From the front office to the product on the field, each position plays a part in hoisting a Lombardi at the end of the year.
When you look at the Denver Broncos, they have had an interesting ride in the NFL. With three Super Bowls and five Hall of Famers, they have also had five Super Bowl losses.
Obviously, if your team gets to the big game you want them to win but it isn’t always going to happen. Ups and downs are always bound to happen for a team. With an organization that had The Duke of Denver (John Elway) throwing bombs to lead to two Lombardi Trophies, to Von Miller and a strong defense that led to the third Lombardi, let’s take a look at who is on the Mount Rushmore of the Denver Broncos.
Coach: Mike Shanahan
Shanahan has seen success in different cities throughout his career but when you look at the Broncos, Mike coached his way to the two Super Bowls with Elway at the helm.
What makes those two Super Bowl’s special is that they were back to back in 1997 and 1998. But, I think what makes it even more special is during that time period, 1996-1998, Shanahan coached the team to a 46-10 record. Some will say, “well he had some of the best players in the league at the time” but, having that record and winning back to back Super Bowls is an impressive thing to have on a resume.
Granted there was some early success, Mike did have a few bad years. 2008 ended up being his last year with the Broncos finishing the season with an 8-8 record. But, throughout his entire time as a head coach in the Mile High City, Shanahan brought a 138-86 regular season record. On top of that Mike has brought in some great football players to the league that at least got their start in Denver. In 2006 alone, Shanahan drafted Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Elvis Dumervil while in 2008 he was able to grab Eddie Royal. They each went on to have promising careers within the league and what better start than with Mike Shanahan.
Mike always looked to bring in talent and he did so in 2004. The Bronco’s ended up trading Clinton Portis to the Washington Redskins for Champ Bailey and a second round pick. We all know how Champ Bailey played out in Denver, needless to say, Mike was making some good calls. It is safe to say that not only on the field but off the field, Mike was always looking at the best interest of the Broncos.
Outside of football, Mike actually owns a restaurant in Denver called “Shanahan’s Steakhouse” (known for seafood and steak) that even displays his Lombardi trophies and Super Bowl rings. Random fact, he even housed Peyton Manning when Manning first showed up to Denver. Mike knows he has roots in Denver and there is no doubt he is an icon there.
Quarterback/GM: John Elway
If you’re talking greats of the Broncos (and even the NFL) the name of John Elway will be ringing. The Duke of Denver shared his two Super Bowl victories (as a player) with coach Shanahan as mentioned above. His performance in those Super Bowl games was up and down, but his leadership and desire were unquestioned.
In the 1997 Super Bowl, Elway faced off against the Green Bay Packers, he went 12/22 passing with no touchdowns but he did have one interception on a total of 123 yards.
In ‘98, the Duke saw a better passing performance with an 18/29 passing line with 336 yards for one TD and one pick. Over his entire career, he threw for 300 touchdowns (11th all-time) with a total of 51,475 yards (7th all-time). Needless to say, those are some impressive stats.
In 1999, Elway decided to hang the cleats up and in the same year, the Broncos honored him by retiring his number and inducting him into the Ring of Fame for the Denver Broncos. In 2004, Elway got to take a special trip to Canton, Ohio as he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His playing time was great, but as a GM he has seen some good times as well. His career is still young since he took over in 2011 but he has had two appearances in the Super Bowl as an executive in 2013 and 2015.
One trip was won in 2015/16 against the fluid offense that was headed by Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. John Elway signed Peyton Manning, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Wade Philips (on the coaching end). Those are just some of the top names that have been signed under Elway’s leadership as GM. He still has more time underneath him so that book will continue to grow.
Running Back: Terrell Davis
Terrell Davis is considered to be one of the best backs to touch a football field (during his short career) so I had to put him on the list for Mount Rushmore. 1998 ended up being Terrell Davis’s last full year. From ’99 – 2001 he had a string of injuries related to his ACL and MCL which as a running back, isn’t the injury you want to hear about. These injuries led to him retiring in 2002.
But, in both ’97 and ’98, T.D. led the league in touchdowns with 15 (in 1997) and 21 (in 1998). Along with that in 1998, he averaged the most yards per carry with 5.1, and a total of 2,008 yards which put him in the annals of history. If you want to talk more about stats, Davis held over 40 plus Denver Bronco franchise records. That’s pretty impressive if you look at the history books.
Davis was someone who could power his way through a line and then get to that second level and shift gears. Just a great all-around back that was a key factor in the Shanahan/Elway era. He finished his career with 60 total rushing touchdowns, 7,607 rushing yards while averaging 4.6 yards a carry. To average roughly five yards per carry makes your offensive play calling a lot easier when you can pound the ball like that. This past year T.D. got a gold jacket as he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Outside Linebacker: Von Miller
As a fan who puts a Super Bowl loss on a poor offensive performance, there was one guy who rattled the entire offense in that game – Von Miller. The only guy on my list that wasn’t a part of back to back Super Bowl seasons, but he still managed to lead the Denver Broncos to a Lombardi of his own in 2016 while also grabbing a Super Bowl MVP.
If you want to talk about a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball this man should be in the conversation. With a number of awards and Pro Bowl selections in a young career, he will continue to move up this list and will be a cornerstone in Denver Broncos history.
Through his seven-year career, Von has tallied a total of 395 tackles, 83.5 sacks, 21 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, and 2 defensive touchdowns. Those numbers speak for themselves and if you believe defense wins championships, the ending of the 2015 season and Miller’s play is the picture-perfect example of that.
Von also holds Denver Bronco franchise records for single-season sacks, single playoff game sacks, playoff career sacks, and single playoff season (you guessed it, 2015) sacks. With his fast and attacking play style, the accolades have surely followed him.
You might say that this list was heavily based off Super Bowl’s and your right. With a total of three Lombardi trophies, each of these guys has played a vital role in each one (or all of them if your Elway). There could be a conversation that if one of these guys weren’t apart of one of the championship years, the Broncos may not have won.
There were three guys that I also considered to add but couldn’t come to grips with taking someone off of the list. Between Shannon Sharpe and Peyton Manning, I thought long and hard about adding them. But if you look at Peyton, he had some great years but that Super Bowl was won off of defense and I feel he should be on the Colts Mountain rather than Denver.
Sharpe was a vital player and arguably one of Elway’s favorite targets, but I think there is room to have a different guy come in and fill part of that role (no one could fully replace the impact he had). I would have changed him with T.D. but I think having a strong running game with Davis is what opened a lot of the field for the team.
Finally, you have the prolific Owner, Pat Bowlen. Bowlen is considered one of the greatest owners in all of sports and is beloved by all of his players, and the City of Denver. He has been instrumental not only in the success of the Denver Broncos (more Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons) but also in the success of the NFL. Unfortunately, due to his battle with Alzheimer’s, he has not been around the team for the past several years. Elway said it best after the Super Bowl victory, “This One’s For Pat.”
Each team and fan wants to chase the ultimate goal which is winning the Super Bowl, why not reward those who were at the reigns of those teams? Let me know what you guys think of the list and who is on your teams, Mount Rushmore.