This week, for the final installment ever of KY1980sDBs, #7, the quintessential 1980s Denver Bronco, John Elway.

John Elway, from an AP photo during The Drive

An AP photo taken during The Drive.

Remaining editions of KY1980sDBs: 0! By now, I have probably driven off all readers of this blog, if there were any to begin with.  But you can come back now.  I won’t be writing any more of these things.

After a standout college career at Stanford, which I do not hold against him, John was highly sought-after as both a professional football and baseball player.  The Baltimore Colts had the first overall pick in the 1983 draft and wanted to take John, but he famously refused to play for them, stating that if they drafted him he would play baseball instead.  The Colts relented and traded him to the Broncos, where Elway would spend his entire 16-year pro career.  John went on to become one of the greatest players in not only Broncos history, but NFL history.  He combined a legendary strong arm with fantastic mobility, and had an uncanny ability to force good things to happen for his team, winning dozens of games on fourth-quarter comebacks.  He is inarguably the greatest Bronco player ever, leading the team to 148-82-1 record, multiple division titles, and five Super Bowls (an NFL record), and two titles.  John holds a very prominent place on all-time NFL leaderboards as well.  He is fourth all-time in career passing yards and completions, fifth in touchdowns, and second in wins as a starting quarterback.  He is sixth all-time in rushing yards gained as a quarterback.  He is also the all-time leader in getting sacked, no doubt thanks to Denver’s often sketchy offensive lines and his insistence on waiting as long as possible to make the best play.  He was named league MVP in 1987.  John was enshrined in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 1999, the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000, and the NFL Hall of Fame in 2004 (the first player to be inducted as a Bronco).


Also, here is a ridiculous(ly awesome) shirt with John's face.

He played in Super Bowl XXI, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the New York Giants 39-20, Super Bowl XXII, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the Washington Native Americans 42-10, and Super Bowl XXIV, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the San Francisco 49ers 55-10.  This pretty much cemented John’s and the Broncos’ reputation as big-game punching bags.  They finally redeemed themselves when John and game MVP Terrell Davis led the Broncos to glorious victory over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24.  The following year, the team went 14-2 (starting the season 13-0) and cruised to a second title over the Atlanta Falcons, 34-19, in Super Bowl XXXIII.  John was named Super Bowl MVP and retired in the offseason, his work as an NFL legend completed.

So what makes John Elway so awesome? Wow, where to begin?  John spent most of his youth in my favorite town in the world, Missoula, Montana. He was a Sunday staple, providing me and all Broncos fans hope that we could win every week for 16 years.  The Drive.  We suffered with him through painful Super Bowl losses, the Dan Reeves and Wade Phillips eras.  We triumphed with him on January 25, 1998, when a Super Bowl finally came to Denver.  He is in any conversation about the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  He reportedly sent a free designer recliner to a student who was teased for wearing a Broncos’ jersey.  John Elway isn’t my all-time favorite Denver Bronco, but he’s near the top and is probably the reason I grew up to write 22 editions of KNOW YOUR 1980s DENVER BRONCOS.

Since retirement from football, John has participated in a number of Colorado business ventures including car dealerships, appearances in video games and other commercials and sponsorship deals, and ownership of an Arena League football team.  These have all no doubt made him much more filthy rich than he was as just a football player.  He has recently married an ex-Raiders cheerleader and gives money to Colorado Republicans, both of which make me sad.  Of course, both of these acts are in his personal best interest (one for love, one to benefit rich guys), so why shouldn’t he?

Then Morton Said to Elway: The Best Denver Broncos Stories Ever Told


This week, #7…no, not that #7.  Craig Morton, of course.

Craig Morton

Craig Morton readies to pass while a 1980s San Diego Charger bears down.

Remaining editions of KY1980sDBs: 1.

A highly-touted prospect out of Cal, Craig was drafted in the 1st round (5th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in 1965.  (He was also drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the AFL, but, like, who cares?  I guess the Raiders hoped he might have trouble signing with Dallas or not want to be a backup and they’d have rights to him if he turned to the AFL.) He went on to play for 18 years in the NFL.  Initially backing up Don Meredith, Craig was anointed the team’s starter for the 1969 season.  Later, after losing the starting role to Roger Staubach, Craig spent time with the New York Giants before coming to the Broncos in 1977.  That year, his performance earned him the AP Comeback Player of the Year award, given to players who have a great year after being down with injuries, or in Craig’s case, being not so good.  He spent his last six years in Denver, through the strike-shortened 1982 season.  A strong-armed downfield passer, Craig led the league in yards per attempt three times, once with the Broncos.  He is the Broncos’ best all-time in that category, among regular starting quarterbacks.  He threw for 11,895 yards and 74 touchdowns with the team, retiring as the team’s all-time leader, and still good for second place in both categories.  Craig was enshrined in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 1988 and elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

He played in Super Bowl V for the Cowboys, enduring a close loss to the Baltimore Colts, 16-13.  He later led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII, in which the Broncos were pummeled by Roger Staubach’s Dallas Cowboys 27-10.  Craig had an infamously terrible day, getting hounded by the Cowboys’ defense, throwing four interceptions, and getting benched in favor of Norris Weese.  However, Craig long held the distinction of being the only quarterback in NFL history to have led two different teams to the Super Bowl (a feat later equaled by Kurt Warner).

So what makes Craig Morton so awesome?  He is the oldest Denver Bronco ever, having suited up for his last game with the team in 1982 at age 39 years, 289 days, about a year older than any other player in team history, and more than 3 years older than the next oldest 1980s Denver Bronco, Paul Howard.

These days, Craig works as the Cal athletic department’s Major Gifts Officer, where, according to this article, it is his job to ask for money.  He is also an active voter in the Harris Interactive College Poll, which determines college football’s BCS rankings.  He also recently co-authored a book, Then Morton Said to Elway… The Best Denver Broncos Stories Ever Told, which I suppose would be good reading if you are the kind of person who will miss Know Your 1980s Denver Broncos.

Then Morton Said to Elway: The Best Denver Broncos Stories Ever Told


This week, Head Coach Dan Reeves.

Head Coach Dan Reeves

From my beloved 1982 Broncos yearbook, a glorious UNCREDITED (!) painting of giant Coach Reeves surveying the entire team tackling a hapless Seahawks player. Behind him, the majestic Rocky Mountains*.

Remaining editions of KY1980sDBs: 2.

Dan was hired as head coach of the Broncos before the 1981 season, at age 37, the youngest head coach in the league at the time.  He succeeded the successful (but not successful enough!) Red Miller, and there should be a league rule mandating that there is always at least one head coach named “Red.”  Dan came along at the right time, just two years before the Broncos obtainedJohn Elway, and Coach Reeves got to spend the rest of his tenure relying on one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.  Dan’s approach was to base his offense on a strong running game, defense, and conservative play calling.  This occasionally led to spats with his star quarterback and Broncos fans, who felt that his approach didn’t suit the talents of the team at the time.  Nevertheless, a football coach is charged with winning games, and Dan did that, compiling a 110-73 record (a .601 winning percentage) over his 12 years with the team, winning the division six times and making it to the Super Bowl three times.  After a mediocre 1992 season, and a perception that more success may be found going in another direction, Dan was fired by the Broncos. He coached for another 11 years for the New York Giants, then the Atlanta Falcons.  In 1993 and 1998, once with each of those teams, he was named AP NFL Coach of the Year.

He coached in Super Bowl XXI, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the New York Giants 39-20, Super Bowl XXII, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the Washington Native Americans 42-10, and Super Bowl XXIV, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the San Francisco 49ers 55-10.  Dan later led the Atlanta Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII, in which his team was pummeled by the Mike Shanahan-led Broncos, 34-19.

So what makes Dan Reeves so awesome? Despite his overconservative coaching reputation, Dan managed to consistently adapt and succeed as the Broncos’ coach.  As one example of his adaptability, he was willing to hand some playcalling duties to John Elway when the quarterback was in his prime.  Though the two often clashed, Dan’s mentoring helped turn John into the great player he became.  Dan’s leadership guided the Broncos to three 1980s Super Bowls, and despite the team’s pummelings on the biggest stage, it cemented the franchise as one of the consistently best in the NFL.

These days, at 66 years old, Dan serves as a broadcaster for the Westwood One radio network.  He has shown interest in returning to the sidelines since his tenure with the Falcons ended in 2003.  He briefly served as a consultant for the Dallas Cowboys, has interviewed with the San Francisco 49ers, and has implied he would like to work with current Buffalo Bills’ coach Chan Gailey, whom he had coached as a youth player.

*This picture is almost as good.  He looks like Clark Kent about to enter a phone booth.


This week, #57, Tom Jackson.

Tom JacksonAnnouncement!  This edition covers the first of the three remaining as-yet-unprofiled 1980s Denver Broncos in the Ring of Fame.  (The Broncos’ Ring of Fame does have a few more Broncos who played in the 1980s, but I do not consider them 1980s Denver Broncos, if you follow me.  Haven Moses and Billy Thompson both played through 1981, and would be important points of discussion in KNOW YOUR 1970s DENVER BRONCOS, but I will omit them from this series.)  Upcoming editions of KNOW YOUR 1980s DENVER BRONCOS will cover the other two, plus one bonus edition.  And…those will sadly mark the conclusion of the series.  I know what you’re thinking: that, according to Pro Football Reference, there are 148 1980s Denver Broncos, and this will only be 22 of them.  But I don’t think I can come up with something interesting to say about the remaining 126.  So, let the countdown begin.

Tom was drafted by the Broncos in the 4th round of the 1973 draft, and went on to play his entire 14-year career with the team. To this day, only John Elway and Jason Elam have played more games as a Bronco. He is among the all-time team leaders in interceptions, and would probably be near the top for tackles and sacks, had they been adequately recorded during the bulk of his playing days.  Tom was elected to three Pro Bowls and, in 1977, to the league’s All-Pro Team, as one of the leaders of the Broncos’ vaunted Orange Crush defense.  He was inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 1992.

He played in Super Bowl XII, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the Dallas Cowboys 27-10, and Super Bowl XXI, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the New York Giants 39-20. The team’s even more severe pummelings in Super Bowls XXII and XXIV might be attributable to the loss of Tom’s veteran leadership on defense.

So what makes Tom Jackson so awesome? He remains one of the team’s signature players both on and off the field.  Not only statistically, and in terms of leadership, but as a highly visible personality for an ofter-overlooked team.  He routinely picks the Broncos to do well on ESPN and clearly shows a level of bias all fans of the team appreciate.

These days, Tom is a highly successful broadcaster.  He remains entrenched on ESPN’s featured NFL shows, where he has had a position since 1987, 23 years to date, much longer than he was a player!  The relative lengths of his player and broadcaster information on his Wikipedia page speaks to his increased visibility in his current position, as well as the fact that most people who edit Wikipedia have only ever known Tom as a broadcaster.  He’s a skilled and intelligent presence on ESPN, and is unfortunately subject to the overbearing personalities of the (approximately) twelve hundred other panelists on NFL Countdown.  Tom lives in Cincinnati, and, according to his Wikipedia bio, loves spicy food so much he wants to market his own hot sauce.


This week, #43, Steve Foley.

Steve FoleySteve was drafted by the Broncos in the 8th round of the 1975 draft, a round so late it doesn’t even exist anymore.  He overcame this humble beginning to spend his entire 11-year career with the Broncos, and remains near the top of the team’s all-time games played.  Steve started out as cornerback, but shifted to the free safety position in 1980, where he remained until his retirement following the 1986 season.  He is the Broncos’ career leader in interceptions.

He played in Super Bowl XII, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the Dallas Cowboys 27-10, and Super Bowl XXI, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the New York Giants 39-20.  The team’s even more severe pummelings in Super Bowls XXII and XXIV might be attributable to the loss of Steve’s veteran leadership on defense.

So what makes Steve Foley so awesome? He is the star of one of my more vivid 1980s Denver Broncos memories, a famous Monday night snow game matchup against the Green Bay Packers (here is another link with story about the game and a photo, but also approximately four million ads, so please decide for yourself how badly you crave more information about it).  Wintry conditions lead to two separate Broncos defensive touchdowns via fumble return, including one by Steve.  An additional Rich Karlis field goal put Denver up 17-0 at the half, which was unfortunately my bedtime*, and I would have to wait until the next morning to learn the outcome of the game**.

These days, Steve runs FS Land, LLC, the Denver-area land-development company, with his business partner Bob Swenson, another 1980s Denver Bronco.  Per a 2007 Denver Post article, the two have remained close friends and enjoy cajoling each other and taking about themselves in the third person.  They also consider themselves to be in the “people-development” business, which I found disconcerting.

*Nowadays my bedtime is also at halftime of night games.  These games start at the same time they did in the 1980s (in fact, they might start a little earlier now), and my bedtime is now probably two hours later than it was when I was seven, but now I live two time zones further east.
**Though I went to bed disappointed since I imagined there would be dozens, if not hundreds more zany snow-induced scores, the second half was relatively boring.  The Packers scored two touchdowns to get as close as 17-14, but that was all they could muster, and the Broncos won despite failing to score any offensive touchdowns.