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Photos: Gallery | Colorado Springs Gazette, News

Denver Broncos all-time leading passers

Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch? The Denver Broncos' quarterback picture wasn't always as uncertain as it is heading into the 2017 season. Here are the 14 most prolific passers to wear a Denver Broncos uniform.

14. Trevor Siemian

14. Trevor Siemian

Years: 2015-16

Yards: 3,401

Comp-Att: 289-486

TDs-Int: 18-10

The 250th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft (out of 256), Siemian beat long odds in making the team. He did it again in 2016, beating out two first-round picks in Mark Sanchez (fifth overall in 2009) and Paxton Lynch (26th overall in 2016) to win the starting job. As Siemian and Lynch square off in the team's 2017 training camp for the starting gig, Siemian looks to beat the odds again.

Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette

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13. Mickey Slaughter

13. Mickey Slaughter

Years: 1963-66

Yards: 3,607

Comp-Att: 291-584

TDs-Int: 22-38

Slaughter was the best of a forgettable parade of passers that suited up for Denver in the years following the retirement of Frank Tripucka. Slaughter played in 40 games for a team that often played two, or even three, quarterbacks in each game. In his 19 starts, however, the Broncos had a dismal 2-15-2 record.

Associated Press file

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12. Steve DeBerg

12. Steve DeBerg

Years: 1981-83

Yards: 3,819

Comp-Att: 314-546

TDs-Int: 22-24

DeBerg has the distinction of having been replaced as a starter by three future Hall-of-Famers – Joe Montana in San Francisco, John Elway in Denver and Steve Young in Tampa Bay. He got a second chance in Tampa when Young was traded, but was quickly replaced by Vinny Testaverde. A solid pro, DeBerg had 34,241 NFL passing yards over 17 campaigns, but his three seasons in Denver were mediocre.

Associated Press file

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11. Steve Tensi

11. Steve Tensi

Years: 1967-70

Yards: 5,153

Comp-Att: 348-810

TDs-Int: 38-45

After teaming with Fred Biletnikoff to lead Florida State to a 9-1-1 record and a Gator Bowl victory, Tensi joined the San Diego Chargers as a high-profile prospect. He sat behind Chargers legend John Hadl for two seasons before Denver coach Lou Saban dispatched two first-round picks for him. He was unremarkable as a Bronco and his penchant for injuries earned him the derisive nickname “Tin-Foil Tensi.”

Associated Press

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10. Steve Ramsey

10. Steve Ramsey

Years: 1971-76

Yards: 6,437

Comp-Att: 456-919

TDs-Int: 35-58

The Broncos gave up on Ramsey as their starting quarterback at exactly the same time the New York Giants gave up on Craig Morton, resulting in a one-for-one swap. Ramsey was cut in training camp by the Giants. When Morton retired, he was the Broncos all-time leading passer and had a 41-23 record as a starter. Some have credited coach John Ralston’s dogged loyalty to Ramsey as a factor in the Broncos’ decision to replace him with Red Miller prior to the 1977 season. In Ramsey’s defense, he was sacked once every 10.7 times he dropped back to pass.

Associated Press file

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9. Charley Johnson

9. Charley Johnson

Years: 1972-75

Yards: 7,238

Comp-Att: 517-970

TDs-Int: 52-52

Johnson brought 11 NFL seasons worth of experience and a pair of bad knees to Denver. He also brought a new respectability. Before Johnson, the Broncos had compiled a 48-114-6 record. With Johnson as the starting quarterback, the Broncos were 20-18-3. He was named to the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 1986.

Denver Broncos

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8. Frank Tripucka

8. Frank Tripucka

Years: 1960-63

Yards: 7.676

Comp-Att: 662-1,277

TDs-Int: 51-85

Having already played four seasons in the NFL and eight in the Canadian Football League, Tripucka originally came to Denver as an assistant coach for the team’s inaugural season. Disgusted with his quarterbacks during a preseason scrimmage, coach Frank Filchock asked Tripucka to suit up to give the fans a decent showing. He remained a player and went on the throw for 3,038 yards in 1960 – the first 3,000-yard passing season by any quarterback in either the AFL or NFL. The Broncos were bad in those early seasons. Tripucka was not. He was one of the initial four players enshrined in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame.

Associated Press file

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7. Kyle Orton

7. Kyle Orton

Years: 2009-11

Yards: 8,434

Comp-Att: 720-1,194

TDs-Int: 49-28

Orton arrived in Denver in the trade that sent Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears. He consistently produced serviceable statistics (his 248.1 yards per game was a Broncos record until the arrival of Peyton Manning) as the Broncos’ starter, but his 12-21 record grated on a fan base that had grown accustomed to winning. He was replaced in 2011 by Tim Tebow.

Gazette file

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6. Jay Cutler

6. Jay Cutler

Years: 2006-08

Yards: 9,024

Comp-Att: 762-1,220

TDs-Int: 54-37

Coach Mike Shanahan traded up in the 2006 draft to grab Cutler, who he saw as a franchise quarterback. In his three seasons in Denver, Cutler produced “oh wows” and “oh nos” in equal measure. Still enamored by his potential, the Chicago Bears traded Kyle Orton and a handful of draft picks to Denver to obtain Cutler – a marriage that ended this past offseason.

Gazette file

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5. Jake Plummer

5. Jake Plummer

Years: 2003-06

Yards: 11,631

Comp-Att: 944-1,596

TDs-Int: 71-47

Knowing he would be a free agent in the offseason, Broncos fans chanted “we want Jake” when the Cardinals played in Denver to close the 2002 season. He subsequently signed with the Broncos and posted a 39-15 record and playoff appearances in each of his first three seasons – including an AFC championship game. Plummer was supplanted by Jay Cutler for the final five games of 2006. He retired following that season.

Gazette file

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4. Brian Griese

4. Brian Griese

Years: 1998-2002

Yards: 11,763

Comp-Att: 1,044-1,678

TDs-Int: 71-53

Coach Mike Shanahan surprised many when he named Griese, a third-round pick in 1998, as the starter that would replace the retired John Elway instead of popular backup Gus Frerotte. Griese showed promise in that first season leading the team and was even better in 2000 (19 TDs and just 4 interceptions) before being body slammed out-of-bounds in a Monday night game against the Raiders. He missed the rest of that season with a shoulder injury and never had the zip on is deep passes afterward. His 11.3 yards per completion is the lowest rate for any passer among the Broncos’ all-time Top 20.

Gazette file

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3. Craig Morton

3. Craig Morton

Years: 1977-82

Yards: 11,895

Comp-Att: 907-1,594

TDs-Int: 74-65

The New York Giants couldn’t wait to get rid of Morton, trading him to Denver straight up for Steve Ramsey. Other than acquiring John Elway, it may be the best trade the Broncos ever made. Morton led Denver to the Super Bowl in his first season with the team (1977) and the Broncos have been among the NFL’s winningest franchises ever since.

It was Morton, not Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, who started for the Cowboys in 1969, 1970 and 1972, including a Super Bowl appearance. Staubach finally became the full-time starter when Morton was shipped to the Giants in 1974. His 8-25 record with the talent-starved Giants led to his trade to the Broncos.

Associated Press file

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2. Peyton Manning

2. Peyton Manning

Years: 2012-15

Yards: 17,112

Comp-Att: 1,443-2,170

TDs-Int: 140-53

John Elway’s first momentous move as general manager of the Broncos was to convince Manning to sign with the team. That move not only gave the Broncos one of the premier quarterbacks to ever play the game, it also gave them a way to part with ultra-popular but erratic Tim Tebow.

 Manning set new NFL single-season records with 5,477 yards passing and 55 touchdowns in 2013 and led the team to the Super Bowl twice in his four seasons in Denver – winning it in 2015. His record with the Broncos was 45-12, easily the best winning percentage in franchise history.

Gazette file.

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1. John Elway

1. John Elway

Years: 1983-98

Yards: 51,475

Comp-Att: 4,123-7,250

TDs-Int: 300-226

The face of the franchise ever since he arrived in Denver in a 1983 trade engineered by then-owner Edgar Kaiser, “The Duke” took the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning the final two. While his 148 victories was an NFL record when he retired, Elway is most remembered for his fourth-quarter wins – 35 of them.

Elway still holds 33 Broncos franchise records. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004 and is enjoying continued success with the team as its director of football operations and general manager.

Gazette file.

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