Broncos Rosburgs Chance Football

Can interim coach Jerry Rosburg be the New Year's baby who brings success to the Broncos against the Chiefs?

On the Happiest New Year’s Day in Our Dusty Old Cowtown — Jan. 1, 1978 — my column for the Rocky Mountain News bellowed:


Ring out the old — the Oakland Raiders — and ring in the new — the Denver Broncos. Denver’s Destiny Darlings are headed to the Super Bowl. On New Year’s Day, before 74,982 Broncomaniacs, the Broncos turned a chilly afternoon into the warmest day in Denver history by winning the NFL’s AFC championship over the Raiders 20-17. ... Horns blared. The masses shouted. Goal posts were torn down and carted away. Sections of the field were ripped up and taken away for souvenirs. People drank like there was no tomorrow and kissed strangers. ... The Broncos had not beaten the Raiders in Denver since 1962. Repeat, 1962.’’

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That was the Broncos’ first Jan. 1 game ever.

Exactly 45 years later, the Broncos play for the fourth time on New Year’s Day.

Is it possible that all of Colorado can celebrate the start of 2023 and the end of a sad streak with a Broncos victory in Kansas City against the Chiefs?

If they fail, the Broncos will own the current NFL mark for most consecutive losses to another team — 15. And if they don’t metamorphose from caterpillar to butterfly in three years, the Broncos could set the all-time league record at 21 straight.

Will the Broncos become Denver’s Destiny Darlings again or remain as Colorado Dregs?

The Broncos didn’t finish with a winning record for their first 13 seasons of existence and were one of the worst teams in professional football.

From 1977-1998, the Broncos recorded twice as many Super Bowls seasons as losing seasons (6-3) and were one of the best teams in the NFL.

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Later, the Broncos reached the postseason every year from 2011-2015 and played in two Super Bowls, winning one.

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The Broncos have not reached the playoffs from 2016-2022 or been relevant or revered since Super Bowl 50.

In 15 seasons from 2008-2023, the Broncos will have eight “permanent’’ head coaches and four interim head coaches. Unbelievably, during a 10-year span (2014-2023), nine different men will have served as Broncos head coach in games.

Mike Shanahan, the most successful Broncos coach, was fired as Broncos head coach after 14 seasons on Dec. 30, 2008. Josh McDaniels lasted for only 28 games, and the Broncos named Eric Studesville interim coach for four games. John Fox coached in Denver for four seasons, but Jack Del Rio took over briefly when Fox suffered heart issues. Fox was fired Jan. 12, 2015. Gary Kubiak became head coach for two seasons, but, because of his health problem, Joe DeCamillis was chosen a one-game stand-in. Kubiak resigned Jan. 2, 2017. Vance Joseph followed Kubiak and was remarkably close to being dumped after one season and succeeded by Shanahan. But he was given another chance and lasted only until Dec. 31, 2018. Vic Fangio was selected head coach in early 2019 and survived only three seasons before he, too, was dismissed Jan. 9, 2021. Nathaniel Hackett was hired 18 days later, but he coached so pathetically in 14 games before being unceremoniously terminated the day after Christmas. Pleasant and charming Jerry Rosburg will be the acting coach for the final two games.

During a 38-season period from 1972-2008, the Broncos had five head coaches, including two (Shanahan and Dan Reeves) who were here for 26 seasons and six Super Bowls.

The Broncos’ 20th head coach (including temporary coaches) may not be decided until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, but let's hope that another veteran head coach also will provide leadership and Super Bowls for more than a decade.

Andy Reid has coached the Chiefs for 10 seasons after 14 seasons with the Eagles. He’s won 14 in a row against the Broncos and is 15-6 overall. Reid, Reeves and Shanahan are among the top 15 NFL head coaches in career winning percentages. The five coaches with the highest overall winning percentage for the Broncos were Fox (.690), Kubiak (.686), Red Miller (.627), Shanahan (.616) and Reeves (596). All five led the Broncos to Super Bowls.

Hackett’s wretched winning percentage of .267 is second-lowest to Mac Speedie’s .250 in franchise archives. Fangio finished at .388 and Joseph .344. The past three head coaches managed a combined 34-62 record, won only 13 of 48 road games, and never beat the Chiefs.

Who’s got next?

I wish health, happiness and harmony for all of you and the Broncos in 2023.

Woody Paige has been a sports and general columnist in Colorado with the Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Colorado Springs Gazette and The Denver Gazette since 1974. He has been a commentator for the ESPN network on six different shows for 20 years.

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