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The Denver Broncos are a professional American football team based in Denver, Colorado. They are currently a member of the American Football Conference (AFC) Western Division in the National Football League (NFL). The Broncos began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League and joined the NFL as part of the AFL-NFL merger. The team has won two Super Bowls and six AFC Championships. They play at INVESCO Field at Mile High, and have three players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: John Elway, Floyd Little and Gary Zimmerman.
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The Denver Broncos were founded on August 14, 1959 when minor league baseball owner Bob Howsam was awarded an American Football League charter franchise. The Broncos won the first-ever American Football League game over the Boston Patriots, 13–10, on September 9, 1960. On August 5, 1967, they became the first ever AFL team to defeat an NFL team after beating the Detroit Lions, 13–7, in a preseason game. Overall the Broncos were not successful in the 1960s, compiling a record of 39–97–4 in the league. However, the Broncos first superstar was "Franchise" Floyd Little, (due to his signing in 1967 and his Pro Bowl efforts on and off the field, he was instrumental in keeping the team in Denver).
Denver's franchise started out rough, managing its first winning season in 1973 after thirteen years of futility. They were the only original AFL team never to have played in the title game during the upstart league's 10-year history. Denver came close to losing its franchise in 1965, but a local ownership group took control that year and began to rebuild the team.
In 1972, the Broncos hired John Ralston as their Head Coach. Previous to joining the Broncos, Ralston was the Head Coach at Stanford University. The following year, 1973, he was UPI's choice as AFC Coach of the Year after Denver achieved its first-ever-winning season at 7-5-2. In five seasons with the Broncos, Ralston guided the team to winning seasons three times, the franchise's only three winning seasons up to that time. Even though Ralston finished the 1976 season with a winning record of 9-5, the team, as was the case in Ralston’s previous winning seasons, still failed to qualify for the playoffs. Following the 1976 season several prominent players publicly voiced their discontent with Ralston’s leadership which soon led to his dismissal by the team owner.
Rookie coach, Red Miller, along with the Orange Crush Defense (a nickname originating in the early '70's, also the name of a popular soda pop) and aging quarterback Craig Morton, promptly took the Broncos to their first playoff appearance in 1977 (and ultimately first Super Bowl, where they were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys, 27–10).
In 1981 Broncos owner Gerald Phipps, who had purchased the team in May 1961 from the original owner Bob Howsam, sold the team to Canadian Financier, Edgar Kaiser, Jr., grandson of shipbuilding industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.
Quarterback John Elway arrived in 1983. Originally drafted by the Baltimore Colts as the first pick of the draft, Elway proclaimed that he would shun football in favor of baseball (he was drafted by the New York Yankees to play center field and was also a pitching prospect), unless he was traded to a selected list of other teams, which included Denver. Prior to Elway, Denver had over 24 different starting quarterbacks in its 23 seasons to that point. Elway would remain the quarterback through five Super Bowls, as he and the Broncos won two of them. He would also end his career as the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII. He then went on to help the AFC win the Pro Bowl, his final NFL game. The Broncos lost Super Bowl XXI to the New York Giants, 39–20; Super Bowl XXII to the Washington Redskins, 42–10; and Super Bowl XXIV to the San Francisco 49ers, 55–10, the latter of which is, to date, the most lopsided scoring differential in Super Bowl history.
In 1995, the Broncos debuted a new head coach, Mike Shanahan, and a new rookie running back, Terrell Davis. In 1996, the Broncos were the top seed in the AFC with a 13-3 record, dominating most of the teams that year. Unfortunately, an upstart two-year old 5th seed Wild Card, the Jacksonville Jaguars, pushed the Broncos Super Bowl dreams back a year by defeating the Broncos, 30–27, in what many consider the second greatest upset in NFL history. During the 1997 season, both would help guide the Broncos to their first Super Bowl victory, a 31–24 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Although Elway completed only 12 of 22 passing attempts, throwing one interception and no touchdowns (he did, however, have a rushing touchdown), Davis rushed for 157 yards and a Super Bowl–record three touchdowns to earn the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award - this while overcoming a severe migraine headache that caused him blurred vision. The Broncos repeated as Super Bowl champions the following season, defeating the Atlanta Falcons (led by Elway's longtime head coach Dan Reeves) in Super Bowl XXXIII, 34–19. Elway was named Super Bowl MVP, throwing for 336 yards and a touchdown (the touchdown pass being an 80-yard pass play to wide receiver Rod Smith). Elway also had a rushing touchdown.
Overall, Denver has reached the Super Bowl six times, winning it in the 1997 and 1998 seasons