Sunday, January 26, 2014

Broncos Fans, You Have It (Better Than) Good

Over the Past 37 Years, Your Team Has Been One of the Top Franchises in All of Pro Sports


COMMENTARY | Yeah, this two-week wait for the Super Bowl tends to drag a little.

After all, there are only so many times Richard Sherman's psyche can be analyzed, Peyton Manning's legacy can be broken down or the looming battle between the Denver Broncos' top-ranked offense and the Seattle Seahawks' No. 1-ranked D can be dissected.

But here's something that's not debatable: Broncos fans should be living and loving every minute of the build-up to Super Bowl XLVIII. They need to savor every sound bite, revel in every rumor and cherish each close-up on NFL Network.

After all, many Orange and Blue backers might not realize how truly good they have it.

Sure, most know the Broncos are making their seventh Super Bowl appearance -- matching the New England Patriots -- and might have heard that only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys (with eight apiece) have more.

But consider that of the 28 other remaining NFL teams, 19 of them haven't made it to a Roman Numeral game even half as often, with three or fewer appearances apiece. That, of course, includes the four franchises -- the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars -- which have yet to play on Super Sunday at all.

Having married a Browns fan, I'm reminded of this constantly during football season.

In terms of Super Bowl wins, only 18 of the 32 current franchises have accomplished the feat, and 11 -- including the +Denver Broncos, of course -- can boast of multiple Lombardi Trophies.

Meanwhile, the list of 14 teams without Super Bowl victories includes the Seahawks and nine franchises which have been in existence for all 48 years of the Super Bowl era.

In fact, there are 67-year-old fans of the Arizona/St. Louis/Chicago Cardinals franchise and middle-aged Lions backers who have never witnessed their teams win a league championship. Ten other franchises haven't captured a league crown since the 1960s, and seven others - the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Texans, Jaguars and, yes, the Seahawks - haven't won any at all.

Think some of those fans would be griping and grousing about the Jersey weather if their teams had Groundhog Night plans at MetLife Stadium this year?

In the meantime, the Orange and Blue have treated Broncos Country to an almost unparalleled run of success since their first Cinderella Super Bowl season of 1977.

Over that 37-season span, the Broncos have had 23 winning campaigns, made 20 playoff appearances and won 13 division titles. Their overall .599 winning percentage (370-248-1) is matched only by the Steelers (373-250-1, .599).

Since '77, no NFL team has made more Super Bowl trips -- the Patriots' seven have all come during this span as well -- and, in fact, only the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers (an amazing 16 NBA Finals appearances) and the New York Yankees(9 World Series berths) have made more championship appearances than the Broncos over the last 37 years in the four major professional sports leagues.
Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers and the Boston Celtics -- predominately in the Larry Bird Era of the 1980s -- also have made seven championship series showings since '77.

How's that for big-time company?

In short, the Broncos' organization has been a model of success -- most notably after current owner Pat Bowlen took over in 1984 -- but most of the credit belongs to a pair of Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks. John Elway, who guided the Broncos to five Super Bowls, is a 10-year Canton vet, while Manning, currently looking to put a cherry atop the best QB season in league history, will be a first-ballot selection five years after his retirement.

Also including the yet-to-be-enshrined Brett Favre and Tom Brady, there have been only 21 modern-era (careers predominately running 1960-present) Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks -- representing 16 franchises -- and two of them have taken snaps from center in the Mile High City. Not bad for a franchise lost out here in the wilderness of country's forgotten time zone.

In the meantime, for those of you who call Broncos Country home, just realize how good you have it and be sure to treasure every moment along the way -- particularly during this current two-week Super Bowl wait.

If you don't, I'm pretty certain there's a Browns, Lions or Cardinals fan out there who would be more than happy to switch replica jerseys.

Ken Pomponio has spent the past 25 years as a sports journalist who has been published extensively in print and online. He's been an avid follower of the Denver sports scene since early childhood, and can be found on Twitter @kenpomp.