This is the only Broncos article you’ll read that will not mention John Elway. Unless you count the fact that I just mentioned John Elway. You see, the Broncos have had relative stability at the sport’s most important position, trotting out Elway, Griese, Plummer and now Cutler in the last 24 years. The real legacy is with the clipboard caddies.
As a lifelong Broncos fan and general football fanatic, I’ve heard countless talking heads and seemingly intelligent writers drone on and on and on about the importance of the backup quarterback. You see, in Denver, they do things a bit differently. When every one else is getting huge, fat, stationary lineman the Broncos sought small, quick blockers. While other teams looked for up-and-comers or erstwhile starters to backup their signal callers, the Broncos scraped up the crappiest, washed-up losers they could find. Here’s my tribute to the finest clipboard caddies in Broncos History.
10. Tommy Maddox/Shawn Moore (1992) — As if drafting Tommy Maddox wasn’t a bad enough idea, the Broncs decided that he and fellow youngster Shawn Moore should rotate all duties. Mind you that Denver essentially drafted Maddox because they thought Elway was close to being done….in 1992. In one particularly hair-brained scheme, the Broncos rotated Maddox and Moore throughout four games Elway missed, switching off series between the two and even having them run in the plays in a game against Dallas. Shawn Moore was a great college QB, but mostly because his brother Herman was coming down with passes at UVA. In the NFL, safeties were coming down with passes. As for Maddox, well, he’ll always be the best player in XFL history.
9. Hugh Millen (’94-’95) — The only reason anyone knows Hugh Millen is that he was the QB of the Patriots in Tecmo Super Bowl. You know, the worst team in the game. Millen’s rainbows were almost always intercepted as his throwing speed allowed defensive lineman to deflect downfield throws. He played in nine unremarkable games for the Broncos.
8. Steve Beuerlein (’01-’03) — Beuerlein’s signing with Denver was a coup in 2001 as their most potentially useful backup in years. Then he got hurt and missed the entire season. He spent two more mundane years holding the clipboard for Shanahan, throwing a measly 180 passes as a Bronco. Not sure why he was so shocked they wouldn’t let him wear #7.
7. Gus Frerotte (’00-’01) — In Gus We Trust. Sort of, anyway. Frerotte was the closest thing the Horses had to an actual backup. In fact, Gus filled in pretty well for the Broncs and reclaimed his career several years later by becoming a starter in Miami.
6. Steve DeBerg (’81-’83) — DeBerg carried the clipboards of some of the greatest quarterbacks in history, including Montana, Young and Elway. Though he had some starts in Denver, DeBerg also spent his time carrying the clip. He’s also the only man with a better white-guy afro than Steve Beuerlein.
5. Bill Musgrave (’95-’96) — A studious-type, Musgrave was a lousy quarterback, but a coach on the team type of guy. In fact, he retired in ’97 and was already a coordinator three years later. Broncos fans trembled in fear at the prospect of him actually getting in a game. Luckily, he only performed mop-up duty in his two years in the Mile High City.
4. Bradlee Van Pelt (’04-’05) –This guy wasn’t even good in college. For whatever reason, Shanahan decided to give him the clipboard and pray like hell he never saw the field. His limited action usually involved trick running plays near the goal line and everyone trying to figure out what the hell kind of name Bradlee is.
3. Norris Weese (’76-’79) — The bearded one faithfully backed up the immortal Craig Morton & Co. for his four seasons, reaching the pinnacle of backup quarterbackdom by mopping up a Super Bowl drubbing. Weese became the first Bronco to lead his team to a touchdown in a Super Bowl — take that Elway.
2. Bubby Brister (’97-’99) — His name’s Bubby, I mean come on. That and he won every start the Broncos trusted him with, albeit on two Super Bowl teams. Actually, I’m pretty sure that a half-dead guy could have won with that supporting cast. Well, maybe not Shawn Moore
1. Gary Kubiak (’83-’91) — Gary is perhaps the greatest clipboard carrier of all time. And by great, we mean, you prayed to God he didn’t ever play. A modern player would probably cry about never getting a chance after being drafted the same year as Elway. Not Gary. He was happy as a hooker at Pacman’s to just ride the Elway train as far as it would take him. Plus, he looked so good on the sideline that the Broncos brought him back as a coach. If you saw him play, you know that’s what he was always destined to be.
Where will Patrick Ramsey stack up among the greats? Only time will tell.