Denver Broncos: How many times has team gone from worst to first?
In 2021, the Denver Broncos will be looking to accomplish a rare feat, at least for them.
Going from last place in the division one year to first place the next was once unheard of. But since free agency became a bigger part of the NFL, it seems to happen in at least one division every year.
Parity is one of the things that makes the NFL so exciting. Teams not only go from worst to first in their divisions but teams also routinely go from not even making the playoffs one year to playing in the Super Bowl the next. Just look at this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rebuilding in the offseason through free agency and the draft is the best way to create a one-year turnaround such as this, and that is what George Paton will be looking to accomplish with the Broncos.
So how many times have the Broncos finished last in the division one year and then won the AFC West the very next season? Twice.
The Broncos were absolutely horrible in 1990, winning just four games after playing in the Super Bowl following the 1989 season. It was like the team was on a year-long hangover after being shellacked by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.
The Broncos lost a tough game to the Los Angeles Raiders to open the season but then won their next two against the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks. A three-game losing streak would follow and after a win over the Indianapolis Colts, a six-game losing streak put them down for good.
The Broncos finished that season 5-11, one of the most miserable in team history. For you longtime Broncos fans, many of you may recall a local radio personality by the name of Rich Goins literally living up on a billboard in Denver, refusing to come down until the team won a game during that long losing streak.
He was up there for over a month until the team finally got a win by beating the San Diego Chargers. It was a story that gained national attention and was every bit as real as it seemed.
To learn more about that story if you don’t already know it, click here.
Back then, there were five teams in the AFC West. It was one of just two times the Broncos finished fifth in the division. The other was in 1999 and though they didn;t win the division the following year in 2000, they were able to make the playoffs as a Wild Card.
The 2010 season was one of the worst in team history and many would vote for it as being the worst. The Broncos went 4-12 that season during the final chapter of Josh McDaniels’ stay as the team’s head coach.
He was fired during the season and the Broncos lost six of their last seven games before heading into an offseason full of uncertainty.
The following season, John Elway became the team’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations and hired John Fox as head coach. He also used the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to select Von Miller.
Though many would have an asterisk next to this season in terms of the Broncos winning the division (they were just 8-8), it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting seasons in team history.
It was the year of ‘Tebowmania’.
Say what you want about Tim Tebow, but he took the team on a magical ride that season that included an amazing playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though the Broncos were blown out the following week by the New England Patriots, the 2011 season was one for the history books.
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The Broncos have been a team going in the wrong direction for much longer than fans are used to. The Broncos are a team that has always bounced back, as evidenced by the two scenarios here. What will it take to go from worst to first this coming season?
Probably a lot of things.
The Broncos need to hit on some key free-agent signings and get better play at the quarterback position, though they don’t necessarily need to trade for a Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson.
The current Broncos have to deal with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. That is one major roadblock in any path to get back to a division title, something the Broncos haven’t won since 2015.
It was great to see the teams in 1991 and 2011 win the division after putrid seasons the years before, but the 2021 team has a tougher road than either of them did.