The 10 best quarterbacks in the history of the Denver Broncos

Who are the best QBs in Denver Broncos history?
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos / Justin Edmonds/GettyImages

No position is more important in the NFL than the quarterback position, and the Denver Broncos have been lucky enough to have a couple of all-time greats don the Orange and Blue. The legacy of the three-time Super Bowl champions is thanks largely to their elite level of quarterback play for the better part of three decades.

From 1983-2015, the Denver Broncos were one of the winningest franchises not only in the NFL, but in all professional sports. A number of significant quarterbacks throughout the team's history have contributed to the rich legacy.

Criteria for selection

In order to properly rank the top 10 quarterbacks in Denver Broncos history, a number of different factors had to be considered. Stats matter, wins matter, and impact on the franchise matters. That impact may not have lasted longer than a couple of seasons, but some quarterbacks made their mark on Broncos history in more ways than just longevity.

Some of these players were considered for their statistical prowess, but stats alone don't land you on a list like this. There are players on this list who, frankly, have pretty bad stats for the modern era of football. But each player did something substantial for the Broncos as a franchise or exceeded expectations in some way.

So, who are the top 10 quarterbacks in Denver Broncos history?

The top 10 quarterbacks in Denver Broncos history

10. Trevor Siemian

The all-time best quarterbacks in Broncos history are obviously a bit top-heavy, seeing as Trevor Siemian made this list. But Siemian represents a pretty unique story in Denver Broncos history.

As a seventh-round pick who barely started as a college quarterback, Siemian's ascent to the starting lineup in the 2016 season is nothing short of miraculous in the football world. He had a record of 13-11 with the Broncos and had the tough task of following Peyton Manning's career in Denver.

Had Gary Kubiak not retired, who knows what could have happened in Siemian's NFL career.

9. Marlin Briscoe

One of a variety of pioneers for the game and the Broncos, Marlin Briscoe is a truly historic player for a couple of big reasons.

He was the first-ever Black starting quarterback in NFL history. Additionally,he still holds the Broncos' rookie record for touchdown passes (14). We'll see how quickly Bo Nix can beat that number, but that figure has stood the test of time.

8. Tim Tebow

It might feel like a bit of a hot take to have Tim Tebow on this list, but his time with the Broncos is one of the most impactful "lightning in a bottle" moments in franchise history.

Tebow -- up to this point in time -- is the only quarterback drafted by the Broncos to win a playoff game for the team. And his walk-off playoff win at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers remains one of the most memorable moments in franchise history.

After firing Josh McDaniels in the middle of the 2010 season, the Broncos went 9-7 in games Tebow started (including the playoffs), and he finished his Denver career with 19 passing TDs and 13 rushing TDs in those 16 starts.

7. Brian Griese

Following up John Elway was a brutal job for Brian Griese, but he carved out a solid NFL career for himself. It just wasn't all in Denver.

Although Griese didn't end up proving himself a long-term solution at QB for the Broncos, he still threw for nearly 12,000 yards and 71 total touchdowns in his time with Denver. His 221.9 yards per game rank sixth-best in franchise history.

6. Charley Johnson

Charley Johnson is a member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame and is remembered largely for a famous quote by fellow Broncos legend Haven Moses: He taught the Broncos how to win.

Prior to the arrival of Johnson -- a former Pro Bowl selection who joined the Broncos late in his career (where have we heard that before?) -- the Broncos never had a winning season. His starting record of 20-18 doesn't seem earth-shattering, but he helped established a winning way for the Broncos back in the early-to-mid 1970s.

5. Craig Morton

Before John Elway, there was another No. 7 at quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Craig Morton, the former Dallas Cowboys draft pick, was the AFC Offensive Player of the Year in his first year with the Broncos (1977) and helped them reach their first Super Bowl. A Super Bowl champion as a member of the Cowboys, Morton was actually the first quarterback in league history to start in the Super Bowl for multiple teams. Peyton Manning later became the first quarterback in league history to win the Super Bowl with multiple teams.

4. Frank Tripucka

Frank Tripucka deserves his flowers as one of the great quarterbacks in Denver Broncos history, even though he played in a completely different era of football than we know today.

The two-time AFL passing leader was a pioneer for the franchise and has been recognized for it by being named to the team's Ring of Fame and having his No. 18 jersey retired. (Peyton Manning wore it from 2012-15 with permission from the family.)

Tripucka was the first-ever NFL or AFL quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season, and he did it in his first year with the Broncos coming out of retirement.

3. Jake Plummer

Jake Plummer is one of the best quarterbacks in Broncos history, as well as one of the most underrated. Acquired in free agency from the Arizona Cardinals, he was a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan's offense. He finished with a record of 39-15 in Denver with 71 touchdown passes and a Pro Bowl in the 2005 season.

Plummer and the Broncos hosted the AFC Championship in that 2005 season but were upset by the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. That team remains one of the great "what if" squads in Broncos history.

2. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning spent just four seasons in Denver, but it was one of the most productive four-year stretches for a quarterback in league history. He was an immediate MVP candidate in 2012 and won the MVP award in 2013 when he set an NFL record with 55 touchdown passes, as well as 5,477 passing yards.

In four years, Manning threw 140 touchdown passes and led the Broncos to four straight AFC West titles, two Super Bowl appearances, and a win in Super Bowl 50.

1. John Elway

The legacy of John Elway is unmatched, not only for any player in Denver Broncos history, but in all of Denver sports history. He is arguably on the NFL quarterback Mount Rushmore after his Hall of Fame career in Denver, which included 300 touchdown passes, 51,475 yards, and, more important than anything else, the first two Super Bowl wins in Broncos franchise history.

Elway's No. 7 jersey is retired in Denver, and he also helped bring a third Lombardi Trophy to Denver as the team's general manager (2015).

The 10 best quarterbacks in Denver Broncos history by passing touchdowns

Player Name

Passing touchdowns (as a Bronco)

John Elway


Peyton Manning


Craig Morton


Brian Griese


Jake Plummer


Jay Cutler


Charley Johnson


Frank Tripucka


Kyle Orton


Russell Wilson