Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Denver Broncos All Career-Year Team

By John Turney

Okay, the drill here is to pick the best individual seasons in the history of each franchise, which we will begin today with the Denver Broncos. By "Career-year" we mean the best performances at each position, with the following rule: Only one season per player per position. For example, here, we cannot pick Randy Gradishar's best two seasons and use both inside linebacker slots.

Here are the picks, First-team to the left, Second-team to the right.  

Usually we will favor quarterbacks who finish the job—they have a great season and win the championship game. In 1997 John Elway won it all and threw a career-high 27 touchdown passes so that was a contender. He'd had an MVP season (1987) and a slightly better statistical season (1993) and a great one in between (1997) but we went with 1987 as the best - the Super Bowl loss didn't ruin the year. He was the MVP and the top-ranked quarterbacked by the leader pro scouting firm.

But Peyton Manning's 2013 was just too good, even though Seattle beat them in the Super Bowl. He was the MVP, All-Pro, led the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes, and tied for the best record in the league with Denver going 13-3. Had we won the big game it would have been just about a perfect season so he gets the top slot.

Craig Morton is an honorable mention for his 1977 season. He was the UPI Offensive Player of the year and got the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

Floyd Little
No, we have not seen Ken Adamson play. All we know is he was All-AFL in 1961.  Tom Glassic's 1978 season would be an honorable mention. There were lots of good seasons by running backs left off, but tough decisions rule the day. 

Nalen was an All-Pro and Bryan was a Second-team All-Pro in 1985, but we went with 1979 due to his high rating by Proscout, Inc. Jerry Sturm, 1964 and Casey Wiegmann, 2008 are honorable mentions as Pro Bowlers.

Mark Schlereth, 1998, gets an honorable mention as a Pro Bowler as does Tom Glassic in 1977

Eldon Danenhauer, 1962 (Pro Bowl), Mike Current, 1969 (Pro Bowl), Matt Lepsis, 2000, are tackles who deserve honorable mention. 

For this, we chose a 3rd down back since they were a big part of Broncos nickel offense in the 1980s and 1990s. 

The honorable mention running backs are Bobby Humphrey, 1990 (288-1,202-4.2-7), and Mike Anderson, 2000 (297-1,487-5.0-15).

For the honorable mention receivers we choose Anthony Miller, 1995 (Pro Bowl, 59-1,079-18.3-14), Ed McCaffrey 1998, (64-1,053-16.5-10), Ashley Lelie, 2004 ( 54-1,084-20.1-7),  Javon Walker, 2006 (69-1,084-15.7-8), Brandon Marshall, 2007 (102-1,325-13.0-7), Brandon Lloyd, 2010 (Second-team All-Pro, 77- 1,448-18.8-11), and Eric Decker, 2013 (87-1,288-14.8-11).

We also are giving Craig Morton, 1981, and Charley Johnson, 1973 on the honorable mention list. Morton was an AFC Player of the Year in 1977, and it was well-deserved, but we think 1981 was a better season, and it may have been his best NFL season.

We went with 1970 for Rich "Tombstone" Jackson since he was a consensus All-Pro, but 1969 may have been slightly better when he had 12½ sacks. However, the 1970 Broncos run defense was great and Jackson had 10 sacks that season. Ditto with Lyle Alzado, he was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1977 but 1974 may have been his best, when he had 13 sacks as a 4-3 right defensive end. 
We may be shorting Bud McFaddin, he may have been the AFL's best defensive player in its first few seasons. But Paul Smith was Pro Football Weekly's AFC Defensive Lineman of the Year and was in double-digits in sacks. Perry was a Pro Bowler in 1996 but 1995 was a better season. In the latter he had 39 tackles, 8.5 stuffs, 6 sacks and 5 passes defensed and 2 forced fumbles and in the former he had 31 tackles, 4.5 stuffs, 3.5 sacks and 2 passes defensed and one forced fumble.

Leaving Barney Chavous's 1974 off is painful, may rethink that one, as well. In that year he had 9 sacks and 80 tackles and 3 FF but he does get an honorable mention. Bertrand Berry's 2003 season with 36 tackles and 11.5 sacks also is an HM. Reggie Hayward, 2004 (43 tackles, 10.5 sacks), Neil Smith, 1997 (Pro Bowl, 34 tackles, 8.5 sacks),  Derrek Wolfe, 2015 (50 tackles, 5.5 sacks, stout versus run), and DeMarcus Ware, 2014 (Pro Bowl, 10 sacks) also deserve mention. Ware is now a rushbacker, opposite of Von Miller, but in 2014, he was a defensive end, though he did drop some. These days edge rushers are often hard to define.

Dave Costa, 1969 (11½ sacks) is an honorable mention at defensive tackle as are Terrance Knighton for 2013 (43 tackles, 3 sacks as a nose tackle), Maa Tanuvasa, 1998 (45 tackles, 8.5 sacks)
Rulon Jones
Gradishar could have several seasons here, but we chose 1978 due to being a consensus NFL Defensive Player of the Year as he had 197 tackles, 7 stuffs, 4 INTs, 9 PD and was All-Pro. Karl Mecklenberg was All-Pro in 1989 and had 7.5 sacks.

D.J. Williams, 2010 (119 tackles, 5.5 sacks) is an honorable mention as is Brandon Marshall, 2014 (119 tackles, 9 PD, 2 sacks, 2 FF) and  Fred Forsberg, 1970, who had 16.5 tackles for loss that year.

Tom Jackson was not All-Pro in 1976, but he was in 1977. We went with 1976 because of the 7 interceptions and 4 sacks; Jackson was on Paul Zimmerman's 1976 All-Pro team for the New York Post. Bob Swenson's 1979 may have been as good or better than his 1981 All-Pro season as a SAM backer, but just another of those where a few seasons would work. 

It was very painful leaving out Simon Fletcher, in 1992, but the rushbacker slots went to Miller and Dumervil. If we revise this post at some point, we will look at it again but Fletcher gets a definite honorable mention he had 64 tackles (7.5 stuffs), 16 sacks, 9 PD and 5 FF and was named an All-Pro by Dallas Morning News. Miller, in 2012 had 68 tackles, 18.5 sacks, 6 FF and 14,o stuffs. Dumervil's year was composed of 49 tackles, 17 sacks and 4 forced fumbles but only .5 stuffs. 

Another OLBer honorable mention is John Mobley, 1997 (All-Pro, 132 tackles, 4 sacks and a pick 6) Others are John Bramlett, 1966 (Pro Bowler, 9½ sacks and 1 INT), Bill Romanowski, 1998 (Pro Bowl, 72 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 2 INTs), Mike Croel, 1991 (84 tackles and 10 sacks) and Danny Trevathan, 2013  (152 tackles, 3 picks, 2 sacks, 10 PD, and 3 F) are HMs as well.
Like Gradishar, several of Louis Wright's seasons would qualify, same with Champ Bailey and Atwater. It was hard to leave Gonsoulin on the Second-team, but Atwater is simply an All-time great.

In 1964 Willie Brown had 64 tackles and 39 passes defensed and was All-AFL. He takes a Second-team slot behind Louis Wright and Champ Bailey. Bailey was the NFL Alumni Defensive Back of the Year in both 2005 and 2006 but we went with 2006 with his league-leading 10 picks to go with the 85 tackles and 21 passes defended. Louis Wright takes the top slot for his 1979 season, though any season from 1976-79 could be the choice. In 1979 he had 66 tackles and 16 passes deflected and two picks, but his coverage was superb and his run support was unparalleled in the NFL at that time and was a consensus All-Pro and All-AFC pick. Chris Harris got the other Second-team slot for his 2014 Pro Bowl campaign.

Deltha O'Neal , 2001 (Pro Bowl, 9 picks), Mike Harden, 1986 (2 pick 6s), Nemiah Wilson, 1967 (Pro Bowl, 2 pick 6s), Steve Foley, 1978 (Second-team All-AFC), and Terrell Buckley, 2000 (6 picks, one for TD) are the HMs at corner.

Tyrone Braxton, 1996 (Pro Bowl, 9 picks, 1 TD), Brian Dawkins, 2009 (Pro Bowl, 116 tackles, 2 picks), John Lynch, 2005 (Pro Bowl, 61 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 picks) are the HMs at safety.
Bill Thompson
For kickers, went with honors more so than with statistics as the game changes over time because the kicking game is just really stunning these days with placement punts, etc. We do give Billy Van Heusen is an honorable mention for his 1973 season, he had a 45.1 gross average and a 40.5 net average.

Rick Upchurch's 4 punt returns for TDs in 1976 beat out Darrien Gorden's 3 in 1997. Detron Smith, 2000, is an HM special teamer as is Keith Burns in 2003 and Phil Olsen is, too, for this 1976 season as is Godwin Turk for his 1976 season when he would have been in contention for a Pro Bowl selection if they had that slot back then.
Agree, disagree? Let us know.