In my endless research of all things football and through my passion for the history of the NFL, I have decided to try and compile an All-Time Team for all 32 current NFL franchises. By All-Time Team I mean a starting roster compiled of the very best players to ever put on each franchise’s jersey. I will be starting in alphabetical order by current franchise location, so Arizona Cardinals all the way to The Washington Football Team, with the goal of releasing one to two All-Time teams a week for the duration of the current NFL season. This is meant to be fun and cause some debate and is based on my opinion after all my research and deep dives into each franchise’s history. Of course, not everyone will agree with who I chose, and I’d love to hear from anyone who agrees or disagrees, but first, let’s lay out some ground rules for how I came up with each team.
1. Each team roster will consist of the following:
Offense - 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 OT, 2 OG, 1 C
Defense - 2 DE, 2 DT, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S
Special Teams - 1 K, 1 P, 1 Returner
Coach - 1 Head Coach
2. I only considered an individual’s stats and contributions with each specific franchise. For example, Peyton Manning’s years with the Broncos were not considered when deciding on the starting QB of the Colts All-Time Team. As a result, the stats and awards listed with each individual player are only those that were achieved with that specific franchise.
3. A player cannot represent two teams as the starter. Players who spent time with more than one team were considered for the franchise they spent the most time with or had the most impact on. This rule led to some interesting scenarios that I will discuss in detail with each specific article to try and clear up any confusion.
4. A player’s stats and impact were considered in context with their era. This won’t simply be a listing of who passed or ran for the most yards in franchise history.
5. All stats are from Pro-Football-Reference and through the 2021 season. I will also be counting sacks from 1960, though the NFL doesn't officially count sacks until 1982.
6. Players in the "Honorable Mentions" section are ordered by year. It's not an indication of where I believe they rank in franchise history.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!
Denver Broncos All-Time Team
First Season: 1960
Record: 495-444-10 (52.72 W-L%)
Playoff Record: 23-19
Super Bowls Won: 3 (1997, 1998 and 2015) (Lost in 1977, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 2013)
AFL Championships Won: 0
Passing Leader: John Elway 4,123/7,250 | 51,475 Yds | 300 TD
Rushing Leader: Terrell Davis 1,655 Att | 7,607 Yds | 60 TD
Receiving Leader: Rod Smith 849 Rec | 11,389 Yds | 68 TD
Sack Leader: Von Miller 106 Sk
Interception Leader: Steve Foley 44 Int
Scoring Leader: Jason Elam 1,786 Points
Winningest Coach: Mike Shanahan 138-86
QB: John Elway (1983-1998)
Record: 148-82-1 | 56.9 Cmp% | 51,475 Yds | 300 TD | 226 Int | 3,407 Rush Yds | 33 Rush TD | Led League in Cmp 1993 (348) | Led League in Yds 1993 (4,030) | Led League in Yds/G 1993 (251.9) | 9x Pro-Bowl (86, 87, 89, 91, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98) | 1987 MVP | 1992 Walter Payton Man of the Year | 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl Champion | 1986, 1987 and 1989 AFC Champion | Hall of Fame All-1990s Team | Hall of Fame Class 2004
John Elway is the obvious choice at quarterback for the All-Time Denver Broncos. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, hands down. Elway led the Broncos for 16 years, leading them to 12 winning seasons and 10 playoff appearances. He took the Broncos to the Super Bowl five different times, winning in 1997 and 1998. He led the league in yards, yards per game and completions in 1993 and was named the MVP in 1987. Elway was also named to nine Pro-Bowls during his time with the Broncos. When Elway retired in 1998, he was second in completions, second in yards, third in touchdowns and second in fourth quarter comebacks in NFL history. He currently ranks 11th in completions, 11th in yards, 13th in touchdowns and ninth in fourth quarter comebacks. Elway was named to the Hall of Fame All-1990s Team and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. Manning also had a great four seasons with the Broncos, including the best passing season by a quarterback ever in 2013 and winning a Super Bowl in 2015.
Frank Tripucka (1960-1963) | Record: 13-26-1 | 51.8 Cmp% | 7,676 Yds | 51 TD | 85 Int | 1 Rush TD | Led League in Cmp 1960 and 1962 (248, 240) | Led League in Yds 1960 and 1962 (3,038, 2,917) | Led League in Yds/G 1960 and 1962 (217, 208.4) | 1x Pro-Bowl (62)
Craig Morton (1977-1982) | Record: 41-23 | 56.9 Cmp% | 11,895 Yds | 74 TD | 65 Int | 265 Rush Yds | 6 Rush TD | 1977 Comeback Player of the Year | 1977 AFC Champion
Brian Griese (1998-2002) | Record: 27-24 | 62.2 Cmp% | 11,763 Yds | 71 TD | 53 Int | 516 Rush Yds | 5 Rush TD | Led League in QB Rating 2000 (102.9) | 1x Pro-Bowl (00)
Jake Plummer (2003-2006) | Record: 39-15 | 59.1 Cmp% | 11,631 Yds | 71 TD | 47 Int | 670 Rush Yds | 7 Rush TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (05)
Peyton Manning (2012-2015) | Record: 45-12 | 66.5 Cmp% | 17,112 Yds | 140 TD | 53 Int | 1 Rush TD | Led League in Cmp 2013 (450) | Led League in Yds 2013 (5,477) | Led League in TD 2013 (55) | Led League in Yds/G 2013 (342.3) | Led League in Cmp% 2012 (68.6%) | 3x Pro-Bowl (12, 13, 14) | 2x All-Pro (12, 13) | 2012 Comeback Player of the Year | 2013 Offensive Player of the Year | 2013 Bert Bell | 2013 MVP | 2015 Super Bowl Champion | 2013 AFC Champion | Hall of Fame Class 2021
RB: Terrell Davis (1995-2001)
4.6 Yds/A | 7,607 Yds | 60 TD | 169 Rec | 1,280 Rec Yds | 5 Rec TD | Led League in Yds 1998 (2,008) | Led League in TD 1997 and 1998 (15, 21) | Led League in Yds/A 1998 (5.1) | Led League in Yds/G 1998 (125.5) | Led League in RRTD 1998 (23) | 3x Pro-Bowl (96, 97, 98) | 3x All-Pro (96, 97, 98) | 1996 Offensive Player of the Year | 1998 Offensive Player of the Year | 1998 MVP | Hall of Fame All-1990s Team | Hall of Fame Class 2017
Terrell Davis could have been one of the best running backs ever if it weren't for a career ending injury in 1999. Davis only had four healthy seasons in the NFL, but they were so great that he still made it to the Hall of Fame. Davis got better in each season, running for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie and then followed that up with 1,538 yards and 13 touchdowns in his second season, 1,750 yards and 15 touchdowns in his third season and 2,008 yards and 21 touchdowns in his fourth. Those four seasons were enough to make him the franchise leader in yards and touchdowns. He was named to three Pro-Bowls and three All-Pro Teams from 1996-1998, was named the 1996 and 1998 Offensive Player of the Year and the 1998 MVP. Davis was also the 1997 Super Bowl MVP. He had a careers worth of accolades in only four seasons and it's really sad that he wasn't able to have a full healthy career. He was named to the Hall of Fame All-1990s Team and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
RB: Floyd Little (1967-1975)
3.9 Yds/A | 6,323 Yds | 43 TD | 215 Rec | 2,418 Rec Yds | 9 Rec TD | Led League in Yds 1971 (1,133) | Led League in TD 1973 (12) | Led League in Yds/A 1969 (5.0) | Led League in Yds/G 1969 and 1971 (81, 80.9) | Led League in YScm 1971 (1,388) | 5x Pro-Bowl (68, 69, 70, 71, 73) | 1x All-Pro (69) | Hall of Fame Class 2010
The other running back for the All-Time Broncos is Floyd Little. Little is somewhat lost to history when thinking of the all-time great running backs. He racked up over 6,000 yards rushing and over 2,000 yards receiving. He led the league in yards once, touchdowns once, yards per attempt once and yards per game twice. He was named to five Pro-Bowls and one All-Pro Team. Little had to wait until 2010 to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but late is better than never.
Otis Armstrong (1973-1980) | 4.4 Yds/A | 4,453 Yds | 25 TD | 131 Rec | 1,302 Rec Yds | 7 Rec TD | Led League in Yds 1974 (1,407) | Led League in Yds/A 1974 (5.3) | Led League in Yds/G 1974 (100.5) | Led League in YScm 1974 (1,812) | 2x Pro-Bowl (74, 76) | 1x All-Pro (74)
Sammy Winder (1982-1990) | 3.6 Yds/A | 5,427 Yds | 39 TD | 197 Rec | 1,302 Rec Yds | 9 Rec TD | 2x Pro-Bowl (84, 86)
Mike Anderson (2000-2005) | 4.4 Yds/A | 3,822 Yds | 36 TD | 79 Rec | 647 Rec Yds | 5 Rec TD | 2000 Offensive Rookie of the Year
Clinton Portis (2002-2003) | 5.5 Yds/A | 3,099 Yds | 29 TD | 71 Rec | 678 rec Yds | 2 Rec TD | Led League in Yds/A 2003 (5.5) | 1x Pro-Bowl (03) | 2002 Offensive Rookie of the Year
C.J. Anderson (2013-2017) | 4.4 Yds/A | 3,051 Yds | 20 TD | 103 Rec | 859 Rec Yds | 4 Rec TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (14)
WR: Lionel Taylor (1960-1966)
543 Rec | 6,872 Yds | 44 TD | Led League in Rec 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1965 (92, 100, 77, 78, 85) | Led League in Yds/Touch 1960 and 1961 (13.1, 11.8) | 3x Pro-Bowl (61, 62, 65) | 4x All-Pro (60, 61, 62, 65)
Lionel Taylor should be in the Hall of Fame. He made three Pro-Bowls and four All-Pro Teams with the Broncos. He led the league in yards per touch twice and led the league in receptions an insane five different times. That is almost unheard of, so why isn't he in the Hall of Fame! He had four 1,000-yard seasons and that was during 12 and 14 game seasons. When Taylor retired in 1968, he was number two all-time in receptions and 11th in yards. That's a Hall of Fame career in my book.
WR: Rod Smith (1995-2006)
849 Rec | 11,389 Yds | 68 TD | Led League in Rec 2001 (113) | Led League in Yds/Rec 2000 (16) | 3x Pro-Bowl (00, 01, 05)
Rod Smith is somewhat of a lost name in NFL history, but he was a great receiver for the Broncos for 12 seasons. He's the franchise leader in yards and touchdowns and was the main wide receiver for both Super Bowl teams. Smith led the league in receptions in 2001 and yards per reception in 2000 and was named to three Pro-Bowls. He had eight 1,000-yard seasons and twice had more than 10 touchdowns. He has an outside shot to make the Hall of fame one day, though I think it is unlikely.
WR: Demaryius Thomas (2010-2018)
665 Rec | 9,055 Yds | 60 TD | 4x Pro-Bowl (12, 13, 14, 16)
Rounding out the receiving corps for the All-Time Broncos is Demaryius Thomas. Thomas put up some great numbers during his nine seasons in Denver and was the main target for Peyton Manning. Thomas had five 1,000-yard seasons and three seasons of at least 10 touchdowns. He also made the Pro-Bowl in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. His 9,055 yards and 60 touchdowns both rank second in franchise history. The Broncos have a bunch of other good receivers in their history, but these three are the clear top choices.
Bob Scarpitto (1962-1967) | 145 Rec | 2,439 Yds | 24 TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (66)
Al Denson (1964-1970) | 250 Rec | 4,150 Yds | 32 TD | Led League in TD 1967 (11) | 2x Pro-Bowl (67, 69)
Haven Moses (1972-1981) | 302 Rec | 5,450 Yds | 44 TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (73)
Rick Upchurch (1975-1983) | 267 Rec | 4,369 Yds | 24 TD | 4x Pro-Bowl (76, 78, 79, 82) | 3x All-Pro (76, 78, 82)