Photos of former Broncos fullback Howard Griffith from his time in Denver, which included two Super Bowl victories.
In our Broncos Legends series, we're revisiting the careers of some of the best players in franchise history with video highlights and rarely seen photos — and they'll join us to break down their favorite moments as a Bronco and more. Here's a refresher on Howard Griffith's time in Denver.
When the Broncos decided to sign Howard Griffith in 1997, they didn't need to overhaul their rushing attack. The year before, Terrell Davis was the AFC's leading rusher and second overall in the NFL as he ran behind fullback Aaron Craver. But when Craver's contract was up and Griffith was available, they moved to sign Griffith to add more bulk at lead blocker as one of their first moves in free agency.
"When I met with the coaching staff, they expressed to me they felt I was a guy who could take them to the next level," Griffith told The Charlotte Observer in 1997 after leaving the Panthers. "It's not too often when all your coaching staff and pro scouts are saying, 'This is the guy we need to get.' That was conveyed to me by coach [Mike] Shanahan and the offensive coordinator [Gary Kubiak]."
The impact was practically immediate. A tough and instinctive blocker, Griffith helped pave the way (alongside a talented offensive line, of course) for Davis to improve further as the Broncos' scoring offense went from fourth to first in the NFL.
"Griff is the piece of the puzzle that we need — a dependable fullback," Davis said in a 1997 Rocky Mountain News article. "We tend to run the ball a little bit more when Griff's back there. I think the attitude is different."
Davis rushed for 1,750 yards in 1997 and then eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in 1998 as the league MVP. In the playoffs, Griffith helped Davis become a transcendent runner; Davis averaged 145.3 rushing yards per game in the 1997 postseason and 156 rushing yards per game in the 1998 playoffs as the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls.
Griffith wasn't often asked to be a weapon in a Broncos offense that included Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey. But he capitalized on his opportunities when he could. He picked up first downs on 30 of his 68 receptions as a Bronco, including six touchdowns, and he rushed for 117 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown. In the postseason, he averaged 11.8 yards per reception and scored four total touchdowns, including two rushing touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXIII.
After the Super Bowls, Griffith played two more seasons in Denver, and though injuries derailed Davis' career, Griffith helped Broncos running backs Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson each rush for more than 1,000 yards in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
In January 2002, Griffith announced his retirement after missing the entire 2001 season with a neck injury.
Two Super Bowl victories
Blocked for six 1,000-yard rushers over eight NFL seasons (including four 1,000-yard rushers in Denver over four years)
Stats to know
Career stats: 121 games, 87 starts, 121 rushes, 351 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, 122 receptions, nine receiving touchdowns
In his own words
Howard on his mentality and playing style:
"[I was] just a team guy — just a hard-working, lunch-pail type of guy. … For me, I just wanted to go in and make sure I didn't make a mistake, that I wasn't the reason that the team lost. When my number was called, [I had] to be able to perform. Sure, it was few and far between, but you still had to step up and be able to make plays when you can."
Three games to remember
1998 AFC Divisional Round: Broncos 38, Dolphins 3
During their two Super Bowl runs, the Broncos relied on their rushing attack to lead the way. Davis, Griffith and Co. were at their absolute best, though, during this game against Dan Marino and the Dolphins. As Davis rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns, you can see Griffith provide key blocks, including on Davis' 62-yard run to open the second half. That Dolphins defense finished season sixth best in rushing yards allowed and first in rushing touchdowns allowed, too.
Super Bowl XXXIII: Broncos 34, Falcons 19
Not only did Griffith help Davis reach 100 rushing yards for a seventh consecutive postseason game, but he also got his time in the spotlight during Super Bowl XXXIII. Griffith put the Broncos on the board with 1-yard run in the first quarter and later added a second 1-yard score to build a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead.
Week 14, 2000 season: Broncos 38, Saints 23
With Griffith doing a lot of heavy lifting as a lead blocker for Anderson, the Broncos dominated on the ground. Anderson set the franchise record for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in a single game with 251 and four, respectively. And though Clinton Portis later took the record for rushing touchdowns in a game with five in 2003 against Kansas City, Anderson's yardage mark remains the best in Broncos history.