The National Football League and its member clubs are taking a summer respite before the camps all open in late July, at which time every team will chase varying goals symbolizing success in 2021.
For the Denver Broncos, the goals are pretty simple: Become a winning team again and hopefully reach the brass ring of the NFL playoffs.
It has been five years without the playoffs and four straight losing seasons for Denver, and to many of the faithful in Broncos Country, those years seem like 50.
But those years have not been 50.
If we really want to look back and count that high, we see that the Broncos have had a remarkable pattern of success.
The merger of the National Football League and the American Football League began in the late 1960s, and what is known as the "Super Bowl Era" started with that merger. The first season in which there was one league, with one commissioner and under one set of rules, was 1970, but the first season that culminated in a Super Bowl to determine the pro football's ultimate champion was 1966.
Here is a list of the 10 winningest teams since the Super Bowl Era began, listed by regular-season victories and with Super Bowl wins included.
|Franchise||Wins||Super Bowl wins|
|1. Dallas Cowboys||501||5|
|2. Pittsburgh Steelers||498||6|
|3. New England Patriots||475||6|
|4. Minnesota Vikings||470||0|
|5. Miami Dolphins||467||2|
|6. Denver Broncos||466||3|
|7. Green Bay Packers||460||4|
|8. San Francisco 49ers||455||5|
|9. Kansas City Chiefs||451||2|
|10. Las Vegas Raiders||449||3|
Of course, there are a lot of things one can do with statistics, but the above list is an absolute from the time of the merger. It spans more than 50 years, and that is a lot of football, more than even most diehard fans can say they have watched.
A few thoughts come to mind there.
For one thing, that is a lot of victories for the Vikings in 50 years without winning the big one, but to be fair, they have gone to the Super Bowl four times. Sometimes things just do not work out, despite a longstanding record of success.
The Cowboys are the only team with at least 500 wins, despite what many would call an extended championship drought recently.
From the standpoint of the Broncos, I find our success most remarkable in that Denver is the only team on that top-10 list that never had a winning season prior to the Super Bowl Era (excluding the Dolphins, whose first season came in 1966), and the Broncos are the only team listed that did not have its first winning season until 1973.
So despite not having a winning season until 1973, the Broncos stand at number six overall. Since that first winning season, Denver has the third-most regular-season wins among NFL franchises.
Also, Denver has gone to the Super Bowl eight times, exceeded only by the Patriots, and the Broncos have won it three times. That win total trails only the Patriots, Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers, Packers and Giants.
I realize the fervor with which Broncos fans watch their team, but if we can tear ourselves away from passionate feelings of negativity for a moment, we have to admit that is a remarkable record of success.
And frankly, national experts have had very strong comments about our current roster and direction heading into 2021, so I think the expectation is that we will push losing seasons deep into the recesses of our collective memories.
Are we satisfied?
No, of course not.
Is the roster set for opening day at the New York Giants?
Certainly not, but that is all part of the present and the future. And both the present and the future are built on the foundations of seasons past.
The above outlines a tremendous amount of success since the days when the Broncos played in Bears Stadium and were the poster boys for "also-ran" status.
This success is what our goals are based on, this is what we are building on and building for.
Let's not forget the remarkable record this team has had in the Super Bowl Era, which continues anew in 2021.