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Sacco Sez: Don't worry about the quarterbacks

My message to all Broncos fans who are worried about what might happen at quarterback is this: Don't worry about the quarterbacks.

The Broncos are getting ready for the 2016 season as much the same team that won Super Bowl 50 last year.

The elite-level defense is virtually intact, with new players having stepped up to replace valuable ones who departed.


Coordinators Rick Dennison (offense), Wade Phillips (defense) and Joe DeCamillis (special teams) all are back, highly respected and at the tops of their games.

Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway and Head Coach Gary Kubiak will make all the decisions necessary to put the right people on the field for the Broncos to win each week, and some weeks, some of those people will change.

I trust in all these individuals, and so should everyone else.

There is nothing really new in our fascination with the quarterback position, and history tells us there have been many ways to do it.

Woody Paige, of the Colorado Springs' The Gazette, noted in a Wednesday morning column that in his 43 years covering the Broncos, he has seen what he considers to be 18 quarterback "controversies," and I think we all agree that this is nowhere near a real controversy.

This is the Broncos' 57th season, and we can add to Woody's list that in the 14 years before his arrival, the Broncos had several other interesting quarterback situations.

They made their first quarterback coach the actual quarterback in 1960, when Frank Tripucka took over the position in the camp intrasquad scrimmage, with no practices whatsoever as a player, and became the first 3,000-yard passer in pro football history (beating out Johnny Unitas and Jack Kemp by a day), earning a spot in the Broncos' Ring of Fame. Tripucka stayed on as quarterback until 1963.

The Broncos' Ring of Fame honors those who have most impacted the franchise. Here are photos of all 34 members, arranged in order of their selection from when the Ring of Fame was created in 1984.

When Tripucka retired, Denver made one of the most unusual trades in the game's history, sending All-AFL defensive tackle Bud McFadin and a number one AFL draft choice to the Houston Oilers for the "loan" of quarterback Jacky Lee. He became known as "Lend-Lease Lee" and was to be here two seasons but it never quite worked out, largely because not everyone could make a mince pie out of mincemeat like Tripucka had. He played along with Mickey Slaughter, John McCormick and Max Choboian for three years.

It never works out just as you expected, but that's O.K.

Former Chargers quarterback Steve Tensi competed with Canadian Football League transfer Pete Liske in the 1967-70 era, and the Broncos also took fliers on former Green Bay Packer Don Horn and Steve Ramsey before Ring of Famer Charley Johnson arrived via trade in 1972.

As fellow Ring of Fame wide receiver Haven Moses once said, "Charley Johnson taught us how to win." That first winning season came in 1973 and the Broncos have been big winners ever since.

You would note that the previous quarterbacks just mentioned all quarterbacked losing teams, except for Johnson. But the early year Broncos were just not good enough, and no quarterback could make the difference.

The teams got better — first pretty good, then real good, and then the Broncos became championship caliber. Teams good enough, or great enough to win, do so.

As Bubby Brister used to say when he started for John Elway four times — four victories — in the 1998 championship season,
"It's like Shannon [Sharpe] told me: 'This team is like a Ferrari. Just drive the car — and don't wreck it.'"

I am not trying to put undue pressure on the rest of the 2016 Broncos, but this is an outstanding team and quarterback is just one position on that team, and the guys making the decision are perhaps the game's best evaluators and decision-makers regarding quarterbacks.

Nothing, however, will match the weird quarterback competition that spawned the greatest alternating quarterback situation in NFL history, that of the Los Angeles Rams in the early 1950s.

The Rams alternated future Hall of Famers Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin as starting quarterbacks for three full years, including the 1951 season, which ended in a title. They also lost a heartbreaking 30-28 contest in the 1950 championship game as well. So they Rams were big-time winners without designating one quarterback over the other for three seasons.

I could recite numerous anecdotes of the rivalry between the two, told to me by their teammate and future Broncos General Manager Fred Gehrke, a rivalry that took place in the fishbowl of postwar Los Angeles and before as many as 92,000 fans in the Coliseum.

There are a lot of ways to win in the NFL, and I am not the slightest bit concerned about which decision the Broncos make at quarterback.

I know it will be well thought out and what's best for the team, and like everyone else, I look forward with fascination to watching its development and progression on

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