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Sacco Sez: The Broncos, Raiders and quarterback 'firsts'

Take a photographic trip through the series history between the Broncos and the Raiders.

With the Broncos' 2016 first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch set to make his first start of the 2017 season, it occurred to me that there have been a number of interesting notes in relation to the Broncos, the Raiders and the quarterback position.

The Broncos and Raiders both started off as complete ragtag operations, the two teams far and away the worst in the American Football League during the league's inception years, and both teams have gone on to be among the nine franchises that have won the Super Bowl three or more times.

It will be fascinating for all Broncos fans to watch Lynch take this big step in his career Sunday, but it will not be the first big moment for a Denver quarterback against the Raiders.

This rundown of the five most intriguing individual matchups in Sunday's Broncos vs. Raiders game begins with Paxton Lynch.

Back in the inaugural season of 1960, future Broncos Ring of Famer Frank Tripucka beat Oakland at home for the first time when he led Denver to a 31-14 victory at old Bears Stadium on Oct. 2. Interestingly, his opponent at quarterback that day was Tom Flores, who still does color for the Raiders' radio broadcasts and is a man I am honored to have as a friend.

Tripucka's backup was George Herring, and while he only had four starts with the Broncos, his first was against the Raiders in a 1961 game at Candlestick Park. The Raiders truly were nomads in those early years, with no games actually played in the city of Oakland until 1962.

George Shaw, who was best known as the quarterback beaten out by Johnny Unitas in Baltimore, also had a brief stint in Denver and started just one regular season game for the Broncos — a 44-7 win over the Raiders at Bears Stadium in 1962.

In 1963, the rotating Broncos quarterback duo of John McCormick and Mickey Slaughter each had one start against Oakland — in a span of just 18 days.

McCormick went on be an executive at Coors, and Slaughter returned to his alma mater as quarterback coach, with four-time future Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw his most notable pupil. Oddly, McCormick and Slaughter each had one start against the Raiders in 1965, as well, and this time the starts came in back-to-back weeks.

During the year in between — 1964 — the only "lend-lease" quarterback in football history, Jacky Lee, made a start in a Denver loss at Oakland. The quarterback-starved Broncos had literally acquired Lee on a loan for two years from the Houston Oilers.

Many quarterbacks played for the Broncos in those bad years of the 1960s, and Denver went just 2-24-2 against the Raiders from 1963 through 1976, but future Ring of Famer Charley Johnson engineered one of those wins, a 30-23 win in 1972 at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Broncos made history on Jan. 1, 1978, when they earned their first trip to the Super Bowl with a win over the Raiders at Mile High Stadium, with AFC Player of the Year Craig Morton engineering the victory.

Certainly, that was the high moment of Broncos history to that point, and somehow it just seemed fitting that it came against the Raiders.

In the 16-year period during which Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway began his fabulous domination of the Rocky-Mountain region, the Broncos had great success against everyone, including the Raiders.

Elway was the only AFC quarterback to start three Super Bowls in the 1980s, and he led the Broncos to consecutive world championships a decade later, leading late Raiders executive Al LoCasale to utter two great quotes to me about our quarterback: "No game is over as long as Elway is still on his feet," and "the Raider definition of a great player is someone who consistently makes great plays — that win games — and that is Elway."

In the immediate aftermath of Elway's career, Brian Griese got the first win of his pro career at Oakland in a 16-13 win during the 1999 season.

In 2003, Jake Plummer beat the Raiders to earn his first home win as a Denver quarterback. That victory was a 31-10 affair in Week 3 after the Broncos began their season with two road games.

In Jay Cutler's first full year as the Broncos' starting quarterback, his first home win also came at the expense of Oakland, a thrilling 23-20 overtime triumph at Invesco Field in 2007.

Later, Peyton Manning led the Broncos to seven straight wins over Oakland during his four-year stint in Denver.

In the 58 years of play between the Broncos and Raiders, the fascination with firsts continues again Sunday when Paxton Lynch lines up at Oakland in his first meeting against one of Denver's legendary rivals.

Should Lynch find success, he'll add his name to a long — and memorable — list.

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