Denver Broncos | News

Way Back When: Remembering Charley Trippi


As the Denver Broncos face the Arizona Cardinals, Denver is hoping to reverse their fortunes on the season, which have naturally been disappointing considering the expectations before the season. But let us take a moment to look at the big picture and reflect on how the Broncos' situation is different from that of our opponent.

The Broncos had their first winning season in 1973 — having never posted one in their previous 13 years in existence — and made the playoffs and Super Bowl for the first time in 1977. From 1977 through 2015, the Broncos went to the Super Bowl eight times, an average of once every five years, which is astonishing.

Even now, guaranteed of a sixth straight losing season, Denver has averaged a Super Bowl appearance about every eight years. And of course, it takes a lot of playoff appearances to reach a Super Bowl, and the Broncos have plenty of those as well.

What made me think of this was the recent passing of Charley Trippi. I realize that many readers are not aware of Trippi, but since we assume everyone looking at this is a pro football fan, let us take a quick peek at him and his relationship to today's game.

Trippi was the oldest living member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he passed away on Oct. 19, and he was inducted as a member of the Hall's Class of 1968. After all these years, and after all these Hall of Fame players, Trippi remains the only Hall member who recorded at least 1,000 yards rushing, 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards passing.

He matriculated at the University of Georgia, left for World War II and, upon his return, requested to finish at Georgia before beginning his pro career.

One of the NFL's most versatile performers, he played halfback for five years, quarterback for two and defense for two.

But what stunned me was the fact that in the midst of his NFL greatness for the Chicago Cardinals, he was a starting halfback on the Cardinals' last championship team … in 1947.

That is correct. The last time the Cardinals won an NFL title was before they became the Arizona Cardinals, and even before they became the St. Louis Cardinals.

In a bit of pro football trivia, the Cardinals franchise is the oldest in history in terms of continuous, uninterrupted play. Not the Giants, Steelers or Lions, but the Cardinals.

Former owner Charles Bidwill Sr., a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was known as a guiding light for the NFL during the Great Depression. It was Bidwill who built the NFL's famous "Dream Backfield," which was headlined by Trippi and won that 1947 title.

Think of the great teams that have played from 1948 until the present. There are too many to name, and yet the last time the Cardinals won the NFL title, Trippi was their star player and World War II had ended fewer than three years before.

This year, Don Coryell was selected as the coach/contributor finalist for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2023, and he began the NFL version of "Air Coryell" while head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973-77.

That was nearly five decades ago, and Coryell's last year in St. Louis was the year Denver went to Super Bowl XII after the 1977 season.

The Arizona Cardinals have been to a Super Bowl themselves, led by Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XLIII, and today they are led by Kyler Murray with high hopes of reaching the NFL pinnacle once again. Meanwhile, the denizens of Broncos Country are saddened by the how this season has unfolded.

But since the immortal Charley Trippi took the Cardinals to a world championship in 1947, the Broncos have been to eight Super Bowls and won three. The Broncos have been in 10 AFC Championship Games, won 15 AFC West titles and earned 22 playoff berths.

I am well aware that in a world of "What have you done for me lately?" those accomplishments do not count for much, but they do exist. And they remind all of us that what happened once can happen again, even though it is very hard to see from here.

This week's matchup between the Cardinals and Broncos is not one of two teams with recent accomplishments, but they both have hope. And hope is the very foundation on which success is built.

Related Content