10 Most Overrated Denver Broncos in Franchise History
It's one of our favorite terms to throw around in the realm of sports these days.
"Tim Tebow is so overrated."
"Joe Namath was so overrated."
We have overrated lists on everything from quarterbacks to cheerleaders.
But what is overrated? When you had high expectations and fail to live up to those expectations, then yes, you are overrated. When you're thought of as being a top performer, yet never really produce? Yes, you are overrated.
Players like Tim Tebow are not overrated. They are simply overcovered by the media. We hear so much about them through every single media outlet that we are sick of them. But Tebow finished his career in Denver 8-6 as a starter. He won a playoff game in just his second season. He produced.
John Elway was overcovered. We knew what kind of Halloween candy he gave out to trick or treaters! That is overcovered! Overrated? No way. You can make a case that John Elway is the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL.
So with those guidelines in mind, here are the top 10 most overrated Denver Broncos in team history.
Coach: Lou Saban
The coach of this group of underachievers would have to be Lou Saban.
After a brief stint at the University of Maryland, Saban landed in Denver where it was widely thought that he could get the franchise on the right track.
Things started off good. Funding was approved to update antiquated Bears Stadium. Soon after, the Broncos signed their first-round draft pick Floyd Little. Little marked the first top pick to actually sign with Denver.
On the field however, the Broncos continued to struggle.
The Broncos went 20-42-3 under Saban, and after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in the ninth game of the 1971 season, Saban resigned.
General Manager: Mike Shanahan
I know what you're thinking. "That's not right! It has to be Josh McDaniels!"
Two points on McDaniels:
One. You can't be overrated if nearly everyone thought you were terrible.
Two. You can't judge McDaniels based on such a short amount of time. He truly only had one draft.
You can't argue with Mike Shanahan's coaching record of 146-91 and two Super Bowls.
Now to be fair, Mike had some very good signings as general manager.
Terrell Davis, Al Wilson and John Mobley were all selected by Shanahan.
Now for the other side of the equation. You may want to sit down.
Jarvis Moss, George Foster, Marcus Nash, Willie Middlebrooks and Deltha O'Neal were all selected by Shanahan. In the first round.
And yes, Shanahan did have some nice free-agent acquisitions.
Ed McCaffrey, Bill Romanowski and Howard Griffith were all signed by Shanahan and played major roles in the aforementioned Super Bowls.
Shanahan also had some really bad ones.
Simeon Rice, Lester Archambeau, Daryl Gardener, Courtney Brown, Eddie Kennison and Travis Henry are but just a few of the bad free agents whom Shanahan signed.
10. Anthony Miller
Anthony Miller is a prime example of overrated to me.
A ton of talent. Blazing speed. Decent hands.
No work ethic and never really reached his potential.
Following the 1993 season, Anthony Miller became a free agent and signed with the Broncos.
Why did the Chargers let him get away? He was a four-time Pro-Bowler in San Diego. Maybe they knew something that we didn't.
Miller didn't always play hard. He wouldn't go over the middle. And he really didn't care.
Miller had a solid season in 1994. He caught 60 passes and had five touchdowns.
Miller just never lived up to all that talent.
9. Ted Gregory
Ted Gregory changed the NFL draft as we know it today.
You know all that combine stuff where they're measuring, poking and prodding these poor athletes like cattle?
Gregory was drafted by the Broncos out of Syracuse University in 1988.
A 6'1" defensive tackle with a motor and strength, Gregory was selected with the 26th overall pick.
One problem. Gregory wasn't 6'1".
Then head coach Dan Reeves said upon meeting his new pick that Gregory wasn't even as tall as he was.
Gregory was traded to the New Orleans Saints prior to training camp that summer!
Gregory lasted just one season in the NFL.
8. Dale Carter
Dale Carter came to Denver with some huge expectations.
He had been a thorn in the Broncos' side while playing for seven years in Kansas City.
He had 21 interceptions with the Chiefs and was still considered to have some gas left in his tank.
Carter signed with Denver in 1999, and the hope was that he could pair up with Ray Crockett and give the Broncos a very dangerous secondary.
It wasn't even the fact that Carter's play was substandard. It wasn't that the Broncos had signed Carter to a four-year deal worth nearly $23 million dollars.
Carter failed his fourth illegal substance test and was suspended for the entire 2000 season.
Way to stick the Broncos one more time, DC.
7. The Three Amigos
I apologize in advance to those of you for whom I am ruining childhood memories.
It's just that the "Three Amigos" weren't very good.
No. 80 Mark Jackson, No. 82 Vance Johnson and No. 84 Ricky Nattiel were the receiving corp for the Denver Broncos in the late 1980s when John Elway piled the franchise onto his back and carried them to three Super Bowls.
The Three Amigos were the product of a small-time marketing ploy to put someone else on a poster besides Elway.
Take a look at the stats.
Johnson, easily the best of the three, never caught more than 76 passes in one season.
Jackson had just 24 touchdown receptions in his seven-year run with Denver. By comparison, the previously mentioned Anthony Miller caught 22 touchdowns in only three seasons.
Ricky Nattiel played only six seasons in the league catching eight touchdowns. Keep in mind that Nattiel was another first-round pick.
For all the posters, t-shirts and touchdown dances, it just wasn't much production.
6. Steve Tensi
Steve Tensi had all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback.
He was 6'7", had a big arm and he had put up some big numbers while playing collegiately at Florida State University.
He had been drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1965 but was stuck on the bench behind John Hadl.
Tensi came to Denver in 1967. Keep in mind, this town had never had a big-name quarterback. Tensi may have been a castoff from San Diego, but he represented hope for a town that was craving success.
Tensi was awful. Turned out that Tensi really wasn't an NFL quarterback and had greatly benefitted from playing his college ball with a wide receiver by the name of Fred Bilenikoff.
In four seasons, he threw 43 touchdowns and 46 interceptions while "leading" the Broncos to a 10-21-1 record.
Bronco fans would be forced to wait.
4. Bobby Humphrey
Bobby Humphrey was a pleasant surprise for Broncos fans.
The Broncos had gone to (and lost) two Super Bowls in a row in 1986 and 1987.
In 1988, the Broncos limped to an 8-8 record with former Dallas Cowboy Tony Dorsett (703 yards) as their leading rusher.
Due to some injuries, Humphrey was drafted by the Broncos in the first round 1989 NFL supplemental draft.
His impact was felt immediately. The former Alabama running back ran for over 1,100 yards in his rookie season. He followed that up with over 1,200 yards in his second season and made the Pro Bowl.
Then Humphrey decided to hold out for more money. He missed most of the 1991 season and ended up being traded to Miami. He played just two seasons for Miami before finding himself out of the NFL.
So how is Humphrey overrated? Primarily because Bronco fans think of a superstar who just missed his window. And maybe that was the case. Who knows?
Or maybe, Humphrey wasn't that special. Maybe he just played behind a solid offensive line and was in the backfield with the future Hall of Famer John Elway.
After all, Gaston Green stepped in for Humphrey in 1991 and ran for over 1,000 yards in just 13 games.
4. Ashley Lelie
Ashley Lelie is another kid who was just rated far too high in the NFL draft.
Lelie had put up very good numbers at the University of Hawaii, but that doesn't always translate into the NFL. The Broncos selected Lelie with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2002 draft.
Here are some of the wide receivers selected AFTER Lelie: Javon Walker, Jabar Gaffney, Josh Reed, Antwaan Randle El, Deion Branch and David Givens.
Lelie had very good speed. At 6'3", he also had very good size.
The biggest problems with Lelie were simple. He couldn't get open.
And he couldn't catch.
Lelie finished his career in Denver having never caught more than 54 passes in a single season.
3. Frank Tripucka
This is really unfair to poor Frank Tripucka.
He had already had a decent career playing in both the National Football League and the Canadian Football League for 10 years.
When the American Football League formed in 1960 and Tripucka's former coach from Canada took the head coaching job in Denver, he asked Tripucka to join him as an assistant.
However, the Broncos didn't have a decent quarterback on the roster. So when they struggled, the reins were given to the 33-year-old Tripucka.
Tripucka played four seasons in Denver and has the distinction of throwing the first touchdown pass in an AFL game.
Following his playing days, Tripucka was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame, and his No. 18 jersey was retired. A class act,Tripucka recently gave his blessing for Peyton Manning to bring the number out of retirement.
I understand the sentiment. I really do. He was the first quarterback. He made history.
But take a look at the numbers and you do cringe a little.
Tripucka was 13-25-1 as a starter. He threw 51 touchdowns and 85 interceptions.
2. Sammy Winder
Sammy Winder was good at what he did.
His job was to take some carries, keep the pressure off John Elway, and most of all, don't fumble the ball.
He did that.
He was a part of some of the most memorable games and teams in Bronco history.
He just wasn't a very good player. Solid. Scrappy. Tough.
Not great. No one outside of Denver even thinks he was good.
Winder never averaged more than 3.9 yards per carry in a single season.
The most rushing touchdowns he had in a single year was nine.
And his top rushing season? 1984 when he ran for 1,153 yards.
That's just 72 yards per game.
1. Brandon Marshall
He has the size. Marshall is 6'4" and 230 pounds.
He can catch. Marshall has caught more than 100 passes in three different seasons.
So why is Brandon Marshall the most overrated player in Bronco history?
His teams never win.
I'm not saying it's all on Marshall to get the wins. But can you think of any clutch game winning catches he's had? Game winning touchdowns? Especially in important games. Brandon has NEVER made the playoffs.
Marshall racks up tons of catches. He currently holds the record for most catches in a single game with 21. Yet, the most touchdowns he's ever had in a season is just 10. That was in 2009 while still playing in Denver. Denver's record that year? 8-8.
Then, there's his off-the-field baggage. Marshall has had numerous run-ins with the law.
He looks the part. He even has some gaudy statistics.
But, Brandon Marshall doesn't have much substance.
And for a franchise with fans that value players who win, that's the bottom line.