Some NFL franchises have all the luck when it comes to quarterbacks—or at least more luck than others.
Dallas Cowboys fans got to cheer for Roger Staubach in the 1970s and Troy Aikman in the 1990s.
It only took the Miami Dolphins three years to transition from Bob Griese to Dan Marino, though they have been searching for Marino’s replacement in South Beach since he retired in 1999.
In the 49ers’ case, one Hall of Famer replaced another when Steve Young took over for Joe Montana in 1995. More recently, in 2008, Brett Favre passed the Packers' quarterback torch to Aaron Rodgers, albeit not graciously.
The Denver Broncos have now gone more than a decade since the most revered man in Colorado state history and my personal GOAT on football’s Mount Rushmore of Quarterbacks, John Elway, led his team to consecutive Super Bowl championships and subsequently retired.
The Broncos have started four quarterbacks of note since the LEGEN…wait for it…DARY Elway last suited up in a helmet and shoulder pads in 1999.
Brian Griese—son of Bob—had the unenviable task of succeeding Elway, and he had some success as a Pro-Bowler in 2000.
Jake “The Snake” Plummer—perhaps the coolest Denver Bronco of all-time—led the 2005-06 Broncos to a 13-3 regular season record and the AFC Championship game, only to be benched by head coach Mike Shanahan and banished to a life of handball and hiking in Idaho, aka, the outer limits of Broncos Country.
Plummer’s replacement halfway through the 2006 regular season was the rocket-armed Jay Cutler, who many fans envisioned as the "Next Elway."
Cutler showed promise in Denver and had all the tools to take Broncos fans’ minds off No. 7, if even for just the 0.2 seconds it took for one of his laser-guided passes to find Brandon Marshall or Brandon Stokely 25 yard downfield.
But alas, Shanahan was fired by owner Pat Bowlen following the 2008 season, and before he could play a down for his new head coach, Josh McDaniels, the mercurial Cutler practically demanded a trade when McDaniels suggested making a move for the quarterback he had coached as an assistant in New England—Matt Cassel.
Orton won his first six games as a Bronco but has since gone 6-21, including 1-4 to start the 2011 NFL season. His tenure in Denver has lasted longer than McDaniels', but it is questionable now whether the Broncos will keep him around or trade him before the October 18 NFL trade deadline.
IT'S TEBOW TIME
Orton was benched by new Denver head coach, John Fox, at halftime of last weekend’s game against the San Diego Chargers and has officially been unseated as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos by the man fans have been clamoring for since he was drafted by the team in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, the University of Florida’s own legendary jump-passer—Tim Tebow.
Tebow played well in relief of Orton, leading Denver to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and a near comeback victory, and he will make his first start of the season in two weeks when the Broncos travel to Miami after their bye-week.
Ironically, or perhaps by divine province, the Dolphins will honor Tebow and the 2008 Florida Gators’ national championship team in a “Gators Day” celebration that was already in the works.
BRONCOS FANS GET WHAT THEY ASKED FOR
Denver fans are rejoicing from the mountains to the seas, and they will finally get to see if the most popular backup quarterback in recent memory has what it takes to become the Broncos' next great NFL quarterback.
Only time will tell if Tebow is the football throwing and running messiah Broncos faithful and the American right hope he will be, and whether he can elevate the Broncos’ quarterback tradition to the level of the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts’ Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning; the New Orleans Saints’ Archie Manning and Drew Brees; or the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger.
But if the Tebow experiment does not work out, the Denver Broncos just may become the Luck-iest team of all in the 2012 NFL draft.