Denver Broncos: Top 5 Quarterback Controversies

Clint DalyContributor IIAugust 27, 2011

Denver Broncos: Top 5 Quarterback Controversies

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    Should Kyle Orton be the starter? Should Tim Tebow take the reins? Should Brady Quinn get a shot? Yes Broncos fans, we have a quarterback controversy in Denver.

    Now Kyle Orton appears to be the clear starter, however it doesn't mean he will remain in that position. Injuries, execution, and fan support have a way of making changes. Who will be the starter by the end of the season? Your guess is as good as mine.

    But here in Denver we have seen quarterback controversy before. Let's take a look at five of the more memorable ones.

5. 1968 Steve Tensi vs. Marlin Brisco

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    Marlin Briscoe was a relatively unknown quarterback from tiny Omaha University when he was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 14th round.

    Steve Tensi was drafted in the 4th round of the 1965 draft by the Baltimore Colts before being traded to the San Diego Chargers, and eventually wound up with the Broncos.

    In the 1968 season Tensi went down with a broken collarbone and Briscoe came on in relief.

    Briscoe, dubbed "The Little Magician" started 11 games for the struggling Broncos and becoming the first African-American quarterback in the history of the NFL. Briscoe threw for 14 touchdowns and ran for 3 more and was runner up for the Rookie of the Year Award.

    The following season, with the fans looking forward to another season with Briscoe at the helm, the Broncos abruptly cut Briscoe. He was never given a chance to defend his starting job.

    The Broncos retained Tensi as their starter. Tensi would last just two more seasons, going 10-21-1 as a starter.

4. 1979 Craig Morton vs. Norris Weese

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    Craig Morton was a beloved Bronco quarterback, leading Denver to its first ever Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XII.

    However Morton would come under fire from the home town fans at times due to his lack of mobility. Following his fifth interception in the Super Bowl game against the Dallas Cowboys, backup Norris Weese would replace the struggling Morton and lead the Broncos to their only touchdown of the day.

    When Morton would struggle with the pass rush in subsequent seasons many fans would cheer for him to be replaced with the more athletic and fleet footed Weese. And in 1979 Weese beat out Morton for the starting job.

    However Weese would go down with a career ending knee injury in just his sixth game after leading Denver to a 4-2 record. He would never play again.

    Morton returned to his starting job and led Denver to the AFC Wild Card game where they lost to the Houston Oilers. Morton maintained his starting position for three more seasons finishing his career 41-23 as a starter with the Broncos.

3. 1983 Steve DeBerg vs. John Elway

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    Steve DeBerg began his career in San Francisco. He was drafted out of San Jose State in 1977 and by 1979 he was the starting quarterback under Bill Wash.

    However in 1979, when Walsh drafted a young kid out of Notre Dame named Joe Montana, Deberg's days in San Francisco were numbered and he was shipped to Denver.

    DeBerg was named the Broncos starter in 1982 following the retirement of Craig Morton. But in 1983 the Broncos made a deal with the Baltimore Colts and John Elway came to Denver.

    In 1983 DeBerg was initially named the starter, but the Broncos faithful had seen enough of the rookie Elway, to know he was the future of the franchise. DeBerg would find himself splitting time with the struggling rookie throughout the '83 season. Although the Broncos would eventually make the playoffs (losing 31-7 to the Seattle Seahawks) DeBerg would once again be sent away and the job would be Elway's.

    DeBerg would end up bouncing around the league landing in Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Atlanta. He enjoyed modest success nearly everywhere he went but was nearly always the "guy who was replaced".

    Elway went on to be the face of the franchise for the Denver Broncos, leading Denver to five Super Bowls and winning two.

2. 1999 Bubby Brister vs. Brian Griese

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    Bubby Brister came to Denver by way of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets and then the Philadelphia Eagles. He wound up in Denver in 1997 and backed up John Elway during the Broncos Super Bowl victories in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII.

    Brister spelled Elway once in 1997 and five times in 1998 as Elway sat out with nagging injuries. Brister went 5-0 in the games he started and looked like the next in line for the starting job when Elway retired in 1999.

    However the Broncos had drafted Brian Griese in 1998 and when Brister struggled in the preseason, Head Coach Mike Shanahan replaced Brister with the younger Griese.

    The fans in Denver were polarized. Many felt Brister had deserved the right to still remain the starter. Others felt Griese was the future and had a better grasp of Shanahan's offense.

    The Broncos would go 6-10 in 1999 and Brister was gone following the season.

    Griese would go on to play three more seasons with Denver, going 27-24 as a starter with the Broncos.

1. 2006 Jake Plummer vs. Jay Cutler

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    Jake Plummer signed with the Denver Broncos in 2003 and replaced Brian Griese as the starter. In his first season with the Broncos, Plummer had his best season statistically. Plummer led the Broncos to the AFC Wild Card game where they lost 41-10 by the Indianapolis Colts.

    In 2004 Plummer led Denver to a 10-6 record and in 2005 the Broncos went 13-3 and hosted the AFC Championship game, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-17.

    However in 2006, the Broncos drafted Jay Cutler, a big armed quarterback out of Vanderbilt. When Plummer struggled, throwing only 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, the grumbling began to put in the stronger armed Cutler.

    Head Coach Mike Shanahan would eventually bench Plummer in week 11 following two straight losses.

    Under Cutler, the Broncos finished the season limping to a 9-7 record. Cutler would be named the starter in 2007 and Plummer was traded to Tampa Bay where he would choose to retire instead.

    Cutler would end up going 17-20 as a starter in Denver and would eventually be traded to the Chicago Bears in 2009.