A Love Affair with a Loser

1987 Broncos Rign of Fame - Gerald Phipps

I recently read an interesting article from the Sports Illustrated Vault.  The piece, which was written in March 1965, details the early struggles and nearly overnight rebound of the Broncos from what appeared to be an imminent move away from Denver.  The spark that brought about their resurgence was the purchase of controlling interest in the team by the Phipps brothers, Gerald and Allen.  The Phipps’s, who previously owned 42% of the Broncos, purchased a controlling interest which amounted to their owning some 94% of the club.  That move, and their determination to stay in Denver, inspired a movement by citizens to support their team.  I particularly enjoyed learning how banks and local businesses helped the Broncos by assisting in the purchase of season tickets with creative financing plans.

Here is the full the article, A Love Affair With A Loser, by Edwin Shrake.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

10 Responses to A Love Affair with a Loser

  1. 1967 says:

    Of interest, the Broncos attendance ‘did’ go up in 1965… but then went down again by 1966, season’s end. As late as the 1967 season, there was still talk about the Broncos leaving Denver. But 1967 was the year things started in the right direction and went on from there, unabated.

    I think the signing of their #1 draft choice (a franchise first) in 1967, Floyd Little, had something to do with it. Imagine playing seven seasons without a #1 pick ever agreeing to terms, 1960-1966.

    Some great players said “no” to the Broncos during the AFL years, choosing play in the NFL instead – Merlin Olsen, Dick Butkus, Kermit Alexander, Paul Krause & Tommy Nobis among them. Those guys & a host of others would’ve made the Broncos a much, much more formidable opponent had they signed on with the AFL.

    Hard to imagine today, with their success and beautiful environment considered, but Denver was once a place players didn’t necessarily want to call their home.

    • Tom says:

      While you are right about the Broncos inability to sign a first round pick until 1967, the Broncos in 1963 signed Bob Gaiters, who in 1961 was both the AFL and Denvers first ever draft pick, instead Bob Gaiters opted to sign with the NY Giants. In 1961 after a promising seven touchdown rookie year, Gaiters second season was nagged by injury and the return of Frank Gifford to the Giants lineup cost Gaiters his job and by 1963 Gaiters was looking for a place to play. In 1963 the Broncos finally got their man and it would be Bobs last, but never one to be out done, and with little opportunity to play Gaiters made the most out of a lone opportunity, he had one pass thrown to him that year and Bob turned it into a 74 yard run and catch untouched into the end zone.

      Phipps was a most definite pioneer and visionary, no more revealed then when he sold the Broncos in 1981, a telling year in sport as it was then that the landscape of pro sport was dramatically reformed by free agency and bargaining rights that for the first time tipped in favor of the player.

      • 1967 says:

        On the bright side, Gaiters didn’t have to wear those garish DEN socks/uniforms like his predecessors…

      • Hey, that’s a cool story about the Gaiters touchdown. I’d never heard of the man.

        That reminds me of Percy Howard, wide receiver of the 1975 Cowboys. His ONLY catch in the NFL was a touchdown in the Super Bowl ! ! ! It was a 34-yarder from Roger Staubach in the 21-17 loss to the Steelers–the first of two Super Bowl classics between Dallas and Pittsburgh in the ’70’s.

        Regarding 1967’s opening comment: Merlin Olsen, Dick Butkus, Paul Krause, Kermit Alexander, Paul Krause, and Tommy Nobis ? ? ? ? Unbelievable. Between signing those guys, keeping Willie Brown, and having an offense led by Marlin Briscoe and Floyd Little–the Broncos would have had an amazing team ! ! !

        It’s speculation, of course, but with a team like that, the Broncos of the late ’60’s just might have been in the history books as a team of excellence–like the late ’60’s Jets, Chiefs, and Raiders.

        • Tom says:

          The Broncos signed only two notable draft picks during those first few years Al Denson and Eric Crabtree and did not have a winning season until signing QB Charley Johnson and hiring head coach John Ralston. Johnson and Gaiters were college teammates at New Mexico State along with Pervis Atkins and Bobby Jackson. Bobby Jackson Palm Springs HS is shown being announced on the Chargers video commemorating the 1963 team Todd posted today.
          Gaiters with serious knee problems and Frank Gifford’s return to the Giants in 1962, led to Gaiters shortened career have another thing in common, Gifford’s Bakersfield high school coach Homer Beatty was Gaiters JC coach at Santa Ana JC.

    • Doug Costa says:

      Bringing in Lou Saban (also 1967)who changed the way the franchise was ran.Starting with Floyd and some solid trades

      • 1967 says:

        Agree regarding Saban, least as to stability (which is odd, in that while Lou lasted longer in DEN than he did elsewhere, his wanderlust couldn’t be tamed as he went off his next adventure in due time.)

        While Lou made some good trades (acquiring DE Jackson from OAK where he was an backup LB), he also made dubious ones, such as giving up 2 #1 draft picks for QB Tensi who never did pan out; he also lost eventual HOF CB Brown the Jackson deal & lost HOF DT Culp to KC. Lou tried/was better than anyone before him DEN, that is for sure.

  2. Erik says:

    Neat story and yes, hard to imagine that Denver was once a place no one wanted to call home.

    On a side note, I loved the Broncos mid 60s uniforms once they burned their original uni’s, socks and all!

  3. John Brett says:

    Good insight. Thank you!

  4. HH-Western Colorado Broncofan says:

    The Phipps brothers were oh so important to Denver’s standing as a true sports town. A small item here; Actually Gerald Phipps was a big baseball fan, much more so than football. At that time of the buyout Denver was strictly minor league (Bears-baseball-Pacific Coast league), Spurs (Western Hockey league), and in 1966 the Rockets, later named the Nuggets (American basketball League)

    Phipps felt that if Denver lost their football team they would forever be remembered as “minor league” so they got involved. Right around the time of the AFL-NFL merger Pete rozelle let it be known “for the concern about the future and the stability of a couple of AFL franchises”. He didn’t name names, but clearly Denver was one of the teams he referred to. There was syndicates back east who wanted to buy the Broncos and immediately move them, and one of the cities mentioned was Atlanta, who later was awarded an expansion franchise and joined the NFL in 1966. Denver came close to losing their franchise, very close. But Mr. Phipps stepped up and bought controlling interest.

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