There’s very little to match the excitement that a new NFL season brings.
And in Denver, with the Broncos, our fan base is going wild right now. New owners, a new trainer and, of course, Russell Wilson.
But a few things remain the same.
The Broncos will have sold-out crowds at Empower Field in Mile High, as they have done every year since officially becoming members of the NFL in 1970. That, by the way, includes the 2020 season, as the Broncos have always sold all the tickets they were. cleared to sell, according to NFL offices.
And the team still has its legendary and famous colors orange and blue.
Earlier this week it was announced that the Breckenridge Distillery was releasing limited edition bottles to commemorate 60 years since the brand’s inception.
Naturally, we wish Breckenridge Whiskey and the Broncos every success with this partnership.
But how did orange and blue appear?
The Broncos began in 1960 as members of the American Football League, and in the beginning they were the poster children who defined a bad franchise, from player acquisitions to stadium to colors.
In fact, the best thing that can be said about the first colors is that they were unique. The Broncos’ colors were mustard and maroon, and the reason for this is that the uniforms were used, bought second-hand at an old college all-star game called the Copper Bowl (copper, hence copper-like mustard ).
And the socks, as most fans know, were distinguished by their legendary vertical mustard and brown stripes.
So how on earth did they go from a laughingstock uniform to one of the game’s most iconic color combinations?
Everything happened from 1962.
After their dismal second season in a row, general manager Dean Griffing and head coach Frank Filchock were fired and the team hired Jack Faulkner in a dual role as general manager and head coach. Faulkner was a career footballer and his role in Broncos history is highly underrated.
Of course, most fans today didn’t follow the team in the 1960s (I was, though), so they just don’t know.
When Faulkner took over, the team not only wore mustard and brown, but the Broncos didn’t have a playbook. That’s not to say the playbook was small or outdated. One did not exist at all.
Faulkner was serious about his new position and brought everything he had to it, including his own experience, which was thoroughly steeped in Ohio football. He created a playbook and guided the team to its first .500 season, a 7-7 record in 1962.
Faulkner was named the AFL Coach of the Year for his work on the field in that first season, but I would argue that his greatest achievement for the Broncos was creating the orange and blue color scheme.
He knew the colors had to change.
The Broncos, for a period, flirted internally with green, but word was that the New York Titans were about to become the New York Jets and play green, so that idea was dropped. No way a team from the Rockies will win a battle for colors with a team from New York.
But Faulkner, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, who came to the Broncos from the San Diego Chargers, where he coached under legendary Sid Gillman, had previously coached under Gillman at the University of Cincinnati for six seasons.
And of course, as a native of Ohio, he knew the Cleveland Browns inside out. Not only did the Browns wear orange, but they were virtually the only professional franchise in any sport to wear orange at that time.
Faulkner therefore chose orange, with a blue border, for the Broncos.
New uniforms were created and he burned what was left of the old mustard and maroon uniforms at a public bonfire during the Broncos’ annual scrimmage that ended training camp at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
The logo on the helmet was designed by Bob Bowie of the Denver Post and was originally the more familiar cartoon horse with a grizzled football player riding it.
At that time, the relationship between teams and their local sportswriters was very close, and there was a time in American journalism when sportswriters also had to be cartoonists. A long time ago, newspapers relied as much (or more) on cartoons as on photography. Bowie belonged to a different generation and his career began around the time of World War II.
Thus, the Broncos uniforms became orange and blue in 1962.
The helmet was originally orange and had a blue horse on it, not the white horse it is familiar with. It was a fact that I personally questioned until I watched real old movies and took a trip to the Denver Public Library archives to verify it. The horse was blue in 62.
But at that time, all sporting events were still televised in black and white, and on black and white television, the logo looked like a piece of mud on the helmet.
So without any announcements, press releases or fanfare, the Broncos switched to a white horse on the orange helmet. The change was made for Game 6 of the season (Denver played Oakland in back-to-back games in Weeks 5 and 6), and in Week 6 the horse was white.
There were some changes to the jersey design regarding the stripes, but the orange and blue colors were constants from 1962 onwards.
The next big change came in 1967, when Lou Saban was hired as general manager/head coach. Saban didn’t like the cartoon horse. He found it stupid and not as powerful as he wanted.
But he couldn’t find a logo he liked, so while he changed the color of the helmet to blue, the Broncos played with nothing on the sides of their helmets in 1967.
It was the following year that Saban put the iconic “D with a sniffing horse inside” logo on the sides of helmets, which remained the logo until the team’s branding changed to 1997.
But no matter what, the orange and blue colors become one with the Broncos.
Of course, the main jersey color changed to a deep blue with the 1990s change, but we sometimes wore orange as an alternate color. After one of those orange home games, Pat Bowlen walked into my office for a chat on a Monday morning.
I told him that although the team was loved, something was just wrong.
“Pat, the fans want us to wear orange jerseys,” I finally said.
Then the future Broncos Hall of Fame owner replied, “OK. Let’s go orange. Make the necessary calls internally and to the league and tell them we want to wear orange jerseys again, as soon as the league will allow us.”
And that brings us to today.
We have alternate uniforms, and we will no doubt have future models of them, but as Mr. B said of the national opinion of the Broncos, “We’re that team that plays high in the mountains, wears orange and blue, and wins most of the time!”
Hopefully this part continues over and over again.