Before John Elway became the face of the Broncos franchise, before Mike Shan- ahan, before T.D., before Rod and Eddie, before Sharpe's sharp tongue, before the Super Bowl titles and before anybody saluted, there was the Orange Crush.
It was a time when the Broncos were defined by defense. It was the 1977 season, when the Orange Crush defense led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl appearance, inspiring a fandom that to this day helps define the city of Denver.
The guy who coordinated the Orange Crush defense, arranging the pieces on a grass chessboard, thinks NFL history may have finally come full circle in Denver.
"What I see is that Jack Del Rio's done a great job," said Joe Collier, the Broncos' defensive coordinator from 1972-88. "To make it all work, you've got to have good players, sure, but they have to play well together, be guys who raise each other up. These guys have it and Von (Miller), he's just got a relentless motor, just a hell of player.
"I like what they do and how they do it. I really hope Jack sticks around, because that group really has the potential to do special things."
This year's defense, led by Miller, its young linebacker, is drawing comparisons to those great Orange Crush defenses, specifically the 1977 team, which ranked third in the league in fewest points allowed. This year's team, riding an eight-game winning streak heading into Sunday's game at Baltimore, ranks fourth in points allowed.
In his role as team executive, following his Broncos career as a Hall of Fame quarterback, John Elway certainly understands the role of having a prime-time passer. He has consistently said that having a franchise quarterback is "far away" the most important piece of the roster-building puzzle.
But Elway isn't one of those all-offense guys.
"I've spent a lot of time before I took this job and since talking to people who have been in the league a long time," he said. "The consensus you hear from those football people is get the quarterback and then get the guy who knocks them down."
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