1960–1969: AFL era
The Denver Broncos were founded on August 14, 1959, when
Minor League Baseball owner
Bob Howsam was awarded an
(AFL) charter franchise. The Broncos won the first-ever AFL game over the
Boston Patriots 13–10, on September 9, 1960. On August 5,
1967, they became the first-ever AFL team to defeat an
team, with a 13–7 win over the
Detroit Lions in a preseason game. However, the Broncos were not successful in the 1960s, compiling a record of 39–97–4 in the league.
Denver came close to losing its franchise in
1965, until a local ownership group took control and rebuilt the team.
 The team's first superstar, "Franchise"
Floyd Little, was instrumental in keeping the team in Denver, due to his signing in
1967 as well as his
Pro Bowl efforts on and off the field. The Broncos were the only original AFL team that never played in the title game, as well as the only original AFL team never to have a winning season while a member of the AFL during the upstart league's 10-year history.
In 1972, the Broncos hired former
John Ralston as their
head coach. In
1973, he was the
Coach of the Year, after Denver achieved its first winning season at 7–5–2. In five seasons with the Broncos, Ralston guided the team to winning seasons three times. Though Ralston finished the
1976 season with a 9–5 record, the team, as was the case in Ralston's previous winning seasons, still missed the playoffs. Following the season, several prominent players publicly voiced their discontent with Ralston, which soon led to his resignation.
The Broncos defeated the Raiders in the
AFC Championship Game to earn their first trip to the Super Bowl.
Red Miller, a long-time assistant coach was hired and along with the
Orange Crush Defense (a nickname originating in the early 1970s, also the brand of
the popular orange-flavored soft drink) and aging
Craig Morton, took the Broncos to what was then a record-setting 12–2 regular season record and their first playoff appearance in
1977, and ultimately first
Super Bowl, in which they were defeated by the
Dallas Cowboys (Morton's former team), 27–10.
1981, Broncos' owner
Gerald Phipps, who had purchased the team in May 1961 from the original owner
Bob Howsam, sold the team to Canadian financier
Edgar Kaiser Jr., grandson of shipbuilding industrialist
Henry J. Kaiser.
1984, the team was purchased by
Pat Bowlen, who placed team ownership into a family trust sometime before
2004 and remained in day-to-day control until his battle with
Alzheimer's disease forced him to cede the team to
Joe Ellis in
1983–1998: John Elway era
Dan Reeves became the youngest head coach in the
when he joined the Broncos in
1981 as vice president and
John Elway, who played college football at
, arrived in
1983 via a trade. Originally drafted by the
Baltimore Colts as the first pick of the
draft, Elway proclaimed that he would shun football in favor of
baseball (he was drafted by the
New York Yankees to play
center field and was also a pitching prospect), unless he was traded to a selected list of other teams, which included the Broncos.
 Prior to Elway, the Broncos had over 24 different starting quarterbacks in its 23 seasons to that point.
Reeves and Elway guided the Broncos to six post-season appearances, five
AFC West divisional titles, three
championships and three
Super Bowl appearances (Super Bowl XXI, XXII and XXIV) during their 12-year span together. The Broncos lost
Super Bowl XXI to the
New York Giants, 39–20;
Super Bowl XXII to the
Washington Redskins, 42–10; and
Super Bowl XXIV to the
San Francisco 49ers, 55–10; the latter score remains the most lopsided scoring differential in Super Bowl history. The last year of the Reeves-Elway era were marked by feuding, due to Reeves taking on play-calling duties after ousting Elway's favorite offensive coordinator
Mike Shanahan after the
1991 season, as well as Reeves drafting quarterback
Tommy Maddox out of
instead of going with a
wide receiver to help Elway. Reeves was fired after the
1992 season and replaced by his protégé and friend
Wade Phillips, who had been serving as the Broncos' defensive coordinator.
 Phillips was fired after a mediocre
1994 season, in which management felt he lost control of the team.
Mike Shanahan, who had formerly served under Reeves as the Broncos' offensive coordinator, returned as head coach. Shanahan drafted rookie
Terrell Davis. In
1996, the Broncos were the top seed in the AFC with a 13–3 record, dominating most of the teams that year. The fifth-seeded
Jacksonville Jaguars, however, upset the Broncos 30–27 in the divisional round of the playoffs, ending the Broncos' 1996 run.
1997-1998: Back-to-Back Super Bowl Champions
1997 season, Elway and Davis helped guide the Broncos to their first Super Bowl victory, a 31–24 win over the defending champion
Green Bay Packers in
Super Bowl XXXII. Though Elway completed only 13 of 22 passes, throwing one interception and no touchdowns (he did, however, have a rushing touchdown), Davis rushed for 157 yards and a Super Bowl–record three touchdowns to earn the
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award—this while overcoming a severe migraine headache that caused him blurred vision.
 The Broncos repeated as Super Bowl champions the following season, defeating the
Atlanta Falcons (led by Elway's longtime head coach
Dan Reeves) in
Super Bowl XXXIII, 34–19. Elway was named Super Bowl MVP, completing 18 of 29 passes for 336 yards, with an 80-yard touchdown to wide receiver
Rod Smith and one interception.
1999–2011: Post-Elway era
John Elway retired following the
1998 season, and
Brian Griese started at
quarterback for the next four seasons. After a 6–10 record in
1999, the Broncos recovered in
2000, earning a Wild Card playoff berth, but losing to the eventual
Super Bowl champion
Baltimore Ravens. After missing the playoffs the following two seasons, former
Arizona Cardinals' quarterback
Jake Plummer replaced Griese in
2003, and led the Broncos to two straight 10–6 seasons, earning Wild Card playoff berths both years. However, the Broncos went on the road to face the
Indianapolis Colts in back-to-back seasons and were blown out by more than 20 points in each game, allowing a combined 90 points.
Plummer led the Broncos to a 13–3 record in
2005 and their first
AFC West division title since 1998. After a first-round
bye, the Broncos defeated the defending Super Bowl champion
New England Patriots, 27–13, denying New England from becoming the first
team ever to win three consecutive Super Bowl championships. The Broncos' playoff run came to an end next week, after losing at home to the
Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game, 34–17. The Steelers went on to win
Super Bowl XL.
The Broncos' defense began the first five games of the
2006 season allowing only one touchdown—an NFL record, but struggled down the season stretch. Plummer led the team to a 7–2 record, only to struggle and be replaced by rookie quarterback
. Cutler went 2–3 as a starter, and the Broncos finished with a 9–7 record, losing the tiebreaker to the
Kansas City Chiefs for the final playoff spot. Cutler's first full season as a starter in
2007 became the Broncos' first losing season since 1999, with a 7–9 record.
2008 season ended in a 52–21 loss at the
San Diego Chargers, giving the Broncos an 8–8 record and their third straight season out of the playoffs.
Mike Shanahan, the longest-tenured and most successful
head coach in Broncos' franchise history, was fired after 14 seasons.
On January 11, 2009, two weeks after Shanahan was fired, the Broncos hired former New England Patriots' offensive coordinator
Josh McDaniels as the team's new head coach.
 Three months later, the team acquired quarterback
Kyle Orton as part of a trade that sent Jay Cutler to the
Under McDaniels and Orton, the Broncos jumped out to a surprising 6–0 start in
2009. However, the team lost eight of their next ten games, finishing 8–8 for a second consecutive season and missing the playoffs. The next season (
2010), the Broncos set a new franchise record for losses in a single season, with a 4–12 record.
 McDaniels was fired before the end of the 2010 season following a combination of the team's poor record and the fallout from a highly publicized
videotaping scandal. Running backs coach
Eric Studesville was named interim coach for the final four games of the 2010 season.
 He chose to start rookie first-round draft choice
Tim Tebow at quarterback for the final three games.
Joe Ellis was promoted from Chief Operating Officer to team president, while
John Elway returned to the organization as the team's Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
 In addition, the Broncos hired
as the team's 14th
head coach. Fox previously served as the
Carolina Panthers' head coach from 2002–10.
Following a 1–4 start to the
Tim Tebow replaced
Kyle Orton as the Broncos' starting
quarterback, and led the Broncos to an 8–8 record and the team's first playoff berth and division title since
2005. The Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round on a memorable 80-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to
Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime, setting a record for the fastest overtime in
 However, the Broncos were blown out by the
New England Patriots in the Divisional round.
2012–2015: Peyton Manning era
In March 2012, the Broncos reached an agreement on a five-year,
$96 million contract with former longtime
Indianapolis Colts' quarterback
Peyton Manning, who had recently missed the entire
2011 season following multiple neck surgeries.
 This resulted in the Broncos subsequently trading incumbent
Tim Tebow to the
New York Jets.
 The Broncos finished with a 13–3 record and the
's No. 1 seed in the
2012 playoffs, but were
defeated by the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional round.
2012, the Broncos finished with a 13–3 record and the AFC's No. 1 seed in
2013. In the
2013 playoffs, the Broncos defeated the
San Diego Chargers in the Divisional round and the
New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. However, the Broncos were soundly defeated by the
Seattle Seahawks in
Super Bowl XLVIII by a score of 43–8, the Broncos' first
Super Bowl berth since winning back-to-back Super Bowls in
Prior to the start of the
2014 season, the Broncos announced that
Pat Bowlen, the team's owner since
1984, relinquished control of the team due to his battle with
Alzheimer's disease, resulting in team president
Joe Ellis and general manager
John Elway assuming control of the team.
 The Broncos finished the 2014 season with a 12–4 record and the AFC's No. 2 seed. However, the Broncos were defeated by the
Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round of the
2014 playoffs, marking the third time in four seasons that the Broncos lost in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Quarterback Peyton Manning had been playing with strained quadriceps for the final month of the 2014 season.
2015: Super Bowl 50 Champions and Manning's Final Season
On January 12, 2015, one day after the aforementioned Divisional playoff loss to the Colts, the Broncos and
mutually agreed to part ways.
 Fox left the Broncos with a .719 winning percentage in his four seasons as the Broncos' head coach—the highest in franchise history.
 One week later, the Broncos hired
Gary Kubiak as the team's 15th head coach. Kubiak served as a backup quarterback to executive vice president/general manager John Elway from 1983–1991, as well as the Broncos' offensive coordinator from 1995–2005.
 Shortly after Kubiak became head coach, the Broncos underwent numerous changes to their coaching staff, including the hiring of defensive coordinator
Wade Phillips, under whom the Broncos' defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL during the
 The Broncos finished with a 12–4 record and the AFC's No. 1 seed, despite Peyton Manning having his worst statistical season since his rookie year with the
Indianapolis Colts in
 and backup quarterback
Brock Osweiler filling in for Manning during the second half of the regular season due to Manning suffering from a foot injury. In the
playoffs, the Broncos defeated the
Pittsburgh Steelers 23–16 in the Divisional Round, the
New England Patriots 20–18 in the AFC Championship, and defeated the
Carolina Panthers 24–10 in
Super Bowl 50—the Broncos' third Super Bowl title.
2016–present: Defensive era
On March 7, 2016,
Peyton Manning retired after 18 NFL seasons during a press conference at the team's
Dove Valley headquarters.
 Following Manning's retirement, the Broncos have undergone changes at the quarterback position, including the free agent departure of backup quarterback
Brock Osweiler (who is now back with team after stints with the Texans and Browns) to the
Houston Texans, the trade acquisition of
Mark Sanchez from the
Philadelphia Eagles and the selection of
Paxton Lynch during the
2016 draft. Sanchez, Lynch and second-year quarterback
Trevor Siemian competed for the starting quarterback spot during the off-season and preseason; however, Sanchez was released and Siemian was named the starter prior to the start of the season. The Broncos finished the season 9–7 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. On January 2, 2017, coach
Gary Kubiak announced his retirement, citing health as the main reason for retiring.
 The Broncos would later hire
Vance Joseph to be their new head coach on January 11, 2017.
 The Broncos have since entered the era of their dominant defense consisting of the
Ground Control, and the
No Fly Zone.