Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Remembering Lou Saban
Former Bronco head coach Lou Saban passed away in March of this year. Young Bronco fans may think back to the Lou Saban era and think "it must not have been very fun to be a Bronco fan back then." And while Saban never had a winning record in Denver, there were still some exciting games that this old timer remembers. Here in tribute to Lou are my five favorite Bronco wins in the Saban era:
5. Denver 13 Detroit 7 (preseason 1967)
The first ever win by a team from the AFL over the NFL. The town was super excited with their new coach (Saban), and he delivered with this historic win. I wasn't at this game (played at the old DU stadium) but remember listening to it on the radio. Detroit lineman Alex Karras boasted before the game that he would "walk back to Detroit" if the Broncos won. He's still walking.
4. Denver 21 NY Jets 13 1968 Few fans realize that in the miracle Jets championship season New York only lost 3 times - and one was to the Broncos! Steve Tensi led the Broncos to this early season road win. I remember the announcer on NBC saying "the Broncos now have their quarterback!" Well Tensi struggled and later was outperformed by rookie Marlin Briscoe that year, but for one game at least the Broncos shocked the football World with an upset of the Jets.
3. Denver 26 Kansas City 13 1970 In this early season showdown the Broncos beat the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Denver to go to 3-0. Fans like myself at the time thought the Broncos had finally arrived and would be a contender. Despite the fast start the Broncos faded to a 5-8-1 record that year.
2. Denver 21 NY Jets 19 1969 Another early season upset of a defending Super Bowl Champion by the Broncos, one year earlier than the Chiefs victory. This is still one of my all time favorite Bronco home games. The game featured one of the best bronco catches of all time (a diving td catch by Mike Hafner), a long punt return by Floyd Little, and the longest punt in NFL history (98 yarder by the Jets Steve O'Neal). This exciting game, televised to the nation by NBC, put Denver on the pro football map for at least a day.
1. Denver 27 Cleveland 0 1971
Lou Saban's last win as Bronco coach was his best. Art Modell had said during the NFL/AFL wars that the Denver Broncos would never play in his stadium. In the Broncos first visit to Cleveland they totally destroyed the Browns 27-0. To this day one of the most dominant Bronco performances I have ever seen and so unexpected. Cleveland was a contender that year (the Browns ended up 9-5) while the Broncos struggled (with a 4-9-1 record in 1971).
The Broncos would become Cleveland's nemesis in the NFL for years, and it all started with this great win.
Since the 70's I've been saving newspapers reporting on great Bronco victories - here are sports pages from #3 and #1 on my list:
Lou Saban never brought Bronco fans a championship or even a winning season, but there were still lots of fun memories from his Bronco teams. Thanks Lou.