The Case For The Broncos Ring Of Fame: Joe Collier

In the fourth of Thin Air’s series on considerations for the Broncos Ring of Fame is Joe Collier (1972-1988).

Should Joe Collier be in the Broncos Ring of Fame?

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I feel that the case for Joe Collier in the Ring of Fame is very solid, and the main reason he’s not in already is due to the complicating factor of his presence on the Ring of Fame committee itself.  But Jeremy thought it would be a good idea to open up a discussion on Collier since his tenure with the Broncos goes back before some of us were even born.  Such a discussion seems perfect for a Friday morning just after we discussed another defensive-minded coach in Wade Phillips.

Before Collier’s arrival in 1972, the Broncos had one of the worst histories among NFL teams at the time. During his tenure, the Broncos then finished no worse than 2nd in the AFC West only three times.  The decline of the Chargers and especially the Chiefs helped, but those damned Raiders were still ruining things with dominating the division in the mid-1970s.

That finally came to an end in 1977 when the Orange Crush had fully ripened. You know the end result that season: the Broncos’ first playoff appearance, AFC West title, and Super Bowl appearance, all at the expense of the Raiders. From 1976 to 1979, and again in 1981, the Broncos were in the top half on defense in both yards and points.

It’s often quoted that the Broncos have more Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons under the tenure of Pat Bowlen.  A similar quote can be said for Joe Collier: under his tenure, there were three Super Bowl appearances (1977, 1986, and 1987) and only three losing seasons (1972, 1975, and the strike shortened 1982).

  • Jeremy

    Thanks Nick!

    Broncos as a franchise were 48-114-6 before he arrived. They were 148-100-4 during his tenure.

  • Yahmule

    Joe caught all the heat for the Broncos Super Bowl losses to New York and Washington, but those defenses were completely overmatched from a personnel standpoint. Bronco fans saw the Bears and Giants win big with attacking defenses and wanted that in Denver, but you can’t run that scheme without the right players. Unfortunately, the term “bend but don’t break” became synonymous with Collier. Not because he didn’t want to be more aggressive, but because Rulon Jones and Karl Mecklenberg were the only two guys on the roster who could get to the quarterback consistently and blitzing a lot was off the table with our cornerbacks.

    • PiperAR

      I was guilty of this, but I was late elementary and middle school and didn’t know better. I saw a old guy on the sidelines and figured the defense must come up short because the coach is over the hill. Better players would be good. I now know that if you can’t get pressure on the QB rushing four, you’re gonna have a bad time. You can play coverage and die slowly, or blitz and die quickly.

  • Jeremy

    If the Broncos view Collier as a slam dunk like most here seem to do, I think they need to end whatever silliness they are doing by not letting him in while he is on the committee. He is 84, soon to be 85, and it is going to be a shame if he dies before he can enjoy the honor of being inducted. To prevent any conflict of interest, he can excuse himself from the discussion while the other 5 members debate his candidacy. They can do it without his knowledge if need be.

  • Brian

    Yes, and I’m willing to put a clipboard in my waistband in his honor.

  • BlackKnigh

    Having the guts to change the defense to a 3-4 from the long time standard of 4-3 says a lot about the guy. He simply needed something that the Broncos have now – or at least had in 2015: a very good crew of DBs and a DL that can hold its own. Also it didn’t help when he was ordered to play Hunley when the guy wasn’t ready to diagnose offensive plays.