During the lockout of 2011, Mile High Report delved into the history books and declared, by jersey number, the greatest Denver Broncos to wear that number. Since then, the Broncos traded for Peyton Manning, set a ton of records, won two AFC Championships, won a Super Bowl, and put together one of the most dominant defenses the NFL has ever known. With such an action packed five years, now is the time to see what, if any, changes should be made to to this list.
Here's what is going to happen. [MHR is] going to break down the Greatest Broncos to ever wear a certain number. Starting with #0 (yep, someone wore #0 for the Broncos) and going all the way to #99, [we'll] give you who [we] think was the best player to ever wear a certain number.
That's what former MHR 'Guru' John Bena said in his article introducing the 'Greatest to Wear' series. During the labor dispute and lockout of 2011, the MHR staff, with nothing better to do, did just what Bena set forth. Five seasons later, Broncos history has beefed out considerably and it's time to reexamine this list. For those that are curious or for those that want a refresher, here is the complete list of the greatest to wear, #0-99.
Many greats will remain unchanged. Some have already been changed with #0-10, #11-15, and #16-20. What's in store for #21-25?
Brian [Shrout] chose Gene Mingo from a lineup of twenty players. The membership chose Darrien Gordon.
In 2011, Andre' Goodman wore #21. In 16 starts, he netted 2 interceptions, a fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. His brief stint in Denver was, sadly, not all that memorable.
In 2014, Aqib Talib joined the Denver Broncos with a bang. He's started all 30 games he's played in and has holstered 7 interceptions, 4 for touchdowns. He stands to miss some or all of training camp due to what many suspect was a self-inflicted gunshot wound he suffered earlier this offseason. Regardless of how his time in Denver shakes out, he's not the smartest Denver Bronco to have ever worn #21.
In 2011, Broncos Country, by and large, was unfamiliar with Brian Shrout's selection as the 'Greatest to Wear' #21. In 2014, along with coach Dan Reeves and returner/receiver Rick Upchurch, Gene Mingo was inducted into the Broncos ring of fame. While Darrien Gordon was a solid fan choice, I agreed with Brian's selection of Mingo then as I do now. Denver Broncos Greats... By the numbers: #21
Glyn Milburn was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2nd round (43rd overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played 3 years for the Broncos as their primary Returner, although he did see action as a 3rd down option at RB/WR. The 5'8", 177 lb. Milburn played 48 games as a Bronco, starting 6. He returned 112 punts for a 10.3 average and 96 kickoffs for a 23.4 average. Glyn didn't score any touchdowns on returns, but he was dangerously close to busting one on each play. In fact Milburn holds the record for Most All Purpose Yards Gained in a single Game with 404 on December 10, 1995. As a 3rd down back, he rushed for 698 yards and 1 touchdown on 159 carries, a 4.4 average. He also caught 137 passes for 1,040 yards and 6 touchdowns. After the 1995 Season, Terrell Davis was ingrained as the starting Running Back, so Glyn was traded to the Detroit Lions for a 2nd and a 7th round picks in the 1996 NFL draft. Milburn's NFL career continued through the 2001 season, playing for the Lions, Chicago Bears, and briefly for the San Diego Chargers. He went to the Pro Bowl in 1995 as a Bronco and in 1999 as a Chicago Bear, Milburn went to his 2nd Pro Bowl and was named 1st-team All-Pro.
In 2012, Tracy Porter wore #22. He appeared in 6 games and started 4. In the opening game against the Steelers, Porter had an interception that he returned for a touchdown. What had been a promising start to 2012 evaporated in the middle of the season due to lingering issues related to a seizure he suffered during preseason. His continued absence was rumored to be related to attitude issues and Chris Harris Jr.'s elevated level of play. He played with the Raiders the following season.
C. J. Anderson began his career wearing # 39 in 2013. From 2014 to present, he's worn #22. In his time with the Broncos he's appeared in 35 games with 12 starts. On 338 attempts, he's racked up 1,607 career yards with 13 touchdowns. He's also hauled in 59 catches for 507-yards and 2 touchdowns. During the Broncos Super Bowl winning season, Anderson had 152 attempts for 720 yards with 5 touchdowns. C.J. is also credited with the Broncos lone offensive touchdown in Super Bowl 50.
Who was the 'Greatest to Wear' #22? Folks, this was a close one. It's not that Glyn Milburn's stats were that much better, they weren't. A returner should have at least one touchdown to their credit. A great running back should at least have one 1,000-yard season. However, C.J. was nails when the Broncos needed him most during the regular season. Milburn set a team record, something C.J. hasn't. See what I'm saying? It's close! When in doubt, leave it as is. The good news for C.J. Anderson is that the bar for being the greatest to wear #22 is very low. As it sits in 2016, C.J. needs to have at least another solid year in order to jump over Milburn. Denver Broncos greats... By the numbers: #22
Sammy Winder comes up short against Goose Gonsoulin.
In 2011, Willis McGahee wore #23 during his final season in Denver. He appeared in 25 games, starting 23 of them. On 446 attempts, Willis racked up 1,930-yards with 8 touchdowns. He caught a touchdown on one of his 38 receptions for 272 yards. What's lost in these stats is McGahee's ability to block. The miraculous Tebow season of 2011 was partially made possible by the running lanes this running back helped open up.
In 2013, former San Diego Charger Quentin Jammer joined the Broncos in #23. In 11 games he started one, netting a fumble recovery. He was well past his prime when he came to Denver and was mercilessly picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
Ronnie Hillman almost has more jersey numbers than years with the Denver Broncos. In 2012, he wore #34. In 2013, it was #21. Finally, in 2014, Ronnie settled on the #23 and that's the number he's projected to wear when training camp for the Broncos opens in 2016. Ronnie was selected in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft (67th overall). He's started 15 of the 48 games he's appeared in. On 452 attempts, he's gained 1,842-yards and 12 touchdowns. From his 67 catches for 431 yards, Hillman scored 1 receiving touchdown. Although most people recognize C.J. Anderson for the limited rushing successes of 2015, it was Ronnie Hillman who had more touchdowns (7) and yards (863) on 207 attempts.
Goose and Sammy-baby remain at the top of the #23 heap. Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman have both run with heart, but Goose is a ring of famer and Sammy Winder is likely join the ring one day soon. Denver Broncos greats... By the numbers: #23
Since 2011, the only player to wear #24 is Champ Bailey. The consensus best player to wear the number is the same today as it was then. Sit back, relax, and watch his ascension to the Hall of Fame in 2018 (or shortly thereafter depending on how the votes go). Bailey is an all time great and there is nobody remotely on the radar to unseat him.
Bailey finished his career in Denver in 2013. In 135 games, he started 132 of them. Despite being known as a corner no quarterback wanted to throw toward, Bailey picked off the ball 34 times for 3 touchdowns. He forced 5 fumbles and had one recovery. With 522 tackles and 2 sacks, he always had a nose for the ball. Denver Broncos greats... By the numbers: #24
Haven Moses. Not even close.
What a difference five years make. In 2011, Chris Harris Jr. was just another name you'd never heard before, much like the unknowns you see featured in MHR's current 90-in-90 series. An undrafted free agent in 2011, odds were long that he'd even make the team, much less become one of it's marquee players. In 79 games since, he's started 63. A protege of Champ Bailey, he's hauled in 12 interceptions for 3 touchdowns. He's forced 3 fumbles and recovered 3. Harris is well on his way to doing what was unthinkable in 2011, toppling Haven Moses' reign as the greatest to wear #25.. Chris Harris Jr. was instrumental in the success of the 2015 Super Bowl team.
Haven Moses is a ring of famer and played for 9 years. It's a tall order to usurp Haven on this list, but Harris is making a strong case to do so one day soon. Denver Broncos greats... By the numbers: #25
But for the first five games, the horse was blue in '62, and I personally continue to express my view that this helmet should be included in the lobby display with the other helmets, as it was just as official and just as real.
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