SI Vault
AFC west
Paul Zimmerman
September 07, 1992
The Denver Broncos didn't win the Super Bowl when they had the Orange Crush defense. They didn't win it when they had the Three Amigos. But now, stripped of nicknames, still seeking an identity, they are our pick to win Super Bowl XXVII. How come? Three reasons.
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September 07, 1992

Afc West

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Last year the clock finally ran out on 37-year-old Steve DeBerg, who was coming off a miraculous 1990 season. He just couldn't get that oomph on his passes. The Chiefs' leading receiver, Robb Thomas, with 43 catches, ranked 66th in the NFL. In the playoffs Buffalo crowded in close to stop K.C.'s big-hammer ground game and jammed the wideouts at the line, defying the Chiefs to go deep. The season was over. Time for a change.

In came 33-year-old Dave Krieg, a Plan B signee from Seattle, to play quarterback. But where are the wideouts? The only receiver who can get deep is Tim Barnett, unless you count 30-year-old Stephone Paige, who's coming back from knee surgery. Clearly a trade is needed. It's time to dip into that vast well of backfield talent—Christian Okoye, Barry Word, Harvey Williams, Kimble Anders, Todd McNair—and trade somebody to get a flier. Don't bet they won't.

Since Alex Spanos acquired the team in 1984, the San Diego Chargers have had one winning record, in the strike season of 1987, and even that team lost its last six games. There have been three general managers in that time, and four coaches, the latest being Bobby Ross, who turned the Georgia Tech program around. It's an organization run by fear and impatience. Even Bobby Beathard, in his third year as general manager, hasn't been able to make a dent. He won't this year, either.

San Diego can punish a soft defense with its big backs, Marion Butts and Rod Bernstine. They can, on occasion, rise up and slop opposing runners. But when it's time to spread the formation, they're in trouble—on both sides of the ball.

Their quarterback is much-traveled Bob Gagliano, who is playing with his fifth pro team in eight years. He beat out Stan Humphries, a Redskin reject who was picked up in a trade when John Friesz went out for the year with a knee injury in a preseason game. Aside from Ross, the most interesting newcomer is another coach: Bill Arnsparger, the architect of Don Shula's 53-Defense, who, like an old war-horse hearing that final bugle, cast off five years as a college administrator and returned to combat. He'll coach the defense. Good luck.

Ken Behring, the Seattle Seahawks' owner, wanted coach Chuck Knox to play rookie quarterback Dan McGwire last year. Knox stuck with Dave Krieg. Behring wanted more flash in the offense. Knox said, Thanks, but I'll do it my way. Two weeks after the '91 season, Knox was on his way to Anaheim to coach the Rams. Seattle's new coach is Tom Flores, the team's president and someone who knows how to get along with the owner.

Does this mean that McGwire, who threw seven passes last year, is the starting quarterback? No, the job went to Kelly Stouffer, who threw 15 passes in '91.

The defense will be solid again because the coach, Tom Catlin, is one of the best in the business and because he's blessed with two of the finest, and most underrated, defensive backs in football—corner Dwayne Harper and free safety Eugene Robinson. If ex-Viking Keith Millard ever recovers from his knee injuries and regains any of his old pass-rushing magic, the defense will be even better.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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