Ben Swanson The Lead
The Broncos and Broncos fans alike lost an important figure in franchise history on Monday, as former quarterback Marlin Briscoe passed away at the age of 76.
Briscoe, who later won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins, was drafted by the Broncos in 1968 and became the first Black quarterback in modern pro football to start a game. That year, he appeared in 11 games, starting five, and was named runner-up for AFL Rookie of the Year.
Though he would not get the chance to start again at quarterback after that season, Briscoe's legacy endures, and when the world learned of his passing, other NFL teams, organizations, reporters and former players paid their respects.
Below the Fold
For those who weren't able to see Briscoe during his heyday, his style as a quarterback was not dissimilar from what we see today. When asked in 2021 about who he'd compare himself to, the first name that came to Briscoe's mind was the one player who would become their quarterback a year after the fact.
"My style was like Russell Wilson and Lamar [Jackson]," Briscoe said. "That was my style of ball. Back when I was playing, everything was standard drop-back. The league wasn't ready for my style of play, I guess. Because they always want to talk about a running quarterback. I wasn't a runner - I threw 14 touchdown passes."
Briscoe's skills as a passer are backed up by contemporary reporting in 1968, when the Omaha World-Herald's Larry Porter spoke with Saints scout Dave Smith.
"He's got the greatest arm I have ever seen on any quarterback - college or pro," Smith told Porter. "He's the only man I have ever seen who can run to his left and throw the ball right-handed 55 yards through the air with complete accuracy."
Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt told Porter that Briscoe's elusiveness was historic, too.
"Marlin has the greatest quickness of any college quarterback we've ever seen," Brandt said. "... He's as good as any big-time quarterback in college right now and just one heck of a football player."
And once Briscoe got to the pros, he impressed onlookers just the same.
"I'll say that Marlin Briscoe is the most dangerous scrambling quarterback I've seen in nine years in the American Football League," Chiefs head coach Hank Stram said after a game. "He's like playing against 12 men."
All-Pro defensive end Rich "Tombstone" Jackson, who played against Briscoe far more often than Stram's Chiefs, could attest to Briscoe's skills in both areas, too.
"We used to have to defend against him in practice, and he was elusive then," Jackson told DenverBroncos.com in 2021. "He had a spiral, he could throw the ball. He seemed like he was gifted - I guess that's why they called him The Magician, because he was able to do some things that other quarterbacks were unable to do."