CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Before Mike Shanahan made the Oakland Raiders his personal speed bag, before quarterbacks John Elway and Peyton Manning mauled their AFC West foe, there was Red Miller.
The coach who grew up earning everything he received, advancing from Western Illinois assistant to revered professional offensive whiz, made Oakland into the Broncos' rival.
Robert "Red Miller hated Oakland. It dated to his days as an assistant with the Patriots, who were roadblocked in their title hopes by the Raiders.
Red made the Raiders a Red Letter game. Chronicled in "77: Denver, The Broncos, A Coming of Age," Miller motivated his Broncos to take the Oakland game personally. Denver won at Oakland early that season, the first of many defining victories for Miller. The Broncos built off that momentum, reaching their first Super Bowl that season. Beating Oakland in the AFC Championship game proved a watershed moment for the franchise, the city and the growing legions of fans in Broncos Country.
Fittingly on the 40th anniversary of the accomplishment, Miller received the franchise's highest honor Thursday, becoming the 32nd member of the Broncos Ring of Fame.
"Hearing that great news from (Broncos President and CEO) Joe (Ellis) and the rest of the committee brought back so many memories from those special seasons with the Broncos," Miller said. "Looking back, it was a ragtag operation with where we were at the time. We had to to build it up and get it going. All of our players and coaches carried us to a lot of success and brought so much excitement to the fans during those years. I am honored. And I look forward to celebrating with the many people who helped make this possible."
Miller compiled a 40-22 regular season record with the Broncos. He earned NFL coach of the Year honors in 1977 as the Broncos went 12-2. They advanced to the first of the franchise's eight Super Bowls, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 27-10. The result was not what Miller wanted, but there was no denying what he created. There is hope Miller will visit training camp this year.
"Red came in and brought everyone together, and formed everyone into a unit. He helped bind us all together," said Ring of Fame committee member John Beake. "Based on his coaching career, it opened up a door and a pathway to go into where we are today. To have him lead us to the Super Bowl, it was quite a landmark."
The Broncos were finally taken seriously as an NFL contender. Miller changed the vibe in his first training camp, bringing energy and endless optimism.
"There is a saying that the speed of the leader is the speed of the pack. Well you better keep up with Red Miller, because when he got to the field, he hit it running," nose tackle Rubin Carter said in "Coming of Age."
Miller joins Dan Reeves as the only Broncos coaches in the Ring of Fame. The expectation remains that Shanahan will eventually receive the honor, having won the franchise's first two Super Bowls. The excellence started with Miller in training camp in Fort Collins 40 decades ago.
"The Broncos have a proud championship history, and the person who helped start that winning tradition was Red Miller,” Ellis said. “So many of our franchise’s 'firsts' happened with Red as our head coach, most notably our first Super Bowl appearance back in 1977. It’s the 40th anniversary of that Super Bowl XII team coached by Red, and that makes his Ring of Fame selection this year even more special."