As the Broncos prepare to launch their 2011 season against the hated Raiders, the team has added a feature to its website sure to keep bleed-orange fans happy. By following this link, fans can access PDFs of every media guide the Broncos have ever released, a half-century’s worth of nostalgia and local history that will appeal to diehards and casual followers alike. We scrolled through the covers to reveal some highlights:


The team’s inaugural media guide features a football player riding a bucking bronco while, for some reason, picking his teeth. Such underestimation of risk may be why the franchise didn’t notch a winning record during its first 13 years.


Six of the seven media guides in this stretch featured, somewhere on the cover, a cartoon football player riding a mischievously grinning steed. The animal’s resemblance to a donkey gave the team its unofficial nickname—one that, judging by some of the letters we’ve received after we’ve referred to the team as the Donkeys, some fans still don’t care for.


I’m from Chicago and a lifelong Bears fan. (Although I don’t like Cutler any more than you do.) In January, 1978, my family took a ski trip to Vail. From the moment we stepped off the plane, Broncomania was palpable. Their Cinderella Super Bowl run, that Orange Crush defense, and the fact that Haven Moses was about the smoothest cat who’d ever donned the pads combined to make the Broncos my second-favorite team for years.


John Elway graces the cover for the first of seven times, and the Broncos’ run of AFC dominance begins.


The year that culminated with The Drive. Which led to…well, let’s move on.


Perhaps the Broncos’ blandest cover ever culminates in its most scintillating finish, as Elway helicopters over the Packers to the first of two Super Bowl trophies.


A karmic disaster. St. John is the cover boy again—five years after he took his last snap—and the 3,900-word bio of Mike Shanahan refers to the coach as “the ultimate leader,” a moniker snarky journalists still delightedly invoke whenever possible. (Like I just did.) The season ends with the Broncos thumping the Colts while Peyton Manning watches, then the Colts and a well-rested Manning returning the favor one week later, in the playoffs. Sigh.


This year’s cover features not will-he-or-won’t-he, still-third-string Tim Tebow—thank goodness—but recently inducted Hall-of-Famer Shannon Sharpe. It’s a fitting and inspirational nod to the franchise’s illustrious history as it tries to resurrect its storied dominance. With week one’s kickoff just hours away in the topsy-turvy NFL, anything’s possible.

Tonight’s opener starts at 8:15. Can’t wait? Check out our Photo of the Week.

Photo by David Shankbone???