Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Denver Broncos boasted one of the NFL’s most feared defenses.

Led by future hall-of-famer Randy Gradishar and Broncos Ring of Fame linebacker Tom Jackson, the “Orange Crush” defense led Denver to tremendous success, including three Super Bowl appearances.

Defensive coordinator Joe Collier was widely regarded as the mind behind the fierce defense, which he instilled shortly into his tenure with the team.

On Monday, Collier passed away at the age of 91 at his home in Littleton, Colorado.

The Broncos announced the news Tuesday morning and issued a statement.

“The architect of the famed Orange Crush defense, Joe Collier is one of the most impactful coaches in the history of the Denver Broncos and regarded among the best defensive coordinators of all-time,” the Broncos said in a statement. “He was an innovator in the NFL with his 3-4 defense, helping the Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances during a legendary career with our franchise that spanned more than two decades. Intelligent, modest and soft-spoken, Collier provided steady leadership to five different head coaches as the Broncos emerged as perennial contenders in the 1970s and 1980s. His profound influence on countless players and coaches in Denver included 12 Broncos Ring of Famers, 11 Pro Bowl selections and 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Randy Gradishar.

Collier’s loyalty to the Broncos extended beyond the playing field as a Ring of Fame Selection Committee member for more than 20 years dedicated to recognizing our all-time greats. As we celebrate the extraordinary life and career of Joe Collier, our hearts go out to his three children (Joel, Julie and Lisa) along with his entire family and many friends,” the statement read.

After being named a two-time All-American in college with the Northwestern Wildcats, Collier chose to pursue a coaching career instead of playing career. By 1962 he was the linebackers coach for the Buffalo Bills and was the team’s head coach from 1966-68 before joining the Broncos where he remained through the 1988 season. After being fired by the Bills, Collier was away from the NFL until 1991 when he was hired as the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. Unfortunately, things didn’t go nearly as well as they did in Denver and Collier’s time in that role lasted just two seasons.

[Denver Broncos]