Broncos Country suffered a major loss on Wednesday when former head coach Red Miller passed away at age 89 from complications of a stroke.

Miller coached the Broncos from 1977-80 and led the organization to its initial three postseason appearances and the first of eight Super Bowls. Miller will be inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame later this year.

Former Broncos linebacker and fellow Ring of Fame member Randy Gradishar played for Miller for each of the coach’s four years as head coach in Denver. During those years, Gradishar earned three Pro Bowl nominations (1977-79) and two All-Pro designations (’77 and ’78).

“Talking with Red,” Gradishar told Gil Whiteley and Mark Jackson on the day of Miller’s passing “he always had a fire in his eyes, and the fire coming out verbally. He was always exciting; he always challenged you, always wanted you to do the best and wanted you to know that we’re going to win games. We’re going to win games; we’re going to be the leaders here and take charge. He infiltrated that with his players, with his coaches. It didn’t take him very long in that ’77 season when he first came, just got everybody really fired up.

“Also, there [was] a very compassionate side to Red also,” Gradishar continued. “He a little bit reminded me of old Woody Hayes over at Ohio State. In my college career and my high school career, I had those coaches who would get in your face every once in a while if you were messing up and Red was kind of one of those guys. I’m very thankful to the Lord that I didn’t have that experience with Red. He was just fired up all the time.”

Named the eighth head coach in Broncos history on Feb. 1, 1977, Miller compiled a 40-22 (.645) regular-season record and a 2-3 playoff mark with Denver. He never had a losing record in his four seasons with the Broncos, tying for the fourth-most regular-season wins (40) in the NFL during his head coaching tenure—a figure that ranks fourth in Broncos history.

Miller’s 1977 team, led by Gradishar and the “Orange Crush” defense, posted a 12-2 record and won Denver’s first-ever the AFC West title. After earning their first-ever playoff berth, the Broncos went on to defeat the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game and advance to their first Super Bowl.

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