Recently there has been a lot of chatter among Denver Broncos fans about the lack of respect given to former Broncos by NFL Hall of Fame voters.
Despite winning six AFC championships and two Super Bowls, the Broncos only have four members of the gold jacket club: Gary Zimmerman, Floyd “The Franchise” Little, Shannon “Send the National Guard because we are killing the Patriots” Sharpe and of course, John Elway.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs, all of two AFC titles and one Super Bowl win, have ten members and the San Diego Chargers, who haven’t won anything, have seven members. Now, I’m not going to argue that those seventeen players do not deserve to be in the Hall, but rather that additional Broncos players do deserve to be inducted and that the inequity between the Broncos and other teams needs to be fixed.
Here are the Broncos that deserve to be in the HOF and what I believe their chances to be:
• Louie Wright, CB, 1975-1986 – Long before Champ Bailey or Deion Sanders, Wright was called a “shutdown” corner. Was one of the unsung heroes of the original Orange Crush defense. At this point, probably only gets in as a Seniors Committee nominee.
• Tom Nalen, OL, 1995-2008 – My last post http://www.profootballcentral.com/2013/06/02/tom-nalen-enters-the-ring-of-fame/ detailed the prolific accomplishments of the Broncos o-line anchored by Nalen. Has a 50-50 shot of getting in thanks to two Super Bowl wins.
• Rod Smith, WR, 1994-2006 – Greatest undrafted receiver of all-time. Despite the resume-enhancer of overcoming being undrafted, the numbers put up by receivers that will become eligible soon (like Marvin Harrison) makes it unlikely Smith gets in.
• Steve Atwater, S, 1989-1998 – Ball hawk and one of the most punishing hitters ever to play the safety position. Some voters will likely remember his crushing hit on Christian Okoye on MNF. Like Nalen, helped by the Super wins and I think he eventually gets in.
• Karl Mecklenburg, LB, 1983 – 1995 – This 12th round draft pick recorded 79.5 sacks (2nd highest in team history) and was the key cog in the defense that helped Denver reach the Super Bowl three times in the ‘80s. Those blowout SB losses will likely keep him from the Hall.
• Terrell Davis, RB, 1995-2001 – Spectacular career cut short by a freak knee injury, trying to make a tackle on a Brian Griese INT. Still holds the record of most consecutive 100-yard rushing playoff games. Since Elway may not have won his titles without TD, he eventually gets in.
• Randy Gradishar, LB, 1974-1983 – Gradishar tops my list of Broncos that should be in the HOF. Registered over 2000 tackles in his career and was one of the best short yardage defenders in NFL history. I believe he is being penalized for Denver not winning SB XII. Even though Gradishar must go in via the Seniors Committee, I believe he will eventually get in.
In addition, I could make case for Jason Elam, a clutch kicker on Super Bowl championship teams who holds the record for longest field goal in NFL history and Rich “Tombstone” Jackson, who like Little helped the Broncos survive those early, rocky years.
Two coaches probably deserve mention. Dan Reeves probably won’t get in because he is seen by pundits and many Broncos fans of holding the team back during the Elway years. Mike Shanahan will have a shot at getting in if he can deliver RG III and the Redskins another Super Bowl title.
With the Broncos the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, now is the time for Hall of Fame voters to recognize some of the Broncos greats that led the team to the heights of yesteryear.