Denver Broncos: Next 15 Most Deserving Candidates for the Hall of Fame
The NFL Hall of Fame class of 2011 has been announced, with Shannon Sharpe finally getting the call. The selectors made him wait two years, even though he should have been a first ballot selection.
There are other former Broncos that are deserving candidates, or that are still active, that deserve mention and review. Four Super Bowl losses, early obscurity and lack of success early in the NFL have kept a lot of successful Broncos out of the hall.
The new age of media gives us all a voice, though, and it is never too late to start the swell of support for future classes. These 15 Broncos deserve consideration from the hall selectors, with five that will make it, five that should but won't, and five that are destined for only the Hall of Very Good.
Sure Hall of Famers: Will Make It Eventually
Nothing to say here. First ballot slam dunk if there ever was one, and unlike Neon-Deion, he is a shut-down corner AND one of the best open field tacklers ever at CB.
The most deserving candidate not already in the HOF. Despite the hypocrisy for QBs where the focus is on SB championship "rings", TD gets ignored only because his career was cut short by injury. A 2,000 yard season, NFL and SB MVP, and the fact that John Elway and the Broncos would not have won their SBs without him make him a sure thing— eventually. Certainly the selectors will make him wait a few more years, but he is far more worthy than Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin, who were very good for a long time, but never pushed their teams over the top.
Bettis’ SB win in his last game was almost in spite of him, given his fumble against the Colts in the AFC Championship should have cost the Steelers the game. He was washed up and had 43 yards on 14 carries in the SB win against Seattle, clearly on fumes, and wasn’t even the best back on the team (Willie Parker)—and don’t get me started on how the referees assisted the Steelers in that game!!
Rich "Tombstone" Jackson
One of the most feared defensive ends of his generation, Jackson is another Bronco that had his career cut short by a knee injury. Jackson will have to get in via the seniors committee, and without the support of high profile selectors like SI’s Dr. Z (currently too ill to participate), it will take years to get his due.
The glue of an offensive line that lead six different backs to 1,000 yard rushing seasons and two Super Bowl wins, Nalen was a five-time Pro Bowler that was the best at his position. "Silent treatment" of the media, though, will not help him with the selectors where most more personable, and flashy players seem to get more attention.
The main cog of the Orange Crush defense, Grandishar was one of the best middle linebackers in history against the run and should already be in the Hall. If Harry Carson is in the Hall, Grandishar should be a slam dunk.
Should Be Hall of Famers But Probably Won’t Make the Cut
WRs don’t get a lot of love from selectors unless they have SB victories, where guys like Lynn Swann get in with below average stats but a few spectacular plays on the big stage. Taylor was an AFL All-Star for four years, the first receiver to ever catch 100 balls in a season and lead the AFL in receptions in each of the first six seasons. There is no way Taylor should be ignored, but his chances are slim.
Smith is deserving for the intangibles and what he brought the Broncos teams, but with other stat monsters in front of him (Carter, Reed, Brown), there is little chance he’ll get his due.
Lack of success in the SBs where the Broncos defenses were abused badly will keep Mecklenberg from consideration, but he was one of the best "hybrid" DE/LBs and a pioneer for a position that players like Pittsburgh’s James Harrison and Denver’s own Elvis Dummervil make an integral part of defenses today.
One of the best CBs of his generation, but his low interception numbers (26) keep him from the visibility required even though nowadays, "shut-down" corners are praised for low interception numbers when opposing QBs avoid them. Wright was great in run support too, where many CBs aren’t evaluated only for their INTs despite the fact that over 50 percent of offensive plays are on the ground.
A big hitter, but few safeties without huge interception stats make it to the Hall, and Atwater is a long-shot at best despite being one of the best of all-time.
Hall of Very Good – Should Receive More Consideration But Won’t
Jackson has the same problem that Gradishar has, plus the fact that he wasn't the best linebacker on the teams he played on until Gradishar retired. Unless Gradishar gets in, Jackson has no chance.
Same predicament as Atwater.
Played too many years on under-the-radar teams.
One of the best WRs of his time, but without the visibility of playing in enough meaningful games to make it, and he didn't benefit from quarterback play worthy of his talents.
Another hybrid LB/DE that excelled, and he averaged almost nine sacks a season for 11 years. Three Super Bowl losses in blow-outs make him an afterthought instead of getting the recognition he deserves.
Not included in the lists are players like John Lynch and Brian Dawkins that didn't play long enough with the Broncos to be considered.
Broncos Still Under-Represented in the Hall of Fame
The Broncos are still under-represented in the Hall of Fame, and the theories vary on the reasons why. Four Super Bowl losses hasn't stopped the Bills from putting in more than their share of HOF members, although the four-loss Vikings suffered from their failures.
The argument that Denver is as a small market and under exposed would hold up, too, if the Packers didn't have so many players in.
Overall, the main reason for the lack of early Broncos in the hall is due to lack of exposure in the AFL and early NFL years when the franchise was horrible, where even Floyd Little had to wait more than 30 years for enshrinement.
Later Broncos' teams during the 80s and early 90s played in John Elway's shadow, where he got more credit for the team's success (true on offense) and defensive meltdowns in three SBs keeps most of the deserving players on defense from consideration.
Who do you think are the most deserving members? Did I miss anyone?