Three former Denver Broncos players, including two who were instrumental in the team's back-to-back Super Bowl Championships in the late 1990s, have been named 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists.
Safety Steve Atwater, running back Terrell Davis, and safety John Lynch were among the 15 modern-era finalists for the HoF Class of 2016. It marks Atwater's first year as a finalist, which doesn't bode well for him running the gauntlet and geting enshrined this time around. But it's a big step forward.
As for Davis and Lynch, this is their second time as HoF finalists, which increases the odds of them making the cut. It's a small advantage but for former Denver Broncos, they need every edge they can get in the voting.
The Broncos currently have four players in the Hall of Fame — QB John Elway, TE Shannon Sharpe, OT Gary Zimmerman and RB Floyd Little. For a franchsie with seven Super Bowl appearances and two World Championships, spanning squads from a variety of eras, the Broncos are egregiously under-represented in the Hall.
This time around, I really like Davis' chances. He's a former league MVP, Super Bowl MVP and a member of the 2,000-yard club — an elite trifecta. For a time in the late '90s, Davis was the best player in the NFL and served as the cornerstone to the two Super Bowl titles.
Longevity is the only questionable attribute of his career, but to those who see it that way, I submit one Gale Sayers, who only played seven NFL seasons. And yet, he's enshrined in the Hall.
"You could say I played for seven years, eight years, and you can measure it up against somebody who played 15 years, but I would say that during that time that I played that I know I left it all on the field," Davis said Thursday. "I played as hard as I could play. When the moments were big, I didn’t shrink in the big moments. I played some of my best football in the postseason and in big moments. I think that’s what it was all about was rising to the occasion. When moments are big, how do you perform? How do you play? I took pride in that. I took pride in being at my best when the moment was big. That’s one thing that I can live with."
Lynch has a great shot, too. His career stats are among the NFL's all-time best for a safety and he does have a Super Bowl ring, earned with the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The fact that he's still a public figure — a color commentary announcer for FOX Sports — certainly helps from a PR standpoint.
Over the past 26 years, only one true safety has been enshrined in the Hall — former Viking Paul Krause. For his part, Lynch is aware that there is a lack of representation of the safety position in the Hall and is hopeful that gets remedied this year, as both he and Atwater were prototypical safeties, who played their entire careers at the position.
“I think that’s the sentiment that I feel most strongly about," Lynch said. "I’ve communicated when asked by the Hall of Fame writers. I think this something that needs to change. That argument really doesn’t hold water with me. Maybe at one point, that position was one that wasn’t of great importance in football and on defenses. I think as anyone has seen the position evolve. That’s where I feel fairly good about being a part of that position changing. It was called safety for a reason because early in football, they were just kind of the last line of defense."
Mile High Huddle Analyst Jake Marsing reached out to former Broncos safety Nick Ferguson, who played with Lynch in Denver from 2004-2007, to get a comment on his former teammate's inclusion as a finalist.
"I think it's an excellent accomplishment for him and his family," Ferguson said. "I'm blessed to say that I've shared the field and played up to the level that a soon-to-be Hall of Famer can respect. It couldn't have happened to a better man and teammate."
Atwater might be more deserving, however. A two-tme Super Bowl champ, Atwater is also a three-time All-Pro and an eight-time Pro Bowler. The "Smiling Assasin" was the most feared safety in the league for more than a decade and was a key player in the Broncos' Super Bowl successes of the '90s.
“I think more than anything, the film kind of speaks for itself," Atwater said Thursday. "Certainly I went out and played hard, just like the rest of the guys—everyone that’s on this list. Everybody worked hard and did all that they could do. I respect the process that the committee, that they go through to get to these final 15 players and then on to the final five or six, however many they put in. I’m just happy to be a part of it. Actually, I’m happy to be at this level even if I don’t make it. I hope I do, but if I don’t, it’s quite a feat for me to be right here.”
Having three former Broncos in the final 15 candidates bodes well for at least one of them making the cut. I'm particularly hopeful that the 46-member selection committee gives Terrell Davis the enshrinement he so very much deserves. The committee wiill meet in San Francisco on the eve of Super Bowl 50 to make their final vote.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
To get instant Broncos notifications, download the NEW Scout mobile app for iOS HERE!
Be sure to check out the ever-growing benefit package of being a Mile High Huddle Insider! Check it out HERE.