The wait is over.
The overdue election of Terrell Davis into the Pro Football Football Hall of Fame has finally happened. Davis now adds to the ranks of former Denver Broncos greats that are immortalized in Canton, joining Shannon Sharpe, Gary Zimmerman, Floyd Little and John Elway.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... Established in 1960, the Denver franchise has amassed 15 division titles among 22 playoff berths. Of those playoff runs, eight of them ended in an AFC Championship win. Most importantly, the team has been to the pinnacle of the NFL, winning the Lombardi Trophy in 1997, 1998 and 2015.
With a franchise steeped in history, the Broncos are still underrepresented in Canton. Even a team like the Los Angeles Chargers, with fewer division titles, playoff appearances, conference championships and zero Super Bowl wins, is better represented in the Hall than Denver.
With so many great players to choose from, here are the five former Broncos who should be next in line for the Hall of Fame.
5. Simon Fletcher: Defensive End/Linebacker (1985-1995)
When we think of Broncos players with a quick first step and the ability to get after opposing quarterbacks, Von Miller is the player that probably comes to mind first. Before there was a Miller, though, there was Simon Fletcher.
Fletcher is still the franchise leader in sacks with 97.5, 20 ahead of second-place Karl Mecklenburg. Fletcher had five seasons with at least double-digit sacks. Before Miller came and broke the record in 2012, Elvis Dumervil owned Denver's single-season sack record, set in in 2009 (17). Before that, Fletcher held that mark for 18 seasons (16).
More impressive still, Fletcher shares the record with DeMarcus Ware for most consecutive games with at least one sack at 10, as well as still sharing the record for most sacks in a game with four. Considering all those numbers, it is a travesty that Fletcher was never named to a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team during his tenure in Denver, which included three Super Bowl appearances.
Fletcher played at the wrong time and if he were at his peak a little before or a little after the era he played in, there would be more accomplishments to his name. Nevertheless, playing at the same time as all-time greats like Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas doesn’t help. Still, it was a well-deserved honor that Fletcher was put in the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame this past May.
4. Louis Wright: Cornerback (1975-1986)
Joe Collier, former defensive coordinator that presided over the fabled Orange Crush defense of 1977, said this about Louis Wright. “They use a term today of shutdown cornerback. We didn't have that term back then, but Louie Wright was a shutdown cornerback.” Wright definitely has the numbers to back up that argument.
During his career that started in 1975, Wright accumulated 26 interceptions in his time in Denver. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times, was a First-Team All-Pro twice and named Football Digest’s NFL Defensive Back of the Year in 1977. If we were looking at a more recent player to compare Wright to, former Bronco Champ Bailey comes to mind.
Wright gets overlooked playing in the same era as more prominent players like Mel Blount and Lester Hayes. Make no mistake, though, Wright was every bit the caliber of those greats and his absence among his peers is glaring.
3. Steve Atwater: Safety (1989-1998)
For context, Christian Okoye was one of the most feared runners during his time in the league. Being a huge back at the time that was blessed with top-end speed, the Nigerian Nightmare had opposing defenders wary of him even before stepping on the field.
That all changed when Steve Atwater dropped Okoye in his tracks, putting Okoye down with one blow, then standing over him like a prize fighter celebrating a knockout. For what it’s worth, Okoye was never the same runner after that hit.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1752165-broncos-offseason-all-you... That one play aside, Atwater was an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro. He was selected as on a member of the NFL’s All Decade team for the 1990’s, as well as to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. Most important, Atwater is a two-time Super Bowl champion.
Always known a thumper, Atwater was an underrated coverage safety and compares favorably to another Hall of Famer in Ronnie Lott. The biggest thing that hurts Atwater’s candidacy is the lack of safeties in the Hall as a whole.
2. Rod Smith: Wide Receiver (1995-2007)
If I were to tell you that Michael Irvin made the Hall of Fame on the merits of his 849 catches, 11,389 yards and 68 touchdowns, I would be dead wrong. Those number belong to Rod Smith and they are comparable to, if not better than Irvin’s. Which begs the question, why is Irvin in the Hall and not Smith?
For his career, Smith was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First -eam All-Pro. He is also the first undrafted player to eclipse 10,000 yards receiving for a career, and is also the franchise leader in catches, touchdowns and receiving yards. Smith is also a two-time Super Bowl champion.
Frankly, there isn’t a good reason why Smith’s name hasn’t been called yet, other than draft pedigree. Arguments like,”It’s the Hall of Fame and not the hall of really good” or “wasn’t dominate enough” are short-sighted and misplaced when compared to a player like Irvin who only has Smith beat in draft position and celebrity.
1. Randy Gradishar: Linebacker (1974-1983)
Randy Gradishar omission from the Hall of Fame is, at the very least, puzzling. For his career, the former Ohio State Buckeye was a seven-time Pro Bowler, two time All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978 and is currently a Denver Broncos Ring of Famer and OSU Hall of Famer.
Regarding Gradishar, former coach and legend Woody Hayes said he was "the best defensive player I ever coached.”
Joe Collier took that a step further and also said that Gradishar was the best player he'd ever coached.
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In what amounts to a lame argument, I’ve heard it said that Gradishar wasn’t the hardest-hitter in the league and chose to wrestle ball-carries down instead of delivering the big blow, giving a player like Jack Lambert priority over Gradishar in the Hall.
Another Hall of Famer, Walter Payton, was dismissive of that claim during an interview when he was asked, “Walter, who gave you the hardest hit you ever took in the NFL?" His answer? “Randy Gradishar 1978.”
Much like Terrell Davis, Gradishar suffers from the “longevity” argument that says he didn’t play long enough to warrant a bust in Canton but he did play for ten years and was among the most dominant players at his position. It is a travesty that he hasn’t made it to Canton.
Honorable Mentions: Rich “Tombstone Jackson, Karl Mecklenburg and Pat Bowlen.
The number will continue to grow and I fully expect to hear more Broncos names making it into the Hall in the not-too-distant future. It’s a process, and in the cases of the five players mentioned above, it’s still a flawed process.
Perception is reality for some and lack of Orange and Blue in Canton, OH, is simply wrong. There are many deserving Broncos that should join the ranks of the all-time greats and hopefully we will see more of them get in sooner rather than later.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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