Sep 5, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; General view of a NFL network broadcasters Deion Sanders (left) and Terrell Davis (right) talk outside of Sports Authority Field before the game between the Baltimore Ravens against the Denver Broncos. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Logan often wonders what it will take for the Denver Broncos to get respect.
The team is one of the most successful franchises in the NFL. It has been to seven Super Bowls and won two. An organization that has been party to some of the greatest players ever has four – yes, four – players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Yet writers and voters for the Hall of Fame give that respect to a team like the hapless Minnesota Vikings, who have 12 players enshrined. That number is soon to be 13.
The Vikings, a team that has been to four Super Bowls, hasn’t been to one since the 1970s and won none. Chew on that for a few seconds.
Logan asked me the following question a few years ago: “What has a team like Minnesota accomplished? Nothing. But you look at the Broncos and the success they have had and it’s perplexing, to say the least.”
That’s one word you could use to describe it. There’s also maddening.
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But it doesn’t end with the Vikings. The Kansas City Chiefs have 11 Hall of Famers. The Buffalo Bills have 9.
The longtime Broncos radio play-by-play man, current radio host and former star athlete has a great point. What will it take for the great players who played in Denver to get the respect and recognition from Hall of Fame voters they should have garnered by now?
At the top of the list is former linebacker Randy Gradishar.
Yahoo! sportswriter Pat Forde agrees. One of the best sportswriters walking right now, Forde doesn’t understand how Gradishar is not in the Hall of Fame. If you didn’t know, Forde is a Broncos fan.
“Gradishar is the one that kills me,” he told me on Twitter in May. “He was THE linchpin of the Orange Crush defenses of the 1970s. No excuse for his exclusion.”
Aug 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the historical monument pillars of former Denver Broncos players at the Ring of Fame plaza at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. From left: Karl Mecklenberg (77), John Elway (7), Louis Wright (20), Tom Jackson (57) and Randy Gradishar (53). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
If the leader of one of the best defenses in the history of the NFL had played, apparently, anywhere but Denver, he would be hailed as one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game. His ability to change the game by himself would be praised, heralded and worshiped by these same people who brush him off now.
Since he played in a “cow town” like Denver, we just got paved roads and indoor plumbing, he may never get in. If one does an honest evaluation, Gradishar was just as good or better than any linebacker who has ever played the game.
He was better than any linebacker who played in his era.
Just ask his teammate and current ESPN analyst Tom Jackson.
Or listen to the words from Hall of Famer and member of the Fearsome Foursome, Merlin Olsen: “If you ask me to name the five best linebackers I played against, or had a chance to cover in my broadcasting career, Randy Gradishar would be on that list. There is no question about his credentials; Randy Gradishar belongs in the Hall of Fame.”
Gradishar’s stats speak for him.
For his 10-year career, he finished with over 2,000 tackles. Remember, he only played in 14 games the majority of his career. That means in 145 games, he averaged 14 tackles a game. Ray Lewis averaged nine. Mike Singletary just over eight. Brian Urlacher just over seven.
All will get inducted before Gradishar.
But that’s just the start when it comes to this asinine madness.
Denver cornerback Louis Wright was one of the best of his era. He was one of the best ever.
Aug 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the historical monument pillars of former Denver Broncos players at the Ring of Fame plaza at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. From left: Tom Nalen (66), Rod Smith (80), Shannon Sharpe (84), Terrell Davis (30), Steve Atwater (27), Gary Zimmerman (65), Dennis Smith (49), Karl Mecklenberg (77), John Elway (7), Louis Wright (20), Tom Jackson (57) and Randy Gradishar (53). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Is he in?
Will he ever be?
“Twice a year, I played against Mel Blount,” Logan told me a few years ago for a Floyd Little column. “Mel is a terrific player. He’s in the Hall of Fame. I played some against Mike Haynes in New England. He was a great player.
“Louis was as good a corner as anybody from that era. There really wasn’t anything he couldn’t do as a corner. So maybe Floyd going in will offer that opportunity to a handful of guys.”
As we speak today, that’s about as likely as the Vikings ever winning a Super Bowl.
The other shoo-in from that era in Denver was Jackson. Again, had he played anywhere but our one-horse town with no stoplights, he would be in by now. Praised, heralded and worshiped by the voters.
The list grows: Karl Mecklenburg, Dennis Smith, Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis, Rod Smith, Jason Elam and Tom Nalen. Those are the big ones. We don’t want to get greedy with what we ask for here.
That’s why Rich Upchurch is left off of the list even though he’s one of the best returners to ever play the game.
We don’t want to go too fast.
It’s tough enough for some of these people to find Denver on a map, let alone grasp it had game-changing players not named John Elway.
Aside from Gradishar, Davis baffles the mind. Especially when you consider the voters put in New York Jets and New England Patriots running back Curtis Martin before Davis.
Was Martin a game-changer?
Let’s phrase the question in a different way: Would you take Martin over Davis?
The problem is some Hall of Fame voters would. Some would take former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis over Davis because of “longevity.” Is former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye next?
I didn’t even mention his postseason stats. Simply put: Davis is the best postseason running back in the history of the NFL.
Davis is the only member of the 2,000-yard rushing club eligible for enshrinement not in the Hall of Fame.
Jan 31, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; NFC squad player Terrell Davis during the Tazon Latino VII flag football game at Clinic Field inside the Ernest Morial Convention center. Super Bowl XLVII will take place between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens on February 3, 2013 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Shocking, isn’t it?
These same people are amazed we have electricity and don’t get around by horse carriage. When these people watch the HBO show “Deadwood,” they think it’s current.
What will it take?
I can’t figure it out.
Neither can Logan.
Nor has the Denver Post’s Woody Paige or Hall of Fame voter Jeff Legwold, who covers the Broncos for ESPN. To his credit, Legwold has gone to battle, fruitlessly, for Gradishar multiple times. Legwold knows how special Gradishar was.
But the story keeps repeating like that old adage, “You can lead a horse to water …”
Forde is the epitome of balance for Broncos Country.
“I think it’s changed in recent years,” he told me on Twitter. “Getting Floyd Little in was big. Don’t know why early Broncos were snubbed but it was bad.”
I’ve made jokes about how these people view Denver, but that’s the only logical explanation. The Broncos have always been viewed like the U.S. when it comes to soccer. “Oh, isn’t that cute?” They just can’t comprehend special players played in a place like Denver.
They can’t accept that since 1977, only a handful of teams have been as successful as the Broncos. And one of those doesn’t play in Minnesota.
What we can do to try to change it is write pieces like this and call the voters out for their blatant snubs.
Maybe start a petition? Even if it’s futile, that’s the first step.
There is hope this could change soon with the recent announcement of players eligible for 2015 enshrinement. The list includes most of the Broncos listed above, minus Gradishar, Jackson and Wright. But don’t hold your breath.
All of these years later, Logan’s question still rings in my ears.
Sep 14, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (not pictured) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware (not pictured) billboards on Sports Authority Field at Mile High before the game against the Kansas City Chief. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports