For years, fans in Broncos Country have complained about the absence of Terrell Davis’ induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Well, that crusade comes to an official end later this evening. The same can be said about the overdue wait for Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, and it’s outright embarrassing that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is being inducted ahead of him.
There are fans in each fan base that feel that a player or two have been slighted by the Hall of Fame Voters. Fair enough, fans are passionate about their teams, and they see more of their favorite team than they do anyone. It makes sense.
So here is quick look at a player from each team that is the most deserving from this set of eyes. There might be some crossover of guys that played in multiple cities. Coaches, owners and members of the front office are excluded, and no active player or a player that is not yet eligible such as Champ Bailey or Peyton Manning will be on this list, either.
A player found below should not automatically be viewed as being Pro Football Hall of Fame “worthy”. In some cases, it’s just the best name a franchise has to stump for. Some will be from the late 70’s, but most will be from the 80’s on.
- Dallas Cowboys – Herschel Walker: He ranks 11th in NFL History in All-Purpose Yards and it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame and not the NFL Hall of Fame, so the outstanding production he had in the USFL should be considered by the voters as well.
- New York Giants – Mark Bavaro: He’s a 2-time First Team All Pro, and underrated pass catcher because they didn’t use him as much as other teams would have. Hard-nosed blocker.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Brian Dawkins: He was one of the better safeties of an era that was deep at safety.
- Washington Redskins – Joe Jacoby: He’s a dominating offensive lineman that should have been the first “Hog” in, and should have gone in before a handful of lineman over the past few years. Prototypical left tackle that dealt with Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White twice a year, for most of his career. All 80’s Team member and 2-time First Team All-Pro.
- Division Wild Card – Brian Mitchell, Washington: He is 2nd all-time in all-purpose yards with 23,330. NFL All-Time Leader in KO Return and Punt Return yards.
- Chicago Bears – Jimbo Covert: Anchor of the Bears line that helped open holes for Walter Payton. He was a two-time First Team All-Pro and on the All 80’s team.
- Detroit Lions – Herman Moore: His numbers looked better when he retired than they do today because of the increase in pass-happy offenses, but he was one of the most underrated WR to play the game. Never had a QB and still put up #’s. 3-time First Team All-Pro in the 90’s.
- Green Bay Packers – Jerry Kramer: He’s a dying breed, he was a 2-way player (Guard/Kicker), I never saw him play, but highlights and comments from those did made him seen like a very important player from those early SB Championship teams.
- Minnesota Vikings – Randall Cunningham: He was in the running in Philly/Minnesota, and likely know more for his Eagles days, but he was an out-standing dual threat QB and unlike Mike Vick, Cunningham could read a defense. Great talent.
- Division Wild Card – Sterling Sharpe, Green Bay: He had his career shortened due to injury. 3-time First Team All-Pro. On Par with Gale Sayers/Terrell Davis. His good years were great and he has great genes too.
- Atlanta Falcons – It’s hard to pick between Bill Fralic and Mike Kenn. Each were underrated offensive lineman stuck on bad teams for the most part.
- Carolina Panthers – Sam Mills: While he played the bulk of his career in New Orleans, he was the heart and soul of the early Panthers teams that flirted with the Super Bowl in year 2. They still live by his #keepounding mantra that he used as a coach as he battled cancer.
- New Orleans Saints – Pat Swilling: He was an underrated member of the Dome patrol, 2-time First Team All-Pro. They had an amazing set of linebackers.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – John Lynch: It’s just a matter of time, he’ll be wearing that Gold jacket in the next 2-3 years. Hard hitter, and tough as nails leader.
- Division Wild Card – Simeon Rice, Tampa Bay: He had 8 season of double digit sacks, underrated member of that Tampa Bay Championship defense.
- Arizona Cardinals – Clyde Simmons: Like Cunningham above, Simmons spent much of his career in Philadelphia, 2-time All Pro, playing opposite Reggie White, but the choices in the desert are limited.
- Los Angeles (St. Louis) Rams – Henry Ellard: He had a 15-year career, top 15 in yards, underrated, even put up #’s late in Washington, he’s much more deserving than any other Rams wide receiver.
- San Francisco 49ers – Roger Craig: He was a perfect back for Bill Walsh and his WCO. A weapon running the ball, a weapon catching the ball.
- Seattle Seahawks – Shaun Alexander: While I don’t think he deserved the NFL MVP the year he won it, he was as good of a back as any in era.
- Division Wild Card – Terrell Owens, San Francisco: Like John Lynch above, it’s just a matter of time. He’s mouthy but he is talented and well deserving of being in Canton.
- Buffalo Bills – Steve Tasker: He was a special teams ace. One of the best in the business, will likely never happen, but it should.
- Miami Dolphins – Zach Thomas: A cerebral linebacker that led that defense. One of the most underrated players over the past 20 years.
- New England Patriots* – Tedy Bruschi: The heart and soul of their first three championship* teams. The defense led the way and Bruschi was their leader. Perfect fit in the Patriots system.
- New York Jets – Mark Gastineau: He had a short spurt where was outstanding. 3-time First Team All Pro.
- Division Wild Card – Cornelius Bennett, Buffalo: He was an underrated player that helped lead the Bills to those four Super Bowl losses. He wasn’t Bruce Smith, but he was good.
- Baltimore Ravens – Jamal Lewis: He is another back that had a short but very productive career and one of the best years ever by a back. Fast, powerful, tough. Just wore out over time.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Chris Collinsworth: Who am I kidding, I had to throw that in to make sure you were still paying attention. Corey Dillon, gets the nomination edging Carl Pickens. Strong RB on piss-poor Cincinnati teams.
- Cleveland Browns – Just bring Jim Brown up and let him be honored again like the legend that he is. Seriously, Bernie Kosar? No, Ernest Byner? Nah, I guess it’s Jamal Lewis by default.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – L.C. Greenwood: That defense was stacked, they have 4 (Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham & Mel Blount), already in Canton, and they could easily have a couple more. Greenwood is one of those that could be there one day via the senior committee. It’s just sad that he’s not here to see it.
- Division Wild Card – Donnie Shell, Pittsburgh: I could copy and paste from the Greenwood section. Shell wasn’t quite Mel Blount just as Greenwood wasn’t quite Joe Greene, but Greene/Blount are two of the best to play their positions. Shell and Greenwood both are likely slighted a bit for being on a team that was so deep defensively.
- Houston Texans – N/A. They simply haven’t been around long enough or have a retired player good enough to warrant a viable mention. You have Andre Johnson (yes he’s retired, but not eligible) and J.J. Watt that will receive attention in the future but nobody currently.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Tony Boselli: The offensive tackle would be at the top of the Jacksonville list, but it will take some campaigning for it to happen. He was good and also had his career shortened a bit with injuries.
- Indianapolis Colts – Edgerrin James: He had the prototypical skills for a back in a pass-heavy offense. Could catch, could block, could run, the right combination of speed, power and moves.
- Tennessee Titans – Steve Mcnair: The late QB is at the top of the Titans list. Gone too soon, but will likely be a senior committee nominee. He was a co-NFL MVP one season, but that was a bit absurd.
- Division Wild Card – Fred Taylor, Jacksonville: A lot like Boselli above, it will take some campaigning for him to get a Gold Jacket.
- Kansas City Chiefs –Trent Green: An underrated QB that who battled injuries throughout his career, He was as good or better than the QB that is going in this weekend.
- Los Angeles (San Diego Chargers) – Rodney Harrison: He was dirty, but he was also good. I guess that is part of what made him good, then he went to New England* and added more underhandedness to his bag of tricks.
- Oakland Raiders – Lester Hayes: A dominant corner in his day. 1980 Defensive Player of the year with 13 interceptions. His bust should show his hand scratching his face with 3 lbs. of stickum on it.
- Division Wild Card – Priest Holmes, Kansas City: It would be bordering on being a bit hypocritical to slight Holmes for having a shortened career. It’s true, it was cut short injury. It happens. His first three years were impressive, as noted by the 3 First Team All-Pro awards he received. He wore enemy colors, and didn’t have the post season success that Mr. Davis had but he was an outstanding running back.
This is a Denver Broncos blog, so we will list a few more that are deserving of HOF consideration (in alphabetical order).
- Steve Atwater – The “Smiling Assassin” was a big hitter, 2-time First All Pro, 8 Pro Bowls, all 90’s team has recently rejoined the franchise with multiple roles and assignments. He was a force on the field for sure.
- Pat Bowlen – Just based on the success the team has had under him alone. More Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons, just that alone is a Hall of Fame owner, but when add all of the work he put in with the league, TV contracts, multiple ownership committees, etc., it just turns into an outright insult and embarrassment that this man wasn’t honored in Canton when he could actually enjoy the rewards of the honor.
- Jason Elam – He is 8th All-time in points scored (6th when he retired), top 10 in scoring in 12/17 seasons. 3-time Pro Bowl selection. Franchise record holder in points scored.
- Randy Gradishar – 2-time First Team All Pro, 7 Pro Bowls, ’78 Defensive player of the year, often over-shadowed by Jack Lambert but was one of the best LBs of his era. Centerpiece of the “Orange Crush” Defense.
- Tom Jackson – Another under-rated Broncos defender. He’s played the most games in franchise history for a defensive player. He also had a helluva broadcasting career on ESPN.
- John Lynch – He was mentioned above in the Tampa Bay section but he’s a Denver Bronco. He capped a Hall of Fame Career with 4 final Pro Bowl seasons in Denver, giving him 9 for his career.
- Karl Mecklenburg – He was a 4-time First Team All Pro, 6 Pro Bowls, 79 career sacks. Defensive leader of the Broncos 80’s Super Bowl teams. Multidimensional defender that could play multiple positions.
- Tom Nalen – The unequivocal leader of the offensive line that paved the way for Terrell Davis and a host of other backs that helped win back to back Super Bowl Championships.
- Mark Schlereth – Played on two of the best OL’s in history, with the HOGS in Washington and the Broncos line in Denver. Had a reported 29 surgeries during his career. It is amazing he can walk.
- Rod Smith – Broncos leader in all major receiving statistics, though it should be noted Demaryius Thomas is chasing him–but DT had the benefit of playing in a different era so even if Smith gets passed, it’s not a slight to him in any shape of form. The undrafted story line worked for Kurt Warner. It’s time it worked for Rod Smith.
Outside of Mr. Bowlen, I refuse to put any form of ranking of the former Broncos players, but my gut tells me Lynch goes in first, then Atwater, then the next three might be Champ Bailey, Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware. It’s not a knock on any of the others listed, it’s just how the ball game is played. A few on this list will have to be campaigned for a lot like Terrell Davis was. It will take an effort of reaching out to the voters.