The Broncos are tied for third (with the Patriots) for Super Bowl appearances with six. They are just one of seven clubs to win back to back Super Bowls. They have had just five sub .500 seasons in the last 30 years and that includes the strike shortened season of ’82. Obviously they have been one of the most successful clubs in the NFL for a long time, but somehow a few truly exceptional players have been denied entry in to the esteemed Hall of Fame.
Even with all the success this organization has achieved there is only two players that have been accepted in the “Hall”. John Elway, maybe the single most valuable player to one franchise ever, was the first Broncos player inducted in 2004. Then Gary Zimmerman, who actually played more seasons in Minnesota (7 with the Vikings, 5 with Denver) but chose to go in as a Bronco, became the second in 2008.
Two Broncos have made the last round of finalist for the HOF class of 2010. Shannon Sharpe, who seemed to be a shoe-in last year in his first year of eligibility, retired after the 2003 season as the leader among all tight ends in career catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. Floyd Little, after being overlooked for almost four decades, was voted as a finalist by the senior committee.
As Sharpe and Little are obviously HOF material who should already have their bronzed likeness in Canton, there are a few more Broncos that have been over looked which just baffle me.
1. Steve Atwater: Atwater Played 11 seasons (10 with Denver, 1 with the Jets) and was one of, if not the most, feared safeties during that span. The 6’3 217-pound Atwater entered the league in ’89 with 4.5 speed and a ferocious disregard for his body hitting style that help propel the Broncos to the AFC crown in his rookie campaign. The next season he would record 173 tackles and make the first of his seven consecutive pro bowls. Even though he consistently used his body as a human missile, he missed only 5 games in the 10 seasons he spent in Denver. Atwater would make two signature plays during his career. The first was a bone jarring hit on 265-pound Chiefs running back Christian Okoye on Monday night football in 1990. Some say that was the most impressive hit they have ever seen. The second happened on the Packers final drive of Super Bowl XXXII. Atwater made sure neither Antonio Freeman nor teammate Randy Hilliard would catch a Brett Favre pass as he completely obliterated the play by knocking both players and himself out of the game with a bone-jarring hit. Atwater arguably had the best game ever played by a safety in a Super Bowl and was in many people’s eye deserving of the MVP award. Atwater ended his career with over 1,100 tackles, 24 interceptions with 408 return yards and 1 TD. Atwater was one of the most productive safeties of all-time and deserves his place alongside the likes of Ronnie Lott, Willie Wood and Larry Wilson.
2. Terrell Davis: While Davis only played 7 seasons he achieved just about all there is to do. Davis’ resume reads two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, League MVP, 2,000 yard club and scored 61 total touchdowns in his first four seasons. Davis is arguably the best playoff running back in NFL history. In eight career playoff games he accumulated 1,140 yards on 204 carries and 12 touchdowns. Davis also holds an all-time playoff record of seven straight 100-yard games. It seems Davis is being punished for a freak injury that ended his career short instead of being praised for all he accomplished in a short period of time. Terrell Davis is more than worthy of being a hall of famer hands down.
3. Randy Gradishar: Gradishar is one of the finest inside linebackers to ever play the game. In stats that were compiled in the same way of Butkus and Lambert, Gradishar compiled 2,049 tackles, 20 interceptions and seven Pro Bowls in 10 seasons. Good lord, the guy averaged 200 tackles and 2 picks a season. The numbers speak for themselves.
I believe if both Sharpe and Little make it in this year, Atwater, Davis and Gradishar will garner closer attention in the next couple of years. And then it should be just a matter of time until the Broncos have double-digit membership in the hall with the likes of Tom Nalen, Rod Smith and Champ Bailey shoe-ins to make the Hall of Fame right???????