Randy Gradishar was given some love and accolades on NFLNetwork yesterday and the question comes back home to me in regards of, does Randy Gradisharbelong in the Hall of Fame along side the other greats already inducted? My personal feeling is after watching him play for 10 years with the Denver Broncos, I believe he does and I'll explain after the jump...
I won't go into Randy's life history with this post, but I'll just try and give you all a glimpse of the man I consider the heart and soul of the Orange Crush Defense of the Denver Broncos. Gradishar was drafted 14th overall in the 1974 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Gradisharwent on to spend 10 seasons withthe Denver Broncos franchise. He played along with Tom Jackson as part of the Orange Crush Defenseand is considered by some to be the greatest defensive player in Broncos history. Teammate Jim Jensen said Gradishar and Roger Staubachwere the two best players he ever took the field with.
Those of us who are old enough to have seen Randy play will know that he became a household name during a Monday Night Game against the Green Bay Packers where he single handedly dismantled their offense. He picked off a pass and returned it for a game-sealing victory while also recording a sack, two tackles for loss and knocked down two passes and recorded six solo tackles. What a game to remember! But that's not all of what made the Broncos so tough and some even consider the Broncos close or even as good as the Pittsburgh SteelersIron Curtain defense with Jack Lambert and the Dallas Cowboys famed "Dooms Day" defense...
Broncos "Orange Crush" defense allowed the third fewest rushing yards in the NFL, behind only the Steelers "Steel Curtain" defense and the and Cowboys' "Doomsday" defense.Additionally, the Broncos trailed only the Steelers in the fewest yards per rush during that same span.They have been named one of the NFL's greatest defenses by the BBC and others.
In 1976 the Broncos switched to a 3-4 defense and Randy's performance didn't skip a beat and in 1977Gradishar assisted the Broncos to Super Bowl XII. He made the Pro Bowlfor the second time and began a string of six consecutive appearances from 1977 to 1983. Gradishar was First Team All-Pro and led a defense that led the AFC in fewest points allowed with 148 in that 14-game season and was 6th in allowing the fewest yards.
Randy Gradishar and the Orange Crush defence was instrumental in helping then rookie quarter back John Elway make an easier transition from college play to the NFL. In 1983 and Randy'slast season, the Broncos returned to the playoffs with rookie quarterback John Elwayand Gradishar capped of his career with his seventh Pro Bowl in ten NFL seasons. In Week 12 of 1983 season, against the Seattle Seahawks, Gradishar intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, recorded a sack, and a tackle for loss to go with his season-high 15 tackles in a key 38-27 win.
|“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.”|
His former coach Dan Reeves said about Gradishar, "He was as good a linebacker as I have ever been around, and I have been around some great ones. He was a leader without question of our defense while I was with Denver. He was an exceptional football player. I had a great deal of respect for him when I was at Dallas before I ever went to Denver. After I arrived in Denver and saw what kind of a leader he was my respect for him grew. He never missed a game and was a dominant force on the field. The opposing team always had to take him into account when they devised their game plans."
Randy Gradishar was called, "the heart and soul of the original Orange Crush defense. He was the centerpiece of Joe Collier's 3-4 and the glue that held a ragtag bunch of degenerates and hand-me-downs (I mean that in a good way) together."Pro Football Weekly's personnel scoutJoel Buchsbaum wrote that "there are quite a few scouts who will tell you that former Broncos ILB Randy Gradishar was almost as good, even as good, as Jack Lambert" and "unlike Lambert, Gradishar was not a flashy headhunter, just a great anticipator who was a deadly tackler and great short-yardage defender".
Pro Football Weeklypublished these comments collected from NFL scouts, "Superior diagnostician withexception strength, balance, tackling form and very good lateral mobility. Not as flashy or brutal as some ILBs but means almost as much to Denver's defense as Walter Paytondoes to Chicago's offense" and "Is most dominant defender in AFC when healthy. Although not as brutal as Butkus or Bergey, he's strong at the point of attack, does a superb job of playing off blocks and getting to the ball, gets good depth on his pass drops and is consistently excellent".
The Dallas Cowboy's Tony Dorsett was going on a crossing route when QB Danny White caught him with a pass in mid stride only to get drilled by Randy Gradishar. With Dorsett laid out on the field unconscious some thought that Tony Dorsett was dead!
In it Tony Dorsettrecalled the hit Gradishar gave him in a 1980 game, "I ran a pass pattern and was wide open but Danny White did not see me. I go back to the huddle and tell Danny that I am wide open. I ran the same route again but this time I was almost decapitated. My eyes were only partially open when I hit the ground. Trainers and doctors came running onto the field. They thought I was dead. Hey, I thought I was dead, too." Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton remembers asking the Walter Payton, "Walter, who gave you the hardest hit you ever took in the NFL?". According to Hampton, Payton replied, "Randy Gradishar, 1978".
Randy Gradishar had a stellar career with the Broncos and some say he does indeed belong withthe immortals of football, I've only scratched the surface here today with a few notes on Randy's great career. Now the question I present to you the MHR Denver Broncos fan faithful is, do we make some noise for Randy's induction much like a great group did with Floyd Little? I personally think it's about time Randy gets his due! How about you?