Denver Broncos Mt. Rushmore: Finding the Finalists

Rocky Mountain News voters selected Elway, Davis, Sharpe and Gradishar in 2008. - Drew Litton - Rocky Mountain News

Which four Broncos should be named as the franchise's all-time greats? Let's narrow it down to 12 first.

As Tim hit upon in the Horse Tracks Monday, ProFootballTalk.com is running an offseason series where they name the "Mount Rushmore" of each NFL team -- the four greatest players, coaches, executives, or figures to ever represent the team in its history. It is now the Broncos turn, and PFT is taking nominations.

Selecting four Broncos to represent the franchise is challenging -- prohibitively so. There are so many players one could argue belong in the list of its four greatest. How do you determine whether Floyd Little or Rod Smith is more deserving of a likeness on this metaphorical mountain? Shannon Sharpe or Terrell Davis? Mike Shanahan or Dan Reeves?

The easiest way might be to narrow it down to 10-12 first, and that's exactly what PFT is doing.

So here is a list of about two dozen significant Broncos figures in franchise history, who merit a mention, who belong in the conversation. I've very loosely ranked them (mostly by how quickly I thought of them). I need your help to narrow them down to 12.

Of course, one name gets on the mountain without debate.

  1. John Elway* - Period.
  2. Floyd Little* - He was nicknamed The Franchise because the Broncos wouldn't be in Denver today without him. A lock in my book.
  3. Terrell Davis* - Ran the Broncos to Super Bowl victory. One of two Broncos (Elway) who was both a Super Bowl MVP and League MVP.
  4. Shannon Sharpe* - Greatest tight end to ever play to that point, won three Super Bowls, two with Denver
  5. Randy Gradishar* - Unreal production as the leader of the Orange Crush defense.
  6. Pat Bowlen - Denver has more seasons above .500 than any other team in the NFL during Bowlen's 29-year tenure. Oh, and he's awesome, too.
  7. Champ Bailey - One of the best pass defenders in NFL history. Twelve Pro Bowl selections.
  8. Steve Atwater* - The greatest hit in franchise history highlights a great orange and blue career that boasted eight Pro Bowls.
  9. Rod Smith* - Undrafted star receiver defined everything it meant to be a Bronco.
  10. Mike Shanahan - The Mastermind won two Super Bowls and coached in Denver for 13 years.
  11. Bill Thompson* - Career Bronco started every game he played, second on team's all-time list of number of starts (179).
  12. The Barrelman - No fan was more dedicated, in the NFL, period.
  13. Tom Nalen* - The greatest lineman in team history. Five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All Pro, two-time Super Bowl champion. 2013 Ring of Famer.
  14. Karl Mecklenburg* - Six Pro Bowls, three Super Bowl appearances, 79.5 sacks (second in franchise history).
  15. Dan Reeves - Three Super Bowl appearances in 12 years as head coach in Denver.
  16. Simon Fletcher - Franchise sack-leader and NFL-record holder for consecutive games with a sack (10).
  17. Jason Elam - The Broncos' kicker during the Super Bowls years is also the franchise's all-time leading scorer
  18. Gary Zimmerman* - Ring of Famer and one of four Broncos Pro Football Hall of Famers. Biggest counter-argument is his short length as a Bronco (five years).
  19. Rulon Jones - Had 73 sacks in nine years in Denver. That's a lot of consistent production.
  20. Lionel Taylor* - Led the AFL in receptions each year for the first six years of the league's existence.
  21. Louis Wright* - Underrated and significant contributor to the Orange Crush defense. Five-time Pro Bowler spent all 12 of his seasons with the Broncos.
  22. Tom Jackson* - Pro Bowl linebacker who played in both of the Broncos' first two Super Bowls (a rarity) does the Broncos right on ESPN every week.
  23. Dennis Smith* - 14 years, six Pro Bowls, all with the Broncos.
  24. Red Miller - The first head coach to bring the franchise to the Super Bowl, and leader at the time the Broncos "came of age."
  25. Rich "Tombstone" Jackson* - One of the inaugural Ring of Famers. Tombstone was heralded as one of the game's finest defensive ends - ever - before a severe knee injury cut his career short.
  26. Vertical Striped Socks - Iconic. Terrible, but iconic.
*Member of the Broncos Ring of Fame

So who are your finalists, Broncos fans? Drop 4-12 names below you believe belong in the conversation, and be sure to click here to leave your nominations at PFT as well.

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