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John Elway No. 1 on Tony Dungy’s list of QBs since 1978

Steve Atwater also was hired as a fan ambassador and an analyst by the Broncos, which is awesome!

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John Elway #7

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Tony Dungy may have just become the most popular man in this fan base.

The former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach was part of a panel that ranked the top 10 quarterbacks since 1978 (more on the group who selected the countdown and approach below). Atop Dungy’s list is John Elway. When people put these together, the former Denver Broncos legend doesn’t usually hit No. 1. It’s nice to see someone give that respect to The Duke.

Elway is followed by Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. So Dungy not only has Elway at No. 1, he has his former quarterback in Indy at No. 5. Again, Broncos Country is loving this list so far. But wait, it gets even better.

The quarterback at No. 6 in Dungy’s countdown is Tom Brady. Cue the faux outrage from Massholes. So to recap: Elway No. 1; PFM No. 5; Brady behind both former Denver quarterbacks. The Hall of Fame coach also had Drew Brees and Kurt Warner in his top 10, but it’s not clear who the other two QBs were.

Dungy’s rankings were part of an ESPN story that asked current and former coaches/executives to rank the best quarterbacks since 1978. Two coaches with ties to the Broncos were included in the tribunal, Wade Phillips and Mike Shanahan. As the story says, it went with the 1978 time frame since that’s “when the NFL ushered in a new era by changing blocking and coverage rules to open up the passing game.”

The final rankings, according to the panel: 1. Brady; 2. Manning; 3. Joe Montana; 4. Elway; 5. Rodgers; 6t. Marino/Brett Favre; 8. Young; 9. Brees; 10. Dan Fouts.

Dungy explains to ESPN why he ranked Elway No. 1:

“I coached against all of these players except Peyton Manning, so I based a lot of my ranking on who was the toughest to defend. For that reason, I put the three very mobile QBs at the top. Elway, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers had that extra dimension of being able to create plays even when the defense covered the receivers. You were limited in what coverages you could play against them because of the threat of them running. I got asked a lot when they were both playing, Marino vs. Elway? It is hard to pick, but John just made plays when everything else was covered. He bought time and moved around, and you could do everything perfectly and you still didn't succeed.

As is the case with any list, people will find a reason to bitch (see the link included above to the CBS station in Boston, even though Brady was still ranked No. 1 by the panel).

Dungy to ESPN on Brady:

“It can be tough to separate the great quarterback from the great coach. We have seen this in every era: Otto Graham and Paul Brown, Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi, Johnny Unitas and Don Shula/Weeb Ewbank, Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll, Joe Montana/Steve Young and Bill Walsh. I don't think Bill Belichick would be Bill Belichick without Tom Brady, and Brady would not have the same success without Belichick and the way they have put that team together. But the one common thread through 15 years was Brady. When they had him, they won big -- won championships. The quarterback has so much to do with it.”

When Dungy ranks Elway No. 1, Manning No. 5, and they’re both above Brady, there’s not much to disagree with when you’re a Broncos fan. Overall, the final list of quarterbacks is fairly typical. It would be interesting to see how it might change if there wasn’t a cutoff. I would think Terry Bradshaw and/or Johnny Unitas would find their way on. But who would you take off? That’s the rub when you put lists like this together.

It is an interesting spin on a question/debate that will never find consensus.

Steve Atwater becomes fan ambassador/analyst

It was announced late Friday that Denver’s star safety will return as a fan ambassador and an analyst for the team’s website. I love this move to get The Smilin’ Assassin’ back with the Broncos.

Few players meant more to this organization than Atwater, and he’s one of the best to ever play the position. As Mike Klis said in his story, “Selected by the Broncos with their No. 20 overall pick in the 1989 draft, Atwater was moved to the box by Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, while Dennis Smith played the free safety.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Atwater was an eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion and was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team. In other words, Atwater should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yesterday.

Atwater’s eight Pro Bowls in 10 seasons with the Broncos is tied with Champ Bailey for second most in team history, one behind John Elway’s nine. Atwater was inducted into the Ring of Fame in 2005, his first year of eligibility.

As for the Hall of Fame, Terrell Davis has said Atwater needs to get in front of the camera to boost his chances. The fact Atwater needs to do that speaks to the absurdity that is the selection process and why it needs to change. He’s one of the best to ever play the safety position. That alone should get him in the Hall of Fame, and the fact the selection committee fails to see that is maddening. But I digress.

While being an analyst for the Broncos website is far from enough, it’s a step in the right direction to prove himself and eventually catch the eye of NFL Network, ESPN or any of the other networks. If that happens, you would hope it’s only a matter of time before Atwater gets in the Hall of Fame. Of course, the selection committee could just do its job and get him in this year.

In the meantime, let’s welcome back The Smilin’ Assassin’ to Broncos Country.

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