Floyd Little. Gary Zimmerman. John Elway. Shannon Sharpe. Terrell Davis.
Just five players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame representing the Denver Broncos.
And despite being a franchise since 1960, not a single Bronco was inducted into the Hall of Fame until 2004.
TWO-THOUSAND-FOUR!!! Are you kidding me???
That’s absurd. While the Broncos were not a juggernaut in the early years of the NFL the way the Colts and Jets and Packers and Cowboys were, they produced one of the best defenses in league history in the late 70s, made the first of eight Super Bowl appearances in 1977 - and then three more times in the late 80s before winning two world championships in a row in the late 90s.
Franchises don’t have that kind of success because of one player, so while John Elway was a no-brainer as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in 2004, he should never have been the first Bronco to have a bust in Canton.
This “East Coast bias” is a real thing when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jim Saccomano, former head of PR for the Broncos, laid it out like this a few years ago:
“I think each human being is not a biased guy. But I’ll say this: There are like eight voters west of the Mississippi River. All of the others (38) are East of the Mississippi River,” he said. “I just think it’s human nature for a guy who is in Philadelphia, without getting on an airplane, sees the Redskins, the Giants, the Jets, the Steelers, the Ravens - you get my drift.”
So this is why Andrew Mason of denverbroncos.com has a very legit argument when he says the Hall of Fame could help make up for this lack of representation from a deserving franchise by allowing a blockbuster year for Broncos in 2019.
Pat Bowlen, beloved owner of the Broncos who should have been inducted two years ago instead of Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, is the Contributors Committee pick for this class and should be a slam dunk.
Champ Bailey, a cornerback who played for both the Redskins and Broncos in his illustrious career, is a deserving first-ballot player.
So there’s a belief out there that no way the voters allow a third inductee to represent the team out of Denver, which would make Steve Atwater the sacrificial lamb.
And I’m here to say that’s just bullsh*t.
Atwater should be in the Hall of Fame. Period.
But he definitely shouldn’t be left off just because two other players with Broncos ties are likely inductees.
Plus, the Hall of Fame should make up for not giving it to Bowlen two years ago by giving him what he would have wanted - to go in with his players.
“The thing with Pat Bowlen, he would be thrilled to go in the Hall of Fame, but he was always about the players, and he would want at least one of his guys to go with him,” Andrew Mason said on a recent MHR Radio podcast. “And you can look at Champ, John Lynch, Steve Atwater - those are actually guys that he loves - so it would mean so much to him to share that day with players he genuinely loved and admired.
“The Hall of Fame is underrepresented still in terms of the Broncos and a way you make up for that is a monster class. If you had at least three Broncos in this class, it wouldn’t go all the way toward rectifying the wrongs of the Hall of Fame, but it would help. Relative to team accomplishments, they are the most underrepresented franchise.”
DID YOU HEAR THAT HALL OF FAME VOTERS? THE MOST UNDERREPRESENTED FRANCHISE!
So fix it.
Steve Atwater in 2019.
"During an 11-year @NFL career [@SteveAtwater27] was named to eight Pro Bowls, won two Super Bowls rings [and was] a starter on the All-Decade team of the ‘90s."— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) December 29, 2017
Atwater's @ProFootballHOF case via @talkoffamenet » https://t.co/3qNQSEnrYE pic.twitter.com/mtGYU0opQw