One of the next major events for Broncos fans to look forward to will be “Selection Saturday” of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 on Feb. 1.
And Broncos Country will be anticipating that more than one former Bronco will be among the names called.
In celebration of the NFL’s 100th year, the Hall is doing a “Centennial Slate” made up of 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches. Linebacker Randy Gradishar and head coach Dan Reeves are among the contenders and will join Broncos’ Ring-of-Fame safeties Steve Atwater and John Lynch as potential inductees.
With his recent selection as a #PFHOF20 finalist, we celebrate the career of @SteveAtwater27 and look at his highlights.— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) January 3, 2020
Let us know who you think should be in the Class of 2020, by casting your vote: https://t.co/SSFjg8ZjhP pic.twitter.com/xomAj9da8O
We talked about the Broncos who could get in this year on the Something Something Broncos podcast this week. While Tim was pessimistic about which Broncos may get in, Jess and I were more optimistic about the chances for Atwater and Gradishar.
Also at Mile High Report the past two seasons, we have done special series to help Terrell Davis and Steve Atwater earn their rightful places in Canton. TD got in the year we instituted “30 reasons in 30 days for No. 30” but despite our amazing efforts with the same “27 in 27 for No. 27” series last year, the Hall of Fame committee still proved its long-time bias against the Broncos and left Atwater off the list.
We’re hopeful the reporters felt bad about that egregious error (repeated many times over) and will remedy it this year. Although we aren’t re-posting the series here, we are re-posting an article a day on Twitter to remind reporters the one job they have this February and would love your retweet help if you’re on social media.
So the next greatest travesty for the Hall of Fame to remedy is the absence of Gradishar, a seven-time Pro Bowler and leader of the famed Orange Crush defense in the 70s and 80s - and certainly one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game.
For the best summary of Gradishar’s All-Pro career, look to former Broncos’ vice president of communication Jim Saccomano.
“Gradishar is one of the 20 senior player finalists for 10 spots in the Hall,” Saccomano wrote for denverbroncos.com last week. “He truly deserves it, and those who watched him play always knew it.”
Saccomano quoted legendary Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes who said Gradishar was “the best linebacker I ever coached” and also Pro Football Weekly personnel scout Joel Buchsbaum who said the linebacker was “maybe the smartest and most underrated. Had rare instincts, was faster than [Hall of Fame Steelers linebacker Jack] Lambert, and very effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations.”
As the 1978 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Gradishar was a monster tackle machine - but in an era when tackles weren’t tabulated. Saccomano and the Broncos went back and did some unofficial calculations to figure No. 53 accumulated around 2,000 tackles (solo and assist) in his 10-year career.
That’s an average of 200 tackles a year. TWO HUNDRED!
As Saccomano noted, “Randy made all the tackles.”
According to Saccomano, former Broncos’ defensive coaching guru Joe Collier said Gradishar was “the best player I’ve ever seen” and Dan Reeves said he was “as good as any linebacker I’ve been around, and I’ve been around some great ones.”
Like so many great Broncos, Gradishar has not gotten his due in the national media nor among the NFL’s greatest honors.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has an opportunity to right a serious wrong with its Centennial Hall of Fame class - and that may be Gradishar’s best chance.
The Hall of Fame voters better get it right.