There aren’t many rules surrounding who gets into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. Players must wait five years following their playing days to become eligible, and they must have played for the Broncos for at least four years. So what about the players that made an impact that didn’t play for the requisite four years? Exceptions should be considered those whose time was short but impactful.
When I posed this question to the Mile High Report staff you can expect the usual tongue-in-cheek responses, Trevor Siemian, Cecil Sapp, Ron Dayne, Bradlee Van Pelt, and, yes, even Jerry Rice. Eventually, the discussion turned up some really good candidates. Here are the five that appear most deserving of the Ring of Fame.
MARLIN BRISCOE (1968)
Marlin Briscoe was the NFL’s first black starting quarterback. Although his time in Denver lasted just one season, his impact on the game as a trailblazer should be officially recognized by the team. Briscoe’s 14 passing touchdowns in a season remains to this day the Broncos team record for a rookie quarterback. Briscoe did something that nobody before him had ever done and paved the way for dynamic quarterbacks of color into the future.
NEIL SMITH (1997-1999)
Neil Smith was a Kansas City Chief, but he was also a damn good Denver Bronco. After the Broncos’ heartbreaking playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996, coach Mike Shanahan went out and brought the largest AFC West thorn in John Elway’s side to play for Denver. His time with Denver was short, but two Super Bowls, a Pro Bowl, and being selected a second-team All-Pro isn’t anything to shy away from. It’s arguable that had Elway not restructured his contract to allow for the acquisition of Smith, that Broncos Super Bowl history might have been different.
DARRENT WILLIAMS (2005-2006)
If you visit Empower Field at Mile High to the right of the external entrance to the team store, there sits a plaque honoring the Denver Broncos corner who was murdered in the hours following the conclusion of the 2006 season. While this gesture is nice, it’s not the accolade that Darrent WIlliams deserves. Every year the Broncos make a big deal out of the award that they named in Williams’ honor, The Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, but he’s nowhere to seen in the Ring of Fame. It’s time that the Broncos extend the same gesture that the Washington Football Team extended to Sean Taylor, who too, was murdered during his playing days.
TIM TEBOW (2010-2011)
Okay, all groans aside, this is how we need to view Tim Tebow’s time in Denver: He was the greatest awful quarterback of all time. When you saw him play, you were guaranteed to see something great... and something awful. In order to see greatness, fans had to endure 57 minutes of awful, but then it got great. The Tebow year and a half was some of the greatest football that Denver had seen since the Jake Plummer playoff run in the mid-2000’s... and it was some of the worst. It’s been almost 10 years since that incredible playoff game against the Steelers and Tebow’s final play of that game in overtime gets replayed over and over again as one of the most amazing playoff plays of all time. For better and worse, Tim Tebow’s time in Denver was a definite era of some of the best awful football that football fans could ask for.
DEMARCUS WARE (2014-2016)
Like in the Jacksonville defeat that helped bring Neil Smith to the Broncos in 1997, Demarcus Ware’s presence was necessitated by the outright shellacking of the Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Ware, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, only played three seasons with Denver, but he made a definite mark on the team’s history. With so many dynamic pieces of the defense during that 2015 Super Bowl run, you can’t say that the Broncos would have had the same level of success without Ware. It was the combination of Ware and Von Miller that allowed the No Fly Zone to thrive in the secondary. Yes, Ware got the Pro Bowl nod two times while in Denver, his impact as a leader was immeasurable.
In the past, there has only been one exception to the Ring of Fame eligibility requirements. When John Elway retired, the five-year waiting period was waived and he entered the Ring in 1999. These five players are each deserving of Ring of Fame recognition in their own right. At the very least, they each achieved fame in their time as Denver Broncos, and shouldn’t that be the main criteria for a Ring of Fame? Shoot, the Washington Football Team has Vince Lombardi in their Ring of Honor and he only coached them for one year... to a 7-5-2 record in 1969.
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