Good morning, Broncos Country!
Over the last five years or so, we’ve seen a drastic change to the Denver Broncos and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Prior to this shift, the franchise and fanbase had a legitimate gripe. Now, it’s not as severe. No better example of that than this weekend. Steve Atwater was inducted on Saturday, now Peyton Manning and John Lynch get their place today.
However, there is still one big omission to the Hall of Fame. And until it’s fixed, it’s a huge blight on the museum. There is still no member of the Orange Crush defense in the Hall of Fame. One of the best and most historic defenses in the history of the NFL has no representation in Canton.
I’ve written ad nauseum about one player in particular not being inducted, former Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar. The fact he’s still not in boggles my mind.
There’s no need to restate the case, but three stats tell the story, and no, it’s not about Gradishar’s tackles, but we’ll get to that.
As Andrew Mason first pointed out, and others have picked up on, this is all that needs to be presented to the Seniors Committee. And it’s a drum that will get beaten until it’s heard:
- There have been 10 linebackers in NFL history who have 20+ career interceptions, 10+ fumble recoveries and 7+ Pro Bowl selections.
- Of those 10, eight were on the NFL 100 team.
- Of those 10, nine were inducted into the Hall of Fame within TWO years of eligibility. Two years.
The one who isn’t enshrined?
As for the “disputed” tackles, Jeff Legwald at ESPN had a great story talking about Gradishar and the Orange Crush not being in the Hall of Fame. In the piece, Legwald waxed poetic on the touchy subject.
From the story:
Some have questioned Gradishar’s double-take-worthy tackle totals — he was credited with 2,049 during his 10-year career — given the fact tackles are not an official statistic and have long been routinely dismissed given they are handed out with irregular reliability league-wide based on each home team’s statistics crew. But former Broncos assistant coach Stan Jones, a Hall-of-Famer as a player with the Chicago Bears, said five years before his death in 2010, “I will swear on a stack of Bibles those numbers are correct. I charted those numbers and there was too much pride, too much talent in that group for those numbers not to be real. Randy made every single one of those tackles.”
Legwald, who is on the Hall of Fame selection committee, added even more about Gradishar’s tackles:
The late Merlin Olsen, a Hall-of-Famer, once said he never saw a player make more unassisted stops than Gradishar. And Mike Giddings, whom NFL teams have used for decades to evaluate their players, has said his review shows Gradishar was rated as a “blue” player (Giddings’ highest ranking) in eight of his 10 seasons. Giddings also said in a selection of more than 20 Broncos games he reviewed over multiple seasons, Gradishar averaged just more than 16 tackles per game — a total of more than 2,300 if taken over Gradishar’s 10-year career despite a strike year in 1982.
Perhaps it’s my optimism that the Seniors Committee will come to see how massive of a fail it is to not have Gradishar in the Hall of Fame, but I feel he’ll get inducted. I even think it could happen next year. With Legwald writing that story, and the Broncos pushing as hard as they have the last few years, it seems like this error is about to get fixed.
When it does, as the saying goes, better late than never.
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