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Saccomano: Randy Gradishar Hall of Fame bid as significant as Floyd Little & John Elway

Jim Saccomano discusses with MHR what it means to the Broncos and Orange Crush defense to have Gradishar this close to the Hall of Fame.

USA TODAY Sports-Historical Rod Hanna-USA TODAY Sports


Randy Gradishar is on the doorstep of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After a wait that was nearly 40 years, Gradishar got the call earlier this week that he was a finalist as a Seniors Committee member.

As Jim Saccomano talked about the incredible honor for the Denver Broncos linebacker, you could hear the sense of relief in his voice. The former head of Broncos public relations for 36 years and current team consultant/historian has been pushing for this each and every year.

Finally ... almost.

“First of all, I think he’s really there,” Saccomano told Mile High Report earlier this week. “There’s only one step to go, and he’s at about 99.9%. The odds of him not getting a vote by the full group would be the equivalent of the Electoral College choosing its own President. It’s just not going to happen.”

Now that Gradishar is this close to the recognition he deserves, what does it mean for the Broncos and the Orange Crush defense? There’s no one better to answer that question.

As Saccomano said to MHR:

“I think it’s as significant of a Hall of Fame induction as Floyd Little and John Elway. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of guys in, and more guys than the Broncos actually recognize because if you played for a team, you’re considered a Hall of Famer. So, the Hall of Fame recognizes about 15 guys. And that’s just the way it is.

“Randy was a guy symbolic of the defensive side of the ball, as Floyd was on the offensive side of the ball. He was a great player. It was a different era. It was an era defined by the middle linebackers. They funneled everything to the middle, and he was like Pac-Man. He was just unbelievable. It’s a great moment for the Orange Crush defense. For the fans who supported the team at that time. That leader of that team and defense is in.”

Saccomano then discussed what it means for one of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history on one of the greatest defenses in league history to get through to the full committee vote. The point many, including Saccomano, didn’t think would ever come.

“We’ve talked about it many, many times,” Saccomano said. “Randy and I generally have a meal in the press box the day of the game. So Randy and I have had 100 meals. Eventually, I told Randy that I’m not going to bring it up anymore. I’m so sick of it. I’ve talked myself silly with a bunch of people and a bunch of writers. The statistics are so obvious. And what can you say? I’m not saying anyone is obtuse, but I’m saying you’re leaning toward obtuseness if you don’t recognize those statistics.

“It’s very gratifying. Randy and I have talked and, eventually, you don’t make this your focus. You did what you did, and you’re very proud of it. And you move on. You had to see him (play) to truly appreciate it. I can’t tell you how much it means to so many people.”

The other gratifying aspect of Gradishar becoming a Hall of Fame finalist is that Saccomano never has to talk about statistics ever again. Saccomano never has to argue that the 2,000+ tackles Gradishar racked up in his career were real.

Aside from the tackles, these are the stats that make Gradishar a Hall of Famer, as Andrew Mason first pointed out:

  • 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.

The lone linebacker not in the Hall of Fame was Gradishar.

Long thought of as the main reason Gradishar was getting snubbed by Hall of Fame voters, the “did he or didn’t he” actually get 2,000+ tackles is now buried out in the woods to never be found.

“Very, very happy,” Saccomano said of not having to talk about Gradishar’s stats ever again. “Anybody can say whatever the heck they want now. But as Tom Jackson said once, the problem that some people have is they just cannot believe that Randy was that good. But Randy was that good. He was remarkable.”

With Gradishar at the doorstep of football immortality, it should open the discussion for other members of the Orange Crush defense, namely cornerback Louis Wright, to get into the Hall of Fame.

“It does, technically,” Saccomano said. “But when only one or two guys a year go in, whatever the figure might be, there are always more guys deserving than are guys who go in. So it’s a really tough thing. You could make the case for other guys and other names. But we all know that it’s going be a very, very difficult uphill climb for anybody else to get in.”

For now, it’s time to celebrate the fact that Gradishar is on the precipice of the Hall of Fame.

It doesn’t matter how long it took. All that matters is it’s here.