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More Denver Broncos belong in the Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is announcing the 94 nominees for Canton tonight. What has become too commonplace for Denver Broncos fans is year after year an injustice is committed against the Broncos by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A common occurrence that Broncos’ fans have become accustomed to and evermore angry about. The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters have repeatedly and with intent left out deserving Broncos for enshrinement in those hallowed halls. If you doubt this claim, below is irrefutable evidence proving that the Broncos are grossly underrepresented in a way that can only be described as purposeful.

First, let’s explore the greatness of the Broncos franchise for a moment. The team has been to eight Super Bowls and brought home three Vince Lombardi Trophies. The Broncos are third all-time in wins since the AFL-NFL merger with only the Steelers and Cowboys having more victories. That sort of greatness does not happen with mediocre players or coaches. Historically great teams like the Dolphins, 49ers, Packers, Raiders and Redskins have won fewer times.

It is obvious that since the merger in 1970 the Broncos have had a tremendous amount of success. By looking at metrics such as total wins, 10+ win seasons, Super Bowl appearances/victories, and the lack of 5 or less win seasons it is hard to argue that the Broncos are not in the top three of most successful NFL franchises since that time. Reference the chart below depicting this success with a scoring metric to rank teams. At the very least they are in the top five. If anyone tries to argue that point they are either lying, are a complete idiot, or both.

Since Merger (1970)
Rank Team Wins (including playoffs) 10+ Win Seasons Super Bowl Wins Super Bowl Appearances Seasons with 5 wins or less Score
1 Steelers 467 23 6 8 1 633
2 Cowboys 446 24 5 8 6 590
3 Broncos 440 22 3 8 5 561
4 49ers 430 23 5 6 10 549
5 Patriots 427 22 4 8 10 543
6 Dolphins 434 21 2 5 2 536
7 Vikings 414 17 0 4 4 473
8 Redskins 394 15 3 5 8 470
9 Packers 396 17 2 3 12 446
10 Raiders 389 14 3 4 12 445

Since the Broncos organization has been so successful it would be reasonable to think that they have players, coaches, etc. enshrined in the Hall of Fame commensurate with that success. If this thought crossed your mind, you would be dead wrong. Below is a chart depicting the number of hall of fame inductees by team. Those numbers depict people who were with those teams a significant amount of time and who spent at least 4 seasons in the NFL after the merger so that we are comparing apples to apples.

Raiders 16
Steelers 15
Vikings 13
Cowboys 12
Chiefs 11
49ers 10
Redskins 10
Bills 9
Dolphins 9
Oilers 7
Bears 6
Rams 6
Colts 5
Giants 5
Chargers 5
Cardinals 4
Broncos 4
Packers 4
Buccaneers 4
Patriots 4
Lions 3
Saints 3
Jets 3
Seahawks 3
Falcons 2
Ravens 1
Bengals 1
Browns 1
Panthers 0
Eagles 0

How does a team that is top three in the NFL for success rank in the bottom half of the NFL for Hall of Fame inductees? There are eight teams ahead of them that aren’t even in the top 10 for success since the merger. One of them, the Kansas City Chiefs has only four playoff wins since 1970. The Broncos have 23! For a team to be successful they must have great coaching and great players, right? Therefore, those players/coaches should be recognized for their success? This is not the case when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Denver Broncos.

Some may point to the New England Patriots and say they are also being discriminated against so it isn’t just a bias against the Broncos. By looking at the charts one could come to that conclusion however, the Patriots success is relatively recent. They became a consistently successful franchise around 1996 and many of their Hall of Fame worthy players/coaches are either still in the game, not yet eligible or just became eligible. That argument cannot be applied to the Broncos. They have played in Super Bowls in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, meaning they have fielded successful teams long enough to have players long eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Below is a chart representing the number of Hall of Fame inductees per win since the merger. The Broncos are vastly underrepresented.

HOF inductees per win
Raiders 0.0411
Steelers 0.0321
Vikings 0.0314
Cowboys 0.0269
Redskins 0.0254
49ers 0.0233
Dolphins 0.0207
Packers 0.0101
Patriots 0.0094
Broncos 0.0091

 

As a team, the Broncos are more than worthy to have significant representation in Canton, but let’s take a closer look at individual players by position. Have the Broncos fielded players with equivalent success to their counterparts on other teams who are already enshrined? As a matter of fact, they do.

The first player that comes to mind is Randy Gradishar. He had tremendous success in the league, but has not been enshrined while others at the same position, Willie Lanier, Ted Hendricks, Jack Lambert, Jack Hamm and Nick Buoniconti from the same era have long been inducted. How about Louis Wright? Again, in the Hall there is Lem Barney, Mel Blount, Willie Brown, Mike Haynes and Emmitt Thomas. Karl Mecklenburg is yet another player. Harry Carson and Mike Singletary have been quickly ushered in, but Mecklenburg still waits. Steve Atwater you ask? Yep, yet another player passed over when Ronnie Lott is in from a similar era. Tom Nalen has barely gotten a sniff at the Hall but, has better production than other centers enshrined such as Dermontti Dawson, Mike Webster (yes, two from the Steelers) and Dwight Stephenson. Finally, and possibly the biggest omission on the list is Terrell Davis. He isn’t in, but Jerome Bettis (you guessed it, a Steeler), Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas are.

This lack of representation of one of the greatest NFL franchises since the merger is a travesty. Players like Randy Gradishar and Louis Wright should have had their busts in Canton years ago. Instead of constantly talking about the merits of those two shoe-ins, we should be discussing if players like Tom Jackson and Dennis Smith are worthy of the induction.

If it were one or two players we were talking about, it would be understandable, but what we have is a disturbing pattern. One that cannot be ignored. How does the saying go; once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a pattern? This blatant bias is appalling.

Do the Hall of Fame voters understand the game of football? Yes, they are all qualified. Do they understand greatness? They must because they have enshrined some very deserving players over the years. This can be chalked up to only one thing; the individual bias of each member on the voting panel is being emphasized because there are so few voters. Forty-six members to be exact. It is a sheer numbers game. Many of the members either have a bias against the Broncos and/or favor other teams and by having so few votes cast, that bias is more pronounced. Those biases would not have nearly the effect with say 200 voters. There are two options, remove all current Hall of Fame voters and replace them with people who can objectively look at facts and vote accordingly or add a lot more qualified voters. Either way something must be done to rectify the situation.

As Broncos fans we must take it upon ourselves to press for justice with the Hall of Fame voters. We missed out on making the case for Mr. Bowlen and Gradishar this year, but we can still make a difference for the others. Since there are so few voters it is easy to send them Broncos player credentials illustrating their worthiness of the Hall. Last year alone I sent no less than five messages to all 46 voters.

Gridiron Orange will be releasing a series of articles discussing the merits of each the Broncos players who are eligible and worthy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. These articles can easily be tweeted to each voter to make our case, because this blatant disregard of the Broncos greatness will not stand. The fans must take matters into their own hands.

Thomas Hall

I have been a diehard Denver Broncos fan since the early 80s and have loved the game of football even longer. In the past three plus decades I have been involved in football one way or another; playing, coaching, writing, analyzing, and just being a fan. Writing about the Broncos on the web has given me an avenue to share my football thoughts that is much more therapeutic than yelling at the radio during a sports talk show. I am an analytics and research manager living in the New England area with my lovely wife and three wonderful children. GO Broncos!

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