This piece was written last year and is included in its entirety, with updated comments in green.
For years, fans in Broncos Country have complained about the absence of Terrell Davis’ induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Well, that crusade comes to an official end later this evening. The same can be said about the overdue wait for Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, and it’s outright embarrassing that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is being inducted ahead of him. Davis’ journey ended last year, and it seems Mr. Bowlen is destined to be inducted in ’19, but that is a few years too late. I’ll still argue he should have been the first “contributor” through the door when that was created.
There are fans in each fan base that feel that a player or two have been slighted by the Hall of Fame Voters. Fair enough, fans are passionate about their teams, and they see more of their favorite team than they do anyone. It makes sense.
So here is quick look at a player from each team that is the most deserving from this set of eyes. There might be some crossover of guys that played in multiple cities. Coaches, owners and members of the front office are excluded, and no active player or a player that is not yet eligible such as Champ Bailey or Peyton Manning will be on this list, either.
A player found below should not automatically be viewed as being Pro Football Hall of Fame “worthy”. In some cases, it’s just the best name a franchise has to stump for. Some will be from the late 70’s, but most will be from the 80’s on.
- Dallas Cowboys – Herschel Walker: He ranks 11th in NFL History in All-Purpose Yards and it’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame and not the NFL Hall of Fame, so the outstanding production he had in the USFL should be considered by the voters as well. Let’s just induct Jerry again, since he thinks he’s so damn grand.
- New York Giants – Mark Bavaro: He’s a 2-time First Team All Pro, and underrated pass catcher because they didn’t use him as much as other teams would have. Hard-nosed blocker. It sure won’t be Benny McAdoo.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Brian Dawkins: He was one of the better safeties of an era that was deep at safety. Dawkins went in this past weekend, since their diva wide receiver Eldorado (his real middle name) Owens, also was enshrined in Chattanooga Tennessee,
the next in line could be Bill Bergey, a gritty linebacker cut from the cloth of Gradishar/Mecklenburg that never received the credit he deserved, but with that pair of Jack’s (Ham & Lambert) in the same state, it’s somewhat understandable.Randall Cunningham would actually be ahead of Bergey, but he’s listed as a Viking below even though he’s more of an Eagle. If this were a 100% new article with Dawkins getting in this year, it would be Cunningham.
- Washington Redskins – Joe Jacoby: He’s a dominating offensive lineman that should have been the first “Hog” in, and should have gone in before a handful of lineman over the past few years. Prototypical left tackle that dealt with Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White twice a year, for most of his career. All 80’s Team member and 2-time First Team All-Pro. The voters shit the bed with Jake… He’s off the modern day ballot so he will have to find entry like Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile did this year.
- Division Wild Card – Brian Mitchell, Washington: He is 2nd all-time in all-purpose yards with 23,330. NFL All-Time Leader in KO Return and Punt Return yards. Mitchell’s numbers are scary, but an example of how voters have short changed special teamers. He didn’t have Devin Hester’s touchdowns, but Hester didn’t have his yards either.
- Chicago Bears – Jimbo Covert: Anchor of the Bears line that helped open holes for Walter Payton. He was a two-time First Team All-Pro and on the All 80’s team. Maybe they should chop off an ear of Ditka’s bust for not feeding Walter Payton the ball in his only Super Bowl.
- Detroit Lions – Herman Moore: His numbers looked better when he retired than they do today because of the increase in pass-happy offenses, but he was one of the most underrated WR to play the game. Never had a QB and still put up #’s. 3-time First Team All-Pro in the 90’s. If he only had a QB, he was scary good, not quite Randy Moss, but in the neighborhood with the height.
- Green Bay Packers – Jerry Kramer: He’s a dying breed, he was a 2-way player (Guard/Kicker), I never saw him play, but highlights and comments from those did made him seen like a very important player from those early SB Championship teams. If any of the inductees had a beef with the amount of time it took to be inducted, it was Kramer. Thankfully, Kramer, respects the PFHOF, the Hall of Fame members and his fellow inductees. So Sterling Sharpe will move up.
- Minnesota Vikings – Randall Cunningham: He was in the running in Philly/Minnesota, and likely know more for his Eagles days, but he was an out-standing dual threat QB and unlike Mike Vick, Cunningham could read a defense. Great talent. Cunningham could have easily been listed as the Dawkins replacement for the Eagles. Keith Millard would replace Cunningham. He didn’t have an extremely long career, but had 2 first team All Pro seasons and 3 10+ sack seasons from the DT position.
- Division Wild Card – Sterling Sharpe, Green Bay: He had his career shortened due to injury. 3-time First Team All-Pro. On Par with Gale Sayers/Terrell Davis. His good years were great and he has great genes too. I remember when they used to actually let the presenter give a speech. Watching Shannon Sharpe present Sterling Sharpe would be memorable. With Sharpe moving up to Green Bay, Jay Hilgenberg another Bears lineman that blocked for Sweetness would move into the Wild Card for the North.
- Atlanta Falcons – It’s hard to pick between Bill Fralic and Mike Kenn. Each were underrated offensive lineman stuck on bad teams for the most part. You could still flip a coin, It’s not like Jamal Anderson is ever going to replace them on this list.
- Carolina Panthers – Sam Mills: While he played the bulk of his career in New Orleans, he was the heart and soul of the early Panthers teams that flirted with the Super Bowl in year 2. They still live by his #keepounding mantra that he used as a coach as he battled cancer. Mills could also be listed below for New Orleans, but his tenure as LB coach and birthing the Panthers mantra “Keep Pounding” keeps him in Carolina.
- New Orleans Saints – Pat Swilling: He was an underrated member of the Dome patrol, 2-time First Team All-Pro. They had an amazing set of linebackers. Archie Manning will never make the Hall of Fame, but when it comes to Archie, all I remember is my dad saying “he would have won 6 Super Bowls in Pittsburgh before Terry Bradshaw won one in New Orleans”. it makes perfect sense.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – John Lynch: It’s just a matter of time, he’ll be wearing that Gold jacket in the next 2-3 years. Hard hitter, and tough as nails leader. If I add to this article next year, I’ll likely be looking for a new Buccaneer or a new Wild Card for the division. He is that close.
- Division Wild Card – Simeon Rice, Tampa Bay: He had 8 season of double digit sacks, underrated member of that Tampa Bay Championship defense. Rhonde Barber could be here, and I would almost vote for him, just to spite his prissy ass brother. Fralic/Kenn, whoever loses the Atlanta coin flip could be sitting here as well.
- Arizona Cardinals – Clyde Simmons: Like Cunningham above, Simmons spent much of his career in Philadelphia, 2-time All Pro, playing opposite Reggie White, but the choices in the desert are limited. Larry Fitzgerald replaces Simmons the second he retires, even without being eligible for 5 years. He was that good.
- Los Angeles (St. Louis) Rams – Henry Ellard: He had a 15-year career, top 15 in yards, underrated, even put up #’s late in Washington, he’s much more deserving than any other Rams wide receiver. Looking at you Torry make your own nickname Holt.
- San Francisco 49ers – Roger Craig: He was a perfect back for Bill Walsh and his WCO. A weapon running the ball, a weapon catching the ball. Does this have to be Jimmy Seven Starts?
- Seattle Seahawks – Shaun Alexander: While I don’t think he deserved the NFL MVP the year he won it, he was as good of a back as any in era. Kam Chancellor is close to getting the Fitzgerald service. He hasn’t yet, but it was close.
- Division Wild Card – Terrell Owens, San Francisco: Like John Lynch above, it’s just a matter of time. He’s mouthy but he is talented and well deserving of being in
CantonChattanooga. It wouldn’t have broken my heart had the HOF revoked his induction, but maybe it’s hard to go in the Hall of Fame when you aren’t even the best at your position in the same class. So the new Wild Card will be Harris Barton, 2 time All-Pro lineman for that 49ers Dynasty.
- Buffalo Bills – Steve Tasker: He was a special teams ace. One of the best in the business, will likely never happen, but it should. Special Teams specialists rarely get HOF love.
- Miami Dolphins – Zach Thomas: A cerebral linebacker that led that defense. One of the most underrated players over the past 20 years. Peyton Manning swears by Thomas being one of, if not the best ILB he faced. Good enough for me.
- New England Patriots* – Tedy Bruschi: The heart and soul of their first three championship* teams. The defense led the way and Bruschi was their leader. Perfect fit in the Patriots system. Tedy gets my vote over Ty Law.
- New York Jets – Mark Gastineau: He had a short spurt where was outstanding. 3-time First Team All Pro. Joe Klecko is right there with him.
- Division Wild Card – Cornelius Bennett, Buffalo: He was an underrated player that helped lead the Bills to those four Super Bowl losses. He wasn’t Bruce Smith, but he was good. Klecko could also fit here.
- Baltimore Ravens – Jamal Lewis: He is another back that had a short but very productive career and one of the best years ever by a back. Fast, powerful, tough. Just wore out over time. Like it or not, some of the same arguments made for Davis could be made for Lewis. He was a horse.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Chris Collinsworth: Who am I kidding, I had to throw that in to make sure you were still paying attention. Corey Dillon, gets the nomination edging Carl Pickens. Strong RB on piss-poor Cincinnati teams. #fycc, and #fytb since you know he’s mentioned that name in any given 24 hour period. Pickens, is a lot like Herman Moore, never had a quarterback.
- Cleveland Browns – Just bring Jim Brown up and let him be honored again like the legend that he is. Seriously, Bernie Kosar? No, Ernest Byner? Nah, I guess it’s Jamal Lewis by default. A horse.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – L.C. Greenwood: That defense was stacked, they have 4 (Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham & Mel Blount), already in Canton, and they could easily have a couple more. Greenwood is one of those that could be there one day via the senior committee. It’s just sad that he’s not here to see it. You could flip flop Greenwood/Shell as the Steelers rep and the Wild Card.
- Division Wild Card – Donnie Shell, Pittsburgh: I could copy and paste from the Greenwood section. Shell wasn’t quite Mel Blount just as Greenwood wasn’t quite Joe Greene, but Greene/Blount are two of the best to play their positions. Shell and Greenwood both are likely slighted a bit for being on a team that was so deep defensively. Flip a coin
- Houston Texans – N/A. They simply haven’t been around long enough or have a retired player good enough to warrant a viable mention. You have Andre Johnson (yes he’s retired, but not eligible) and J.J. Watt that will receive attention in the future but nobody currently. Andre Johnson is a year closer to being officially on this list.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Tony Boselli: The offensive tackle would be at the top of the Jacksonville list, but it will take some campaigning for it to happen. He was good and also had his career shortened a bit with injuries. I’ll be sick to my stomach if they put this guy in and didn’t put Joe Jacoby in. I’ll leave it at that.
- Indianapolis Colts – Edgerrin James: He had the prototypical skills for a back in a pass-heavy offense. Could catch, could block, could run, the right combination of speed, power and moves. He will likely continue to be overshadowed by Manning/Harrison and that passing game. Again, it will make me sick if Reggie Wayne goes in before James. Wayne wouldn’t make my “All-Manning team, meaning players Manning played with”. I’d have the pair of 88’s on the outside, Stokley and Welker inside with Clark/Pollard/Julius “I was outstanding with 18” Thomas, rotating at TE, and throw in Jacob “Fort Worth” Tamme as the 4th TE. I might have to build that team. Wayne would be on it by default, I’m not sold on him being the best 87 Manning played with. Manning/Decker were lethal and Jordan Taylor earns an honorable mention for his rehab work with him.
- Tennessee Titans – Steve Mcnair: The late QB is at the top of the Titans list. Gone too soon, but will likely be a senior committee nominee. He was a co-NFL MVP one season, but that was a bit absurd. It’s hard to imagine it’s nearly been 10 years since McNair left us.
- Division Wild Card – Fred Taylor, Jacksonville: A lot like Boselli above, it will take some campaigning for him to get a Gold Jacket. Eddie George could easily replace Taylor in this spot. You could easily flip a coin.
- Kansas City Chiefs –Trent Green: An underrated QB that who battled injuries throughout his career, He was as good or better than the QB that is going in this weekend. Scratch that, what did Trent Green do that Patrick Mahomes hasn’t. Chiefs fans have already hung the golden jacket on Mahomes that has one start against a partially missing and disinterested Broncos defense, but there are a handful of Broncos fans that act liked Paxton Lynch played the ’85 Bears, he didn’t.
- Los Angeles (San Diego Chargers) – Rodney Harrison: He was dirty, but he was also good. I guess that is part of what made him good, then he went to New England* and added more underhandedness to his bag of tricks. I still hate how the PFHOF handled Junior Seau’s enduction. They and the NFL make some things so damn complicated.
- Oakland Raiders – Lester Hayes: A dominant corner in his day. 1980 Defensive Player of the year with 13 interceptions. His bust should show his hand scratching his face with 3 lbs. of stickum on it. It’s amazing that Jon Gruden hasn’t voided Hayes’ candidacy by bringing him back for another go of it.
- Division Wild Card – Priest Holmes, Kansas City: It would be bordering on being a bit hypocritical to slight Holmes for having a shortened career. It’s true, it was cut short injury. It happens. His first three years were impressive, as noted by the 3 First Team All-Pro awards he received. He wore enemy colors, and didn’t have the post season success that Mr. Davis had but he was an outstanding running back. This also has to be Pat Mahomes since he’s “their Elway”, yeah some foolish Chiefs fan that has likely never seen them win a playoff game said that.
This was originally written for a Denver Broncos blog, so we will list a few more that are deserving of HOF consideration (in alphabetical order).
- Steve Atwater – The “Smiling Assassin” was a big hitter, 2-time First All Pro, 8 Pro Bowls, all 90’s team has recently rejoined the franchise with multiple roles and assignments. He was a force on the field for sure. He’s a step closer. Dawkins getting in, Lynch likely going in. Personally, I’d take Atwater over Lynch as a player, but Lynch is on the door step due to remaining in/around the game on TV and now GM of the 49ers.
- Pat Bowlen – Just based on the success the team has had under him alone. More Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons, just that alone is a Hall of Fame owner, but when add all of the work he put in with the league, TV contracts, multiple ownership committees, etc., it just turns into an outright insult and embarrassment that this man wasn’t honored in Canton when he could actually enjoy the rewards of the honor. While he should already be there, if it doesn’t happen this year, then hate mail needs to be sent to the moronic voters.
- Jason Elam – He is 8th All-time in points scored (6th when he retired), top 10 in scoring in 12/17 seasons. 3-time Pro Bowl selection. Franchise record holder in points scored. Kickers rarely go, but he has to be on the short list.
- Randy Gradishar – 2-time First Team All Pro, 7 Pro Bowls, ’78 Defensive player of the year, often over-shadowed by Jack Lambert but was one of the best LBs of his era. Centerpiece of the “Orange Crush” Defense. Randy, Karl and Tom Jackson are a lot more like Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Andy Russell than many want to believe. A damn good linebacker.
- Tom Jackson – Another under-rated Broncos defender. He’s played the most games in franchise history for a defensive player. He also had a helluva broadcasting career on ESPN. See above under Randy Gradishar
- John Lynch – He was mentioned above in the Tampa Bay section but he’s a Denver Bronco. He capped a Hall of Fame Career with 4 final Pro Bowl seasons in Denver, giving him 9 for his career. I won’t be surprised for him to make it this coming year.
- Karl Mecklenburg – He was a 4-time First Team All Pro, 6 Pro Bowls, 79 career sacks. Defensive leader of the Broncos 80’s Super Bowl teams. Multidimensional defender that could play multiple positions. See above under Randy Gradishar
- Tom Nalen – The unequivocal leader of the offensive line that paved the way for Terrell Davis and a host of other backs that helped win back to back Super Bowl Championships. Would be be retroactively fined for giving a speech? Nah, they didn’t fine Zimmerman.. or did they?
- Mark Schlereth – Played on two of the best OL’s in history, with the HOGS in Washington and the Broncos line in Denver. Had a reported 29 surgeries during his career. It is amazing he can walk. Likely facing an uphill battle, but that describes his career in various ways.
- Rod Smith – Broncos leader in all major receiving statistics, though it should be noted Demaryius Thomas is chasing him–but DT had the benefit of playing in a different era so even if Smith gets passed, it’s not a slight to him in any shape of form. The undrafted story line worked for Kurt Warner. It’s time it worked for Rod Smith. Among one of the best to ever wear the orange and blue.
- Louis Wright – This is a 2019 addition as Mr. B is enshrined Wright moves into the top 10 Broncos deserving of the honor. Wright was a 2-time first team All-Pro, and on the ALL 70’s team.
Outside of Mr. Bowlen, I refuse to put any form of ranking of the former Broncos players, but my gut tells me Lynch goes in first, then Atwater, then the next three might be Champ Bailey, Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware. It’s not a knock on any of the others listed, it’s just how the ball game is played. A few on this list will have to be campaigned for a lot like Terrell Davis was. It will take an effort of reaching out to the voters. I still think Lynch will likely be the first one through the door, and Bailey/Manning/Ware unfortunately might actually beat Atwater, but it would be nice to see the Denver media champion an Atwater campaign, and I’m sure a fan of other teams could discredit some of the Broncos players above and say here are my 10, and that’s fair. That’s what being a fan is all about.