Denver Broncos That Belong in the Hall of Fame

The greatest to don orange and blue

The Denver Broncos have a long list of players that at least deserve to have an argument made for their induction, so here are my top 10 Broncos that deserve consideration, in no particular order.

Champ Bailey

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First ballot slam dunk if there ever was one, and unlike Neon-Deion, he is a shutdown corner AND one of the best open field tacklers ever at CB. Maybe if he would have danced more he would have gotten in. Not even going to argue this one, he should already be in, no questions asked.

Terrell Davis

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Maybe the most deserving candidate not already in the HOF. Despite the hypocrisy for QBs where the focus is on SB championship “rings”, TD gets ignored only because his career was cut short by injury. A 2,000 yard season, NFL and SB MVP, and the fact that John Elway and the Broncos would not have won their SBs without him makes him a sure thing, eventually. Certainly the selectors will make him wait a few more years, but he is far more worthy than Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin, who were very good for a long time, but never pushed their teams over the top. Davis was one of the great running backs to play the game, sure it was for a short period of time, but isn’t the HOF for the greatest that have played the game?

Bettis’ SB win in his last game was almost in spite of him, given his fumble against the Colts in the AFC Championship should have cost the Steelers the game.  He was washed up and had 43 yards on 14 carries in the SB win against Seattle, clearly on fumes, and wasn’t even the best back on the team (Willie Parker)—and don’t get me started on how the referees assisted the Steelers in that game!

Rich “Tombstone” Jackson

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One of the most feared defensive ends of his generation, Jackson is another Bronco that had his career cut short by a knee injury.  Jackson will have to get in via the seniors committee,  it will take years for him to get his due. Jackson was famous for moves such as the “head slap” and the “halo spinner” which he used to subdue opposing offensive linemen. In the late Lyle Alzado’s book “Mile High” he recalled Rich Jackson as the toughest man he’d ever met, and told the story of Jackson breaking the helmet of Green Bay Packer offensive tackle, Bill Hayhoe, with a head slap. He had 10 sacks in both 1968 and 1970 and posted a career-high total of 11 in 1969. He was named 1st Team All-AFL by the AP, Pro Football Weekly and UPI at the conclusion of the 1968 season and by the AP, NEA,NY Daily News, Pro Football Weekly, The Sporting News and UPI at the end of the 1969 season. He was also a unanimous 1st Team All-NFL choice in 1970.

Jackson’s career was cut short by a severe knee injury midway through the 1971 season. He finished with an unofficial total of 43 sacks, 31 of which came during the three season period of 1968-1970. Despite the shortened career, Sports Illustrated’s football expert, Paul Zimmerman, said that Tombstone Jackson was perhaps the finest overall defensive end and pass rusher he ever saw, a surefire Hall of Famer if he would have had a longer playing career, in a bigger media market. As it was Jackson will be remembered as a great one, only by a handful of football insiders, including those who lined up with and against him.

Tom Nalen

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The glue of an offensive line that lead six different backs to 1,000 yard rushing seasons and two Super Bowl wins, Nalen was a five-time Pro Bowler that was the best at his position.  “Silent treatment” of the media, though, will not help him with the selectors where most more personable, and flashy players seem to get more attention. It is a shame that the NFL has become a popularity contest, keeping qualified players out and letting guys like Marv Levy and Tony Dungy in because they personally like them.

Randy Gradishar

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The main cog of the Orange Crush defense, Grandishar was one of the best middle linebackers in history against the run and should already be in the Hall.    If Harry Carson is in the Hall, Grandishar should be a slam dunk.

Lionel Taylor

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Taylor first played eight games as a linebacker with the Chicago Bears of the National Football League(NFL) before moving to the Denver Broncos of the AFL for the 1960 season. With the Broncos, he switched positions and became a receiver. Third in all-time receptions (543) and receiving yards (6,872) for the Denver Broncos, Taylor was the Broncos’ team MVP in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and an AFL All-Star in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1965. An original Bronco, Taylor was part of the team’s inaugural class of Ring of Famers in 1984.

Taylor was the first professional football receiver ever to make 100 catches in a single season, accomplishing the feat in only 14 games (1961). He had four seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving, and averaged 84.7 catches per year from 1960 to 1965, then the highest six-year total in professional football history. Taylor completed his career with the Houston Oilers in 1967 and 1968, his stats blow Lynn Swann out of the water!

Dennis Smith

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Smith established himself as one of the most feared and hardest hitting safeties in the NFL (a reputation later held by his protégé, Steve Atwater). Smith was voted to play in six Pro Bowls (following the 1985–1986, 1989–1991 and 1993 seasons), was named All-American Football Conference (AFC) in 1984 and 1988.. He played on three Broncos Super Bowl teams (XXI, XXII, XXIV), and was named All-Pro four times.

Smith’s career totals include 1,171 tackles, 30 interceptions and 15 sacks. He posted a career-high five interceptions in 1991. He ranks fourth all-time among Denver Broncos in games played with the franchise. with 184.

Smith was named the Denver Broncos most inspirational player in 1992. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 2001 and the Colorado Hall of Fame in 2006.

Steve Atwater

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A big hitter, but few safeties without huge interception stats make it to the Hall, and Atwater is a long-shot at best despite being one of the best of all-time. Basically, in the same boat as Dennis Smith, ask Christian Okoye what he thinks?

Karl Mecklenberg

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Lack of success in the SBs where the Broncos defenses were abused badly will keep Mecklenberg from consideration, but he was one of the best “hybrid” DE/LBs and a pioneer for a position that players like Pittsburgh’s James Harrison and Denver’s own Elvis Dummervil make an integral part of defenses today.

Simon Fletcher

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Another hybrid LB/DE that excelled, and he averaged almost nine sacks a season for 11 years.  Three Super Bowl losses in blow-outs make him an afterthought instead of getting the recognition he deserves.

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