DENVER—It wasn’t only that Simon Fletcher showed up every day, impressive as that was. It was also that he was there all day. To the very last day.
The Denver Broncos’ all-time sack leader with 97.5, Fletcher never missed one of the 172 games the Denver Broncos played (not including the three replacement player games in 1987) during his 11-year career from 1985-95.
“Simon was basically Von Miller of his day,’’ said Karl Mecklenburg, Fletcher’s pass-rushing teammate. “He was just faster around the corner than the tackle could get back. He would come around the corner and just beat guys.
“The other thing about him was he was so consistent with it. Everyone else would wear down at the end of the game and that’s when he would make his plays. Everyone would wear down at the end of the season – I mean if you looked back at his statistics, I would guess two thirds of his sacks were in the last third of the season. He was still going full blast while everyone else was nicked up from the season. That’s why he didn’t make any Pro Bowls. He was kind of middle of the pack in sacks until the end of the year when he would blow by everybody but it was too late for the Pro Bowl voting.’’
It is preposterous Fletcher didn’t make any Pro Bowls from 1989-93, when he posted, in succession, 12.0, 11.0, 13.5, 16.0 and 13.5 sacks, but he is a member of the Broncos’ Ring of Fame after he was inducted along with safety John Lynch and kicker Jason Elam on Sunday night.
“From the time that I sat on that stage, my eyes were focused on my mother,’’ Fletcher said following the ceremony to unveil his pillar that is now among the 31 in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame Plaza. “Some of the (nice) things that they said about me, she may have heard them before, but to hear somebody say it in this form, she was filled with joy.
“I’m also feeling gracious and gratitude to the guys that I was forced and blessed to play with. If your DBs aren’t covering, if your front three aren’t getting pushed, then you’ll never get a quarterback sack. The guys opposite of you, whether it’s Rulon Jones, Barney Chavous, Karl Mecklenburg, if they’re not containing, you never get one sack because the guy just runs out of the pocket. They were talking about Simon Fletcher, John and Jason, but the three of us know that there are literally hundreds of guys who had to contribute to our being here this evening.”
Fletcher’s 97.5 sacks are a whopping 18.5 better than Mecklenburg’s runner-up total of 79.0, and it’s a team record that has held up through the 21 years since he retired. But Fletcher figures it’s a matter of time before he has to surrender the record. Von Miller is charging fast from the No. 3 position. Miller has 67.5 sacks in only 5 ½ seasons and he’s under contract for another 5 ½ seasons with the team.
“He is, in my mind, the Broncos best pass rusher ever and if he can stay healthy and keep doing what he’s doing, sooner or later Von Miller is going to prove me right,’’ Fletcher said. “Then, that will be the happiest day of my life besides today because records are meant to be broken.’’
Mecklenburg was right, by the way. In Fletcher’s three-best sack seasons from 1991-93, 33 of his 43 sacks came in the second half of the season. And Fletcher would have had more except his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame sometimes made it difficult to finish.
“If Simon could tackle he’d have had 125 sacks,’’ Mecklenburg said. “He lost more sacks to me. He would come in and disrupt everything all the time. He had these long strides that were 3 ½ yards long. On the pass rush, he’d get around that corner so fast it would be hard for him to break down and get the quarterback.’’
If he missed, though, Fletcher would be back out there trying again on the next play. Or the next game. It was durability – 172 consecutive games – more than ability – the 97.5 sacks – that Fletcher cherishes most about his career.
“Clearly, the fact that I played in every game, that I never had to close my eyes and put on a blindfold and go to the pay window,’’ Fletcher said. “I was paid to play in a set number of games. I showed up to every single one. Being from where I grew up, my grandparents right in the area around me, that is who they are and that is who they tried to instill the right values in to make me. It was my job to be there every play.”