Can the Pro Football Hall of Fame handle two Broncos in the same year?
It should as owner Pat Bowlen appears to be a lock as a contributor nominee after back-to-back near misses, and cornerback Champ Bailey becomes first-time eligible for election in 2019.
If Bowlen and Bailey do get elected next year, it would be the first time multiple Broncos would make the same Hall of Fame class.
Not that Bronco fans should have confidence in the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting process.
The Bias against Broncos among Hall of Fame voters cannot be denied. It’s not an East Coast Bias.
The Chargers -- who have played in one Super Bowl and won none -- have six players in the Hall who have played since the late-1970s (Fred Dean, Charlie Joyner, Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Junior Seau, LaDainian Tomlinson). The Broncos -- who have played in eight Super Bowls and won three -- have just four players in the Hall (John Elway, Gary Zimmerman, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis) who have played since the late-1970s.
Flat-out, a Bias against Broncos.
How else to explain not one player from one of the most famous defensive units in NFL history – the Orange Crush of the late 1970s – is in the Hall of Fame? In fact, Denver, for all its great defenses over the years, doesn't have one defensive player bust bronzed in Canton. Not one. Randy Gradishar and Louis Wright should have been in long ago, instead of now wading in the enormous pool of senior candidates.
How else to explain that safety Steve Atwater has only been a finalist once in the 14 years he’s been eligible on the HOF ballot?
Or that Karl Mecklenburg – the only player before Clay Matthews III who would play Pro Bowl-caliber inside linebacker on first down and Pro Bowl-caliber pass-rush defensive end on third down -- has never been a finalist as he enters his final year of modern-era ballot eligibility?
Or that receiver Rod Smith – a far greater winner than this year’s enshrinees Randy Moss and Terrell Owens – has never made it to the semifinalist round of 25?
These outrageous snubs have inflicted a Denver franchise that is the NFL’s second-winningest in the regular season since 1975. (Only the Steelers have the Broncos’ beat).
Hall voters have a chance to address their Bias against Broncos in 2019. Bowlen finished third among the contributor nominees in 2016 when two were submitted – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former commissioner Paul Tagilabue, who did not receive the final 80 percent of the vote for election.
And Bowlen finished second last year when one contributor was nominated – general manager Bobby Beathard.
There will be two contributor nominees in 2019 and it had better be Mr. B and someone else.
Bailey should also be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“If he’s not, there’s something wrong,’’ said John Lynch, another former Bronco who has not been elected despite becoming a top 15 modern-era finalists each of the past five consecutive years.
By now, we know something is wrong. It’s the Bias against Broncos. A couple weeks ago, there was this headline by website, SB Nation: “Ed Reed, Tony Gonzalez headline list of newly eligible for Hall of Fame voting in 2019.’’
How typical. And how wrong. Champ Bailey is a headliner. Ed Reed is a Hall of Famer, no doubt. But Bailey was a better player. Reed was a safety with 9 Pro Bowl appearances. Bailey was a lockdown corner with 12 Pro Bowls.
Bailey’s back-to-back seasons of 2005-06 – 19 interceptions, 401 return yards (including the 100-yarder in the playoff game against the Patriots) and three touchdowns – were so spectacular, no defensive back has come close to matching them since.
Possibly working against Bailey in 2019 is Hall voters just elected three, first-time eligible players in 2018 – Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Moss – and two first-timers in 2017 – Jason Taylor and Tomlinson.
Will the Hall frown on giving three first-ballot nominees – Bailey, Gonzalez and Reed -- the nod again in 2019?
If so, it had better not jilt the Champ.
Here’s a dream scenario that would bust the Bias against the Broncos in 2019: Bowlen and Bailey get elected, as does either Gradishar or Wright as the senior candidate.
Mecklenburg, a top 25 semifinalist the previous seven consecutive years, becomes a finalist for the first time in his 20th and final year of modern-era ballot eligibility, a distinction Everson Walls was afforded this year.
Atwater, who has also been a top 25 semifinalist the previous seven years, becomes a finalist for a second time.
That’s three Broncos in one Hall of Fame class and five on the final ballot (six if Lynch makes it for a sixth consecutive year). And Smith makes it into the group of 25 semifinalists for the first time.
OK, so it’s unlikely the Broncos would receive such overwhelming support in one year. Which is why we called it a dream scenario to combat what has been a clear Bias against Broncos.