Posted Tue Feb 5th by Monty
Opposing offensive linemen could rarely block Randy Gradishar. No one could. The linebacker played before my time, but as I grow as a Broncos fan I find myself watching the team’s history more and more. The more I watch, and the more I learn, the more I see that the seven-time Pro Bowler was unstoppable.
It’s cruel irony that someone so dominant on the field, someone who couldn’t be ignored, someone who absolutely required the opposing offense’s attention at all times, could so easily be cast aside by the Hall of Fame voters. Now Gradishar finds himself among the senior candidates, where the list is much longer, and the hopes slimmer.
The excuses have all been said already. “He was an inside linebacker in a 3-4.” The obvious response is Harry Carson, who was inducted two years ago, who’s career is remarkably similar to Gradishar’s, if not as statistically impressive.
Where Carson had the Super Bowl ring, Gradishar had the statistics. Over 2,000 tackles in his 10-year career. Yes, over 200 tackles per season on average. Over 200 tackles per season.
“But he played in Colorado, where the spotlight rarely shines.” There is definitely truth to this statement, particularly before John Elway forced the spotlight on the Rocky Mountains. This, more than anything else, is the reason Gradishar is not preparing to be enshrined in Canton, OH this August.
That being said, even that tired excuse is not good enough. Gradishar’s accomplishments thrust the Denver Broncos, and himself, into that aforementioned spotlight. He was the leader of the Orange Crush defense, leading the Denver Broncos to their first franchise Super Bowl. He followed the next year by winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. The national media was made aware of Gradishar in the 1970’s and 1980’s – it’s the modern writers who have failed to pay attention.
One need look no further than Dr. Z of Sports Illustrated, who talked about the preliminary Hall of Fame ballot this past November, for an example of the modern voters’ ignorance of Gradishar:
Randy Gradishar is someone everybody else likes better than I do. And I’m talking now about scouts and longtime personnel people who explain to me why he was so good. OK, I’ll buy it. Obviously I was missing something, but I’d really like to see the whole thing presented to me as a film study.
Yes, Dr. Z, you were missing something. Not only that, but I get the feeling from your quote that you’re not the only voter on the Hall of Fame who has a lacksidasical approach to the whole thing.
Unfortunately for Gradishar, he played for the Broncos, before Elway and Mike Shanahan and the unstoppable Super Bowl teams in the late 1990’s. Unfortunately for Gradishar, he retires with only 7 Pro Bowls, a Defensive MVP title, a lost Super Bowl, 10 years without missing a game, 2,000 tackles, and a Broncos Ring of Fame honor to show for it.
Through all of this, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has become a joke. Had Randy Gradishar played for the New York Giants, or the Chicago Bears, or the Oakland Raiders, or even the Super Bowl-less San Diego Chargers, he would have undoubtedly long since been enshrined. In the end, it’s the Hall of Fame, and not Gradishar, that has the egg on its face.