Posted Fri Nov 21st by Jonathan Douglas
I know, I know. This seems like an off-season subject, but it’s not always a bad idea to look back at your historic franchise players prior to playing your most dreaded rival.
Here is the idea…
IF Colorado built a memorial like Mount Rushmore for the Broncos (naming it Mount Crushmore obviously), what four player faces would be featured?
Now, before you go off half-cocked to fill the comments about how silly this is, let me explain MY perspective on narrowing a franchise down to just four faces….Ok, I agree – it’s dumb. Hundreds of people make a great NFL team and picking just four faces that would define all the decades the Broncos have been playing the game is just plain impossible. I mean, we had 28 presidents when we build Mount Rushmore. Picking four probably wasn’t that hard. But 53 men per year over almost 50 years… that’s just crazy talk.
So, now that I’ve made this disclaimer and agreed with you all that this is ridiculous… Let’s talk about our picks for Mount Crushmore. :)
For starters, RMN has narrowed the list down to 25 name. Right now those 25 are being voted on so they can reduce that number to four offensive players, four defensive players and one special team player. Later in December, that list will be voted down to the final four.
Now my picks are going to naturally lean a bit toward the newer generations. I am not a Bronco’s historian, I can only really give you my opinions on players I’m familiar with. Someone with a far deeper Bronco history can chime in with info on the older heroes of the Orange and Blue.
My criteria was simple… The selected players had to have DEFINED (or REDFINED) his position while a Denver Bronco. More weight will go to players that played their WHOLE career in Denver.
So, here are the players up for this faux honor (my picks in bold):
Terrell Davis, running back
John Elway, quarterback
Floyd Little, running back
Craig Morton, quarterback
Tom Nalen, center
Shannon Sharpe, tight end
Rod Smith, wide receiver
Lionel Taylor, wide receiver
Frank Tripucka, quarterback
Gary Zimmerman, tackle
John Elway… Come on. Until Jay Cutler retires 14 seasons from now after breaking every Elway record, The Duke is King. Tripucka was only a Bronco for five seasons, Craig Morton was a very important franchise QB, but Elway defined the position and won two SB rings. QED
Tom Nalen… I know some of you are asking, “Why not HoFer Zimmerman?” Well, Zimmerman only played 5 seasons with Denver. Tommy Nails is ALL Denver baby. He has been to more Pro Bowls than ANY O-lineman in Bronco history and has anchored a line that has cleared holes for SIX 1,000 yard rushers. Yeah… he’s really that bada$$.
Shannon Sharpe… Yes, Shannon defected to the Ravens for a couple years, but he also redefined the role of the TE for modern football — and he did that in a Broncos jersey. Shannon Sharpe definitely deserves to be on the short list.
Rod Smith… I don’t really want to talk numbers. Yes, Rod broke records. Yes, Rod won rings. Yes, Rod was a Bronco-4-life. But what makes Rod a sure-fire lock in my book is his attitude toward this team. He redefined what a team player was and is most definitely a model in Denver for our young players.
Steve Atwater, safety
Champ Bailey, cornerback
Goose Gonsoulin, safety
Randy Gradishar, linebacker
Rich Jackson. defensive end
Tom Jackson, linebacker
Karl Mecklenburg, linebacker
Dennis Smith, safety
Billy Thompson, Safety
Louis Wright, cornerback
Dennis Smith… Ok, I know I’m going to get grief on Smith being the only DB on my short list. I put him on the list because I feel like he’s the one that defined Denver’s safeties as ‘hard-hitting’. And while I am a HUGE fan of Steve Atwater, I can’t honestly say his style wasn’t often compared to Smith’s. Billy Thompson was a take-away beast. But I can’t honestly say he was ‘the face’ of the Broncos defense. And, while a good case could be made for Goose, again, I don’t see his face representing that era in Bronco history. (feel free to correct me on this, I’ve already admitted to lacking a Bronco history degree)
Randy Gradishar… Seven Pro Bowl selection. Broncos’ all-time leader in tackles (2,049). Led Broncos in tackles for nine consecutive seasons (1975-83). Do I need to say any more?
Karl Mecklenburg… Six Pro Bowl selection. Helped Broncos to seven postseason appearances, five division titles and three Super Bowls. Again… need I say more?
Tom Jackson… Yes, Jackson helped the Broncos to six playoff berths, four division titles and two Super Bowls, but what makes him special is his team leadership. If you are voted the most inspirational player by your teammates for six consecutive seasons… you represent the best of your franchise.
NOTE: Someone is bound to ask why I picked three LB’s. Or, heck, how can you leave out Champ Bailey. First, I can’t vote for Champ – he’s still playing. Will he be a HoFer – YES. Will he be a Ring of Famer – YES. But you can’t carve a memorial for a guy that’s still playing.
Second, RMN put lots of LB’s on the list (they only put ONE D-lineman on the their list for example), so that didn’t give me many options. And most importantly, I think that the Broncos have historically been defined by our Linebackers more than any other position. The physical play and speed of our LB’s have always been a thing of legend. So, I picked players from that group because I feel that they really defined what Denver’s defense is all about.
Jason Elam, kicker
Rich Karlis, kicker
Tom Rouen, punter
Jim Turner, kicker
Rick Upchurch, kick/punt returner
Rick Upchurch… Ok, my initial reaction pick would have probably been Elam. He has redefined what a reliable strong-legged kicker in the NFL should look like. However, Rick Upchurch is a legendary returner and a career Bronco. Although it was well before I was watching the Broncos, I think Upchurch would deserve the Crushmore face more than Elam.
NOTE: Just for the record… I don’t think that a special team kicker or returner makes it into the final four faces. There are too many other defining players in the game to devote space out of these four for a player that was only on the field in special teams play (sorry Mike Leach).
Ok, it’s your turn! Let’s hear where I messed up and which guys you would pick! What guys would you select that aren’t even on the list? Let’s hear what you’re thinking!
Also, you can go HERE to vote for your favorites!