BRONCOS

The Hall of Fame continues to do Randy Gradishar wrong

Aug 17, 2022, 9:11 AM | Updated: 9:33 am
Randy Gradishar...
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Randy Gradishar thought this time it would be different.

That this time, a resume that includes a statistical line for linebackers that only Hall of Famers have met would help the Orange Crush ringleader assume the honor he long ago earned: induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“This is the first year in a long time that I’ve felt there’s a real possibility of getting into the Hall of Fame,” Gradishar said Aug. 11. “Just an internal feeling,” he said. “You go through it — I think it’s been 30-some years — and it kind of wears off after a while.

“… I looked at some of those names, and some of those names, I can remember. So, it’ll be exciting to see how it’s all going to turn out.”

That excitement is now frustration, once again. And yes, Gradishar often speaks of his internal peace and faith in allowing him to accept what happens.

“I believe it’s all in God’s timing,” he said last week. “Whether I get in or don’t get in is not going to change my life.”

But it’s fair for Broncos Country to still have anger for his continued absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Gradishar’s wait will be at least one more year as his bid for inclusion as a senior member of the 2023 class fell short. KUSA-Ch. 9’s Mike Klis reported that Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley, Cincinnati cornerback Ken Riley and New York Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko will be next year’s senior nominees. Eric Goodman first reported Tuesday night that Gradishar was not among the three nominees.

It’s not that Howley, Riley and Klecko aren’t deserving. Truth is, all of the 12 senior finalists had cases that withstand scrutiny.

Howley is a Super Bowl MVP who was a 5-time first-team All-Pro — although four of those five were before the AFL-NFL merger, when he was selected out of an NFL that had 15 or 16 teams, not the 28 teams that existed when Gradishar was an All-Pro.

Riley is the only player with at least 65 interceptions who is not yet in the Hall of Fame.

Klecko, like Gradishar, earned an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award — the same one as Gradishar, from the Newspaper Enterprise Association. He also was a two-time first-team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler.

Gradishar had more Pro Bowls than any of them.

Gradishar also remains the only linebacker with at least 20 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries and seven Pro Bowls who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And it’s hard to ignore the fact that in this class, you have a player who spent 11 seasons with a New York team — Klecko with the Jets — and another who played 13 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, who play in the NFC East.

Howley is likely to become the 23rd Hall of Famer who spent at least four seasons with the Cowboys. If he passes through the selection committee next January, he will also become the Cowboys’ third seniors Hall of Famer in the last four years, joining Cliff Harris (2020) and Drew Pearson (2021).

Meanwhile, the Broncos haven’t had a Seniors Committee-nominated Hall of Famer since Floyd Little in 2010.

The East Coast bias thing? Yeah, it’s probably real. Especially when Harry Carson played the same position as Gradishar and had a similar career in terms of accomplishments — shoot, Gradishar had a slightly higher percentage of his seasons end in Pro Bowl selections than Carson — and yet Carson has had a gold jacket for 16 years now.

“People keep telling me, ‘If you played anywhere on the East Coast, you’d have already been in,'” Gradishar said.

They’re not wrong.

But the Hall of Fame is wrong for continuing to keep Gradishar on its outside looking in.

***

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The Hall of Fame continues to do Randy Gradishar wrong