As Friday night became Saturday at the homestead, TBS began airing Groundhog Day. In addition to being arguably the high point of the Harold Ramis-Bill Murray partnership — this was, after all, the film that combined subversiveness, compassion, surrealism and existentialism — its plot also gave me a humbling second thought about today’s Pro Football Hall of Fame possibilities for Randy Gradishar and Gary Zimmerman.
After all, the film Groundhog Day involves enduring the same set of circumstances with scarcely a hint of change. Only when Murray’s character, Phil Connors, learns how to enact change upon his static realm does he finagle a way out of his permament loop.
There is no such luxury for Zimmerman, Gradishar and the Broncos’ stable of decorated players whom, with the obvious exception of John Elway, have gone unrewarded by the Hall of Fame’s selection board.
The merits of both are well-documented. Among those eligible for selection, Zimmerman is the only offensive or defensive player to make two All-Decade teams and not earn entrance into the Hall of Fame.
Gradishar, meanwhile, was responsible for more takeaways between 1974 and 1983 — his 10 seasons in the league — than all but three other linebackers. Two of those are in the HoF — Steelers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. Further, the man thought by many to be Gradishar’s lone contemporary as elite inside 3-4 linebackers, the New York Giants’ Harry Carson, has already made it into the Hall of Fame with a résumé that only surpasses Gradishar’s in two areas — number of years played and Super Bowls won. But Gradishar was a more prolific tackler than Carson and did play in just as many Super Bowls while making an equal number of playoff appearances — four seasons for each.
In the meantime, enjoy these short videos on Zimmerman and Gradishar and hope for the best.
I reckon that the inclusion of one or both in this year’s Hall of Fame class translates to between four and six additional hours of work. Consider me happy to take care of it if either of the two Broncos is called to gridiron immortality.
After all, Phil Connors eventually got out of his hellish repetition on Groundhog Day. So why can’t the Broncos’ relative paucity of Hall of Famers end today?