One of the most gratifying moments of Super Bowl week for fans of the Denver Broncos was the announcement that tackle Gary Zimmerman had been selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Zim is absolutely one of the greatest offensive linemen in pro football history, as his selection to the all-decade teams of both the 1980′s and the 1990′s clearly attests.
He had to wait a couple of years longer even than he should have, but there is no question that the voters got it right in naming him to the game’s most hallowed halls.
As great as the news was about Zimmerman, it was just as disappointing that all-time great Randy Gradishar did not get selected.
Obviously, it is very difficult for any selection process to take place, and two players from one team in one year is quite uncommon.
However, I think a look at the really big picture suggests that all those years in which the Broncos wandered in the vast wasteland of being ignored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame are over, and we are embarking on a new era, one in which Denver is slowly getting its due.
As Zimmerman joins John Elway in the Hall, he marks the second Bronco to be inducted in five years, and it would appear that a couple of others will get very, very strong consideration shortly.
Next year Shannon Sharpe is up for induction, and he strikes many observers as a strong candidate for first ballot induction.
Sharpe retired as pro football’s all-time leader at tight end in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns. Since there are tight ends in the hall with lesser stats, it stands to reason that the player with greater stats would go in soon.
To top it off, he was one of the leaders and strongest locker room voices on the world championship teams, two here in Denver and one in Baltimore.
So, something must matter. Either stats matter, or winning matters. If either matters he goes in right away. If they both batter he goes in faster than right away.
In addition, there is a very valid argument which suggests that Randy Gradishar becomes one of the most glamorous of the veteran candidates.
A quick look at the stats shows that Gradishar becomes the only seven-time Pro Bowl player to be considered by the veterans committee, and also the only veterans candidate who was among the final 15 twice in the last five years.
Creating an analogy with Randy’s occupation in the automobile business, his Hall of Fame vehicle has been moved onto another lot, but it is the shiniest car on that lot.
And the shiniest car sells a lot faster than many others.
Hence, it is very reasonable to suggest that in the next few years of induction, Elway and Zimmerman will have some Bronco company in the Hall of Fame.
And it’s about time.