This is my 36th year working for a team, my 33rd with the Denver Broncos, and one of the most frequently asked questions of me has to do with what the players are really like, who are the nicest guys, the most professional, and the best with whom to work.
First of all, every person has good days and bad, and each day is a variable in human relationships.
But yesterday the Broncos signed Jason Elam to a one-day contract so he could retire as a Bronco, and I was the MC for the press conference which included comments and a jersey presentation by owner Pat Bowlen.
The reason this happened was that Elam is in fact in a tie for best guy ever—not sure with whom he is tied, there are a number of eligible candidates, but plain and simple, there has never been anyone any better for me to deal with in my career.
From the moment he arrived here from the University of Hawaii, looked me in the eye, shook hands and said he would be available for whatever we needed, he has been.
A lot of guys say it, but sometimes they disappear when the times get tough.
Jason was not just available when he made the big kick, and every Bronco knows he has made as many of them as any kicker ( more of them, actually) in the history of the game, but he was available after the losses as well.
As the press can tell you, that is the real measure of availability—do you stand there and answer the tough questions. Do you stand there and say, “It was my fault, and there is no one else to blame..”
He did not have to do that too many times in a Hall of Fame career, but he always answered the call.
And beyond what he did not the field, Jason Elam was always a big time guy in the community, not just the city of Denver and surrounding Broncos Country, but he has made a legitimate and consistent contribution to Christian-related causes (regardless of any beliefs that one may or may not have, you can’t knock good works in a community) and a fervent support of American troops deployed overseas, particularly in combat zones.
This is a class guy, and it has been a pleasure to deal with him every day.
You never went up to him with a bad feeling in the back of your mind.
He was always cordial, polite, professional, and more often than not, accommodating, a model of ideal player conduct representing his team and city.
Jason Elam was great, and it was an honor to work with him.
Now, here are some Hall of Fame stats to consider.
His career figures in every department are higher than those of Jan Stenerud, who is in the Hall now.
He is third all-time in wins among kickers (combined regular and postseason), trailing only Gary Anderson and Morten Andersen—but Jason has a far better winning percentage at .608. Their combined percentage was only .532.
His 169 career regular and postseason wins rank behind only Gary (210) and Morten (192) in the history of pro football, but Jason Elam did something they never did—he kicked on two world championship teams. They combined for one Super Bowl appearance, no wins.
Winning matters, right?
Elam ranks third all time in field goal percentage on kicks of 50 plus yards, minimum of 30 such attempts—his percentage was 61.2 from the 50 and beyond, 41 of 67. He trails Jeff Wilkins and Josh Brown in percentage, with Jason having more than 50% more attempts than either guy.
So, how many kickers in history have connected on more attempts from the 50 or beyond? Only one kicker, Jason Hanson, who made 42 (one more), but in 79 attempts—so, Hansen went one for 12 more than Jason in making that one more kick.
Now, how many kickers have made 41 field goals from the 50 and beyond, AND played 17 seasons in the NFL, AND had a career field goal percentage of 80 percent or higher, AND had his team win over 150 games, AND win multiple world championships (and please, don’t even bring up Adam Vinatieri—he is not even in the top 25 in successful 50-yard field goal attempts, with a percentage from that distance under 50%, by the way).
Jason Elam is the only one who meets all of that criteria, and in fact Jason Elam is the only kicker who meets even HALF the criteria.
No other kicker, ever, has reached more than two of those five criteria.
Jason Elam, Jason Elam, Jason Elam. That’s the answer.
When you are the only player at your position in the history of your sport who is the answer to an extremely demanding set of standards, you are a Hall of Fame player.