The Case For The Broncos Ring Of Fame Series

Ed McCaffrey (5/9) • Steve Watson (5/10) • Wade Phillips (5/11) • Joe Collier (5/12) • Peyton Manning (5/15) • Jake Plummer (5/16) • Tyrone Braxton (5/17) • DeMarcus Ware (5/18) • Steve Foley (5/23)

Like any measure of historical significance, the Broncos Ring of Fame is subjective.  In recent years, it’s added John Lynch and (just yesterday) Red Miller to its illustrious circles.  Both of those selections, however, have been met with some disagreement on this site.

Thus, as part of a project to help pass along the dead part of the offseason, I thought it would be both fun and educational to make the case for or against other Broncos who are yet to be in the Ring of Fame.  I have about 4-5 names already in my mind, but I would appreciate it if you would nominate whoever you think is appropriate for discussion in the comments.  The only request that I would have is to limit it to players whose case is legitimately debatable. For example, it’s pointless to write an article on Champ Bailey because we all know he’ll get in on the first ballot, as part of a campaign to hopefully do the same for the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

You may find a list of current Broncos Ring of Famers here for reference.

  • Piglet62

    Wow, first?!?!

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Steve Watson, but perhaps that was because he played during my childhood days, and I wanted to be a wide receiver at that age. Sadly, not built for speed here.

    • Piglet62

      Al Wilson would be my other choice, on reflection, although the bad blood surrounding his departure makes it likely impractical.

    • Piglet62

      Also, I was a little surprised to see that Ed McCaffrey was not already in the ring of fame. So him, too.

    • VonSwenson

      Watson was the best offensive player on the Broncos 1981-86. Averaged 17+ yards/reception. He was the template for McCaffrey, and Elway’s original safety blanket.

  • Kush-Lash

    Trevor Pryce

  • Kush-Lash

    Romanowski?

    • VonSwenson

      Hopefully that’s a joke. He’s my most-despised player to wear a Broncos uniform. The way he purposely and maliciously broke Shannon Sharpe’s arm…

      • Kush-Lash

        Come on, before he was a traitor, you know you loved having him anchor the super bowl defenses? Should prob still have to walk the plank, but def something to think about…

        • VonSwenson

          I tolerated Romanowski when he was a Bronco, though he was embarrassing (like spitting in that guy’s face. I actually liked Cutler when he was here, too, better than Romanowski.

  • drewthorn

    Steve Foley, maybe, although I realize that this would be a sentimental choice along the lines Piper discusses below. Grade A baller, though. Had a penchant for big plays in big moments and was absolutely fearless defending the run.

  • I’m naming a few players who aren’t among the obvious candidates, because those candidates aren’t eligible yet.

    Ed McCaffrey
    Jake Plummer
    Al Wilson
    Steve Foley
    Steve Watson
    Vance Johnson

  • RSH

    Trevor Pryce
    Al Wilson
    John Mobley
    Jim Ryan
    Keith Bishop
    Tyrone Braxton
    Steve Foley
    Steve Watson
    Ed McCaffrey
    Vance Johnson
    Mark Jackson
    Jake Plummer

  • bradley

    Who makes the decision?
    Anyway, it was a very pleasant surprise to see Red Miller get in. He was the HC when Tom Jackson yelled It’s all over, Fat Man.

    • Nick

      Not sure what you mean by “who makes the decision”. My plan is to just state the case for and against, and then set up a poll for people to vote in.

      • Kush-Lash

        I think @broadmeadow:disqus was eluding to the question of how ring of fame canidates are chosen by the Broncos?

        • Nick

          Not fully sure. I really think the Broncos could stand to upgrade their Ring of Fame page on their website.

    • RSH

      The Broncos’ six-person Ring of Fame selection committee [consists] of former receiver-turned-analyst Dave Logan, former voice of the Broncos Larry Zimmer, former general manager John Beake, former defensive coordinator Joe Collier, team historian Jim Saccomano and president/CEO Joe Ellis . . . .

      http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/04/red-miller-broncos-ring-of-fame/

  • gnasses

    Al Wilson
    Steve Watson
    Trevor Pryce
    Mike Shanahan
    Guys who came here for a few years to chase a Superbowl don’t belong IMO. I love Peyton, but please just no.

    • Kush-Lash

      Peyton won 50 games, lead the team to four consecutive AFC West championships, two super bowls, is second in franchise passing yards, attempts, completions, tds, fourth quarter comebacks, game winning drives, is first in franchise passer rating and td percentage. You sure that resume is not good enough?

      • Kush-Lash

        BTW, @gnasses:disqus I love ring of fame discussions and am just being obnoxious to any dissent from my own opinion. 🙂

      • Lonestar47

        Manning is a no brainer. As much as I love Elway he did more than he QB having him in the team allowed Elway to recruit players that would not ordinarily come to Denver except for HUGE contracts.

        He wa a a recruiting toll that few other teams could tout.

        As you mentioned owns most of our passing and team records.

        That said I feel the same way about Jake he had his best year ever mostly because he and Kubes talked with each other and because of that he studied his ass off before that season making huge improvements in his decision making almost to the point of breaking a record of passes between picks. Jake was the leader on the field.

        Most folks disliked him because of his being Cavalier in his practicing during the week but he was a gamer. It frustrated mikey to no end. That he could be so good on Sunday and not give a damn during the week.

        I loved his attitude of driving a crappy car and wearing jeans and tee shirts except when attending his charity work. It mocked most of the players that had to have the most expensive cars and gold necklaces. Yet he was their leader.
        He told mickey to stick it when they tried to trade him to a crappy team.

  • drewthorn

    More on Foley

    At :56, Campbell shatter’s Foley’s arm:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=83Yy5ewiebI

    This shows some Foley highlights:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Dyl_1AkPdzk

    (

    • Yahmule

      I liked that old Cajun.

      There has never been anybody in the NFL remotely like Earl Campbell.

  • For those arguing that certain players shouldn’t go into the Ring of Fame because they weren’t Broncos for long enough, here are a list of former Broncos in the Ring of Fame who had five or fewer seasons with the team.

    Charley Johnson (1972-75)
    Frank Tripucka (1960-63)
    Gary Zimmerman (1993-97)
    John Lynch (2004-07)
    Gene Mingo (1960-64)

    I’ve always used Johnson as the reason why QBs like Jake Plummer and Peyton Manning should be in. Those two QBs have multiple playoff trips whereas Johnson had none. In Manning’s case, he had two Super Bowl trips, one in which he was a major reason the Broncos got there.

    I’m sure most people would argue that Tripucka and Mingo belong as key players of the Broncos’ first few seasons as an AFL franchise. And few oppose Zim’s inclusion.

    But even if you were to go back and remove Lynch because he wasn’t around for enough seasons, that still leaves Johnson as the elephant in the room.

    • bradley

      I’m a big Chaeley Johnson fan. He was the first good Broncos QB (apologirs to Tripucka). Like one Bronco who played with him (Floyd ?) said, “He taught us how to win.” Johnson helped the Broncos move from pretty bad to respectabe. I like that he’s in the ROF.
      I think the criteria for some of those early Broncos should be a bit different. If not for players like Mingo and Tripucka in those early years there wouldn’t be a Denver Broncos team today.

      • Well, that begs the question: Should we not examine more deeply what certain Broncos who were only with the franchise for a short period brought to the team? Did we not do that with Gary Zimmerman? Have we not made those arguments for Peyton Manning? Could we not apply them to Jake Plummer? How would they apply to John Lynch?

        This is what we need to focus on more than “how many years were they with the team.”

    • Yahmule

      Making the least qualified honoree the standard for entry just for the sake of precedent makes no sense to me. Jerry Kramer and Lynn Swann should be cautionary tales about the danger of overemphasizing the importance of single games, not viewed as some kind of baseline. I think Miller is getting the same kind of bump. Again, Joe Collier, who coached the defense that carried Denver to that Super Bowl, would have been a better selection.

      If they put Plummer up there, I will have to arrange all future tickets to games so its out of my eyesight. Given what a politician he is, we’ll see local radio hacks promoting the idea eventually.

    • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

      The Ring is a tough one. I’m not sure if longevity is as important as impact. The John Lynch one has always struck me as odd. What really separated Lynch, from Dawkins? One year? Maybe it was his ability to embrace the community, as opposed to Dawkins, who it was somewhat apparent that his heart never left Philly. Dawkins had a shit load of forced fumbles, a was every bit a team leader, if not more. I don’t think he deserves to be in the Ring. Maybe after a decade or so, they all get together and decide on a player that would represent that particular era, if no clear canidate emerges? I would hope not, as that would somewhat take away from the novelty. As far as Peyton Manning goes, fuck yes that guy deserves to be in our Ring. He made our team better on so many levels. He could easily be top five most impactful bronco of all time, even if his arm was a wet noodle the year we won the Super Bowl. We would have never gotten Demarcus ware, TJ Ward, Wes Welker, and Talib to want and come play with us, without him here. Maybe half of them, but definitely not all of them.

      • Jeremy

        I think what separates Lynch from Dawkins is the quality of the teams and defenses they played on. Dawkins never played in a playoff game (he was injured in 2011), and all the defenses he played on were average at best.

        The 2005 and first half of 2006 defenses were up there with best in the league. The ones Dawkins played on were never better than average.

        I know that’s not entirely due to the play of Dawkins or Lynch, but it’s what separates them in my eyes

    • VonSwenson

      Lynch got a Pro Bowl nod every year he was with the Broncos, and was a solid player, but I never thought he starred for us.

      Likewise Jake Plummer – a good QB, but not really a star.

  • Hank Mardukis

    Fire McDaniels!

    • Yahmule

      And use magnesium fire.

  • orangeandblueaussie

    How about the case for Tyrone Braxton? 12 years with Denver (one with Miami) and 4 SB appearances and 2 SB wins. Led the league in interceptions (9) in 1996 and was voted to the Pro Bowl that same year.

    • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

      I was just doing some research to play along, and I was going to nominate him as well.

  • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

    Mike Shanahan
    Gary Kubiak
    Al Wilson
    Vance Johnson
    Tyrone Braxton
    McCaffrey
    Steve Watson
    Wade Phillips

    Edit: I am assuming Peyton Manning would fall under the “obvious choice category” but he might not be for some.

    • Jeremy

      Gary Kubiak I would argue falls in the “obvious” category.

      Phillips is an interesting one but I bet he gets in.

      Shanahan I would think will get in soon (when is he eligible)?

      • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

        Not arguing, but playing Devils advocate. What makes Mike Shanahan not “obvious”, compared to Gary Kubiak? Taking coaching completely out of it, Gary Kubiak was just a back up quarterback. I think both are obvious, but some might argue. The only point I could see being made is that Shanahan never won a Super Bowl without Kubiak, but Kubiak did win one without him.

        • Jeremy

          Yeah, you are probably right about Shanahan being a lock. I was going to argue that Kubiak left the Broncos on better terms than Kubiak did, but I realized that was just my bias manifesting itself. I think both are locks. Head coaching a super bowl team should earn you that honor, 99.99% of the time.

          • VonSwenson

            Jeremy, there’s one little error in that first sentence…

        • BlackKnigh

          Kubes almost got the Broncos into the SB with a helluva performance in the waning minutes of the 1992 title game against Buffalo. I have never seen a game like that! Elway would exit from under center and roll to his left with Cornelius Bennett tracking behind him. Denver’s NT Kragen making a seemingly impossible INT. Had Steve Sewell not been hit at precisely the right time to knock the ball lose by the Buffalo DB Jackson – we might have seen these guys going to the SB. Also had Treadwell hit those FGs – different story.
          I would vote for Kubiak – simply for the impact he has had on the Broncos over the years.

          • WhoShotBobbyHumphrey

            I remember that game as well. Such a disappointment. It will always stick out to me because of how cold, and snowy it was in Denver that day.

  • Jeremy

    I’ve seen Al Wilson listed many times below, and I thought I’d share this comment he made on reddit at one point t a year ago. Sounds like there is a lot of bad blood between him and the Broncos due to his Mal practice lawsuit that may be keeping him out. Probably shouldn’t factor in our arguments but I thought people might be interested in a contributing factor to why he hasn’t made it yet.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/48surb/we_are_al_wilson_ray_austin_andy_dolich_and_the/d0m82id

  • Hank Mardukis

    Mike Shanahan

  • Rhett Rothberg

    I’d be up for lobbying to have Lynch’s name removed. That guy has absolutely no business being there… None, zero…

    • Jeremy

      He was the leader on arguably the best Broncos defense between the orange crush and the current D.

      I think others were more deserving, but I think saying he has zero business being in is a pretty strong over statement. (but I know outrageous statements are your modus operandi)

      • Rhett Rothberg

        Mike Adams put up similar numbers (in tackles and such) during his time. I mean, he’s a safety. Sure, he was a pretty good one. But I would argue that the Broncos would have achieved precisely the same results had Lynch been here or not.

        • Jeremy

          You and I are both smart enough to know counting tackles isn’t the way to measure the value of a safety.

          You can find of articles from when he stepped down about how vital he was the defense and how much a leadership void was left.

          Same way in 10 years some guy on the Internet will argue Demarcus Ware was overrated and didn’t do much as evidenced by his low sack count

          • drewthorn

            Take away his tackles and you have further undermined his worthiness. The guy was frustrating in coverage in general and outright abysmal in contested ball situations.

            I’m nowhere near upset about his inclusion in the ring, but you had the same ‘intangibles’ in Tyrone Braxton, and he was far more productive, and, better yet, was a home grown Broncos original rather than a mercenary in pronounced decline.

            (For the record, I’m not sure Braxton was ring worthy, either.)

          • bradley

            JJohn Lynch in, Braxton out is criminal.

          • BlackKnigh

            Agreed. Braxton switched from CB to S and did so almost seamlessly. He always gave 100%.

          • DragonPie

            I always felt that people underrated Lynch. I agree that Braxton makes more sense as a Bronco home grown player and that Lynch’s best days were behind him, but Lynch wasn’t as bad in coverage as people remember.

            Taking the tackle stat out is reasonable, but while a tackle counting stat is worthless, the value placed on a good tackler like Lynch is tangible and valuable.

            I mean, I agree that he doesn’t belong in the ring, but in my opinion, he was a better player for us than a lot of fans remember.

  • Jeremy

    I’m probably in the minority, and I know it will never happen, but I think Fox deserves consideration. I know fans hate him for what they feel where his failures in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 playoffs, but I think the turnaround he helped complete is remarkable.
    The franchise was in deep trouble after the 2010, and I think he deserves a ton of praise for righting the ship so quickly. In addition, I think he significantly in the recruitment of Manning, developed a shit ton of talent (cj Anderson, Chris harris Jr, Terrance Knighton, JT, etc), and helped keep the team on track when more than half the defense was lost to injuries in 2013.

    See this article I wrote a few days after he was fired.

    https://milehighsportscommuter.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/thank-you-john-fox/

    Id be happy to adapt this to use in an argument in his favor.

    • DragonPie

      Do fans really hate him? I don’t think that most fans, certainly most non-boneheaded fans don’t see him as responsible for the “failures” of those years.

      On the other hand, I think that most people attribute that success more to Peyton Manning and Wade Phillips took the defense to another level. And we actually came on top in the big game following his tenure.

      Anyhow, I think a case could be made.

      • Jeremy

        I’m not sure fans hate him in the way they hate the Raiders, but I almost never seen fans (even the non-boneheaded ones) give him any respect or gratitude or appreciation, and I do see fans constantly berate him for his short comings and use hindsight bias to question his decisions.

        • DragonPie

          Maybe we’re just hanging around different fans. Most that I know think that he had a lot to do with their success in those years even if they think he made a couple of conservative in game decisions that hurt our chances.

      • Kush-Lash

        I think fans hate ‘Foxball’ and not John Fox. Big difference.

    • Kndh19

      I think inducting John Fox would be setting the bar very low for the ring of fame. For the reasons that you and Dragonpie list and especially how his tenure in Denver ended. They had a very good team, first round bye, playoff home game against the Colts and got upset among rumors started by his buddy Jay Glazer, of John Fox leaving if they lost. The team played flat and did not go out “kicking and screaming”, a great opportunity squandered so Fox could have his options open. The second time in his tenure that they lost as big home playoff favorites.

    • BlackKnigh

      I was impressed with his first draft in 2011. He needed a RT and got one with Franklin – sticking him at RT from the get go. And he eventually thrived there. His pick of Von Miller rivals his pick of Julius Peppers in Carolina years earlier. Impact defensive player. Not to mention having to deal with all of the BS of the Tebow era. But what you mentioned about him righting the ship after 2010 and McDaniel – and the lack of decent GM input – was a grand achievement. BTW: I understand that he made the first call to Manning in 2012. Elway took up the gauntlet from there.
      I think a lot of John Fox and what he did for this team. Just not quite enough to put him in the ROF. Helluva coach! And in many ways underrated. Had the 5 defensive starters and LT Clady not been on the sideline in the 2013 SB – the outcome would have been undoubtedly different. They did put up a decent defense in the first part of the game anyway. Too bad the general public did not see how gamely these guys played against those odds.

  • gobroncos

    What’s the deal with jersey numbers? I thought jersey numbers were retired once you hit the ring of fame. McCaffrey wore 87, but so did Rich Jackson and Lionel Taylor who’re both in the ring of fame. There are some others doubled up too.

    There was all this hubbub made up about Peyton wearing 18 even though the number was in the ring of fame for Frank Tripucka. He had to ask permission.

    Or are retired numbers different than ring of fame numbers?

    • Jeremy

      They are different. Broncos would be long out of numbers if every ROF member had their number retired. You have 90 players on the roster in training camp, and only 100 (or 101 if 0 and 00 are different) options. So you can theoretically only retire 10 numbers, and ROF is already at 31.