In the first of Thin Air’s series on considerations for the Broncos Ring of Fame is wide receiver Ed McCaffrey (1995-2003)
Ed McCaffrey presents a case where the perception inside the fanbase may be considerably more positive than outside it. McCaffrey is 5th in all time receiving yards among Broncos, but he also has a little more than half of his partner in crime, Rod Smith–thus assuring that McCaffrey was never greater than the #2 receiver on the team. When he retired, he was only 71st in all-time yards across the league, and in his only Pro Bowl season of 1998 (also honored as a second team All-Pro by the AP), he wasn’t even in the top 10 in yards (Smith was 4th), and was tied with Shannon Sharpe for number of touchdowns. Even in the season he gained the most yards at 1,317, that was still only barely enough to make the top ten.
Despite consistently being a second fiddle in the Broncos offense, it’s unquestionable that McCaffrey became a enduring fan favorite. There are reasons why, in this year’s draft, many Broncos fans obsessed over the idea of his son wearing orange and blue, and not over the son of another Bronco. I’ll be bold and list the least charitable possibility first–the novelty of a white wide receiver–and continue with a more mundane novelty: his small shoulder pads to gain an edge in speed.
But the most charitable reason why McCaffrey is popular comes from just that: before and after retirement, he’s been a reliable ambassador for the Broncos and the city of Denver. Ranging from marketing mustard to sports camps to Broncos commentary on the radio, even the youngest of Broncos fans today are likely aware of who Ed McCaffrey is and why he matters.
I expect the results from this poll, and any other fan opinions, to be more positive than the Ring of Fame committee’s opinion, though I would expect some level of positivity there as well. There’s nothing wrong with that: it’s good to have a panel of experts as a check against the common majority. But fan popularity should certainly be a factor in any Ring of Fame calculation, as the perception of any team would flounder without strong fan support.