In the fifteenth of Thin Air’s series on considerations for the Broncos Ring of Fame is Alex Gibbs (1984-1987, 1995-2003, 2013).
In recent discussion of offensive linemen considerations, it took a long time to finally mention the coach behind them all. It’s important that Alex Gibbs is given more than just that mention.
Gibbs arrived in Denver at the same time as Mike Shanahan, the two of them coming from opposite ends of The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in the SEC. He followed Shanahan to the dark side in 1988, and after being separated from Shanahan via the wrath of Al Davis, he reunited with Shanahan when he became Broncos head coach.
It is at this point in which the world at large was made aware of one of the most revolutionary developments in football history. Via Gibbs’s zone blocking scheme, the Broncos developed one of the most dominating running games, one that paired well with Shanahan’s own offensive intelligence. Gibbs helped turned unheralded offensive linemen like Tom Nalen, Dan Neil and Chris Kuper into regular starters, and ignored running backs into an Offensive Rookie of the Year (Mike Anderson), a Pro Bowler worth more than shutdown cornerbacks (Clinton Portis) and a Hall of Famer (Terrell Davis).
And on that last note, this reveals the sorest point regarding lengthy omission of Davis from Canton until last winter. Davis may have had longevity issues that are uncommon from the typical Hall of Fame career. But it was incredibly important that someone involved in the rise of the ZBS be inducted into Canton. Gary Zimmerman was talented enough to play in any scheme, and while Shanahan and Nalen might have their own Canton cases one day, they clearly did not have as much momentum as Davis did.
And they all have Alex Gibbs in the background to devote a piece of gratitude.