For 40 years, there were no Denver Broncos in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not any. None, nil, nada, zip.* Every year for 40 years, four or five or seven new players would be inducted, none of whom were Broncos, and the world went on as if nothing was wrong.
Meanwhile the Bronco players were winning games, making Super Bowls, being selected for the Pro Bowl. But not the Hall of Fame.
* Two Hall of Fame players made brief stops in Denver – Willie Davis of the Raiders, and Tony Dorsett of the Cowboys. Yes they played in Denver for a minute or two. No they are not Broncos. They don’t count.
This always struck me as unfair, but also, statistically unlikely. No one? Not a single Bronco in forty years? Is someone doing this on purpose?
Which is way better than it was, but still way worse than it ought to be. Speaking subjectively, I have no doubt that the Broncos have been one of the NFL’s top teams since 1977; this logically leads one to expect that they would also be among the most represented in the Hall of Fame. But they are not, they are among the least represented.
But are they really? I believe that the Denver Broncos are under-represented when compared to their performance. How much of my certainty on this topic is real, and how much is hopeless fandom? I am a fan, and the word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic”. Fanaticism is not logical. Maybe I should apply some math to this.
Question 1: Are the Denver Broncos poorly represented in the Hall of Fame?
Answering this requires that we sum up all of the players in all of the teams in the HoF and count them. But there are issues involved in making this a fair comparison
- Most teams did not exist before 1960. Solution: only count from the modern era, since the AFL/NFL merger, meaning from 1970 forward.
- Many players played for more than one team. Solution: count the seasons played by HoF players, rather than just counting the players themselves. So Gary Zimmerman counts as five Bronco seasons and seven Viking seasons.
- Non-player contributors have much longer careers and inflate the season count. People like Al Davis – who had 49 years with the Raiders – absolutely need to count for their team. But should not have more impact than players. Solution: the longest-tenured player, Jackie Slater, had 20 seasons. So cap the non-players at 20 too.
All of which yields the following chart:
|Team||Modern HOF seasons|
|San Francisco 49ers||121|
|Kansas City Chiefs||115|
|Los Angeles Rams||102|
|Los Angeles Chargers||69|
|Green Bay Packers||59|
|New York Giants||56|
|New Orleans Saints||49|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||46|
|New England Patriots||43|
|New York Jets||39|
The Broncos are in 21st place with 45 HoF seasons. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have more and they didn’t even exist until 1976. Meanwhile, the hated Raiders have 200. More than four times as many! How can that be right?
So in answer to question one, yes, the Broncos are poorly represented in the Hall of Fame.
Question 2: Have the Denver Broncos performed well?
The statement we are testing here is “the Denver Broncos are under-represented when compared to their performance”. Which requires an objective way to gauge performance.
- How often the team wins versus loses seems like an obvious metric of the overall team performance
- How many players from the team have made All Pro seems like a good way to measure how well the players on the team have performed
- The number of championships won seems good too, but is diminished by the fact there isn’t enough spread in the numbers. There are only seven data points (6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0) and almost half of the teams are in the zero category (yes, it’s true, there have been 51 Superbowls but almost half of the teams have never won one).
- So instead of championships, use Superbowl appearances. That has more spread, and there are only a couple of teams that have never even appeared in the big game.
According to this, The Denver Broncos have the 4th-best won/loss record since 1970
They have the 7th-most All Pro players
They have the second-most Superbowl appearances (and for the purists, the sixth-most SB wins)
I think the answer is clearly “yes”, the Broncos have performed well.
Question 3: How do the Broncos compare to other teams in the Hall of Fame?
Consider the following chart. The blue lines represent performance, while the gold lines represent Hall of Fame seasons.*
If the lines are about the same, then that team is represented fairly in the Hall of Fame. If the blue line dominates, that team has performed better than it is represented. If the gold line dominates, that team has more Hall of Fame members than their performance would seem to indicate.
The Steelers and Cowboys have many players in the Hall, but they’ve earned them. It is balanced. The Browns have few players in the Hall, but then they haven’t earned very many (and have slightly more than they probably should).
But oh my look at the Broncos. The answer to question three seems quite obvious: the Broncos are much more under-represented than most teams.
Question 4: Precisely how badly disrespected are they?
I have a chart for this too. I subtracted each team’s HoF percentile from their performance percentile to quantify the gap between performance and representation. It looks like this:
The Denver Broncos are the most under-represented team in the entire league. This is not just my imagination, this is not fanaticism, something unfair is going on and has been for a long time.
The Patriots are close, but I would expect them to be under-represented. They were bad for a long time, and their best players are still playing. The Hall of Fame requires members to be retired for five years before they can be considered; the Patriots are going to get a flood of new members over the next decade.
And what is up with Kansas City? Coaching problems? How could they have such good players and do so little with them?
But I digress. This is not about the Patriots nor the Chiefs nor even the Eagles (who haven’t done anything but get even less respect). This is about the Broncos.
The single most under-represented team in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I wish I could get some members of the Pro Football Writers Association to see these graphs. They are the ones who vote people in or out; this is their fault.
Hey PFWAA, Why do you hate the Denver Broncos?
🙁 🙁 🙁