Feb 092017

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?

The drought ended in 2004, and now includes four-and-a-half Broncos. John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Floyd Little, Gary Zimmerman (half Bronco/half Viking) and joining this year, Terrell Davis.

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
Oakland Raiders 200
Dallas Cowboys 176
Pittsburgh Steelers 173
Minnesota Vikings 144
San Francisco 49ers 121
Kansas City Chiefs 115
Miami Dolphins 112
Washington Redskins 112
Buffalo Bills 104
Los Angeles Rams 102
Tennessee Titans 83
Chicago Bears 69
Los Angeles Chargers 69
Green Bay Packers 59
New York Giants 56
Arizona Cardinals 55
Indianapolis Colts 54
Seattle Seahawks 52
New Orleans Saints 49
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 46
Denver Broncos 45
New England Patriots 43
New York Jets 39
Detroit Lions 31
Cleveland Browns 28
Atlanta Falcons 26
Baltimore Ravens 20
Cincinnati Bengals 17
Philadelphia Eagles 17
Carolina Panthers 7
Houston Texans 0
Jacksonville Jaguars 0


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.*

Methodology: to get performance, I ranked all teams on won/loss, All Pro, and Superbowls. I figured the percentile for each ranking, then averaged the percentile of all three to get a performance rating. To get HoF I ranked each team by Hall of Fame seasons, as above, and then converted to the percentile of that ranking

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?

🙁 🙁 🙁

  2 Responses to “Why Does the Hall of Fame Hate the Denver Broncos?”

Comments (2)
  1. So I’m not just a whiny fan! I’ve been saying this for years about the Broncos. I mean I know Craig Morton isn’t a HOFer, but where are the members of the Orange Crush? Where is Alzado, Mecklenburg, Atwater, Gradishar, and the Jacksons (Tom and Steve)? For that matter should Rod Smith get consideration? And we had a couple of great O-linemen as well, but as is the curse of offensive linemen no one really remembers their name, and their achievements are measured in how many times they didn’t mess up as opposed to what good things they did.

    I’m sure Peyton will make it when he’s eligible and most likely Champ will too, and I can see Mike Shannahan making it as well. Brian Dawkins may help both the Eagles and the Broncos on this list.

    As with all things sports related I’m sure it comes down to money. The bigger markets get the more HOF nods since it appeases more fans and keeps them happy. Besides those people in Denver are too nice and polite, almost to the Canadian level 🙂 Now why the Philly fans haven’t revolted is another question.

    Extremely well thought out and nicely graphed! The Ravens are due some lovin as well by the league, though I’m sure their short history has something to play in that and they are similar to the Patriots in that several of their members have only recently retired or are still playing.

    Kansas City is just bizarre. Though I counted 10 of their Hall of Famers as having over 10 years with the franchise, which are bloating the numbers a bit.

    I find the Jets interesting as well. For such a big market they theoretically should be able to spend big bucks for players, yet their performance is one of the lowest and their representation is low as well.

    Very well written and a fun article to read – thanks for the distraction!

  2. I’d like to be sympathetic, but… I’m an Eagles fan. We don’t have to wonder why we don’t have more HoF players. The team answers that all too well. LOL

What do you think?

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