Former Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar and former head coach Dan Reeves have taken the next step toward professional football's greatest honor, as the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the two are part of the list of 38 Centennial Slate finalists for the Hall's 2020 Class.
To celebrate the NFL's 100th season, the Hall of Fame will induct 20 total former football players, coaches and contributors in 2020. The class will be comprised of five Modern-Era players, as usual, but it will also include more contributors, seniors and coaches than in a typical year to celebrate the history of the game.
Few former Broncos players are as fitting for that honor as Gradishar, whose 10 seasons in Denver helped establish the team's foundation for its tradition of greatness. As the roving middle linebacker from 1974-83, Gradishar set the tone in the famed "Orange Crush" defense. His 2,049 career tackles are the most in franchise history, and he also had 19.5 sacks, 20 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns.
Gradishar is one of the most celebrated players in team history, as to this day, he is the only Bronco to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. During his time in Denver, he also was selected to seven Pro Bowls and earned first- or second-team All-Pro selections from 1977-81 and in 1983.
The former Ohio State Buckeye was inducted into the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 1989 and was previously a Modern-Era finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2003 and 2008 classes.
Reeves, a 2014 inductee into the Ring of Fame, built an illustrious career in football that dates back to 1965, when he entered the NFL as a halfback for the Cowboys. After eight seasons and one Super Bowl victory as a player, Reeves moved into the world of coaching. Following another seven years in Dallas and a second Super Bowl victory, he got his first shot as a head coach with the Broncos in 1981.
Reeves helped the Broncos become a powerhouse in the AFC as he compiled a 110-73-1 regular-season record. The five division titles he and the Broncos won (1984, 1986-87, 1989, 1991) are the most any Broncos coach has won. The Broncos also made the playoffs in six of his 12 years in Denver, and they won the AFC Championship three times.
Reeves is listed as a finalist as a coach.
Former Broncos head coach Mac Speedie is also a finalist, but as a player. Speedie played seven seasons for the Cleveland Browns, and later became the Broncos head coach from 1965-66.
The Centennial Slate will be made up of two coaches, three contributors and 10 seniors — former players who have been retired for more than 25 seasons — and will be decided by a 25-person blue-ribbon panel that includes pro football stalwarts like Bill Belichick, Dick LeBeau, Ozzie Newsome and John Clayton.
Once the blue-ribbon panel narrows the class from 38 finalists to the 15-member class, those 15 people will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Unlike in most years, the 15 finalists will not be voted on individually by a 48-member media panel.
The Broncos also have two Modern-Era finalists for the Class of 2020 who spent at least four seasons in Denver: former safeties Steve Atwater and John Lynch. Atwater is a nine-time finalist, and Lynch is an eight-time finalist. The list of 25 Modern-Era semifinalists will be narrowed to 15 finalists in January before the class is ultimately selected on the Saturday before Super Bowl LIV.