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Mason's Mailbag: Thoughts on the Hall of Fame and fullbacks

When you look at the list of other finalists from the Contributors category, it's almost insulting that Pat Bowlen wasn't selected as a finalist. Do you think it is because of the logistics his Alzheimer's would cause in awarding him, like since he probably can't accept it in person they won't give it to him? It's an award that seems designed for a Pat Bowlen.

-- Trevor Coughlin

Although it's unfortunate  that Bowlen was not named a finalist for the 2017 Hall of Fame class, his battle with Alzheimer's disease had no impact on the subcommittee's choice. Gene Hickerson was inducted in 2007 and Mick Tinglehoff was selected for the 2015 class as Seniors Subcommittee finalists. Both were unable to speak at their inductions because of memory-related illnesses.

Could the Broncos do what Tom Landry did with the Cowboys which was switch the starter and backup quarterback every play?

-- Caleb Chisholm

Could? Sure. Should? Probably not.

If you do that, you can forget about ever getting the offense into up-tempo mode because of the time involved with substituting between each play. Further, it hasn't been proven to work at all in the pros. (It worked for the 1997 Florida Gators, coached by Steve Spurrier, a Broncos QB during their 1977 preseason. Spurrier alternated Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise, and the Gators stunned No. 1 Florida State, 32-29.)

The Broncos did try this -- in 1992, with Tommy Maddox and Shawn Moore alternating plays. The Broncos went winless while shuttling quarterbacks, although they nearly upset the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Cowboys.

Based on your question, I'm sure you're familiar with Landry's 1971 shuffling of Craig Morton and Roger Staubach. After each saw time in the first six games, Landry tried the infamous alternating-plays tactic in Week 7 against Chicago. Yes, it's "infamous" because it didn't work; the Cowboys turned over the football seven times and lost 23-19 to a mediocre Bears club.

Finally in the following week, Landry settled on Staubach, and they didn't lose again that season. It was an idea that had run its course. Maybe this could work for a game, but it's not sustainable and does nothing to foster offensive cohesion.


What is your theory on why there aren't many Broncos in the Hall of Fame?**

-- Rick S

I don't think it's a one-size-fits-all proposition. So it's less of a theory, and more of an unfortunate series of circumstances.

Take the cases of the Broncos' finalists from the last decade who have not been inducted.

John Lynch is hurt by the inability of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee to get a grasp on evaluating pure safeties; the fact that there is no pure safety who has played since 1981 is a massive oversight.

Getting Seniors Subcommittee nominee Kenny Easley in for the 2017 class is a great choice, but that's one pure safety from the last 35 years. Easley's inclusion, assuming he gets the nod from the full committee, is not an adequate remedy. Steve Atwater is in the same boat as Lynch. Both were not merely good, but great, and belong in the Hall of Fame.

Terrell Davis has been hurt by his short career span, despite the fact that he maximized his years more than anyone else, has a career per-game average (including postseason games) only exceeded by Jim Brown, and is the only player with a Super Bowl MVP trophy, a league MVP trophy and a 2,000-yard rushing season. His continued absence from the Hall of Fame is an absurdity based on narrow-minded perspective that uses a player's injuries -- which are beyond his control -- against him.

Randy Gradishar, a finalist in 2003 and again in 2008, is hurt by a ridiculous perception that his tackle totals were fudged -- a notion that unfairly attacks the credibility of then-defensive coordinator Joe Collier and everyone around the Broncos -- and the belief that plays were funneled toward him. But if you watch film of Gradishar, you see him attacking and anticipating the flow of plays, thus putting him in line for one tackle after another. Further, he could make plays in coverage.

But one thing that does have an impact is Denver's geographic isolation. Until 1988, the Broncos were the only team in the Mountain Time Zone, and while Phoenix technically is on Mountain Standard Time, it spends most of the year on the same time as the West Coast, and it is much easier to drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles than from Phoenix to Denver.

So Denver is kind of by itself. That may contribute to Gradishar's absence; he made it to the finalist group twice before passing into the realm of the Seniors Committee, but the New York Giants' Harry Carson, who had a comparable career, has been in the Hall of Fame for 10 years.

Gradishar and Carson both were named first-team All-Pros twice. Gradishar had seven Pro Bowl selections in a 10-year career; Carson went to the Pro Bowl nine times in 13 seasons, so Gradishar's Pro Bowl percentage of 70.0 percent is 0.8 percent better than Carson's.

Vintage Orange Crush -- pressure from @TomJackson57 sets up the errant pass & tip-toe Randy Gradishar INT. — Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) July 15, 2016

They had similar roles in similar defenses, although the Giants defense didn't become elite until Lawrence Taylor showed up in 1981. (Their average yards-per-play ranking with Carson but without Taylor was 16th; with both, it was sixth.)

The fact that Carson is in and Gradishar is not appears to be a clear example of bias toward a player in a major media market with a greater concentration of Hall of Fame selectors. This is one reason why the selection pool must be greatly expanded geographically and in terms of background to include far more writers and broadcasters, running the gamut from major networks to team websites and everywhere in between. Former players and coaches should also be included. If you got the pool up to, say, 600-800 voters, that would dilute the bias any individual or groups would have.

And then beyond the finalists of the last decade, you also have the case of Dan Reeves. I cannot explain his absence at all.

Three men have been to four Super Bowls as head coaches without winning. Two of them -- Bud Grant and Marv Levy -- are in the Hall of Fame. Reeves cannot get as much as a sniff, which is ridiculous, especially considering that he racked up those four appearances with two teams, thanks to his work in Atlanta in 1998.

It's a shame. The Broncos -- and their storied history -- deserve better.

He's making plays, but Roby has been outstanding in coverage and is well-trusted by the coaching staff, as he should be because of his play the last two seasons. It's not a knock on Doss that he remains the No. 5 cornerback behind both Roby and No. 4 cornerback Kayvon Webster. He's done all he can, but Roby and Webster would start on plenty of teams.

With Aqib Talib still under NFL investigation, Doss could prove valuable and might find himself with plenty of playing time if Talib is suspended and an injury strikes one of the top three cornerbacks.


Where is the fullback we are supposed to be seeing?**

-- John Jeffries

It's there. Remember, getting the passing game going and evaluating the quarterbacks was a point of emphasis on Saturday, so there were fewer repetitions for fullbacks -- 13 for Andy Janovich and two for Juwan Thompson. Janovich was in for C.J. Anderson's 19-yard touchdown gallop.

Janovich played 18 snaps in the preseason opener at Chicago and Thompson 11, including plays wiped out by penalties. Thompson was at fullback for nine of his 10 plays, thus you had a fullback on 38.9 percent of the snaps.

The use of a fullback is another element in the offense, but its use will also be predicated on matchups, tactics and game situation. Some games, you might see 40 to 50 percent of the snaps including a fullback. For others, it might be 10 to 15 percent. It's not going to be an every-down thing, nor was it ever going to be.

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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.



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