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Mile High Morning: What it means for there to be no member of the Orange Crush defense in the Pro Football Hall of Fame  


The Lead

In its heyday, the Broncos' famed "Orange Crush" defense pitched its share of shutouts to opposing offenses.

But these days, the defense has found itself at the wrong end of a shutout, as the Pro Football Hall of Fame has yet to elect any member of the group into its elite fraternity.

As ESPN’s Jeff Legwold writes, that distinction for the unit as a whole is a surprising "missing page of history" for the Hall.

"During a nine-year span, that group ranked third overall in total defense, second in run defense, first in fewest passing touchdowns allowed, second in fewest touchdowns from scrimmage allowed and fourth in scoring defense overall," Legwold wrote. "It's a chapter, a significant one, that is simply missing from the Hall's history book."

The only person who's yet to even be considered for the honor is former middle linebacker Randy Gradishar, who was a finalist for the Centennial Class elected a year ago. The 1978 Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time Pro Bowler faces some concerns about his hard-to-believe tackle totals (which, Legwold writes, should not be considered so unbelievable), but even putting that aside, Gradishar's absence is stunning.

But that none of his teammates — including fellow former All-Pros Lyle Alzado, Tom Jackson, Billy Thompson and Louis Wright — have received serious consideration is also disappointing, though not at the same degree as the oversight of Gradishar.

Considering the whole of it all — the careers of the "Orange Crush's" top players, as well as the peak and longevity of the unit — it just seems like one of the best defenses in NFL history simply hasn't gotten its due.

"We're very proud of what we did ... it's part of Broncos history, part of football history," Gradishar told Legwold. "It's always just been underappreciated by people who didn't see it all the time."

Those who did see it could tell they were part of a historic group.

Between 1976, when Joe Collier installed the 3-4 defense that became Denver's calling card, and 1988, Collier's final season as the Broncos' defensive coordinator, the Broncos shut out their opponents in 10 games. Only the Bears (13) and Dolphins (11) blanked opponents more in the regular season during that span, and they each have at least one player from that span in the Hall of Fame (Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Alan Page for Chicago, and Nick Buoniconti for Miami).

This is the only shutout the Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense wants to avoid, and perhaps it soon will.

Below the Fold

Jerry Jeudy's not telling us his exact goals, but it's probably safe to say that if he achieves them, he'll emerge as a true star in the NFL. People around the league are starting to catch on, too, as evidenced by’s Gregg Rosenthal picking him to be the Broncos’ breakout player this year. "Jeudy just moves differently," Rosenthal wrote. "I'm not sure how anyone can watch Jeudy run a handful of routes and not become convinced he's a star. The drops were frustrating, but he wouldn't be the first great receiver to have streaky hands -- and he's going to have plenty of opportunities for streaks, because he's always open."

The Unclassifieds

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