Denver -- Let's start banging down the doors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for Terrell Davis. Anybody who votes to keep him out does not know the game.
Ask yourself this: Needing 3 yards to move the chains on third down in the tense, final minutes of a tied game, who ya gonna call to carry the rock? The No. 5 worn by Paul Hornung, given a Hall pass only because he appeared golden when reflected in the glory of the Green Bay Packers dynasty? Or the No. 30 on the sturdy back of T.D., who twice carried the Broncos to the NFL championship? There's not even a doubt which of the two running backs Vince Lombardi would have picked to run to daylight.
But let's be honest here.
Taking all the hits while rushing for 2,008 yards in a single season will not be as difficult for T.D. as wedging one lousy foot in the door at the Hall of Fame. "When I look back at the other running backs that have made the Hall of Fame and where [Davis] ranks with his accomplishments - MVP of a Super Bowl, MVP of the league, rushing for over 2,000 yards, I would be very surprised if he was not inducted into the Hall of Fame," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said Saturday.
The truth, however, is nastier.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame hates Denver.
That not only irritates Bowlen, but it should worry coach Mike Shanahan and cornerback Champ Bailey if they have any aspirations of seeing a brilliant career end in Canton, Ohio. You can't get there from here. Unless your name is John Elway.
Win for win, no NFL team of the past 30 years has been more ignored by the Hall of Fame than the Broncos.
Way too much football history has been made in Denver to have Elway as the franchise's lone member of the pro game's most exclusive club.
And the case already is being made against Davis, who will be honored by a welcome to his own team's Ring of Fame this year.
Here's the rap: T.D., a product of Denver's offensive system, had injuries that robbed the longevity from his pro career.
We hear the argument.
But maybe we should give those bashers of T.D. a slightly altered version of the Mile High Salute.
If greatness is defined by coming up big when it matters most, then check the numbers compiled by T.D. in the NFL playoffs: 1,140 yards rushing with a dozen touchdowns, to say nothing of bravely running blindly on the field with a migraine in the January 1998 Super Bowl. It's hard to deny that what Davis achieved against rugged competition in those eight postseason games is as spectacular as anything Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers did in the best of his seven short seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Hall of Fame voters have ripped off Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar, and it's too late to expect them to start giving proper credit to the Orange Crush defense now. So the NFL owes Denver.
A good way to make amends would be to recognize that T.D. was the most essential player in making a great football city's fondest dreams come true.
"We don't win those Super Bowls without Davis," Shanahan said.
Sure, tight end Shannon Sharpe might be too loud for the voters to keep out. But the contributions of tackle Gary Zimmerman, receiver Rod Smith and any other hero from the Super Bowl years could well be ignored for decades to come.
"It has always been a thorn in my side that the team has played in six Super Bowls, won two and is a team that has had a lot of great players. We have one player in the Hall of Fame, in John Elway," Bowlen said. "I've made it clear as a member on the board of the Hall of Fame that I think our process on electing players into the Hall of Fame is flawed."
Only one thing can prevent the gatekeepers to the Hall from admitting Davis.
And it's not his history of injuries.
It's a history of voter stupidity.
Mark Kiszla writes for The Denver Post.