Thursday, March 27, 2008

Randy Gradishar Recognized as Defensive Pioneer

According to an article at Pro Football Weekly, the Pro Football Research Association recently assembled a panel of former NFL players with intimate knowledge of the 3-4. They were asked to name the "All-Time 3-4 Front Seven." Among the starters is Denver Broncos LILB Randy Gradishar.

The other nominees are Lee Roy Selmon (DRE Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Curly Culp (NT Kansas City Chiefs), Howie Long (DLE Oakland Raiders), Lawrence Taylor (ROLB New York Giants), Harry Carson (RILB New York Giants), and recent Hall of Fame inductee Andre Tippett (LOLB New England Patriots). Gradishar, Taylor, and Carson all were picked by 70% of the panel or greater. Other winners were more controversial, in many cases receiving less than 50% of the votes. Gradishar's competition included Saints/Panthers LILB Sam Mills (7 votes) and former Redskins/Raiders/49ers LILB Matt Millen (2 votes).

The leader of the "Orange Crush" defense, Gradishar amassed over 150 tackles for 9 straight years, averaging over 200 tackles for his career. He was NFL Defensive MVP in 1978, leading them to an AFC championship (and a loss to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl) with 286 tackles and 4 interceptions. Gradishar was a two-time All-American in college and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior year. Infamous Buckeye's coach Woody Hayes referred to Gradishar as "the best linebacker I ever coached." The Buckeye's award for the best linebacker is called the "Gradishar Award" to this day in his honor. Thanks to for the fantastic summary of Gradishar's career. The article I linked has a much more detailed review of his accolades for those who are interested.

Gradishar was snubbed once again by the Hall of Fame selection committee; however, he was listed among the finalists for the first time since he retired. Perhaps this additional recognition will help tip the scales in Gradishar's favor. Given the laundry list of former Broncos who've been snubbed in recent years, the odds are against him.

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