ProFootballTalk is doing a series they call your team’s Mt. Rushmore’s. These are the greatest four players in your team’s history. Last month, they put up Mt. Rushmore’s for the Raiders and Chiefs. Today, I’m going to pick up the Mt. Rushmores for the entire AFC West. Take note, I’m not going to engage in senseless homerism, despite my intense dislike for three of the teams:
1. Denver: There’s a for-certain lock for the Denver Mt. Rushmore. John Elway is not only the greatest Bronco in history, he’s the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Certainly the greatest one I ever saw in person. The guy carried that team to three Super Bowls with virtually nothing else. At the end of his career, with some help, Elway collected the Super Bowl wins he could have won if those early teams had more than one player. Elway could have retired with six or seven SB wins if he had a team like the 80’s-90’s niners around him. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
2. San Diego: San Diego probably has the most hyped players in division history. You’d think they’ve won multiple SB titles with the talk that goes on about their franchise. That said, the Chargers Mt. Rushmore is not easy. Dan Fouts is one of the all-time great QB’s. Sid Gillman invented today’s passing game, won an AFL title with the Chargers in 1963,has an amazing coaching tree, and is in both the Pro Football and College Football Hall-of-Fame. Junior Seau was the face of the franchise for a decade and a half, and a definite NFL Hall of Famer. LaDainian Tomlinson must get consideration for that fourth spot .So does another passing game innovator, Don Coryell. I’d also say players like Charlie Joiner, Lance Alworth and Kellen Winslow have to be in the running.
3. Kansas City: Although a few not-so-smart people want to put Andy Reid up there already, the Chiefs have numerous players, coaches and an owner who deserve to be on their Mt. Rushmore. Lamar Hunt, one of the founders of the AFL and negotiator of the AFL-NFL merger is a lock. If the AFC West had a singular Mt. Rushmore, Mr. Hunt would be on it. Hank Stram is a lock, not only for having won the 1970 Super Bowl (Kansas City’s last), but also following with a successful career in broadcasting. Len Dawson quarterbacked that Super Bowl team, is an NFL Hall-of-Famer and one of the real tough guys that used to play the quarterback position. Bobby Bell not only was on that Super Bowl winning team (and let’s not forget about how inferior the AFL was thought to be compared to the NFL in those days), but made the equivalent of the Pro Bowl as a defensive end, then as a linebacker. Willie Lanier would be on the Chiefs Mt. Rushmore if it was only players. Buck Buchanan as well. Marty Schottenheimer and Derrick Thomas earn consideration. In all honesty, Kansas City has so many great players, there are a lot of deserving ones left off.
4. Oakland: Al Davis could be the Raiders Mt. Rushmore all by himself. That said, if there’s going to be three other persons on Mt. Davis, we have to say John Madden gets a spot as a Super Bowl winner, an incredible lifetime winning percentage, longtime CBS/FOX/NBC broadcaster and namesake of a computer game that many of its players have no idea who John Madden was. Tom Flores won two Super Bowls as coach of the Raiders, another as an assistant and even a Super Bowl with the Chiefs as a player. He was the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL and the first minority coach to win a Super Bowl title. Flores remains largely anonymous due to being overshadowed by Al Davis, but from the Steelers winning the 1980 Super Bowl to Denver winning it in 1997, Flores’ two Super Bowl wins were the only ones from an AFC team in that 17 season stretch. A final Mt. Rushmore pick for the Raiders is Jim Otto. He was the only AFL All-League center, having won that honor every year of that league’s existence. He was voted All-NFL his first two seasons in the combined league. Otto played 308 games at the center position. Other Mt. Rushmore candidates included Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Ken Stabler, George Blanda, Ted Hendricks, Jim Plunkett, Bo Jackson (too short a career), Marcus Allen (who did all his winning with Los Angeles), Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Tim Brown, Willie Brown, Jack Tatum, and Howie Long.
If there was an AFC West Mt. Rushmore, the four going on it would be Elway, Hunt, Davis and Gillman. Those persons are NFL legends, leaving their mark on even today’s game with their presence.