Why Ed McCaffrey belongs in the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame
Jul 11, 2023, 7:31 PM | Updated: 7:32 pm
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
When Ed McCaffrey announced his retirement in March 2004, then-owner Pat Bowlen spoke about him in words reserved for the most significant of Broncos legends.
“When I look back on his career here in Denver, I think of two things – his courage and his bravery,” Bowlen said when McCaffrey walked away.
“In the 20 years that I’ve had the privilege to own the Denver Broncos, he’s been the bravest and most courageous player to ever play for the team.”
That isn’t a CV item you can quantify with data. It’s a feeling. And it’s something you see with your eyes.
Still, the data supports McCaffrey, too. Five Broncos in team history have at least 400 receptions, 6,000 receiving yards and 40 or more touchdowns. Three are in the Ring of Fame: Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe and Lionel Taylor. Another is not yet eligible: the late Demaryius Thomas.
That leaves McCaffrey as the only eligible player in that group not yet in the ring.
He might have pushed those numbers even higher had he not suffered a horrific leg injury on Sept. 10, 2001.
In the three seasons prior to that night McCaffrey averaged 78 receptions, 1,126 yards and 9 touchdown catches per year. Understandably, he wasn’t the same after that. His production dipped.
But he was still capable of big moments. In his first game back, he scored the touchdown that ended up being the difference in a Broncos win over the defending NFC champions.
Still, the lingering memories aren’t about his production — including his signature 2000 season, when he rang up 101 receptions.
Instead, it’s a vision of that player in middle-school-sized pads. He absorbed one blow after another and rose time and again. Often, it was a second or two later to take the next snap. But it was also about his 2002 return, 362 days after he left the field on a cart.
“No receiver in the NFL wants to be remembered for how many times they got hit hard,” McCaffrey said when he retired. “They want to be remembered for speed, great hands, scoring touchdowns, but not getting crushed.
“But, hey, I guess people will always remember me. That’s the only way I knew how to play the game and I have a lot teammates who played the game the same way.”
Indeed, Broncos Country hasn’t forgotten.
The numbers say, “Ring of Fame.” But so does the feeling beyond that, including a prominent role on two Broncos world-championship teams.
He’s waited a while — 14 years since becoming eligible and nearly 19-and-a-half years since announcing his retirement in March 2004. But it’s time for McCaffrey to join the Ring of Fame.