Howley, Klecko, Riley Nominated by PFHoF Seniors Committee
NFL Preseason Week 2 - The Pro Football Hall of Fame Seniors Committee has nominated former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley, former New York Jets defensive tackle Joe Klecko and former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Ken Riley for enshrinement in the 2023 PFHoF class.
All three nominees must be voted upon by the general selection committee when they meet sometime after the NFL playoffs, but that vote has been considered a formality for many years.
Howley was the MVP of Super Bowl V. He was a five-time All-Pro selection from 1966 through 1970. It’s worth mentioning that the NFL and AFL had separate All-Pro teams for most of that span, making an All-Pro selection roughly equivalent to a Pro Bowl selection.
Joe Klecko was the heart of the New York Sack Exchange defense which also included Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam. He is unofficially credited with 20.5 sacks in 1981, when he finished second to Lawrence Taylor in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. Sacks became an official statistic in 1982, thanks in part to the popularity of the Sack Exchange.
Riley ranks fifth on the all-time NFL list with 65 career interceptions. He started at cornerback for the Bengals playoff teams of the mid-70s and the 1981 AFC championship team. He only earned All-Pro notice once, in part because his peak overlapped with the peaks of Hall of Famers like Mel Blount and Michael Haynes.
Mike Tanier’s Take: I’m not one to quibble too much with Pro Football Hall of Fame votes, particularly when it comes to the Seniors committee, who are dipping a tiny ladle into a vast stewpot of overlooked greats.
Riley seems like the odd choice of this group. Lemar Parrish earned more Pro Bowl notice than Riley when they were teammates in the mid-70s, then went on to some excellent years in Washington. I get the sense that Riley received more support because of his status as an “All-Time Bengals great,” while Parrish’s career was split, and he just missed the Washington Super Bowl era.
Denver Broncos cornerback Louis Wright also earned more Pro Bowl nods than Riley when they were contemporaries, as well as a place on the All-70s team. Broncos observers are predictably upset that Randy Gradishar was overlooked, but Gradishar just doesn’t have the support of his peers and old coaches that fans think he has. Wright has a stronger case, I think, than either Riley or Gradishar.
As always, I would rather see Howley, Klecko, Riley, Parrish, Gradishar and Wright all get in than advocate for anyone to be left out.