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Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

No matter which players are voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, several deserving candidates are always kept waiting each year. Logic and the numbers game guarantee it. Their wait can often be extended by the eligibility of a similar player. Sometimes the wait just makes no rational sense to many fans and analysts.

Last year, for the second year in a row, I predicted 13 of the 15 modern-era finalists. Paul Tagliabue and Zach Thomas did not make the cut, but Morten Andersen (a kicker) and Tony Dungy (a first-ballot head coach) surprisingly did. I correctly picked four of the five modern-era inductees. Choosing two wide receivers was nuts, but at least Andre Reed is out of the room after eight years as a finalist. Tim Brown waits, and in the spot I reserved for him is Aeneas Williams.

Congratulations to the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class: Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams.

We'll enjoy their ceremony this weekend, but we're already trying to figure out who will follow this class next year.

The First-Ballot Nominees

No class since 1970 has had more than three first-ballot selections, but we have a pretty strong group this year of players who last played in the 2009 NFL season. The following list includes the most notable names (players in bold are ones I feel confident will be in the Hall of Fame some day).

  • Isaac Bruce (WR)
  • Daunte Culpepper (QB)
  • Ahman Green (RB)
  • Torry Holt (WR)
  • Edgerrin James (RB)
  • Jevon Kearse (DE)
  • Ty Law (CB)
  • Jamal Lewis (RB)
  • Kevin Mawae (C)
  • Muhsin Muhammad (WR)
  • Orlando Pace (OT)
  • Junior Seau (LB)
  • Kurt Warner (QB)

There are plenty of lists out there for grouping Hall of Famers, but I have never seen one that groups players by their first year of eligibility. Seven players who last played in 2009 sounds pretty high. Some will even say Edgerrin James deserves the honor, but I think his ACL injury in 2001 moved him from the Hall of Fame to the "Hall of Very Good" with backs like Tiki Barber, Fred Taylor, Corey Dillon, Ricky Watters, Eddie George and Clinton Portis.

The Greatest Show on Turf

Marshall Faulk is about to get some company as Canton may need to build the Rams their own wing for the Greatest Show on Turf. That was clearly one of the best offenses in NFL history, so they deserve recognition. The Rams were the first team to score 500 points in three consecutive seasons (1999-2001). All four players should get in eventually, but we know Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are going to have to wait due to the wide receiver logjam. Marvin Harrison and Tim Brown are already waiting, and only five modern-era receivers have ever gone on their first ballot. Holt and Bruce aren't up to that caliber, but they belong.

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Bruce ranks seventh all-time in receptions (1,024), fourth in receiving yards (15,208) and 10th in touchdown catches (91). After this season he will rank lower in catches and touchdowns, which is why he needs attention for other achievements. His breakout season in 1995 was phenomenal: 119 receptions for 1,781 yards (still the third-highest season total ever) and 13 touchdowns, with Chris Miller and the ghost of Mark Rypien as his quarterbacks. Bruce did not receive a Pro Bowl nod that season, which was the pass-happiest in history to that point. Still, that just goes to show how ridiculous the process can be. Most people will admit a five-time Pro Bowler sounds better than a four-time Pro Bowler. Yet adding the label of "Pro Bowl season" to Bruce's 1995 does nothing to make it better than it actually was on tape (or in the numbers). Bruce made the Pro Bowl in 1996 after leading the league in receiving yards. He made three more Pro Bowls in 1999-2001 when he finally had a top quarterback in Kurt Warner. If you're into the "signature play" argument, then Bruce has you covered. His 73-yard game-winning touchdown, including a great cut to pick up 35 yards after the catch, won Super Bowl XXXIV for the Rams.

Holt only played 11 seasons, but he was more dominant than Bruce. He gained at least 722 receiving yards in all of his seasons, including eight in a row with at least 1,188 yards. He wasn't a physical receiver, but he ran smooth routes and had great hands. He didn't scare defenses as much as Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, but few ever have. Holt was one of the best of his era, and his peak should serve as a great crux to his argument.

Most Receiving Yards Thru Year X
Thru Year Player Seasons Receiving Yards
1 Bill Groman 1960 1,473
2 Randy Moss 1998-99 2,726
3 Randy Moss 1998-00 4,163
4 Randy Moss 1998-01 5,396
5 Torry Holt 1999-03 6,784
6 Randy Moss 1998-03 8,375
7 Torry Holt 1999-05 9,487
8 Torry Holt 1999-06 10,675
9 Torry Holt 1999-07 11,864
10 Jerry Rice 1985-94 13,275
11 Jerry Rice 1985-95 15,123
12 Jerry Rice 1985-96 16,377
13 Jerry Rice 1985-97 16,455
14 Jerry Rice 1985-98 17,612
15 Jerry Rice 1985-99 18,442
16 Jerry Rice 1985-00 19,247
17 Jerry Rice 1985-01 20,386
18 Jerry Rice 1985-02 21,597
19 Jerry Rice 1985-03 22,466
20+ Jerry Rice 1985-04 22,895

St. Louis' best chance of getting a player in this year is left tackle Orlando Pace, the first pick of the 1997 draft. He was part of a great era for left tackles with Tony Boselli (1995), Jonathan Ogden (1997) and Walter Jones (1997). Those players are the reason people talk about drafting a franchise tackle and having him lock down that position for the next decade. Ogden and Jones were selected on their first ballot, and Pace should be the same way. Leading the line for one of the best offenses ever (balanced with running and passing too) gives him a push over Ogden and Jones in my view.

Then there's Warner, who we covered in great detail on Wednesday. I feel good about Warner's chances this year, but I also thought the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony trial nailed his case, and we know how that one turned out. You never know what will happen once people start deliberating, but at least there will only be a few Florida residents in this process.

It would not come as a surprise to see Warner have to wait three or four years. Some will keep a hard line against his first-ballot induction. Some voters seem to have this weird thing about not putting in players from the same position in the same class, so how dare Lord Favre share the stage with any other quarterback in 2016, especially Warner, a former practice squad backup (1994) of his. Canton also has been unofficially the "NFL Hall of Fame," so Warner's induction into the Arena Football Hall of Fame or the fact that he led all quarterbacks in yards and touchdowns in NFL Europe (1998) won't carry any weight.

There hasn't been a quarterback inducted into Canton since 2006. The last eight put in were all first ballot, so maybe that will continue here. A record-setting, championship-winning quarterback with an incredible story like Warner should be very tempting.

Junior Seau

This first-ballot case is a slam dunk. Seau made 12 consecutive Pro Bowls, six first-team All-Pro selections, the 1990's All-Decade Team and is universally regarded as one of the best linebackers in NFL history. He was the main attraction in San Diego. My earliest memory of Seau is the 1994 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh. Some still exaggerate that he had 20 or 25 tackles that day, because it felt like he was in on every play. He had 16 official tackles and the Chargers pulled off the upset. He had an All-Pro season on the 1998 Chargers. That year Seau led a defense that allowed the fewest yards in the league, ranked second in DVOA and was the best at forcing three-and-out drives and punts. No one noticed because the terrible offense, led by you know who, put Seau's unit in the worst average starting field position that year.

Unfortunately, Seau's story has already met a tragic ending. He committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 43. Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of chronic brain damage we're becoming more aware of after the concussion lawsuits against the NFL. Posthumous inductions are always tough to watch, but Seau's will be especially somber.

Ty Law

If Law doesn't thank Peyton Manning during his future Hall of Fame induction speech, then that's just poor manners. In his career Law intercepted Manning nine times -- four more than any other player has against the five-time MVP. Five of those picks came in the postseason, including three in the 2003 AFC Championship Game. Manning has two playoff games with at least three interceptions, and Law was the opponent in both. No one defended Manning to Harrison better than Law. After the Patriots' roughhousing of Harrison and Indianapolis' receivers in that championship game, the league made an emphasis on illegal contact in 2004. Mel Blount may have the origin story for the "Blount Rule," but Law had the "Ty Law Rule" in his day.

He did more than just defend the best better than anyone. Law made five Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro selections and is a member of the All-Decade Team for the 2000s. He intercepted 53 passes, which is impressive in this era when they're harder to come by. When not terrorizing Peyton, he also made one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history: a pick-six off Kurt Warner to lead an upset win. Most observers of that game will tell you Law, not Tom Brady, deserved to be Super Bowl MVP. That might have put him over the top for Canton, but if we acknowledge his impact on New England's Super Bowl wins in 2001 and 2003, then we're looking at a Hall of Fame cornerback. He was also a starter on the 1996 Super Bowl team.

Law won't be first ballot, because defensive backs have to have absurd resumes to get that honor.

Kevin Mawae

Hey, it's an eight-time Pro Bowl, three-time All-Pro center. Let's make him wait 19 years! Okay, maybe the process hasn't been that unkind to interior linemen, but you do pause when it's one of them. There are only nine centers inducted, and that includes Bruce "I'll play anywhere on the line" Matthews.

Mawae did not particularly play on great offenses or in many memorable games, but he was one of the best centers of his era. He had solid media visibility when he served as president of the NFL Players Association. His tenure extended past his 2010 retirement as a player and he was there for the players during the 2011 lockout. He also had ridiculous longevity with 238 career starts and succeeded with multiple franchises.

Unless your name is Jerry Kramer, Mick Tingelhoff or Dick Stanfel, the Hall of Fame has been very kind to interior offensive linemen with Mawae's number of Pro Bowls and All-Pros on their resume. Mawae has the fourth-most Pro Bowls for a center. He'll likely get in, but no one's going to be in a rush to make it happen. Will Shields (OG), a finalist the last three years, should have more priority than Mawae.

The Recent Finalists

There are several new names to consider, but looking at the past six years of finalists can help us determine who has the best odds for 2015. Names in caps and yellow were inducted that year. Names in red are still not in the Hall of Fame. Senior nominees have an asterisk in front of their names. Names in gray are only eligible to be senior nominees in the future as they have been retired for more than 25 years. The number in parenthesis is the number of times that person was a finalist.

We also have data on who made the cut from the top 15 to the top 10. This isn't always helpful. Cris Carter originally made it to the top 10 in 2008-09, but didn't survive the first cut in 2010-11. Then again, Andre Reed made the top 10 the last four years before finally getting through.

Perhaps this will be a telling fact: Tim Brown has been a first cut every time in the last five years, but Marvin Harrison made the top 10 on his first ballot. That gives us reason to think the voters value Harrison more, which they probably should. Harrison's eight-year peak (1999-2006) was just absurd. He averaged 103 catches, 1,402 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns per season. The presence of Peyton Manning, a Belgian handgun, and an embarrassing postseason history make for rough edges on Harrison's resume, but he has the best case of any receiver in the queue.

Jerome Bettis has crept up to the top 10 the last two years, but the first-ballot guys may push him to the back of the pack. A player to watch is Charles Haley. He's been a finalist the last five years, and he's been in the top 10 the last three years. Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan were better choices the last two years, but Haley might be the pass-rusher of the 2015 class. Eddie DeBartolo has been a finalist the last three years, but he's also been a first cut. With all the first-ballot nominees this year, DeBartolo should be an easy omission from the 15 finalists in 2015.

Tony Dungy surprised me by making the top 15 on his first ballot, because head coaches historically get no love from the voters. Not even Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh made it on their first two ballots. Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren, who have similar resumes to Dungy, can't even crack the top 25 semifinalists. Dungy recently received a lot of criticism for his remarks about Michael Sam, so it will be interesting to see if his campaign takes a step back.

Senior Nominees

My hardline stance: until Jerry Kramer and Ken Anderson are put through, I refuse to worry about any other nominee. Punter Ray Guy is finally in, so maybe they can turn their attention to getting the best available guard and best available quarterback enshrined.

2015 Hall of Fame Predictions

Here are my projections for the 15 modern-era finalists:

  • Morten Andersen (K)
  • Jerome Bettis (RB)
  • Tim Brown (WR)
  • Isaac Bruce (WR)
  • Tony Dungy (Coach)
  • Kevin Greene (LB)
  • Charles Haley (DE)
  • Marvin Harrison (WR)
  • Torry Holt (WR)
  • John Lynch (S)
  • Kevin Mawae (C)
  • Orlando Pace (OT)
  • Junior Seau (LB)
  • Will Shields (OG)
  • Kurt Warner (QB)

I thought I could keep Andersen out this year, but needed one more name. Maybe Guy's induction will keep kicking specialists in vogue. Law could have been a choice for my 15th guy, but I recalled the similar case of Aeneas Williams, who was only a semifinalist in his first two years of eligibility (2010-11) before becoming a finalist the last three years. These things take time.

Without further ado, my predictions for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class:

  • Jerome Bettis (RB)
  • Marvin Harrison (WR)
  • Orlando Pace (OT)
  • Junior Seau (LB)
  • Kurt Warner (QB)

For the first time since 2007, it's a class with only one defender, but they can make up for that with the senior nominees. Bettis was my last choice and that's the only one I really struggled with. I wanted Haley, but there's no way they're going to have a class with Haley, Seau and Harrison. So Bettis, a nice guy from Detroit, it is.

Next year, we'll get our popcorn and tobacco ready for Terrell Owens and Brett Favre. In an ideal setting, 40 percent of that class is already filled, but these things rarely go as planned.


164 comments, Last at 27 Feb 2015, 7:04pm

6 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

The hat may or may not be made of cake.

Fine, I see your point, but I would suspect most of the football geekerati are probably pretty shocked somebody as accomplished as Shields is still twiddling his thumbs, so I'm presumably preaching to the choir in general here. I just . . . Jerome Bettis? The guy averaged over 4.0/ypc four times in his career. Career average is 3.9. Sure, really likeable guy, but . . . Jerome freakin' Bettis? He would instantly become the singly least-deserving player in the HOF.

Popularity really matters that much? Statistically, his case is patently awful, and it's not like people spent the better part of the decade saying, "Wow, Bettis this weekend, we totally have to stop him first."

10 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Jerome Bettis is a slightly-richer-than-usual man's Mike Alstott in a bigger market and a full-time starting role. I mean, I'm a Bucs fan, and I think Alstott is the most overrated player in franchise history. A big, limited-skills guy who excelled at short yardage (and therefore picked up lots of TDs) who is largely only known because Chris Berman liked to make stupid noises during highlights. How is this radically different than Bettis?

The good news is I would instantly stop making fun of Art Monk and Andre Reed's HOF membership, as I'd have much better things to rave about.

11 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Bettis would never be the worst, because the bar is already so low at RB. Look at Floyd Little, Paul Hornung and Doak Walker (my three whipping boys I'd throw right out of Canton).

Think we had the Bettis discussion last year (with Craig & TD) in my first FO article:

I'm not going to complain if Bettis never gets in, but I do think people are underestimating how different he was due to his size. How many 40-yard runs is Tomlinson going to have if he was Bettis' size? They let a fat guy with asthma be a workhorse back for a lot of one-dimensional offenses. That's worth consideration.

15 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Um, thank you. Bettis doesn't belong, but lets forget the hyperbole - Floyd Little is going to be very difficult to beat as the worst HOF'er ever. My favorite is how his election was won on the basis of such things as - he was hit behind the line on 35% of his runs, read it, seriously, people in the room quote that back 1) does anyone actually have film breakdown of every run the guy had - gee that would make game charting AFL pre merger easier for FO than charting 1987 l or did they use coaches numbers, the same ones that say Randy Gradishar had 286 tackles one year, 2) Context, context, context - how many times was Walter Payton hit in the backfield, Jim Brown, Jerome freaking Btiis, a number avoid of context is meaningless, sounds good to me but I have no idea if that actually is.

My view on HOF voters is like congress, throw all the bums out.

22 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I feel like people only remember the last few years of Bettis' career and forget what a terror he was in the early years — both in his rookie year and after his rebirth in Pittsburgh. In this way, his longevity works against him. There are a lot of memories of those 1-yard plunges in the years when most RBs would have long since retired. I don't think his case is "statistically awful" - he IS sixth all-time in rushing yards, and Adrian Peterson seems like the only guy with a good chance of passing him at this point. As that past article shows, it's a longevity vs. peak battle.

Not to mention Bettis' uniqueness — what other big backs had his sort of career? There's no one really like him who did what he did for so long at that size. It was FUN to watch him bowl guys over. You may not be able to recall many Bettis runs, but I can think of a bunch. Let us not ignore the simple joy of a huge RB plowing through tacklers for years and years. It's memorable. That matters.

25 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Bettis had a genuinely excellent rookie season and that's the only year I'd say he was HOF worthy.

He was terrible for the next couple of years, then he "miraculously" rebounded while running behind Dermontti Dawson for a couple of years, then he became average again.

Bettis' career is proof that Dawson belongs in the Hall of Fame, not Bettis.

Running backs are just absurdly overrepresented in Canton, and Bettis would only add to the list.

38 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Those Rams' teams Bettis was on were really bad. By '95 (when Isaac Bruce broke out), Rich Brooks was trying to turn Bettis into a FB.

You're telling me his first two seasons with the Steelers weren't HOF level?

Yeah, he rebounded when he was placed back at his rightful position and not running behind a below average line. Sue the guy.

Due to FA departures (Yancey Thigpen, John Jackson), injuries (Dawson) and Kordell Stewart not progressing at QB like the Steelers envisioned, Bettis became the only player on the Steeler O that teams really had to worry about for much of the 1998-2000 period.

By 2001, the team was ready to seriously contend again and Bettis was leading the league in rushing when he injured his groin early in a week 11 game vs. the Vikings. Real shame. If he doesn't get injured, he probably ends up with around 1,500 yards or so and nobody says he doesn't belong in the HOF. As it is, he's 6th all-time in rushing and it's quite possible that it's a long, long time before a back of his type puts up that kind of a total.

Even in his later seasons when he was more a backup, he was still valuable to the team. In 2004, he finished with nearly 1,000 yards after taking over when Duce Staley got injured despite only starting six games. And of course there was the game in the snow vs. the Bears that started off the Steelers' SB run in 2005.

Anyway, my prediction is Bettis, Greene (or Haley), Harrison, Seau and Shields

Pace is deserving, but I think they wait a year on him due to the time he missed to injury + Shields waiting longer. Warner waits until 2017 with Favre being the only QB in the 2016 class.

45 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

If you compare Shaun Alexander to Bettis, just on paper, he's the better rusher. Yet no one even pretends that Alexander will make the hall. Jamal Lewis' career also looks eerily similar to Bettis, without as many plodding years. There's nothing about Bettis' career that screams out of the ordinary to me.

51 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Alexander looks better than Bettis on raw numbers. 100 td vs. 91 and only 29 fumbles vs. 38. Moreover, he was a better receiver, with a three-year peak over 40 receptions each year while Bettis maxed at 31. Also a far better peak year, higher career ypc. And I agree, I don't think Alexander is HOF material. Is the argument here going to be that Alexander's line was that much better than any line Bettis ran behind?

DVOA is more mixed on this comparison. Bettis had 2 peaks, 1996 and 1993, both of which DVOA says were a smidge higher than Alexander's peak. He was also prone to serious down years in his career, 1994-5 and again in 2003. DVOA picks Bettis, but not by a huge margin. Of course, DVOA says Corey Dillon is twice the back Bettis was...

52 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

You guys are forgetting the eye test. Alexander was known as "The Tiptoe Burglar" because he avoided contact. He did have a great line with two likely HOFers (Jones and Hutchinson), though I don't hold that against every RB. What was out of the ordinary for Bettis was his size. We're used to seeing guys that big blocking for RBs, not being the workhorse RB.

73 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Re: #51

I could see Dillon getting a closer look one day. That said, his resume isn't more impressive than Bettis'. Bettis had eight 1,000+ yard seasons (and nearly a ninth). Dillon had seven. Bettis had three seasons where he finished in the top five in rushing. Dillon had two. Bettis is tenth all-time in rushing TDs. Dillon is seventeenth. And Bettis has around 2,500 more career yards. With rare exception, the benchmark for RBs is now 12,000 career yards and Dillon falls short of that.

His numbers are impressive (particularly given that he spent the majority of his career on lousy Bengals' teams), but not overwhelming. When your numbers fall in that category, it helps to have not had outside issues galore like Dillon has had.

74 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I'd give a slight edge to Dillon because of the 0.4 YPC extra, and the 50% less fumbling. But it's really close.

In 3 full seasons - 42 games - more, Bettis only had 5 more touchdowns.

Interestingly enough, Pro Football Reference lists Bettis and Dillon as eachother's closest career comp. Floyd Little is next for both of them.

I'd say both are HOVG.

91 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Yup. Very good players, all of them ...well, I don't really know about Little, never watched him play... but certainly not more deserving than, say, Warner, Tim Brown, Shields, Seau, Haley, M. Harrison and a few others. So Bettis did well for his size, fine, but he could've gone on a diet had he wanted to, it shouldn't be a HoF argument.

Who, me?

100 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Because "fat" or "big" or "physical" running backs don't have the careers that Bettis did. Even the great ones, like Earl Campbell, would get hurt and be done after eight years. When Bettis retired, he was FIFTH in career rushing yards, and that was in a era where the run was being de-emphasized. (He's since fallen to sixth.) And since he could be caught from behind, what would have been 70-yard touchdowns for the skinnier guys around him on the rushing list were merely 30-yard gains for him, so he had to grind his yardage out more than those other guys.

Remember how Cowher's teams were 100-1-1 when they had a 10+ point lead in the second half? The ability to ride the Bus with those leads, even as defenses knew what was coming, had a lot to do with that success.

How many guys have come along who were supposed to be "another Jerome Bettis", and how many of them had any success, let alone sustained it? Bettis had a unique career, ended up with a rushing total that's put everyone who's come close to it into the Hall, and was a productive player on some good teams. That strikes me as a Hall of Famer.

102 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I understand all that, and on my subjective HOF RB rankings, the line falls between Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, so I think he's a borderline case, but it seems that if you put Bettis's career in a 5'10, 215 lb body, the HOF push largely goes away. It seems we should credit him for being XL, as if he invented a new position.

104 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

My point is he was a big, fat, physical RB because that's what worked best for him. If he'd been better off being slimmer, he would have slimmed down. Sure it might have cost him yards to be big, but what about all those TDS? Would he have scored that much had he been small? If we give him points for not breaking the long ones, are we giving small RBs points for not scoring TDs? And how about putting guys like Zach Thomas in the Hall because if he'd been faster and more athletic he would have been Ray Lewis? How does that make sense? And yeah, Flutie.

It doesn't work like that. It's not the Hall of Sympathy or the Physically Limited. Or the Hall of the Resilient, either. Earl Campbell belongs because he was a monster, he could break the long ones or run over you. Being big was never a disadvantage for him. Then you have guys like Steve Largent. He was very unathletic, even got cut once, but that didn't stop him. He didn't get voted in because he was so slow, he got voted in despite it. Same thing for Zach, or Bettis or anyone else. There's no case where your shortcomings should work in your favor.

Who, me?

105 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

It's not an argument to put Bettis in the HOF because he was big-boned and had asthma. It's just context for his stats. I bet if we tracked things like broken tackles for Bettis' career, he'd look really good. We can track short-yardage success, and at least for 1999-05, Bettis converted over 70% of the time. That beats Marshawn Lynch, who wasn't even at 60% last time I checked.

He was a different kind of back.

113 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I disagree with this idea of context for this particular purpose. For HoF purposes I would only consider the context of the teams he played with, who he played against, the historic situation, how he was used. If he had to overcome a lot of obstacles that would help me value him from a human-interest viewpoint, but not as a potential HoF.

I don't doubt what you're saying about his numbers, but I'm honestly not looking very closely at stats on this one. I'm just going on what I remember from watching him play. He didn't stand out to me compared to other good RBs. He was more of a symbol of the way the Steelers liked to do things -no turnovers, win with defense- than an unforgettable player in his own right.

Who, me?

114 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Here's some context:

Note that everyone close to Bettis who's eligible has a + by his name. The discussion of styles isn't about sympathy; it's about pointing out that Bettis reached this level of production differently than the limited number of guys at his level. Scoring touchdowns when a runner is behind the defense at the 50 is a good thing. Putting up 13,000 yards without that ability is also impressive.

117 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Here's a few more anti-Bus arguments:
Second worst yds/att of the top 20 career rushers (only Riggins is worse, and he played in an era of tougher defenses and was a FB)
Fewest total receptions of the top 20 rushers and easily the fewest receptions/game
For all his alleged TD prowess, when compared to HoF RBs in the top 20 rushers, only Thurman Thomas (playing in the pass-happy K-gun), Dorsett and OJ (from the offense-depressed, 14 game season 70's) have fewer TDs. Only Thomas has fewer TDs/game. He was not, despite his reputation, a TD machine.
Despite having the third-most # of games among the top 20, only one RB has a fewer percentage of starts (Marcus Allen)

It can be argued that Bettis is the Art Monk of RBs. Nobody thinks he was bad. He was very, very good. I've yet to be convinced he's HoF material. (I still think Monk doesn't belong either.)

126 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Bettis' greatest talent seems to have been somehow getting the opportunities.

No player of his size in the history of the NFL has done less with as many opportunities.

Literally. Of all players with a BMI over 30 (Bettis was 35.2), 1000 career atts, and at least 18 att/g, Bettis is dead last in Y/A.

If you lower threshold to players who got at least 16 A/G, he's fourth-worst all time, only beating out Natrone Means, Rodney Hampton and Cedric Benson.

112 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

As mentioned above, once you let Bettis in, a lot of good to very good but not hall of fame caliber running backs will start to be able to have an argument. Correy Dillon and Warrick Dunn, Jamal Lewis types. Hell, if CJ2k has one bounceback year, his career will be argued as worthy of the hall.

121 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Dillon, maybe. Dunn and Lewis, no. If CJ runs for 1,500 yards this season, that would put him at 9,400 for his career. Still pretty far short of HoF level.

With rare exception (example - If AP had to retire right now I think he'd have enough), a RB that's played in the last twenty years or so needs 12,000+ career yards for serious HoF consideration.

127 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Sure he's a different kind of receiver. But he's still a receiver. Not looking at any stats and off the cuff thinking about it I wouldn't vote for him in the HOF.

I'm sure there are stats out there that make him look great and I could be convinced. But I don't feel like part of a convincing argument should be: "Wes Welker was a great receiver with a lot of catches. If he had been as big and strong as Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall his stats would be even better and therefore HOF worthy".

153 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

First you need to stop talking. You are a Moron and you are wasting air for children need to breath! YOU have one stat that's it? Really ?

He should have gone in last year PERIOD! He is in the top rushing in many categories and was the best player on a NO PASS OFFENSE! You hold him back on that stat? you and whom ever voted against him going in, are MORONS!

4 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I doubt you'll see four wide receivers among the fifteen finalists, even though Holt and Bruce are worthy. There will be pressure to thin the WR field a little bit. I think Law will be a finalist.

I generally agree with your comments about who should get in. I still think the Hall has been too tight in recent years, since its acceptance rate has not kept up with the league's expansion. As for who will get in: I hope you're wrong about Bettis, but I wouldn't put money on it. Seau is a lock, and Pace should be, too.

66 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Could be wrong, but I think Law has a wait ahead of him. Would the voters put him in before Bailey and Woodson (and possibly Barber?) I don't see it. One thing that'll probably be used against him - Belichick plugging in street FAs like Hank Poteat at CB after Law's injury in 2004 and the D not seeing much of a drop off.

5 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

For reference, here's a look at the semifinalists for the last four years:

I'd like to see Terrell Davis finally crack the finalists, but I doubt that will happen. George Young, Paul Tagliabue, Don Coryell and Roger Craig have all been that far before. Maybe they won't go 4 WRs in the top 15, but it's hard to choose more deserving people from this list. I'd rather see a Holt/Bruce than DeBartolo.

8 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I have a theory about wide receivers - namely many are going to get completely short changed. If you look at the numbers, overall - receiving totals have gone up but not that much more than early and mid 2000s. What has gone up is the number of 1300+ yard receivers.

I agree the rule changes have been part of it, but it's been the scheme changes IMO that have caused it. But that won't be how it's remember and there will be a backlash against passing games in general. For that reason, I don't think Holt or Bruce will get in for a while.

14 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

While the HOF is a very special thing, I really sometimes have a hard time respecting it, because there are so many non deserving guys in it and so many guys outside who should have been in long ago (like Ken Anderson)

16 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I do not accept pro-bowls from recent players as a meaningful measurement, you make the great Bruce example, but I'll rill over in my grave (hopefully I'm dead if this ever happens) if 4 time pro-bowler, 0 time All-pro Michael Vick ever even enters this conversation. I think you have tk be pre-90 before you count pro-bowls as meaningful.

19 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

If you read the player comment I wrote on Michael Vick in the FOA 2014, you know how I feel about him. But I bet someone will try to make the case for him one day.

I kind of snickered to myself when I included Daunte Culpepper in the list above, but I'd take Culpepper over Vick any day. His 2000 and 2004 seasons were great, and 2003 was very strong too.

17 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

The numbers say otherwise but I don't ever remember thinking that when I watched the Rams or my team played them that Torry Holt was the guy to watch / stop / fear. I never thought 'hey gotta watch the game to see Torry Holt' some of that is maybe because Faulk and Bruce were already established 'stars' when Holt broke in but still it is very hard for me to not believe that an awful lot of Holt's early success was due to the fact that defenses were terrified of Faulk and Bruce.

67 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Put me in the camp that thought Holt was the better of the two between he and Bruce during most of their time together. I think Holt's a top two WR for the NFC between 2000 and 2007 (leaving out Moss since he went to the AFC after 2004).

I could see Bruce being someone who falls between the cracks a little and ends up with a long wait.

26 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I agree Kurt Warner is Hall of Fame worthy after reading your story, but is he first ballot material? The common belief, right or wrong, is Faulk was the engine behind that offense because be was the first great versatile RB. Combine that with Warner's abnormal career and I think he sits a few years.

106 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I've been on the fence regarding Kurt Warner for a long time and while I think he's a very good quarterback I really believe he benefited from the weapons around him moreso than any other quarterback. He was great when it was the greatest show on turf and the same can be said when he had Fitz and Boldin in their primes but from 2002 to 2006 his numbers were not very good at all (injuries had much to do with this, of course) and based on that lack of consistency I just couldn't agree with him getting in. The all-time great quarterbacks raise the play of the guys around them not the other way around which is the way it seemed with Warner.

Regardless, if he does get in (and based on what I've heard and read it sounds like he eventually will) the first person he should thank is Rodney Harrison for knocking Trent Green out of that preseason game because I have no reason to believe that Green wouldn't have had the same type of season Warner did.

160 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Being first ballot is often as much a question of how competitive the incoming candidate pool is as anything else. Jim Kelly, Jackie Slater, and Darrell Green were all first ballot in weak years for first-timers. Likewise, Michael Strahan and Thurman Thomas were not first ballot guys because of the newly incoming competition. Junior Seau will almost certainly be the first ballot guy this year, and I'll be very surprised if Warner joins him.

28 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Kevin Greene Twice All-pro (led league in sacks both years). Third on all-time sacks list. Eleven years with 10+ sacks (split between four different teams, so it wasn't a scheme thing). Greene isn't even mentioned in the discussion. The four different teams may actually hurt him because he doesn't have a local advocate. I'm still not convinced of Warner and Bettis making it this year, especially with one Rams player (Pace) already going in. It may be tough with Seau pretty much a lock, but Seau may otherwise be the only defensive player in this class. And I think Greene was better than Haley, even though Haley has his five SB rings.

29 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

"And I think Greene was better than Haley, even though Haley has his five SB rings."

That seems to be why Haley is getting a push over Greene, which really isn't fair. Haley played on some of the best teams ever. Greene moved around a lot, but he was probably a better pass rusher, especially at his peak.

31 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

This is why bettis getting in would be a travesty. Hes leapfrogging so many other players, some of whom are no brainers, but others like kevin greene and tim brown as well. Bettis is a borderline player at best. Him getting in will be a sign that the hall is more about a compelling story than actual substance.

32 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Howley should definitely be in. All Pro numerous times and one of the few defensive SB MVPs. Harold Jackson is debatable, but is hurt by playing WR in that dead ball era of the late 60's-70's. Bobby Dillon was even before my time. He is in the Packers Hall of Fame and that's probably all he'll ever get. (At first I thought that last was a typo for Corey Dillon, but he wouldn't be a senior candidate.)

46 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Howley, Tinglehoff, Gradishar, Shofner would be my first seniors off the list. Howley is a travesty, T'hoff does have the issue of getting eaten alive by the Steel Curtain probably most peoples only memory of him - but who didn't get killed by a peak Steel Curtain. Gradiahar had his own team unnecessarily inflate his tackle numbers so now they're totally dismissed, but he was all over the field. Shofner, I'm afraid lost in the numbers game but he was the best widout in the game for a 3-4 year stretch and only a handful of guys in history can say that, Reed and Tim Brown cannot.

49 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Tinglehoff was 34 and well past his peak by the time the Steel Curtain dominated the Vikings offense in that Super Bowl. Curly Culp beat him soundly in January 1970 as well, but Curly Culp was a HOFer himself. Tinglehoff's peak came before the era of 300 pound nose tackles, when centers were reliably asked to handle middle linebackers. Butkus has been quoted as saying the Tinglehoff was the most difficult center he competed against, and that's a pretty good endorsement.

Howley has none of those era issues, however. He was just flat out a great player, and it is nuts that he isn't in.

156 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Agreed, and Drew Pearson makes four as deserving 70s WRs not in. Agreed with Del Shofner from above, and add Billy Howton, Biilly Wilson, and Mac Speedie to the deserving Senior WR list. Safeties as well as guards and OLBs from the 50s-60s are also under-represented in the HoF.

41 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I'm going with (in order or worthiness) Seau, Harrison, Pace, Haley, Brown. Marvin's off-field adventures+WR bottleneck might hurt him, but come on -- after Randy Moss, he's the best WR since the turn of the millenium.

47 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

As far as senior candidates go, where is the love for old Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson? 7 time Pro Bowler, 6 time first team All Pro, Super Bowl winner, and a member of one of the great sustained defenses in NFL history. That has to count for something, right?

Yes, I know I always bring up him and Tyrer when the HOF gets mentioned, but I promise I am not a KC fan. I do often wonder if recent discoveries about the effects of CTE will help Tyrer's case going forward. Murder-suicide notwithstanding, he certainly had a HOF career.

50 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Yeah, Tyrer's play was certainly worthy (and having 40 pounds, at least, on Tinglehoff, meant that he didn't have the nose tackle issues that the 2nd half of Tingehoff's career had) but the problem with murdering your wife before killing yourself (besides the whole murder/suicide thing), is that, typically, the strongest advocates for veteran committee candidates are the the players' relatives.

The largely unexplored history of strength coach Alvin Roy in the AFL/NFL would be interesting to delve into further. He brought full blown steroid use, after learning from Russian weightlifters, into the NFL in 1962 to the Chargers, who promptly won a championship, with such linemen like HOFer Ron Mix. From there he went to the Chiefs, and their collection of HOF worthy linemen, just prior to their championship. Then on to Dallas, into 1972, where he stayed through their Super Bowl win in January 1977, I believe. From there he went to the Raiders, and then dies of heart attack in January 1979. Of course, steroids were legal, and the NFL didn't ban their use until 1983, so no issues of cheating are in play. It's pretty reasonable to think, however, that early steroid usage, prior to them becoming widespread throughout the league, had a real impact on competitive outcomes.

53 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Johnny Robinson and Jim Tyrer are the only 6x first-time All-Pros not in the HOF. Maybe there's some AFL bias there, but Tyrer is never getting in. I don't blame anyone who holds what he did against him. His fame is murder/suicide now, not his playing career.

There are some interesting names with 5 AP1's not in (Howley, Kramer, Tingelhoff, Stanfel, Shofner), but generally those guys make it. That's why I was high on Zach Thomas as a finalist last year, but he didn't even make the top 25 on his first ballot.

59 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Thomas is an interesting case to me. His honors clearly put him in very elite company, but I don't ever remember watching him and thinking "this guy is in the same league as Ray Lewis." Maybe it isn't fair to compare him to a contemporary who may be the best ever at MLB, but voters are weird like that. The HOF Monitor I use for my site has Thomas as a clear HOFer, right between Urlacher and Greene in terms of likelihood of induction.

63 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

If you only look at Associated Press All Pro teams, which tend to carry the most weight, Tasker was a zero time AP1. He made it to seven Pro Bowls, but how many were on reputation rather than merit? Can we really say he is any more than anecdotally the best ever at a relatively unimportant position?

54 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Some food for thought as a carryover from our Warner discussion...

We know offense is more consistent than defense, then why shouldn't there be more worthy HOF careers on offense than defense?

I know a lot of people hate the favoritism towards offensive players in Canton. I don't have the current numbers, but it's not really close to 50/50. Should it be? I know from a limited viewing of our DB charting stats, there's a lot of fluctuation from year to year. It's not like Richard Sherman's had a top 5 Adjusted Success Rate two years in a row or anything like that. So if defenders aren't always consistent, then it makes sense why we look at more offensive players with better proof of sustained positive contributions. Not to mention skill players have stats that are more easy to crunch and understand than defenders.

Having stats like run stuffs, Stops, Defeats, Hurries, etc. would be so great to solve things like Charles Haley vs. Kevin Greene,and fortunately we'll have proof of that stuff going forward for today's players.

But I'm really skeptical of all the guys people claim were obvious HOFers who aren't in. The process makes mistakes, but I think the numbers for deserving players waiting and undeserving inductees are smaller than many think.

162 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Grimm has some narrative related issues, especially being the (possibly) only HoF member of the Hogs (Joe Jacoby is looking more snd more like a Senior-only electee, if that -- which would be okay with me), while Kooch would be the third member of his o-line elected (which doesn't happen often).

56 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

It's a fascinating question as to why that is. Why does defense regress far more than the offense, even at the individual level. As much as I think the position gets overrated, the answer probably falls on the qb, in the both the good sense and the bad. A good qb will likely be able to compensate for regressions in the play of individual receivers and offensive linemen and a poor qb will likely be unable to take advantage of progressions.

It's one reason I'm hesitant to trust charting stats of offensive players. The qb influences pressure rate, but he also influences blown block rates and uncovered rushers. The wr's may get open through useful play designs or may not receive any receptions due to a qb being unwilling to pull the trigger.

All that to say, if you want to add more qbs to the hall, that's one thing, but I hate the idea of putting in a borderline player at the expense of someone who with a stronger resume(even if it's just on paper).

57 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I have some ideas for why offense is more consistent, but I don't have time to share right now.

QBs - I just want to add Ken Anderson and Kurt Warner to the HOF. I'm fine with everyone else not in never getting in. In the case of those players, maybe it's just me but I'd rather see them go in before their competition: Haley, Brown, Bettis, Greene, DeBartolo, etc.

58 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I have looked at pff numbers. Tackle grades seem consistent year to year. Guards fluctuate a lot more. Wide receiver catch rate is consistent, though I suspect we really want to judge receivers on route running ability(a criteria we have no stats on currently).

Just about everything except run stuffing from linebackers is inconsistent year to year. Even the great players fluctuate from dominating to good.

72 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Because everyone is doing results based analysis instead of process based would be my guess.

Edit: also, I think defenders rely more on their teammates than offensive players.

A running back *can* break 4 tackles and turn a play with awful blocking into a positive gain. A corner back can't do anything about no pass rush and the QB throwing to the other side, or in a zone, he often can't even do anything about many plays where amateur film watchers will mark him as allowing a completion.

61 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

This argument seems to me to have a lot more to do with the vagaries of perception than anything else. If we accept that a DB is going to fluctuate a lot in his career, irrespective of his skill, talent, coaching, etc. then we have to extrapolate that DBs must be judged in a different context from offensive skill position players. Hence, greatness in 2 years out of four or 3 out of 7 might be a phenomenal corner, while a similarly uneven performance would look poor for a quarterback or runner. To do otherwise is to say that only the absolutely sensational outliers are to be evaluated as Hall of Fame players at the position, which is often how it seems today. If we held quarterbacks to a similar standard, comparably few would be in the hall. This argument seems more like an attempt to explain the disparity rather than a justification for it; what you are saying is, our ability to perceive and evaluate is flawed because we're endlessly comparing apples and oranges, hence we're being unjust in our selections.

I don't have a big backlog of shafted players in mind, but there are plenty of guys who were the best at what they did who have received no notice and never will. Let's take a guy like Steve Tasker. I don't think anyone would dispute that he was one of the finest gunners to ever play the sport. Gunner IS a position in the game, recognized by the pro bowl, and certainly by fans--he's a big fan favorite. If he's the best ever, what about the top 5 getting enshrined? It may be a position that participates in a phase of the game that's only worth 1/5th the value of offense and defense, so how about 1/5th the HOF attention? That's just cracking the surface. I think the whole thing is a farce.

71 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Gunner may be a PB position. I don't think most fans consider gunners as much more than try-hard players who aren't good enough to play a regular position and you hope doesn't have to start (or even play in a significant position like 3rd WR or nickel back). Even kickers and punters are occasionally drafted in the upper rounds. I'll consider gunner worthy of HoF when a player is drafted exclusively to be a gunner in the top three rounds.

75 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

How about personal protector as a position, then? There was this guy a few years back drafted in the first round to be a personal protector. Tim something. *Ducks*

Seriously, though, to say that "gunner" is a position on a football team is wrong. It's a function or a role, played by someone with another position.

Do we need to have the best long snapper og the best holder ever enshrined as well? At least long snapper is now getting to be a real position.

As a patriot fan, I love myself sum Matthew Slater, but come on.

76 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I honestly disagree. There are a lot of unnamed roles in this sport. Fullback is a position, while "blocking" tight end is not. Nickelback is a position too. There are some players who are weak flanker backs and strong nickelbacks, and vice versa. There are nose tackles and then defensive tackles, some players can switch back and forth, others really can't. Defensive end and outside linebacker are overlapping positions. To say that gunner isn't a position is sort of silly. It isn't an officially named position, and it probably ranks fairly low on a team's list of needs, but poor coverage teams can cost you a season, absolutely, and not just anyone can be a great gunner. I would even hazard the suggestion that trying to make a player play gunner and another role full time would probably be bad because gunner involves considerable hustle, and during those weird swings there are lots of kicks, having a gassed gunner be your wide receiver or top db would be very unfortunate. This also ties into the larger argument of whether a safety is just a weak corner and whether a guard is just a not very talented tackle. I think there are some guys who simply play guard extremely well, and there are tackles who don't make for very good guards. There are even left tackles in the league who struggle badly when forced to play right tackle.

82 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

How can you argue for putting ST gunners in the HOF when there are basically no RTs in? Isn't RT more of a position, and more critical to team success, than gunner? The same argument applies to kickers and punters, BTW- being the best ST player does not make you more important than a RT, and RTs have a tougher time getting in the HOF than guards, centers, and safeties.

84 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I think RTs should be in there too. My post above makes plain my point, I think the whole thing is a crock. It's not the Football Hall of Fame. It's the offensive skill position Hall of Fame with a few token nods to other positions. Yeah, I know there are a bunch of DBs and LBs and LTs in there, but as a reflection on the ratio of players playing the game, the Hall is ridiculous. I suppose it's a better reflection of skill than the Pro Bowl, which is also a crock, but not much better...

89 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I'm sure there actually are gunners in the Hall. It's just that, as they proved they were good enough to play a regular offensive or defensive position, they were taken off special teams. Steve Tasker is remembered for his play on kick coverage because he wasn't able to make his way onto the field as a receiver.

90 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Yes and it's darn well right! Look at Sapp's stats and then BY's (then consider that despite the nearly identical stats, Young was also a great run defender, Sapp not so much). One was a first ballot HOFer with applause at the selection and the better player gets ignored altogether. Young was the best DT of his generation and it was a good crop, I really cannot understand why nobody else sees this.

A great player, great teammate and really decent man is roundly ignored year after year. It isn't right.

Aside: What's even more annoying is that the Bay area press seem to be more interested in getting Roger Craig (really, really good but not great) or Eddie %$#@ing DeBartolo (drunken, spoiled, junkie pimp) into the hall than a truly great 49er. However, it seems like I'm the only person that thinks this way, which is a shame.

136 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Well, Sapp's numbers are depressed somewhat by his time in the (literal) Black Hole in Oakland (although some of that decline can also be attributed to age). Plus, I remember Sapp being pretty damn good (if not quite great) against the run. He certainly wasn't as one-dimensional as a Dwight Freeney, or even a Richard Dent.

But I definitely agree that Young was highly underrated and deserves to be in Canton.

140 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

With both Sapp and Dent, I always got the impression they could stop the run just fine, but they didn't care most of the time. In key situations, I doubt they gave up a lot of easy rushing yards.

Freeney is an odd case because I'm certain the defensive scheme was for him loop outside every play. I'm just not sure anyone could be good against the run while doing such a thing.

145 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Part of Sapp not being thought of as a run defender is just a scheme thing; his job in that defense was to get into the pocket and disrupt things. Slowing down to try to throw off a blocker and make a tackle was contrary to what that position was intended to be in the Tampa-2. Defensive line gets upfield, OLBs and CBs make the tackle after a couple of yards, keep bending, don't break, wait for a mistake. Sapp's position was designed to not be particularly effective in run support. Sort of like contrasting the careers of Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Brooks; Taylor was asked to do certain things and picked up huge numbers of sacks, Brooks played further back and swallowed up guys after receptions.

The contrary effect is why Ronde Barber has such ludicrously good tackle numbers for his position; he was playing close to the line, so getting far more opportunities. Also helped his pretty crazy sack/TD numbers (I'm barely restraining going on my "Ronde Barber easily belongs in the HOF" rant, but that's for another day).

146 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I saw Tommie Harris, when he had knees, be good against the run and pass rush. Admittedly, you could get the Bears even when they were great with trap plays, but that's something you're willing to give up.

However, getting into the backfield is generally going to stop runs and passes. Tampa 2 is all about gap integrity. If all the defenders are in their gaps, the runner has no where to go.

147 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

This comes close to making my point about BY; Sapp wasn't supposed to be a run stuffer in that scheme, he had licence to pin hid ears back and be disruptive. However, they have very similar sacks per game in their career even though Young wasn't playing in such a sack friendly scheme and he had to play a more conventional role in run defense.

81 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

While we're celebrating the "Greatest Show on Turf" this week, I'm wondering why Don Coryell is not in the HOF.
The Air Coryell offense was the foundation of the GSOT, and a basis for the West Coast Offense. Coryell mentored three SB-winning coaches ( John Madden, Bill Walsh, and Joe Gibbs). Coryell introduced the prototype pass-catching TE (Kellen Winslow), and the one-RB set that is now practically the standard in the NFL. He made Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow Hall of Famers. His NFL coaching record wasn't spectacular, and he never made it to the Super Bowl; on the other hand, he took two moribund franchises (Cards and Chargers) and made them contenders for the first time in many years, and one can argue that owner mismanagement undermined his record. Beyond his coaching record, how many coaches have had a bigger impact on the way the game is played? Isn't that one of the criteria for HOF selection? Coryell deserves a place more than Bettis, Staley, Greene, or some of the other players argued about here.

94 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

He's in as a player. I'm not sure how they handle potential candidates with the credentials to be considered for more than one role (for example at one point in time Ditka appeared to have a case). Since the HoF seems to be divorcing playing contributions from other contributions, it's a question that's bound to come up (for example the R&R HoF inducts artists as part of a group and as solo performers, and in baseball Joe Torre was a playing candidate before he was elected as manager), and yes, I think innovative coaching contributions deserve to be recognized as separate from playing contributions

115 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

While someone could be considered for the HOF in multiple contexts due to multiple roles, once you're in, you're in. Even though Lebeau was voted in as a player, his coaching career certainly didn't hurt and probably helped his case. Similarly, although John Madden was voted in as a coach, his broadcasting career didn't hurt.

Ditka is an interesting case, since as far as I know he is the only HOF player to have anything close to a HOF coaching career (as a head coach, so ignoring Lebeau), but by the HOF rules I don't think he is eligible to be considered again.

129 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Here is actually a VERY good article on that matter by a Charger fan on a Charger blog (I point out the last part, because you may be surprised by the final take. I know it changed my mind. I used to be in the "indignant he's not in" group but now I feel it'd be nice, but not necessary (if he could be considered solely as a contributor & not a HC, then I think he has a strong case...even though Sid Gillman technically "invented" a lot of things DC is credited with...but you'll see that in the article :D))

97 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

You can talk about Steve Tasker, but as a voter, are you ever putting that guy in over someone who played every down on his unit? It's a no for me every time. They practically have to create a separate category (like the seniors) to get those guys in.

101 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

It wouldn't be that silly to have an 'outstanding specialists' recognition, without the busts and the jackets and the speeches, obviously.

Steve Tasker, Devin Hester, Brian Mitchell. Maybe even dudes like William Perry. Perhaps some of the memorable "slash"-guys.

But for the real HOF, the "relative importance" argument HAS to matter.

OTOH, that's why (a few) more kickers need to get in as well. If someone is the leading scorer in NFL history, yes, he mattered. Even if he had to kick to score.

125 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I think one key reason why offensive statistics are more consistent (and statistics are not the same thing as performance) is that the offense has the ball and chooses each down what it wants to do with it. The defense reacts to this. If I want to put the ball in the hands of Jerome Bettis 300 times a season, then barring injury, I can. If I want to throw the ball 180 times to Marvin Harrison, then to some degree I can - I can at least playcall for this. If I want the offense to throw to whomever peak Charles Woodson is covering, or somewhere close to him such that he can make a tackle, I can't - in fact, Woodson himself will discourage this. If I want the offense to run at Junior Seau 30 times a game, I'll be similarly disappointed.

Great offensive players (at skill positions) win games largely (though not exclusively) through the impact they make in gaining yards/TDs and hence show up in the stats. Sure they do also create mismatches in coverage schemes/playcalling etc that allow the rest of the team to get more chances/yards than they'd ordinarily get, but the real greats still reflect their greatness on the statsheet - the offense is still trying to direct the play towards their stars most of the time.

In contrast, great defenders are avoided by the offense. Look at prime-Asomugha and how few passes even went anywhere near him? How many times did Howie Long's double/triple teaming get the sack for Greg Townsend or Sean Jones? Great defensive work often means you actively don't get the statistics to back it up - much much more often than for offensive skill positions.

There's only 1 ball on the field each play, its in the hands of 1 person at a time, whilst at the same time up to 11 defenders try to get the pick/defeat/stuff/tackle.
I'm not saying scheme/team-mates taking opportunities don't affect offensive stats variability from year to year, but theres a question of degree - Given this, I think its far more likely that individual defensive statistics tell us less than offensive ones, and hence there will be far more variation.

128 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I definitely agree with what you're saying, and I think this means we need more detailed stats available to more people. For the CB-not-being-thrown-at example, you could incorporate cover-snaps and lower completions/targets/yards per cover snap would be better. (OR, if we want to get in the "very time consuming to chart" stats, the "are they open" stat popularized by Cian Fahey. When a CB is obviously matched up with a receiver, how often would those receivers be considered "open". This helps eliminate the "people avoided throwing at him" problem).

130 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

That's pretty much true, but inventive defensive coaches can effect this. Look at the 2009 Jets. Ryan set up a defensive system where he baited teams to throw at Revis, by having him cover the other team's receiver, and giving him almost no safety help. Revis rewarded the Jets with one of the greatest seasons by a cornerback ever: 6 interceptions, plus 2 in the playoffs, allowing a 36.1 completion percentage and qb rating of 32.3 when thrown at. All stats from PFF.

131 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

I talked with a retired Bronco once about Denvers lack of players in the HOF, despite being one if the most successful teams of the last 40 years, and he blamed Woody Paige who was in charge of presenting each players case. He said no one takes him seriously. As a Bronco fan since 1977, I would have much rather seen Gradishar, Davis or even Atwater get in before Little. If Gradishar and Davis had the same accomplishments, but played for the Bears or Giants they'd be in the HOF. I'm not delusional, as I recognize Atwater is a borderline candidate and that Little as one of the weaker HOF players ever.

IT PAINS ME TO SEE GUYS LIKE CURTIS MARTIN AND JEROME BETTIS IN THE HOF, WHILE DAVIS HAS TO FIGHT TO GET IN!! Also that Harry Carson got in easily while Gradishar is at the mercy of the committee.

143 Re: Predicting the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Can we define 'significantly better'? Certainly he wasn't as durable as Bettis.

I said earlier that 12,000+ career yards has been the line for RBs for a while. Short of that, you have to have a pretty compelling case and I'm not seeing that with Taylor. Really, even if Taylor had finished with 400 more yards he may have been the exception to the 12,000-yard rule.