Predicting the 2016 Hall of Fame Class

Predicting the 2016 Hall of Fame Class
Predicting the 2016 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.

Congratulations to the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class: Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Junior Seau, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff, Bill Polian, and Ron Wolf.

In 2013 I predicted three of the five modern-era players, and I had four correct in 2014. Last year I was only able to correctly predict Bettis and Seau. The latter was a given and the former is a controversial pick, but Bettis had unique size for a featured back to go along with durability and longevity, and his rushing success rate was great. I do not conceal the decade of fandom I had for Bettis in Pittsburgh, but his induction always felt like a lock and it was only a matter of time before he got the nod.

We'll enjoy the 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, and that is all but guaranteed not to change in 2016. In fact, three is the maximum number of players I expect to make the Hall of Fame from this first-ballot group of players who last played in the 2010 NFL season. The following list includes the most notable names with the players that should eventually make the Hall of Fame in bold.

  • Flozell Adams (OT)
  • Alan Faneca (OG)
  • Brett Favre (QB)
  • Joey Galloway (WR)
  • Kris Jenkins (DT)
  • Lawyer Milloy (SAF)
  • Terrell Owens (WR)
  • Julian Peterson (LB)
  • Clinton Portis (RB)
  • Trevor Pryce (DL)
  • Darren Sharper (SAF)
  • Fred Taylor (RB)
  • Brian Westbrook (RB)
  • Jamal Williams (DT)
  • Pat Williams (DT)

Brett Favre has probably been a HOF lock since I was in sixth grade (1997-98). He will be the first quarterback inducted since Troy Aikman and Warren Moon in 2006. Yes, it has been that long since we watched a quarterback give an induction speech.

Alan Faneca actually joined Favre as his left guard on the 2008 Jets, but he may have to wait a few years to join Favre in Canton. His nine Pro Bowls and six first-team All-Pro selections mostly earned in Pittsburgh's run-heavy offense make him a lock, but not a first-ballot lock. Even Randall McDaniel (12 Pro Bowls and seven AP1s) had to wait three ballots. Voters are rarely in a hurry to put in a guard.

Let's get the elephant out of the room. Darren Sharper was a borderline candidate to begin with, and while the voters are told not to consider off-field incidents, there is no way a serial rapist is going to Canton. Even before the despicable news broke, Sharper faced the general struggle safeties have with getting into the HOF. This just gives the voters an easier time of casting him aside. The interesting part is whether or not Sharper will be on the preliminary list of nominees, which he should be given the rules of the process. A total of 113 names appeared on last year's list. Sharper's playing career was also likely good enough to make the top 25 semifinalists, but that seems improbable now, though it is something to keep an eye on. Even Jim Tyrer, who killed his wife and then himself in 1980, was a Hall of Fame finalist just a few months after the tragedy. But times have changed.

Clinton Portis, Fred Taylor, and Brian Westbrook were three really good running backs many of us enjoyed watching. Some better health and maybe one or two of them would be headed to Canton, but it's unlikely we'll see them move beyond the preliminary list.

The Case of Terrell Owens

Put Terrell Owens in the Hall of Fame? For who? For what?

OK, those last four words were famously uttered by another sanctimonious 49er-turned-Eagle in Ricky Watters, but you have to wonder how much Owens' ego will hurt him in the voting process. He did his share of damage to several locker rooms, most notably the way he handled the 2005 season in Philadelphia. After ripping management and clearly not getting along with quarterback Donovan McNabb, Owens was suspended by the Eagles and deactivated for the rest of the season. It's kind of funny he is on the same ballot as Favre, since in 2005 Owens said the Eagles would be undefeated if they had Favre instead of McNabb at quarterback. Owens didn't always insult his quarterbacks, and he finished his career quietly with the Bills (2009) and Bengals (2010). A comeback with the Seahawks in the 2012 preseason was short lived.

Strictly on the field, Owens was a HOF wide receiver. He had six top-eight finishes in DYAR, or as many as Marvin Harrison. Owens still ranks second in NFL history in receiving yards (15,934) and fifth in touchdowns scored (156). It's going to be a long time before someone scores 150 touchdowns again. Andre Johnson might pass Owens in receiving yards in a couple of years, but that's far from a given. Owens' numbers are going to be there, as will the memorable moments like his game-winning touchdown in the playoffs to beat Green Bay, the various touchdown celebrations, and his valiant effort on one leg in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Owens lacked the great hands of someone like Cris Carter, and didn't run routes as sharply as Marvin Harrison, but he was a bigger threat than either receiver, especially with the ball in his hands. Since he moved to new teams so often, we got to see him excel in multiple systems with various quarterbacks. The biggest knock on him was how good of a teammate he was (or, more accurately, was not), but there's no denying his production was great and helpful to his teams.

The other problem for Owens is that he's a wide receiver and he's entering a queue that already has Harrison, Torry Holt, and Isaac Bruce waiting for the same honor. The last three classes finally put in Cris Carter (2013), Andre Reed (2014), and Tim Brown (2015) after their long waits. There are 24 modern-era wide receivers in the HOF, and only five were chosen on their first ballot.

I think we'll see Owens inducted eventually, but based on history, he's going to have to eat a lot of popcorn as a spectator when these votes go down.

Senior Nominees and Contributors

The process has changed in regards to senior nominees and the new contributor category. Mick Tingelhoff is the only senior nominee going in this year, and Ron Wolf and Bill Polian are the first two to go in via the contributor category that allows for non-players and non-coaches to get a fairer shake. In 2016 and 2018, the classes will include two senior candidates and only one contributor, while 2017 and 2019 will have this year's setup of two contributors and one senior nominee.

My hardline stance: Jerry Kramer and Ken Anderson are the best guard and quarterback, respectively, not enshrined. They deserve to be the senior nominees, while I have no real insight (or input) on the contributor. It could be someone like former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue or George Young, five-time NFL Executive of the Year.

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The recent passing of quarterback Ken Stabler makes me wonder if he'll get a look as a senior nominee now. Stabler, Charlie Conerly, Ken Anderson, and Kurt Warner are the only four quarterbacks to ever be a Hall of Fame finalist, but not get inducted. Warner is likely to drop from that list, but Stabler remains one of the best quarterbacks not in the HOF. His best arguments may be the inclusion of George Blanda and Joe Namath. I'd rank Stabler ahead of both. They threw a lot of interceptions too, but unlike those guys, Stabler had all of his peak years in the NFL in the 1970s, the league's toughest defensive decade. He won an MVP (1974) and a Super Bowl (1976) with the Raiders and was great for a seven-year stretch (1973-79). Seven years may not sound long, but it really is when it comes to all-time quarterbacks. When I adjusted postseason passer ratings in 2014, Stabler ranked second between Anderson and Warner. He had the "big-game resume" and he was involved in several famous games that even have names. Clearly Stabler's exclusion has not been fully related to on-field performance, but with new voters, The Snake could slither his way into Canton eventually.

Tracking the Recent Nominees

Wanting to get a better feel for the paths that players take in the process, I collected data for each round of voting. Nominees are first put on a preliminary list that usually has at least 100 names. Since 2004, that list is whittled down to 25 modern-era semifinalists, or sometimes 26 or 27 given ties. Since 2007, 15 finalists are chosen to go along with the senior/contributor nominees. This is the group that gets voted on just before the Super Bowl in February. Voting results are available for the reduction vote that gets down to 10 nominees, then finally the last cut down to the five candidates who will ultimately be voted on for induction.

The following charts the path that each of the last 32 modern-era players (no coaches or senior nominees included) inducted into the HOF have taken for all the years they were eligible. Players are eligible five years after retirement and this goes back to the class of 2009. The first four ballots for Russ Grimm appear as "N/A" because I could not track down the preliminary list of nominees for 1997-2000. If anyone has these, please contact us.

On average these players waited through 4.1 ballots, with 12 first-ballot players hardly anyone would try disputing. Warren Sapp over Michael Strahan is the most debatable decision, but Strahan made it on his second ballot, making it 16 of the 32 players inducted after two ballots.

The name that sticks out like a sore thumb is Rickey Jackson. That red "UNL" means he was not even on the preliminarily list of nominees in 2001-03. There are over 70 names on those lists, but not Jackson. Even Al Smith (1987-1996 Oilers) made the list in 2003 instead of Jackson, who did not appear until 2004. Excluding Grimm, who likely was a preliminary choice early as one of The Hogs, the other 30 players all started out as a top-25 semifinalist.

Jackson's path to the Hall of Fame was unique for several reasons. You'll notice that most players either stay in the same round or advance in the process. Not many take a step back, though we did see Richard Dent go from top 10 to top 15 to a semifinalist, back to the top 10 for four years before finally getting the call. That's rare. Only seven of these 32 players moved back in the process. Usually a player moves up from being a semifinalist to the top 15, then the top 10 and in. Again, that's not Jackson's path.

The shocking part is how Jackson seems to have just "cut the line," if you will, in 2010 when he got inducted. He was a semifinalist in 2008, but never a finalist. For some reason, in 2010 he was picked for induction over players who were finalists multiple times like Cris Carter (three), Dermontti Dawson (two), Richard Dent (six), Cortez Kennedy (two), Andre Reed (four), and Shannon Sharpe (two). With all due respect to Jackson's career, he should have waited longer while the players considered more deserving got in first. I put on my Philip Marlowe hat and tried to do a little detective work on what happened in the Jackson vote, but did not find any revelations yet. Sometimes things just happen, but Jackson's induction sure looks way out of line with the usual process.

Studying the process for recent semifinalist players should help with predicting this year's class. Here are the paths of the 22 players who have been a semifinalist since 2004 and are still eligible.

Roger Craig flirted with the top 15 once, but the eight players listed above Kevin Greene all seem to be long-shots at this point. Greene has had a Haley-like climb to the top 10 in each of the last two votes. Meanwhile, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, and Kurt Warner have all been in the top 10 in their four combined ballots.

If a player makes it to the top 10, he's likely to return the next year as the following table illustrates since 2007.

Year 6-10
Inducted Y+1
6-10 in
Top 10 Y+1
2014 3 5
2013 3 5
2012 2 5
2011 4 5
2010 2 5
2009 2 4
2008 2 4
2007 3 5


308 comments, Last at 18 Aug 2015, 10:36pm

#1 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 2:23pm

Pretty much agree with Scott on who is likely to get in. Aside from Dungy, the other 4 are clearly deserving.

Dungy will get in due to his ambassadorial influence on the game, but his on the field accomplishments are borderline at best.

Points: 0

#4 by Will Allen // Aug 07, 2015 - 2:54pm

Of the 32 men who have head coached in 200 or more NFL games, 3 have a better winning percentage than Dungy. Of the 52 that have coached 150 or more games, 4 have a better winning percentage than Dungy. Of the 96 guys that have coached 100 games, 8 have a better winning percentage than Dungy. Dungy produced that record with two different franchises, nearly half of his career with one franchise which was historically, ridiculously, bad prior to his arriving, and within a couple years of his leaving, went back to being bad.

It simply is inaccurate to state that his on the field accomplishment are borderline at best, unless you want to employ the sort of tiny sample sizes, in a one and done format, which defies sound analysis.

Points: 0

#7 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 3:54pm

The tampa thing was impressive, but it also coincided with a huge infusion of talent on defense.

Similarly, PM has proven no matter who your coach is, you're going to be making the playoffs.

OBV I'm not going to be going to the extreme and say Dungy was just along for the ride, but it worth noting that context played a huge role in Dungy's superior winning percentage.

Personally - I get more impressed by RR's ability to field semi good teams with Sanchez at qb and later Geno Smith plus some awful corners than Dungy's ability to pair with Manning and win 12+ games every year.

Frankly, given what PM has done across multiple coaches and personnel - everyone gets a huge PM asterix

Points: 0

#8 by Will Allen // Aug 07, 2015 - 4:09pm

Feel free to point out any coach who has produced an elite level winning percentage, over a large sample of games, without large amounts of talent. Look, the wins are the wins, and over a very large sample size, with nearly a fifty fifty split between two franchises, all of 3 coaches have won more frequently than Dungy. To call this "borderline at best" is to strip language of meaning.

Points: 0

#9 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 4:20pm

CaldWell went 14-2 and went to a sb had a chance of winning that superbowl with PM. The same coach also presided over a 2-14 colts team that was awful at everything. It does imply what context will do to perceptions. That's all.

Points: 0

#11 by Will Allen // Aug 07, 2015 - 4:47pm

Yes, this is why small sample sizes are a very poor way to evaluate performance. Again, if you have an example of a head coach who produced an elite level winning percentage, over a very large sample of games, without very good talent, I'd be happy to look at it.

Points: 0

#21 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 5:29pm


Tbh - I think Gibbs, Parcells, and probably Shannahan(if you can believe it) are coaches that I think went through several iterations of teams with different quarterbacks and were successful still. Don Shula, Hank Straham, and some others of yesteryear would also qualify.

So much of winning is tied to roster and qb - for me to really praise a coach - i need see both shaken up. To some extent BB I would include because so much of what NE does is beyond just Tom Brady, but I can understand if people want to see BB after Brady is really gone.

Look - I said Dungy's case is borderline because its really really hard to identify skilled coaches. There just aren't enough metrics and the one's that exist - time outs, aggressiveness - imo are less important that what is behind the scenes - organization, player development, game planning etc.

Points: 0

#22 by gomer_rs // Aug 07, 2015 - 6:29pm

How about a different metric.. How many defenses in the NFL adopted some form of the Tony Dungy/Monte Kiffin Tampa-2 zone defense?

I would argue that Dungy didn't just win with Tampa, though they almost beat the Amazing Show on Turf to the Super Bowl with Shaun King, but he created a defense that for a short period, like the run & shoot offense, was adopted by a large number of teams. Both Chicago, with Rex Grossman as QB, and Seattle, with Hasselback, made it to the Super Bowl running the Dungy/Kiffin D.

Also, the STL-TB NFC Championship is the Bert Emanuele Rule game where they changed the rules to make the incomplete pass by TB that ended the game and saved STL by 1 score a legal completion.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#26 by gomer_rs // Aug 07, 2015 - 6:41pm

Well isn't that the primary basis of Coryell's consideration? Doesn't LeBeau have a number of years to go before he can be considered?

According to wikipedia Gillman is in the hall. (edit)

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#31 by Raiderjoe // Aug 07, 2015 - 7:52pm

Gillman and LeBeau already in for coshcing. Leheasu in for liosn days is the officiAl stance but can say he got in a coach. LeBeau got pushed in as coach based on compelling argument that got heard at hall discussion thingy. Rules were bent but not officially

Points: 0

#32 by Alternator // Aug 07, 2015 - 9:40pm

I think this is one of two compelling reasons to support Dungy (the other is his Tampa accomplishments - I don't think he did anything special in Indy). Dungy helped design a defense that was popular for years, across multiple teams, and actually changed the types of players who were being drafted. That's at least worth consideration, and then helping to build and lead a doormat almost to the Super Bowl just knocks it up and over.

Points: 0

#97 by commissionerleaf // Aug 09, 2015 - 10:01pm

What I don't understand is that Bill Polian got in before Dungy.

Polian presided over some very good team building, and then coasted for 10 solid years on PM's coattails in Indy while the rest of the team fell apart.

This is a guy who drafted Donald Brown, Anthony Gonzalez, and (effectively) Tony Ugoh in the first round.

Points: 0

#99 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 09, 2015 - 10:28pm

That's a little unfair. Built up 3 different teams into playoff contenders, and the most talented Colts team was probably 05. So he only coasted for like 5 years max.

Points: 0

#100 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Aug 09, 2015 - 10:38pm

You know Polian had a career before he came to the Colts, right? He was the GM in Buffalo and helped build the Bills from a terrible team to 4 straight Super Bowl appearances, while winning NFL Executive of the Year twice. (Technically he was fired after the 3rd appearance but I think we can give him credit for the success of the team for that next year.) Then he went to expansion Carolina and built a team that made the NFC Championship in its second year of existence.

Then, he went to the Colts. Arguably he had already earned his HOF spot before he ever met Manning. But his continued success in Indy just proved that the rest of his career wasn't a fluke. Yeah, the team fell apart at the end. I guess that makes him a bum.

Points: 0

#101 by theslothook // Aug 09, 2015 - 11:01pm

If one examines Polian's draft record - its pretty close to the best ever. I have a rich draft data set and having looked into all of the different draft regimes, Polian is I think the third or 4th best going back to 1978. The best by some distance was actually Carmen Policy/Bill Walsh.

But then again, if you are like me - you think drafting is mostly a crapshoot.

My biggest problem with Polian was his bizzaro instance on running backs. To me, its inexcusable that he spent 3 first round picks running backs while pretending Manning would fix the defense and o line by himself.

Points: 0

#109 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 10, 2015 - 1:35am

If you don't have Jim Finks in your list of best GMs ever, you need to check him out. Built both the incredible Vikings teams of the 60s-70s, then the 80s Bears, then went to made the Saints respectable.

And he did it a lot of it without hitting a QB jackpot.

Points: 0

#102 by theslothook // Aug 09, 2015 - 11:01pm

If one examines Polian's draft record - its pretty close to the best ever. I have a rich draft data set and having looked into all of the different draft regimes, Polian is I think the third or 4th best going back to 1978. The best by some distance was actually Carmen Policy/Bill Walsh.

But then again, if you are like me - you think drafting is mostly a crapshoot.

My biggest problem with Polian was his bizzaro instance on running backs. To me, its inexcusable that he spent 3 first round picks on running backs while pretending Manning would fix the defense and o line by himself.

Points: 0

#108 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 10, 2015 - 1:29am

This has been a weird weekend with all the talk about Dungy, Polian and Bettis. That 2005 AFC Divisional game is so pivotal to their careers (along with several other legacies). We might be looking at things much differently if Nick Harper had just gone down the sideline for a touchdown. I was happy Bettis thanked Ben for the tackle, because he would have been tarnished more than anyone from that blunder.

I was hinting at this on Saturday, but with respect to Jim Finks & Tex Schramm, this HOF general manager via contributor category is still basically a new addition to the HOF. I don't think a lot of thought was actually put into how to properly measure a GM for Canton, so going forward GMs are going to be viewed by the Wolf/Polian standard. That could lead to some interesting cases like Kevin Colbert in Pittsburgh and possibly even Ted Thompson, Wolf's apprentice and successor in GB.

On Polian specifically, I really disagree with a lot of his football principles. The rest for the playoffs thing when you have a bye always bugged the hell out of me. The 1st-round RBs thing was puzzling too, as pointed out. But maybe the biggest flaw is his idea that you could build a speedy defense that plays well with the lead. No matter how good your offense is you're going to have to grind out some games in the NFL and rely on your defense. The Colts weren't great at doing that. Their smaller, speedy defenders also had a ton of injuries, though we're seeing this continue post-Polian so I'm not sure what's really going on in Indy when it comes to health. But the idea that you can expect to play with the lead vs. superior competition and teams with better balance was foolish, and it hurt them in several big games against familiar foes (NE/SD).

Points: 0

#112 by Jerry // Aug 10, 2015 - 2:01am

The voters had the Contributors category given to them this year, and they went with a couple of well-respected GMs who did indeed build championship teams. (This also answers the question above about why Polian is in before Dungy; he didn't have to compete with players.)

George Young is the other GM whose name I keep seeing in this regard. Tagliabue will get in this way, and probably a couple of owners. After that, we'll see how long Contributors remains its own category.

Points: 0

#129 by jonnyblazin // Aug 10, 2015 - 12:52pm

"I was happy Bettis thanked Ben for the tackle, because he would have been tarnished more than anyone from that blunder."

Maybe it wouldn't have been a bad thing if he was a bit more tarnished. He's one of the worst HOFers of the modern era, a highly overrated player.

Points: 0

#159 by Jerry // Aug 10, 2015 - 5:45pm

When Dungy was in the booth for the second half of the Hall of Fame game (and I don't blame anyone for not watching), he said "People call it the Tampa-2, but it actually comes from Pittsburgh and Chuck Noll." The evolution of innovations is rarely as easy as we'd like it to be. (To be clear, this isn't meant to take anything away from Dungy.)

Points: 0

#181 by gomer_rs // Aug 11, 2015 - 1:23am

The important thing about the Tampa-2 wasn't actually if it existed before Dungy's TB days, it's the way that he came up with, until some rule changes, the most effective and consistent defense against the dominant west coast offense. The Dick LeBeau 3-4 zone blitz was simply an elaborate game of rock/paper/scissors, but the Tampa-2 as perfected by Dungy routinely defeated the most dominant offensive system in post merger football.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#34 by Will Allen // Aug 07, 2015 - 9:44pm

Oh, c'mon, one of Dungy's teams came within a subtle rules interpretation of beating a historically great offense (with a good defense as well) in a NFCCG, with Shaun Freakin' King at qb. On the road.

If you are going to assert that the guy with the 4th best winning percentage of guys with 200 games coached is "borderline" ya' really should have something more to argue with than "The qb for 7 of 13 years was too good".

Points: 0

#36 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 07, 2015 - 9:54pm

I'd also assert Peyton Manning wasn't Peyton Freaking Manning until 04, and there is a good chance Dungy's coaching had a positive impact on his career (though, as Peyton Freaking Manning, he probably wouldn't have been great either way).

Which gives Dungy another two playoff appearances with just a "good" QB. Remember the Colts team he took over went 6-10 the year before he got there.

Points: 0

#39 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 10:10pm

Manning finished 2nd and first in dvoa in 1999 and 2000. He had an off year in 2001 - the only off year of his entire career. He may not have been demi god Peyton Manning till 2004(i think it was 2003); but he was still an elite qb then.

Dungy's career in tampa was good - but it was a routine 10-6/9-7 type finishes. I mean - when you compare that to say Lovie in Chicago - they look remarkably similar and no one here would consider Lovie a hall of famer.

Look - I love Tony. I like his personality and he was definitely a good coach. I just have a higher standard for the hall of fame than pretty good coach. We consider a ton of great candidates borderline because the hall demands that kind of distinction.

Points: 0

#42 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 10:19pm

Tuluse - do you think Lovie is a hall of fame worthy coach?

In a vacuum, Lovie I believe did materially help the bears defense and his offenses were routinely bereft of qb and wide receiver talent. By the time they landed an above average qb, the o line fell into the gutter.

Points: 0

#49 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 07, 2015 - 11:03pm

I think Lovie was a good coach. He put together a series of incredible defenses and special teams, and had some really bad luck end his last 3 years with the Bears.

If Cutler stays healthy, and they win a super bowl with 2 other playoff births, and then of course he'd still be coaching Chicago and who knows how it would have gone.

Coaches aren't static, if you asked me if Lovie was a hall of fame coach in 2009, I would have said no way. If you asked me after my fantasy world above, I would say maybe.

I think you are underestimating just how hard it is to win over a long period of time in the NFL.

Points: 0

#50 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 11:11pm

"If Cutler stays healthy, and they win a super bowl with 2 other playoff births, and then of course he'd still be coaching Chicago and who knows how it would have gone."

In other words, had Lovie been the same damn coach he was back in 2004 but luck had swung in his favor, your opinion of him would be different. See - I have a fundamental problem with this. Sure, I get influenced by sb victories and playoff wins too, but I shouldn't be. All coaches should be judged on a set of criteria that attempt to separate luck and context.

Many coaches have been given the neck weight of horrible qb play - and so many have been fired subsequently. Lovie rose above that. That's why I'm happy with Lovie.

Points: 0

#56 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 08, 2015 - 3:24am

He wasn't the same coach in 2012 that he was 2004. Get this, the 2012 Bears had the best defensive DVOA of the Lovie Smith era.

Special teams was also something Lovie learned to emphasis. His first two years they were 12th and 27th by DVOA. Then in 2006 they were 2nd and never looked back.

Points: 0

#15 by BJR // Aug 07, 2015 - 5:10pm

Yeah, I mean if you are going to restrict the HOF to coaches who have taken teams to multiple playoff appearances/championships without great playing talent, you aren't going to induct many coaches. You might as well just state that judging coaches separate from their playing talent is impossible, so no coach is going in.

Points: 0

#27 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 6:43pm

Let me pose this question: If Jim Caldwell were the coach instead of Dungy in the 2000s, the colts may not have won the sb, but I think they still win 10+ games every year and make the playoffs every year. By standard metrics - he would have a great win percentage - would he deserve the hall of fame? I just don't think we can look at wins without context.

Points: 0

#65 by Dave Bernreuther // Aug 08, 2015 - 1:17pm

If someone less conservative than Dungy and Dungy Lite coached the team in the 2000s, the Colts would quite likely have won more than one Super Bowl.

I guess that's my reasoning behind not seeing him as a HOF guy - I always felt like he held that team back.

But then again, there's so much more to coaching than in-game stuff. And his calm demeanor and the dad-like love he got from his players almost certainly elevated guys throughout the week. And the flip side to my first paragraph is that I doubt that any coach other than Dungy calms a team that just went down 21-3 at home in the AFCCG and has 100% buy-in that a FG before half is good enough.

Tough call. Another part of what held him back was a no-doubt Top 2 coach of all time in his conference and the death of his son. Hard to blame him for that. And measuring any coach against Belichick pretty much makes him look like a dunce.

Still, I look back on those Colts years and remember more table-pounding than appreciation for him. And while I am quite critical, I wouldn't say that I was the same way for others. I guess I wasn't all that sad to see him go when he walked away (although by that point, neither was anyone else in the building). To me, that makes him a non-lock, but certainly someone who deserves a real conversation in that room.

Points: 0

#68 by Will Allen // Aug 08, 2015 - 2:10pm

I'd say your first sentence is a feeling, without much evidence to support it. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that it really is just a guess.

I just think it is very problematic to say a guy with Dungy's rank in terms of winning percentage, over a relatively very large sample size of games, isn't worthy, based upon such a guess.

Points: 0

#120 by Dave Bernreuther // Aug 10, 2015 - 9:38am

Oh, of course it's a feeling/guess. It's one I have many reasons to believe is well-founded, but I acknowledge that even I contradict some of those reasons (later in the same post).

It's a tough call, and will require more thought, which is the nice thing about the discussion round table they have every year.

Points: 0

#66 by Bright Blue Shorts // Aug 08, 2015 - 1:18pm

If you're going to knock Dungy's record for having talented players then you may as well get them to kick Emmitt out of the HoF for having that offensive line in Dallas. Sometimes people land in fortunate situations but you still have to be able to capitalise on them.

Dungy's predecessor in Tampa was Sam Wyche. He'd played for Paul Brown, he'd coached under Bill Walsh and led his own Bengals team to the Super Bowl. Even with his experience he wasn't able to turn the Bucs around.

On top of Dungy's coaching record; I think another point in his favour is that he added credibility to African-Americans being headcoaches. While I'm not a fan of 'statistics' like this, he was also the first to win a SB. You wouldn't think twice about hiring an African-American headcoach these days.

It seems he's the new John Madden candidate - who took 30+ years to get elected despite having the best career regular season record, reaching playoffs 8 of 10 years, a SB win and so on.

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#69 by theslothook // Aug 08, 2015 - 2:30pm

To address the Emmitt Smith point. If Smith had gotten hurt and a backup had the same kind of production that Smith had behind the line, I would be very skeptical of Smith's skills. As it stands, I don't think the backups were. Not too mention, people who watched Smith can see the tangible skills showing up on the field.

Here's my hangup about Dungy with regards strictly to his days with the colts. The colts won a lot of games and were one of the most successful franchises. Finding who to credit is difficult, unless a series of unexpected events happens that helps us parse it out. One Dungy -less season and one manning less season really brought this to bear.

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#70 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 08, 2015 - 2:32pm

But like Madden, isn't Dungy's win percentage a little misleading since his career was only 13 years? PFR has 32 coaches with at least 14 seasons as a head coach, but only five of those guys rank in the top 25 in win% (min. 50 games). Coach long enough and you're bound to go through down seasons whether it's because of injuries, a new power in your division or because you can't find a decent quarterback.

Dungy won 56.3% of his games in Tampa and 75.9% in Indy, including some games they didn't even try to win late in the season. That's a pretty big difference, and probably is best explained by the Manning effect.

As I said in conclusion, Dungy is the pick I feel least confident about, and personally I don't see why we're in a rush to put him in. Did you know Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs had to wait four ballots to get in? Here's a chart I made two years ago on HOF coaches:

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#74 by Will Allen // Aug 08, 2015 - 4:38pm

When comparing winning percentage, employing a 50 game minimum is pretty dubious. That's been 3 seasons, plus two games,for about 40 years now. I wouldn't compare winning percentage of any coach from the last 40 years at anything less than 130 games. Again, Dungy ranks 4th in winning % of the 32 guys who had at least 200 games. I don't think the fact that the selectors used very poor judgement with regard to other coaches is especially relevant.

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#78 by Alternator // Aug 08, 2015 - 8:17pm

I'm generally pro-Dungy on "defensive innovator" and "Bucs coach" grounds, but I have a question for you.

How many Super Bowl era coaches, strictly as "awesome coach" and not as an innovator (guys like Coryell), would you put in the Hall of Fame? Rule out the really old guys as playing fundamentally a different game, and not being a good comparison. Out of what's left, how many do you consider slam-dunk cases like Dungy?

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#91 by Will Allen // Aug 09, 2015 - 11:44am

If we are talking about guys not yet in, and just off the top of my head, I'd say Belichick, obviously, Cowher and Coughlin have good cases, as does Holmgren. The only reason Jimmy Johnson won't make it is because Jerry Jones is a stupid drunk who runs his mouth. That is the sort of dumb randomness that has a large effect on the composition of the Hall of Fame.

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#89 by jonnyblazin // Aug 09, 2015 - 10:31am

Surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet, but another "innovation" of Dungy is that he is the first african american head coach to win the super bowl. Plus he's far and away the most successful african american head coach in NFL history.

Seeing as how there is a rule in place to ensure minority candidates are considered for coaching vacancies, I'd say there is a strong perception that there are institutional biases that have made it difficult for african american head coaches to succeed in the NFL.

I don't think Dungy will have to wait much longer to get in. The HOF voters don't want to look as biased as all the old NFL owners who excluded african americans from the head coaching ranks for so many years.

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#140 by Steve B // Aug 10, 2015 - 3:08pm

Re: #70

I would say that Walsh and Gibbs waited as long as they did largely because most weren't convinced they were done coaching. Turned out they were right. Walsh actually had already returned to coaching (albeit at Stanford and not in the NFL) at the time he was voted in. That's not the case with Dungy.

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#2 by Karl Cuba // Aug 07, 2015 - 2:29pm

It's time for my annual HOF post:


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#151 by Independent George // Aug 10, 2015 - 4:05pm

I think one of my favorite testaments to Bryant Young came after Dana Stubblefield (deservedly) won the DPOY, and was subsequently let go and signed by the Washington Redskins. This was in the early days of the internet, and I was getting to read sports reporting from outside of the AP, and beneath all the screaming headlines, I kept hearing that Bryant Young was actually the better tackle and the higher priority to re-sign.

Of course, my most vivid memory of him was his gruesome luck injury on MNF. Even with fuzzy, standard-def television, I still shudder at the memory.

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#261 by Karl Cuba // Aug 12, 2015 - 2:39pm

The year Stubblefield won DPOY he racked up 15 sacks and yet the offenses were doubling BY, they knew full well who the true threat was. Then the niners made him the highest paid defensive player in the game and were happy to do so, because he was that good.

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#3 by justanothersteve // Aug 07, 2015 - 2:31pm

Favre changed his mind so often on retiring, maybe they'll make him wait a year or two just to make sure he's really retired.

Still find it hard to believe that Craig and Mecklenburg may not ever get in. Maybe Atwater finally makes it into the discussions this year. Other than those three and Woodson, there's nobody else above Harrison in your table I'd consider HoF material although if any make the HoF I won't lose sleep over it.

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#5 by Raiderjoe // Aug 07, 2015 - 3:06pm

B. Frvare, K. Warner, M Harrisopn, T. dungy fine cjhocies.

T. owens probably getting in but may wait year or two due to team wrecking nonsense and malfeasance.

Like D. Coryell for hall of fmae as innovator but crappish record with S.D. Chargers 1983-87 kidn of hurts. Was sparkling meteor as head coach St. Louis and early eyars with Chargers. keep in mind these are crappy franchises where 10 win season si like Raiders winning a divison crown. So grading on curve, it was almost like Coryell won a Super Bowl.

Terrell Davis? Argument has eben made many many times. Both sides make good arguments. I wouidl put him in due to dominant 3-year stretch he had.

am surely to respon wto other comemnts in this thread over course of wekeend

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#6 by Jeff M. // Aug 07, 2015 - 3:13pm

I know there's still a backlog and that the Senior Committee is only really going to look at guys from the 60s and 70s for the time being, but the guy they should put in is Kenny Easley, who both Bill Walsh and Ronnie Lott have called the best safety ever to play the game, and who would be a shoe-in if his career hadn't been tragically cut short by kidney disease.

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#143 by Steve B // Aug 10, 2015 - 3:12pm

Be interesting to see what happens to Lynch assuming he's still on the ballot when Brian Dawkins becomes eligible. Put me in the camp that thinks Dawkins has the stronger case.

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#175 by MC2 // Aug 10, 2015 - 10:39pm

I agree. Besides the "objective" criteria (same number of Pro Bowls, but 2 more All-Pros for Dawkins, plus Dawkins was 2000s All-Decade first team, while Lynch wasn't even second team), I also think Lynch gets too much credit for being part of a historically great defense. I do think the Bucs defense was historically great (at least Top 10 all time), but Lynch was maybe the third best player on that defense, and a distant third, at that.

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#182 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 11, 2015 - 2:06am

This got me interested. When you look at historically good famous defenses, what does it mean to be the 3rd best player on the team, and what are you chances at HoF induction?

I went off the historical estimated dvoa list. For teams with multiple years within an era I just looked at one year, so 76 Steelers, and 03 Ravens (according to DVOA, they're better than the 00 Ravens and the defensive pecking order was easier to figure out).

So, the great defenses and their HoF inductees:

91 Eagles: Reggie White. That's it.
69 Purple People Eater Vikings: Alan Page, Carl Eller, Paul Krause.
02 Bucs: Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp.
76 Steel Curtain Steelers: Jack Lambert, Jack Hamm, Joe Green, Mel Blount
68 Fearsome Foursome Rams: Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen
85 Bears: Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Richard Dent.
03 Ravens: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed (presumed)
08 Steelers: Troy Polamalu (presumed)
12 Bears: Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers (presumed, hopeful)

So, seems about a tossup if the 3rd best defender is considered a HoFer or not. I think if the Bucs had won another Superbowl or 2, Barber and Lynch would get in (deserving or not) and people would be discussing whether or not Rice deserves to go.

Just looking at probowls made, I think the Rams have a legitimate bone to pick with the HoF. Eddie Meador and Roger Brown each have 6 probowls, 2 all pros, and Maxie Baughan has 9 probowls with 2 all pros. I guess that's what happens when you can miss the playoffs while going 10-3-1.

An interesting debate to have in about 5 years will be if Lance Briggs is a HoFer.

The Steelers of the last 10 years have put together some really good defenses without having real stars to hang on, or at least not stars that last very long. James Harrison could potentially be in consideration, but there's just a lot of good players it's hard to make a case for like Larry Foote, Lamary Woodley, and James Farrior.

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#184 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 11, 2015 - 2:17am

Can't make too many predictions about Seattle yet, the team is so young and they haven't put together their resumes for the hall. I remember when Nathan Vasher had an incredible 2nd and 3rd year and I though he and Tillman would be locking down receivers for years.

A lot of them certainly have a good start, but injuries are hell.

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#185 by gomer_rs // Aug 11, 2015 - 2:32am

Guess it's easy to forget how young they are. The question is how long would they have to play at the level they're playing at to be HOF worthy. An especially important worry for Cam the most beat up of them all.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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#187 by theslothook // Aug 11, 2015 - 3:02am

People have this strange view that Kam is a system guy or a product of earl. Actually according to pff...he was already really good in 2010...before earl and Sherman established themselves. He's incredibly athletic and his size speed makes him the perfect hybrid linebacker/safety to cover tight ends and crosses over the middle. Arguably if he had been health. would have changed the sb outcome. He deserves to be mentioned in the same convo as Sherman and Thomas.

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#193 by Jeff M. // Aug 11, 2015 - 9:33am

Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Earl and Sherm are presumably on their way minus catastrophic injuries, but I think that's all we can say for now.

Chancellor doesn't yet have a 1st-team All-Pro (2nd-team twice), will get penalized by the voters for playing with ET and RS, and safeties tend to be overlooked by the HoF (particularly ones without eye-popping INT or sack numbers). If he stays in Seattle (who knows with the current holdout) and continues at his level maybe he can overcome the stigma of being only the third-best player on his unit, but that's going to be a big hurdle.

Wagner has been pretty underappreciated by the voters in the early part of his career, only making his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro team this past year. That may start to change now that he's a more established star and no longer has to compete with Patrick Willis, but he'll have to stay healthy and producing at a high level for a long time in order to come out ahead (in voters' minds) of contemporaries like Kuechly and David (not to mention pass-rushing LBers like Houston and Miller), who will have the advantage as being seen as "the guy" for their teams.

And I love Michael Bennett, but unless he does something like put up double his career high in sacks for each of the next three years he's not going to sniff anyone's HoF ballot. Same goes for KJ Wright, although I suppose he has more time left to create some momentum--no awards and no gaudy stats means no chance.

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#189 by MC2 // Aug 11, 2015 - 4:08am

Briggs is an interesting case, but ultimately, I would be surprised if he gets in. I think he was always overshadowed by Urlacher, and I think the voters tend to be reluctant to induct two players from the same team that played the same position. If they had won that Super Bowl, it might be a different story.

Harrison is another interesting case, but I don't think he makes it, either. He reminds me of guys like Terrell Davis and Priest Holmes, in that they were certainly HOF-caliber players in their prime, but they just needed a couple of more years worth of production.

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#199 by BJR // Aug 11, 2015 - 11:34am

James Harrison was league DPOTY in 2008 for those Steelers. He's got a great story if you look at his background as an UDFA who bounced around rosters for years before finally getting his break. And he produced one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history. But his career/peak probably just isn't long enough to be HOF worthy.

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#194 by MilkmanDanimal // Aug 11, 2015 - 9:53am

I don't think there's a question Lynch was at best the fourth-best player on that defense; Brooks and Sapp are #1 and #1A, and I don't think Ronde Barber is hugely behind them. Barber's obviously a pure zone corner, but he's on a short list of the best zone corners ever if you look at the patently insane number of tackles, picks, sacks, and TDs. I expect years of fanboi rage at him getting panned for being "just a zone corner", when he was just so incredibly and consistently good. Even as a hardcore Bucs fan, I don't feel any need to see John Lynch in Canton. Sure, having memorable moments isn't exactly the final ariter of things in any meaningful way, but I can't really remember Lynch having a single signature moment outside of that NFL Films bit at the Super Bowl where he's talking about knowing what every play was going to be.

Brooks, Sapp, and Barber have lots of those moments. Lynch always struck me as a guy who was good at hammering people over the middle, but easily the most replaceable of the "big four". Heck, Simeon Rice would probably get the nod over Lynch for me.

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#10 by BaronFoobarstein // Aug 07, 2015 - 4:44pm

"My hardline stance: Jerry Kramer and Ken Anderson are the best guard and quarterback, respectively, not enshrined."

Out of curiosity are you referring just to players who are senior eligible, or do you place them above Faneca and Favre?

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#18 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 07, 2015 - 5:24pm

Technically, Faneca and Favre haven't had a ballot yet, but that line was first written as an all player comment. I tend to repeat some parts of this piece each year, and yes, I suppose I do have Kurt Warner ranked ahead of Ken Anderson all time. But for senior nominees, I think it's true that they're the best at their position not in.

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#12 by MilkmanDanimal // Aug 07, 2015 - 4:51pm

I am totally not going to use this thread to make fun of Jerome Bettis getting into the HOF, other than to . . . you know, never mind.

Fine with your list of five. I might swap Dungy for Coryell or Warner just for stubbornness' sake, but I have no problem with Dungy in the HOF. Sure, he wound up with lots of talent on that Tampa defense, but he also brought in a lot of that talent and put theme in the perfect scheme.

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#28 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 6:45pm

I would comment about BB - there are some reasons to suggest he is a great coach independent of Brady. He won his first sb with Brady a charitable game manager. He won when Brady improved to above average and pretty good. He made 6 superbowls - something requiring more than just a hall of fame qb. He also pioneered a ton of strategic innovations.

But the Pièce De Résistance - he won 11 games with Matt Cassel, including fielding a good pass offense with him to boot.

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#111 by MC2 // Aug 10, 2015 - 1:51am

I just can't understand the argument that 2008 was some sort of testament to Belichick's genius. If anything, it just showed exactly how important Brady is to Belichick's vaunted system. Yes, they went 11-5 -- after going 16-0 the previous year with virtually the same roster, in spite of having a much easier schedule (5th easiest in '08, vs. 10th toughest in '07). That's 5 freaking wins less! If they had gone from 12-4 with Brady in '07 to 7-9 without him in '08, or from 10-6 to 5-11, would anyone be talking about how that demonstrates Belichick's genius?

And as for their passing offense, it went from arguably the greatest ever (72.7% DVOA in '07) to slightly above average (14.4% DVOA in '08). And that's with easily the greatest deep threat of all time (Moss), and one of the greatest possession receivers of all time (Welker), both in their prime. Again, how exactly does that demonstrate the genius of Belichick?

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#113 by theslothook // Aug 10, 2015 - 2:10am

There's a few things to consider. First, I hate the argument that they went 16-0, therefore Cassel represents a 5 win drop. The next year after Cassel with Brady returning to the roster, they went 10-6 and got blown out at home by the ravens. If we're going to play this year to year comparison game, one could(naively) make the case that brady also represented a 1 win inferiority to Cassel.

But to expand more generally. Cassell hadn't started a game since highschool. He was the greenest of qbs and his career to this point has shown he tops out as a below average starter.

The more telling stat is seeing Cassel's evolution in NE. He went from mediocre in the first half of the season to the top passing dvoa in the second half of the season, including a pass dvoa that topped brady's second half in 2007. OBV, that is small sample size so I won't make sweeping generalizations, but it does show that NE is a pretty special place if they can take a second rate talent like Cassel and still field a good offense with him. The rest of the league hasn't managed to do that with backup qbs, even if they have moss and welker.

To add to that - The colts lose Manning and they finish as the worst team in football, despite a schedule featuring the bucs, titans, browns, and jaguars(they got swepT!!!!! by teh jaguars that season) and a 60 pt blowout loss to the Saints. The patriots didn't crash and burn in anywhere near the sameway. To me thats coaching.

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#115 by MC2 // Aug 10, 2015 - 3:47am

First, as far as '09, yes, they only went 10-6, but they had a much tougher schedule (7th hardest in '09 vs. 5th easiest in '08). Even more importantly, we all know you can't judge QBs on wins and losses. Look at their passing DVOA, which skyrocketed from 14.4% with Cassel in '08 to 53.5% with Brady in '09. So, to summarize, with most of the same players on offense, their passing DVOA went from 72.7% with Brady to 14.4% with Cassel, back to 53.5% with Brady. Seems pretty clear they missed him, and more than just a little bit.

As for Cassel's improvement from the first half to the second half, what do you expect? As you yourself point out, he hadn't played since high school. Of course he's going to improve over the course of the season, even with mediocre coaching. (Note: I'm not calling Belichick a mediocre coach. I'm just saying that Cassel getting better, by itself, is no evidence of any extraordinary coaching job.)

Finally, as for Manning, if your point is that Manning is better than Brady, I agree. I don't want to say too much about it (since there's a designated thread for such talk), but I would definitely rank Manning as a Top 5 All-Time QB, while I would probably put Brady in the Top 10 (but barely). Having said that, I still think the 10th best QB of all time is far, far more valuable than the greatest coach of all time. In fact, I would say the 20th, or even 25th, greatest QB of all time, is probably more valuable than the greatest coach of all time. (For the record, I think Gibbs is probably the greatest coach of all time. Belichick is definitely in the Top 10, and maybe in the Top 5, but still nowhere near as important to the Patriots' success as Brady.)

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#116 by theslothook // Aug 10, 2015 - 3:56am

Well I didn't meant to turn this into a Manning V Brady argument. So leaving that aside - the ben muth three cone drill thread I basically said - coaches are about 5 to 10 percent of the team's success, a far cry from an elite qbs contributions.

To Cassel, look - hes not brady. Obviously, no one is. But we also know what cassel is...a below avg qb. I was impressed with what they accomplished with a below average qb. Teams have had below avg qbs for years and never risen above them. BB managed to. I was impressed with that.

Does that imply bb can just plug anyone into his system and make it work like Brady? Clearly not. BB was lucky to have Brady. But I just intimated that the 11-5 seasons still showed what good coaching can do when you suffer the misfortune of losing one of the greatest qbs of all time. Steve young going out torpedoed the 49ers. Manning going out torpedoed the colts. BB managed to stave that off, not because Brady is an inferior player, but BB is a great coach.

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#119 by MC2 // Aug 10, 2015 - 4:43am

Fair enough, and as I said, I do consider Belichick to be one of the all time great coaches. I just get tired of people bringing up the Cassel year and using it to claim that Belichick is such a genius that it really doesn't matter who he has at QB. That's what I thought you were implying.

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#186 by Scott C // Aug 11, 2015 - 2:56am

" Teams have had below avg qbs for years and never risen above them. BB managed to. I was impressed with that. "

This seems like an outrageous comment to me. Trent Dilfer won a super bowl!

Teams rise above mediocre QB talent regularly.

Now whether offenses do (NE with Cassel was 14% DVOA) --- well that happens somewhat often too. Shanahan in Denver post-Elway did it multiple times. Norv Turner has done it a few times -- Norv Freaking Turner!

You'll need to back up your outrageous claim that teams don't rise above mediocre QB talent unless its BB with some data. I don't see any support for it at all.

Belicheck w/Cassel or Dungy minus Manning don't prove a point at all for me. The latter had a lot of other things going on for the team to collapse to 2-14 besides Manning. It is low sample size and furthermore neglects far too much context.

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#218 by theslothook // Aug 11, 2015 - 2:37pm

SHannahan has done what a bunch of times? Griese, Plummer, and Cutler were all at least average qbs.

I really don't feel like combing through the history books to find a year when team took a low round qb with 0 stats to his credit and fielded an above average dvoa(to say nothing of the top passing dvoa in the 2nd half).

Seriously, was I the only one who was shocked with how well NE did with Cassell at qb? Again, when I think of a team losing a hall of fame qb all of a sudden and plugging in some unknown, I tend to think a season of doom and gloom awaits.

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#232 by Dave Bernreuther // Aug 11, 2015 - 7:37pm

"The latter had a lot of other things going on for the team to collapse to 2-14 besides Manning."

Actually they really didn't. A look at the starting 22 that year vs the starters during the year they could very well have gone 16-0 is kind of shocking in how similar they are. Injuries and rotations came into play and changed things up but the defense was almost the exact same people, as were the skill players (and you could argue that the line upgraded at LT from Charlie Johnson).

Man... Charlie Johnson was the starting LT on a team that nearly won the Super Bowl!

Obviously they were all two years older, but still. A team that was some bad bounces from a Super Bowl title and a bad decision from 16-0 had an awful lot of Antonio Johnson/Dan Muir/Jacob Lacey/Melvin Bullitt JAG types playing a lot of snaps on defense.

Manning covered up so many holes from 2008-10.

Which, interestingly, is more germane to the discussion of Bill Polian than it is to Dungy, given that the latter wasn't there for 09 or 11.

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#233 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 11, 2015 - 7:53pm

2011 Colts were healthier than the 2010 Colts.

And here are some facts about the first win of the season for the 2011 Colts: a 27-13 upset over Tennessee that might have been the team's least-QB driven win since Manning was drafted.

*11 completions: fewest for the Colts in a win, 1998-2014 (previous low: 12 vs. 1998 Chargers)
*17 pass attempts: tied for fewest for the Colts in a win, 1998-2014 (other time: vs. 2005 Titans)
*82 net passing yards: fewest for the Colts in a win, 1998-2014 (previous low: 116 vs. 2000 Bills)
*A pick-six and 80-yard TD run made up 14 of Indy's 27 points
*The Colts' previous long TD run in the 281 games started by Manning and Luck was 77 yards by Dominic Rhodes at 2001 Chiefs
*Dan Orlovsky contributed just five completions for 48 yards on the drives that produced Indy's 27 points.

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#234 by theslothook // Aug 11, 2015 - 8:05pm

As someone who watched all 16 games that season - the colts putrid quality was actually severely understated. Certain teams got a lead on the colts and went into pure conservative clock killing mode, convinced(rightly) that the colts weren't going to stage any kind of comeback. This was further vindicated by the ridiculously conservative caldwell, who acted like double digit deficits in the second half could be overcome with runs for no gains, passes short of sticks, and fraidy cat punt after fraidy cat punt. Specifically, games against the bengals, steelers, and bucs really stuck in my head.

The saints loss was the antithesis - a team that pulled no punches trying to embarrass the hapless colts. Also remember, they got swept by the jaguars with blaine freaken gabbert at qb. Think about that.

And finally - oddly, the best game they played all year was their game at NE. To this day, I have no idea what got into them in that second half, but BB rightly was pissed off that there was even a chance of a comeback.

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#236 by theslothook // Aug 11, 2015 - 8:09pm

Honestly - I don't think the 09 team on paper was any more or less talented than the 2010/2011 squads. The 2010 squad was just more injured.

How the 2009 colts nearly went 16-0 and nearly won the sb is still a mystery to me. They had 2 rookie corners, a rookie defensive tackle, a 2nd year safety, and a whole lot of age on the rest of the defense. The offensive line was beyond an eyesore and the team couldn't run even when the opposing side all but dared them to.

Its seasons like that that made Colt fans bitter at Polian - whos success on the field amounted to squeezing every last drop from 4 stars he had drafted almost a decade ago.

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#264 by Rick_and_Roll // Aug 13, 2015 - 3:41am

Joe Gibbs should be mentioned much more frequently in the greatest coach in NFL history debates. Winning three SuperBowls with three different (non-HOF) QBs is an incredible accomplishment. Many of the great coaches in NFL history only had success with one HOF QB...

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#38 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 07, 2015 - 9:58pm

If we're counting assistant days, Dungy was the DC in Minnesota for 4 years where they never ranked worse than 7th by DVOA. With Denny Green as the HC, not exactly a defensive minded coach like one Bill Parcels.

The Dungy years in Minny were bookended by a 23rd and 15th finish in DVOA.

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#19 by MilkmanDanimal // Aug 07, 2015 - 5:25pm

Oh, I agree, just responding to the comment regarding the talent he inherited. As far as I'm concerned, he wound up using Sapp, Brooks, and Barber as absolutely perfect as they could have been used, and he gets lots of credit for that.

Football's just a team sport anyways. Young and Montana get Rice, and Rice gets Young and Montana. Emmitt Smith gets that great offensive line, Pace gets to block for the GSOT, and everything else. Nobody succeeds in a vacuum in the NFL.

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#279 by theslothook // Aug 13, 2015 - 8:34pm

THere are a few players who truly succeeded in an otherwise puddle of suck and its more than Watt and Peterson. Allen did with the Chiefs(the year after he was traded, I believe the chiefs set a then franchise record for fewest sacks in a year).

I think Manning has. I feel like steve smith qualifies as well. And to some extent - asamough and revis both have too.

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#293 by gomer_rs // Aug 14, 2015 - 3:37pm

I loved Tez' but he didn't do it all alone. I would take some of the D-lines that he played on over any of the D-lines the Seahawks ran out since 2000. Cortez Kennedy (DT), Samuel Adams (DT), and Michael Sinclair(DE)

It was the offense that sunk those teams. QB Dan Mcgwire, QB Rick Meyer, etc. The best Seahawk QBs of the 90s were the ghost of Warren Moon and Jon Kitna (who took them to the playoffs).

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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#122 by Sakic // Aug 10, 2015 - 10:06am

Exactly. And it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that the coach had something to do with developing that talent. Dungy's defenses in Tampa were designed by him and he got the players to execute them. Sure, you need the talent to be able to make it work but getting the talent to buy into the system...that's what coaching is all about.

Belichek is considered a defensive coach but considering all the offensive coordinators that have gone through New England it's obvious that Brady's success is tied to what Belichek wants his quarterbacks to do and it's not like Brady came in as the prototype NFL quarterback (like Luck or Manning)...the guy was a low round draft choice and a guy drafted that low doesn't become a HoF'er without good coaching.

I don't know if Mike McCarthy will ever make the Hall of Fame but if he does the same argument will come up saying that he had Rodgers the entire time...but who helped make Rodgers into the player he is today?

Edit: Just wanted to clarify that this was in response to Will's comment below.

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#125 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 10, 2015 - 11:02am

I can think of some arguments against McCarthy. When he was the OC with the 49ers, Alex Smith had one of his worst seasons ever. By comparison, when Dungy was a DC, the Vikings had a good defense.

I personally don't think much of McCarthy as an Xs and Os guy. I think his offense is too complicated for it's own good and only works when you have all-pro level quarterbacking (and some really smart receivers too). You could argue, that when you do have those things you should maximize them, but he's not able to scale it back effectively when the situation calls for it.

He clearly does a good job in the motivation and teaching department though. Hard to quantify coaches, I tell you what.

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#130 by theslothook // Aug 10, 2015 - 2:01pm

Greg Cosell(and probably Jaworski) - really credit Mccarthy for reigning in some of Rodgers' sandlot tendencies. Obviously Rodgers would be awesome even if I was coach, but mccarthy apparently brings out peak level efficiency from Rodgers.

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#45 by Noahrk // Aug 07, 2015 - 10:40pm

I guess the really great coaches are the ones that win a lot when they have great talent but still do better than you'd expect when they don't. Like the ones who assemble discarded veteran talent and have it perform above their usual level of ability. Belichik is great at that. So was Shula, Schotty and others (Schott obviously never won big, though). I don't think Dungy was ever tested that way. I'm ok with him in the Hall but it wouldn't bother me if he didn't make it.

Who, me?

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#63 by Noahrk // Aug 08, 2015 - 11:37am

Lombardi was famous for getting the most out of his players, but once Noll's ridiculous collection of Hall of Famers retired, his Steeler teams had nothing. He's clearly a guy who got too much credit for what he did and that bought him a long time after he should have been fired. Instead, people said "the game had passed him by". Yeah, right. That's the way I remember it anyway. Then again, it is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of greatness, so it's ok for Noll to be in.

Who, me?

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#64 by Will Allen // Aug 08, 2015 - 12:07pm

I guess I don't understand your reasoning. You put forth a standard that Lombardi clearly falls short of, and then, when it is noted, you state that he was "famous for getting the most out of his players". Perhaps the issue is with the standard.

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#76 by Noahrk // Aug 08, 2015 - 6:06pm

Lombardi was before my time, so I'm only going on what I've heard, that his teams were better than the talent they had. Maybe the confusion was that it appeared I was saying you had to had losing teams to be considered great? I meant doing better than the reasonable expectations given the talent you have. If that means winning the Super Bowl, even better.

Who, me?

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#90 by Will Allen // Aug 09, 2015 - 11:21am

There are 11 Packers who played significant, championship-winning years with Lombardi, who are in the Hall of Fame, and another might be on the way. The 1962 team has a claim on Most Talented Team Ever. They were extremely talented.

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#82 by Steve B // Aug 08, 2015 - 11:40pm

"He's clearly a guy who got too much credit for what he did"

You're going to have to elaborate on that one. For one, the cupboard was much more empty for Noll when he took over in Pittsburgh than it was for Lombardi in Green Bay or Shula in Miami. For two, Noll led a franchise that was viewed similarly to how the Bucs were viewed when Dungy (Noll's protege') took over in Tampa to four SB wins in six seasons. I repeat, four Super Bowl wins in six seasons.

While the 80's certainly weren't the 70's, I think 1984 and 1989 were both great coaching jobs by Noll.

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#93 by justanothersteve // Aug 09, 2015 - 2:48pm

Lombardi did much to change the Packers who were as much a joke in the 1950's as the 1960's Steelers and the pre-Dungy Buccs. They won one game the year before he was hired. While some of the talent was on the roster when Lombardi came to GB, he also did a lot to improve the roster as GM. He traded for Fuzzy Thurston, Henry Jordan, and Willie Davis. He drafted Herb Adderley and was smart enough to move the RB to DB. He recognized that Starr was the QB he needed his first year when Starr was second on the depth chart. His last Packers team in 1967 had also lost many of the stars of the early years and still won SB II.

Something also forgotten is that he coached Washington in 1969 and guided them to their first winning record in over a decade. It was thought he was in the process of turning that team around when he was diagnosed and succumbed to cancer.

One final thing about Lombardi that people don't realize is how much he hated discrimination of any kind. He did much for the African-American players to feel comfortable playing in a town that back then was about 98% white and most of the rest were Native Americans. Before he was an established coach, one of the Packers black players was dating a white woman and he let the team know that if anyone made a negative comment about it that person would be off the team. He told GB establishments that if any minority player was discriminated against, that establishment would be off-limits to the entire team. He made the then all-white Oneida Golf Club integrate by insisting he have a Native American caddie. (The Oneida reservation borders the club.) Once, when on the road, he refused to allow the team to stay at a hotel when the management demanded the African-American players stay at a different, segregated hotel. He had two gay players on his roster in DC and made sure nobody made any disparaging remarks about it. (Lombardi had a gay brother.) His views on discrimination and using sports to combat it are to me as much of his legacy as what he did on the field.

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#98 by Steve B // Aug 09, 2015 - 10:04pm

I wasn't really trying to disparage Lombardi (or Shula). However, to say that Noll "got too much credit" is absurd, to me. If anything, he doesn't generally get enough outside of Steelers circles.

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#127 by mehllageman56 // Aug 10, 2015 - 12:02pm

Lombardi's achievements aside, I always had a lot of respect for Noll as a coach. He led a team with Mark Malone at quarterback to the AFC championship game, and 1989 was an amazing year (getting destroyed in the first two games, coming back and getting to the divisional round). Part of the reason Cowher doesn't get as much of a push for the Hall is because of Noll's previous success in Pittsburgh.

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#188 by Scott C // Aug 11, 2015 - 3:07am

Well, by half of that standard, Shotty is a lock HOF candidate. I don't think anyone was as good at taking a mediocre pool of talent and coaching them to a 10-6 record, get into the playoffs, and lose to superior talent.

Unfortunately, he only had true 'plus' talent on the roster a few times and lost in the playoffs with those teams by in some cases, bizarre unlucky plays.

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#192 by Travis // Aug 11, 2015 - 9:09am

After the midpoint of his career, no one was as good at coaching a team to a 12-4 (or better) record, then losing a home game to inferior talent (1997 Broncos excepted).

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#196 by Independent George // Aug 11, 2015 - 11:15am

I think Marty was the single most underrated and underappreciated coach in NFL history.

Yes, his conservative playcalling was a real weakness and a significant contributor to his playoff record (most notably in the 2004 OT loss to the Jets). But two losing seasons in 21 years as a head coach? That's a ridiculous record, especially considering his starting quarterbacks over the years. Prior to San Diego, his best QBs were an ancient Joe Montana, Bernie Kosar, and Steve Bono. His famous playoff losses typically involve either John Elway, some bizarre broken play in the 4th quarter, or both.

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#235 by Scott C // Aug 11, 2015 - 8:05pm

What conservative play-calling?

His career aggressiveness index does not support this rumor.

He lost in 2006 due to bad luck + too aggressive play calling. I'm not convinced his overall playoff play-calling was aggressive or conservative.

But I agree he was a master at coaching up the talent he was given. I'm not sure he lost to inferior talent that often -- I don't think you measure talent by the regular season record.

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#237 by Scott C // Aug 11, 2015 - 8:12pm

In support of Marty's aggressiveness:

He had LT throw 7+ TD passes, Norv was afraid of the trick play and stopped using LT for what was often a free TD (LT was the best passing RB in NFL history that has stats I can look up in PFR by a long shot -- because Marty let him be!).

He used the fumbleruski (sp?) or some other trick about once a year, with very high success rate. He was not afraid of fourth and 2 from the 30.

Honestly, I don't quite get where the conservative reputation came from. Sure, he was a run-heavy conservative offense promoting coach when he had a crappy QB and a good run game. But given a better passing offense, he used it. Playing to a team's strengths is not conservative.

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#238 by Will Allen // Aug 11, 2015 - 9:55pm

20 guys have coached 250 NFL games. 6 had a higher winning percentage. He's 10th of the 32 who coached 200 games. Marty did it with 4 different franchises, 3 of which had crappy ownership, and none of them were in good shape when he arrived.
He's a worthy Hall of Famer, for anyone who understands the game at all.

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#240 by Steve B // Aug 11, 2015 - 11:43pm

If you put him in, then what about his "brother from another mother" Chuck Knox? And what about Dan Reeves, who won 200+ games AND coached in four SBs? And what about Dick Vermeil, who won division titles in three spots, coached in two SBs AND, unlike the other three, won a SB? Also, what about Buddy Parker, Tom Flores and George Seifert? Opening this can of worms may be why Marty's HoF case has gone nowhere so far.

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#242 by Will Allen // Aug 12, 2015 - 1:17am

Over a 300 game sample, the difference between a winning percentage over .600, and one in the low to mid .500s is significant, it seems to me. I don't put a lot of stock in playoff winning percentage, because the one and done format really skews things.

I actually think Seifert is unduly hurt by the last disastrous season with Carolina, which left him at
.648. If he had simply retired after the Niners, he'd probably be in. However, I understand the reasoning that says all his success came with a team which already was performing very well. A guy like Parcells, who I think is obviously deserving at .569, really stands out for the succession of salvage jobs for horrid teams.

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#249 by dmstorm22 // Aug 12, 2015 - 9:44am

Agree that Seifert is particularly doomed by the 1-15 season. If he retires after two mediocre seasons in Carolina; he finishes his career 113-47, for a 71% winning percentage, and a 10-5 playoff record.

I agree he's hurt that he inherited Walsh's team, but from what I've read, the '88 49ers were seen as a weak champion on their last legs, while the '89 team under Seifert was a machine that won its three playoff games by a combined 126-26.

Also think some of the credit for the quality of team he inherited goes to Seifert himself, as his 49ers defenses were about as consistent year-to-year as the Montana-led offenses.

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#251 by Will Allen // Aug 12, 2015 - 10:00am

I'd put Seifert in, because I don't think one hideous, injury riddled season with an old team counters everything that preceded it. I'll also note again that if Roger Craig doesn't drop the ball after a run of the mill tackle at the end of the 1990 NFCCG, there's a really good chance Seifert never gets fired in San Franciso, has at least 3 Super Bowl Rings, easily the best winning percentage ever, and would have been a mortal lock for first year induction.

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#252 by Will Allen // Aug 12, 2015 - 10:00am

I'd put Seifert in, because I don't think one hideous, injury riddled season with an old team counters everything that preceded it. I'll also note again that if Roger Craig doesn't drop the ball after a run of the mill tackle at the end of the 1990 NFCCG, there's a really good chance Seifert never gets fired in San Franciso, has at least 3 Super Bowl Rings, easily the best winning percentage ever, and would have been a mortal lock for first year induction.

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#250 by dmstorm22 // Aug 12, 2015 - 9:48am

To follow from above, it seems the standard for coaches has always been exceedingly high, to where there is what, 1 active coach is probably has a better than 50% chance to get in with Belichick.

There's ~6 active QBs who will be in the HOF, there should be more than 1 coach (you can make an argument Harbaugh, Tomlin, McCarthy have shots if things go their way over the next 6-9 years).

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#300 by mehllageman56 // Aug 16, 2015 - 8:52pm

Contrary to what people think, that 2004 Chargers team was not more talented than the Jets that year. Check out the DVOA rankings from that year. The Jets also beat the Chargers earlier in the season, only by a touchdown, but it was a garbage time touchdown that made it that close. So that isn't an example of Shotty losing to a less talented team, and they were lucky to get to overtime considering the late roughing the quarterback penalty.

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#301 by theslothook // Aug 16, 2015 - 9:26pm

I think the problem was...the jets were in some strange slide by the end of the year. I remember they got beat in the last week of the season by the 8-8 rams that really would have sent them home if NOT for that ridiculous buffalo meltdown vs the steeler backups.

But its a nice underscore for looking over a full season than wins or weighted dvoa for example.

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#302 by Independent George // Aug 17, 2015 - 1:05pm

The thing I remember about that game, though - and the reason for Marty's reputation - was Tomlinson running into a wall three times for 0 yards, leading to a missed FG in OT.

Granted, a 40-yard FG should be more-or-less a gimme, and the Jets pass defense was pretty good that year, but that still felt like a give-up sequence. I'll concede that 90% of NFL Head Coaches would have done the same, so Marty does get unfairly tarred over that, it's still a legitimate criticism even if it's one shared by the many coaches who never get far enough for that to be an issue.

Of course, that fits right in with all of Marty's other bizarre losses. The Drive. The Earnest Byner Fumble. The Marlon McCree fumble. Nate Kaeding missing a 40-yard FG. The guy just can't catch a break.

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#20 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 07, 2015 - 5:28pm

I'm in no hurry to put Dungy in, but I'm also trying to predict what will happen rather than what should happen. Based on what I'm hearing, it's fitting that Dungy is the most debated candidate here. Some could look at his team's success and greatly credit him for shaping them into consistent winners. Some will say his teams went to the Super Bowl right after he left, which doesn't look good for him.

Personally, I don't think Dungy is on any different tier from Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan. Tom Coughlin is also probably worth including on that tier. Are they getting in any time soon? Doesn't look like it.

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#24 by gomer_rs // Aug 07, 2015 - 6:37pm

Of that group only Dungy popularized a system on offense or defense that was adopted by other teams with great success. The next closest coaches on that stretch are probably Dick LeBeau with the zone-blitz and the 3-4 adopters as well as Bill Walsh and the West Coast Offense.

Maybe Shanahan for zone blocking in the running game and the fungibility of RBs.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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#29 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 07, 2015 - 6:57pm

I would personally put those first 3 names in. I'm more conflicted on Coughlin because his Giants teams were so Jekyll and Hyde. Don't really remember his Jaguars days.

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#61 by dmstorm22 // Aug 08, 2015 - 11:04am

It is really funny that the evidence can be swung both ways.

We discredit Dungy for the fact Gruden and Caldwell took over his teams and went to the Super Bowl in the first year.

Then we also discredit Seifert for taking over for Walsh and going to the Super Bowl. I get that with Seifert he was inheriting a Championship team - where Gruden was 'taking TB over the top', but let's pick one.

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#62 by Will Allen // Aug 08, 2015 - 11:35am

I completely agree with the idea that the tools we have to make careful delineations in coaching performance are very, very, crude. I just think it's nuts to use that fact to put forth the argument that somebody with a great winning percentage over a huge sample size of games is somehow borderline. Look, if the argument is that the guy needed to win 85%, instead of 68% of his games, to be a strong candidate, well, the limits to that reasoning are pretty obvious. If you get into the playoff game w-l record nonsense, I suppose it bears repeating that if you change about 5 random events that have nothing to do with coaching performance, Belichik's playoff record can range from about .500, with about 1 championship, to about .900, with 6 championships. When five random events can cause a metric to swing that wildly, what it tells you is that the metric sucks.

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#86 by Bright Blue Shorts // Aug 09, 2015 - 4:34am

While Seifert did inherit a Championship team, I'd be inclined to say that he rejuvenated them resulting in a 14-2 record and the biggest SB win ever.

Even though Walsh built the team, I'm not sure he'd have got the same result. From what I've read in a biography he'd begun to the lose the team particularly after he wouldn't talk to them following the 87 playoff disaster against the Vikings. He was pretty stressed / burned out by the time he retired after XXIII.

Let's give a little bit of credit that Seifert had the sense to carry on what was working and continue to get equally, if not better results. For comparison look at how Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys didn't stay successful for long under Barry Switzer.

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#25 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 6:39pm

So I guess I'm holding a minority position. The argument is - are we sure Dungy is a great coach? I'm sure Warner was a great qb. I am positive Owens was a transcendant receiver. Was Dungy? its more murky and Scott listed some names above that would have be considered borderline but Dungy somehow is a given?

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#40 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 10:15pm

Hmm....that's an excellent point. Since I consider the playoffs a total crapshoot, they basically could not have done any better than they did.

I guess Will's done a good job of convincing me. I didn't really pay close attention to his tampa days, but I guess its impressive. Sure, hes worthy...ish :D

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#46 by gomer_rs // Aug 07, 2015 - 10:42pm

With that comment I must ask... how old are you? sorry couldn't help myself, TB was Tony Dungy

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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#43 by dbostedo // Aug 07, 2015 - 10:38pm

Using the fact that some players/coaches were good with different teams and situations to make a case that they are a HOFer makes perfect sense.

Using the fact that some players/coaches were good with just one team or QB or set of players to make a case that they aren't HOFers doesn't make any sense.

Yes, it's less information and may not show as much as someone who moved around and went through changes, but there's nothing negative in it. Just a slight lack of knowledge. They still accomplished a great deal, and I don't think saying "you can't prove they would have been great in other situations" should mean "you can't put them in the HOF". Otherwise, 3/4 of the current HOF probably wouldn't be in there.

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#48 by theslothook // Aug 07, 2015 - 10:54pm

Coaching is really a black box. It's mostly subjective which makes it easy to claim and impossible to refute? How do we know how much of the colts success was Dungy vs Manning vs the talent around him? Parsing credit becomes incredibly difficult, but then its intellectually lazy to just say - well...both were great thus both deserve the hall. We don't(or shouldn't) use such criteria when judging hall of fame guards or nose tackles.

Briefly on Dungy - I'm amenable to the argument that he was a good/great/whatever coach because he was successful in tampa. If instead his whole career had been spent in Indy, I would be much more skeptical for the reasons I listed above. And that I think its absolutely fair.

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#53 by Independent George // Aug 07, 2015 - 11:40pm

That is a fair point - but what's unfair about it (and the reason Will and others are so bothered by it) is that you're discounting half of his record as head coach.

Yes, anybody's HOF credentials are significantly diminished if you ignore half of his career.

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#55 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 08, 2015 - 3:22am

Except Jerry Rice!

Still remember that PFR blog post splitting his career into even and odd years and coming to the conclusion both were HoF resumes.

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#58 by thok // Aug 08, 2015 - 7:10am

Payton Manning can handle the half the career argument as well. Half of Peyton looks like Jim Kelly's or Steve Young's NFL careers at least in terms of volume.

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#60 by dbostedo // Aug 08, 2015 - 9:57am

Yes, good points. But lets pretend that Dungy spent his whole career in Indy, and that his whole career with great QBs. Just because he wasn't given any variation or apparent strife to overcome, you would see that as a reason to keep him OUT of the HOF? So no matter how good the Colts were, or how good a (somewhat unknowable) job he did, he couldn't get in? Because that's what it was sounding like.

Or to flip it around, someone above mentioned Bill Belichick. He failed in Cleveland, and has had great success only in NE. Does that mean he can't get into the HOF since the only time he was given variety and strife he didn't do very well?

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#79 by Alternator // Aug 08, 2015 - 8:27pm

Bill with Browns: 6-10, 7-9, 7-9, 11-5, and then the moving season: 4-4 before the move was announced, 1-7 afterwards. That's not really failing, that's slow but steady improvements, and then the team having its legs cut out by outside events. Middling, unimpressive, but not a failure.

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#147 by Steve B // Aug 10, 2015 - 3:45pm

"Failed" is a bit strong, but certainly not much of anybody thought of him as a great HC prior to the Pats' first SB run under him in 2001.

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