A look at the upcoming week in the NFL, from the players on the field to the fans in the stands

Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Mike Tanier

Who will be the next Cris Carter?

I’m not asking who will be the next receiver to post back-to-back 122-catch seasons or score 65 touchdowns in six years. I want to know who the next player to be kept out of the Hall of Fame because his statistics are too good will be.

Bashing the Carter omission is last month’s topic. Hall of Fame voters passed him over once again because there are a backlog of other (far less) qualified candidates they are trying to sort though, and perhaps more importantly, because many of the voters are old-guard types who have a knee-jerk compulsion to argue into the face of overwhelming statistical evidence. Give these guys an insanely obvious statistic –- like back-to-back 122-catch seasons –- and they will give you an old anecdote about Elbert Dubenion packing a sprained ankle in muddy snow so he could catch a touchdown from Jack Kemp, then lean back and nod as if they have somehow trumped you.

The anti-stat gang stood in Art Monk’s way for seven years, and now they are standing in Carter’s way. Soon, they will face the problem that all qualified candidates, dating back for several decades, will have both a full and impressive statistical record. The "full" is as important as the "impressive," because we are coming upon an era in which even defenders who retired a decade ago have easy-to-find, accurate data for tackles, sacks, and even passes defensed, whereas up until 1982 we had nothing but interceptions and the unreliable sack and tackle information provided in team media guides. If someone wants to go back and argue that Jessie Tuggle belongs in the Hall of Fame, they no longer have to rely on poetic images of how running backs trembled at Tuggle’s approach or testimonials from defensive coordinators who called him the key to the Falcons defense. They can point to 21 career sacks and two 200-tackle seasons, note that his five Pro Bowl appearances do not line up with his best years, and so on.

You would think that such detailed information would be a boon to Hall of Fame voters, but in fact it handcuffs them from using poetry and anecdotes. A lot of these guys are addicted to poetry and anecdotes, which are great at filling the voids between facts with lots of inarguable nonsense. The voters have been getting their fix by reaching back and selecting Chris Hanburger and Rayfield Wright from the grand, glorious 1970s, when men were men and stats were nonexistent, for several years. That well is running a little dry, so the anti-stat guys are shifting gears and earning their contrarian cred in other ways: suddenly noticing the contributions of offensive linemen, becoming even more Super Bowl-biased, or just denying the obvious and hoping it is interpreted as wisdom.

In a few years, the Hall of Fame ballot will be teeming with Carter-types, and voters will have to perform a delicate juggling act in order to exclude as many worthy candidates as possible for the most specious reasons. Here is my top-five countdown of the most likely players to be Cartered out of the Hall of Fame far longer than they should be, based solely on their overwhelmingly obvious qualifications. This list does not include Randy Moss-types who have earned their backlash, just excellent players with minimal-to-nonexistent baggage who will have to apologize for their statistics if they hope to see their busts in Canton.

5. Ed Reed. First, Reed will be overshadowed by Ray Lewis, because both will retire at nearly the same time. Then, he will split the ticket with Charles Woodson, a more outspoken, interesting secondary player who happens to have a Super Bowl ring (though a less successful overall career). Finally, Reed will suffer from Paul Krause Disease. Readers who think I am being too hard on the anti-stat brigade need to look up Paul Krause, who is still the all-time NFL interception leader with 81 picks for two different teams. Krause made eight Pro Bowls for two different teams and was one of the stars of the Purple People Eater defense which reached the Super Bowl four times. He retired in 1979, and the Hall was kind enough to allow him entry 19 years later after spending nearly two decades brushing him off as a "cherry picker" who did nothing but compile easy interceptions. Reed will hear some of the same criticism.

4. Michael Strahan. Hall of Fame voters are still furrowing their brows and trying to figure out what to make of those pesky sack totals. Some are still pounding on the desk and screaming that Gino Marchetti didn’t need no gosh darned sack totals and would have recorded 53 sacks per year if he played nowadays, anyway. Others are struggling to put players like Chris Doleman in context. Recent inductions suggest that Strahan will coast in, but some voters are going to bring up the Brett Favre slide as if it is indicative of something, while others will simply become reactionary about the recent Doleman-John Randle inductions and start stumping for some 1970s player who was better than Strahan because players in the 1970s were better at everything than anybody. Strahan’s media presence could work against him the way Carter’s has, and playing in New York creates as much of a backlash as an advantage.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson. Two powerful forces are starting to work against Tomlinson. One is his late-career string of ho-hum seasons. The 2008-2011 seasons add ballast to his career totals but fuel to any argument that he was some kind of "stat compiler," and they push his truly great seasons back further into the memories of voters.

More damning for Tomlinson is that he spent his whole career on underachieving teams that had well-publicized clubhouse issues. The problems of the Chargers and Jets will be smeared into Tomlinson’s record by those who feel the reflexive need to argue away 1,800-yard, 28-touchdown seasons with the famous "yeah, but" rhetoric.

2. Wes Welker. The 2011 season solidified this guy’s Hall of Fame resume: with three reception titles, four 100-catch seasons, and two Super Bowl appearances, Welker now has accomplishments that blow away many Hall of Fame wide receivers. Unfortunately, he is also becoming very Carter like: 122-catch seasons, a big-time offense that kept falling short of a championship, a period in which he was overshadowed by Randy Moss. The "plucky white guy" thing could earn some backlash, and he could get lost in the shuffle as this generation of Patriots tries to jockey for spaces in the Hall of Fame line.

There have been 25 seasons of 110 or more catches in NFL history. Welker has four of them. There have been seven seasons of 120 or more catches. Welker and Carter have two each, with Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice, and Herman Moore claiming the others. These seasons don’t grow on trees, and they don’t come about simply because teams throw lots and lots of short passes. But those are some of the arguments being lobbed across the table against Carter, and they may still be in fashion in 15 years when it comes time to discuss Welker.

This is also a good time to mention that the Hall’s anti-stat lunacy is most pronounced at wide receiver. Voters looked at the passing explosion of the late 1970s and just assumed the fetal position. Six wide receivers have been inducted since 2000: Jerry Rice, Art Monk, Michael Irvin, James Lofton, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth. That’s one guy who has no business in Canton but who had a lot Super Bowl rings (Stallworth), another guy with very dubious accomplishments but lots of rings (Swann), a guy with exceptional accomplishments and lots of rings who had to wait for some strange reason (Monk), a guy with exceptional accomplishments and rings, so we all just forgot what an awful human he was for several years (Irvin), a guy who belongs on Mount Olympus but also had rings (Rice), and Lofton. The backlog of highly qualified candidates now includes Carter, Andre Reed, and Tim Brown, soon to be joined by Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce and the whole Moss gang of troublemakers. If the voters are meting out space for receivers at a six-per-decade clip and considering multiple Super Bowl rings an entry requirement, we will soon reach a near-perfect state for voters in which the only correlation between the all-time receiving lists and the Hall is Jerry Rice.

1. Tony Gonzalez. You can see this one coming, can’t you? Gonzo already has plenty of deniers, people who suddenly claim they would take an old-fashioned blocking tight end like Bob Tucker over Gonzo any day. (Forget that Tucker was more of a receiver: the important thing is that old guys were better). The more amazing Gonzo’s accomplishments, the more ridiculously important blocking becomes for tight ends, and the weaker Gonzo’s reputation as a blocker gets. Also, amnesia sets in, so everyone forgets that the same things were said about Kellen Winslow, and that Winslow played 30 years ago, so the phenomenon of the "pumped up wide receiver" is not exactly new. When Gonzo retires, there will be serious columns written actually debating and questioning his Hall of Fame merits, by people who really earn paychecks from major media outlets as supposed experts in professional sports. Not just Jason Whitlock, mind you, but people who expect to be taken seriously.

In seven years or so, we will all be scratching our heads wondering how Gonzo failed to reach the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. The only thing that will keep us from giving up on the whole concept of the Hall of Fame completely is that the voters will finally let Carter in that year.

(If I can add a note: At some point the Hall of Fame is going to have to do something to deal with the backlog of qualified candidates. I think the first step is to end the practice of guaranteeing one Senior Committee candidate a place in the HOF, which limits the voting on recent players and coaches to five per year. Toss the Senior Committee candidates in with everyone else and pick six. Or, perhaps they want to consider raising that to seven or eight players per year. That's not ridiculous considering that we now have 32 teams with 22 "starters" apiece. -- Aaron Schatz)

Running Back Top Fives

Last year’s Quarterback Top Five countdowns were a rousing success. They provoked a lot of nostalgia and some heated arguments, and they got us through the lockout by giving you something fun to read and me something easy to write.

There’s no lockout this year, but there are plenty of historical arguments left to enjoy. So Walkthrough will be counting down the Top Five Running Backs in all 32 franchise histories over the coming months. We will start by setting the tone with one interesting, controversial team: the Redskins.

All of the Top Fives are based on each player’s record with the franchise in question, so John Riggins does not get credit for his performance with the Jets until the Jets countdown, when his Redskins accomplishments will be ignored. The lists are compiled with the help of the Pro Football Reference database, but the opinions are subjectively my own. When projecting across eras, I guess, and readers are encouraged to discuss how far off the mark some of those guesses are.

You get the idea. Let’s get rolling.

1. John Riggins

In 1982, John Riggins had the worst season an NFL player has ever had that was perceived as being a great season.

Riggins led the NFL with 177 carries in that strike-shortened year, averaging just under 20 carries per game. He gained just 553 yards, averaging 3.1 yards per carry. He scored just three touchdowns. He caught just 10 passes for 50 yards, providing no value as a receiver, and in fact he left the field on passing downs.

Riggins ran behind one of the greatest offensive lines in history in 1982. The Hogs were already nicknamed The Hogs, and while none of them had made the Pro Bowl yet in 1982, Jeff Bostic, Russ Grimm, and Joe Jacoby would make it in 1983, and we all know Pro Bowl berths often come a year or two late. Despite playing behind an exceptional line and typically getting 20-28 carries per game, Riggins rushed for over 100 yards just once in the regular season and put together a string of 28-for-70, 20-for-52, and 31-for-87 rushing performances.

That last 31-for-87 rushing day came in a 15-14 win over the Giants; Mark Moseley kicked three field goals in that game. Moseley set an accuracy record in 1982, converting 20-of-21 field goal attempts. Moseley was a 34-year-old straight-ahead kicker whose deep leg was shot. Luckily, 15 of his 21 attempts in 1982 came from inside of 40 yards. In the Giants game, Moseley kicked field goals of 20, 31, and 42 yards. He missed the extra point after the Redskins lone touchdown in that game, a 25-yard run by change-up back Joe Washington.

Moseley kicked four field goals to provide all of the Redskins scoring in a 12-7 win against the Cardinals the week before the Giants game. Moseley’s kicks traveled 32, 30, 24, and 20 yards. Riggins carried 26 times for 89 yards.

I brought up Moseley’s short field goals to underline a point about Riggins’ short-yardage running. As a power runner, Riggins was supposed to be able to pick up tough yardage around the goal line. But his three touchdowns, and the large number of short field goals Moseley converted, indicate that Riggins was not doing anything special in the red zone in 1982. While most Football Outsiders research suggests that goal-line conversion statistics are so volatile that they are meaningless, common sense says that an experienced power runner, with a group of budding All-Pros blocking for him, should be able to score enough goal-line touchdowns to keep his team from needing weekly 20-yard field goals. Riggins could not.

So Riggins was, in 1982, a power runner with no breakaway ability (his longest run was 19 yards), no receiving skills, and questionable value in short-yardage situations. He was also just two years removed from a long holdout in an era when holding out was one notch below Satanism in the minds of most fans and sportswriters, and he was outspoken to the point of being obnoxious. (This was before he started getting blasted at political events and insulting Supreme Court justices, but he was on his way). Yet he was one of the most popular players in the league and was universally considered one the central cogs in the newly-created Redskins machine, a more important element to their success than Joe Theismann, the young Art Monk, or the defense.

I watched the broadcast of Super Bowl XVII to confirm my childhood memories of how Riggins was perceived. "How will the Dolphins stop Riggins?" was the storyline before the kickoff. Dick Enberg told some charming stories of Riggins’ holdout and his Super Bowl Week behavior (he refused to dress appropriately for media events, for example) after one of the running back’s many three-to-four yard plunges into the line. Dolphins running back Andra Franklin finished second in the NFL in rushing (Riggins was 15th, Tony Dorsett led the league), and Enberg compared the two big backs at one point, noting that Riggins had a "kinda average" regular season. That moment of faint praise aside, Riggins was clearly preordained the star of the telecast, with the Hogs a surprising second.

Riggins did not have a "kinda average" regular season. He had, frankly, a terrible regular season. It was not perceived as such for a variety of reasons.

First, Riggins was much better in the playoffs, rushing for 119, 185, 140, and 166 yards in the tournament-format playoffs that ended the 1982 season. The regular season was so short, and the playoffs were so unusual, that Riggins managed to gain more yards in the playoffs than the regular season, and neither public perception nor professional opinion had a lot of time to breathe. Football reappeared about a week before Thanksgiving, then sprinted full speed into the Super Bowl in 1982. By the time anyone caught their breath, the Redskins were suddenly great, and Riggins was plowing out 185-yard games.

Second, the Redskins were using a totally new offense, with Riggins as the single setback behind a tight end and H-back who were constantly in motion. Joe Washington, who served as Riggins’ change-up back, did not play much in 1982, so Riggins was the Redskins’ only regular ball carrier. In the early 1980s, it was very rare for a team to use one running back almost exclusively, and it was almost unheard of for a team to reach the Super Bowl without an excellent running back. There was a sense that Riggins just had to be doing something good, just as there was a sense that Rex Grossman had to be doing something right when the Bears reached the Super Bowl a few years ago.

Third, Riggins was a great quote, and sportswriters love slow-footed, aging white guys because they remind us of ourselves. The "Rigginomics" nickname provided a cute hook, and Riggins had been with the Jets long enough to have supporters in the New York media. He was an easy guy to spin the "tough, determined" storyline around, even though most tough-determined guys would not announce that the reason they returned to the NFL after a year of "retirement" was because they were bored and broke.

So Riggins earned some accolades in the postseason, bore the unusual burden of being the NFL’s first "ace" back, and caught some breaks from writers and fans who thought he was a hoot. He also rarely fumbled, which had value, and he was almost impossible to drop for a loss, though it is hard to imagine many defenders getting into the backfield against the Hogs. The fact that he left the field in favor of Washington or Clarence Harmon in passing situations prevented him from padding his statistics with draw plays; the third-and-long draw was a very common strategy back then, and many speed backs racked up high per-carry averages by gaining eight yards on third-and-15. Riggins was gaining his 3.1 yards per carry by literally running about ten feet every time he touched the ball, so he was at least consistent.

Still, watch Super Bowl XVII, and you will see the Hogs drive the Killer B’s back four yards at the snap, with Riggins gaining four yards. You will see him get the ball on second-and-4, then again on third-and-1 for a one-yard gain. You will see him stopped on a third-down conversion in the first quarter that leads to a short Moseley field goal. You will also see him break the game open with a long touchdown on a fourth-down conversion, of course, and you will see some things that surprise you, like a 15-yard scamper on a screen pass. But Riggins had accumulated just 49 (on 15 carries) before halftime, and it’s hard not to think that Franklin would have had 70 yards given the same blocking, or that Dorsett would already have two touchdowns. You are watching Brandon Jacobs, not an all-time great. And Super Bowl XVII was Riggins’ career-defining game.

Riggins was better in 1983, though again the perception was well out of whack with reality. His yards-per-attempt climbed to 3.6, and he started churning out 25-carry games every week, helping the Redskins chew clock in their easy victories. At the same time, his receiving value achieved absolute zero (he didn’t catch a pass after Week 8), and his 24 touchdowns were the residue of a great offense and a fetish for using him as the goal-line back. Riggins had ten touchdowns each of one or two yards. The Joe Gibbs offense blossomed in 1983, and Riggins is best thought of as the "dirty jobs" guy who finished drives and sat on 31-10 leads. Instead, those 24 touchdowns turned him into something of a living legend.

In 1984, Riggins again led the league in touchdowns but did not make the Pro Bowl; Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton, James Wilder and Wendell Tyler represented the NFC instead. The presence of Wilder and Tyler suggests that the world had caught on to the fact that anyone with two functioning knees could probably average 3.8 yards per carry behind the Hogs. The Redskins would soon put George Rodgers, then Earnest Byner in the backfield behind the Hogs. Both of them would have seasons which were more productive on a per-play basis than Riggins had in his glory seasons.

Okay, that was all very negative. So why is Riggins at the top of this list? First, there are his 1978 and 1979 pre-holdout seasons. Playing as a pure fullback in a two-back backfield, Riggins was very good in those years, rushing for over 1,000 yards each year and catching a total of 59 passes. These were Riggins’ best seasons with the Redskins (he also had some good ones with the Jets), but they are forgotten because the late-1970s Jack Pardee Redskins were nothing special.

Second, the 1983 season was a legitimate Pro Bowl season, if not the greatest achievement in NFL history, and 1984 was pretty good. The 1982 regular season was, as noted above, lipstick on a hippo, but Riggins’ performance in an unusual postseason needs to be considered. Riggins had two different Redskins careers, one as an unheralded fullback on a weak team, another as an over-heralded cult hero on an outstanding team. Put them together, and he beats the No. 2 player on this list by a hair.

Riggins reached the Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility, and no one blinked at his acceptance. He certainly met the "fame" criteria; he was one of the two or three most well-known players in the NFL from 1982 to 1985. The Super Bowl touchdown and the 24-touchdown season were bulwarked by 11,000 rushing yards, many of them accumulated before he became a household name. He was one of a generation of players whose careers came together at the start of the 16-game season era and the offensive Big Bang of 1978. His best seasons came at exactly the time when it became hard to gauge what a great series of seasons was going to look like, and he retired with numbers that appeared historic but are now the province of Corey Dillon-types.

Riggins belongs in a category with players like John Stallworth: good players on outstanding teams in unique circumstances. If he were on my roster, I would find some role for him. But if he were gaining less than four yards per carry while the Hogs blocked and Monk streaked down the sideline, there is no way he would be my starter.

2. Larry Brown

Brown was one of the best running backs in the NFL from 1971 through 1973. He was a 195-pound halfback who could run inside or outside and was very effective as a receiver, typically catching over 30 passes and averaging more than 10 yards per catch in his best seasons. Brown had over 300 touches in 1972 and 1973, and the workload did him in: By 1974 he was down to 2.6 yards per carry, though he still contributed as a receiver. He was toast by age 29.

The Larry Brown of the early 70s was a far superior player to John Riggins of the early 1980s; again, Riggins ranks higher because of his longer productive career with the Redskins, and because of some outstanding postseason performances. As we work through these lists, career lengths will be graded on a curve, because knee surgery was like a nine-year-old cutting a flank steak until the 1980s, and the salary differential between running back and insurance salesman was shockingly slim until about the same time. It is important to note in this case that Brown and Riggins were near contemporaries; when Brown was having an MVP season in 1972, Riggo was rushing for 944 yards for the Jets. (They were teammates in 1976.) Under the circumstances, Riggins’ longevity should count for something.

3. Cliff Battles

The predominant offense of the 1930s was the single wing. We could go on for a few thousand words about the single wing, and I would make a bunch of errors and oversimplifications in the process. It’s easier to think of the scheme as a Wildcat that you are forced to use for every snap. There was a tailback, something akin to Tim Tebow circa Week 12, and a fullback, who we would really think of as a running back. There was also a blocking back or "quarterback," who was more like our modern H-back, and a wingback who was kind of like Hines Ward: he could catch passes, but being a nasty blocker on sweeps was also a big part of his job, and he took handoffs on reverse-type plays. The terminology alone can give you a headache because roles are precisely juggled from where they are now, and many sources "correct" the labels by calling the single wing tailback a "quarterback" and so on.

Cliff Battles was a single-wing tailback early in his career, meaning he lined up as a modern shotgun quarterback, though single-wing centers often snapped to other players, including the fullback, "quarterback," or motioning wingback. (Feel free to scream.) Anyway, Battles finished second in the NFL by rushing for 737 yards in 1933. Teammate Jim Musick finished first with 809 yards. The pair also completed 16-of-57 passes for 216 yards, zero touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, proving that Rex Grossman and John Beck really weren’t the worst passing tandem in Redskins history. At any rate, Battles was also among the NFL’s leading receivers with 11 catches. The Redskins were a pretty good 5-5-2 team, and Battles was one of the two guys who supplied all of their offense.

A few years later, Ray Flaherty took over as the Redskins coach, and Sammy Baugh took over at tailback, with Battles moving to fullback. Flaherty was an early-NFL innovator who is often credited with inventing the screen pass. He also used more "double wing" formations, so his Redskins looked a little more like a modern shotgun team than a Wildcat team. Baugh, of course, became the first modern quarterback, but when he was a rookie, the Redskins offense still funneled through Battles, who had a whopping 216 carries and led the league in rushing in 1937.

Battles then asked for a raise; depending on the source, he asked for as little as $250 dollars more (Baugh’s version) or expected to make $10,000 (George Marshall’s story). Marshall, who was a classic owner from the "wonderful old days" (stingy, short-sighted, resentful, racist) refused to pay, and essentially blackballed Battles, who knocked around as a coach, served in the Marines, and eventually entered the private sector.

Battles is a Hall of Famer, and the first of the ancient era players that we will encounter on our adventure. There will be more. When we ranked quarterbacks, it was hard to venture back before 1950 for all but a handful of players, but we will come face-to-face with Bronko Nagurski, Tuffy Leemans, and others in the weeks to come. We have a fighting chance of comparing 1930s rushing statistics to 1975 statistics and modern numbers, something that is impossible at every other position on the field. That said, Battles played for the Boston Braves against the Staten Island Stapletons, so we don’t want to get too carried away. Battles appears to have been a Larry Brown of his era, a versatile speed back who was considered one of the best players in the NFL for a few seasons. Putting him next to Brown feels right.

4. Clinton Portis

Like Riggins, Portis was outspoken and eccentric to a point where it might have been detrimental to the team, but because his shtick was rather funny and his on-field effort was excellent, he got a lot of benefit of the doubt. Washington writers have a high tomfoolery threshold; it must come from being close to the capital.

Our metrics were usually kind to Portis, who lost his big-play ability soon after arrival in Washington but became a dependable grinder who could contribute in the passing game and was one of the best pass protectors of his era. Portis suffered through the Second Coming of Gibbs and the brief Jim Zorn disaster, and became one of the symbols of the perpetual suffering that Dan Snyder has caused. Portis and Snyder were also notoriously close, and it is not clear just how much influence Portis had in his role as unofficial assistant GM. He had to deal with any damage he caused off the field once he stepped on the field, so Portis deserves more benefit of the doubt than, say, Vinny Cerrato deserves.

5. Earnest Byner

By the early 1990s, the Gibbs offense had evolved into a three-wideout attack. The Riggins-type rusher, now played by Gerald Riggs, was clearly the No. 2 back, used in power situations. The No. 1 back had become an all-purpose featured back who could run inside and out, as well as catch passes. Earnest Byner filled that role for five seasons, including 1991, when the Redskins had one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Byner narrowly edges Stephen Davis for this list. Davis was a hard working thumper for the late-era Norv Turner teams. As Turner running backs often are, Davis was very productive, and the teams he played for had not yet flown off to planet Danny Boy. When Marty Schottenheimer arrived, he decided to get three or four years worth of carries out of Davis in one season. Then Steve Spurrier set about to prove that the NFL was just like Gainesville and marginalized Davis so he could see more of the Shane Matthews-to-Chris Doering pass combination, entrenching the cycle of guru worship and disappointment that now defines Redskins football.

Davis may well deserve to rank above Byner; it’s a close call, and I admit I am just favoring a player whom I liked when he played for the Browns and who once killed the Eagles in a playoff game.

Terry Allen also deserves honorable mention; he had a pair of very productive seasons under Turner, scoring 21 touchdowns in 1996. The 1996 Redskins completely Norved in the second half of the season, going 2-6 to finish the year and losing a bunch of 21-10 type games, but Allen tooted along and ended with 347 carries. Allen was very good, but it is hard not to react at those events from 15 years ago with the shock that it is still going on, both for the Redskins and for Turner-coached teams.

Joe Washington, as mentioned several times earlier, was the dynamic change-up to Riggins. George Rodgers was a college football superstar who arrived from the Saints after a few productive seasons, some injuries, and a bout with drugs. I will not go so far as to say that either or both were better than Riggins at any one time. I can only suggest that a long look at their stats and accomplishments, compared to Riggins’, are enough to make anyone question just how much credit was misapplied during the early Gibbs tenure.

Next time: we will start working through the rest of the NFC East, and try to keep it under 1,500 words per player!


283 comments, Last at 31 Mar 2012, 9:42pm

1 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

As a Bucs fan, "Best Offensive Player at Position X in Team History" is patently depressing. Do defense next year so I have something to be excited about. Derrick Brooks! Warren Sapp! Ronde! Nickerson! Selmon!

12 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

The Bucs actually aren't too bad at RB for a team that's "only" 35 years old. James Wilder, Warrick Dunn, and Mike Alstott are nothing to be ashamed of, and Cadillac Williams and Ricky Bell had short periods of high productivity.

QB and WR, though, are another story. Could Brad Johnson's three years of reasonable productivity really make him the best QB in Bucs history? Would you take Keyshawn's two years of borderline-Pro-Bowlishness followed by implosion over Joey Galloway's three years of acceptable numbers, or Mark Carrier's six years of mediocrity?

128 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

This Texans fan prefers the idea of "Arian Foster, Domanick Davis/Williams, Steve Slaton, Ben Tate and . . . Ron Dayne? Jonathan Wells?" to "Defensive tackles? The Texans have had defensive tackles?" or a list of top 5 safeties that includes CC Brown.

165 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

When Tanier did his Top 5 Tampa QBs list, it was Brad Johnson, Doug Williams, Trent Dilfer, Vinny Testaverde, and Jeff Garcia. I mean, eeeeeew.

RB has been at least marginally decent, but WR is most definitely another cringe-worthy list. But seriously, yeah, please give me an LB list so I can man-crush all over the greatness of Derrick Brooks.

257 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

It was Cincy, but he did have 100 yard games later in the season vs Indy and Detroit ( http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HolmPr00/gamelog/1998/ ). He also had a 13 catch game vs Tenn earlier in the year and hit 99 vs Oakland as well and over 100 combined yards (rushing and receiving) vs Pitt. He wasn't super star that year, but he was effective in at least half his games and had a few other 4+ YPC games where he got less than 10 carries, so that was a utilization issue.

Considering he didn't play much in the first 3 games, I think he was still generally an above average back. Though I agree he wasn't 01-02 Holmes.

2 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

"a guy with exceptional accomplishments and lots of rings who had to wait for some strange reason (Monk)"

I've actually heard the reason, and it is strange. The most common argument by HOF voters against Monk was the lack of a "signature catch".

7 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

"I've actually heard the reason, and it is strange. The most common argument by HOF voters against Monk was the lack of a "signature catch"."

This is the problem you have when you suddenly decide that guys like Swann should go in on the strength of a few signature catches, and little else. It's a damned hard standard to apply across the board.

173 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I think Parcells did more to torpedo Monk than anybody...for years he went around telling anybody who would listen that as HC of the Giants, he never once feared Monk, but game-planned around trying to stop Gary Clark.

I never thought of Monk as a no-brainer either...not that his inclusion bothers me at all.

177 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Really? Because I could swear I've seen Parcells quoted as saying that he views Monk as an obvious HOFer. Also, Clark was really good and probably would be in the HOF if he'd had a longer career. As it is, his numbers are close to Irvin's.

Ah, here we go. Parcells in 1995: "Monk is headed to Canton downhill on roller skates."

Here's a bonus quote from Bill Polian: "I believe he's a Hall of Famer. I was a pro scout when he was playing, so it was my job to know who those guys were. I would put Art in that category, but apparently there are a lot of Hall of Fame voters who don't feel Art Monk was in that category. It's hard for me to believe they ever saw him play."

3 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

It's funny, but I'm not sure Welker is a HoF player myself. He has had 4 great seasons, but they are in the most passing friendly environment the NFL has seen, and with one of the best QBs ever throwing him the ball.

What's more impressive, catching 122 passes for 1300 yards from Brady, or catching 100 passes for 1071 yards from Jim Miller and Shane Mathews? Then following it up with a 97 catch, 1189 season catching passes from Miller, the dessicated corpse of Chris Chandler, and Henry Burris?

Also, Welker's career has been pretty short since he didn't get started until he was 24. If he has 4 more years of at least a 1000 yards, he's probably in, but it's not a fact that's going to happen.

5 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I like the "Welker wouldn't be that good without Brady" argument. It's similar to the "Brady wouldn't be that good without Welker" or "Brady wouldn't be that good without Moss" argument. And then there's the "Belichick is overrated, anybody could win with Brady" argument, which smells a lot like the "Brady is overrated, he just wins because of Belichick" argument.

Excellent players who play with other excellent players shouldn't have that held against them. That kind of synergy is always a function of all the people involved.

So, yes, catching 122 passes for 1300 yards from Brady is more impressive than catching far fewer passes for far fewer yards from anyone. Life doesn't grade on a curve.

10 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

"Life doesn't grade on a curve."

Isn't this a big part of the idea behind DYAR and DVOA that stats don't take into account opposition or degree of difficulty?

I never said Welker wasn't excellent, I do think he is, I just don't think he is excellent enough to be in the HoF. We have evidence that Brady is excellent without Welker, or with a hobbled Welker. We have evidence that Brady isn't as good without Moss as he was with him, however he's still excellent without him.

Welker has finished top 5 in receiving yards only twice. So he is catching a lot of passes, but he isn't doing as much with them as other receivers are doing with their catches. He's finished top 5 in DYAR 3 times.

19 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

It is a far different thing to take the opposition into account than to try to untangle the relative contributions of various players on the same team.

And no, Brady was not the same QB before Welker arrived. It's not an accident that all of his best seasons have included Welker as one of his top two targets.

You said more than "Welker isn't in the HoF yet." You implied that we should ignore 25% of his production because he's blessed with Brady as his QB. As if the rest of the Pats' receivers over the past decades have done as well.

129 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Well, up until 2007 the Patriots' wide receivers were invariably somewhere between indifferent and actively terrible. Welker's a very good player. He is a much better player than Reche Caldwell, or Jabar Gaffney, or David Givens. That doesn't make him a hall of famer.

37 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

At the risk of being branded a Pats hater, I'll offer some caveats for that season. I feel that this year the teams that prospered were able to exploit defensive misalignments and coverage breakdowns that were endemic early in the season as a result of the reduced practice time caused by the lockout. I'd suggest that this was partly responsible for the explosion of passing across the league.

I think the Pats are the best in the game at exploiting any 'free grass' the defense offers. After five games Welker had 740 yards, an average of 148 yards per game, in the remaining eleven weeks he averaged 75 yards per game, which extrapolates to about 1200 yards, which is close to the sort of numbers he normally puts up. I will happily admit that your execution has to be pretty good to exploit the defensive errors in such a remorseless manner.

I am aware that this is a rather extreme example of chopping stats to make an argument but a player's production dropping by 50% after five weeks is a little strange too. There was likely some effect from most teams being unable to find a decent answer for the matchup nightmare presented by the Pats two tight end spread.

49 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

This really offends me as a mathematician:

"After five games Welker had 740 yards, an average of 148 yards per game, in the remaining eleven weeks he averaged 75 yards per game, which extrapolates to about 1200 yards, which is close to the sort of numbers he normally puts up."

Why even bother to look at statistics if your purpose is to decide which subset of the data aligns best with your preconceptions?

Welker was better in 2011 than he was in any season before then. End of argument.

130 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

He does have an explanation: the lockout was more disruptive to defenses than offenses, and for obvious reasons this effect was strongest earlier in the season.

Anyway, is Welker clearly the #1 receiver, ahead of Gronkowski? Either way, he's certainly not a conventional, do-everything WR1.

152 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

And yet that quarterback still seemed reasonably adept at connecting with Randy Moss.

Also, it would open up space underneath him for other receivers, and for the running game. It would prevent the "cram the interior zone" strategy employed succesfully by the Bills and others from being so effective.

240 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

For sheer physical dominance, a motivated Randy Moss is possibly the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game. I'm fairly certain any QB would have a decent deep ball with 2007 Randy Moss going deep.

Brady's deep ball is below average, but still within the realm of acceptable. Compounded with nobody really capable of going deep and reliably getting open, and the deep pass doesn't much exist.

4 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I don't think Ed Reed will have any major difficulty getting into the HoF. The media love him. The Ravens' D has been good enough, long enough, that there's little danger that Reed will be lost behind Ray Lewis's shadow.

Strahan has the problem of the logjam of pass rushers in the queue, and the fact that his record season is widely derided for Favre's clinching gimme. But his Super Bowl ring should help.

Welker is curiously underrated by many Pats' fans, many of whom seem to think that anybody could be plugged in as a slot receiver and be just as productive as Welker is. Memories of the 2006 season, when the Pats had zero quality WRs, appear to have disappeared. There is an ongoing fantasy that Edelman could do just as well. Apparently white WRs are fungible.

Gonzalez won't have a problem making the Hall. Tomlinson shouldn't. The chaos in the Jets' locker room is in spite of him, not because of him. In the current climate, when RBs seem to pass their peaks within three years, Tomlinson should look very good.

6 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Sir -

That was as much derision as I have ever read here. I am curious - are these HoF voters strawmen, or are you guys, with your ever-expanding inclusion into "the club", really meeting, conversing with, and being stunned by, the kinds of voters you describe?

If so, what percentage of the voting group would you estimate they represent?


8 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Portis should get knocked down a spot simply because he was acquired in one of the most lopsidedly bad trades in NFL history. People forget that not only did the Redskins trade a young, future HOF CB in his prime for a Shanny system RB (granted, a really good one) but they also gave away a 2nd round pick.

lol redskins

39 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

But that's not Portis's fault.

I hate the Redskins, and I get in full-on old-man mode when players forget that the sideshow is not the show, but Portis got it. He can be as outlandish as he wants in the media room. That's funny stuff and it's the appropriate place for it. He was smart enough to not bring it onto the field.

166 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

The trade wasn't quite as bad as that. If my memory is accurate, Bailey was a pending free agent at the time and wanted out, and who threatened to sit if he was franchise-tagged. The Skins didn't have a lot of leverage with him, so his trade value was reduced. That helps explain why they included a 2nd. In their minds, it was Portis for a 2nd, and Bailey was the throw-in because they were going to lose him anyway.

Fact is, Bailey was fed up playing for the chaotic Redskins and even threatened to boycott training camp if labelled their franchise player. "It was extremely obvious that he wasn't coming to camp," Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs admitted. "I think he pretty well made up his mind that it was going to be hard for him to come back here."


246 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Bailey was never going to play another down as a Redskin, for reasons only partly related to football. His wife had given him an ultimatum following an affair: we're leaving the area, or I'm leaving.

The fact that the Redskins got anything out of him, much less a franchise RB, is somewhat remarkable. The 2nd round pick was really the price for Portis.

The deal wasn't great for Washington, but neither was it a bad one at all. Making the most of an unlucky situation.

9 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Lots to think about here. In anticipation of future RB Top 5's (I love this concept, and hope I don't have to wait until 2024 to get to, say, DT Top 5's), I'll throw out the Cowboys' group:

1) Smith
2) Dorsett
3) Don Perkins
4) Calvin Hill
5) ??

I was going to put Herschel Walker here, but I didn't realize that he played so few seasons for Dallas. Do you get credit for the fact that your being traded resulted in the franchise trading you away returning to past glory? Maybe. If not, then you're left with someone like Robert Newhouse, who had a great career for Dallas but mostly played FB, and then if you're throwing that in, then don't you pick Moose over anyone else? I don't know. So I'm stuck. I'll be curious to hear what the FO people say.

23 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Useful link

You've got the top 4 in order. Really makes it clear that it's going to be hard to find five decent RBs for a lot of franchises. For the Cowboys, the fifth spot appears to be in competition between Robert Newhouse and Marion Barber. DeMarco Murray shouldn't need too many years to make that list.

109 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I actually did check out the link, and it made me switch Hill and Perkins-- Hill really didn't end up playing as long as I thought. I didn't realize that Marion Barber was so high on the list! Nor, for that matter, that two QBs made the top 25.

I agree about Murray, though-- if the Cowboys can fix their line and keep it working along with a good passing game, he should do well.

270 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Nor, for that matter, that two QBs made the top 25

I count three: Staubach, Meredith and Aikman (who really surprised me by being there). Of course, DeMarco Murray is 51 yards away from the #25 spot after one truncated season...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

271 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

From that page I looked at the Bears' rushing leaders and found something truly depressing:

24 Jim Harbaugh 1987 1993 89 48 296 1609 15 26 5.4 18.1 38
25 Cedric Benson 2005 2007 35 12 420 1593 10 43 3.8 45.5 4

The 2006 #4 overall pick who gashed the Bears in 2010 as a Bengal had less total yards rushing than the current coach of the 49ers... in 124 more attempts!

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

276 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Sorry; I was going by memory. But yes, seeing Aikman there was incredibly surprising. Of course, Dallas has been lucking having had good luck with RBs for great spans. Thus, while a few greats occupy the top spots, someone has to come in after them, even if it's a non-running QB like Aikman.

11 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I've heard enough, despite the voting process supposedly being a closed room that isn't talked about to the outside world (which is a mistake, in my view), to strongly suspect that not only are the selectors for the HOF in good measure ignorant about the matter at hand, but they regularly allow their personal dislike of certain players affect their votes. It's an entirely corrupt institution in my view, and as long as the voting is restricted to that few dozen people, it will likely remain so.

14 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

This isn't a problem restricted to the HOF; it pervades any award still determined by the old-guard national media. The Heisman Trophy is the shining example in this field.

I'd be in favor of a HOF selection process more like the one used for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where a group of experts, picked anew every year, considers a group of teams by starting with basic statistical measures and then adding intangibles into the mix.

218 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

If I remember correctly, Lisk didn't say that Vinny had a Hall of Fame career, he only speculated (and made a very good case) that if Vinny had had good or merely decent teammates, THEN we would probably be looking at a lock for the HoF.

224 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Indeed: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=5449

I loved that post. I had actually always said basically the same thing, and that post suggested maybe I wasn't nuts. Also, growing up watching John Elway, I've always had a soft spot for QBs who spend their careers with crappy offenses around them.

229 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

First of all: Manning and Elway represent a very high bar.

Second of all: Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James constitutes a poor cast? Even if you consider the chicken-egg thing going on there, I don't see it. O-line has always been spotty i Indy, but not everyone can have as good a pocket presence as Manning.

Third: Elways statistical career doesn't really blow anyone away either (on a per season basis anyway). In the Shanahan era (~40 percent of his career) he had excellent support.

The best offensive teammate Vinny had was who? Keyshawn Johnson?

230 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

"The best offensive teammate Vinny had was who? Keyshawn Johnson?"
Curtis Martin.

Also, "the Shanahan era" represents four of Elway's 16 years (25%) and 1866 of his 7250 attempts (25.7%), and the 1995 team really didn't have enough to call it "excellent," I think. Rookie TD started at RB and Sharpe was there, sure, but the starting WRs were Anthony Miller and Mike Pritchard, and 3/5 of the offensive line was new.

231 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

With Manning I was referring to last year when he had Wayne and probably no other offensive player that would start in the league on most teams.

"First of all: Manning and Elway represent a very high bar."

Yeah that bar is HoF, which Vinny should not be in.

233 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

From the article

"I submit that Testaverde didn't discover some fountain of youth or manage to delay the aging process. He was just really good. And when you are really good at age 30-35, you can afford to lose a little and still be able to play in the NFL to age 40. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Testaverde had managed to end up with an offense that had a few more good players when he was entering his late 20's. My guess is that he would be practicing his Canton speech."

I disagree with that, I think to a large degree, you can't keep a good quarterback down. Even if his stats are bad, he'll do things that look like a what a HoF does, Vinny didn't, or at least not often enough. I think he would have been Mark Brunell if he had better teammates.

236 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

And before you said, "that bar is HoF, which Vinny should not be in," which is stating that Vinny shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Since no one argued that he should be in, I called that a straw man, and you replied with a quotation from the article and no suggestion that it was indeed a straw man or that you had misstated your position, which I took to mean you did not believe it to be a straw man.

16 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Vikings top 5, since the merger (which excludes the extremely good Bill Brown).

1. Adrian Peterson. He isn't a flawless player by any means, but against constant eight, nine, and even ten man fronts, given only one year in which the Vikings passing game was not below average, he has been great.

2. Robert Smith. Absent the early knee injuries, he may have been HOF-worthy.

3. Chuck Foreman. He benefitted from playing with Tarkenton, who always got the offense into the right play, and running behind Ron Yary and Ed White, and did not have a long career. He did everything really well, however, especially catching the ball, where he alomost always made the first tackler miss.

4.Darrin Nelson. A poor man's Foreman, which is pretty good.

5.Terry Allen. A solid player, who only played the early part of his career with the Vikings, because Robert Smith was drafted.

36 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Sorry, got carried away. Your list sucks because it is outrage to have it topped by a guy who was too drunk to avoid making comments to a Supreme Court Justice that typically are made to a woman hanging from a pole. Or something.

17 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I don't think Welker should be in the Hall, at least not given his current record.

I've always believed that yards are more important than catches, i know this runs contrary to the tenets of FO but that's my opinion. I'll take a an 80 catch, 1400 yard season over a 100 catch, 1100 yard campaign. (I do agree with FO's highlighting of sustainability but I also feel that the deep threat will influence the shape of the game in ways that DVOA doesn't do a great job of recognising).

For me it's quite simple, while Welker has four 100 catch seasons he only has two years with more than 1200 yards. If you were asked if a reciever with only two 1200 yard seasons deserved to make the Hall how many people would vote him in? Additionally, Wesley has a career YPC of 11.1. That's not great is it?

Finally, there's Troy Brown. He had a three year period when he put up Welkeresque totals of 281 catches for 3033 yards and nobody thinks he belongs in the Hall of Fame (maybe the Patriots Hall). I think that Bellichick has recognised that there is a very productive role for an undersized slot receiver in the modern NFL and Wlker is a very good player in that role. That isn't to suggest that those players don't need to be able to read defenses, have good hands or be able to regularly catch the ball inside the numbers without getting hurt but for me that doesn't mean that a player inthis role with high catch numbers is HOF worthy.

(If Ed Reed doesn't get in I'll be apoplectic.)

106 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Congratulations on finding a way to make a 10% difference in production level look insignificant.

You know, Ted Williams averaged less than half a hit per game more than Dave Kingman. And they averaged the same number of HRs/season. I guess that Ted Williams and Dave Kingman are indistinguishable.

112 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Does anyone else agree welker is a bit too one dimensional a receiver? I know this argument feels really flimsy, but, again, if welker were in an offense that were medium throwing or didn't have a qb or system that accentuated the short attack the way pats do, would welker be what he is? As great as he has been, i still feel like he does the damage he does because there are more frightening miss matches defenses key on, Moss& Gronk. If the hall is about rewarding the very best at their positions, is welker really better than harrison, holt, bruce, carter, etc? Maybe on the patriots, welker is, but for the majority of teams, i would say no in the same way sproles is super valuable on certain teams and maybe relegated to situational player on the majority of others.

133 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Does anyone else agree welker is a bit too one dimensional a receiver?

Well, he's not very tall and he's pretty skinny, so I guess that leaves a fairly nominal span as his one-dimension.

The biggest knock on Welker in the hall is that he's a short slot WR who's white. He doesn't look the part.

Here's another question: How would Randy Moss have done on a (pro) team with Chad Pennington or Matty Checkdown at QB? Would he have become a marginalized specialty player too?

135 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Moss is the worst possible example. He might not have scored quite so many long touchdowns, but a quarterback who can't get his head around the idea of "throw it high in Randy's vague general direction" is too dumb to even get as far as busting in the NFL, so he'd still have caught a bunch of shorter scores.

Only inhumanly terrible quarterbacking (or Randy Moss himself) could make Randy Moss look less than great. Anything less than great quarterbacking in the perfect system, and I think Welker is just a very good slot receiver.

149 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

This is it exactly, IMO. He does a couple of things really well and is in an offense that does an amazing job of taking advantage of these things. He'd be a lot less valuable in other offenses.

Put it this way: would the Falcons trade Roddy White for him? The Giants Hakeem Nicks? The Chiefs Dwayne Bowe (assuming they retain his rights)? The Steelers Mike Wallace? I could go on. If your answers are no--and mine are, FWIW--then surely the Welker-for-HOF argument loses credibility, right?

BTW, I'm not saying the Patriots would/should necessarily do any of the above deals because Welker is obviously very valuable to them. I just don't think he'd be nearly as valuable on most (all?) other teams. Meaning he is, to a degree greater than most very productive players, a system guy.

153 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Agreed. The defensive counterpart is Ronde Barber (who will get in, and I think shouldn't). Buc-2 corners and slot receivers are doing a training-wheels version of the job. They can still be valuable, if they're as good at it as those two, but there's a limit, and NFL personnel people know it - as reflected in their contracts.

Let's see what Welker gets paid. I'm betting it's not Larry Fitzgerald money - or even probably Brandon Marshall money.

161 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

They can still be valuable, if they're as good at it as those two, but there's a limit, and NFL personnel people know it - as reflected in their contracts.

So next week we'll see this from you:

Peyton Manning, no longer a future HOFer.

175 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I'm fine with that argument, but Shush is using Welker's future contract vis-a-vis Marshall and Fitzgerald's contracts as (predicted) evidence that he's not a HOFer.

By that same logic, if Manning gets cut, his contract will be worth $0, which would make him the least valuable player in the NFL, and clearly not HOF potential. That he's coming off injury, 208 games played, and if 36 is independent to the subject contract argument, just as it's independent that Welker's had a knee injury history and is 30, whereas Fitzgerald was 28 when he signed and Marshall is 27.

Contracts are about future value; HOF campaigns are not.

159 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I don't know - I seem to recall that way back when he got traded from Miami to New England, there were a lot of columns with the theme, "if Belichick wants him, you know you should probably keep him," even though he was then probably the #3 or 4 receiver on the Fins. Most receptions, 2nd most yards (67/687) - he put up a decent year in Miami being thrown at by Harrington and Culpepper.

Probably he wouldn't be Wes Welker, gritty white man extraordinaire, if he still had Henne or Moore or whoever throwing him the ball instead of Brady. And I don't know if I'm willing to usher him into the hall quite yet. But your argument is essentially "no HoF because he doesn't fit anybody else's system", which is just kind of... silly.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

226 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Welker was more "traded" than traded. The Phins put the 2nd-round tender on him and the Patriots were in the process of crafting the usual poison-pill unmatchable offer sheet together to get him from the Dolphins - giving up the required 2nd round pick in return.

Then (probably so that no one could possibly grieve the transaction) they decided to throw in a 7th-rounder and make it a trade instead of using the poison-pill offer.

So technically it was a trade, but it's not like Miami voluntarily entered into it.

162 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Put it this way: would the Falcons trade Roddy White for him? The Giants Hakeem Nicks? The Chiefs Dwayne Bowe (assuming they retain his rights)? The Steelers Mike Wallace? I could go on. If your answers are no--and mine are, FWIW--then surely the Welker-for-HOF argument loses credibility, right?

Would they is a different argument than should they. The Eagles should acquire a LB; they still won't draft one.

I would argue that in the case of Atlanta, absolutely. If I were NYG, I'd strongly consider it. Pittsburgh and KC, perhaps. For Pittsburgh, stylistically, that's a nominal trade, and Wallace is younger. But that's more of a fit issue. The old Steelers probably would have preferred Bettis to Faulk or Sanders -- that doesn't make Bettis the better runner.

184 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Put it this way: would the Falcons trade Roddy White for him? The Giants Hakeem Nicks? The Chiefs Dwayne Bowe (assuming they retain his rights)? The Steelers Mike Wallace? I could go on. If your answers are no--and mine are, FWIW--then surely the Welker-for-HOF argument loses credibility, right?

If the Falcons wouldn't trade Roddy White for Wes Welker, then they're incredibly dim.

The Giants, if given the chance, ought to trade Nicks for Welker. A trio of Cruz/Welker/Manningham would be a better grouping. Nicks does the same thing Cruz does, but not as well.

The Chiefs would have to be insane to not trade Bowe for Welker. Bowe is a good receiver but he's not close to elite.

About the only one listed that I think a team shouldn't trade for Welker is Wallace.

You deeply underrate Welker. The ability to get open all the time is rare, and Welker is the best at it.

No, really, Welker was the 1st team All-Pro and he earned it. He's not Brandon Stokely. He's not just another white slot receiver.

If the Pats traded Welker for White or Bowe or Nicks, I'd be livid. All of these players have the same skill set. It should be easier to find a receiver with that skill set while retaining Welker and his relatively unique skill set.

I can accept that his peak hasn't been long enough to merit Hall inclusion (yet). But this talk of trading him for Team X's best receiver, regardless of which team Team X is, is fairly insulting to him.

241 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

If I'm the Steelers, I consider the trade, because I worry that Big Ben won't be healthy for long enough to care that Wallace is younger. Whether that is due to repeat trauma or Ben trying to headbutt a bull is another issue.

If I'm the Giants, I make the trade mostly for the fact that Nicks doesn't have anything that makes his role unique on the team, but Welker would give Eli a great underneath option. The Giants are a great team when they're playing well, but lack consistency, and one of the most consistently open guys in the league has to be a big plus.

If I'm the Falcons, I have to have brain damage to make that trade, since they have a young QB and Roddy is more likely to stay healthy longer than Welker, even though I think Welker is the better player.

If I'm the Chiefs, I probably make the trade just on the basis that Welker can make things happen more often than Bowe, even if those things don't have the same upside. There's a good reason to say "oh Hell no" based on age and injuries, though.

188 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

If you have an extraordinarily accurate quarterback on short throws and Wes Welker on your team, and you don't adjust your offense to take advantage of this, as a coach you are failing at your job.

Welker as a HOFer never once crossed my mind before today, but this "more valuable to the Patriots than he would be to other teams" line of thought gets way too much play. If Welker was a Falcon or Giant or Chief, he'd be just as valuable. He's more valuable to the Patriots because, up until the conclusion of the Super Bowl, he was a Patriot.

113 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Does anyone else agree welker is a bit too one dimensional a receiver? I know this argument feels really flimsy, but, again, if welker were in an offense that were medium throwing or didn't have a qb or system that accentuated the short attack the way pats do, would welker be what he is? As great as he has been, i still feel like he does the damage he does because there are more frightening miss matches defenses key on, Moss& Gronk. If the hall is about rewarding the very best at their positions, is welker really better than harrison, holt, bruce, carter, etc? Maybe on the patriots, welker is, but for the majority of teams, i would say no in the same way sproles is super valuable on certain teams and maybe relegated to situational player on the majority of others.

196 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

The difference being that Largent was able to score TDs. TDs are the mark of a great WR. They either have to be able to beat a defense deep (meaning they possess great speed or elusiveness once the ball is in their hands) or they have to be very good at creating separation (by route running or leaping ability) when the field is shortened and the D doesn't have to worry about a deep ball.

Welker doesn't get as much respect as other WRs because he doesn't score much. He racks up tons of receptions but only where receptions are easiest to pull down. Out of the top 100 all time WR/TE reception leaders Welker is 99th when looking at how often his receptions turn into a TD. He averages a TD every 20 receptions. Only Frank Sanders is worse.

Here are the top 15 in TD/Reception

Randy Moss
Lance Alworth
Nat Moore
Mark Clayton
Terrell Owens
Don Maynard
Harold Carmichael
Harold Jackson
Stanley Morgan
Fred Biletnikoff
Antonio Gates
Jerry Rice
Bobby Mitchell
Steve Largent
Charley Taylor

7 are already in the HOF and I think most of us agree Moss, Owens, and Gates deserve to be in there as well.

Here are the bottom 15

Johnnie Morton
Marty Booker
Jeremy Shockey
J.T. Smith
Eric Moulds
Ike Hilliard
Al Toon
Jason Witten
Brian Blades
Brett Perriman
Troy Brown
Frank Wycheck
Jeff Graham
Bobby Engram
Wes Welker
Frank Sanders

Not exactly HOF caliber.

198 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

this has nothing to do with welkers stature or his race. It has everything to do with how he is utilized. I totally disagree that the giants and falcons would be dim if they traded their best receiver for him. Again, i think you can't just look at raw receiving production and assume it translates to any offense. Welker is a short route runner. That isn't my opinion, its more or less a fact. http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Articles/11_5322_Super_Bowl_Hangover_Pt._2%3A_From_Bradying_to_Welker.html- that sums it up quite well.

All this to say welker is a fantastic player. He really is, but you have to put him in proper context. Its not just welker who fits the patriots, the patriots fit welker. They throw short and hes great at short so the marriage produces excellence. I doubt the falcons or giants would utilize welker's skillset nearly as much as new england does nor do i think they could get anywhere near the same production from him as new england can.

189 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

He's one-dimensional in the same way that Chris Carter was.

Honestly, I don't think Welker is currently HoF-worthy, but will be with another 3 seasons at this level. He's got 2-All Pro 1st Team selections, which count for an awful lot to me; three years of high production on top of his existing body of work, and he's definitely a HoF WR.

18 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

As a tennis/football hybrid fan, I have to complain about the opposite situation in tennis's Hall of Fame. Oh, you won a mixed doubles Slam in '82? Career high ranking of number 3? We'll start sculpting that bust now. I mean, Pam Shriver!

As a Colts fan, I worry about Marvin's chances. (And yes, I am writing this with my head buried in the sand, and this sand is in a bucket outside a Philadelphia car wash, and this bucket may or may not once have contained a handgun that may or may not have been owned by Marvin.) Is WR just too glamorous a position for all these fuddy-dud good-ole-days voters?

Maybe the test should be this: we project an image of the potential HoFer to a select group of old white men. If upon seeing this image, they all nod and intone, "now THAT is a Football Player," then we'll know he's a lock.

25 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Marvin Harrison should be a HoF lock based on his on-the-field performance (and that's all the NFL HoF uses, right?)

My vague understanding of the logjam at WR is that the Cris Carter supporters, although they outnumber the Tim Brown supporters and Andre Reed supporters, have not found a way to work out an induction order. Apparently some people really don't like Cris Carter (who should be in already, IMHO).

And yes, Marvin Harrison will just liven that up. The Dwight Dixon story is scary and will definitely influence the debate, even if the rules say it shouldn't.

137 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

This. The insane greatness of Peyton Manning forces us to be a little bit skeptical of every Colts offensive player he played with, and his coaches and GM.

Harrison sits alongside Bruce and Holt (probably just behind Bruce and just ahead of Holt) on my "maybe" list. I'm fine with it if he gets in, but I'm not bothered if he doesn't.

193 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I think they should probably all make it. Bruce was very good before the greatest show on turf and retired, I think, 2nd all time in yardage. Holt had 6 consecutive 1300 yard seasons and is 3rd all time in yds/game. Harrison is the hardest because Manning's so good but I think he probably deserves to get in due to the lack of Manning face aimed his direction. But all of them should wait until Carter's in.

190 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I'm not familiar with the Kane or Blades cases, but compared to Carruth:

1. Marvin does his own dirty work (allegedly)
2. Marvin got away with it (allegedly)
3. I care more about comedy than a real analysis of their criminality.

148 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I'll give you credit, you're consistently wrong-headed in your opinions.

You'd rather take a gangbanging shooting at unarmed people over a Patton vet who is experienced not only at shooting at people who are actually armed, but can also take and survive return fire? This explains why you value Moss so much over Welker.

154 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I'm not proposing to get in a fire-fight with them. I think that if I make a Normandy veteran angry (back in the late 40s or 50s, say), he may be liable to punch me in the nose, which I would not like. If I make a crime lord angry, I may be liable to get shot in the face by one of his lackeys as I get off a bus, which I would like a lot less. The most dangerous man in the world is Vladimir Putin, not some special forces guy.

191 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I think it's a matter of being less likely to inadvertently piss off a war veteran to the extent that he's willing to kill you than the guy who apparently killed someone in cold blood following a seemingly inconsequential altercation.

Put another way, would you rather share a subway car with a heavyweight MMA fighter, or an escaped mental patient? The former could hurt you way worse, but I'd say the latter is more dangerous.

24 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Glad to see Tanier is one of the good guys with respect to Art Monk's HOF bid. The anti-stat journalist contingent was bad enough, but I was really disappointed when (following Monk's selection) the cranks came out of the woodwork even here on FO. Majority opinion seemed to be that he didn't belong.

Or maybe I was just oversensitive to the issue after watching him get snubbed for so long.

139 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I still don't get the case for Monk, and I don't think I'm "anti-stats".

Years in the top 5 for receiving yards: 2
Years in the top 10 for receiving yards: 3
Years in the top 5 for receptions: 3
Years in the top 10 for receptions: 4
Years in the top 5 for receiving touchdowns: 0
Years in the top 10 for receiving touchdowns: 1
Years leading the NFL in a major statistical category: 1 (receptions in 1984)
Pro bowls: 3
AP first team all pro: 1
Other first team all pro: 3
Guff about blocking: plenty

His case is similar to, though slightly better than, Hines Ward's. I say absolutely not to Ward, and a slightly less virulent no to Monk. Plenty of production, not enough dominance.

176 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

He also lead the league 1 year in receiving yards per game, which is significant. The strongest case I can make for him is that he wasn't a true WR and was really a WR-TE hybrid who looks weak in comparison to WRs but amazing in comparison to TEs. And I don't just mean that he was a great blocker. I mean he was often on the field with 2 other WRs (much more so than Hines Ward) and was often held in to block (also much more than Ward). Again, not because he was a bad catcher (he was great) but because that was what would help the (run-heavy) team the most. The HOF voters also knocked him for having low YPC totals because they are stuck in the 70s when all receivers were deep threats and they don't understand the value of a reliable possession receiver like, say, Carter. Or Harrison, for that matter.

Here, read this:

28 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Tomlinson is not going to have any trouble making the Hall. He's had the best career of any RB since Sanders & Smith, almost beyond debate. The "compiler" argument is transparently ridiculous, given that he holds the single-season touchdown record. Players who are widely regarded as the best in the NFL at their position during their careers, who have a high peak and a long career, and who rack up a bunch of postseason awards (Pro Bowls and especially 1st Team All-Pros) get into the Hall. Especially at a glory position like RB, where there have been about 4 Hall of Famers per decade.

Reed: 89 AV, 8 PB, 5 AP
Strahan: 121 AV, 7 PB, 4 AP
Tomlinson: 124 AV, 5 PB, 3 AP
Welker: 55 AV, 4 PB, 2 AP
Gonzalez 102 AV, 12 PB, 5 AP

For comparison, Carter: 98 AV, 8 PB, 2 AP

33 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I hate to disagree with tanier...but i disagree. Ed reed should really be a shew in. Defensive mvp, loads of all pros and probowls, listed on the nfls top 100. I mean, i can understand if he was in an obvious batman to robin type of position like say if he were another linebacker or an opposite d end. But hes in the backfield with enough of a degree of separation and enough name recognition of his own that i think lewis' candidacy won't hurt him.

The other would be welker as many have stated above. I have always been of two minds about welker. Hes fundamentally the best short receiver of his generation and yet, as steve smith in nyg showed, if your team isn't based on a certain style of offense, that wideout can be rendered useless. In many ways, welker is the antithesis of desean jackson or mike wallace- who each might also be useless if they were paired with a team that didn't throw deep regularly.

All that to say, if the hall was generous enough with receivers, niche type receivers like welker and jackson would probably merit discussion, but since they're basically slamming the door on anyone and everyone, i doubt welker would nor should he make it.

I think the better argument should discuss around harrison. Harrison's statistics rival moss' and To's and he was part of a prolific and consistently great passing offense. However, he faces obstacles on two fronts: he never did anything in the postseason(save for one game against the broncos), and he played with manning. As a colts fan- when he left there were people who openly wondered how it would affect the colts and really, it didn't do much. Now certainly, harrison was an upgrade over garcon or blaire white, but the point was, manning like all great qbs, evolved just as the patriots evolved once moss' skills/persona wore down and they moved in a direction that allowed them to remain effective. Does that in the end diminish harrison? I'd like to think his career will speak for itself, but sadly, i think the peyton manning effect will be too much to bear.

40 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Re: Harrison

His numbers in his peak was easily that of Moss or TO. His career wasn't as long, and he probably deserves to go in after them, but he should be a HOF easy. I don't think the Manning effect will be too much to bear for Marvin (I think it will for Wayne, who's probably never going to have the numbers to merit that discussion anyway). Personally, I think it is ridiculous to say that Harrison put up numbers just because of Manning because some of his best years came early in his career when Manning wasn't really the 'Peyton F. Manning' that he was from 2003 on. It's not like TO and Moss had a litany of bad QBs (Garcia, McNabb, Romo for TO, Cunningham (at his best), Culpepper (again, at his best), Kerry Collins, Brady). Sure, that's not Peyton Manning (other than Brady), but that's not exactly Jake Delhomme (a big reason why I think Steve Smith will eventually get in). Now, Moss is probably a level above TO and Harrison in the way he is regarded (which, to me, is fair), but I don't think TO is all that much more worthy than Marvin.

46 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Cris Carter had significant years with Sean Salisbury, a broken down Jim McMahon, Rich Gannon before he knew how to play QB, and Wade Wilson throwing him the ball. Thankfully, this was before cell phones that could send pictures, so Carter was never traumatized by any communications with ol' Sean.

48 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I wasn't arguing Carter. I think it is a travesty it is taking him so long. I was comparing Harrison to Moss and Owens, who did most of their production with good to great QBs (Harrison of course had Peyton and two years with Harbaugh). I totally agree with you on Carter. He should be in the HOF.

247 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I've always personally considered TO far less worthy than Marvin simply because football is all about fitting in and being part of a team. Obviously in that regard they don't get much worse than TO. I would absolutely put Steve Smith in the Hall before Terrell, and I really don't think I could ever cast a vote for him if it was up to me. And yes, I am a lifelong Colts fan, but between the terrible teammate factor and TO's propensity for dropping very catchable passes I just see a lot of hype.

248 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

I've always personally considered TO far less worthy than Marvin simply because football is all about fitting in and being part of a team. Obviously in that regard they don't get much worse than TO. I would absolutely put Steve Smith in the Hall before Terrell, and I really don't think I could ever cast a vote for him if it was up to me. And yes, I am a lifelong Colts fan, but between the terrible teammate factor and TO's propensity for dropping very catchable passes I just see a lot of hype.

252 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

The interesting question about the Ravens defenders is who else is going in. Lewis & Reed will be automatics. Lewis is on the short list of players where you have to wonder for a second if he might be the best player of all time. (Not saying he is the best, just that you have to hesitate for a second.)

But will the Hall voters tag anyone else?

Of the current crop of Ravens, the most likely seem to be Ngata & Suggs. I feel like the D Player of the Year voters made an almost conscious decision this year to let Suggs into the Hall, vs giving the PoY award to Jared Allen. The award has a big impact on Suggs' candidacy.

Of past Ravens – well, Rod Woodson is already in from the Super Bowl defense. Siragusa & Sam Adams aren't going. Who else merits consideration? Boulware? McAlister?

254 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

List of defenders who started 32 or more games for the Ravens from 1998 to present, sorted by approximate value: http://pfref.com/tiny/Z7LwY

Lewis and Reed should be no brainers, I think Suggs and Ngata if he can keep going for a while make it.

I don't think McAlister makes it, only 3 probowls, and none of his career "similar players" are in the Hall.

266 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

The Ravens awesome defense in 2000 is an interesting example of a great unit comprised of mostly very good but not all-time great players. Woodson and Lewis, obviously, but there probably won't be a third HOFer off that historic defense.

35 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Gonzalez, Tomlinson, Strahan, and Reed (everyone but Welker) were on the NFL 2000s All-Decade First Team. Players who make the All-Decade First Team almost always make the Hall of Fame. Here are the exceptions, since the 1970s:

WR Cris Carter (1990s)
LB Kevin Greene (1990s)
S Steve Atwater (1990s)
S LeRoy Butler (1990s)
OT Jimbo Covert (1980s)
S Kenny Easley (1980s)
WR Drew Pearson (1970s)
S Cliff Harris (1970s)

Which suggests that Gonzalez, Tomlinson, and Strahan have very good odds.

110 Re: Walkthrough: The Sake of Argument

Hello, pro-Cowboys bias.

Two explanations come to mind:

1) Hall of Fame voters are systematically underrating Cowboys from the 1970s.

2) The All-Decade voters from the 1970s were systematically overrating the Cowboys.

The All-Decade team had 5 Cowboys, 3 of whom have made the Hall of Fame. By way of comparison, only three Steelers made the All-Decade team, even though they won 4 Super Bowls to 2 for the Cowboys.

I don't think there's a particularly strong argument to be made that Drew Pearson should be in the Hall of Fame, and is a victim of anti-Cowboy bias. Well, that depends on how you feel about Swann and Stallworth being in. Swann is considered one of the weakest WRs in the Hall, and yet in the 1970s, the clear consensus was that he was having a stronger decade than Pearson was (and the all-decade voting backs this up). The only other WRs in the Hall who were primarily a 70s WRs are Paul Warfield and Fred Biletnikoff. There just wasn't as much passing then.

Don't have much to say about Cliff Harris. Except that it's nearly impossible to make the Hall as a safety.