Hall of Fame Debates: Frank Gore

New York Jets RB Frank Gore
New York Jets RB Frank Gore
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Our Frank Gore discussion begins where few Pro Football Hall of Fame discussions should ever begin: on an all-time leaderboard.

Gore, currently a free agent who is likely to retire if the "right situation" (Chiefs, Buccaneers) doesn't soon arise, ranks third on the all-time rushing yards list. To save you from clicking over to Pro Football Reference, here is the all-time top 10 list. Note the year of retirement of each running back in the third column.

NFL All-Time Rushing Yardage Leaders
Name Yards Retirement Year
Emmitt Smith 18,355 2004
Walter Payton 16,726 1987
Frank Gore 16,000
Barry Sanders 15,269 1998
Adrian Peterson 14,820
Curtis Martin 14,101 2005
LaDainian Tomlinson 13,684 2011
Jerome Bettis 13,662 2005
Eric Dickerson 13,259 1993
Tony Dorsett 12,739 1988

When we discussed Matt Ryan two weeks ago, I said that the all-time passing leaderboard is nearly useless for a Hall of Fame argument. That's because the top of the passing leaderboards is in constant flux. There are four quarterbacks among the top 10 in passing yards who were active in 2020, with a fifth (Aaron Rodgers) 235 yards away from cracking it, plus two others (the Brothers Manning) who retired in the last six years. The all-time passing boards are not lists of all-time greats, but lists of recent greats and very-goods.

The rushing board, on the other hand, features two active players and only one other running back who played within the last decade. What's more, there is no one remotely threatening the top 10. While passing rates have been increasing for decades, rushing rates and the productive lengths of running back careers have been in decline. Therefore, career rushing yardage remains a reliable gauge of excellence, or at least of uniqueness and long-term impact.

The top 14 eligible all-time rushers are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The yardage leader among non-Hall of Famers, Fred Taylor, is: A) over 4,000 yards behind Gore and B) considered Hall of Fame-worthy himself by many folks who know what they are talking about. So at first glance, Frank Gore appears to be overwhelmingly qualified for enshrinement. But we should probably take a closer look.

Hall of Very Good for Very Long

The problem with including Gore among a group of all-time greats, as pointed out by skeptics whenever his candidacy is brought up either on Twitter or our comment threads, is that he was never truly great.

Not only has Gore never led the NFL in any major rushing statistic, but he only cracked the top five in rushing yards once, finishing third with 1,695 yards in 2006. That was the only year he ever finished in the top five in scrimmage yards too. He never reached the top five in rushing touchdowns or offensive touchdowns.

DVOA and DYAR won't help Gore's cause much. If someone building a Gore portfolio came to Football Outsiders for help (this occasionally happens), we'd be forced to admit that Gore only cracked the top 10 in rushing DVOA in 2012 and the top 10 in DYAR three times (seventh in 2006, fourth in 2012, 10th in 2014). We'll go into Gore's DYAR more in a moment, but he doesn't really qualify as "better than his raw numbers suggest" from an analytics perspective.

The two most similar players to Gore on the rushing leaderboard—long careers, few seasons of true excellence—are Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis. Martin won a rushing title in 2004 and finished second and third in two other seasons. Bettis finished second in rushing once and third twice. We'll talk more about Bettis later, but both his peak seasons and Martin's are more impressive than Gore's peak seasons.

That said, it's easy to name two fairly recent recent inductees who are similar to Gore in Martin and Bettis, but impossible to list players similar to Gore who are NOT in the Hall of Fame unless you dig down to guys such as Taylor and Corey Dillon, who again finished their careers thousands of yards behind him. That alone is a pretty ringing endorsement of Gore's candidacy. But it's unlikely to convince a Gore skeptic.

Peak Value vs. Career Value vs. DYAR

Old-timey Bill James readers know that James began differentiating peak value from career value for baseball players back in the 1980s. The terms are self-explanatory, and it's obvious how they pertain to Gore: he has very high career value but very low (by Hall of Fame standards) peak value.

It's worth noting here that based solely on rushing and receiving DYAR, Gore barely nips Taylor and Dillon. Here are the figures for some guys who are relevant to our discussion:

Frank Gore and Other Notable Running Backs
Name Rushing DYAR Receiving DYAR Total DYAR
Curtis Martin 1,542 360 1,902
Jerome Bettis 1,721 55 1,776
Frank Gore 1,289 484 1,773
Corey Dillon 1,455 263 1,718
Fred Taylor 1,362 340 1,702
Adrian Peterson 1,485 212 1,697
Marshawn Lynch 1,340 192 1,532

Regular-season DYAR isn't designed to be a Hall of Fame prediction tool; among other shortcomings, it ignores playoff accomplishments and doesn't filter out the impact of a player's supporting cast. That said, the table above provides a useful map of the Hall of Fame borderline at running back. It rehabilitates Bettis, whom I think many fans risk writing off as merely a media darling with RINGZ. It places Marshawn Lynch, who certainly has some Hall of Fame supporters, a notch below the other borderline cases. Peterson's career DYAR looks surprisingly low, but of course he's a Hall of Famer because of his stratospheric peak.

All of that said, it's clear that the DYAR chart above can be used by both the defense to argue that Gore is in the same category as Bettis/Martin and by the prosecution to claim he ranks among Dillon and Taylor.

It's hard to say if any player has reached the Pro Football Hall of Fame exclusively on "career value." Longtime Rams guard Jackie Slater springs to mind as one possibility. So does Charlie Joiner, whose case was helped by a few mammoth seasons just after the 1978 rule changes, which planted him atop the all-time receiving yardage list for several years. Most of the long career/iffy peak enshrinees have a story attached to their careers, such George Blanda or Bettis. On the flip side, there are lots of players with long, fine careers who never reached the Hall of Fame: Jim Marshall, Mike Kenn, Clay Matthews Jr., and others.

Matthews is an interesting comp for Gore, as he was among the finalists for the 2021 class. As a member of a famous family who played on a memorable team (the Dawg Pound Browns) for some legendary coaches (Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Belichick), Matthews has the sort of "story" that should have given him a leg up on other candidates on last year's ballot, especially since voters knew he would be shipped off to the Seniors committee if he didn't get in. It still wasn't enough.

Gore could end up trapped in semifinalist/finalist limbo for years like Matthews as the voters shunt players with more glittery peaks in front of him. But there are good reasons to think that will not be the case.

Logjams and Storylines

Clay Matthews found himself trapped on recent Hall of Fame ballots with Sam Mills and Zach Thomas, two vaguely similar linebackers, plus a growing logjam of other qualified defenders. Based on my discussions with voters over the last few years, Thomas is slowly bubbling to the top of the ballot, while Mills stayed among finalists thanks to some assertive fan campaigning and a few diehard voters banging the table for him. Meanwhile, the committee spent each year trying to sort out a logjam of safeties which is finally clearing out. There was neither bandwidth nor room on the ballot for Matthews.

Gore will face no such issue. He and Adrian Peterson should retire at about the same time. Peterson will be waved through on the first ballot. Gore probably will not, but he will end up as the only running back on the ballot, perhaps for many, many years; Marshawn, LeSean McCoy and others are likely to max out as semifinalists.

Edgerrin James reached the Hall of Fame in 2020 after a brief tour of finalist purgatory. James was qualified but not overwhelmingly qualified. He breezed past Matthews and players who waited for years (John Lynch, various offensive linemen) because he didn't have to split the ballot with any other running backs. Gore could enter Canton through a similar EZ Pass, low-occupancy lane.

But even as the only running back on the ballot, Gore will need a stronger case than "lots o' career yards." Voters will be skeptical of why they should select Gore over the seven or eight longtime finalists who are sure to be on the ballot in any given year. That brings us back around to Jerome Bettis.

Bettis was a "storyline" Hall of Famer to some degree: the lovable wrecking ball, the kid who overcame severe asthma, the Steelers throwback who won a Super Bowl (simmer down, Seahawks fans) in his Detroit hometown. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is full of storyline guys who also happened to be excellent players, if not much better than a few contemporaries who failed to capture the national imagination quite as thoroughly. Some fans feel resentful toward storyline Hall of Famers, particularly if they don't like the story: Bengals fans are sick of having Steel Curtains waved in their face, Broncos fans of the 1970s don't want to hear any more Raiders biker stories, and so forth. Those feelings can calcify into something bitter, but there's a legitimate argument to be made that the Hall of Fame really should make a better effort to enshrine players from weaker teams.

If you subscribe to that argument, then Frank Gore is absolutely the Hall of Fame candidate for you.

Gore spent the first six years of his career on miserable 49ers teams. Think about it: the first six years of a running back's career are typically his entire productive career. Todd Gurley just completed his sixth season and he's ready to be put to pasture. If you like to argue about what would happen if Terry Bradshaw and Archie Manning switched places, well, hook Gore up with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in the late 2000s, or put him behind the Seahawks, Chiefs, or Broncos offensive lines at the time. Even Taylor's Jaguars were typically much better teams than Gore's 49ers at their peaks, to say nothing of the teams that Martin and Bettis (once he reached the Steelers) played for. Both Gore's raw totals and DYAR/DVOA were both harmed by playing for an organization which was dysfunctional for years.

But Gore didn't languish and disappear. He persevered and helped the 49ers achieve greatness for a few seasons. He rushed for 110 yards and one touchdown in a close Super Bowl loss. Gore's achievements from 2011 to 2013 are easy to forget, because the 49ers' peak under Jim Harbaugh was brief and memories of Colin Kaepernick send our brains skittering off on sociopolitical tangents. But ignoring those 49ers would be as much of a mistake by the Hall of Fame as ignoring the mid-1970s Broncos has been.

The last six years of Gore's career can be dismissed as stat-padding, with the caveat that no other running back has ever been able to add 5,000 yards of "padding" after age 32. Also, Gore's Colts seasons would look different if Andrew Luck's career turned out differently. But hey, tell us more about how Gore was never "truly great" when he kept landing in bad situation after bad situation.

Yes, I am being overly argumentative; this series is called "Hall of Fame Debates," after all. Gore qualifies as a "storyline Hall of Famer" in his own way: the guy who tore his ACL twice in college but became a durable iron man, who helped turn a franchise around, who eventually spent years as such a respected elder statesman that not even a rabid gerbil like Adam Gase could hold a grudge against him.

That story, plus 16,000 rushing yards, should carry a lot of weight. It also undercuts any claim that Gore is just a good running back who hung around forever, because history tells us that it's nearly impossible for a running back to "hang around" in the NFL. (They aren't slugging first basemen who can DH for six years). Therefore, there was likely much more to Gore's peak than what we can see when applying the black ink or DYAR tests.

Would I vote for Gore? Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors don't really "vote" for anyone: they whittle a large group down to 15, then 10, then five. I wouldn't vote for Gore among a five that included, say, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, and two LeRoy Butler-type forever-finalists. But I would look for room for him among my top five in a ballot that isn't overloaded with Mount Rushmore types. I am guessing selectors will feel the same way. There should be room in Canton for a player like Gore. Because frankly, there aren't really any other players quite like Gore.


168 comments, Last at 06 Jul 2021, 4:45pm

#1 by theslothook // Jun 28, 2021 - 11:00am

Is Vinny testaverde a Hall of famer? Is London Fletcher a Hall of famer?

I'll be curious to see how many people share my view because I think Gore is a flat no and I'm really not persuaded by the counter arguments, without a full redesigning of the Hall of Fame criteria.

In an earlier thread I thought Terrell Davis was not a Hall of famer because his career was just too short. Gore is the photo negative of that situation where his career feels almost exclusively about longevity.

And really outside of his 49ers days is there anything about his career worth celebrating? Did he somehow pad his Hall of Fame resume with his stints in New York or Indianapolis? Remarkably I think he did somehow in the eyes of people.

Outside of one season Gore never produced like a Hall of Fame back. His longevity is something to be lauded and deserves recognition in some way, but you need to be a lot more than Old reliable to me to be a Hall of famer.

A nice acid test, would you rather have Corey Dillon or Frank Gore? For me I'd easily rather have Corey Dillon and Corey Dillon is not going to make the Hall of Fame.


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#9 by Pat // Jun 28, 2021 - 1:15pm

A nice acid test, would you rather have Corey Dillon or Frank Gore? For me I'd easily rather have Corey Dillon and Corey Dillon is not going to make the Hall of Fame.

Really? Dillon's peak wasn't really that much higher than Gore's, by FO. By conventional stats I can line up Dillon and Gore's best seasons and Gore fares relatively well. Yeah, Dillon's best season by yards/game was a bit higher, but Gore's best seasons by yards/carry were better. 

What about Fred Taylor? Because considering Taylor hit the semifinalist's ballot after only 4 years of eligibility, he's likely getting in. Either that, or Mike's wrong and both Taylor and Gore are going to be hanging around on the ballot cuz Taylor's doesn't fall off for 14 more years. To me if Taylor gets in (which... just massive cognitive dissonance there, but whatever) I think Gore's much closer to that cut. I still think Taylor's a better candidate than him, although to me that's not saying much.

But I also have no idea how you let Taylor in and not LeSean McCoy, and Mike seems to think McCoy will top out as a semifinalist, so that would suggest that Gore's farther from the bar.

I mean, me, I look at Taylor, McCoy, Dillon, and Gore and say "are you kidding?" But it's clear I have a higher bar for stat guys than most people.

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#2 by jimbohead // Jun 28, 2021 - 11:42am

Beyond the career totals, you can see Gore's value in how he performed against stacked defenses. I forget where this article ran (probably PFF 4 years ago?), but the Harbaugh years were remarkable for managing an average rushing ypc and DVOA against almost exclusively 8-man boxes. I imagine it would be similar for Gore's earlier years: very good work in an unbelievably adverse context.

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#3 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 11:43am

to crack the top 5 any year.

"Hang around" due to unbelievable health is a thing. Not really a skill. He's been signed the last few years because he's an unaging meme at this point. I'm not gonna diminish others because their bodies broke down at a normal rate. Also not gonna prop someone (w/the HOF at least) because they hung around abnormally, otherwise Jim Marshall is in.

Terrell Davis is certainly a HOFr. Gore (and so many others) could only wish (t)he(y) could have the awards TD got. Doing it in a short is only more impressive. He packed about 3 careers into 1 short one. Impressive.

But being 3rd all time in yards, just means he got a lot of carries. And it so happens to be he's 3rd all time in carries. That lines up appropriately. Talk to me when you're alone at the top otherwise the top 3(5? 10?) arbitrary cutoff does nothing for me in this regard. At least Curtis Martin was a unanimous 1st team all pro at one point. And won OROTY. Neither things Gore got.

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#40 by Scott P. // Jun 28, 2021 - 5:59pm

"Hang around" due to unbelievable health is a thing. Not really a skill.

Being durable is absolutely a skill, at least as much as being able to throw accurately or have good hands. What's the proverb? "The best ability is availability."

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#44 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 6:37pm

Injuries, or lack thereof, is almost entirely luck, and even more so, out of their hands. We're talking about the HOF, not signing someone under a salary cap because their body betrays them a lot. 

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#74 by Noahrk // Jun 29, 2021 - 12:59pm

Strongly disagree that injuries are a matter of luck. There might be an element of luck (the crushing hit in just the wrong place), but some bodies are more durable than others.

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#87 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 3:17pm

Yes, durability has a large genetic component, just like speed, and nobody fails to get credit for being fast. Training methods also affect durability.

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#91 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 4:16pm

they can't really control such things and blaming players for such a thing, like Terrell Davis, is ridiculous just because they can't rack up 3rd or whatever arbitrary number, in total volume. 

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#163 by David // Jul 03, 2021 - 5:21am

They can't really control speed, or balance, or any of the other innate attributes of being an athlete. Health is no different.

It's not about blame, it's relevant to acknowledge, at the end of their career, that Gore was more durable than Davis. That shouldn't be any more controversial a statement than saying Davis had a higher peak than Gore

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#4 by justanothersteve // Jun 28, 2021 - 12:01pm

"... Jim Marshall, Mike Kenn, Clay Matthews Sr., and others." Believe that should be CM Junior. Senior is not in the HoF, but I don't think he was ever in the discussion. The Packers LB was CM III.

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#16 by Aaron Schatz // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:13pm

We forgot there were three of them!

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#42 by DavidL // Jun 28, 2021 - 6:17pm

This is getting out of hand.

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#57 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 10:08am

Does the one who played for the Packers have any sons, and if so, what are they named?

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#166 by Pat // Jul 05, 2021 - 10:10pm

As you're guessing, there are, in fact, *four* of them: Clay the 3rd does have a son.

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#5 by Displaced Bill… // Jun 28, 2021 - 12:05pm

Quantity has a quality all it's own

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#59 by Joey-Harringto… // Jun 29, 2021 - 10:18am

+1 for the mis-attributed Josef Stalin reference.

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#6 by theslothook // Jun 28, 2021 - 12:42pm

I'll throw this out there. If both players were coming out of the draft and their careers played out the same(except without the playoff results since that's a function of a lot of things outside of your control), would you take Gore or TD?

My contrarian pick would be Gore surprisingly.

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#19 by JimZipCode // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:30pm

I bitterly object to excluding Terrell Davis' playoff results from any evaluation of him.

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#25 by JimZipCode // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:17pm

I'll throw this out there. If both players were coming out of the draft and their careers played out the same(except without the playoff results since that's a function of a lot of things outside of your control), would you take Gore or TD?
My contrarian pick would be Gore surprisingly.

I can see the argument.  If you're drafting, you'd rather get 12 excellent seasons out of a back, than 4.  More bites at the apple for your team to win a championship.  That's reasonable.
(And in fact Gore went in the 3rd and TD was undrafted, so a lot of GMs shared your eval when they were coming out of college.)

I guess the counter would be, if you were a hardcore "never sign a RB to a second contract" guy, then on draft day all that matters is their first 4 seasons.  Gore's first 4 seasons were very good; but they werent TD's.

But that's the not thought experiment I wanted to put to you.  My question for you is, if you MUST put exactly one of Terrell Davis or Frank Gore into the Hall, which would you pick?

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#30 by theslothook // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:42pm

This is an easy question to answer. I would put Terrell Davis. I view Terrell Davis' accomplishments as more extraordinary and Hall of Fame worthy than Gore's accomplishments. 

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#7 by Raiderfan // Jun 28, 2021 - 1:02pm

Another week of great content. Another week of poor display on my iPad.

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#22 by TimK // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:52pm

In reply to by Raiderfan

After much mucking about I can say that it works OK on my iPad at 85% zoom in landscape. If that is any help depending on eyesight etc... Good luck!

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#8 by Noahrk // Jun 28, 2021 - 1:11pm

"Based on my discussions with voters over the last few years, Thomas is slowly bubbling to the top of the ballot,"

About bloody time.

What I really want to talk about, though, is Marshawn. I'd much rather see him in the Hall than Gore, even though Gore is bland, fine choice. Lynch has the peak -he was called beast because he WAS a beast-, the signature moments -I was going to say, jokingly, his signature moment was when he didn't get the ball at the 1 in the Super Bowl before realizing you could actually say that seriously; there's also famous his beast-mode carry-, and his career DYAR totals are not far from that of those other guys who are or will be in the Hall. Also, he's got the "fame" part down pat. Enshrine him, enshrine him, I say!

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#10 by Will Allen // Jun 28, 2021 - 1:18pm

I'm kind of ambivalent on Gore. Which I suspect is going to be a fairly common response among the selectors. He really is the rb version of Jim Marshall (I think Kenn should be in), but it is even more remarkable to do that at rb, first 6 years on a bad team, and I'm a huge proponent of evaluating qbs&rbs in team context. On the other hand, I also judge players by how opponents adjust their schemes to handle that player. Don't know how much opponents made such adjustments for Gore.

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#11 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 28, 2021 - 1:33pm

It can't be overstated just how bad an offensive environment Gore was placed in as a rookie.

From 2004-2010, the 49ers averaged a passing DVOA of -18.8%. That's the worst seven-year stretch in DVOA history. That's the offense Frank Gore found himself in; an offense where defenses didn't have to respect even the hint of the pass, and instead could load up the box with seven or eight guys in nearly every situation.

Gore was the fourth-leading rusher in the league in his first six seasons, despite wallowing in that offense -- and the three guys above him all had about 400 more carries than he had. He was second behind Adrian Peterson in yards per carry in those six seasons among backs with 1,000 carries.

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#13 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:08pm

Seem to be fudging the numbers to include the year they earned the #1 pick outright by a whopping 2 games. 

Are we going to put Brian Mitchell in for only being behind Rice for the most All Purpose yards? 

If 2020 was their last year give me Lesean 11/10 times

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#17 by Bryan Knowles // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:14pm

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

That's the numbers I had from the anti-dynasty article, but if you'd prefer...

The 49ers had a -20.1% passing DVOA from 2005-2010, the worst six-year stretch in DVOA history.  The 2004 team actually raised their average DVOA by a significant margin.

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#18 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:25pm

6, 7, whatever arbitrary cutoff, just tells me when he gets better a team he's more or less the same. Especially if it's just one portion of the game (and of course we're assuming they were just naturally bad and loaded the box when they could be bad in part due to...non loaded boxes). Gore was just kinda consistently there, like Brian Mitchell. 

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#46 by comfect // Jun 28, 2021 - 10:04pm

Counterpoint: as a fan of the Seahawks, during that time I was legitimately worried about Frank Gore and did not care about the rest of their team. I am not sure Frank Gore deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but he was definitely dragged down by how awful that team was around him. And if that's his first six years, and he's an RB, so it's actually pretty impressive to be "more or less the same" after wasting the first six years that way.

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#47 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 11:34pm

IDK what we're supposed to assume just because he didn't have a perfect team. The greats overcome it to some degree. 

I also mean he got legend Joe Staley starting in 07. Larry Allen in 06 (hmm, best year) & 07. And I truly wonder when they started loading the box when the 49ers drafted Alex Smith #1 (aka ya gotta respect the supposed best player in that draft over a 3rd rounder and 3rd offensive rookie picked by that team).

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#49 by Duff Soviet Union // Jun 29, 2021 - 6:49am

"didn't have a perfect team" is a laughable understatement. That was one of the worst stretches in NFL history.

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#54 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 9:16am

ONLY looking at PASSING is weird, especially without context. Like I said, which no one will address, doesn't mean they loaded the box for 05 RB6 instead of trying to stop 05 QB1. That's not my first intuition. And they suddenly become good, not in any part to Gore at all really tbh, when Harbaugh comes and helps Smith have a career year (of course, that's positional value but still true). 

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#50 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 8:08am

Being 2nd in  the league in Y.P.C. in that stretch, among backs with 1000+ carries, is overcoming it to some degree.

People are writing as if he was JAG. It's a little silly.

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#53 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 9:10am

What a weird random stat that no one cares about. So he suddenly gets a team and...nothing changes? Only looking at the first 7 (actually 6, wow arbitrary cutoff)? Like, is THAT what yall remember? I remember Joe Staley more so, so that's why I brought him up last time.

And like said below, Ryan winning an MVP = no. Gore sticking around long enough to get volume stats = yes? Get Ryan one more PB and he's tied the like of his own position in HOF Jim Kelly and the same with Gore here. No need to talk about total yards.

Here are the RBs with 5+ PB that arent in (with league championships; 1st Team All Pro selections):

Adrian Peterson (0;4)

Lesean McCoy (2;2)

Mike Alstott (1;3) 

Don Perkins (0;1)

Marshawn Lynch (1;1)

Frank Gore (0;0)

Ricky Watters (1;0)

Chuck Foreman (0;1)

Greg Pruitt (1;0)

Lawrence McCutcheon (0;0)

Jon Arnett (0;1)

Keith Lincoln (1;2)

Michael Bates (0;1)

There's a lot people that are never getting in there. Don't think he's near the ones that are though. Not a JAG list to be on but not really that hard either. 

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#56 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 9:49am

The first 6 or 7 years of a rb's career is a very significant chunk, and if you don't care about yards per carry, whatever. 16,000 yards is 16,000 yards. For something so obviously "not hard", it's strange that only a couple others have done it. Ususally, things that are "not hard" to accomplish are done with some frequency.

Like I wrote previously, I'm sort of ambivalent on Gore, but I could be persuaded if I were convinced that the context of the start of his career was one where opposing defenses were overwhelmingly loading boxes to prevent him from being productive. I simply didn't watch the  12+  Niners games a year needed to have a confident opinion on the matter. "I don't know" is a too-seldom used option.

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#92 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 4:29pm

I just don't care about total volume unless your #1 maybe #2 (not really though) but he's #3. 

That's not the "not hard" part. The hard part is expecting every player to get the 3rd most amount of carries (while not having the 3rd most TDs btw) and look at the relative quality. Plenty of RBs have gotten at least 5 PB nods, no ringz and no 1st team All Pros. Some you've never heard of. Not gonna blame them for putting in the same quality while just not playing an extra 10 years. 

I just think it'd have to be a weak class for him to be top 5 one year...like I said originally. Maybe it comes it someday but I don't see any reason for him to jump clearly superior guys like AP, Lesean, Marshawn, etc.

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#96 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 5:37pm

If we are going to "RINGZ!" running backs evaluations, I suppose that'd be one way to make the PFHOF an even sillier place.

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#97 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 5:50pm

with a z. It's an argument used (heavily in the Ryan article) and Gore can't even latch onto that (doesn't even have multiple CCG winz! An argument used heavily for Jim Kelly getting in).

That wasn't the main point though. 5 PBs and no 1st team All Pros aint really that special (especially in this amount of time) otherwise a ton of others would be in (like all the dudes I listed who had the same or more). 

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#14 by Will Allen // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:11pm

That really is a strong argument for Gore. I didn't watch enough of the Niners in those years to have an opinion on it, but if Gore did that against consistently loaded boxes, designed to stop him, yeah he probably is deserving.

The reason I think DYAR understates Adrian Peterson's value is because opposing defenses were so overloading to counter him; quite reasonably so when it is Tavaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerrotte, The Corpse of Donovan McNabb, The Ponderous One, Matt Cassell, Intriguing Joe Webb, etc., handing off. The one year in Peterson's first 7 that he was paired with competent quarterbacking the Vikings finished 4th in passing DYAR, 15th in rushing DYAR, but Favre was the 1st to say that their offense was built around Peterson, and passing against boxed overloaded to stop Peterson.

Gore probably has a better argument that many suppose.

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#37 by Noahrk // Jun 28, 2021 - 5:00pm

A better argument for being a better player than people suppose, maybe, but I don't think that carries any weight in a HoF argument. Archie Manning might have been way better than his stats suggest, but he'll never sniff the HoF. The Hall is for achievements and compiling solid stats against great adversity might be impressive, but it's not enough to put someone in the Hall for me.

AP is a different animal because his stats were still impressive despite the loaded boxes, just like most top WRs face more double-teams but still have to produce in order to be considered great.

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#51 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 8:13am

16, 000 yards is a solid stat. 2nd in the league in Y.P.C. through 1st 7 seasons, among backs with 1000+ carries, while on a crappy roster, is a solid stat. These are tremendous achievements.

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#27 by Harris // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:23pm

Donovan McNabb consistently put up good-to-great numbers while playing with some of the worst WR corps in the NFL. Nobody is making excuses to put him in the Hall.

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#31 by Pat // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:47pm


Actually, McNabb's post-career issues probably torched any chance of him getting to even the semifinal level. Otherwise I wouldn't've been surprised.

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#32 by Will Allen // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:48pm

If McNabb retired with a top 5 passing yards total, he'd be in. If he'd had a top two yards per attempt over a 7 year period, he'd be in.

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#89 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jun 29, 2021 - 3:52pm

Is there value in looking at a players DVOA compared to the teams DVOA in that area? Is DVOA a real database yet so that you can spend a few minutes writing a query to quickly get data like that to analyze? I know that process was ongoing and I know from experience that it's not always easy to create a real database from spreadsheets so taking awhile isn't an issue, but I'm very excited for the possibilities when it is done.

Without good tools I'm willing to grab 4 years so I can see:
2005: Team - 428 attempts. Gore - 128 (29.9%). Team rushing DVOA: -15.1%. Gore: 8.4%
2006: Team - 438 attempts. Gore - 312 (71.2%). Team rushing DVOA: 1.7%. Gore 9.6%
2007: Team - 357 attempts. Gore - 312 (87.4%). Team rushing DVOA: -7.5%. Gore 4.4%
2008: Team - 397 attempts. Gore - 240 (60.5%). Team rushing DVOA: -14.3%. Gore -3.9%

I'm not going to manually dig further, especially since I haven't really thought about what this is telling us. But it does look like the rushing offense was really bad to downright awful but that Gore was significantly better than what the rest of the team was able to do. Obviously the rookie season where he didn't get the bulk of the rushing attempts is significantly different. I should have gone to 2009, but if I'm completely wasting my time....

When I look at the Terrell Davis Broncos I see:
1995: Team - 440 attempts. TD - 237 (53.9%). Team rushing DVOA: 11.3%. TD: 14.3%
1996: Team - 525 attempts. TD - 340 (64.8%). Team rushing DVOA: 7.0%. TD: 16.0%
1997: Team - 520 attempts. TD - 369 (71.0%). Team rushing DVOA: 22.8%. TD: 22.6%
1998: Team - 525 attempts. TD - 392 (74.7%). Team rushing DVOA: 28.8%. TD: 26.5%

So that looks like a team that is really good to other worldly at running and a running back, with the exception of 1996 where he was noticeably better than the rest of the team, does what the team does. I only picked the TD Broncos because I already had that data from another post I decided wasn't worth posting so I knew that TD's rush DVOA tracked the teams pretty closely. I had no idea until writing this what Gores would do, but suspected that it would be better than the teams numbers.


Now again, legit question, does this mean ANYTHING? Without knowing the DVOA formula I do know there is stuff that affects team DVOA that doesn't affect individual, and there are definite caveats to the player DVOA. Without all that in front of me I can't even remotely judge if baselines really mess things up so that of course 13 Alex Smith attempts for 89 yards is going to crater team DVOA in 2007 and 50 John Elway attempts for 218 yards in 1997 is going to push team DVOA way way up or something like that. Is there only value in looking at what other RB do on the same team? So is it only fair to see that Derek Loville had 34.2% DVOA on 25 carries in 1997 and that Maurice Hicks was -9.6% on 21 carries in 2007? The small sample sizes there really worry me. If there is value in player vs team (for players that are a large part of the team value) is seemed that value might be in seeing that the team DVOA dropped or rose or stayed the same in the 13 - 40% of the plays the players wasn't the primary generator of the DVOA. That with seeing if there was a significant difference that we could get an idea of the quality of the rest of the team. For rushing looking at that along with some of the line stats might shed some light on team quality vs player quality.

I don't think doing this exercise can really say a whole lot, but it was a thought for trying to quantify the effects of team quality on player performance. I know there is A LOT of noise in the data I'm using and I already pointed out some of the problems. But am I missing something else that really pancakes this, or that actually gives it a little bit of support to help give it some value? Does this give any insight at all into try to sort that mess out?

I poked at something like this for WR on the same team once but usage patterns really screw with that data. So I already had some more warnings that this might be completely futile.


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#12 by CHIP72 // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:07pm

...is mentioned in the last paragraph of the article, because one can easily argue that Fitzgerald at the wide receiver position is analogous to Frank Gore at the running back position in their era. Fitzgerald had a longer, sustained peak (2005 to 2008/2009) than Gore, but his peak compared to other top wide receivers of his era was more very good than great. Fitzgerald was also probably not on most people's short lists of top wide receivers in the game in any of those seasons excluding possibly 2008.

Perhaps more notably, one can argue that Fitzgerald has been even more of a compiler than Gore since the early 2010s. Somewhat amazingly, in the nine seasons since 2012 Fitzgerald has had exactly ONE season with a positive DVOA rating (2015, when he had Pro Bowl level stats).

Though I think Larry Fitzgerald has had a better (though probably less unique) NFL career than Frank Gore, I think many of the pros and cons of Gore's Hall of Fame argument also apply to Fitzgerald. Fitz is more analogous to guys like Art Monk and Charlie Joiner (both of whom had to wait a few years for PFHOF induction) than to guys like Jerry Rice.

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#15 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:12pm

11 is 2nd to Rice. 2 more than the next closest. 11 is a lot regardless of position too...

Also has the unanimous 1st team all pro in 08 with some mentions in 07, 09, 11 and 15. And, like Lesean I mentioned above, if 2020 was their last year, Fitz is yet another guy I'm choosing over Gore. 

Fitz also got a WPMOTY fwiw.

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#20 by CHIP72 // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:35pm

...and it helps to be a popular player.  Larry Fitzgerald is widely regarded as one of the most liked players of his generation.  I suspect many of his Pro Bowl selections, which are based on players', coaches', and fans' votes, are a direct result of that.  My guess is people in all three groups, especially the fans and players, would see Fitzgerald's season stats and say "oh, Larry Fitzgerald caught 107 passes - he's a Pro Bowler for sure!" and not look as closely at his yardage totals or yards/catch totals.  (In 2016, the year Fitzgerald led the NFL with 107 catches that I'm using as an example, he averaged 9.6 yards per catch, an absurdly low yards/catch figure for a wide receiver.)

Even Fitzgerald's All-Pro votes have probably been partially a product of his popularity.  The writers who vote for the All-Pro teams probably want to say "we get it, guys on weaker teams can be very good"; they want to show they understand that.  Fitzgerald has usually had very good raw catch numbers, which are usually the primary statistic All-Pro (and Pro Bowl) voters notice with wide receivers; they pay less attention to receivers' yardage totals and especially their yards/catch totals (which in Fitzgerald's case have often been unimpressive since about 2012).  With Fitzgerald's likeability, he's probably received votes over comparable or somewhat better wide receivers who didn't stand out as much personality-wise and/or were not as likeable.

As I noted above, I think Larry Fitzgerald is a more Hall of Fame worthy player than Frank Gore (who I probably WOULD select because his extreme longevity at a good quality of play is very unusual for a running back and an extreme quantity of pretty good quality has real value in and of itself), but Fitzgerald is much more analogous to guys like Charlie Joiner and Art Monk than he is to guys like Jerry Rice or Marvin Harrison, just like Gore is much more analogous to guys like John Riggins and Jerome Bettis than he is to guys like Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.

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#26 by Pat // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:23pm

Pro Bowls post 2008 for QBs/WRs really have to be derated, especially if you just use PFR's "Pro Bowl" count. Once they moved it to before the Super Bowl, the number of replacement players shot up, and as the best QBs/WRs tend to be those in the Super Bowl, well... there were 98 "Pro Bowlers" in 2008. 7 QBs, 8 WRs. There were 119 "Pro Bowlers" in 2018. Eleven QBs, 12 WRs. In general, QB/WR Pro Bowl nods have just gotten really, really bad overall.

Fitz has, for instance, probably the worst Pro Bowl nod in history, in 2012. That being said dropping Fitz down to 8 (or even 6-7, since 16/17 weren't great selections either) doesn't really change the fact that you'd probably still put him in.

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#29 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:38pm

But if it were solely popularity Gore would have more. Is he less likable than Fitz? Maybe but straight up unlikable? Doubtful, part of the reason he keeps getting paid (I imagine).

Most catches on not the most targets? While having >1k? Yeah fine by me. Gotta bring up the alternative if you're gonna say no go. 

You think they're paying more attention to catches than yards? Really? Feel it's the exact opposite. And Fitz personality wise I feel like that's where he's like Gore. Just kinda there. Nothing really to talk about. Surprised they kept getting money the last few years. 

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#33 by CHIP72 // Jun 28, 2021 - 4:00pm

...SHOULDN'T be in the PFHOF.  Here's a direct quote of what I said in the comment you responded to:

"I think Larry Fitzgerald is a more Hall of Fame worthy player than Frank Gore (who I probably WOULD select because his extreme longevity at a good quality of play is very unusual for a running back and an extreme quantity of pretty good quality has real value in and of itself)."

I think the first half of that quote implies I DO think Larry Fitzgerald should eventually be inducted into the PFHOF.

The key point I said above is that Larry Fitzgerald at WR is analogous to Frank Gore at RB during their shared era, and the two players should be viewed similarly when it comes to their PFHOF cases (though IMO Fitzgerald has an edge over Gore, albeit not a big one).

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#43 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 28, 2021 - 6:34pm

I didn't say you didn't. lol I understood what you said. I was just expanding on how they're different. 

I think Larry is clearly better. I guess you think it's not much. I think it's quite easy to see a good size gap. Even if you think '16 wasn't PB worthy, he's still 2nd behind Rice. Take away another random one and he's just...t-2nd. He was good for quite a while. Not all unanimous All Pro great but Pro Bowl good for quite a few years. 

Also: Pro Bowls are a proxy. The things are announced weeks before the end of the season so if you take the last couple weeks off...retroactively looking at the totals for the season, can be a bit iffy because if you and your team have things locked up and ya rest a bit more, it can hurt. All Pro voting is done after the whole thing is wrapped up. And regarding PB voting for total catches over yards, I'm betting people vote for the leader in both catches and yards (and TDs) almost evenly. And as we know aDOT is a big factor in total yards since it influences Y/Rec so that stat as we know is a little murky. 

Points: 0

#62 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 11:26am

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Even if you think '16 wasn't PB worthy, he's still 2nd behind Rice. Take away another random one and he's just...t-2nd.

Oh my God, you can't compare Rice's Pro Bowls to Fitz's. If you're comparing to guys pre-2008, Fitz doesn't have 11 Pro Bowl selections, he has 8. He was an injury replacement in the others, and "injury replacements" were way less common pre-2008. Certainly none of Rice's were injury replacements, and I doubt any of Brown, Harrison, or Cris Carter's were (and obviously no way on the older guys).

The 2016 and 17 Pro Bowl selections weren't great, but Fitz basically made it there because he was basically top of the league in receptions. Which is something - in some sense a WR can only catch the passes he's thrown, and he did that. So they're not horrible picks - especially in 17, where there's not necessarily an obviously-better choice. 16 definitely would've been better served with probably Jordy Nelson.

But that being said, 8 Pro Bowls puts him, well, tied for 3rd. In the extreme case of lopping off the 16/17 picks, that's still at "average Hall" level. Which actually makes sense to me - Fitz feels like an average Hall of Famer boosted up to "obvious" by a bit of an inflated reputation.

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#93 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 4:35pm

It's ONLY eight!!! They're too common you think? Guess he was actually trash in those years. No where near good enough. 

But whatever. Yeah obviously still better argument than for Gore. Who just was never a replacement despite playing in the same era. That counts. Just like 2nd team all pros. Which Gore could also not really collect. Fitz before Gore on the ballot regardless of anymore context (and Fitz started his career on some bad teams too...hmm maybe they are similar...but yet Fitz shined through more often and that's a significant difference).

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#98 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 6:00pm

Actually Fitz's 2012 is probably the worst Pro Bowl selection ever. The results were, uh, not good that year. (Not that it was Fitz's fault, obviously)

But whatever. Yeah obviously still better argument than for Gore.

Yeah, I totally don't think Gore should be in. Just saying that claiming Fitz is "second in Pro Bowls to Rice" is a terrible comparison because of the change in the Pro Bowl over time. No one's remotely close to Rice.

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#99 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 6:53pm

Rice has 13, 2 more than Fitz. Fitz 2 more than the next, etc. Like Gore. Except he holds the #1 spot in so many areas...and was actually super efficient and relatively the best...a lot. Then again he had Steve Young and Joe Montana and MVP Rich Gannon. 2012 was also the year Fitz had 4 different starting QBs that consisted of John Skeleton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer. Fun fact Lindley was a couple years ago at least, had the lowest career AV at -4. He was -5 in 2012. Somehow. And we're sitting here talking about Gores bad teams, imagine that group trying to get you the ball.

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#100 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 8:49pm

The fact that Fitz is so close to Rice in Pro Bowls is exactly my point as to why the idea of treating injury replacement Pro Bowl players the same is nuts.

I mean, you don't even know how far down on the list they were!

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#102 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 29, 2021 - 9:32pm

Alternates made up for by winning the games MVP in 08! Missing the forest for the trees!

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#104 by Pat // Jun 30, 2021 - 7:41am


You're saying that you think the Pro Bowl MVP... means something?

*I'm* the one missing the forest for the trees??


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#105 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 30, 2021 - 8:44am

As if being an alternate (with the worst passers ever) is nothing.

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#106 by Pat // Jun 30, 2021 - 9:31am

I said it doesn't mean anywhere near as much as actually getting selected. Hence the reason that contracts typically require being selected to the initial Pro Bowl team to earn escalators. Teams know that alternates aren't the same thing.

Again, you don't even know how far down on the list the injury replacements are. If you're, say, #9 in voting in your conference, the top 4 bow out, and then one of #5-8 also bow out, you're a Pro Bowler (and the guy who bowed out between #5-8 is not).

It's just apples and oranges. If the Pro Bowl had been played this way during Rice's whole career he'd have several more as well (ridiculously enough).

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#107 by theslothook // Jun 30, 2021 - 10:52am

"you're a Pro Bowler (and the guy who bowed out between #5-8 is not)."


I had no idea this was a thing. It feels like crooked accounting.

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#113 by Pat // Jun 30, 2021 - 2:35pm

Oh, unless you were an alternate, would've been called, and miss the Pro Bowl because you're in the Super Bowl. Then you do get credit. Regardless of whether or not you would've played.

Yeah. It's nuts. Injury replacement Pro Bowl shouldn't count. In 2018, the last Pro Bowl that was played, the number of "Pro Bowl" players was about like a third bigger than it historically was, and has led to awesomeness like "Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, and Mitch Trubisky: Pro Bowl QBs."

I just don't get it. If out of the blue they just got rid of the All Pro second team and included some of those guys as "AP1 alternates" randomly, would anyone count those?

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#122 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 30, 2021 - 4:53pm

it's a proxy. Not that using contracts is a good idea. Just says players are missing out. 

This whole charade because you want figure which pro bowler is better. Snore. Heaven forbid someone say Fitz got 11 pro bowls! Like he did! 

Also alternates have been going on for DECADES. Not since 08 but hey we're being nitpicky. Shoutout 2000 (1999 season) WR alternate Terry Glenn. Take that 1 PB away...and he's still not a HOFr


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#132 by Pat // Jul 01, 2021 - 11:53am

Also alternates have been going on for DECADES.

Yes, but like I said, it's only in the past decade that it's dramatically more obvious, because post-2008 you automatically got rid of the 2 Super Bowl teams' worth of players. Once that happened more and more people stopped caring. Just count the players.

1985: 89
1995: 93
2005: 98
2015: 130

It's been creeping up slowly over time, but post-2008 it's obvious you need to correct for it.

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#135 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 01, 2021 - 1:12pm

And that it started in 2010.

And your way of "correcting" is by throwing them out counting them as 0. Hardly an acknowledgement. 

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#21 by jorite // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:46pm

In addition to the points above, Fitzgerald had an absolutely all-time playoff run in 2008, and that goes a long way with voters.  If not for the tips of Santonio Holmes' toes, we'd remember it as very similar to Terrell Davis's 1997 playoffs.

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#23 by CHIP72 // Jun 28, 2021 - 2:54pm

...is not really any different than John Riggins' playoff run in 1982 when you adjust for the players' respective positions, excluding the fact Riggins' team won the Super Bowl.  Both players DO deserve a lot of credit for their playoff performance in those given years*, and IMO it isn't clear Riggins makes the PFHOF without that playoff run.  But those performances don't change the fact that Fitzgerald (and Riggins) were guys who don't rate that well when you look at their career and season stats from a per play rate perspective rather than by a cumulative volume perspective.

*Riggins gained over 600 yards rushing in four playoff games in the 1982 postseason, including 166 yards in Super Bowl 17, which earned him the MVP award.

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#64 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Jun 29, 2021 - 11:39am

I agree, looking at Riggins's career, that it's tough to make the case that he deserved to make the HoF without heavily weighting his playoff production. Aside from one big TD year and a couple other good TD years (mostly while playing with a dominant O-line), and having a pretty impressive career TD total, his career was just not that great in the regular season. But you don't really hear anyone talking about how Riggins shouldn't be in the HoF, or even that he's one of the weakest RBs in the HoF, for whatever reason.

I don't really agree that Fitz was unimpressive in the regular season. If you just look at the 7 years of his prime, 2005-2011, that's a really strong prime! 5 deserving Pro Bowls (not including 2010), one AP 1st Team All-Pro, 1st Team All-Pro nods from any org in 5 different years, some black ink, top-5 in receiving yards 4x, a lot of TDs (double digit TDs 4x), and very good yards per reception numbers. Sure, his career post-2011 is pretty underwhelming, but I think he had a prime that was clearly HoF-worthy.

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#24 by JimZipCode // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:05pm

Fitzgerald was also probably not on most people's short lists of top wide receivers in the game in any of those seasons excluding possibly 2008.

Do you really think that?  Seems to me that Larry Fitzgerald has been on most people's short-lists of top WRs in the game for most of the past 15 years.  He's always mentioned in that company, even if Andre Johnson or Randy Moss or DeAndre Hopkins is at #1 for that given year.

WR seems to be one position where "quantity" really is a good argument to get you in.  Fitz has nine thousand-yd seasons, plus two more 950s.  That's the 3rd-highest number of 1k seasons (after Rice & Moss); tied with TO, Tim Brown, and Jimmy Smith.  Fitz has eleven Pro Bowl seasons, which is more than anyone except Rice (13).  Also he was named to the All-2010s team.

Fitz has less black ink than I expected.  But it's there: he led the league in TDs twice and in catches twice (4 different seasons).  The one moment in time where Fitz was clearly the best WR in football, they came within a whisker of winning the SB.
(It's interesting to think about the alternate history where the Steelers don't convert the Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes last-minute TD.  In that scenario, it's Kurt Warner rather than Peyton who's the first QB to win the SB for two different teams; and Fitz has a ring.)

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#34 by CHIP72 // Jun 28, 2021 - 4:08pm

...has not been considered by people who follow the NFL closely to be one of the very top wide receivers in the game, excluding possibly 2008.  That's ESPECIALLY true for people who are regular readers on this site.

Larry Fitzgerald has been top of mind for me today because I got engaged in a discussion on Reddit about the most overrated NFL players of all-time and I responded to someone who mentioned Fitzgerald; I compiled some stats from this site in responding to a comment, so I'll share them here as well.

Here are Larry Fitzgerald's DVOA and DYAR figures for his entire NFL career. NFL ranks among qualifying wide receivers (50 or more targets per season) are shown in parentheses.

2004 - DVOA: -18.5% (70); DYAR: -54 (72)

2005 - DVOA: 11.6% (21); DYAR: 313 (7)

2006 - DVOA: 19.0% (8); DYAR: 275 (8)

2007 - DVOA: 12.6% (19); DYAR: 267 (9)

2008 - DVOA: 20.4% (7); DYAR: 410 (3)

2009 - DVOA: 9.0% (31); DYAR: 274 (11)

2010 - DVOA: -13.3% (71); DYAR: -8 (71)

2011 - DVOA: 9.4% (32); DYAR: 274 (11)

2012 - DVOA: -23.8% (82); DYAR: -137 (85)

2013 - DVOA: -0.6% (49); DYAR: 132 (36)

2014 - DVOA: -5.8% (54); DYAR: 54 (53)

2015 - DVOA: 18.9% (10); DYAR: 363 (4)

2016 - DVOA: -6.8% (64); DYAR: 71 (56)

2017 - DVOA: -1.3% (49); DYAR: 147 (28)

2018 - DVOA: -15.3% (70); DYAR: -23 (71)

2019 - DVOA: -2.0% (47); DYAR: 90 (43)

2020 - DVOA: -18.1% (78); DYAR: -30 (78)

Fitzgerald was a genuinely very good wide receiver for a few years early in his career (2005 to 2008) and also in 2015. He was probably All-Pro caliber in 2008 and Pro Bowl caliber in 2006 and 2015, and close to Pro Bowl caliber in 2005 and 2007. Fitzgerald was also good in 2009 and 2011. Those seasons (2005-2009, 2011, 2015) comprise seven seasons of his NFL career.

By contrast, in his other ten NFL seasons Fitzgerald was generally a below average NFL wide receiver, at least based on Football Outsiders' numbers. In some of those years (such as 2013, 2017, 2019, and to a lesser degree 2014 and 2016) he still provided decent value, albeit as someone who was more of a compiler than a genuine standout receiver. In other years, like 2004, 2010, 2012, 2018, and 2020, he was actually a below replacement player. His 2012 season in particular was horrible; he ranked last (85th out of 85th) in qualifying wide receivers (50 or more targets) in DYAR and 82nd out of 85th in DVOA.

Based on the above statistics, one could easily argue that Larry Fitzgerald has largely been overrated for most of the past decade, with the exception of the 2015 season. He's been an excellent player at times in his career, but for much of his career he's been more a player compiling stats than a genuine standout player.

Let me note one other thing, something that I think someone else responding to the Larry Fitzgerald conversation also mentioned - you can't entirely untie Fitzgerald's poor DVOA stats in many seasons from the quarterbacks on his teams.  He probably was better than those stats show.  On the other hand, there have been many wide receivers on poor teams with mediocre quarterbacks who still were able to put up good stats, at least in DVOA and DYAR terms, despite playing on poor teams with mediocre quarterbacks.  Fitzgerald was not able to do that for much of his career.

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#36 by Pat // Jun 28, 2021 - 4:43pm

Looking at single-season standings really only works if you set the bar way high for the Hall (which I'm not opposed to, mind you) - there's a lot of noise which shuffles stuff around there.

If you combine, say, 2005-2009, Fitz has 1539 DYAR, which I think puts him 3rd for total DYAR over those years, behind Wayne and essentially tied with Chad Johnson, even though he only ranked third once. I'd say calling him "very good" over that stretch is a bit of a disservice.

If you just broadly group Fitz's career peaks into 2005-2009 and 2013-2017, though... those are the only years he had with a quarterback that wasn't gutter trash. Soo... there is that caveat.

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#39 by JimZipCode // Jun 28, 2021 - 5:47pm

Here are Larry Fitzgerald's DVOA and DYAR figures for his entire NFL career.

Thanks for compiling these.  Overall, that's less good than I would've expected.

I thiink you're mimizing a little when you say Fits was very good "for a few years early, 2005-8."  I see a seven-year period where Fitz was consistently in the DYAR top 10 or 11, from age 22 to 28.

For the sake of arguing with you about Fitz's Hall-worthiness, here's Fitz's starting QBs for his career (along with any top-12 DYAR finishes for Fitz):

  • 2004 – Josh McCown
  • 2005 – Warner / McCown (7th)
  • 2006 – Matt Leinart (6th)
  • 2007 – Warner (9th)
  • 2008 – Warner (3rd)
  • 2009 – Warner (11th)
  • 2010 – Derek Anderson
  • 2011 – Kevin Kolb / John Skelton (11th)
  • 2012 – Kolb / Skelton / Ryan Lindley
  • 2013 – Carson Palmer
  • 2014 – Drew Stanton / Palmer
  • 2015 – Palmer (4th)
  • 2016 – Palmer
  • 2017 – Palmer / Stanton / Blaine Gabbert
  • 2018 – Josh Rosen
  • 2019 – Kyler Murray
  • 2020 – Murray

One thing that stands out here is the lack of a long-term relationship with a decent QB.  He got three years of oft-injured Warner in his 20s, then three or four years of old Carson Palmer in his 30s.

When I look at the top 12 or 15 WRs in PFR's Hall Of Fame monitor, they usually have long & productive partnerships with good QBs.  You got Jerry Rice, Randy Moss (Daunte early / Brady late), Marvin Harrison, TO.  Lance Alworth had All-Pro & 6x Pro Bowler John Hadl (about whom I know nothing).  Reggie Wayne had Peyton; Julio Jones has had MVP & 4x Pro Bowler Matty Ice. Torry Holt & Isaac Bruce had young & healthy Kurt Warner & 2x Pro Bowler Marc Bulger.

Fitz is in a group with Steve Largent, James Lofton, Cris Carter & Tim Brown, where I would say their careers were NOT defined by enduring partnerships with good QBs.  But even here I would make distinctions.  Cris Carter's career had a mashup of QB partners, but they were almost all good: Warren Moon, SB winner Brad Johnson, setting records with Randall Cunningham, and 3x Pro Bowler Daunte Culpeper.  Steve Largent had seven years with Jim Zorn (don't laugh; Zorn wasn't terrible, and at least there was continuity) and seven years with 3x Pro Bowler Dave Krieg.

The three guys with "Hall of Fame -type" resumes, who had a motley group of QBs throwing to them, were:

  • James Lofton
  • Tim Brown
  • Fitz

Lofton was a deep threat: one of the most famous speed merchants of the 80s.  He had six seasons over 20 yds-per-catch (I'm probably counting one 19.9 in there).  His primary QB Lynn Dickey was nothing special, but as a pair they were a problem that defenses had to account for.  That offense led the league in passing yards one year.  Lofton finished his career as part of the K-gun arsenal of weapons that took the Bills to a few SBs.

If I had to keep one of these guys out of the Hall, it would be Brown.  He was never at any time considered one of the very best WRs in the game – zero All-Pro's – he did gain a thousand in Rich Gannon's MVP season, and 900+ for the Raiders '02 SB team.  But Brown seems more like a longevity over greatness HOF argument, than Fitz does.

If we had to assess the quality of "quarterback service" that WRs got over their careers – well clearly Jerry Rice got the best.  It's absurd who he had throwing him the ball.  One of his worst QBs is Elvis Grbac (1 Pro Bowl).  And the worst "QB service", factoring in continuity & consistency – to me that's either Brown or Fitz.

Remember when the Cards platooned Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart?  I think a significant component of Fitzgerald's HOF candidacy is going to come down to the perception of doing more with less.  A great WR trapped in a bad passing offense with a motley group of QBs.

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#41 by theslothook // Jun 28, 2021 - 6:00pm

I think it's fair to ask how many receivers suffered a similar fate and didn't have the longevity to kind of ride out those horrible periods. 

Steve Smith basically never had a top QB throwing him the football. 

You can make a similar argument for someone like Moose Muhammad, Jimmy Smith, and maybe some others.

I will admit to being one of those people who didn't regard Larry in the highest esteem, but that's most likely due to the fact of his environment hardcapping the kind of season he was capable of producing.

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#45 by JimZipCode // Jun 28, 2021 - 6:40pm

I think it's fair to ask how many receivers suffered a similar fate and...

Just about every Ravens WR of the 90s / 00s / 2010s, to start with.  :-)

I will admit to being one of those people who didn't regard Larry in the highest esteem, but...

I totally thought that after the Cards Super Bowl year, the common opinion of Larry Fitz was great player / bad situation.

I think Fitz's resume is a little light on All-Pro's.  Usually you like to see a HOFer have, I dunno, 3 to 5 All Pro's.  But if you look at him thru the lens of peak value and career value – he's absolutely got the career value.  So the question is peak value.  For me, his "peak" is pretty short.  But he had his One Shining Moment in 2008, his All-Pro season.  In the 2008 playoffs he was simply uncoverable.  4 games, about 550 yards, 137 ypg, 18 yds-per-catch and 13 yds-per-target.  Had 127 yds and 2 TDs in the SB, and very nearly led them to a win.

I'd like to see more; but that "peak", as best WR in the game, is pretty high.  It's just so narrow: a spire rather than a peak.  But I think it will be in the mind of voters, when Fitz comes up.  But Fitz's credentials would look a lot more solid if they were like Antonio Brown's: a cluster of All-Pro seasons from age 26 to 29, at the cost of several seasons on the back end.


I love to consider "alternate histories".  That SB is a bit of an inflection point.  If Roethlisberger-to-Santonio doesn't convert at the end of the game, then Kurt Warner's HOF induction would've been way more of an obvious slam-dunk; and I think Fitz's candidacy is more obvious too.  As a Ravens fan I like some things about this alternate history.  But – I have a hard time with Ken Whisenhunt as SB-winning HC, and Todd Haley as SB-winning OC.  Maybe the way things actually turned out was for the best.


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#66 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 11:46am

I think Fitz's resume is a little light on All-Pro's.  Usually you like to see a HOFer have, I dunno, 3 to 5 All Pro's.  

Stat-based typical Hall players (QB, RB, WR, TE, DE, DB) are 2-3 All Pro selections. With 5 All Pros at any of those slots you're first ballot unless you really piss off the media (cough Owens). The guys who need 3 to 5 All Pros to be an "okay, sure" Hall of Fame guys are the non-stat based ones (OL, DT, LB).

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#60 by Joey-Harringto… // Jun 29, 2021 - 10:24am

“You can make a similar argument for someone like Moose Muhammad, Jimmy Smith, and maybe some others.”

I agree with your overall point, but I just wanted to defend Mark Brunnell, who was much better than most people remember.  He was top 10 in DYAR most seasons in the latter half of the 90’s, including 2nd behind Marino in both DYAR and DVOA in 1998.

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#61 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 10:38am

Brian Billick, when with the Ravens, would have pulled a Ronny Lott style body modification to have someone as good as Brunnell on his roster.

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#84 by Joey-Harringto… // Jun 29, 2021 - 3:00pm

A Ronnie Lott style body modification would have been worthy of a 2011-17 Alex Smith type quarterback.  Someone like Brunell from 1996-2000 (3 Pro Bowls, 4 Top 10 DYAR finishes, plus rushing value), may have been possibly worthy of Mike Vrabel's threatened body modification.  Maybe not, but it's at least a discussion.

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#110 by CHIP72 // Jun 30, 2021 - 12:57pm

...one of the wide receivers you mentioned above as having played with excellent quarterbacks.  My intent is to compare him with Larry Fitzgerald.

Here are the DVOA and DYAR stats and season ranks of that receiver (seasons with fewer than 50 targets are shown as NA), along with his team's records and points scored/allowed differentials:

Player A

Year 1 - DVOA: 1.1% (NA); DYAR: 37 (NA); team record 4-12, 286-365

Year 2 - DVOA: 16.2% (11); DYAR 442 (3); team record 7-9, 309-418

Year 3 - DVOA: 10.2% (16); DYAR 262 (10); team record 6-10, 303-409

Year 4 - DVOA: -5.6% (54); DYAR 65 (51); team record 5-11, 299-359

Year 5 - DVOA: 23.0% (NA); DYAR 129 (NA); team record 4-12, 285-378

Year 6 - DVOA: 31.0% (5); DYAR 424 (4); team record 13-3, 526-242

Year 7 - DVOA: 28.8% (3); DYAR 433 (3); team record 10-6, 540-471

Year 8 - DVOA: 21.5% (8); DYAR 270 (14); team record 14-2, 503-273

Year 9 - DVOA: 8.2% (23); DYAR 204 (17); team record 7-9, 316-369

Year 10 - DVOA: 7.8% (29); DYAR 191 (19); team record 12-4, 447-328

Year 11 - DVOA: 3.8% (38); DYAR 189 (25); team record 8-8, 319-392

Year 12 - DVOA: -13.7% (74); DYAR -5 (74); team record 6-10, 363-429

Year 13 - DVOA: 10.9% (21); DYAR: 241 (11); team record 8-8, 367-381

Year 14 - DVOA: 0.6% (47); DYAR: 107 (44); team record 3-13, 263-438

Year 15 - DVOA: 6.7% (29); DYAR: 165 (25); team record 7-9, 339-381

Year 16 - DVOA: -29.8% (NA); DYAR: -67 (NA); team record 8-8, 330-281

Player A played with better teams (and better offensive teams) in his prime than Larry Fitzgerald, but in general was better than Fitzgerald throughout his career when you adjust for his team's quality.  Like Fitzgerald, Player A stood out at the beginning of his career for a couple years while playing on poor teams/poor offensive teams, but unlike Fitzgerald he also remained a solid receiver most years in his 30s (which started in Year 9) even when his team and the offense around him was average or below average.  Finally, tying back to Frank Gore, Player A was Gore's teammate the last two seasons of his career, the first of which was a better than average to good season in absolute terms and a really good season for a 36 year old guy on a mediocre team that scored 219 points the year before his arrival.

You were probably able to figure this out based on his team's success during his peak prime years, but Player A is Isaac Bruce.

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#28 by gomer_rs // Jun 28, 2021 - 3:29pm

The starting assumption in football was that receiver production was contingent and running back production was their own.  We now know that running back production is HIGHLY contingent while some receiver stats, like catch %, are not very contingent.

But even with the newfound recognition of running back contingency, we still largely think "Larry Fitzgerald with Drew Stanton at QB" and not "Frank Gore with bad Alex Smith at QB".  Also, because of Smith's post-Harbaugh career, we have largely forgotten Smith's pre-Harbaugh career, which downgrades our perceptions of pre 2011 SF offensive players.

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#35 by JimZipCode // Jun 28, 2021 - 4:10pm

But even with the newfound recognition of running back contingency, we still largely think "Larry Fitzgerald with Drew Stanton at QB" and not "Frank Gore with bad Alex Smith at QB". 

I'm more inclined to discount Emmitt Smith's yardage totals some for running behind Larry Allen & Nate Newton & Erik Williams & Mark Tuinei & Mark Stepnoski & Ray Donaldson, than for playing with Aikman & Irvin & Jay Novacek et al.

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#69 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Jun 29, 2021 - 12:05pm

It's funny that people want to discount Emmitt (or Shaun Alexander) for having a great O-line, but you don't hear a lot of people wanting to discount Priest Holmes for the same thing, or (gasp) Jim Brown. Personally, I think Emmitt, Holmes, and Brown were all great, and Alexander was very good, but it's hard to separate them in terms of O-lines.

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#94 by JimZipCode // Jun 29, 2021 - 5:21pm

...but you don't hear a lot of people wanting to discount Priest Holmes for the same thing...

Because Priest Holmes isn't the career rushing yards leader.  Nor in the HOF, for that matter.

...or (gasp) Jim Brown.

Because it so completely doesn't matter.

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#108 by CHIP72 // Jun 30, 2021 - 12:28pm

In reply to by JimZipCode

You'll get no argument from me that Jim Brown is one of the greatest players in pro football history.  But it wasn't like the Cleveland Browns fell off immediately after he left the team, nor that the Browns didn't have a good rushing attack.

*In 1965, Jim Brown's last season with the Browns, he led the NFL with 1544 yards rushing and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt.  The Browns as a team led the NFL in rushing and averaged 4.9 yards/rush, the best average in the league.

*In 1966, Leroy Kelly finished second in the NFL with 1141 yards rushing and Ernie Green was 7th with 750 yards rushing.  Kelly averaged 5.5 yards/rush and Green averaged 5.2 yards/rush.  As a team, the Browns had the most rushing yards in the NFL and averaged 5.2 yards/attempt, also best in the league.  The Browns, who went 11-3 in 1965, only went 9-5 in 1966, but scored 40 more points in 1966 than in 1965.

*In 1967, Leroy Kelly led the NFL with 1205 yards rushing (the only runner with over 1000 yards rushing that year) and Ernie Green was 9th with 710 yards rushing.  Kelly and Green averaged 5.1 yards and 4.9 yards per rush respectively.  The Browns led the league in rushing yards and averaged 4.8 yards/rush, which also was tops in the NFL.  They again finished 9-5.

*In 1968, Leroy Kelly again led the NFL with 1239 yards rushing (the only runner with over 1000 yards rushing that year).  He averaged 5.0 yards/rush.  The Browns as a team finished 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards and 2nd in yards/attempt (4.5 yards/rush).  They posted a 10-4 record.

For three years after Jim Brown left the team, the Browns either had the top running back in the NFL and/or were the top rushing team in the NFL.

I would venture to say that while Jim Brown would have been a great player in any circumstance, the fact he played for an excellent Browns team that had an excellent offensive line allowed him to excel to a greater degree than he would have otherwise.  The Browns were able to replace Jim Brown's production with Leroy Kelly and Ernie Green and not miss a beat.


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#112 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Jun 30, 2021 - 2:22pm

Was Brown one of the best players of all time? Yes, of course.

Did he also benefit from playing with a top O-line, and from being used as a feature back when most other teams used a committee? Obviously yes.

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#138 by JimZipCode // Jul 01, 2021 - 5:53pm

Jim Brown - what do you mean it doesn't matter?

It doesn't matter because there's no conceivable way to "mitigate" 8 times All-Pro, 3 times MVP, 8 times leading the league in rushing, 5 times leading in rush TDs, retiring as the all-time yardage leader 26% ahead of the next guy, and for decades embodying whatever the league "means".

while Jim Brown would have been a great player in any circumstance, the fact he played for an excellent Browns team that had an excellent offensive line allowed him to excel to a greater degree than he would have otherwise.

That kinda doesn't even need to be said.  Every great accomplishment (in a team sport) occurs when conditions are ripe – talent meets environment.  Jerry Rice gets the Bill Walsh offense and Joe Montana - Steve Young - Jeff Garcia.  Babe Ruth gets Yankee Stadium with its short porch in right. 

I will admit that I never knew anything about the Browns OL of that era until this comment thread.  I didn't know that they were the rough equivalent of the 90s Cowboys OL.

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#140 by theslothook // Jul 01, 2021 - 5:57pm

In reply to by JimZipCode

I think when talent doesn't meet environment, you get Archie Manning. Or perhaps in the best case, you get Fran Tarkenton. 

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#145 by JimZipCode // Jul 02, 2021 - 9:54am

I think when talent doesn't meet environment, you get Archie Manning. Or perhaps in the best case, you get Fran Tarkenton. 

This might bring us back around to Frank Gore.

(An extreme example of the opposite, environment not being met with talent, might be the 2000 Ravens and Trent Dilfer.  Or maybe more on point, the Ravens of 2001-7.)

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#48 by MC2 // Jun 29, 2021 - 4:49am

So, let me get this straight: You think that Gore is not only more likely to make the HOF than Matt Ryan (I don't necessarily disagree with that part), but that he's also more deserving than Ryan? Seriously? Being consistently average at a fairly unimportant position is more "Hall-worthy" than being consistently excellent at by far the most important position?

I could understand if you were taking a "super small Hall" position and saying that neither of them should get in, or if you were taking a "super big Hall" position and saying they should both get in. But to argue that Gore should get in, while Ryan shouldn't, is hard to even take seriously. Frankly (no pun intended), it just comes across as trolling.

Let me ask you this: If you gave every GM in the NFL the chance to draft a "clone" (same peak, same longevity, etc.) of either Ryan or Gore, do you think a single one of them would choose the Gore clone? Do you think a single one of them would even think about it for more than 5 seconds? Or maybe you think, when it comes to HOF criteria, "storyline" trumps value.

I swear, this place seems more like ESPN by the day.

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#52 by Will Allen // Jun 29, 2021 - 8:27am

Really disagree with the implication that some should get a leg up on HOF induction by virtue of the position they play. The relative ease of qbs gaining induction, compared to other positions, is one of the things I dislike about the institution. 

I haven't thought about Ryan enough to have an opinion, but it's inaccurate to label Gore "consistently average". Again, 2nd in the league in Y.P.C., among backs with 1000 plus carries, through his 1st 7 years, mostly while playing on a bad team, is a terrific accomplishment.

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#126 by MC2 // Jul 01, 2021 - 7:34am

Really disagree with the implication that some should get a leg up on HOF induction by virtue of the position they play. The relative ease of qbs gaining induction, compared to other positions, is one of the things I dislike about the institution.

I don't see any realistic alternative.  The HOF is supposed to be composed of the greatest players of all time, and how can you define "greatness" without incorporating value?  Furthermore, how can you define "value" without considering the relative importance of different positions?  I guess you could just pretend that every position is equally valuable, but that seems ridiculous.  Do you really think there should be the same number of punters in the Hall as QBs?  Or the same number of guards as tackles?  Besides, as Eddo points out below, they already have All-Pro teams and All-Decade teams to honor the best players at each position.  I think the HOF should simply honor the greatest (i.e. most valuable) players, regardless of position.

Of course, that means that there would be a lot more QBs than players from any other position, but I don't see why that's a bad thing.  If one position is much more important than any other, why shouldn't that position receive more representation in the Hall?  Look at baseball.  There are far more pitchers in the HOF than players from any other position, but nobody has a problem with that, because pitcher is clearly the most important position on the field.  No one thinks that just because 10 pitchers from a given era make the HOF, there should also be 10 catchers from that same era in the HOF.  So why should football be any different?

I haven't thought about Ryan enough to have an opinion, but it's inaccurate to label Gore "consistently average". Again, 2nd in the league in Y.P.C., among backs with 1000 plus carries, through his 1st 7 years, mostly while playing on a bad team, is a terrific accomplishment.

Whether it's a "terrific accomplishment" is debatable, but for the sake of argument, I'll admit that he was a pretty good back early in his career.  But that has nothing to do with his HOF case, which is based entirely on being 3rd in career rushing yards.  In fact, if Gore had retired 5 years ago, when he was 15th in career rushing yards, we wouldn't be having this conversation.  I don't recall anyone mentioning Gore as a HOFer until he hung around long enough to crack the Top 5 in career yards, at which point he suddenly became a "lock" for the Hall.  His entire candidacy is a result of those last five years of stat padding, pure and simple.

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#129 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 01, 2021 - 10:08am

But if we're strictly talking RBs it's kinda wild to me Gore is in but (since we all agree AP is better, hmmm I wonder why, maybe it's partly the MVP, like Ryan has) Lynch and McCoy are only semifinalists? Having Gore in over those two and having them not even make the finals, is almost PURELY total rushing yards. Both have more All Pros and both have more ringz (if that's you thing). So what argument is there? Not PBs since Lesean has more and Marshawn has the same (both in less time btw fwiw). All of them made the 2010s HOF team (Gore mostly, again, due to being healthy and just racking up totalz but whatever, Ill let it slide) so that's not an argument either. So...yeah, it's strictly total rushing yards, just like you said.

And the whole positional thing won't, can't and shouldn't ever be equal. That's just not how things work and shoe horning someone to balance things out is...how you get Gore in lol or any other debated guy in like Martin (who at least made a consensus 1st team all pro unlike Gore).

I've noticed Mike has a tendency to lean on those that vote to sway his opinion it seems. Maybe I'm reading it wrong but...lets not act like the voters are always best like holding grudges against TO like he killed someone. They aren't the end all be all of what the HOF is. 

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#146 by JimZipCode // Jul 02, 2021 - 10:03am

I've noticed Mike has a tendency to lean on those that vote to sway his opinion it seems. Maybe I'm reading it wrong but – lets not act like the voters are always best like holding grudges against TO

When Mike talks about the Hall voters, he's talking about process and what is likely to happen.  Not what "should" happen.  If you're trying to predict what the Hall voters would do, you gotta concern yourself with what the Hall voters think.

That's a slightly different discussion from who "deserves" to be in the Hall etc.

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#152 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 02, 2021 - 12:41pm

that last paragraph is pretty explicit. I'm drawing the line and just saying nah. I'm not gonna force a position in but if I were forced to put in a RB I'm putting in Lynch and McCoy way before Gore. 

Contrary to popular belief (maybe not us) the pass game taking over HELPS the run game on a per carry basis. Just rack up carries in todays league and you can end near the top too. No bonus points because your team wasn't smart enough to turn more towards the pass instead of feeding a guy like Gore.

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#130 by Will Allen // Jul 01, 2021 - 11:21am

Punters have a handful of snaps per game. Yes, I do think positions that have the roughly same amount of time on the field should be similar in the number of HoF inductees. Football is by far the most interdependent sport.

I really dislike the "stat-padding" adjective. Unless the opponent is throwing the contest, football stats are accumulated via pain and violence. If somebody wants to exclude Gore because his per carry/per game productvity wasn't high enough, fine. Like I've said several times, I'm ambivalent, though I could be persuaded if I was convinced that the first 40%  of his career came against defenses consistently overloaded to prevent his productivity, while he was on bad teams. I'd need to have watched at least 12 Niner games a year in that period to have a valid opinion on that possibility, and I didn't do that.

None of those 16k yards were "padded", however.

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#131 by theslothook // Jul 01, 2021 - 11:36am

I close my eyes and I can still hear Jon Gruden's scratchy voice calling CJs record breaking game meaningless stat padding. It was as if Jerry Rice himself was trying to shame anyone from thinking that the real record holder was anyone other than Jerry. At several points, I wondered if Gruden would have been happier if CJ just dropped the passes thrown to him in deference to Rice.


I lost what little remaining respect I had for Chucky after that.


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#133 by Will Allen // Jul 01, 2021 - 12:02pm

That stuff, when it comes from somebody like Gruden who never had to drag their bludgeoned body to the facility the morning after a game, to start the recovery process, is tedious, because Gruden witnessed such things close-up, and should know better.

 Frank Mothereffin' Gore has played mothereffin' running back in the mothereffin' NFL for  16 mothereffin' years, and has endured the violence to rush for 16,000 mothereffin' yards. I'm not saying that gets him an ugly yellow blazer, but I'm in awe of that accomplishment, which is why I dislike the adjective "stat-padding".

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#137 by Joseph // Jul 01, 2021 - 4:12pm

My 2 cents on stat-padding: if the game is over for all intents and purposes, you enter this territory. It's under 2 min, you have no TO's, you're down by 21. Those passing yards are worthless; I won't hold it against the receiver for getting 1 more catch for 12 yards, but those 60 yards for the QB=stat-padding, at least to me. Feeding the ball to a player so he can break a record, or be the league leader, but the competitive part of the game is over? Stat-padding. However, if you are feeding your main RB to try to run out the clock when you're up by a TD--that's smart situational football, not stat-padding. I'm ambivalent on whether getting player X a personal milestone so that they can make a contract bonus or something similar is really stat-padding. I also don't think you can really start stat-padding till roughly mid-way through the 4th Q--the NFL doesn't really have "Alabama vs. Directional State" games. 

To be honest, almost every player in the NFL has a small portion of their countable statistics that could be questioned--I mean, somebody has to run/pass/catch the ball, make the tackle, etc. [I don't hold it against a backup--that may be their only real playing time all month!] But I am sure that some of Gore's 16k yards were "padded"; how many is debatable, and I never followed Gore's teams. But it wouldn't shock me if over the years, there are several hundred, maybe even 1,000--but I doubt it's more than that. I'm ambivalent on his case for the HOF--he seems a lot like Curtis Martin to me--but if he retired 2-3 years ago, I think he wouldn't make it. Those huge overall totals mean something, just not sure if it means a jacket.

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#165 by MC2 // Jul 04, 2021 - 7:23am

"Stat padding" may have been the wrong term.  I didn't mean Gore racked up a lot of yards in blowout situations or anything like that.  In fact, I'm guessing his "garbage time" yards were probably lower than a lot of other guys, because he played on a lot of bad teams that were usually trailing late in games, and RBs usually get their "garbage yards" when leading late in games.

Rather, what I meant is that all those yards he racked up weren't particularly valuable, given that he didn't get them in a very efficient fashion.  He averaged less than 4 yards per carry in 5 of the last 6 seasons.  He has averaged 4.3 ypc or less in 11 of his 16 years.  Such numbers (especially in the years I referred to as "stat padding") have not benefited the teams he has played for.  They could have likely gotten equal production out of a host of late round picks, or even undrafted free agents.  That's what I meant by "stat padding":  that he has accumulated a lot of yards very inefficiently, in a way that didn't really add any value to his teams.

For his career, he has averaged 4.3 ypc.  That's actually higher than several other RBs that are justifiably in the HOF, but you have to consider, as mentioned above, overall rushing efficiency has increased in recent years, as teams have sold out to stop the new, improved passing games.  Some other RBs from recent years that have averaged 4.3 ypc for their career (same as Gore) include Lamar Miller, Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, and Alfred Morris.  Being in that sort of company doesn't exactly bolster Gore's HOF case.

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#55 by dbostedo // Jun 29, 2021 - 9:39am

"If you gave every GM in the NFL the chance to draft a "clone" (same peak, same longevity, etc.) of either Ryan or Gore, do you think a single one of them would choose the Gore clone?"

Why should this have any bearing on Gore's candidacy? You're talking about two entirely different positions. There are obvious HOF RBs that I wouldn't take over Matt Ryan in this scenario. So every RB, or WR, or LB, etc. that you wouldn't draft over Matt Ryan shouldn't get in, if Ryan doesn't get in?

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#65 by Eddo // Jun 29, 2021 - 11:44am

The Gore/Ryan argument is a "What do you think the Hall of Fame should be?" argument, really.

Do you want the Hall of Fame to reflect which players a team starting from scratch would take to have the best odds at a championship?  If so, you would probably wind up selecting something like 10 QBs from every era, along with a few WRs, edge rushers, DBs, and such.

Or do you want the Hall of Fame to look more like an All-Pro or All-Decade team, with most, if not all, positions represented?  You'll wind up with the 50th "most valuable" player of an era (let's say that's a RB) being elected over the 10th (likely a QB).

What we have in reality - which I actually like - is a hybrid model.  The best players are QBs, so we wind up with more of them, but we also have the best of the best at all (non-specialist) positions.  I personally wouldn't want to enforce at least one player at each position from an era, but I'm OK with someone like Adrian Peterson making it before Ben Roethlisberger, or Frank Gore before Matt Ryan.

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#67 by theslothook // Jun 29, 2021 - 11:59am

The Hall should reflect on some level the instrinsic value of the player in question, independent to the extent you can of his ordinal ranking in the league. 

Coaches have faced players over a very large period, spanning multiple decades. They should know when someone is a hof pass rusher or receiver.

Contrary to others, I think there is a way to tell between dominant because the era was weak vs dominant in spite of the era being weak

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#72 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 12:44pm

Coaches have faced players over a very large period, spanning multiple decades. They should know when someone is a hof pass rusher or receiver.

Well, I mean, sure... but last time I checked, of the 48 people on the Hall selection committee, we've got... let's see... one coach. And from a "personal" standpoint asking coaches to help determine who goes into the Hall is... obviously problematic. I'd bet a good fraction of the coaches would be like "this is a stupid idea, these players are all great."

I mean, maybe it's theoretically possible to do what you're thinking, I just don't think it's actually possible.

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#77 by Eddo // Jun 29, 2021 - 1:12pm

Oh, I agree, which is why I still think there should be more QBs than RBs, and that specialists making the HOF should be quite rare.

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#70 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 12:08pm

What we have in reality - which I actually like - is a hybrid model.  The best players are QBs, so we wind up with more of them,

Why, exactly, do you think that's what we have? There are more RBs than QBs in the Hall, and if that's changing "by era," it's not changing quickly. You've still got LDT, James, and (dear lord) very likely Fred Taylor primarily from the 2000s, and the number of QBs primarily from that era isn't going to be much different. Maybe 1 more? And I'm kinda brushing away a slew of early 2000s guys (Bettis, Martin, Faulk, Smith).

Mike seems to think Marshawn and McCoy won't make the Hall, whereas I'm much less sure, along with Gore as well. So now in the 20 year span you're talking about what, seven running backs? Which is easily the same as the number of QBs from that span.

I mean, when I look at the players in the Hall it looks way more like "top ~4-5 stat players from a stretch of ~5 years or so, top ~2-3 non-stat players from a stretch of ~10 years." The only real "positional" weighting I've ever seen is stat vs non-stat.

(Which, as an aside, is going to be an obvious problem as TE becomes a 'stat' position - 8 TEs prior to 2019, and that number might double in the next 20 years)

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#71 by theslothook // Jun 29, 2021 - 12:40pm

Who among tight ends feel like locks for the hall? The obvious include Gronk and maybe Kelce now. Then there's maybes in Gates, Witten and Graham. Of that trio, only Gates would be in my hall of fame.

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#76 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 1:07pm

To be clear I'm only talking about "will be in" not "should be in."

Gonzalez is already in. Witten and Gates are locks - Gates is a 3-time AP1 and 3rd on the all time yardage list, Witten is a 2-time AP1 and 2nd on yardage. Those two aren't even a question. Graham's not really a serious candidate unless he has some sort of late-career renaissance, he's over four thousand yards behind Witten. Hall of Very Good. 

Kelce and Gronk already have Hall careers and they're not over. That brings the Hall TE total to 13, and obviously by 2040 there'll certainly be more than 3 more. Kittle's certainly on pace, and I mean, clearly Hunter Henry is clearly just a minor step behind him and Kelce!

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#81 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Jun 29, 2021 - 2:20pm

I think Witten is 100% in. The guy made 11 Pro Bowls! Even if some of them were cheapies, that's still a huge number. Take away 3 and he's still got more PBs that almost any other TE. He had 4 1,000 yard seasons, which is a lot for a TE, plus 3 more with 900+. Plus, he was by far the best bocker of the modern HoF candidate TEs.

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#124 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jun 30, 2021 - 6:35pm

3 first team All Pros with some other scattered mentions along with 8 PBs. 2nd in CarAV (1 behind Tony G). 1st in rec TDs (by 5, again Tony G)

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#151 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Jul 02, 2021 - 12:32pm

Gates goes without saying, which is why I didn't mention him.

I think Gates, Witten, Gronk, and Kelce are obvious locks. No other TEs are definitely in, IMO. Graham is probably out but has a shot.

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#156 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 2:19pm

No other TEs are definitely in,

Well, there's an almost decade of difference between Gates, Witten, and Graham and Gronk and Kelce. Gronk came into the league very young, so he could easily still have 5 years left (assuming his retirement was really "I'm sick of playing for Belichick" which I don't think is a stretch), as does Kelce. Whereas obviously Gates is done, Witten should be done, and Graham's already 35 next year and, uh, plays for the Bears now.

So yeah if you say "no other TEs from Gates/Witten's era should get in" - absolutely. I don't know how Graham is even in this discussion. With Gronk and Kelce I think they're it, but it's not like, out of the question (historically, I guess) for Ertz to have a career revival or something. I think he's well short no matter what, but he could easily end up with a better looking career than Graham, for instance.

And then obviously of the under-30 guys Kittle's on pace, and Waller will be really interesting to see what happens - if he puts up like, 3500-4000 yards in the next 3 years it'd be hard to not look at him as a viable Hall candidate, but those lost early years are gonna hurt. Also will be interesting to see what happens with the "Money Boys" up in New England, too.

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#155 by JimZipCode // Jul 02, 2021 - 1:59pm

I never for a moment thought of Witten as a HOF-caliber player, until reading this thread.  I'm shocked to see that he's #2 in all-time receiving yards for TEs.  A couple All-Pro's, so his candidacy is not all about career value and longevity.  Four thousand-yd seasons plus another three ~950's; a season with 110 catches and three seasons with ~95. 

Yeesh.  He is way, WAY more qualified (over-qualified) than I ever realized.

Does anyone else feel like Witten's career kinda flew under the radar a little?  I guess he was overshadowed by Gonzalez & Gates for the first half; by Gronk the second half.  I always knew Witten was a very solid, crafty & reliable option in the passing game; but I was never aware of him as being among the best in the game.

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#75 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Jun 29, 2021 - 1:05pm

Not sure why you're so down on Taylor. Per AV, he had Pro Bowl-level years in 98, 00, 02, and 03 (and traditional stats back that up). That would give him 5 PBs for his career, which equals Lynch and is only 1 less than McCoy (who has at least one iffy selection, as does Lynch). By Weighted Career AV, Taylor is the best of the 3. Taylor also has the most raw rushing yards, for what that's worth. Taylor was top-10 in rushing yards 6x, scrimmage yards 3x. Lynch is 4x/3x, McCoy is 5x/5x. All 3 are well below the average HoF RB by P-F-R HoF Monitor, with Taylor being the lowest, but that is probably related to him missing out on 4 additional Pro Bowls he probably deserved.

Bottom line, I think you can make the argument that Taylor was better than Lynch or McCoy, and that it wouldn't be a travesty to induct him into the HoF.

Points: 0

#78 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 1:25pm

Bottom line, I think you can make the argument that Taylor was better than Lynch or McCoy, and that it wouldn't be a travesty to induct him into the HoF.

Problem is I can turn around and make the same argument for Lynch and McCoy, just with different stresses. McCoy's total yardage (receiving + rushing) is the highest of the three (he actually has exactly 15,000 yards total) and Lynch has by far the most postseason yardage of the trio (by like, factors of 3 or something). McCoy's top 5 seasons by yards/attempt average highest, Lynch leads all 3 of them in total TDs, by a relatively large margin.

While Taylor might have "missing" Pro Bowl years, he pretty clearly never deserved to be All Pro 1st team any of those years (and it's not even particularly debatable, because he's fighting Faulk's 2000 and Jamal Lewis's 2003), whereas McCoy and Lynch both were. So you could easily argue that Taylor was basically "good" for longer, but never "great" like McCoy and Lynch were. 

Really, though, the biggest issue I have with Taylor is this entire comment. Taylor's already a 2-time semifinalist. He's very likely to get in, which means that it's really hard to imagine Lynch and McCoy both not getting in, too. And then... wait, what about Corey Dillon? He's got more raw yardage than McCoy, and his 2004 was integral to that team's success, just like Lynch. And... now we're way down in the weeds. I mean, what about Steven Jackson? He was on a godawful passing team too, and has over 15,000 yards, and nearly 70 TDs... and... and...

It's like Jim Kelly going in. It's not exactly that I disagree with Kelly. It's that it opens the floodgates to a Hall that already took multiple years to induct far, far more worthy candidates at non-stat positions.

Points: 0

#80 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Jun 29, 2021 - 2:19pm

If you're claiming that none of the 3 should go in, I won't argue with that.

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#83 by Pat // Jun 29, 2021 - 2:58pm

Yup, absolutely. All 3 of them should be pretty clearly away from the Hall. With only 5 guys/year, there's just not enough room. I mean, again, Fred Taylor's a 2-time semifinalist now, and those slots easily should've gone to Kevin Williams (well one of 'em), or Saturday, or Nalen, or Swilling, or heck James Farrior or Hardy Nickerson.

Especially with "stat" guys whenever I get into the "well, I could make arguments for these 3-4 guys even though they're clearly Hall deficient in an area or two" that's way past the line. It's easy to argue that Fred Taylor "should have" made the Pro Bowl in those years, but, no one's going to make the same argument for Jason Kelce's 2013, even though it's incredibly more true in that case.

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#109 by CHIP72 // Jun 30, 2021 - 12:38pm

...consistently excellent every year, but I do think he was consistently very good just about every year and had a couple of excellent seasons thrown in, one of which was a spectacular season (2016).  Not many quarterbacks in NFL history have been legitimately at the level of very good or better almost every year for the first 10 years of their career.  It isn't Ryan's fault that he played in a quarterback rich era and that some top 10 all-time players (i.e. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) and other slam dunk Hall of Famers (Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers) were his contemporaries.

I'm someone who thinks Matt Ryan, and for that matter Philip Rivers, are near the Hall of Fame cut line but are on the right side of the Hall of Fame cut line and merit induction.  Both of them are very comparable to Warren Moon, and IMO both were a little better than Moon, who was inducted in his first year of eligibility.

Points: 0

#111 by Pat // Jun 30, 2021 - 2:14pm

It isn't Ryan's fault that he played in a quarterback rich era and that some top 10 all-time players (i.e. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) and other slam dunk Hall of Famers (Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers) were his contemporaries.

Why isn't it?

If it's a quarterback rich era, why are we judging Ryan by some historical idea of "very good" instead of by the standards at the time? We all agree judging 1960s QBs by, say, Brady and Manning would be ridiculous, so why does judging Ryan by anything other than his peers make sense?

Both of them are very comparable to Warren Moon, and IMO both were a little better than Moon, who was inducted in his first year of eligibility.

Pretty damn sure neither of them are comparable to Moon, especially because neither of them had to dominate the CFL to prove they belong in the NFL. Hard to imagine Moon wouldn't've put up ~12K yards at least those years, meaning he would've retired the NFL's yardage leader. Marino/Moon could've been trading the NFL's passing yardage title back and forth.

I mean, if you want a sketchy QB candidate, go with Jim Kelly or Kurt Warner. Warner especially is an easy comp for someone like Ryan, because you can say "so if Ryan has one more elite year, he's a shoe-in?"

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#115 by RevBackjoy // Jun 30, 2021 - 2:54pm

I definitely agree with regards to Moon. Here are his CFL stats, over 6 seasons:

1369/2382, 21228 yards, 144 TDs, 77 INTs, 93.8 rating

He threw for 5000+ yards and 30+ TDs in each of his last two seasons. His rating in the NFL would have probably been lower, but I bet he would have put up similar yardage and TD totals had he been drafted in the 1st round like he ought to have been. From Wikipedia:

"Combining his NFL and CFL stats, Moon's numbers are nearly unmatched in professional football annals: 5,357 completions in 9,205 attempts for 70,553 yards and 435 touchdowns. Even if his Canadian Football League statistics are discounted, Moon's NFL career numbers are still exceptional: 3,988 completions for 49,325 yards, 291 touchdown passes, 1,736 yards rushing, and 22 rushing touchdowns."

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#116 by CHIP72 // Jun 30, 2021 - 3:08pm

...Warren Moon was an average to below average QB for the first four seasons of his NFL career; it would have taken him a few years to become a good NFL quarterback even if he joined the league immediately after college.  He didn't really become a standout NFL quarterback until 1988.  Moon then had a very good to excellent five year peak (1988 to 1992) before declining, though he had a couple of very good years (1995 with the Vikings, 1997 with the Seahawks) late in his career.

When you look at the DYOA/DYAR metrics, they generally favor Matt Ryan over Warren Moon.  Here are each guy's Football Outsiders stats (DVOA, DYAR, and NFL ranks among qualifying quarterbacks in each; Moon had less than 200 pass attempts in 2000, so his ranks that year are listed as NA):

Warren Moon

1984 - DVOA: -0.3% (17); DYAR: 341 (13)

1985 - DVOA: -18.7% (26); DYAR: -195 (27)

1986 - DVOA: -6.9% (21); DYAR: 139 (20)

1987 - DVOA: 2.7% (15); DYAR: 338 (13)

1988 - DVOA: 33.1% (2); DYAR: 826 (5)

1989 - DVOA: 25.6% (4); DYAR: 1165 (4)

1990 - DVOA: 27.6% (4); DYAR: 1544 (1)

1991 - DVOA: 17.4% (7); DYAR: 1291 (2)

1992 - DVOA: 18.3% (8); DYAR: 704 (8)

1993 - DVOA: -1.6% (23); DYAR: 350 (19)

1994 - DVOA: 5.9% (11); DYAR: 682 (7)

1995 - DVOA: 12.2% (13); DYAR: 966 (9)

1996 - DVOA: -12.5% (30); DYAR: -24 (30)

1997 - DVOA: 13.1% (8); DYAR: 853 (7)

1998 - DVOA: -5.3% (21); DYAR: 78 (23)

1999 - did not qualify (less than 10 pass attempts)

2000 - DVOA: -34.6% (NA); DYAR: -54 (NA)

Matt Ryan

2008 - DVOA: 25.3% (4); DYAR: 1012 (7)

2009 - DVOA: 12.4% (13); DYAR: 702 (13)

2010 - DVOA: 18.1% (6); DYAR: 1122 (5)

2011 - DVOA: 18.8% (6); DYAR: 1120 (6)

2012 - DVOA: 16.5% (8); DYAR: 1196 (5)

2013 - DVOA: 13.3% (9); DYAR: 1124 (4)

2014 - DVOA: 14.9% (8); DYAR: 1101 (7)

2015 - DVOA: -1.9% (18); DYAR: 389 (19)

2016 - DVOA: 39.1% (1); DYAR: 1885 (1)

2017 - DVOA: 19.1% (9); DYAR: 1084 (7)

2018 - DVOA: 18.2% (4); DYAR: 1232 (4)

2019 - DVOA: 7.0% (14); DYAR: 712 (14)

2020 - DVOA: 7.6% (15); DYAR: 817 (10)

Both Warren Moon and Matt Ryan had one season where they led the NFL in DYAR (Moon: 1990; Ryan: 2016) and were legitimate MVP candidates, but Ryan also led in DVOA that season and was actually named the MVP; Ryan had a bigger best season.  Moon had a better 3 season peak stretch (1988 to 1990) than Ryan, but Ryan has more very good or better (which I classify as DVOAs above +10.0%) seasons as the primary starting quarterback in a shorter NFL career (Ryan: 10 seasons; Moon: 7 seasons); probably 4-5 of those "very good" seasons could be classified as "near great".  (I generally consider full or mostly full time seasons with DVOAs over +20.0% as "great".)  When looking at ranks, Moon had more top three DYAR seasons (2 vs 1) but Ryan had more top 5 and top 10 DYAR seasons.  Ryan has had really only three seasons in his 13 year career below the level of very good (2015, 2019, 2020) and one season that was slightly below average (2015) while Moon as a regular starter had almost as many average and below average seasons (7) as he did better than average or better seasons (8).  Finally, in terms of team success Ryan led his team to a Super Bowl appearance and two conference championship games while Moon never appeared in a conference championship game, much less a Super Bowl.  Moon was the starting quarterback on more playoff teams than Ryan (8 vs 6).

To me, Warren Moon falls a shade short of the Hall of Fame based on only his NFL career; his lack of success in the playoffs despite playing on many good teams works against him.  However, his spectacular success in the CFL puts him over the top IMO, even if the CFL was vastly inferior to the NFL.  (Jim Kelly could actually make a similar argument with his USFL career, especially considering the USFL was almost definitely quite a bit better than the CFL.  However, IMO Kelly falls short of the Hall of Fame standard even when you include his USFL years because 1) the USFL only accounts for two years of his career and 2) he's not as close to the HOF cut line as Moon is based purely on his NFL career.)

Regardless whether or not someone agrees with me about Warren Moon's qualifications for the PFHOF, the one thing that IS hard to argue on his behalf is that he had a better NFL career than what Matt Ryan has already had, when you look at the advanced metrics.  And if Warren Moon (barely) makes it over the HOF cut line, that means Matt Ryan does as well.

Points: 0

#118 by Pat // Jun 30, 2021 - 3:40pm

 it would have taken him a few years to become a good NFL quarterback even if he joined the league immediately after college.

Um. So?

He played for 6 years in the CFL. When he retired, he was 12K yards behind Marino for the NFL all time yardage record - a record that would stand for another 8 years. In his first 4 years in the NFL, he averaged 3000 yards/year.

On that pace, he would've added 18,000 additional yards - putting him well above Marino, and Favre wouldn't've broken that record until mid-2009. At which point he would've been eligible for 3 years already. So assuming 12k yards is extremely conservative. It's completely possible he would've taken 4-5 years to reach the Pro Bowl level he later did and then been at his peak for 6 more years, utterly destroying the yardage record.

We don't know what could've happened, and we all know why we don't know.

 the one thing that IS hard to argue on his behalf is that he had a better NFL career than what Matt Ryan has already had

Okay, let's be serious here. Moon had to go to the CFL because he was black. We know this. It's in his Hall biography. So comparing their "NFL careers" is completely insane - other QBs had a massive leg up on Moon, the Hall voters knew this, and they respected it. If that barrier hadn't been there, Moon would've almost without a doubt retired as the all-time career passing yard leader in the NFL.

Warren Moon's the kind of guy you have to just put aside when doing Hall comparisons. You can't compare anybody today to him, because his story is literally unique because of him. There's literally no "yes, but" possible. Which is why I don't bring up Moon in these discussions, because it's silly. Again, you want to argue for Ryan, Kelly or Warner are way better targets.

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#121 by CHIP72 // Jun 30, 2021 - 4:36pm

...is you are going to hold most players to a "small Hall" standard but hold other players who had to deal with a unique set of challenging circumstances to a "large Hall" standard.  That way of thinking is:

1) Unfair to the players who played under difficult circumstances who were legitimate, clear cut Hall of Famers anyway.  Jackie Robinson is in the Baseball Hall of Fame not because he broke the color barrier; he's in because he was a legitimately great player regardless what he looked like.  If Jackie Robinson was merely an average player or even a good player, he wouldn't have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

2) Illogical, because it creates one set of standards for one group of players and another, much different set of standards for a second group of players.  That's how the Baseball Hall of Fame became such a mess to begin with - the BBWAA had a much higher set of standards than the Veterans Committee (or equivalent), so players below (sometimes way below) the HOF standard with the first group were above the standard with the second group.

3) Problematic at best and potentially undermining to the Hall of Fame at worst, because it creates a gray area regarding where you draw the line regarding "challenging circumstances".  Should players from foreign countries or are Native American receive an advantage?  Should players who came from broken homes receive an advantage?  Should players who were undrafted receive an advantage?  Should standout players on bad teams receive an advantage?  Should players who faced one or more of those issues receive an advantage?  All of those kind of players faced "challenging circumstances".  When you start bending things a bit to allow a particular player to get into the HOF, it allows arguments to arise in favor of players who weren't quite as disadvantaged to also get selected.

With regard to the CFL, it is pretty obvious the talent level in the CFL is vastly inferior to what is found in the NFL, and that has been true for at least 40-50 years.  The proof of that is the total lack of CFL stars who even were decent players in the NFL.  CFL stats and accomplishments should be considered when evaluating players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but they shouldn't be counted too much because the CFL has proven to be distinctly a minor league compared to the NFL since at least the early 1970s and probably sometime in the mid-1950s to early 1960s.  The only reason Warren Moon's CFL stats carry any real weight at all is because they were so spectacular that it was clear he was much better than the standard CFL player.

I agree that Warren Moon was unfairly slighted by NFL teams in the late 1970s because he was a black quarterback, and most teams likely were not going to give him sufficient opportunity to succeed.  (Having said that, I'll note Doug Williams, who was in the same draft class as Moon, was taken as the 17th overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, so it wasn't like NO teams would have had no interest in Warren Moon.  Teams just didn't think he was as good a prospect as Doug Williams.)  I also agree that Moon probably becomes at least a solid NFL QB sooner if he's able to play in the league immediately; considering it took him until his 4th year to become a truly solid NFL starter, I'd guess Moon had a good chance of reaching that level by 1982 or 1983 if he joins the NFL in 1978 and receives at least some playing time in his first 3-4 years of his pro career.  (Of course, on the other hand it is also possible he washes out early in his NFL career and few people outside the state of Washington ever know the name Warren Moon.  I suspect there are a number of quarterbacks who could have been successful but weren't early in their careers and then were not given a third or fourth chance and ended up having brief, unmemorable careers.)  If those extra solid to good seasons are added to Moon's NFL career, he almost definitely becomes a clear cut Hall of Famer.  But that's not typically how Hall of Fame selections in any sport are made.  Selections are made based on what a player actually accomplished, not on what he might have accomplished had circumstances been different, unless the circumstances were entirely outside the player's control (such as the color barrier, fighting in World War II, or something similar; Moon would have faced an uphill battle in the NFL in the late 1970s but he also chose to go to the CFL).  And as I noted above, it would be a disservice to legitimate Hall of Famers who DID face challenging circumstances to have that looser standard because it unfairly calls into question their qualifications.

If you want to say Warren Moon is a clear cut Hall of Famer based on his NFL career, that's fine.  All I'm doing is pointing out Matt Ryan's qualifications (and I suspect Philip Rivers' qualifications, though I haven't checked Rivers' stats) are a little stronger, and it would be contradictory to say Moon clearly IS a Hall of Famer and Ryan is clearly NOT a Hall of Famer when their stats and quality relative to their eras are similar.

Points: 0

#123 by Pat // Jun 30, 2021 - 5:18pm

Problematic at best and potentially undermining to the Hall of Fame at worst, because it creates a gray area regarding where you draw the line regarding "challenging circumstances".

Really, this isn't about Moon having "challenging circumstances." This is about recognizing the system at the time as being against guys like him, and pushing him on a path. It's not about what he had to go through. It's about what the NFL, as an organization, did to him. Everyone has challenges to overcome. 

Having said that, I'll note Doug Williams, who was in the same draft class as Moon, was taken as the 17th overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, so it wasn't like NO teams would have had no interest in Warren Moon.

It's not about what the teams thought. It's about what Moon thought. He thought he had to go to the CFL to get taken seriously. In some sense, putting him in the Hall is acknowledging that he was right.

You're really just framing this backwards. You're thinking about this as "lowering" the bar for Moon, whereas it's actually recognizing that he looked at the bar, said "eff you, I'm not playing this game" and smashed it in the NFL's face.

But that's not typically how Hall of Fame selections in any sport are made. 

Again - this isn't about saying "gee, if only we hadn't been such racist pricks, Moon would've had a great career." He did have a great career. He went to the CFL, and demolished it. It doesn't matter what you think of the CFL. It matters what he did.

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#125 by CHIP72 // Jun 30, 2021 - 7:23pm

...and tore it up.  Great, excellent.  If we use the rationale you identified in your very last statement in the comment above, we can take out the name "Warren Moon" and replace it with the name "Doug Flutie".

"Doug Flutie did have a great career.  He went to the CFL and demolished it.  It doesn't matter what you think of the CFL, it matters what he did."

The problem with your statement is it DOES matter what people think of the CFL, because CFL success is almost never a predictor of NFL success, which is a function of the CFL being vastly inferior to the NFL.  Flutie also is one of the all-time great CFL players (perhaps the greatest all-time player considering he won six CFL MVP awards in a seven year stretch between 1991 and 1997), and he did eventually prove he could be a solid NFL QB.  However, I don't see anyone saying Flutie should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because he was great in the CFL.

What primarily got Warren Moon in the PFHOF is his NFL career, not his CFL career.  The latter carries a little weight in Moon's HOF case but not a lot.  Yes, I won't argue that Moon felt he needed to go to the CFL to get a chance to play.  Yes, I won't argue that there was significant bias against black quarterbacks in the late 1970s.  But there are MANY quarterbacks who come from small colleges, or are physically small, or are late round draft picks or undrafted, who enter the NFL and don't get a chance to play.  Some of those guys stick around and eventually do get their chance and some don't, and as I said in my previous comment, I'm sure there are many quarterbacks in history who could have succeeded in the NFL if given the proper chance.  Similarly, there WERE black quarterbacks - not many but a few - who had a chance to play in or prior to the late 1970s, some of whom were solid but probably didn't get as much opportunity to perform as they should have, some of whom were not good enough to be starting NFL quarterbacks.

Here's my problem with your argument regarding Warren Moon - you want to say Warren Moon's success in the CFL should carry a lot of weight in his HOF argument or when evaluating his career in general.  At the same time, you want to say Warren Moon would have good or better in the NFL for a longer period of time had he entered the NFL in 1978.  You want to give him credit for BOTH going to the CFL and "demolishing" it AND for believing he would have had a better NFL career had he started playing in the NFL in 1978.  Moon can really only get credit for the former; he can get credit for what he actually did, not for what he might have done.  Maybe he would have succeeded in the NFL as a young player and maybe he wouldn't have.  Maybe he would have not gotten sufficient opportunity to prove how good he could be in the NFL.  Maybe if Moon hadn't succeeded as a young quarterback it would have been partly due to the fact he was black, and maybe it would have had nothing to do with him being black.  We'll never know the answer to those questions.

Here's what we DO know about Warren Moon's pro football career:

1) Moon had a spectacular six season CFL career, helping his team win five Grey Cups (he played a key role in three of the Grey Cup wins, winning two game MVP awards, and a lesser role in a fourth Grey Cup victory) and the 1983 CFL MVP Award.

2) Moon's first three NFL seasons (1984 to 1986) were NOT successful on an individual or team level (which undermines the argument that Moon as a younger quarterback would have been reasonably successful early in his career had he played in the NFL starting in 1978).  Moon didn't become a true standout NFL quarterback until his fifth NFL season in 1988.

3) Moon had a very good to excellent NFL peak from 1988 to 1992 when he was one of the top quarterbacks in the league, particularly from 1988 to 1990.

4) Moon's post-peak NFL years in his late 30s and early 40s (1993 to 1998, with a small amount of play in 1999-2000) were up and down but still very good in relative terms when considering his age and included two very good seasons in absolute terms.

5) Moon helped his teams make the playoffs eight straight seasons (1987-1993 with the Oilers, 1994 with the Vikings), but his teams never made it to a conference championship game in the seven seasons he started at quarterback in the playoffs.  (He was injured in 1990.)

Everyone SHOULD be willing to evaluate and give credit to (or criticize) what Warren Moon actually DID do in his pro football career, in both the CFL and NFL.  Including Moon's CFL career in his career evaluation IS acknowledging he needed to go to Canada to prove himself because he was quarterback who happened to be black; it is saying his six CFL seasons count for something.  Now because the CFL is vastly inferior to the NFL, those CFL years shouldn't carry too much weight; individual CFL seasons don't carry anywhere near the weight of individual NFL seasons.  Such an assessment doesn't just apply to Warren Moon, it applies to ALL long-time CFL players.  On the other hand, Moon was such a standout in Canada that his CFL career isn't a net zero when evaluating his career; it carries (and should carry) a little weight.

Now, getting back to Matt Ryan (and possibly Philip Rivers) - why does Ryan NOT merit even consideration for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction, especially if Ryan's advanced metrics are probably a little better than Warren Moon's (if we focus solely on Moon's NFL career)?

Points: 0

#127 by Pat // Jul 01, 2021 - 9:23am

 we can take out the name "Warren Moon" and replace it with the name "Doug Flutie".

Seriously, if we're to the point of saying "Moon going to the CFL is the same thing as Flutie going to the CFL," there's nothing more to add here.

I've said multiple times using Moon as a comparison is just stupid. It's pointless. Use Kelly or Warner, it makes more sense. I could easily argue Ryan's career's better than those two, but I don't think either Kelly or Warner should be in the Hall anyway.


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#141 by JimZipCode // Jul 01, 2021 - 6:09pm

I don't think either Kelly or Warner should be in the Hall anyway.

I'm curious about Warner.  In the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl, Warner threw for 377 yds and 3 TDs.  They had the lead in the final 2 mins, until that Roethlisberger-to-Santonio TD in the right corner of the end zone with ~40 secs on the clock.  A game that could very easily have gone the other way.

Would your opinion on Warner be different if the Cards had held on to win that SB?  Warner (not Peyton) would have been the first QB to win SBs with two different teams.  He probably would have been game MVP (him or Fitz), giving Warner as many SB MVPs as Bart Starr & Terry Bradshaw (and, um, Eli).

Points: 0

#144 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 9:52am

Would your opinion on Warner be different if the Cards had held on to win that SB? 

Nope. His career's just too short for the era he lived in (well, his "good" career). Guys with flashes of greatness like that, in my mind, make good stories, but not good Hall of Famers. I mean, jeez, you talk about Super Bowls that can go another way, what about Warner's first one?

To me I just see Warner as a luckier version of a lot of other players - Trent Green, Elvis Grbac, Marc Bulger, Tony Romo. Not quite as lucky as Troy Aikman (who I also think is a bit of a reach).

With guys with short careers like that, just seems way too much like it's the other people on the team that are driving the success. For Warner, obviously, he was handed Faulk, Bruce, Holt in the first early stretch (where he was epic) and Fitz in the later stretch (where he was good to great).

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#159 by SandyRiver // Jul 02, 2021 - 4:34pm

Reading the above makes me wonder if Warner's 2nd peak might be more noteworthy than the 1st.  Fitz-2008 might be better than Bruce or Holt in Warner's STL years, but after that Warner's weapons at Arizona were a big step down from the GSOT.  The Cards really pulled things together late that season, after the 47-7 drubbing by the Matt Cassel Pats in the Foxboro snow.

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#160 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 7:18pm

Oh, I'd agree: those years actually raised my opinion of Warner a ton. Before that I had mostly thought of him as a middling QB raised by the Rams system. I still don't think he's a Hall QB, but he was a very solid QB overall.

Points: 0

#119 by Will Allen // Jun 30, 2021 - 3:41pm

Very interesting counterfactual posed by the fact that the Giants, along with the Oilers and Seahawks, tried to sign Moon out of the CFL. The Maras certainly had the cash to pay Moon in those pre-cap days, but didn't want to try and win a bidding war. If Moon does get paired with Parcells in 1984, who knows what the result would have been? Of course, in 1984, Parcells wasn't widely known to be a great coach, and you can't fault Moon for taking a 5 million dollar guarantee in 1984, but it's intriguing to think about. Don't think Parcells would have needed to chew Moon out as often as he did Phil Simms, for being too risk-averse with regard to cutting it loose downfield. Might have had to chew him out more often for other stuff, however.


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#114 by Will Allen // Jun 30, 2021 - 2:38pm

"QB rich era" is another way of saying "Era when rules changes and emphasis made passing much more advantageous, resulting in greater passing totals and efficiency". 

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#117 by CHIP72 // Jun 30, 2021 - 3:27pm

...let's remember DVOA is a zero sum statistic; it adjusts for era by treating average as zero.  If a guy like Matt Ryan puts up very good DVOAs just about his entire career with a couple of great seasons thrown in, that means he's really good relative to his era, even if a few other quarterbacks are even better in the same era.

The late 1990s to late 2000s quarterback era was a rich era not because passing became easier, but because an unusually high number of really good to great quarterbacks came into the NFL over a relatively short period of time.

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#128 by Pat // Jul 01, 2021 - 9:50am

but because an unusually high number of really good to great quarterbacks came into the NFL over a relatively short period of time

One epic, all-time QB (Favre) would be semi-normal. Two (Manning + Favre) is unusual. Three (Manning + Favre + Brady) is startling. Four (Manning + Favre + Brady + Rodgers) is suspicious. And of course now Mahomes is on pace to get added to that list as well.

When you start wanting to put 5 guys as "best all time" and they all played within 10 years of each other, that's way too much of a coincidence.

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#134 by gomer_rs // Jul 01, 2021 - 12:50pm

Aside from the rule changes, since the introduction of the Air Coryell and West Coast offenses in the 1980s the consistent progression in coaching strategy and tactics has been to throw more and run less.  In combination with more effective route combinations and understanding of how to attack a defense.

So, there were probably many QBs of earlier eras with the potential to be a top 10 great qb, but the team was running the ball 60% of the time.

As late as 1990, teams in pro and college were still running the ball under a minute, trailing, with no timeouts...  BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT THAT WAS THE BEST WAY TO SCORE.

We can't assume that coaches actually know how best to run a team, because we have 40+ years of schematic change, that trumps any and all rule changes, showing that many of the coaching assumptions from earlier eras were simply wrong.

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#150 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 10:53am

Absolutely. Totally agree!

But if it's an era thing, why does it make sense to consider performances which are only "great" or even "good" for their era as being Hall worthy?

I mean, in some sense I could buy the argument if you say "well, passing's more important so obviously quarterbacks increase in importance and need to go in more." But the problem with that is that also increases the importance of, say, pure pass rushers (hence the Dwight Freeney argument), pass-catching tight ends (hence the doubling of the Hall TEs), wide receivers and pass protection. And really the only one that it diminishes is running backs (because the non-stat positions weren't considered Hall worthy anyway). Someone has to catch and stop those passes, after all.

In other words the problem is that QBs were already highly regarded in the Hall, and so avoiding adding guys like LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore isn't going to make up for the flood of WRs, TEs, and DEs.

In combination with more effective route combinations and understanding of how to attack a defense.

I stressed this point because I really think this is actually the key development. Rushing isn't really 11-on-11. You waste the QB (who hands off), you waste the outside WRs (who typically do very little, thanks Randy Moss). Passing is really 11-on-11. And I don't even really think the game's done evolving yet, because certain positions (running back, interior OL, linebackers) are highly replaceable relative to other (non-QB) positions, which means coaches haven't figured out how to get the most from every position yet. 

Which means as the game evolves from rushing to passing, more players are getting involved, and the Hall necessarily has to get either more restrictive or bigger. Has to.

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#136 by Joseph // Jul 01, 2021 - 3:42pm

The fact that you omitted Brees from your list of all-time best QB's is shocking. I mean, he is still the all-time passing yardage leader, and was the all-time passing TD leader for a little bit just last year. [Even as a Saints fan, he isn't as good as Brady & Manning--but I think he's better than Favre.] But, the fact that all 5 of these guys played at the same time (for a little bit--Rodgers and Favre barely overlap), and Mahomes overlaps with 3 of the 5, I don't think is a coincidence. 

In these last ~20 years, I think that you have a combination of: 1--unparalleled longevity, due to advances in sports science and medicine; 2--Technology that allows players and coaches to break down video in greater detail and volume; 3--Rule changes that aid passing; 4--Proliferation of sports camps, which allow younger players to get more detailed instruction during the "offseason"; 5--Proliferation of games to watch, whereby younger players can view numerous games all weekend long (plus MNF, TNF, and some midweek lower-tier college games!)--giving them more exposure to techniques. I'm sure there may be other factors. Even now, there are coaching-type videos on Youtube which will help players that will enter the NFL in the years to come. Put it all together, and you have a recipe for "good" QB's to become all-time greats. 



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#147 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 10:18am

The fact that you omitted Brees from your list of all-time best QB's is shocking.

I actually just listed the top 4 QBs in PFR's HOFm, Brees is 7. But yeah, obviously, many (most?) people would argue for Brees being on that list as well.

If you're looking specifically for reasons why PFR's HOFm has era issues, the other problem is the growth of Pro Bowl alternates. Several of Brees's are injury replacements, for instance. This isn't meant to take anything away from Brees, mind you - it's not insulting to say "yeah, maybe you're not actually more legendary than Steve Young"!

And then AV also obviously has era issues as well in terms of usage when you try to use it as a Hall of Fame meter. But that's a super-hard discussion. Do you let more players in, in terms of relative ability, because usage has grown? Or do you just raise the bar? AV, for instance, tries to split things by historical run/pass fraction. So team pass run is close to like 50/50, but yardage is split heavily for passing, so you "upscale" rushing yardage because you think it obviously has to be important since teams are doing it. In an era where passing is more like 60/40 or 65/35, obviously teams don't think that anymore. And that really blows up the "usage" problem.


Really, the funny thing about this is that we actually have a much, much clearer example in the NFL: kickers. But kickers have improved slowly, and they're not nearly as important so we don't notice them. But, I mean, you have to go way down on the list of, say, made field goals to find a kicker who didn't play this century. And for the longest time I could fit a straight line to kicking improvement over the years.

It's resulting in the same problem, though, in my opinion - Morten Andersen just made the Hall, and Vinatieri will make it too, and I seriously can't look at either of those things and not think it's insane. Who knows what'll happen in the next years - if Lamar Jackson takes off again, does Justin Tucker suddenly become a Hall candidate?

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#142 by JimZipCode // Jul 01, 2021 - 6:40pm

When you start wanting to put 5 guys as "best all time" and they all played within 10 years of each other, that's way too much of a coincidence.

I agree with this conceptually.  It seems like a lot.  Clearly the environment has changed.

But – there's no real way to argue against any of the four guys.  Has any 3-time MVP ever been excluded from the Hall?  It would be more explicable to keep Brees out of the Hall, than Favre/Manning/Brady (and I'm not trying to argue that Brees should be out).  Anyway, when great QBs can have careers where they're actually good & effective across 15 years, it's going to be inevitable that there are some overlaps.

Your mention of Mahomes seems like a red herring.  He did not overlap with Manning; obvsly came nowhere near Favre.  The bulk of his career is (likely) going to take place in a whole different decade from the bulk of Brees & Brady's careers.

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#148 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 10:40am


But – there's no real way to argue against any of the four guys.  Has any 3-time MVP ever been excluded from the Hall?

Nonono, you're misunderstanding. I'm not saying those guys shouldn't be in the Hall! My God, no!

This is a totally different discussion. I'm saying that acting as if we just got suddenly lucky and (Manning, Brady, Favre, Rodgers) - four "best QB ever" candidates - dropped into our laps in the same time - that's nuts. Those four rank #1-4 on PFR's HOFm. If I literally divide their scores in half they'd still be Hall of Famers.

That's what I'm trying to say. Not that they shouldn't be in the Hall - heck no. Just that the idea that we're in some sort of lucky magic time where we got graced with QB gods is almost certainly recency bias. And the problem with that view is that it leads to "well, these 4 are just QB gods, so our lesser QB greats should still be Hall players" too. 

Your mention of Mahomes seems like a red herring.

Prior to Manning/Brady, who was in the argument for "best QB ever"? Unitas and Montana, most likely. Others might include Sammy Baugh. Maybe Otto Graham. That's 4 guys spanning ~70 years. That looks like the right distribution for "best ever." Now you've got 4 guys in 20 years. And for most people if you tried to argue Unitas vs, say, Brady, it'd be a really really hard sell.

And now here comes a new one immediately after. You can't keep getting a new "best QB ever." The time to get a new "best QB ever" should increase, not decrease. That's the way distributions work! Now, when the league grows you expect the time to decrease (hey look, Montana) - but the league has basically been growth-stagnant for 30 years now.

"Best ever" should work like it does for WRs. Rice showed up, he's a clear outlier, and it'll take forever before we see guys like him again.

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#143 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 01, 2021 - 8:20pm

instead of straight up normal and guaranteed. We already discussed this but it's only "suspicious" if you want a small HOF.

I'll reiterate for what I said in the Ryan thread 

"Starr, Unitas, Dawson, Jurgensen, Tarkenton, Namath, Griese, Staubach, Stabler, and Bradshaw, all (10!) played from 70-71. Pretty common. Include Tom Flores and the first 8 and that's a total of 9 in 1969.

Even if we look at something more modern (without assuming who is and isn't a HOF right now), we can look at 1998 when future HOFrs Peyton and Warner joined. Along with HOFrs Favre, Aikman, Young, Moon, Elway, and Marino all still playing. That's also 9(!) now CONFIRMED HOF QBs playing at the same time."

Let's pick a random year: 1988. Montana, Marino, Elway, Moon, Young and Kelly. That's 6. Lets just go forward a year and you add Aikman. That's 7. Forward two more years add Favre. That's 8. 

5 isn't a lot at all. You just disagree with having some many QBs in because they weren't centers. 

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#149 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 10:41am

We already discussed this

That was a totally different discussion - that was about who should be in the Hall, not believing that the best QBs in the league currently are the best ever.

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#153 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 02, 2021 - 1:25pm

Like I stated many times, you just don't want that many but you keep trying to push that it's impossible to have that many at a time when others clearly think it's possible...because it was and is. There's no reason to arbitrarily cap the most valuable position to a certain number of HOFrs at one time unless you want the impossible task of making positions balanced. 

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#154 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 1:39pm

 it's impossible to have that many at a time when others clearly think it's possible...because it was and is.

Again, you're talking about something completely different from what I'm saying now.

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#158 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 02, 2021 - 3:38pm

Started with Ryan. Dude showed he wasn't average or below for his time. Now you're trying to split hairs with

"When you start wanting to put 5 guys as "best all time" and they all played within 10 years of each other, that's way too much of a coincidence."

"Best of all time" vs HOF semantics. Those 5 guys played at the same time = Ryan can't be in. 

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#161 by Pat // Jul 02, 2021 - 7:26pm

It's not semantics. Where you put a Hall cutoff is totally anyone's opinion.

But the time between encountering a new "max" in a falling distribution should increase over time. The time between records being broken should increase, not decrease, without external forces.

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#168 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 06, 2021 - 4:45pm

Or even near top 5 OAT. It's entirely semantics you're painting.

You seem to not know the league likes to (sometimes) do the more efficient thing more often. And that doesn't just include passing but expanding the schedule!

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