Why Is Zach Thomas a Hall of Fame Snub?

Miami Dolphins LB Zach Thomas
Miami Dolphins LB Zach Thomas
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - Zach Thomas. Randy Gradishar. Devin Hester. Steve Smith and Andre Johnson. I solicited questions on Twitter for a Pro Football Hall of Fame argument mailbag, and folks rounded up the usual suspects! That tells me that folks really do want to hear more about some of the players who have been stuck in the finalist waiting room or have topped the all-time "snub list" for years. So let's get right to it!

Homer Suggestion (for the Pro Football Hall of Fame): Zach Thomas
Chris Spooner

That's hardly a homer selection! Thomas is a three-time finalist! He will likely queue in next year.

I assumed Thomas would get in with the 2022 class, but from what I have gathered, the Sam Mills Brigade fought with their backs to the wall, knowing (and reminding the other voters) that Mills would be remanded to the Seniors Committee if he didn't make it this year. Thomas has no such ticking clock, so he was asked to wait his turn.

Some folks on Twitter mentioned that Thomas has a glowing Peyton Manning endorsement, which is indeed true and I know has been discussed in committee. Thomas also has less-than-glowing reviews from some old-school "blood-'n'-guts" coaches who considered him a product of his system who rarely had to take on interior offensive linemen. Such negative reviews are unlikely to sabotage Thomas' candidacy, but they were enough to get him shunted behind candidates such as John Lynch, Tony Boselli, and others who had been waiting longer anyway.

@Broncos LBs Randy Gradishar and Karl Mecklenburg were both elite players in their era... why aren't they in?
Dr. Nicholas Manning

Gradishar was the Zach Thomas of his era: some ultra-ultra-traditionalist coaches didn't like the Broncos' 3-4 defense of the 1970s much and thought it allowed Gradishar to rack up tackles/stats/accolades. He also had a relatively short peak. The enshrinement committees of the 1990s had rings on the brain, and just about the worst thing a player could do was play for a team that lost the Super Bowl (see: various Minnesota Vikings of the 1970s who were forced to wait for many, many years).

Mecklenburg's candidacy was not as strong as Gradishar's, Teammate Steve Atwater was the higher-priority player on the Broncos voters' non-Elway agenda, and it took Atwater a trillion years to get in. There really was an implicit anti-Broncos bias in the voting 20-plus years ago, born from both the Raiders rivalry and that lingering stigma about losing Super Bowls. It's important to remember that enshrinement committee membership changes over the decades: 20 to 25 years ago, it was still populated by some very provincial, somewhat catty fedoras-and-typewriters columnists from olden times (as well as some brilliant national voices).

The good news for Gradishar (at least) is that the Hall has changed the rules: three Senior Committee selections can be inducted per year over the next three years. That should create a clearinghouse for all of the usual suspects on the all-time snub lists.

Prove your "every town has its linebacker" adage. For every team, give the linebacker whose home fans claim is being snubbed by the hall of fame.
Wilfredo Gomez

Here we go:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills: London Fletcher, Cornelius Bennett
Miami Dolphins: Zach Thomas
New England Patriots: Tedy Bruschi
New York Jets: None, but Joe Klecko fills this spot in their nostalgia ecosystem.

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Suggs
Cincinnati Bengals: Bill Bergey? Nah. The Bengals have a favorite snub at every position except linebacker.
Cleveland Browns: Clay Matthews Jr.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Greg Lloyd.

AFC South
Houston Texans: None
Indianapolis Colts: Mike Curtis
Jacksonville Jaguars: None
Tennessee Titans: It was Robert Brazile (for the Oilers) before the Seniors Committee inducted him in 2018. Now none.

AFC West
Denver Broncos: Randy Gradishar
Las Vegas Raiders: Rod Martin, Phil Villapiano
Los Angeles Chargers: None, though I am guessing there are Woodrow Lowe stans out there.
Kansas City Chiefs: E.J. Holub. Just kidding! The Hall of Fame has been extremely kind to the Chiefs.

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys: Ken Norton, Lee Roy Jordan
New York Giants: Carl Banks, Jesse Armstead
Philadelphia Eagles: Bill Bergey, Seth Joyner
Washington Franchise: London Fletcher

NFC North
Chicago Bears: All of their linebackers get in.
Detroit Lions: Wayne Walker
Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews III in a few years
Minnesota Vikings: Matt Blair

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons: Tommy Nobis (A great example of a guy only local fans think is a Hall of Famer, usually because their dads said so.)
Carolina Panthers: Sam Mills until this year. Luke Kuechly until he gets in. Thomas Davis forever after.
New Orleans Saints: Sam Mills until this year. Demario Davis if they ever let him retire in peace.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hardy Nickerson. Lavonte David forever after.

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals: None
Los Angeles Rams: Isiah Robertson
San Francisco 49ers: NaVorro Bowman
Seattle Seahawks: Bobby Wagner is too qualified a candidate. Kam Chancellor will end up filling in as an honorary homer favorite.

Yeah, some of those are reaches. (Check out Isiah Robertson though.) But many towns have their linebacker, or a gritty defensive tackle or safety. And a few that don't were only appeased over the last five years or so.

After Adrian Peterson gets in, what will be the stats and awards profile of the next running back to be inducted? Is he the last running back to get in or will the expectations change?
Connor Flanagan

There has always been a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for running backs with incredibly high peaks and relatively short careers: Gale Sayers, Earl Campbell, Terrell Davis. Derrick Henry could have leapt into the Hall of Fame conversation quickly with a second 2,000-yard season in 2021. And while I doubt it will happen, he could do so this year, adding Comeback Player of the Year (he's +300—don't do it!) to his portfolio. Henry could also do a Jerome Bettis-type thing where he becomes a lovable battering ram who hangs around for years and is always in the playoffs.

Running backs with Adrian Peterson-length peaks have always been rare and will only become rarer. I don't believe there's a single active running back that's truly on a Hall of Fame track of any substance right now; saying "Jonathan Taylor might have five more great years" is as substantive as saying "Kirk Cousins could still lead his teams to three Super Bowls."

Someday soon, running backs will be as rare on the finalist ballot as specialists. That's hard to imagine, but guards were the most important players on the field 90 years ago, middle linebackers 40 years ago. The game evolves.

DeMarcus Ware should've been a first ballot Hall of Famer…so you agree? If not, why?
Brandon Kirsztal

I wrote about Ware and other edge rushers last year. Regular readers know I bristle at the phrase "first ballot Hall of Famer" when applied to sub-Brady level humans. Ware entered the ballot in the same year as Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, and Charles Woodson. If you think all four of them deserved to get in on the first ballot, then you must not think much of Alan Faneca, Tony Boselli, LeRoy Butler, and others who had been waiting for years at that point.

Ware was one of several finalists who lost out on the 2022 ballot when the Sam Mills bloc went into now-or-never mode and former opponents came out of the woodwork to cape for Bryant Young. He's still on pace to be inducted at some point.

Thoughts on special teams players making the hall? Vinatieri and Hester come to mind.
CSWC Andy

Based on my conversations with voters in January, I think Devin Hester will reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame sometime in the next five years. He has some enthusiastic support among both his peers and voters.

Adam Vinatieri is a Hall of Famer. He may make it in on the first ballot, because the committee will think "he's getting in eventually, so do we really want to debate about a kicker for three years?"

Justin Tucker will also be a Hall of Famer in 20 years or so.

Former Raiders punter Shane Lechler was a five-time All Pro, the first-team punter for the All-2000s Team, and the second-team punter (behind Johnny Hekker) for the All-2010s Team. I don't think that's enough for him to make the Hall of Fame, because we're facing serious wide receiver and edge rusher logjams over the next series of ballots, but anything can happen if he seeps into the finalist category. Not to be a "ringz" guy, but I would like my Hall of Fame punter to have some postseason heroics in his portfolio. (Remember that AFC Championship Game when he pinned Patrick Mahomes at his own 5-yard line three times?)

Matthew Slater and his 10 Pro Bowls as a special teamer inevitably work their way into this conversation. I love Slater, and I think he does have some postseason heroics to point to (check out the Falcons' fourth-quarter field position in Super Bowl LI), but I hate the silly "count the stars and rings" argument. If Slater's a Hall of Famer, so is Lechler, and we should look at Mike Alstott (three-time All Pro!) and Brian Mitchell (second to Jerry Rice on the all-time all-purpose yardage list!), not to mention all the role players and equipment managers who got their rings from Tom Brady.

If Patriots fans really think Slater deserves enshrinement, they should give up on other tertiary candidates such as Julian Edelman and focus a campaign on him. The end result, however, would probably be a Steve Tasker situation, where the delegates move heaven and earth to get their guy to the semifinalist stage and lose a chance to cape for someone such as Devin McCourty (Kent Hull in Tasker's case).

Mike, I'd like your view on Tony Boselli and the HOF (not Bruce Smith).
Stujo4

In case you missed it, Bruce Smith took umbrage to one of the planks in the platform Tony Boselli's supporters used to finally get him inducted into the 2022 class: that Boselli soundly defeated Smith when they faced off during their peaks. Smith called such campaigning "underhanded" and claimed it sets a "horrible precedent."

First of all, it did not set any precedent: voters have been building portfolios around a candidate's performance against his top rivals for decades.

Secondly, I've heard the "Boselli crushed Smith" discussion directly from voters a few times over the years. The tale may have gotten a little tall in the retelling, but there was nothing "underhanded" about it. The story was just used to prove that Boselli wasn't just one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL during his brief peak, but one of the best in history during that peak. Having watched Boselli in that era, that gibes with the perception of him at the time. But Boselli played at about the same time as Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, and Willie Roaf, who all had longer peaks, and then he got stuck on the ballot for years with Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca, and Kevin Mawae, all long-tenured, much-decorated interior linemen. He finally made it into the 2022 class because the queue cleared out and there were no Peyton Manning types in the EZ Pass lane, not because the voters wanted to diss Bruce Smith.

Smith's comments illustrate my point about leaving the voting in the hands of my colleagues, not ex-players. Some folks think that letting players vote would depoliticize the Pro Football Hall of Fame, because journos shun players who denied us a locker room interview in 2003 or whatever. In reality, it would give future edge rushers the chance to say, "he never blocked me without holding!" about someone like Andre Whitworth, then they'd enshrine the ex-teammates who run the best charity golf tournaments.

Some actual MAIL for Joey Huey: One thought I have had over the years is that the hall should consider units for induction. I.E. offensive line, the whole offense or defense. This addresses several issues of equity, (why so many QB's when there are 5 times as many lineman & it's hard to throw the ball when you are running for your life) that people have raised. Football is a team sport and the recognition of units would be appropriate. I know that this isn't your call, but what do you think?

That's the sort of thing that makes a great exhibit at a Hall of Fame. Come to Canton this year for the Legion of Boom Experience. Also, see how you size up next to the Hogs in our 1980s wing!

In general, I think the Pro Football Hall of Fame could do a much better job of a) providing an immersive fan experience for folks who actually visit; and b) informing fans of what the Hall itself has to offer besides a bunch of bronze busts. It would be great to visit Canton and discover a little shrine to Buddy Ryan's Eagles or a 1970s section set up like the tailgate outside a Vikings playoff game (it could be set in a walk-in freezer).

The PFHoF does not do a very good job of creating such experiences, in part because it is poorly funded, in part because while baseball's Hall of Fame is nestled beside a picturesque lake in a mountain resort town, football's is off an interstate exit with nothing else (not even a respectable sports pub) around it. Cooperstown blankets visitors in Americana. Canton makes visitors want to drive to Cleveland. That's not the PFHoF's fault—I think the hall should be moved, but that's a separate article—but it is the Hall's burden if it wants folks like me to visit as customers/tourists, something I have not done in 25 years.

Anyway, I know that many readers are concerned about the "equity" issues in the Hall of Fame. I am also aware of what our site traffic would look like if I wrote about Dion Dawkins and Josh Allen equally often. Quarterbacks are more important, valuable and famous than any other players. Their contributions to the game are significantly greater than those who block for them or try to sack them. I have no problem with their disproportionate representation in the PFHoF. And if we look at where the bar is really set, as opposed as to where Twitter attention-seekers wish to set it, I think we'll find it's in a rather reasonable place.

Do you think the voters will need to change the policy of not considering 'non-football' related aspects of a potential HOFers life? Imo there is potential for some tone deaf conversation on inductees.
Chris Evans

I can imagine the PFHoF governors themselves declaring some candidate to be ineligible in a really extreme case, thereby taking matters out of the committee's hands. Otherwise, nobody wants the committee arbitrating morality like baseball voters do: not the Hall, not the fans, not the committee.

As for tone-deaf arguments, we're all engaging in them every day on talk shows, during broadcasts, and in comment threads. It's the bed we all sleep in. Why should the committee be exempt?

I am fascinated by the WR logjam. A lot of guys with huge numbers/accolades that aren't in. Only a few will get in before Julio, AB, Nuk, and Fitz and others retire/become eligible.How would you rate the HOF cases of: Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith Sr., Andre Johnson, Torry Holt, Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin?
Bear Neccessitakes

Hines Ward: Not a serious candidate. Stuck in semifinalist purgatory where he belongs. Maybe if Julian Edelman climbs onto his shoulders they can go in together.

Anquan Boldin: I love him, but his career accomplishments don't really stack up. Too many of the guys in the group you mentioned have similar-but-better cases.

Reggie Wayne and Torry Holt: They keep crashing into each other on the ballot for the double knockout. Both are also overshadowed by their more famous receiver teammates (Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce), which is why I call them the Sammy Hagar candidates. (Boldin is also a bit of a Red Rocker.) I know some voters feel like both could easily slide into the Hall of Very Good category. Others are stanning hard for them. I think they eventually squeeze in. But as you point out, there's a problem looming:

Steve Smith and Andre Johnson: Smith may have the strongest case of this group: not statistically, but from the "wow, remember what that guy did?" standpoint. Andre Johnson is now a finalist and probably has a stronger case than Wayne or Holt.

One likely scenario is that everyone gets queued up in order of years as a finalist and they all seep in one at a time over the course of several years: Holt, Bruce, Johnson, Smith. Just in time for Larry Fitzgerald and the next wave to crash on the shore.

All love for Bill Cowher, but his HOF profile (149 wins, 1 Super Bowl win in 2 appearances) opens the door for others. Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Pete Carroll, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton, and John Harbaugh have a similar resume now. Who do you see getting in? I think Shanahan and Holmgren should be no brainers.
Zachariah Lewis

That Centennial Class, with all it's loopy selections, is gonna be the gift that keeps on giving for years to come! I don't think Bill Cowher is going to establish some new (low) benchmark for coaching eligibility. But the other reason why the future door may be open for lots of coaches is that coaches/contributors have been shifted to a separate ballot since 2016. That should keep non-Belichick level coaches from getting swamped because they share the finalist ballots with players.

Bill Belichick and Andy Reid are the two obvious Hall of Fame coaches currently active. Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, and Pete Carroll are probably next due to their winning percentages, playoff victories, etc. Whether or not they get in may be based on what they accomplish next and when they retire in relation to each other or Belichick/Reid.

Holmgren and Shanahan are interesting cases because both earn high marks as "innovators" as coaches, but both stuck around long enough to complicate their legacies a bit. Shanahan, in particular, was a pill, and may need to wait for the memories of some of his peers to fade and the accomplishments of his son and his spiritual nephews to further mount.

You didn't mention Tom Coughlin! I think he has a stronger case than Holmgren, if not Shanahan, but left an even more bitter taste in the mouths of many.

Have you written about Ronde Barber?
Adam

I will now.

Barber's name does not come up much when I talk to voters about the finalist ballot. When it does, there's skepticism about Barber's reputation as a Cover-2 cornerback. Real Hall of Famers cover their receivers 40 yards down the field without safety help! It's a variation on the same knock that keeps Thomas on the backburner and will keep slot receivers out for a long, long time: a purity test for an idealized brand of football (which only existed, if at all, for a few years in the mid-1970s), perpetrated by the older voters and the older players/coaches they talk to.

I personally think Ronde should be considered a pioneer of modern cornerback play. But it's tricky to find a place for him on the priority queue. Thomas deserves to get in before Barber. Ware too. I don't have a major problem with waving Darrelle Revis through while Barber waits. As always, it's easier to talk about who is "deserving" in an abstract sense than it is to assemble a five-player ballot that does not leave several important candidates out.

Thanks for your emails and tweets! Next week: exciting new evidence in the Ken Anderson Hall of Fame case. And in two weeks, that's right, we're doing it, hold onto your hats for…

Antonio Brown.

Comments

90 comments, Last at 25 Jun 2022, 11:14pm

1 I don’t understand how…

I don’t understand how Hester will get in when Mitchell didn’t get in (did he even sniff a final round vote)?  After his first two electrifying years Hester was essentially schemed around. Mitchell was a consistent weapon for a decade. 
 

 

4 Hester had: 6 special teams…

Hester had:

  • 6 special teams TDs as a rookie (including a missed FG)
  • 6 more as a sophomore
  • 8 more in his next seven years. 

Mitchell never had more than two in a season, and never had more than 9 in any seven-year stretch.

So the "schemed around" version of Hester was stlll almost as good as Mitchell at his best, and the first two years blow away anything Mitchell ever did. Mitchell "only" scored on 13 kicks in his entire career, for crying out loud. And that's not accounting for how "scheming around" Hester meant a lot of short kicks that still led to good field position for his teams. 

In Hester's first seven seasons, the Bears made the top five in field positions six times, including four first-place finishes. The one year they did not make the top five, Hester had two touchdowns on a punt return and another on a kickoff. We do not have field position data for Mitchell's first three year; the rest of his career, his teams only finished in the top 10 in field position twice, and never finished in first place.

Each added one touchdown in the postseason, though it took Mitchell twice as many games, 16 to seven.

 

7 A better player to reach for…

A better player to reach for if you're looking for an argument against Hester is Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, the other returner on the NFL 100 team and the only player from the 75th Anniversary Team to not make it into the Hall.

Hester outdoes Johnson in return touchdowns, 14 to 8, but Johnson claws basically all of it back when you add in offensive plays; he was  more valuable as a receiver than Hester was.  Johnson and Hester have essentially identical punt return yardage for their careers, and Johnson's prime years (1974-1978) end up slightly better than Hester's prime (2007-2011).  Johnson was good enough that Pro Football Weekly became the first organization to name an all-pro returner; that wasn't a thing before Johnson came along and turned heads.  Johnson's PFR page only lists him as a one-time All Pro, but that's just counting the AP award, and the AP didn't hand out punt returner All Pros until 2016.  He actually was the first-team All-Pro four times, three times as a punt returner and once as a kick returner -- still less than the six Hester gets when you add in his extra punt return nods from the years the AP only acknowledged one "return specialist", but more than PFR would have you believe.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to prefer Hester over Johnson, especially when you consider that the modern punter is better than the ones Johnson had to face in his time. But if you're looking for an anti-Hester campaign, Johnson's your Exhibit 1A.

9 Hester

I'd say the main argument against Hester is that, if a team had a really fast and elusive player, they inevitably choose not to play him on special teams and reserve him for offense or DB only. Barry Sanders was an electric returner for OSU in 1987 but the Lions didn't put him back there. How many punt returns TDs would he have if he did that full time? 

So it is hard to evaluate Hester as the greatest PR ever because some players were such great runners that they weren't given the opportunity there. 

Further, Hester as a KR can't come close to being as dominant as Cordarrelle Patterson, who I don't think anyone is clamoring for to go the the HOF. So you would really be inducting Hester as a PR, as his 24.9 KR average is fairly mediocre. 

14 It's fair to call him the overall greatest returner

In reply to by jonnyblazin

and not just PR or KR. 

I don't mind him in but he didn't play enough (literally) to warrant leaping Leroy Butler or, in the future, Zach Thomas et al. There will be a year where he's one of the older guys and you can count him among the 5 I imagine (get him in before Eli!)

24   So it is hard to evaluate…

In reply to by jonnyblazin

 

So it is hard to evaluate Hester as the greatest PR ever because some players were such great runners that they weren't given the opportunity there. 

I guarantee you that Barry Sanders would have been returning kicks if he were capable of making a half-dozen house calls in a year. 

 

Further, Hester as a KR can't come close to being as dominant as Cordarrelle Patterson, who I don't think anyone is clamoring for to go the the HOF. So you would really be inducting Hester as a PR, as his 24.9 KR average is fairly mediocre.

I agree that Patterson was better on kickoffs than Hester. (I mean, it's obvious.) I disagree that Hester's five TDs on kickoff returns, twice leading the NFL in kickoff return yardage, are irrelevant just because Patterson was even better.

41 I guarantee you that Barry…

I guarantee you that Barry Sanders would have been returning kicks if he were capable of making a half-dozen house calls in a year. 

I wonder if that's actually the case. Even now, but especially in 1989.

Sanders did kick return a little -- basically only in 1989, and only when Mel Gray was hurt. Moss returned punts for one year. 

But consider Tyreek Hill. Hill was an AP kick returner, with 3 TDs. But he was only a full-time returner for his rookie season. He hasn't fielded more than the Hail Mary kick since 2018 -- basically once he became WR1. Andy Reid is a pretty open-minded guy and he's willing to let guys try things. But even he shies away from trotting his all-pro receiver out to return kicks. (He didn't let Jamaal Charles do it, either) Belichick never let Moss do it. 

Teams just don't risk PB and AP players at a starting position for the most injury-prone position in football, no matter how good they are at returning kicks -- unless it's a dire emergency. 

The Mel Grays (and there were two, much to my childhood confusion) and Dante Halls and Devin Hesters and even Cordarrelle Pattersons were such great returners because they kept getting opportunities, as they were only equivocal position players. Darren Sproles is probably the best guy who was allowed to return full time -- and he was basically topping out as a really good 3rd-down back.

73 I agree that Patterson was…

I agree that Patterson was better on kickoffs than Hester. (I mean, it's obvious.) I disagree that Hester's five TDs on kickoff returns, twice leading the NFL in kickoff return yardage, are irrelevant just because Patterson was even better.

The years he lead the NFL in kickoff yardage, he also led the league in total numbers of kick returns. More opportunities = more yards. 

Having 5 total KR TDs is impressive, in that not many people have done it. But in the end, we're talking about 5 plays over the course of a career. I think the 24.9 yards per KR average, which ranks 73rd all time, is a more telling stat. 

I don't mean to be dismissive of his KR abilities, but it seems after his first 2 years when he scored 4 TD on KRs, he didn't do much there for the rest of his career despite being given many opportunities. Did the Bears have some incredible ST scheme in 2006-2007 that the league caught up with? The Toub effect? 

The rest of his career, he doesn't seem that good at KRs. He split duties in 2008 and Daniel Manning vastly outperformed Hester. In 2009 Manning and Johnny Knox outperformed Hester. These guys aren't in the same class as C. Patterson but were still better than Hester.

Meanwhile, Hester was a tremendous PR for his whole career. So for me, the evidence shows he was always an A+ punt returner and a B kick returner who possibly benefitted from a great scheme/ST unit in his first couple seasons.  

80 Special teamers are niche…

Special teamers are niche players.  If they are to make the hall of fame, their candidacy better be glaringly obvious (like Vinatieri).  Hester was an electric player his first two years, but after that the league figured out how to neutralize him.  

Y1+2: 14.1 ypr on an astounding 89 punt returns, 23.2 ypr on 63 kick returns and as you said 12 tds

y3-9:  11.2 ypr on punts, 25.4 ypr on kicks and 8 tds.  Hester averaged 60 returns per year combined in this stretch.  

Brian mitchell never had the electricity that Hester brought to the return game, but he was a consistent performer for more years with more touches. i'll take away his rookie year since he split time, but if you want to add it back it wont bother me.  

y2-13: 11.2 ypr on punts, 23.5 ypr on kicks and 13 tds.  Mitchell averaged 80 returns per year combined in this stretch, twice leading the league.

Devin Hester was a great returner for two years, then hovered between good to very good for seven.  Mitchell hovered between good to very good for twelve.  Neither is enough for consideration in my opinion, but if the latter cant even sniff a final vote the former doesnt deserve to be inducted.

6 After setting the record for…

After setting the record for return TDs as a rookie and then breaking his own record as a sophomore teams literally did anything but punt or kick the ball anywhere near him for two years. Then teams assumed he had lost it and he torched them again until they went back to avoiding him like he had the plague.

I watched a video about what special teams coaches emphasised when punting, and one of the things they mentioned was never giving a returner ten yards of space. I saw every return of Hester’s career and every single time teams gave him ten yards he either scored or was tackled by the last line of defense. While his stats say he had hundreds of punt returns and therefore hundreds of opportunities but in fact teams were so scared of him that they hardly gave him a chance and he proved why pretty much every time they did. The guy was freakishly good at what he did.

2 In Canton's defense...

I have no interest in visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame, although I enjoy reading articles like this one about who and who should not be in.  But for other reasons, I had to spend some time in Canton a few years ago and had no problem finding enjoyable things to do--three really, really good restaurants, a couple of nice parks, the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum (FAR better than expected) a good bookstore, a couple of other potentially good museums that we didn't get to...low key stuff admittedly, although if you discount Cooperstown's picturesque setting, it's not exactly Times Square or Disneyland itself.  I don't know if Canton has anything to offer that (insert medium sized Midwestern city of your choice here) does not, but I found it pleasant.  And I don't like the idea of moving the Hall of Fame--where to?  If you pick a big city or a tourist destination, it's just another thing among many--it's not like Philadelphia or Los Angeles or Las Vegas or Orlando really need another reason for people to visit.  And if you pick another medium-sized city, what's the point? 

45 Like the car dealership the…

Like the car dealership the NFL was founded in, you should be able to go down the stairs at the HOF and see famous NFL vehicles, like John Madden's bus, the Colts Mayflower van, OJ's white Bronco, or the Packers' bandwagon.

I don't know if Canton has anything to offer that (insert medium sized Midwestern city of your choice here) does not, but I found it pleasant.

Canton actually lacks the feature most medium-sized or larger Midwestern cities have -- a waterfront. Columbus and Indianapolis lack larger rivers or lakes, too, but their prominence is based on different criteria. Canton is just sort of a smaller, uglier Cleveland.

57 Dayton has a strong case as…

Dayton has a strong case as home to one of the original franchises. Plus, it has a waterfront, several universities, a major Air Force base, and hosts NCAA tournament games. The Hall would make a nice addition.

Mind you, I grew up in Dayton and try to never go back there, but at least the Hall would give me something else to do while waiting until I can leave.

58 I agree that if they move…

I agree that if they move the Hall then they should keep it in Ohio. Dayton or Cleveland would both be good choices I think. My only real memory of the trip that I made to the Pro Football Hall of Fame with my Dad, cousin, and uncle was how much cooler the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was. The PFHoF was such a let down.

76 What's funny...

...is I visited the Rock & Roll HOF and Pro Football HOF on back-to-back days in 2005 and I had the opposite reaction - I was disappointed by the R&R HOF and probably spent only about four hours there, while I very much enjoyed the PFHOF and spent an entire day there.

My feelings about the two Hall of Fames may be related to the fact a significant percentage of the music acts I like - Bob Mould and his 1980s/early 1990s bands (Hüsker Dü, Sugar) being probably the best example - will never sniff the R&R HOF despite his/their (especially Hüsker Dü's) significant influence on much of the music that came after them, and that I think most "classic rock" is relatively bland, having heard it too much during my teenage years.

66 I feel your pain

I spent 20 years in the Dayton area as well.  I can stand visiting, but no way in hell I move back.  You did neglect the most popular tourist attraction in Ohio is located in the Dayton area: USAF Museum.  Its actually very good and worth seeing if you like aviation.  Has multiple Air Force One aircraft inside it voluminous buildings.  

59 Last I heard, the OJ Simpson…

Last I heard, the OJ Simpson Bronco from the low-speed chase (not actually his Bronco but an identical one owned by Al Cowlings) was on loan to some crime museum. The current owner, OJ's former agent, keeps asking exorbitant sums from prospective buyers--he went on Pawn Stars and tried to get $1.5 million for it.

3 Antonio Brown

Really looking forward to this discussion.  There were times when he was at his best when I would think to myself while watching a game, "this guy is the best receiver in football," and even a couple of times when I even thought "this guy is the best player in the league."  The latter might have been an immediate over the top reaction to some spectacular play, but the very fact that the thought could occur to me suggests that he was, at that time, a great player.  I recognize that a LOT of stuff has happened since then!   I have not pored over the stats or examined the comparables (I figure the coming article will do that for me!), but I'm interested to learn the pros and cons of his HoF case. 

8 He has a surefire resume.

In reply to by young curmudgeon

The only thing that'll stop him from getting in (first ballot at least) is off field stuff. Otherwise the ring solidified his case. He just has to stay out of the limelight until eligibility. 

His case is ironically pretty easy. But Mike will have to try to argue against his other point last week of the voters supposedly not taking off field stuff into account (which plenty of people pointed out was kinda bs).

11 You don't have to argue off…

You don't have to argue off-field antics to make the case against AB. What he did with taking off his uniform in-game and apparently against Big Ben I practice will do it. No current, and hopefully no future, HOFer has ever walked off the field and his playoff contending team midgame...

13 Semantics

His resume is better than Big Bens now that you bring him up (and he certainly wasn't a product of Ben either if you try to tackle it from that POV). 

No current, and hopefully no future, HOFer has ever walked off the field and his playoff contending team midgame...

Yeah and no multiple time SB MVP isn't in, doesn't mean Eli should be in. Also pretty silly thing to hold a grudge against. At least point to something more illegal off the field than something that hasn't ever happened before.

30 They held TO's getting…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

They held TO's getting kicked off the team against him for years, and I would argue he had a stronger on-field case than Brown does. And "quitting on the team" in the middle of a game will be seen as way worse by the committee, I am 100% certain.

So, rightly or not, Brown is likely to be stuck in semi-/finalist purgatory for years - I can actually see them making him wait until all his contemporary candidates are in, which will include guys like Julio Jones and Hopkins who haven't even retired yet. So even if he never plays again (and I strongly suspect he will at least attempt a comeback in the next year or two), he's in for a long-ass wait. And we're going to be stuck hearing the same tired debate rehashed for a decade. Maybe more. Yay.

For the record, I would 100% vote for Brown, even first-ballot, in the abstract. But I do think his pseudo-off-field stuff - quitting mid-game (though the committee will massively over-blow that), the weird helmet fight that got him cut, the fact that his off-field behavior got him de facto suspended for basically a season, and whatever the hell happened in Pittsburgh - does count against him some, in the sense that it's at least a negative tie-breaker when it comes to actually putting five names on the ballot.

42 That's the problem

TO didn't do anything illegal but I do agree his case was stronger. I've called Mike out plenty of times when he insinuates they didn't hold anything against him when it's quite clear they did. Made him wait a year or two but Megatron gets in first ballot? Nah. They exposed themselves, not to say Megatron didn't ever deserve it but he didn't stick around long enough to collect many accolades.  

So yeah, you're right, he's likely going to get TO'd. Agree all around. Midgame leaving without shirt was weird and not great but it's whatever in the grand scheme of things but people (like there are here already) are gonna care about that a lot more. Assault allegations are worse than anything TO did and as much as they want to act like they aren't taking that stuff into account, they are. Otherwise Jim Tryer would've been in a long time ago.

39 His resume is better than…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

His resume is better than Big Bens now that you bring him up 

It will be brought up that Pittsburgh just kept churning out PB and AP WRs during Roethlisberger's career, and AB only ever played with HOF QBs.

He's not exactly Fitz, who put up monster numbers playing for a bunch of replacement-level guys in football purgatory.

47 None like AB

And it's still not held against Irvin that he wasn't anything until Aikman arrived. Or whatever other example. And a HOF QB doesn't have much to do with great returning.

Oh wow this has turned into a Tyreek discussion. People looking for fluff instead of peak. 

77 Larry Fitzgerald...

...really was only a true standout wide receiver from about 2005 to 2009/2010 (and for some of that time, he did play with weaker quarterbacks but he also played with an effective Kurt Warner too), but was mostly a compiler after that, excluding 2015.  That's still a high number of very good to excellent years for a wide receiver, but his "monster numbers" in the latter half to two-thirds of his career were more of a function of receiving a lot of targets.  Using the stats on this site, his DVOA figures weren't demonstratively better than his fellow Cardinals wide receivers in his post-prime years.

Larry Fitzgerald is a clear Hall of Famer, but IMO he's not the inner tier, top 5 wide receiver of all-time Hall of Famer some people believe him to be.  He's probably closer to Charlie Joiner and Art Monk, guys who had to wait a few years to get selected for the PFHOF despite holding the all-time pass receptions record, than he is to Jerry Rice in terms of his overall career quality.

25 Brown also had a ridiculous…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Brown also had a ridiculous run of 1026 targets in 6 seasons, which is far more opportunity than Moss or TO ever had over any comparable span of their careers. “He was the best stat compiler” isn’t, historically, a great PFHOF argument. 

27 It's almost like you earn targets?

Crazy but only 3HOFrs have more AP1s and he has the same as Moss. Really letting his antics blind ya if you dont think he had a HOF peak (2017 SN OPOTY, 3x in the top 3 for AP OPOTY voting) that was capped off by helping his team win the SB by literally scoring in it and not riding the pine.

He caught a lot of targets and did well with them. Burficts hit might not just be a meme.

29 As I said - I think he gets…

As I said - I think he gets in, but it’s hard to argue argue he’s a slam dunk candidate when there’s Julio Jones or Denadre Hopkins accomplishing similar things statistically and achieving similar PFF grades during the same time period. 

I also think would’ve been a slam dunk had he put together a couple more great seasons in New England or TB. But the off field stuff kept him from doing so, and that’s why it’ll count against him more so than other candidates. 

35 If advanced stats are your…

If advanced stats are your thing, Brown finished #1 in receiving DYAR on 3 separate occasions - 2014, 2015 & 2017. He was probably the best receiver in the NFL for an extended period in the mid-2010s (yes, better than Jones or Hopkins). He's absolutely a slam dunk for his play alone.

Whether the off-field/personality stuff should keep him out is up for debate. Ordinarily I'd say no, but he has now behaved in a particularly weird/toxic manner on multiple occasions in multiple settings. His legacy is clearly tarnished, HOF or no. 

 

40 Well not trying to repeat myself but

Yes Julio is also in but AB has more TDs and AP1s than both and more yards than Nuk despite them all within 10 games of each other (and AB started the least actually). His HOFm is above the average while Nuk is still below every HOF WR (that doesnt mean he cant, wont or shouldnt get in but it shows theres a gap).

I'm not sure what padding is going to do except hurt his 5th in rec yards a game. I think a lot of people here look for fluff instead of mostly focusing on peak. Which isn't my style. It's not like AB had one great season and flamed out. If he needs more it's gotta be confined in one more season otherwise idk what else he has to do.

33 yeah, for 6 years he was…

yeah, for 6 years he was more open than any receiver ever.

I've watched every Steelers game in that span and AB was just always open. Ben knew, that if he needed a catch, he could go to Brown.

 

49 There is some level of…

There is some level of misadventure which will keep you out of the Hall.

Jim Tyrer isn't in, and that's only because of a murder-suicide. OJ probably wouldn't be in if he hadn't been by 1994. Ray Lewis's misadventures weren't enough, nor were Hornung's. Jim Brown's later misadventures probably wouldn't have mattered.

Mind you, Hornung played for Notre Dame and then Green Bay at a glamous position, and that's a perfect recipe for unmerited accolades.

Karras was absolutely long-delayed for gambling. Karras only made it in after the NFL started officially partnering with sports books. (The ribbon was cut by Hornung...)

Owens is more complicated. He had a lot of off-field shenanigans, but that wasn't really why San Francisco and Philadelphia happily saw the back of him. His monstrous talent often wasn't worth the distraction created by his enormous ego. Terrell Owens was actually the guy critics thought Randy Moss was. Owens might be the best player two franchises happily discarded in his peak.

10 I'm not too worried about…

I'm not too worried about Zach, his credentials are top-notch. According to the HoF monitor or however it's called over at PFR he scores above the average hall of fame LB. I'm sure he'll be in next year.

78 IMO, Zach Thomas...

...will likely be selected for the PFHOF in the next 2-3 years.  His issue is he was/is compared to and considered inferior to a direct contemporary, Ray Lewis, and the fact Thomas was not as good as Lewis, even though Lewis is an inner tier Hall of Famer and should not be considered the threshold/cut line for the PFHOF, is (IMO, wrongly) held against Thomas.

Typing that last sentence makes me realize that 1) Ray Lewis is to Zach Thomas as Jack Lambert is to Randy Gradishar and 2) the fact Gradishar still isn't in the PFHOF (probably should have been inducted by no later than 1995 after retiring after the 1983 season) means it isn't a slam dunk Thomas gets selected, though I still think it is likely he gets in sooner rather than later.

12 LBs:

Urlacher getting with less AP1s despite retiring 4 years later is a little weird. Ok Urlacher is better but skip the line better? Eh. 

Gradishar and Mecklenburg with more AP1s and PBs behind Mills is weird too. Gradishar was on more DPOTY ballots as well. And actually won one too. Oh and Atwater wasn't as good as Butler despite getting in earlier. Just have to squeeze that in there when talking safeties. 

Speaking of Clay Matthews, Rickey Jacksons resume is pretty light. Just a long steady diet of 9 sacks a year essentially (same amount of PBs and ringz, but less AP1s DOP(&R)TY).

Lechler is the undisputed GOAT P. Most PBs. Most AP1s (by 2). Highest HOFm. Highest wAV (by 3). He's in. P1>WR11. The one time I go to bat for a specialist (but still don't draft them because...Tom Brady et al went a round later, case in point in their inherent positional value).

Holmgrem 50 wins above .500 and 12 years making the playoffs out 17> Coughlins 20 games and 9 years out of 20.

20 "Rickey Jackson's resume is pretty light"

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I'll guess you never saw Rickey play. He was better than Sam Mills.  Until the Saints signed Drew Brees, he was the best player to ever wear a Saints uniform.

In 1989 he crashed his Corvette and broke his face. He missed the only 2 games of his career. Yeah, he played professional football with his jaw wired closed.

There were a lot of Saints games where the defense had to protect a narrow lead at the end. Yeah, welcome to Jim Mora football. I wasn't yelling Defenssssse at those games, but Rickeeeeee. If Rickey didn't make the stop, the Saints mostly lost. True story. Rickey Jackson HOF is completely deserved.

23 Sam Mills was an ILB...

I was comparing him to edge rushers. 

Yes, not missing games helped him contribute to his 9 sacks a season thing I mentioned. Not that football players use their jaw that much while playing. Nothing to get offended by unless you think he's the best ever which...no.

64 I was comparing him to edge…

I was comparing him to edge rushers

Rickey Jackson is #16 in all time sacks.  There are 5 linebackers with more: Kevin Greene, Jack Youngblood, Lawrence Taylor, Terrel Suggs, and Demarcus Ware.

In this group, Rickey Jackson is 6th in sacks, 1st in career tackles, 1st in forced fumbles, 1st in fumble recoveries, 2nd in interceptions, and 2nd in PFR Approximate Value.

Not the best ever, but a solid HOF choice. Not a light resume.

67 Well Mr.Jackson

It seems like you (also) didnt understand what a steady diet meant. It was a clear indication of peak. Where you were never a unanimous 1st all pro but compiled at a consistent rate. 

36 Lechler is the undisputed…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Lechler is the undisputed GOAT P.

 

No he's not.  I dispute that statement.

It seems like I heard the same fact repeated ad nauseum for Ray Guy all these years.

I don't know who the GOAT punter would be -- I'm not qualified.  Could be Dave Jennings.  Maybe Rich Camarillo.  Maybe Guy, Lechler, or Johnny Hecker or some other guy in the league right now.  But like most positions, specialists in general today are better as a group than they were even 20 years ago, due to offseason training, improvements in equipment, coaching, etc.  Let alone a guy who punted in 60s or 70s, who had an offseason job at the docks to pay the bills and was chainsmoking at practice.

38 It's Lechler. https://www…

It's Lechler.

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/hof/hofm_P.htm

He's the all-time leader in PBs, APs, wAV, and yards/punt. He has the second most punts and second most punt yardage all-time.

Guy only leads in ringz, because Punter Ringz is a thing. If you want to era adjust, that works in his favor, too, because he precedes any plausible contender by a decade.

There is an edge case for Sean Landeta, who was the best guy of the Guy-Lechler interregnum. (Landeta was a contemporary of both Guy and Lechler)

46 Well

Most PBs. Most AP1s (by 2). Highest HOFm. Highest wAV (by 3). 

Not repeating that, which I guess you don't care about but Ray Guy is the first GOAT P. Lechler overtook him but no one cares (rightfully) about Ps so it went unnoticed. The gap on their HOFm (11.35) is about the gap between Guy (2nd) and Hekker (4th; 14.3). 

But if you're getting into era differences, we can get into that for any position so I'm unconcerned with that. Nobody is adjusting like that nor can they without going through some gymnastics. And it'd only likely get current guys out because..."it harder back den"

50 I have no criticism of Guy…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I have no criticism of Guy being in the HOF. If you are the namesake of the award for your playing position, you should probably be in the HOF.

Era adjustment is a funny thing. Regarding it being harder back then -- Shane Lechler is basically the same size Lou Groza was. Maybe he would have been a better tackle in the 50s?

54 I dont either

But things change. Guy had been retired over a decade by the time Lechler even came along. Legend grows in that time. Then Guy was inducted was Lechler was still playing. They both have 7 PBs, which is 2 more than anyone else (Rich Camarillo, wow Raiders had all the punting legends). 

Would mostly scale current players down when era adjusting, or older players up due to aforementioned things, depending on what era you're using.

55 The Raiders have had a ton…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

The Raiders have had a ton of great kickers.

They have arguably the two best punters ever, and also George Blanda.

Marquette King would have been one of the best punters in franchise history for a bunch of teams. For the Raiders, he's like 5th.

15 How can Green Bay have a…

How can Green Bay have a snub? Every person to cash a check from the Packers is in the Hall somewhere.

81 They did name a burger after…

In reply to by CHIP72

They did name a burger after him yes.

Gilbert Brown is an excellent example of one of those qualities the really amazing players have but is hard to measure, how much better do you make your teammates. Reggie White is the only real reason people remember Gilbert at all. Gilbert simply would not have made some of the splash plays he made if teams weren't scheming for White and failing to stop him with those schemes anyway. You can find plays were Reggie was so aware of his surroundings that he would do things, knowing he couldn't make the play, that would still force the players blocking him to stick with him longer or help out so that Dotson or Brown could do something. So it wasn't just the other team scheming around him, I firmly believe he would make sure that he made sure that even if he couldn't make the play himself that he would do everything he could to make sure it flowed in a way that benefited his team mates.

I could say the same thing about LeRoy Butler before and during his time with Reggie. It's part of why those defenses could be so good even with a lot of other mediocre talent on them.

Every great player makes their team mates better just by virtue of how they can affect an opponents game plan. They also can help with how they can impact the flow of individual plays and the best are the ones where it appears that even if they were on the opposite side of the filed from the play that they still had some influence on it. The best of the best are the ones where you watch them and you swear they completely understood everything going on and altered what they did while on the opposite side of the field to still influence the play. That was Reggie.

And yes that is easier to do for some positions than others just because of how plays flow. A defensive lineman will have an easier time having some impact on every play than a cornerback because there are just some plays that are designed so that a CB on one side of the field is completely irrelevant no matter how good they are, even if the play breaks down.

83 Speaking...

...as an Eagles fan, you don't need to explain to me how much Reggie White made his teammates better.  In the Eagles' case he made good to very good players on their own - Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner - look like great players.

IMO, White is the best defensive player in NFL history, even above Lawrence Taylor, though Taylor was the most disruptive defensive player in NFL history.

84 Very true! You also got to…

In reply to by CHIP72

Very true! You also got to see an even better Reggie than I did. It is nice to have someone else validate my feelings on what he did for his teammates though.

IMO, White is the best defensive player in NFL history, even above Lawrence Taylor, though Taylor was the most disruptive defensive player in NFL history.

That is a great way to put it. In another thread, I think about Aaron Donald signing his new contract, great defenders were brought up and I said that don't put LT in the best defensive player conversation. Really wish the word disruptive would have come to mind because that nails it and I will happily put him in that category and in GOAT conversations for the must disruptive player of all time.

I admit that my perceptions are colored by him admitting in interviews that there were plays he simply didn't know what to do so would just rush the passer. He's physical skills were amazing and he put them to good use, but he always just felt one dimensional to me. I know he wasn't, but I can't fully shake that perception. Even if it were true that he was one dimensional that one dimension is one that could have massive impact on a play and a game and being so excellent at it means he was a terror and changed the offensive philosophy of the whole league. Still think Reggie was a better player even if less impactful.

So yeah Reggie White is still the best defensive player I have watched playing live (in person or on TV). I'm middle aged, I know several frequent commenters on this board older than myself, so limiting things to just around 40% or so of the history of the NFL is in fact a real limiter. But I know that the emotional impact of having seen someone doing what they do in real time will color my perception. So even if I could get all the film and watch every game of the greats from before that time they would really have to jump out to over take Reggie in my mind.

There are definitely a handful (maybe 2) of more recent players who can certainly join the conversation as being as good or better than Reggie. I'm not swayed by any of them, but I can understand their cases and not feel like someone who likes them more than Reggie is wrong.

 

88 Not just for being a Bills…

Not just for being a Bills fan (though that helps), I'm always amazed Bruce Smith never ends up in this conversation, nor does Michael Strahan (and I'm definitely not a Giants fan), and neither of them were simply sack artists - you ran at them at your own peril, and Smith was legendary for being double-teamed and succeeding anyway. Not that I think either of them were actually better than White (not sure that's possible), but they deserve to at least be in the conversation.

16 Former Raiders punter Shane…

Former Raiders punter Shane Lechler was a five-time All Pro, the first-team punter for the All-2000s Team, and the second-team punter (behind Johnny Hekker) for the All-2010s Team.

Lechler had a better career than the guy the position award is named after.

Re: Holmgren, he restored one franchise and built the legacy of a second from whole-cloth. And he gave us Andy Reid.

17 I know some voters feel like…

I know some voters feel like both could easily slide into the Hall of Very Good category. Others are stanning hard for them. I think they eventually squeeze in. But as you point out, there's a problem looming:

Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson are first-ballot finalists. You know what another name for a first-ballot Hall of Fame finalist is? Hall of Famer.

Holt's more interesting but still, he's not going to be on the finalist ballot for the next 12 years. Realistically Smith is the only one who could be left out.

34 Steve Smith Sr

Despite not particularly liking him as a person he seems like the most solid HoFer from the current logjam, the Panthers passed at a much lower rate than the rest of the league, and yet he still put up competitive numbers to the top WRs, including a WR triple crown in 2005.

 

Further once he left Carolina he still was a very valuable receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, his matchup vs '14 Revis in the AFCDG was incredible to watch, and he certainly got his plays against the premier cover corner of the generation.

37 I agree.  I feel that Smith…

In reply to by HitchikersPie

I agree.  I feel that Smith is the only no-brainer from that group.  His personality certainly doesn't hurt either, especially if he continues in an analyst's role.

63 So just to clarify: Wayne…

So just to clarify: Wayne and Johnson as first-ballot finalists are going to get in, as far as I can tell every player who has ever reached the finalist stage their first year has eventually gotten in. The overlap between "first-ballot finalist" and "Hall of Famer" is 100%.

With first-ballot semifinalists the overlap is also extremely high but I can't tell because I don't think the semifinalists prior to 2004 are tracked anywhere. Since 2004, every first-ballot semi-finalist has also gotten in, with the only ones still outstanding being Torry Holt, Hines Ward, Ronde Barber, Patrick Willis, Robert Mathis, and Steve Smith. Holt's the oldest of the bunch but 6-7 years is right around the typical delay. Mike's "semifinalist purgatory" for Ward is a bit funny, it only looks that way because he got there right away.

But again guys who are semifinalists I have way less confidence about, since there's only data for a handful of years. First-ballot finalists are guarantees.

I always find it incredibly silly to have Hall of Fame "discussions" about guys who are probably at least 90+% to get in eventually.

19 Excluding the obvious will bes or not?

Because Brady to Larry Fitzgerald is good. 

By HOFm with the top player under the average (assuming all those above, that aren't in, will be eventually)

Offense

  • QB Matt Ryan 
  • RB Frank Gore (ew)
  • FB Roger Craig
  • WR Steve Smith Sr
  • WR Andre Johnson 
  • TE Travis Kelce
  • LT Jason Peters
  • LG Marshal Yanda
  • C Maurkice Pouncey
  • RG Jahri Evans
  • RT Ralph Neely

Defense

  • LE LC Greenwood
  • LDT Ndamukong Suh
  • RDT Kevin Williams
  • RE Dwight Freeney
  • LLB Chuck Howley
  • MLB Bobby Wagner
  • RLB Larry Grantham 
  • CB Ronde Barber
  • CB Patrick Peterson
  • S Dave Grayson
  • S Earl Thomas

ST

  • P Sean Landeta
  • K Gary Anderson 
  • LS Lol

Maybe I should run with 4 edge rushers and 3 CBs. Either way, no Lions outside the tantrum thrower. 

 

86 Fun starting point. I was…

Fun starting point.

I was surprised that Kelce was under the average. I know that is very easy number to get since that is what the HoF monitor shows, but boy does Tony Gonzalez with his 195.43 blow up that average for the 9 TE in the hall. The #2, Shannon Sharpe, is 114.25 who is 81.18 units behind. The lowest is Charlie Sanders at 61.58 who is only 52.67 units behind Sharpe.

I really need to finish up that distribution analysis I've been putzing with and plug in the HoFm data and try and get a better handle on how that measure correlates. I just don't think average (aka arithmetic mean) is going to be the right measure.

Anyway still a fun idea, I just rabbit holed because Kelce feels like such a slam dunk HoF to me right now. Of course since the monitor uses Career Weighted AV and also using raw stats as part of the formula, a healthy Kelce will continue to add points even without more awards.

If you figure in how voters seem to work, median value might be good enough. Sadly it's still more work than I want to do (since they only use bold to indicate who is in the HoF when looking at the monitor and don't include monitor scores when looking at who is already in the HoF so there is manual work either way to get the values together for quick calculations.)

I'm thinking about it because I like that you did get rid of the most obvious future HoF players but as several of our discussions have shown I've been working on my own stuff to try and better predict future players. I think for QB you might have to drop all the way down to Eli or Ken Anderson since Ryan, Big Ben, and Rivers the first 3 below the current average are all very likely to go in. We also know that using the lowest rated player already in is not a good measure because the standards for older players are very different.

Bleh. Dang it, I like the idea, I just don't see a quick way to implement it with easily available public data.

 

Of course you may already have a good starting point especially for discussion. I think given who I think is going to make it, and then a bit of personal bias, but still using the HoFm rating as the major factor I'd end up with:

Offense

  • QB Ken Anderson
    I think everyone higher rated than him other than Eli is in, but I'm taking him over Eli
  • RB LeSean McCoy
    I think Gore is getting in, though I personally don't think he should.
  • WR Del Shofner
    Nope I'm going with 3 WR no FB, I think FB is dead even to the HoF at this point. 
  • WR Henry Ellard
  • WR Mike Evans
  • TE Pete Retzlaff
  • LT Jim Tyrer
    I just don't trust the senior committee to get him in
  • LG Logan Mankins
    I'm pushing Evans and Zack Martin but keeping Mankins out.
  • C Alex Mack
    I think Pouncey and Saturday will eventually make it. I don't think Mack will
  • RG Marshal Yanda
  • RT Ralph Neely
    Swapped him to RT

So part of the fun of this.
I made some quick comments about several players but I want to get into more detail on a few positions.

Let's look at WR. I think this group really helps illustrates why I wanted to move the bar a bit. Your team would be super fun to watch but less debates.

Harold Jackson has the next best HoFm meter at 81.24 of the guys I didn't put on the team

If you start considering active players who can climb the meter and get ahead of Harold Jackson but might not make it to the Hall you get some interesting names. Guys like DeAndre Hopkins, DeSean Jackson, AJ Green, Davante Adams, Mike Evans. Julio Jones and Antonio Brown are ahead of Jackson and I consider them as guys who will get in. Tyreek Hill is below him but he also makes the Hall by my measure so I'm not considering him either.

So with what the quick and dirty HoFm cutoffs gave for best receiver not in the hall you are faced with all the era adjust games. Since I'm trusting HoFm score as my primary arbiter I kept that simple and tried to guess where the actives will end up on the HoFm rankings at the end of their careers given how much longer they will likely play (went with 16 year careers based on what I was seeing for modern inductees to get that measure). I then had to compare to the highest rated WR not on the team or in the Hall.

So as mentioned Harold Jackson is at an 81.24 total for his 16 year career. That's just 5.07 a year for the very simplistic and problematic calc of average. The top active "non-lock" looks to be DeAndre Hopkins who is at 52.56 over 9 years which is 5.84 a year. Why Evans and not him? He needs 5 more years of "average" Hopkins to pass Jackson, which would give him 2 additional years for a 16 year career. That seems fairly straight forward. There are a few factors though, like the aging curve. For that I cheated a bit since I only care about 1 benchmark. So I just used a simple version of Jackson's curve for that as well. I could have done more if I had easy access to the actual HoFm points each year is adding, but I don't. After 9 seasons Jackson had 4 more years of "average Jackson" followed by 1 so-so year and 2 injury/bench years. Those last 3 years clearly pull his HoFm average way down in fact 2 of them likely aren't adding anything. So Jackson was closer to a 5.80 points a year player for 14 years. Basically right at where Hopkins is rate wise. That lets an 7 year projection be really anything that includes 3 - 5 years of current averages and 2 - 4 years of injuries or below average years sliding around as needed.

So why didn't I pick Hopkins? He only needs 4.10 HoFm points a year to pass Jackson. That could be 5 years of "average" Hopkins and 2 years of nothing, or 3 years of average + 2 years of good enough + 2 years of injury/bench. I felt that was too iffy. Not just because I think it could be hard to do but I think it will be hard to not be too much better and push over into making the Hall. Hopkins has too much peak right now. If he bounces back from the injury suffered last year and plays at least 15 games at the same rate he was playing for another year or 2 then he likely makes the HoF. If he wants that 3rd receiver spot he has to avoid being too good as well as avoiding being too bad or having a career ending injury! Really he would need like 5 - 6 years of less than average Hopkins plus 1 - 2 whatever years so he doesn't make the Hall but ends up better than Jackson. It felt a little too tricky for him to be good enough but not so good he tipped in.

What about other guys. Well Davante Adams, 44.13 total, is only 5.52 a year average over 8 years. I think that makes him even worse off than Hopkins with 9 years to play with. He would need to average 4.12 over ~8 years To make sure he gets ahead of Jackson. But again his got too much peak. It's not quite as high as Hopkins but he's also on a better current trajectory than Hopkins to hit that peak again and I think Hopkins is likely to hit it again. A couple more of 2018-2021 level Adams years and he likely tips into the Hall as well. 8 more years of good enough but not too good is even trickier to project than than the 7 Hopkins would need. 

DeSean Jackson, AJ Green, and Cordarrelle Patterson, T.Y. Hilton, and Keenan Allen would have a hard time catching Harold Jackon on the meter at all so they are out. 

So now to the guy I put on the team. I think Mike Evans becomes the most likely to catch him without the danger of crossing over into being a clear cut HoF. 8 seasons 39.70 HoFm points. That's 4.96 a year. So it's behind Jackson's average pace and way behind Jackson's peak pace. That gives us more wiggle room. It allows for a longer career or even some peak years that pull down HoF accolades without pushing him into the Hall. Evans has been super consistent with numbers the HoFm uses and would just need 8.4 seasons to pass Jackson on the monitor at his current average. That's half a season more than the 16 year career projection. But as mentioned he could get a couple of really good years that get an AP1 or a couple more PBs without pushing himself into lock status. His numbers look like they haven't been QB dependent at all so he can switch teams or survive the eventual Brady retirement. His health has been solid for a WR. Blowing up in 2022 with Brady to cover some of the needed HoFm points is possible but still keeps him on the outside looking in.

Since I wanted to have some fun with this I decided that I was going with Evans over Harold Jackson (with how Shofner, Ellard, and Jackson are all bunched if you wanted to take Jackson over one of those 2 I'm good with that, but I just like the HoFm make that call for me to deal with all the era adjusments).

Tight End
Retzlaff is at 71.54. Looking at active players who might project well but not well enough and there are surprisingly few to even consider. Jimmy Graham, 50.67, is the next highest active who I don't consider a lock but he's too far behind and not playing well enough to catch him. Next was Zach Ertz, 30.38, again don't see him catching Retzlaff. Jared Cook, 27.13, again nope. I actually got tempted by George Kittle, 24.58, the next active TE on the list that isn't a lock. He would 9 and a half seasons of current Kittle rate to catch Retzlaff. Which puts him at a 15 year career. The problem is current pace Kittle is a mess of low scoring injury and high peak. If he avoids the injuries even though it's a long projection he is too likely to make the Hall. If he keeps getting injured at this rate he isn't catching Retzlaff. No one else was worth considering because not good enough or even shorter current career than Kittle so too long of a projection.

Offensive Line
Neely and Joe Jacoby are both basically the same at 74.80 and 74.55. Neely had more years as a starter over all (12 to 11) than Jacoby so that plus the slight meter advantage, because of that extra year, gives him the nod. I'm again giving the era adjustment nod to the meter and also eliminating Richmond Webb, Dick Schafrath, Lomas Brown, and Joe Staley. But someone could make arguments for them especially if you think the senior committee will do the right thing with Tyrer and we'll need need a 2nd tackle

With active players Jason Peters, 86.43, is ahead of Neely, but I think he is going to make it in. Very debatable but that's the point of doing this.

Tyron Smith, 72.68, has too good of a trajectory passing Neely also likely means getting into the Hall. Andrew Whitworth, 62.95, would likely need 4 more seasons to catch Neely and at age 40 probably won't do it. Duane Brown, 51.98, is 4 years younger than Whitworth and might only need 6 more years to catch Neely, but with his last season being in his top 4 best years is a bit too likely to go over the tipping point. David Bakhtiari, 47.05, His knee injury recovery is key. It's very likely he comes back from it just fine and then he's on pace to make the Hall again. Lane Johnson, 38.15, and Eric Fisher, 35.93, are next. Both have a low enough chance to make the hall to be considered but I think both are also too far away to catch Neely. Everyone else needs too much projection or is just too far away from Neely.

For guard I think Evans and Martins will make it out of active players. Yanda and Mankins are the top non actives and I don't think either will make it. Since I'm pushing Martin to making the hall there are no other active players with long enough careers to even consider at this point just too much projection or clearly not going to catch the guys I'm going with. If you think Yanda and Makins make it then Steve Wisniewski and Bob Kuechenberg are the next up and still too far ahead of any other active player with enough years to not be pure projection.

Center you could make some arguments on. The bar is so high but I'm still going to say Pouncey and Saturday make it. Mack would need some major accolades to clear the bar that I don't think he gets and he is already ahead of Nalen and Kelce on the meter who both still could get in. Since Mack is currently active and I don't think will make the Hall and can still accumulate meter points I didn't look at anyone else. Also if Pouncey and Saturday don't make it I think Mack passes them on the meter in just a year or 2 but still won't have the resume of a HoF center.

QB and RB
I don't think they need much detail. I think they are putting Gore in even if I don't think he should make it. Peterson is clearly going to make it. That drops the meter down to 82.84 McCoy or 77.48 Craig for players not already who are done and there is no active player who wouldn't need like 10 years of projection that catches them. Henry is only at 27.20 and if he rebounds to King Henry level then he is too likely to get in based on super high even if super short peak to have any chance of beating out McCoy. It's a dying position and we aren't likely to see a lot more HoF RB.

QB same type of deal I'm putting more guys in than you did, including Wilson. All the other actives are too far behind Anderson or need too much projection and I'm vetoing the meter in this case and taking Anderson over Eli.

Post is too long to get into defense.

87 Almost assuredly

The likes of Kelce, Pouncey and P2, et al will be in. 

Alex Mack just retired. C bar is weird but I wouldn't hate him in. Not many are in anyway and 7 PBs is a lot. 

Jonathan Taylor will be in so book your bet now for max return. I've been on record wanting Marshawn and LeSean in before Gore. I'm not swayed by 3rd in raw yards. You better be with the 3rd most attempts.  Too bad he's only 19th in TDs though. FBs will always have a soft spot in my heart and Craig is more than worthy. Besides he played straight HB too anyway. 

Gronk was just bumped up to 2nd in HOFm, presumably due to finishing 33%+ of his career with AP1s. Kelce has more career receptions than him but less yards and way less TDs. Kelce is a good bit volume as even if his next 9 catches are TDs, he's still 19 TDs behind Jimmy Graham despite the same amount of career receptions albeit more yards. 

It's tricky assuming who is and isn't in though. Ignoring all that and just going with those not in but at the top (ignoring my personal preferences outside of choosing a 3-4 defense because Thomas was higher HOFm than DT Kevin Williams):

Offense

  • QB: Tom Brady
  • RB: Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore
  • WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne
  • TE: Rob Gronk
  • OT: Joe Thomas, Jim Tyrer (note he won't be getting in due to murdering his wife)
  • G: Jahri Evans, Marshal Yanda
  • C: Maurkice Pouncey

Defense

  • DT: Aaron Donald
  • DE: JJ Watt, Julius Peppers
  • ILB: Luke Kuechly, Zach Thomas
  • OLB: Demarcus Ware, Von Miller
  • DB: Darrelle Revis, Ronde Barber, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman

The real question is, can a HOF team beat this team...with yesteryears rules? Or todays rules like too many people assume in these scenarios. Might be closer than you think, even with the mismatches positions. Too much talent. To be exact Thomas at LT. Tyrer at RT. Sherman can play a pseudo single high FS with his off ability. Ronde obviously in the slot. 4 elite edge rushers just being menaces in the craziest way possible lining up all over. Watt has experience inside. Ware can play in the dirt. Von can lineup all the way at 9 tech. Peppers is also versatile. Good luck knowing where they're gonna come from. No real old schools players so you know how they play. Besides in todays game you're only playing with two off ball linebackers anyway. Throw it back and Luke and Zach can still probably handle the old rules by themselves because they're that good. 

I could tailor it to my tastes better (Rodgers instead of Brady, maybe a 2nd TE instead of Frank Gore (or at least multiple different RBs over Gore), etc).

Oh and no post is too long for defense. 

26 In general, I think the Pro…

In general, I think the Pro Football Hall of Fame could do a much better job of a) providing an immersive fan experience for folks who actually visit; and b) informing fans of what the Hall itself has to offer besides a bunch of bronze busts. It would be great to visit Canton and discover a little shrine to Buddy Ryan's Eagles or a 1970s section set up like the tailgate outside a Vikings playoff game (it could be set in a walk-in freezer).

This is dead-on. I visited the HOF in 2015 and was completely underwhelmed. There's one room overstuffed with busts, which are practically overlapping each other have no info or details other than a nameplate. We were there on a slow day, but on a crowd I'm sure you could wait 30 minutes to get a quick pic of your favorite players. And the lighting is terrible so the pictures aren't very good anyway. There's a bunch of old jerseys and helmets and footballs and cleats, and some cool photos and some historical paperwork -- draft cards, playsheets, scouting reports, game tickets. And that's about it. Very little to see and almost nothing to do. We got in, took pics for a couple of hours, and were done. And it's exactly like Mike said: we got out and went to Cleveland as quickly as possible.

74 Strongly agree

I was just there a few months ago. I live in eastern PA and Canton is close enough for a drive out there and one overnight. Being a football nut I figured I would enjoy the HoF no matter what, so I didn't really look into whether it was actually worth going or not. Was just looking for something to do. Let's just say it was underwhelming.

It is, literally, right next to a highway. There is zero information about the players that are in the hall, just their busts, the teams they played for, and the years they played. The exhibits seem to be geared towards people who know nothing about the NFL. I don't recall learning a single thing while I was there that I didn't already know. So, maybe if I didn't know much about the history of the league, it would have been interesting. 

Definitely not worth going out of your way for.

75 Strongly agree

I was just there a few months ago. I live in eastern PA and Canton is close enough for a drive out there and one overnight. Being a football nut I figured I would enjoy the HoF no matter what, so I didn't really look into whether it was actually worth going or not. Was just looking for something to do. Let's just say it was underwhelming.

It is, literally, right next to a highway. There is zero information about the players that are in the hall, just their busts, the teams they played for, and the years they played. The exhibits seem to be geared towards people who know nothing about the NFL. I don't recall learning a single thing while I was there that I didn't already know. So, maybe if I didn't know much about the history of the league, it would have been interesting. 

Definitely not worth going out of your way for.

31 I'm increasingly in favor of…

I'm increasingly in favor of creating a Special Teams "slot", like for coaches, because I do think outstanding accomplishment ought to be recognized, even if it's less "valuable" than what a QB does or whatever. And by the same token, it shouldn't take a spot away from a player who contributed much more in absolute terms.

So, give ST its own slot, and its own little sub-wing of the Hall, and put Hester in. And Brian Mitchell. And Shane Lechler. And... whoever the best longsnapper is. See, that's the thing - I know who Tom Brady is, every generation until the end of time will know who Tom Brady is, he doesn't need a museum exhibit to make that so. But I have no idea who the best longsnapper is! Probably no one does! So let's make a little space where the unsung heroes can get a little spotlight for once.

44 Detroit Lions: Wayne Walker…

Detroit Lions: Wayne Walker

You'll get more push from Lions fans for Spielman, but even they don't think he has any real chance.

Even Spielman is probably behind Lomas Brown and Herman Moore for Detroit fans. Of those, really only Lomas has the edgest of edge cases.

48 teammates affect on perception

Real Hall of Famers cover their receivers 40 yards down the field without safety help!

This reminds me of the longtime snub of Paul Krause from the HOF, basically voters punished him from being the perceived beneficiary of the scheme, the perception was he just picked off a lot of desperation heaves from quarterbacks running for their lives from the Purple People Eaters.    I still remember Dr. Z's blub about him, paraphrasing, "he was like a seagull, floating in the backfield, picking off footballs heaved in his direction.  Tackled like one too...."  then he mused on how long he should pushing the NFL's all time interception leader for the perception he didn't have to tackle much to accumulate picks.   At some point he decided he it was long enough and finally voted for him, but it took 14 years after being eligible (retired in 79, inducted in 98) for the NFL's all time interception king to finally get into the HOF.   (well, that and the losing superbowls thing).  The previous interception leader, Tunnell, retired in 61 and was inducted in 67.

I agree with you on Matt Blair.  Most Vikings fans still want Marshall in, but guess the boat has sailed on that, doesn't even have the starts record anymore.

52 And in two weeks, that's…

And in two weeks, that's right, we're doing it, hold onto your hats for…

Antonio Brown.

 

    I take it you've been tasked with setting up an experiment to see what volume of comments will crash the site?

56 I'm still struggling to…

I'm still struggling to understand what happened to Antonio Brown. Say what you want about being a diva, but his total lack of professionalism and self sabotage didn't start until the very end at Pittsburgh and continued everywhere else.

At least Moss and To were consistent malcontents from jump.

60 I 100% believe its brain…

I 100% believe its brain injury.  I followed his career from the "scrapy late round draft pick that wows in shorts but is too small to make the team" beginning.  Early in his career, he was the guy that his teammates would pair up to mentor late round rookies *becasue his work ethic and dedication might rub off on them*.

Maybe all the success inflated his ego.  Maybe all the self destruction and low impulse controll was always there under the surface.  Or maybe he was an under-sized dude that played the Bengals and Ravens twice a year, took a lot of hits to the head, and developed behavior patterns consistant with a person with repeated head trauma.

62 If not injury...

There certainly was an evident personality (or at least behavioral) change, whether it was caused by injury, some underlying disturbance that did not emerge until a certain age, an underlying disturbance exacerbated by injury, some weird self-destructive neurosis that could not handle success...I don't know, but I think it's a shame that a guy having a Hall of Fame career ended up the way he did.  I, for one, feel much more pity and sympathy than the scorn or snickering he elicits from some. 

65 I always saw it as WR1…

I always saw it as WR1 disease. Antonio Brown joined a team that had Hines Ward and Mike Wallace. He didn't start to become AB until Ward retired, Wallace left, and Heath Miller was in decline. It didn't really blow up until late 2018, but early 2018 and even 2016 and 2017 weren't exactly clear-sailing.

https://www.ballmccannlaw.com/single-post/legal-battles-of-antonio-brown
https://andscape.com/features/steelers-antonio-brown-is-an-instagram-all-pro-but-is-that-the-full-picture/
https://www.nickiswift.com/149823/antonio-browns-tragic-real-life-story/

Moss was basically under control when Carter was still on the Vikings. Owens was fine when it was still Rice's team. A lot of guys can keep a lid on it when they are WR2s, but can't once they become the star. I saw AB as one of those guys -- he was okay when he was an underdog, but couldn't cope once he wasn't.

69 But all three showed…

But all three showed different versions of malcontentism(pretty sure thats a word).

Moss was a mercenary. I think he liked football, but didn't love it and subsequent interviews have kind of hinted that that might be the case. If the going got tough or the situation was hopeless, you knew Moss wasn't going to try or care. 

To was different. TO gave max effort, but he wanted to be the team's first, second, third, and fourth choice on offense and he wanted constant adulation from his coach and QB. I guess that makes him petulant and vain, but at least he stayed consistent. 

AB...there's a disconnect there. He was the undisputed top option for a while and still the lid didn't blow off until some mysterious circumstances showed up. I honestly hope its not an injury related reason for his sake. I'd rather believe he's just a recalcitrant and not someone with a serious post career injury. 

72 >some mysterious…

>some mysterious circumstances

This was around the time Bell was holding out / getting a lot of attention.  If you want to look for environmental factors, there's narrative there that AB was fine when he was 'the man' and that the wheels feel off when some younger guy was 'the man'.

89 Fred Taylor

He’s 17th on the all-time list, and only Sanders, Peterson, & Brown above him have higher YPC (Peterson & Fred are at 4.6). Everyone above him are HOFs (sans Gore), so if you never induct another runner you're saying he’s the next one up. Jim Brown is on record as saying he was the best runner ever, & no one maybe ever combined his speed, power, size, & agility. It makes no sense Sayers & Davis get in the Hall with the “…but they were injured”, while Freddie gets penalized for it.

90 There's biiiiiig differences

In reply to by liquidmuse3

Fred Taylor has one Pro Bowl. 1 in 13 years. 2007 was also the only year he made an all pro team and it was just a 2nd by the AP. No other publication gave him such recognition. Sayers and Davis were on multiple MVP ballots, had multiple more PBs and All Pros...in less time? They just have more black ink too.Valuing longevity tooooooo much. 

Like...seventeenth in raw yardz? My goodness what a low bar. Naaaaaaaaaaaaah. What about him having the same amount of TDs as Ricky Williams and Michael Turner (despite more carries)? wAV less than Lydell Mitchell who last played in 1980 and isn't in (yet). 

Aren't you the same guy that brings up Tebow a lot? It's all coming together, you're a FL fan.