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HOF 2010: John Randle

Posted by Chase Stuart on November 30, 2009

In September, we noted that 131 candidates were placed on the preliminary list of modern-era nominees for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Saturday, that list was narrowed down to 25 semifinalists. By January 7th, that list will be reduced by a mail ballot to 15 modern-era finalists. Floyd Little and Dick LeBeau are the two senior nominees this year, which means there will be 17 modern-era finalists from which the Hall will select between four and seven new members (but no more than five from the semifinalist list; classes of six or seven can only be achieved if one or two senior nominees are selected). On Saturday, February 6, 2010, the day before Super Bowl XVIV, the members of the Class of 2010 will be announced.

P-F-R plans to do a profile of as many of the players as we have time; hopefully we can do one for all 25. Two men are locks -- the all-time leading rusher and receiver are going to be part of the class of 2010. In addition to a ton of individual records, Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice each have won three Super Bowls; they're the definition of first ballot Hall of Famers. Here are the AV scores of 20 of the players on the final list; in addition to them, Paul Tagliabue (NFL Commissioner), Don Coryell (head coach of the Cardinals and Chargers), Art Modell (owner of the Browns and Ravens) and two special team players for whom we don't calculate AV (Steve Tasker and Ray Guy), made the cut:

160	WR 		Jerry Rice
129	RB 		Emmitt Smith
114	DE/LB 		Chris Doleman
111	LB 		Rickey Jackson
107	DT 		John Randle 
104	WR 		Tim Brown
104	CB/S 		Aeneas Williams
101	TE 		Shannon Sharpe 
99	DT 		Cortez Kennedy 
98	WR 		Cris Carter 
97	DE 		Richard Dent
97	LB/DE 		Kevin Greene
97	WR 		Andre Reed 
93	RB 		Roger Craig
87	WR 		Cliff Branch
85	DE/LB 		Charles Haley
83	C 		Dermontti Dawson 
73	RB 		Terrell Davis
72	CB 		Lester Hayes
63	G 		Russ Grimm

Today, we start with John Randle. The Minnesota Vikings have a long tradition of outstanding defensive linemen, one that continues today. Alan Page and Carl Eller, permanently residing in Canton, teamed with Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen in the 1970s to give the Purple People Eaters arguably the greatest defensive line of all-time. Chris Doleman, like Randle, is one of the semifinalists for induction this year, and is fourth on the all-time list of official sacks. Today, the Vikings great defensive line is anchored by the Williams Wall and Jared Allen, one of the best defensive ends in the league. Minnesota has never won a Super Bowl, but they've been home to some tremendous defensive linemen over the last 40 years.

With that sort of history, no one would expect that an undrafted, undersized defensive tackle out of Texas A&M-Kingsville would be remembered as one of the franchise's all-time greats. But on an offensive powerhouse, Randle brought back visions of pass rushers past. From 1993 to 1998, John Randle was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and made the Pro Bowl in every season. On those Vikings, it was usually the offensive players that got recognition -- Randall McDaniel, Todd Steussie, Jeff Christy, Cris Carter, Warren Moon, Robert Smith and Randy Moss would make Pro Bowls for the offense during those seasons. During those six seasons, no Vikings defensive back ever made a Pro Bowl; only one other defensive lineman, Chris Doleman in 1993, would get such an honor. Two linebackers, Ed McDaniel ('98) and Jack Del Rio ('93) were named to Pro Bowls.

From '93 to '98, the Vikings scored about 3.0 more points per game than the league average team, with their offensive success culminating in their record breaking 1998 season. Those years, the Vikings defense allowed just 0.1 fewer points per game than average. When people think of the Vikings of the mid-90s, defense is the last thing that comes to mind. And that's a shame, because Randle was one of the best defensive players of the decade.

During that six year span, Randle had AV scores of 16, 16, 16, 15, 14 and 13. No other Vikings defensive player during those seasons had an AV score above 13. Randle was arguably the best defensive tackle in the league each of those years, and the numbers back it up. For most of the '90s, he was the best interior pass rusher in the NFL.

  • In 1993, Randle had 12.5 sacks, the most of any interior linemen in the NFL.
  • In '94, Randle had 13.5 sacks; no other DT had double digit sacks that season.
  • The next year, Randle had double digit sacks for the fourth straight season; he was tied for fifth among defensive tackles.
  • In 1996, Randle and Bryant Young led all defensive tackles with 11.5 sacks.
  • In 1997, Randle had 15.5 sacks, the most by any DT in the decade of the '90s.
  • In 1998, injuries and free agency made the Vikings move Randle to defensive end. He led the team in sacks with 10.5. Over the next three yeras, at ages 32, 33 and 34, Randle would play both end and tackle for the Seahawks and Vikings, and still record 29 sacks.

Will Randle make the HOF? At a minimum, he'll have to impress voters more than Cortez Kennedy, the only other defensive tackle semifinalist. He may be competing with fellow defensive linemen/pass rushers Chris Doleman and Charles Haley, and hybrid linebackers/pass rushers Rickey Jackson and Kevin Greene. The table below shows where Randle's AV score ranks among all players and all players not yet in the HOF, in four categories, from specific to broad:

          Overall Rank     Among non-HOFers

DT:           11                 2 (Warren Sapp, Alex Karras)
DL:           23                 6
IDP:          52                14
All:          82                26

Randle was one of the first stars at the under tackle position, and was arguably the best. He was not a quiet man in the trenches -- he wore war paint during games and had a vocal rivalry with Brett Favre. He was a dominating inside presence that one day should end up in Canton. With a Viking enshrined last season (Randall McDaniel) and another high on the list this year (Cris Carter), Randle may not might it right away. But he should get in there eventually.

Chances he'll make the HOF in 2010? Pretty good.
Chances he'll ever make the HOF? Excellent.
Should he be a HOFer? Yes.