Posted by Chase Stuart on December 8, 2009
Hidden in obscurity most of the time, offensive linemen have more busts in Canton than any other position; there are 34 modern-era offensive linemen in the Hall of Fame. Of course, offensive linemen take up more positions in a team's starting lineup than any other position, so this makes some sense. This year, there are only two offensive linemen candidates: Russ Grimm and Dermontti Dawson.
Grimm is currently the assistant head coach and offensive line coach of the Arizona Cardinals, where he won the NFC Championship last season. Before that, Grimm was the offensive line coach for the Steelers when Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl in 2005. Grimm has been around champions for all of his playing and coaching career. It is what he did as a player that's made him a semifinalist today.
Grimm was a member of the "Hogs", the outstanding offensive line that helped propel the Washington Redskins to four Super Bowl appearances and three victories in a ten-year span. None of the Hogs have made the HOF, which ranks as the chief complaint among Washington fans now that Art Monk has his bust in Canton. The most prominent members of the Hogs were T Joe Jacoby, G Russ Grimm, C Jeff Bostic, T Jim Lachey and G Mark May. They were the starting five for only one season, 1989, but combined for 37 of the 50 starting linemen spots from 1982 to 1991.
The two most productive members were Jacoby and Grimm. Redskins fans have rhetorically wondered how an offensive line that was so good have none of its members in the Hall of Fame? Grimm and Jacoby were both semifinalists last year; perhaps they split the ballot, as only Grimm advanced. He then had to compete with fellow guards Bob Kuechenberg and Randall McDaniel, and was not enshrined in 2009. Grimm had previously been a finalist in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Even if he were to make the cut again in 2011, voters may tire of Grimm if they don't choose to induct him now. With tackle Willie Roaf up for induction next year, the stakes are high: with no Jacoby, no other guards, and only other offensive lineman as a semifinalist, 2010 may be the best (and last) chance for Grimm to gain induction.
There are not too many ways to talk objectively about Grimm, or any offensive lineman. We know that he made four Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro three times by the Associated Press. Additionally, in '82 he was a 2nd-team All-Conference selection by the UPI and was a 1st-team All-Pro pick by the NEA and Pro Football Writers in 1986, and a second-team All-Pro choice by the AP that season. We know he was the starter for two Super Bowl champions, that he was the starter for a Super Bowl loser, and a reserve on another Super Bowl champ. The Redskins offenses were generally better than average when Grimm was around, and because of all of that, Grimm has a career AV score of 63. But off the 20 semifinalists for whom P-F-R calculates AV, Grimm has the lowest score.
There are 58 offensive linemen who have made more Pro Bowls than Grimm; consider that in the coming years, we'll see Will Shields (12), Larry Allen (11), Jonathan Ogden (11), Willie Roaf (11) and Walter Jones (9) eligible for induction. Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson are the dominant guards of this decade, and their resumes are much stronger than Grimm's. Steve Wisniewski made twice as many Pro Bowls as Grimm, but no one considers him a Hall of Famer.
For Grimm, his three first-team All-Pros from the Associated Press don't make him a slam dunk, either. Twenty-nine offensive linemen have three such selections and aren't in Canton, including 11 guards. Jerry Kramer has as much name recognition as Grimm and was a five-time first-team All-Pro choice; on the other hand, Joe DeLamielleure has only three first-team All-Pros and "only" six Pro Bowls, and he's in the short discussion of best guards of all-time. Sadly, when discussing offensive linemen, there just isn't that much to go on.
Super Bowl success? Gerry Mullins started and won four Super Bowls at guard with the Steelers; Joe Andruzzi (Patriots), Mark Schlereth (Redskins, Broncos) and Nate Newton (Cowboys) all started and won three Super Bowls as guards. Mickey Marvin won two Super Bowls with the Raiders at right guard, but that doesn't make him a Hall of Famer. Grimm, in fact, wasn't even the starter for the '87 Redskins in the Super Bowl; he started only five games that year (at center), but did not start any of his team's playoff games.
According to AV, Grimm's grade of 63 ranks ranks only 23rd among guards eligible but not yet in the Hall of Fame. Grimm was certainly better than some of those guys, and his AV score is hurt by his relatively short career: he started just 114 games. Could you argue for Grimm's induction ala Earl Campbell or Gale Sayers -- players who had a handful of dominant seasons and that was enough? Unfortunately, for running backs we have a lot more information than "first-team All-Pro." Those players had stats that even 30 years later, show how dominant they were relative to their peers. For Grimm, or any other lineman, it's tough to get enshrined without a decade's worth of success. Fair? Of course not. That's the curse of being an offensive lineman.
Chances he'll make the HOF in 2010? Poor.
Chances he'll ever make the HOF? Low.