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HOF 2010: Roundtable discussion

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 3, 2010

P-F-R has decided to close this series on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 by having a roundtable discussion where we argue about the candidates up for election. Below are the profiles P-F-R has written for the 17 men, of whom as many as seven may be called Hall of Famers by Saturday afternoon:

Finalists:

John Randle
Roger Craig
Russ Grimm
Dermontti Dawson
Tim Brown
Cris Carter
Andre Reed
Charles Haley
Cortez Kennedy
Don Coryell
Shannon Sharpe
Jerry Rice
Richard Dent
Emmitt Smith
Rickey Jackson

Senior's nominees:

Dick LeBeau
Floyd Little

You have read more than enough of my words over the past two months; joining me at this virtual roundtable will be Jason Lisk and four frequent P-F-R commentators: Jason W, Just Win Baby, Richie and Tim Treumper.

Chase: Thanks for joining me here, guys. Let's discuss the finalists first, and then we can discuss the seniors candidates. Let's start off with an easy one: Does anyone want to argue vote down Rice or Smith?

Richie: Nope. I don't think anybody could ever come up with a hint of an argument against Rice. Like Doug said, Rice essentially had 2 HOF careers in one. With Emmitt, I think the best you could do is to argue that he might have only been the 2nd-best RB of his era - to Barry Sanders. But Sanders was a Hall shoe-in, and even if Emmitt is 2nd, it's not by much.

Jason: Not unless we are talking about the "Dancing with the Stars" Hall of Fame.

JWB: No. There is no argument against.

Chase: Yeah, I think the HOF Committee will spend about three seconds on these two guys. After Rice and Smith, if you could only pick one player, who would it be? Tim, why don't you start us off:

Tim Treumper: I would have to go with Richard Dent. And its close because I would also say Kennedy and Randle are right up there with him. My leanings are based on him being a dominant player on a dominant defense and doing it for a long time. He is as worthy, if not more so, than DEs such as L.C. Greenwood and Ed Jones.

Richie: I'll stay on the defensive line, and say for me it comes down to a debate between John Randle and Cortez Kennedy for the spot after Rice and Smith. During the 1990s, it seems like I was always watching games with John Randle creating problems for opposing offenses. On the other hand, I rarely saw Cortez Kennedy play. But that's obviously not Kennedy's fault. The Seahawks were a bad franchise for most of Kennedy's career. Despite this, he still managed to make 8 Pro Bowls and 3 All Pros. Additionally he won a Defensive Player of the Year award while playing for a horrible 2-14 team. I'll pick Kennedy as my HOF choice after Rice and Smith. I can't base my judgement on watching him play, so I will make it based on others watching him play. If an interior defensive lineman can win the kinds of accolades that Kennedy won, while mostly playing for bad teams, I think he has to be a HOFer.

And as far as Dent goes, Tim, I have to disagree. Richard Dent is one of the players that I think Chase talked me out of supporting. Because Dent was the Super Bowl MVP on the great 1985 Bears team (when I was 13), I have an impression of him being a great player, and he "feels" like a HOFer. But after further review, I don't think I'm quite as convinced. It seems like his peak was short and he was probably helped by guys like Hampton and McMichael.

Chase: JWB, what do you think?

JWB: I'd select John Randle. I place a high value on the 1st team All Pro selections by the Associated Press. After Rice and Smith, Randle and Dawson have the most 1st team All Pro honors, with six each; no other finalist has five, and only one other finalist (Shannon Sharpe) has four.

There are eleven modern era defensive tackles in the HOF (not including Dan Hampton, who played half of his career at end). To my knowledge, of those players who played most of their careers at defensive tackle, only Alan Page had more sacks than Randle's 137.5. (Page had 173 unofficial sacks.) And Randle was consistent, with nine seasons of 10+ sacks, including eight straight. His other numbers (e.g., tackles, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries) compare favorably to Sapp's, and I think most (myself included) think Sapp will be a HOFer.

On top of that, according to Chase's profile, Randle was one of the first "undertackles," and he was arguably the best. Because the undertackle role has grown in use with the popularity of the Tampa 2, one could argue that Randle's success in that role had a significant impact on how NFL defenses evolved in his era. It isn't clear that the same can be said about the other finalists under consideration.

Jason: JWB, while I tend to value first team All Pro Selections as well, I am strangely lukewarm on Randle and his all-pro selections. He was selected six times precisely because he was different. He was a pass rusher who played inside, and was, to put it charitably, indifferent to defending the run. Writers and voters see sacks; Randle had the most, therefore he got selected. In my view, Randle was overrated and Henry Thomas was underrated. Thomas, who only made two pro bowls and no all pros, had 40 fewer career sacks but almost 400 more tackles. The Vikings actually had good rush defenses when Thomas and Randle played together inside, but Minnesota fell to the bottom of the league once Thomas left and Randle continued his one-dimensional, pass rushing ways.

One could bring up the analogy Chase made about Jeff Kent playing first or second base thing in baseball. Should we compare Randle to tackles who played nothing like him, or other "sack artists" who were less focused on defending the run? And I'm not just subjectively saying Randle was weak against the run: the numbers bear out his reputation. His tackle to sack ratio is only 3.4 to 1. Cortez Kennedy had nearly ten times as many tackles as sacks. The next 10 defensive tackles in AV for the decade of the 90s were had 11.8 tackles for every sack they recorded.

Now Randle's ratio is low partly because of his high sack totals, but also partly because he didn't get nearly as many tackles as other defensive tackles. If we compare him to the other elite pass rushers who had high sacks at the DE/OLB position, he still ranks at an extreme. Dwight Freeney and Simeon Rice are the only two that I see (on a quick review) that have a lower Tackle to Sack Ratio.

It's not quite a "Mike Alstott at Pro Bowl Fullback" thing, but I still am concerned about overly relying on his all-pros when, by circular argument, he was selected all-pro because he got sacks and played the run way less than his contemporaries. Was he better, or just different?

JWB: I understand what you're saying, Jason, but I think you're selling Randle short.

  • It's hard for me to know what Randle's coaches asked of him. It could be that his coaches put him in the undertackle position and asked him to focus on rushing the passer. If so, is it fair to penalize him? Meanwhile, it could be that Thomas's coaches asked him to focus on stopping the run (because he wasn't skilled enough to get to the passer), and that could at least partly explain the disparity in their tackles-to-sacks ratios. And...
  • I'm dubious about the worth of the tackles-to-sacks ratio. I think a better thing to do would be to compare sacks and tackles separately but to appropriately value both categories. And to do the same for metrics like forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and other big plays.
  • Since you brought up Kennedy, let's compare him to Randle:

    Randle: 219 games, 556 tackles, 137.5 sacks, 29 FF, 11 FR, 1 INT, 1 TD
    Kennedy: 167 games, 668 tackles, 58 sacks, 11 FF, 6 FR, 3 INT, 1 TD

    Sure, Kennedy has more tackles - 4 tackles per game compared to Randle's 2.5. But Randle was better in almost every other category. And being good enough to play 52 more games - 31% more games - certainly implies that he was able to add more value to his teams over the long run... which is one reason his career AV is quite a bit higher.

  • Finally, consider Randle's resume relative to a guy like Warren Sapp:

    Randle: 219 games, 556 tackles, 137.5 sacks, 29 FF, 11 FR, 1 INT, 1 TD, 7 PBs, 6 1-APs
    Sapp: 198 games, 573 tackles, 96.5 sacks, 19 FF, 12 FR, 4 INT, 1 TD, 7 PBs, 4 1-APs, 1 DPOY
    They look pretty similar to me.

Richie: Allow me to step in here. I don't think we should factor a coach's intent when evaluating a player's career. Maybe they asked Randle to ignore the rush and concentrate on the pass. But if that enabled him to have higher than typical sack totals and lower than typical tackle totals, then we have to count that against him.

Here's an example: In 2008, the Baltimore Ravens heavily used Le'Ron McClain as a ball-carrying fullback. He picked up 902 rushing yards. In 2009, they turned him into primarily a blocking back. He only gained 180 yards. (Interestingly, he averaged 3.9 ypc both seasons.) When evaluating McClain's HOF candidacy (I'm not nominating him at this point by any means) are we supposed to "fill in the blanks" of his rushing yardage for 2009 that he didn't get because the team didn't ask him to carry the ball? Instead, I think we have to read into the fact that the team didn't ask him to run the ball. The coaches felt that he wasn't really good enough to be a primary running option.

Likewise, if the Vikings were asking Randle to avoid defending the run - there's probably a reason for it.

JWB: No, I didn't mean to imply that we should fill in the blanks. I was simply offering a possible reason for why his tackles are not as high as other DTs besides the explanation that he was indifferent to or incapable of defending the run effectively.

With regard to your last statement, the reason for it wouldn't have to be that he wasn't good at stopping the run, which is what I think you are implying. The reason could just as easily be that he was extraordinarily good at pressuring the QB, and they felt that using him in such a manner as to take full advantage of that strength was the best thing for their defensive scheme.

Here is an example from this year that illustrates this. Woodson had 69 tackles and 4 assists this year, compared to 47 and 4 for Revis. Does that mean Woodson is a much better tackler and/or is much better at playing the run? I don't think so. In fact, Revis is known as an excellent tackler. But he is even better in coverage, and so the Jets use a defensive scheme that puts him in coverage on #1 WRs most of the time and reduces his opportunities to play the run.

Richie: I hear what you're saying. For what it's worth, I mostly agree with you. After Rice and Smith, Kennedy and Randle are probably the 2 next-best HOF 2010 candidates, IMO. I think Kennedy and Randle are very close. I am basically giving Kennedy the edge because he did what he did on mostly bad and anonymous teams. Jason?

Jason: To be clear, I'm not arguing that Randle was freelancing. He wouldn't have stayed with the same organization for so long if he wasn't doing what was asked most of the time. I'm not penalizing him for being a guy who went after sacks (at least I don't think I am). I'm penalizing him for winning awards for going after sacks at a position where that wasn't a big part of the normal job description, and where he won those awards precisely because his sack numbers did stand out. Let me see if I can clarify my position.

It's like the Fullback argument, or the Shannon Sharpe compared to tight ends or wide receivers argument. If the team decided that John Randle was not a typical tackle, and was quick inside and disrupted the passer, they could choose to use him in that role. Now, someone else has to do the other things. That someone probably includes a DE. So, while most teams have the DE rushing and the DT focusing on run support, the Vikings may reverse that. Let's say both teams are equally effective getting sacks and stopping the run. Randle wins more awards and appears better than the DE on our other team, even though they did the same job (because there is more competition for those awards). So, should Randle be compared to other Tackles, his nominal position, or to Pass Rush Specialists, which is what he actually did when you look at his numbers?

When I say he is overrated, I mean relative to being a six time all pro at DT. I still think he will be in, just not the clear-cut, next off the board that the all-pro selections say.

I've spiraled us off track. I'm not contesting the idea that he should be in, just taken above others on the basis of his six all pros. Let's put it this way. The other HOF defensive tackles with 5 all pros or more since 1960 are Bob Lilly, Randy White, Mean Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen, and Alan Page. Is he really in that class? Or should we be comparing him to pass rush specialists at DE?

JWB: No, I don't think Randle is in the class of Lilly/White/Greene/Olsen/Page. But I think he is closer to it than Kennedy. And perhaps closer to it than any of the other finalists besides Rice and Smith are to the similarly elite group of HOFers at their positions.

Chase: I think Jason's brought up a good point, which is that awards often go to the glitzy players over the just-as-if-not-more-valuable players. It's probably easier to find a guy who can bullrush a guard one-on-one and record 12 sacks than it is to find a huge nose tackle who can eat up the center and guard on every play. There might be 10 three-technique tackles that could reach double digit sacks lined up next to an elite nose tackle, but there might be just one or two under tackles who could hit that mark playing alonside a mediocre nose tackle. The nose tackle is valuable because he creates externalities, but it's the beneficiary and not the cuase of those externalities that often gets the credit. To bolster Jason's argument, consider that from '94 to '99, Randle had the top six-sack seasons by any Minnesota Viking. If the Vikings schemed to make Randle their number one pass rusher, and the DEs were forced to stay at home more often, I'm not sure if Randle really should just be compared to other interior defensive linemen. By the way, Jason, you've yet to say who your first post-Rice/Smith pick would be:

Jason: If I had to choose one, I'd take Dermontti Dawson. Let's face it, most of these finalists will be in some day. Looking back on the finalists from a decade ago (1990-1999), every non-veteran selection finalist from the entire decade is in except for Ken Anderson and Ken Stabler at QB, L.C. Greenwood, Ray Guy, and Jerry Kramer. In looking at these finalists, at least 10 of the 15 comfortably meet the standard of what a typical Hall of Famer has been, and of those remaining, most have the greatness by association thing going for them, which has been the driving factor behind several of the otherwise marginal picks in the past.

So basically, we are talking about who goes in this year versus in 2012. I'm going with Dermontti Dawson in my first non-Jerry and Emmitt slot since he is the least controversial candidate and has the resume that makes him a pretty sure thing. He is arguably the greatest post-merger center (depending on whether you are viewing Jim Otto's whole career or just after 1970). He was not only a first team all pro six times by the AP, but a virtually unanimous choice by every selecting group over that time. Of the other four post-merger centers in the Hall, Langer and Otto went in the first year of eligibility, Webster in the second year, and only Stephenson had to wait as long as Dawson. He was a finalist last year and should get in this time.

JWB: Dawson is definitely a worthy choice. Personally, I have a hard time judging and comparing offensive lineman, so I'm uncertain about that, which is why I went with Randle before Dawson.

Chase: Okay, JWB, in addition to Randle, who are the two people you would vote for? Everyone, let's hear the three other men you would vote for.

JWB: Dawson and Shannon Sharpe. As I said before, I value 1st team All Pro selections a lot, and after Rice, Randle and Dawson have the most 1st team All Pro selections among the finalists. They each have six, while no other finalist has five, and only two other finalists (Emmit Smith and Sharpe) have four. And, while 1st team All Pro selections are not the only things I considered, it is no coincidence that these guys made up my class.

For Dawson, it's the All Pro selections that decide it. He won six straight, including five straight unanimous selections. As Jason mentioned, that kind of dominance indicates a player is HOF-worthy. I wish there were more ways to measure offensive linemen so there was more to examine. But combining those All Pro selections with the fact that only six modern era centers are currently in the HOF is enough for me. Dawson is overdue for selection.

For Sharpe, there is more to consider. The four 1st team All Pro selections are quite impressive, to go along with a 2nd team selection and eight Pro Bowls. He played on three Super Bowl champions, and, although he didn't perform particularly well in the Super Bowls, he was a solid playoff performer; he was particularly instrumental in Baltimore's championship run. He retired as the all time leader among TEs in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs, though he has since been passed in all three categories by Gonzalez. But being passed by Gonzalez, a sure HOFer, is not a negative. And to top it all off, there are only seven modern era TEs in the HOF, so the position is arguably underrepresented as of right now.

A very minor benefit with this group is that there is no overlapping of positions. In particular, not choosing Carter or Brown, both of whom I think are HOF-worthy, means Rice is honored as the only WR in this class and conversely Carter and Brown are not inducted in Rice's shadow. I considered Kennedy, but ultimately felt that Dawson and Sharpe were more deserving. There were no other RB, WR, TE, OL, or DL candidates that really merited strong consideration in comparison to this group IMO.

This would be quite a class. This group has a total of 30 1st team All Pro selections (not including senior candidates)! Has there ever been a class with more?

Tim Treumper: I already mentioned Richard Dent, a long standing great player on a great defense. He was an excellent performer over a long period of time. So who else? My next choice would be Cris Carter, who was a great possession receiver who really matured as a player over time. He racked up the touchdowns and always struck me as a Hall of Famer. I'm not sure who would be my third pick; I really wanted to see Terrell Davis make it. Despite having a relatively short career, he was the best RB in football for two years and one of the best for another three. That sort of dominance is worthy of induction. He was the guy who got Elway over the top for those two SB victories.

I'm with you, Tim. I was pulling for "TD", too. Richie, you posited some questions in the comments Shannon Sharpe bio. Where do you fall on his case?

Richie: I'm still undecided on what to do with Sharpe. As a pass-catching TE, he is one of the all-time greats. But if we compare him against other WRs and think of him as a WR, he probably isn't a HOFer. So - the question is, how to value the blocking ability of a TE? I think that the fact that he blocked for two 2,000+ yard rushers is surely a factor in his favor. Was Sharpe used at the TE position because he was good enough as a blocker to be taken seriously by defenders, and then big enough and fast enough to be able to beat LBs as a pass-catcher? Or was he used as a TE because he was too slow to be a WR? I don't know the answer to these questions.

Chase: Yeah, in some ways Sharpe is similar to Randle. He focused most of his efforts on the ESPN-traits that his position demanded; did he do that to the detriment of his team, or was he just so athletic and dominant that it made sense to use him that way? Tough to say.

Jason W, are you going to pull the homer card and go with Randle and Carter? Shame Doleman didn't make the cut.

Jason W: No homer here. Tim Brown, Sharpe, and Dawson would be my three.

I'd be willing to put in multiple wide receivers, but I tried digging a little deeper to see if one of them stood out. I value receiving yards more than any other stat, and Brown beats Carter and Reed both by about 1,000 yards. And he did that despite playing for teams that threw about 10% less often during their years as starters (yes, I just crunched the numbers!). Carter probably still belongs, thanks to his touchdowns and total receptions, but I have to think Brown is slightly better.

Sharpe, IMO, re-defined the tight end position. True, he wasn't much of a blocker, but I think some consideration has to be given to his paving the way for the current batch of elite receiving tight ends.

As a stat guy, I do have trouble grading defensive linemen, but Dawson looks like a shoo-in, thanks to the strong Pittsburgh rushing attack of the mid-90s. During his prime (1992-1998), the Steelers ranked 11th, 9th, 6th, 19th, 6th, 8th, and 9th in yards per attempt, and that was with "speedsters" like Barry Foster, Bam Morris, and Jerome Bettis toting the rock.

Jason: I've already discussed Dawson. Next for me is Rickey Jackson, who I recently profiled. JWB mentioned four time all-pros in regard to his picks, but he was talking only about the Associated Press selections. Jackson is a four time all-pro himself: He was a first-team all-pro pick by the NEA in '86, the NEA and the Sporting News in '87, the Pro Football Writers in '92 and the Sporting News in '93. In all of those seasons, except '87, he was also a second-team choice by the AP. In total, he was a four-time, first-team All-Pro and was an AP second-team choice five times. When we look at all-pros, it's also good to look at the competition, as there are up and down periods for positions. The fact he was losing certain first team all-pros because he played at the same time as LT should be a positive, not a negative. He was also a PFW all conference selection three times (and they did not award all pro). He has the numbers and the longevity. AV says he was probably better than the raw awards and seasons started data say, and he compares favorably to other linebackers already enshrined. The outside linebacker position has been extremely underrepresented in the Hall (and I agree, by the way, that guys like Howley and Hanburger should be veteran's picks). That sums up why I'd take him over some of the others.

Does he have a chance as a first time finalist, especial in a field with several frequent finalist picks? It would be a slight upset, but not unprecedented. Jimmy Johnson, Lee Roy Selmon, Joe DeLamielleure, Elvin Bethea and Bobby Mitchell were never finalists in the first ten years after they retired, but were selected in the first year that they broke through as a modern era finalist.

As for my final slot, I've got to work backwards. Coryell, Craig, Haley, Grimm and Reed are on the outside for me this year. That leaves six others for one spot. I like Dent to get in, but probably next year, not this one. I've said my piece on Randle, and don't have him in this year, though he will get in. That leaves Kennedy and the receiving trio of Carter, Brown and Sharpe. Honestly, if I were on the actual committee, I would give my final vote to whichever of these four was needing it to get in, as I think they all should be selected. For the purpose of this discussion, I will say that I don't want to decide between Carter and Brown (so they are splitting votes here). I am not comfortable calling Sharpe a wide receiver. It's not like he was ignoring blocking while other top tight ends were pounding it into the line constantly. Are we really saying that Sharpe is that much different than guys like Newsome and Brent Jones in how he was used? He was just much better at it and was the dominant tight end of his era. I'll go with Shannon in my last spot for now, and also give a shout out to Sterling Sharpe, who we could play "what if" he had stayed healthy and played with Favre for a decade. Oh, and I have absolutely no ulterior motive of putting Sharpe in the Hall in the second year so that Tony Gonzalez must go first ballot. None at all.

Finally, in regard to All Pro selections by the AP question, I think the most is 1980, when Otto, Lilly, Deacon Jones and Adderley went in (26 total), but you might want to check me on that.

Chase: You're right, Jason. That's the most total and per inductee. The 1973 class (Joe Schmidt (8), Jim Parker (8) and Raymond Berry (3)) was the only other year where the inductees averaged greater than six first-team all-pro nods by the AP. Last year's five members had 25 total first-team All-Pro AP selections.

Moving on, which player would you guys most adamantly argue against? I'm talking both the Roger Craig edition (guys with little chance) and any player you think has a pretty good chance but you really don't want to see inducted? Richie?

Richie: Of the 15 finalists, I would most adamantly argue against Don Coryell. I was a fan of the Air Coryell Chargers, but they always disappointed. I think a coach has to be a great winner to make the HOF. There probably should only be about one or two coaches per generation to even make the Hall. We are already overloaded with contemporaries of Coryell - Grant, Madden, Landry, Noll, Gibbs, Walsh and Shula. I just can't see putting a coach in the HOF who didn't take a team to the Super Bowl - let alone win one. His offensive innovations had a profound impact on the game, but I think he needed to add a Super Bowl win to be HOF worthy.

Jason: I definitely think that Coryell has an uphill battle. Comparing coaches to players is a pointless exercise, and he doesn't have as strong a coaching resume as other Hall of Famers, while several player candidates do.

I'm most against the candidacies of Craig and Charles Haley. I'm fine with giving credit for rings, but it can't make up for large gaps compared to other candidates. We know based on history that this is about the time the secondary Hall of Famers from former dynasties start rolling in, so I know that at least one will make it soon. But I just think that they fall a step behind the others right now. I mean, do we not think that Dermontti Dawson would have won rings if he played with Montana and Rice, or that Rickey Jackson couldn't have filled the Haley role?

JWB: I think the answer to this is Grimm. My reasoning is best summed up by Chase's profile, especially these quotes:

  • Of the 20 semifinalists for whom P-F-R calculates AV, Grimm has the lowest score.
  • 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.
  • 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.

That said, Grimm has been a finalist five straight times. I suspect he will eventually get in, as it seems to be very rare for a candidate to be a finalist that often and not ultimately get voted in. Just not this year. And I'm with Jason on Craig and Haley. Both were great players, but neither were Hall of Fame caliber. That said, Haley being on so many championship teams will probably get him in eventually.

As for Coryell, it's so hard to ever vote in a contributor over players, I'd say it's fairly unlikely he will make it... if anything, the bar is even higher for contributors than for players. Just look at all the players we're talking about in this finalists class and imagine taking only four of them to make room for Coryell. Hard to see that happening, IMO.

Chase: Let's move on to the Senior's nominees. I had some pretty harsh things to say about both candidates. Would you guys vote for LeBeau?

Richie: Nope, I can't vote for LeBeau. I don't think he's worthy as a player, for the reasons that Chase spelled out. It is apparent that his interception totals are due to him being a declining player whom QBs weren't afraid to attack, and he played in an era of high interception totals. Even though his coaching should not be considered in his evaluation, I don't think his coaching is enough to get him in, either. He was horrible as a head coach, and I just don't think that any coach should get in solely on the basis of his work as a coordinator. I'm not even sure if his playing career PLUS his coaching career is worthy of the HOF. Are there any modern-era inductees who earned their induction based on the combination of playing success and coaching success?

Jason W: I'm adamantly against the notion of "Senior's Nominees" in any sport (baseball even more so than football). If these guys weren't good enough to get inducted 20 or 30 years ago, why are they now? If, say, Cortez Kennedy doesn't get in over the next 10 years, are we going to look back at him in 2040 and say he should get in? To me, it just smacks too much of "Back in my day" reasoning by voters who want to see some childhood hero of theirs get undeserved recognition.

Jason: I don't know that I'm completely ready to lose the Senior selection process, but I have been underwhelmed by the Senior selections lately. Initially, I think it was a good thing to bring in senior selections as a way to look at guys who may have been missed because there was a backlog when the Hall was started. However, now it seems like the selections are for the most part rubber stamped once they get past the Senior committee. I would like to see, at minimum, a change in the process. I think that there should also be a coaches and contributors committee, and that the Senior selections and coach, owner and contributor selections should be against each other, with only one per year.

I'm clearly a "No" on LeBeau. It would be one thing if there was new evidence to consider, but his interception totals are not something new (people were aware of it then) yet he was not considered an elite corner in his day. The thing that bugs me is the "assistant coaches should be in" mantra. It's not an honest position. I don't philosophically have a problem with it, though I wouldn't exactly open the floodgates. But people aren't honestly taking that position to then debate who those assistants should be. They are arguing it to get LeBeau in. It's like when politicians create an issue in order to get a specific piece of legislation passed, rather than having an open debate on the issue. And there is a reason we have a five year rule. It's so we can assess things more appropriately and not make snap judgments, like say, nominating a guy while his team is campaigning for him at the Super Bowl.

I would have no problem if their was some sort of lifetime achievement award in Canton for people with say, 40 years of combined service as a player, coach, owner or general manager, separate from the actual inductees. Then we don't vote, you get your name on the plaque when you hit the requirement. But we shouldn't vote to create a lifetime award for one person at the expense of more deserving former players.

JWB: Great take here. I agree with most of it. As for the assistant coaches issue, I compare it to special teams players. My view on special teams players is well documented in various Steve Tasker and Ray Guy discussions over in the Shark Pool at Footballguys.com. In general, I don't see how they can make enough impact (assuming they aren't making HOF level impact, or close to it, on offense or defense) to justify induction over HOF caliber offensive and defensive players. Heck, I said a few minutes ago that I don't think Grimm is worthy, but I think it's obvious he made a stronger contribution to his teams than Tasker. Same deal with assistant coaches. How could an assistant coach justify induction over Marty Schottenheimer or Dan Reeves, neither of whom I expect to make it?

So to answer the roundtable question, I would not vote for Lebeau.

Tim Treumper: No. As it was so aptly explained in the PFR post, interceptions are not the end-all, be-all of assessing DBs for the HOF. LeBeau did play for a very long time, though, and one would wonder, why was he not replaced? A quality player over a long period does say something. However, he may have been good enough to fend off newcomers but not be an elite plyaer. Also, the NFL in the 60s to 70s valued teamwork and had sort of a buddy system where it could be hard to break in to the starting unit or even the roster at all. Probably didn't hurt that Joe Schmidt was his coach for a few years.

Chase: I'm glad I'm in good company here. Richie, would you vote for Little?

Richie: No. I just don't think he has the resume of a HOFer. It's unfortunate that playing for bad teams may have hampered his career, but I'm sure there are others who can say that. We can't evaluate a career based on "what if?" Also, there are some players, like Cortez Kennedy, who were able to overcome bad teams and still be borderline-HOF candidates.

Tim Treumper: I would vote no for Little. Sure, Floyd Little for two to three years may have been one of the best backs in football, along with his brief greatness as a returner. However, so were Larry Brown (4 years), and Don Perkins (at least 5 as one of the better players). Don Perkins played on an expansion franchise: what if he was with GB or the NYG or some other team from that decade? Or if he decided to stay in one or two more years (sorry Calvin Hill and Duane Thomas) and cracked a higher yardage barrier? Getting off track here a bit but also there are probably many very good players whose careers were qualified by the abilities of their surrounding cast. Too bad it is too hard to evaluate, quantitatively or subjectively, that particular effect. To me, if Little had one or two more good seasons, then perhaps he would be HOF worthy.

Jason: I ultimately have to agree that Little is a 'No' for me. Given history, one or both of the senior selections will make it, though.

I also think the idea of Little saving Denver is mostly symbolic. The merger, and thus the agreement to have a common draft, is what saved Denver. They were the wasteland where nobody wanted to sign, and they could not get top draft picks to sign before 1967, when those picks also had the option of going to an NFL team. I am sure that Little would have done the same if he had been drafted a year earlier. It was so bad in Denver that when they finally got the common draft, 11 rookies, including Little, started in 1967, and there were 9 new starters on offense from the year before. Little was just the embodiment of that as the first round pick from that year, but they added a lot of new talent once the merger agreement kicked in.

That said, I think the "bad team" thing is overblown here. Denver was horrible before he arrived, with basically Lionel Taylor and not much else on offense, but after, the offense ranged from below average to essentially average by the time his career was winding down. Early in his career, the QB situation was a mess and the receiver positions were bad, but the line was okay. They had the same starting line from 1968 to 1970, and the right side featured Bob Young, who would go on to start at guard for the Cardinals during the Coryell era and played until he was 38, and Mike Current, who would start for 12 seasons in the NFL at right tackle. Later, he played with Charley Johnson at QB and Haven Moses at WR and Riley Odoms at TE. I'm not saying they were great, and they were still trying to catch up to the division rivals, but Denver also wasn't as downtrodden during his career as they were before he and the other common draft picks started arriving.

Chase: Very good point, Jason. I hadn't considered that with Little and the common draft. I want to thank everyone for participating in our little roundtable today. Let's close with an open-ended question. Are there any players you've changed your mind on after a more thorough review of their careers?

Jason W: I think the piece on Rickey Jackson has made me more interested in seeing him (eventually) enshrined. Maybe it's because of that anonymous name and maybe it's because the Saints had so many good linebackers in those days, but it's kinda like when people talk of teammates "splitting the vote" for MVPs that he just doesn't stand out. He certainly seemed to make the defenses around him better.

Tim Treumper: I would say Steve Tasker. Going in before reading all of the PFR analysis, I saw him as a good candidate with his reputation as a special teams ace and game changer at a certain level. Lately we have heard about the emphasis on special teams as being the third unit and equal to importance as offensive and defensive teams insofar as team success. But the case that was presented by PFR influenced me not to see him as a strong HOF candidate anymore. It actually had me re-adjust my thoughts too on Bill Bates, who played a long time and was a special teams ace on SB champions.

Richie: I am more bullish on Tim Brown now. Watching him play during the 1990s, he seemed like a nice player, but nothing spectacular. Cris Carter always seemed like the better player. I thought of Brown as a guy who was very good and played for a long time. But some of Chase's analysis makes me double-think that opinion. I'm still not quite ready to put Brown in the HOF, but I will consider it now. A year ago I would have definitely been anti-Brown. Chase's ratings show that Brown really was one of the best WR in the NFL in a few different seasons. I wouldn't have guessed that.

I believe I am also downgrading Brown in my mind because in 1995 I had Tim Brown and Jeff Hostetler on my fantasy team. It was one of my worst fantasy seasons ever (and I've had some bad ones), finishing with a 2-15 mark. I feel like blaming Brown. But it wasn't his fault. That was actually one of his BEST seasons, finishing with 1,342 yards and 10 TDs.

Brown's PFR page shows an impressive 9-consecutive seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards. Only Randy Moss and Jerry Rice exceed nine 1,000 yard seasons. Brown's 9 Pro Bowls ain't too shabby either.

Jason: I agree that my perception of Brown changed positively after reading Chase's analysis. I would have thought borderline candidate at best without doing a close look at his career. I thought he was a consistently good wide receiver but never thought of him as one of the best. It's weird because I was starting to watch football more closely as his college career was unfolding, and I remember how good he was at Notre Dame. I also watched a lot of AFC West games and therefore saw him play a lot -- I have this image of him wearing the fanny warmer pack at Arrowhead. So basically, I do recall Brown reasonably well, yet still underestimated him.

Once we take a step back and look at how many quarterbacks he had to played with, combined with how his numbers were better than I remember, and I think he is in. Not in my top 3 this year, but close, and likely to get in sometime over the next four years.

JWB: Glad to see people coming around on Brown. I think players like Brown and Curtis Martin tend to be underrated a bit because their peaks weren't as high as some other greats, but their teams got a tremendous amount of value from their consistently strong performances; perhaps more value than teams got from some of the more highly regarded greats who had stronger peaks but did not have the consistency.

I wouldn't say I've changed my mind on them necessarily, but I have learned enough to feel more strongly that Randle and Jackson are HOF worthy. On the flip side, I once thought Reed was worthy and would be a shoo-in, but I'm starting to doubt that a bit, with Rice, Carter, and Brown all clearly ahead of him right now and Harrison, Bruce, Moss, Owens on the horizon.

Richie: I agree. When Reed was in his heyday with the Bills, he seemed like an easy HOFer, but now I think he's going to be a tough call. I'm still not convinced on him one way or another. He might end up being a little bit of a victim of the big receiving numbers that started getting put up in the mid-1990s. His 7-straight Pro Bowls look good, but he only had four 1,000+ yard seasons compared to nine (in a row) for Tim Brown.

Tim Treumper: I'm with you guys. After reviewing the numbers of the top wide receivers, I feel more strongly about Carter and Brown and less so about Andre Reed. This is a subjective reading but it seemed that the former two candidates were more "impactful" than Reed in terms of numbers. The Bills success certainly helped them get exposure and allowed Reed to be seen by lots of audience members. To me (Dallas fan speaking), his career is similar to Drew Pearson's -- good possession receiver who had some great clutch performances, but did not "put up the numbers" nor did he have the legendary status quite befitting a HOF career.

For what it's worth, I think the number of eligible candidates year to year is too low. I am not for watering down admission to the HOF, but the league has grown considerably since the NFL HOF began and the current admission #'s, unchanged from the inception if I am correct, do not reflect that proportional increase.

Jason W: Agreed, Reed seemed like a lock when he was playing in the 90s, so I was kinda surprised to see his rather mediocre numbers after reading the article on the site. Makes me agree more with the analysis of Jim Kelly I've seen on the site, too. I guess Thurman Thomas was what really made that offense go.

Thanks guys.

As a reminder, the Hall of Fame selections will be announced Saturday, February 6th, at 5PM on the NFL Network. For what it's worth, my votes would go to:

Emmitt Smith
Jerry Rice
Dermontti Dawson
Cortez Kennedy
Rickey Jackson

And I'd vote down both LeBeau and Little.

And to not violate Doug's rule, here's how I predict the votes actually will go:

Emmitt Smith
Jerry Rice
Russ Grimm
Cris Carter
Shannon Sharpe
Dick LeBeau

Floyd Little

Thanks to everyone for following along and commenting throughout this series. Enjoy the selections on Saturday, and good luck to your favorite candidate(s)!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 at 8:12 am and is filed under HOF, Player articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.