By: William Carroll
Every year fans, writers and analysts get to have spirited debates about which players deserve enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. First of all, the name, Pro Football Hall of Fame means that CFL players are eligible, but CFL greats are dramatically underrepresented, Damon Allen, Marcus’ younger brother, is one obvious example, as well as AFL players such as Dave Grayson, a member of the American Football League All-Time Team, who had 47 interceptions in the years of 1961-1970. From Ottis Anderson to Cookie Gilchrist at running back or Everson Walls and Lester Hayes at cornerback, Jack Tatum and Steve Atwater at safety and at every position including Morten Andersen at place-kicker you can find impassioned individuals who can make a case for literally hundreds of players to be inducted. And among coaches, Dan Reeves and Tom Flores have several passionate supporters for their induction.
My original plan was to choose just 10 players to spotlight, but that simply proved too hard. I ended up with 10 main players to mention and another 10 more in the Honorable mention category. To be honest an equally strong case could be made for every single one of these players and I still ended up having to leave out: Joe Jacoby, Dave Butz, L.C Greenwood, Harvey Martin, Jethro Pugh, Diron Talbert, Harold Carmichael, “Mad Dog” Mike Curtis, Harold Jackson and Henry Ellard, just to name a few of the most obvious players to be excluded. I tried to give special attention to those who I believed had been the longest neglected, or had the most compelling arguments for inclusion. I went back and forth for weeks and though I still am not sure I have gotten it “right” but I have likely gone as far as I can. I am pleased that Kevin Greene and Dick Stanfel have departed from my list and have finally made their way to Canton.
My sincere thanks go to: Alicia E. Kramer, Jerry Kramer’s daughter, the Professional Football Researchers Association, the Professional Football Hall of Fame, Pro-Football-Reference.com, and https://ottisanderson.com without the research and information they provided I would have been in darkness and grasping at straws.
- Jerry Kramer, Guard, Green Bay Packers- This is still the obvious and most troubling, in my opinion, of all the players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Frankly I am shocked and appalled that Jerry Kramer is not in the hall of fame since he was considered one of the two best guards in the first 50 years of the NFL. He was a five-time 1st Team All-Pro selection, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, as well as he was an integral part of five championship teams, he helped to execute perhaps the most famous block in NFL history on the signature touchdown of the “Ice Bowl.” I feel he should have been elected while on the regular ballot and now his fate is in the hands of the Seniors Committee which nominates two players who have been retired for 25 years or more for the 46-member selection committee to vote on at its meeting the day prior the Super Bowl. It is beyond my understanding of how it even got to this. But even if somehow he had slipped through the cracks of regular election to Canton, I would have assumed he’d sail in by acclamation once he made it to the Seniors Committee. I’d also be very wrong, Kramer was a senior nominee in 1997, but fell short of the necessary percentage. That was an astounding 10th time he was a finalist, more times than anyone who was still denied. Since there was no salary cap or free agency some may have trouble believing a single team could have as many hall of famers as were on those Golden Era Packers.
The other challenge is that beyond starts and All-Pro and/or Pro Bowl selections there are few compelling metrics for guards, so despite his status on the 50th anniversary team, a running game largely predicated on his ability to pull, the championships, his key role etc. it’s difficult to quantify his impact. Here’s an overlooked statistic, Kramer successfully kicked 29 field goals during his illustrious career. In addition to Jerry Kramer at one guard the Green Bay Packers also had Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston, his running mate at the other guard who recently passed away and some have said that there was little to differentiate between the two. While there is certainly merit to claim that Thurston deserves induction, Lombardi was clear in believing Kramer to be superior, he started looking to supplant Thurston in 1965 and actually did so in 1967. Reportedly Bart Starr thought that Bob Skoronski, who replaced Thurston, was at least his equal. Kramer was simply a different type of athlete, much of his career he could outrun any tight end the roster and a few of the receivers. Lombardi believed that in Kramer he had the finest pulling guard in the game and he often declared Kramer the key to the famed Packer Power Sweep. Kramer retired after the 1968 season and has since spent time in business, broadcasting, and founding charities such as Gridiron Greats, which provides grants and medical assistance for former NFL players in need. In 1969 Kramer was named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary all-time team and is the only member of that team yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Alex Karras, defensive tackle, Detroit Lions- Perhaps the first great interior, up-field pressure player from the ‘3 Technique’ defensive tackle position, Karras was hiccough quick at 6’1” 248. Though he was not as large or as powerful as either Bob Lilly or Merlin Olsen, [both of whom are in the Hall of Fame] he was just as effective. While at Iowa, he got off to a slow start and feuded with his head coach, still he was a dual All-American, Outland Trophy winner and in 1957 he was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, only three linemen have ever finished that high. From 1958 to 1970 he was elected to four Pro Bowls, and he was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s.
There are several theories regarding why he’s not already enshrined in Canton: Karras was a bit of an iconoclast, often he expressed views that ran counter to the “company line” of a very straight-laced NFL, and after being suspended indefinitely, by Alvin ‘Pete’ Rozelle he and Paul Hornung missed the 1963 season. Hornung expressed deep regret, but Karras expressed disdain that half-dozen or so $50 and $100 bets he had placed had truly threatened the league’s integrity. The other reason may be that he played on teams that struggled, in his career he was in the play-offs only once, in 1970, that year the Lions posted a 10-4 record and lost to the Cowboys 5-0 in the divisional round. Despite that in 1962 Karras and the Lions handed one of Lombardi’s Packer juggernauts the only loss they suffered. He was a first-team All-Pro in 1960, 1961 and 1965. Later in his life Karras had joined the more than 3,500 football veterans suing the NFL for failing to protect them from repeated head injuries, concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy or [CTE].
Karras, Randle and Sapp are the ‘unholy trinity of 3 Technique’ pass-rushers and Karras was in many ways the innovator in terms of using more deception, technique, speed and elusiveness rather than just frontal assault, power rushes. Alex Karras was known to younger generations as a broadcaster and actor, but for the period of time that the NFL went from the periphery of American sports to front and center Karras was a dominant force on defense and feared by all who faced him.
- Ricky Watters, Running Back, for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks. Watters managed to post seven 1,000 yard seasons while catching fifty passes five times. It’s true you can’t tell his story without addressing “For who? For what?” Watters’ versatility, a reliable blocker, with 467 receptions is very impressive and he’s currently ranked #23 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with10,643 yards, he’s nestled between Jamal Lewis and Warrick Dunn. Watters amassed 1,200-plus total yards in his first nine NFL seasons and at least 1,400 total yards eight times. Ricky Watters was an accomplished receiver who was less widely seen as a Hall of Fame level running back because Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith, each cast a longer shadow and frankly many people didn’t like him. Despite that the 6’1 ½” 216 runner trailed only the late, great Walter Payton for consecutive starts by a running back. Some of his is best performances were in the post-season: Watters scored 5 touchdowns in a playoff game (against no less than Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants Defense) in addition to his 3 TD performance in Super Bowl XXIX. He had speed, power, exceptional hands, he was consistent and productive. I can only surmise that the way he was perceived and the ill-fated sound bite are the primary factors keeping him on the outside looking in. But as with any lingering whispers about Jerry Smith, if that’s what’s barring inclusion in the hall, then shame on the process.
- Billy Howton WR Green Bay, Cleveland and Dallas- After suffering through a period of the franchise’s decline during the early to late-1950s with Green Bay, things seemed to be looking up when rising coach Vince Lombardi took over the Packers. But one of Lombardi’s 1st roster moves was to trade Howton, one of a few name stars on the roster, to Cleveland for defensive end Bill Quinlan and halfback Lew Carpenter. Lombardi prized blockers at the receiver position, Howton was great at many things, but however blocking was not one of them. The 6’2”182 lean, rawboned Texan had come to the team after an impressive collegiate career at Rice; in a great maiden season he caught 53 passes from Rote and fellow rookie Babe Parilli, finishing as the Packers’ leading scorer with 78 points. He had 13 touchdowns as a rookie, he still holds the Packers’ rookie receiving record with his 1,231 receiving yards. Also his 257 yards against the Rams in 1956 is still a team record. He also had two 200-plus receiving games, Howton is the only Packer receiver not named Don Hutson, with four, to have more than one such game.
Some have wondered if Howton’s labor activity has slowed his induction. He was forceful regarding player’s rights and this was opposed by many owners, he was a leader in establishing a pension fund for players. He was Green Bay’s player representative and he was, for a year, in fact the president of the newly formed NFL Players Association. Howton spent one winning season in with the Browns the only such season of his pro career; he was subsequently selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the expansion draft in 1960. He played four seasons in his home state under head coach Tom Landry before retiring in 1963 as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver. Howton was the Packer that managed to supplant Hutson’s career receptions and yardage records with the Packers; he piled up 503 passes for 8,459 yards with 61 touchdowns and a 16.8-yard per reception average. His numbers are very similar to Fred Biletnikoff’s and Biletnikoff was on better teams, but Howton had two 1,000 seasons to Biletnikoff’s single 1,00 yard season, but Biletnikoff’s long been in the Hall of Fame and the 86 year-old still waits. Donald Driver with 10,137 yards is the current team leader in receiving yardage. Let’s remember Howton had his career playing with mostly poor teams and only a few good to very QBs: fellow Rice Owl, Tobin Rote, Babe Parilli, Milt Plum, Eddie LeBaron and Don Meredith are all solid but there are clearly no Hall of Famers on that list.
- Kenny Anderson, QB, Cincinnati- This is a player that has grown in my estimation the more I have examined him. At the time of his retirement, following the 1986 season, Ken Anderson ranked 6th all-time in passing yardage (32,938), he was a four-time Pro Bowler &a one-time 1st-Team All-Pro, a Hall of Fame finalist in 1996, 1998, he was a league MVP, a Super Bowl quarterback and so productive that nearly 30 years after he accomplished some of his statistics, several of them remain impressive. Anderson led the NFL in passer rating four times. In the history of NFL football; only Steve Young has led the NFL in passer rating more often than Anderson. We must remember that the bulk of Anderson’s career was during what many historians consider the NFL’s “Dead Ball Era” (1970-77), when scoring hit a post-WWII low and quarterbacking was harder than any time since. Anderson, for example, led the NFL with a 95.7 passer rating in 1974. That’s a decent number now, but then you must consider that the league-wide passer rating in 1974 was a Mike Pagel-esque 64.2, one of the lowest league-wide ratings of the last 50+ years. Anderson’s 95.7 passer rating trumped that by almost half again.
Following the 1986 season, when he retired, Anderson held NFL records for: consecutive pass completions (20), completion percentage for a single game (20 of 22, 90.9%, vs. Pittsburgh in 1974), completion percentage for a season (70.55% in 1982), as well as the Super Bowl records for completion percentage (73.5%) (A record that has been broken since by Phil Simms) and Super Bowl completions (25; Tom Brady holds the current record with 37). Anderson was ranked 6th all-time for passing yards in a career at the time of his retirement. His record for completion percentage in a season stood for 27 years after his retirement, until it was broken by Drew Brees in 2009.
Accuracy was always one of Anderson’s many strengths, also Anderson had four passer ratings that were above 90, at a time when a rating of 75 was very good and 80 was great. Bradshaw had four passer ratings that were above 80. Bradshaw’s best was 88 in 1975 when he had his best completion percentage of his career at 57.7%. But it’s not just Bradshaw, he was better than all but a very few QBs in his era. By way of comparison, Roger Staubach sailed into Hall of Fame after passing for 22,700 yards and 153 TDs, Joe Namath had totals of 27,663 yards passing, 173 TDs, Bob Griese passed for 25,092 yards and 192 TDs, the recently elected Ken Stabler had 27,938 yards passing with 194 TDs , Terry Bradshaw had 27,989 yards passing and 212 TDs. Not until later in the decade of the 1970’s, when Montana and Fouts emerge there’s pretty compelling reasons to say that Anderson was the most skilled passer in the NFL. Though he was not on a Super Bowl winning team he played well in a narrow 26-20 loss the 49ers with: 25 of 34 passes for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions, he also gained 14 rushing yards and had a touchdown on 5 rushing attempts. As stated, his 25 completions and 73.5% completion percentage were, at that time, both Super Bowl records.
Anderson played with very good players like: James Brooks, Eddie Brown, Chris Collinsworth, Isaac Curtis, Pete Johnson, Max Montoya, Antony Munoz, Dan Ross, Bob Trumpy and on defense Ross Browner, Ken Riley and Reggie Williams. Munoz is in the Hall of Fame, I think Riley is deserving of very serious Hall of Fame consideration and Anderson is more deserving of induction to the hall than any other quarterback whose career concluded in the past 50 years. Ken Stabler has now been inducted: Frankie Albert, John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, Phil Simms are among the QBs that have been mentioned as notable HOF snubs, but I simply feel that Anderson was just better and more consistent than any of them.
- Maxie Baughan, LB- Baughan is a player who will have a very hard time making it into the Hall of Fame, but in my opinion, that’s unfortunate. He did play on the last Eagles championship team as a rookie, he was also a pro bowler nine times in 11 years, a two-time 1st Team All-Pro and was selected four times as a 2nd Team All-Pro. After being traded to George Allen’s Rams, he played on one of the great defensive units in NFL history to include: Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Roosevelt Greer on the defensive line as well defensive back Eddie Meador as and linebacker Jack Pardee. The original “Mike” Bill George was brought in from Chicago where he’d been a linebacker for the Bears, where George Allen had previously coached and he helped to teach the system. At 6’1” 227 Baughan was an outside linebacker, not only was he was very good against the run, he was a fine coverage linebacker much like Jack Ham was in the 1970’s he had 18 career interceptions, unfortunately passes defended were not kept as a statistic at that time. He’s on the All-1960s NFL team; he is one of the best LBs not to have been elected to the hall: Baughan, Chuck Howley, Randy Gradishar, Tommy Nobis and Robert Brazile are the top 5 linebackers who aren’t in Canton, in my opinion and Mike Curtis is right behind them.
- Chuck Howley, LB, Dallas Cowboys, Howley was considered by Coach Landry to be the best linebacker and 2nd best defensive player he had ever coached, just to make it clear what that meant, he had coached: Sam Huff, he thought Howley was only behind Bob Lilly, which makes the fact that not only is he not a hall of famer a shock, here’s the mind-boggler, he has never even been a finalist! Howley made six Pro Bowls; Howley intercepted 25 passes and recovered 18 fumbles. In 1971 Howley who was on the losing Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V and still won the MVP, that was the first time a defensive player and only time that a losing team’s player was selected as a Super Bowl MVP. He had 2 interceptions in the game, including one that prevented a TD. Howley may have been overlooked because played during “Golden Age” of linebackers and was not named to the all-decade team of the 1960s. Bobby Bell, Nick Buoniconti, Dick Butkus, Chris Hanburger, Sam Huff, Willie Lanier, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson and Dave Wilcox are just some of the Hall of Fame linebackers of that era. Bob Boyd, Karras, Eddie Meador, Larry Morris and Tommy Nobis are the only other non-specialists members on that decade’s team who are not in the Hall of Fame. I hope that in the next 2-3 years the Senior’s Committee will select him.
- Ken Riley, CB, Cincinnati, Now 30 plus years after retiring from the Bengals, Riley still ranks 5th in career interceptions with 65; Riley is one of six that were named to the 2015 class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame. Riley, was joined by: Roger Brown, Richard Dent, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd, Donnie Shell and former Jackson State head coach W.C. Gordon. Riley was a very good quarterback at Florida A&M University playing for the legendary Jake “The Snake” Gaithers, while he was a starter the team had a record of 23-7 in college and he helped lead his team to Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles each season he started. But due to the times and the Bengals drafting Ken Anderson it was clear that Riley’s days as a QB were over. I’ll take a moment to remind all that all four of the players ahead of Riley on the “Picks List” are in the Hall: Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Rod Woodson (71) and Dick “Night Train” Lane with (68) interceptions are the top 5. Some cite Riley’s lack of Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections as a reason for his being overlooked. But his play was stellar for over a decade.
Still Riley was not a finalist, in his [at that time], 20 years of regular eligibility, or since then as a possible Senior’s Committee candidate. By way of comparison, St. Louis Cardinals’ Roger Wehrli, who was similar to Riley in length of career, had 25 fewer interceptions, still he was voted into the Hall years ago. Riley was a 1st Team All-Pro only in 1983; however his best seasons were 1975 and 1976. There were four times he led the NFL in interceptions, he recovered 18 fumbles, scored 5 TDs and was selected to Pro Football Reference 2nd team All-1970s Team. His paucity of Pro Bowl selections were simply due to the fact that Mel Blount, Willie Brown Mike Haynes, Jimmy Johnson, [Rafer’s brother], Lester Hayes, Roger Wehrli, Louis Wright and his own teammate Lemarr Parrish were often selected instead. Of that group only Hayes, Hayes, Wright and of course Riley aren’t in Canton.
After retiring in 1983 he coached for Forrest Gregg in Green Bay for two years, after that he returned to Florida A&M as the head coach. In his time at Florida A&M, the Rattlers won two Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference titles and compiled a 48-39-2 record. After the 1985 season, he was named Florida A&M’s athletic director and served in that position for 9 years. He became a high school administrator and is now retired. Clearly Riley is disappointed in being passed over for Hall of Fame induction, yet he refuses to campaign or complain.
- Roger Brown, DT- At 6’5” 305 Brown was one of the game’s first great 300 plus pound players. But he was far more than just a giant. He was an astonishingly athletic and agile for his size, he was a truly a revelation while at Maryland State, [now Maryland Eastern Shore] he was timed at 10 flat in the hundred yard dash. Brown was Detroit’s fourth-round draft pick in 1960 and wasted no time making his large presence felt. As a rookie, he stripped the ball from Johnny Unitas and recovered the fumble in a 20-15 Lions victory over the Colts. Two years later, Brown tackled Unitas in the end zone for a safety in a 29-20 win. In 1966, he blocked a Colts field-goal attempt to help secure a win, 20-14. In Detroit, he teamed with Alex Karras, Sam Williams and Darris McCord to form a defensive front that the local media nicknamed the Fearsome Foursome. Brown was sent to Los Angeles in 1967, he replaced Rosey Grier who had been forced to retire due to a torn Achilles, on a unit with the same name and played shoulder to shoulder with: Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy.
Due to the fact that in his era rather few defensive statistics were official it’s difficult to quantify a sense of his dominance. But in the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” game against the Green Bay Packers in 1962 he sacked Bart Starr either 6 or 7 times, including one for a safety. He was a Pro Bowl player for 6 straight seasons (1962–1967) and twice a First-Team All-Pro (1962 and 1963). He was a member of both of the great “Fearsome Foursomes” the 1st in Detroit and then with the Rams in Los Angeles. He has been elected to the National Football Foundation, College Hall of Fame; most recently he was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
- Pete Retzlaff This is one of those cases of a player who was in the NFL before the league knew what to do with him. Along with such Hall of Famers Mike Ditka and John Mackey, he turned the tight end from a glorified third tackle into a true offensive treat, despite the fact that he was misused early in his career, he was a five-time Pro Bowler &First-Team All-Pro once. He was drafted in 1953 but he didn’t have much chance to make it after being drafted in the 22nd round by the Detroit Lions in 1953 as a fullback out of South Dakota State. Retzlaff was cut and after a year of working in South Dakota he joined the Army. He returned to civilian life in 1956 and once he was waived the Eagles acquired his rights for $100.
Pete Retzlaff five times had seasons of 50 or more receptions. In consideration of his era that is an accomplishment with which to be reckoned. His best offensive seasons occurred after he moved to Tight End and he won the Bert Bell Award for NFL player of the year in 1965. At times Retzlaff had played: running black, slot-back, tight end and wide receiver, but it was when Norm Van Brocklin came over from the Rams, finally 5 years after being drafted, his career truly began. When moved, at long last, to tight end Retzlaff blossomed. He made the Pro Bowl for the next three seasons and in 1965, at the age of 34, posted his best year, catching 66 passes for 1,190 yards, 10 touchdowns and averaged an impressive 18 yards a catch. To this day he remains 2nd in Eagles history in both career receptions (452) and receiving yardage (7,412) his career average 16.4 yards per catch is still eye-catching. To find a more recent comparison consider Todd Christensen.
- Roger Craig, RB-Not all of the players enshrined in Canton have been the 1st to reach a significant milestone, however Roger Craig has. As the 1st running back to achieve a season where he rushed for 1,000 and tallied 1,000 yards in receptions, in 1986 he ran for 1,050 yards on 214 carries and led the NFL with 92 catches for 1,016 yards, and scored a team high 15 touchdowns.in addition he was dependable as a pass protector. All of this despite the fact he came from Nebraska’s option offense. In 1988, Craig was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. He ran for a career high 1,502 yards and caught an additional 76 passes for 534 yards. Craig finished his eleven NFL seasons with 8,189 rushing yards, 566 receptions for 4,911 receiving yards, and three kickoff returns for 43 yards. Overall, he amassed 13,143 total yards and scored 73 touchdowns (56 rushing and 17 receiving). Twice he had 2,000+ yards Roger Craig and Chuck Foreman are the only running backs to lead the NFL in receptions for a single season, and Craig is the only back to ever record over 100 receiving yards in a Super Bowl. He was a Pro Bowler four times, First-Team All-Pro once and a Hall of Fame finalist in 2010. Craig’s numbers are very impressive when you contemplate that he never had a 20 attempt per game season, the closest he came was 19.4 per game in 1988, he had 16.9 in 1989 and 15.4 in 1989, other than that he had an average of fewer than 15 rushing attempts per game in all of his other seasons.
- Johnny Robinson, S- Robinson played in the same offensive backfield at LSU as Heisman Trophy winner and Houston Oilers first-round draft choice, Billy Cannon. Robinson was the first round selection of the Dallas Texans in the 1960 AFL Draft; he was at first a running back, in the same backfield with Abner Haynes, later on he played Wide Receiver. He rushed for 658 yards and six touchdowns while catching 76 passes for 1,212 yards and nine scores in those two years, but it’s when he was moved to the secondary it was clear that he had found his playing home.
Robinson has been eligible for the Hall since 1977, his 57 interceptions place him 11th on the all-time list. He was a Hall of Fame finalist in: 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985 & 1986. In my opinion he and Eddie Meador, [who also played CB] are the 2 best safeties who have not gained entry to the Hall of Fame. Robinson stands as one of just six in NFL history to post multiple seasons of 10-plus interceptions: Otto Schnellbacher, Paul Krause, Don Doll, Jack Christiansen, Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane are the only others.
He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Time AFL First Team and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Team of the Decade of the 1960’s When Lance Alworth was asked who he believes has been most snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the hall of fame member said, “Johnny Robinson of the Chiefs. He was the best defensive back I ever played against. He’s my man.”
- Tommy Nobis, MLB- Twice an All-American at Guard and Linebacker with a 21” neck, Nobis was known as Mr. Falcon, he was the 1st player ever selected by the team in its inaugural season. He was the NFL Rookie of the year. He was often compared to Butkus and during the eight seasons their careers overlapped (1966-73), Nobis was credited with: interceptions (17 to 10) and fumble recoveries (19 to nine). Butkus had better numbers than Nobis in Pro Bowls (seven to five), At 6’2” 245 what set Nobis apart from Butkus, Sam Huff and even Willie Lanier and Ray Nitschke was his speed, he was a sledgehammer in the run game but he was also amongst the fastest linebackers in his era. He was the QB on defense he made all the calls. He had great leverage and was always in great position, as with the Anderson’s [Ottis and Ken]; the lack of media attention and his own quiet demeanor may have also worked against him. But it’s a shame that he’s not in yet.
- Joe Klecko, Defensive Line-Klecko was a powerhouse and made the Pro Bowl at Defensive End, Defensive Tackle and Nose Guard. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Klecko never once reached the Hall’s Modern Era finalist stage. For whatever reason he seems to keep falling through the cracks, he was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, a year in which he posted 20.5 sacks. At 6’3” and between 263 and 278, depending on where he was being asked to play, he was Pro Bowler four times and was twice elected 1st Team All-Pro. His career began before the sack became official; it’s generally believed that Klecko had at least77.5 sacks for his career, which lasted from 1977 to 1988.
In addition he just may have been one the strongest men in the league, Klecko constantly battled double teams, he freed Gastineau to produce and he made the “New York Sack Exchange” go. In my opinion he Karras, Gene Lipscomb, L.C Greenwood and the next player I am about to write about are among the most notable of Canton’s defensive line snubs.
5.Jacob Green, DE/DT -The Seahawks selected Green in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft, he was the 10th pick overall and he led them in sacks nine times over the next 12 seasons. Though he holds franchise record at 97.5 sacks, the sack hasn’t an official statistic until his 3rd season; unofficially he’s believed to have compiled about 116 sacks in total. When he retired only Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White had surpassed Green’s total. He’s still the Seahawks’ all-time sack leader. Prior to his 12 seasons with the Seahawks, Green was a two-time All-American at Texas A&M. He played with a range of 255-275 on his 6’3 ½” frame, also for much of his career he played ‘5-Technique’ where he had to defeat 2 blockers. He was a durable and a productive player for over a decade. Cortez Kennedy has now made it in and Green was just as good, but he played at a time when Seattle was on the periphery of the NFL landscape. That’s probably why he only made 2 Pro Bowls; in addition to his many sacks he had 17 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions and 2 touchdowns.
- Dick Schafrath OG/OT This pioneering player made six consecutive Pro Bowls and was a 3 time All-Pro. He reported in 1960 and the next season replaced the legend Lou “The Toe Groza” he may have been one of first NFL players to seriously lift weights with the Browns. He was 6’3” 210 when he was drafted but by his second year, he reported at 270. This was actually actively discouraged by Paul; Brown, but even with the new weight he was very mobile. When he got to camp 9 of those who were there are in the Hall of Fame. He blocked for Bobby Mitchell, Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. He was a great downfield blocker. Blanton Collier’s approach to run blocking was to have his line brush block and sprint, to get downfield and make a second block and even make a third if the back was still running. Later in his life, Schafrath canoed nearly 80 miles across Lake Erie, wrestled a bear and ran nearly 70 miles from the old Cleveland Stadium to his high school stadium in Wooster, OH. Also he was a four-term state senator. He went to six straight Pro Bowls and he was a three-time All-Pro.
- Jerry Smith, TE Washington- Smith played for Washington from 1965-77, Smith, as a 6’2 ½” 213 TE who played in the NFL from 1965-77, and is primarily remembered for his post career battle with A.I.D.S. Smith entered the NFL in 1965 as a 9th-round draft pick and played for Vince Lombardi. He was a precise runner of routes, had elite hands, was extremely agile and an effective run blocker, Smith earned Pro Bowl berths two of his years in Washington. Smith cracked four vertebrae one season and came back to play in a brace. His pain threshold was legendary. After an exceptional career at Arizona State University playing for Frank Kush, as a pro he played at a very high level immediately after Smith came in 1965 from Arizona State, originally as a split end. In 1966 he was moved to tight end in mid-season when Charley Taylor, a fellow Sun Devil, drafted as a running back, made the switch to wide receiver. The following season he caught 67 passes (at the time the most ever by a tight end in National Football League history) for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was among the top 10 pass receivers in the league for four seasons in a row, from 1966 to 1969.
Shockingly he only made 1st Team All Pro once, perhaps due to his team’s struggles [he played on only 1 play-off game in his career in 1976], possibly due to keeping such a low profile, maybe even partially due to having to live a secret life? Despite that of the eight tight ends in the Hall of Fame, Smith has more career yards (5,496) than three of them, more catches (421) than three and more touchdowns (60) than every currently inducted tight end not named Shannon Sharpe. To put things in perspective Ozzie Newsome had 48 TD catches in his illustrious career. He was clearly a top tight end of his era and he deserves to be enshrined. Raymond Chester and Charlie Young are two of the other tight ends of that era with a pretty solid case but Young had just 27 career TD catches and Chester posted 48. That Jerry Smith has never even made the list of finalists and has only once received a nomination, in nine years of senior’s committee consideration, is simply baffling. There are many reasons that he deserve to be revisited for the Hall of Fame by the senior’s committee. Many things have changed since his retirement from professional football in 1978, I hope the fact that he was Gay and died of A.I.D.S in 1986, is not the reason that he has gained so little HOF traction.
- Ottis Anderson RB, Cardinals and Giants; Anderson’s now on this list he’s replacing Kevin Greene, who has correctly been selected for Hall of Fame induction. This is, in my opinion, another equally sizable oversight. Ottis Anderson broke Chuck Foreman’s career rushing records at the University of Miami, and was the first player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the school’s history and in his senior year rushed for 1,266 yards. He was drafted by the, then St. Louis, Cardinals in 1979. Anderson went on to become the first rookie running back ever to average 100 yards per game and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, NFL Rookie of the Year, and All-Pro. Anderson was then named All-Pro again in 1980 and 1981. On a team where he was an offensive focus he set a Cardinals team record for receptions by a running back. He led the NFL in the second half of the 1981 season by averaging 102 yards rushing. In 1983, Anderson recorded a fourth 1,000 yards rushing season and caught 54 receptions. In 1984 he became the 16th player in NFL history to record 100 yards in both rushing and receiving in the same game against the NY Giants and had a career high and team record 70 receptions for the year.
Ottis Anderson was traded to the New York Giants in October of 1986 he was originally signed as a veteran reserve and he was helpful in the Giants XXI victory over the Denver Broncos with a two yard run for the team’s final touchdown. However in 1987, Anderson became the Giants’ starting running back and scored eight rushing touchdowns including three in a game. In 1989 he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors by Pro Football Weekly and Football Digest after he recorded his sixth 1,000-yard season, his first as a Giant, and scored 14 rushing touchdowns. At age 33 in 1990, played in all 16 games and started 13 surpassing the 10,000-yard rushing mark making him a member of the NFL’s elite “10,000 Yard Club.” He was also named to the All-Madden Team that year. That season, he lead the team in rushing during the regular season and was instrumental the team run through the playoffs and the Super Bowl XXV championship game. His 102-yard rushing during the Super Bowl game was the 37th 100-yard game of his career and earned him Super Bowl XXV MVP honors.
At the time of his retirement, Ottis Anderson was ranked 8th on the career rushing list. He was, like Jim Brown of the past and Adrian Peterson of the present, a rare blend of speed and power his nickname “OJ” was a nod to Simpson. At 6’ 1 5/8“ 224 Anderson was a big back but he had moves, vision and burst that allowed him in his early career to have many long runs. In his final years as a player he was more of a pure power runner, but even then he’d show glimpses of the previous “OJ” Anderson’s form. As with Kenny Riley at corner, it’s increasingly clear that these are clearly the two most accomplished players at their respective positions who have not been inducted into the Hall.
- Ox Emerson OG/DT-This 5’11” 203 two-way stand-out is a member of the Lions All-Time Team, Emerson is a member of the NFL’s 1930’s All-Decade Team. Of the 11 linemen selected on this team, just four have been inducted into Canton. I must assume his exclusion for the Hall of Fame is a case of the passage of time having rendered the evidence and understanding of Emerson’s greatness very distant. Sadly, there are few Hall of Fame voters, if there are any at all, who truly know who he was. It is doubtful many were even born when he played. Additionally he was a war hero, a naval officer in WWII who served with distinction and excellent coach; he was one of the best NFL players of his era. The senior’s committee of the Hall of Fame has the hard and lonely job of not forgetting the past and reminding us of it. There is no question that Ox Emerson was the greatest guard in Detroit Lions history, as well as one of their finest defensive tackles. As with Stanfel, despite the fact that Emerson was in his prime, he cut short his on-field career by choice to move into coaching.
- Robert Brazile, LB Houston Oilers- Robert “Dr. Doom” Brazile played for the Houston Oilers. He’s the only linebacker on the 70’s All-Decade Team who’s not in the football HOF. He was a teammate of Walter Payton’s in college and he helped to lead Jackson State to two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in 1972 and 1973. Brazile is a member of the Jackson State Sports Hall of Fame, the SWAC Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Upon his entry into the NFL in 1975 he was a revelation. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year; he was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons and was named All-Pro five times. Robert Brazile was a pioneer for the 3-4 WOLB pass-rushing linebacker the vast majority of his career was before the league recorded sacks and many have said that he was, “Lawrence Taylor before Lawrence Taylor”. At 6’3 ½” 241 he was not just a pass-rusher, he was a fine coverage linebacker, he had 13 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries he played seven seasons before the sack became official in 1982, and Brazile had 6.5 in that season, 2.5 in 1983 with two more in his last year. Brazile retired abruptly after his wife was tragically killed in a car wreck after the 1984 season. I hope that the voters of the Senior’s Committee will devote the time to realize that Robert Brazile is a player who is 100% deserving of inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.