The Canton Worthy: Defensive Backs

After looking at head coaches on Wednesday and then linemen on both sides of the ball yesterday, I wrap up the week (but not the series) looking at a group of defensive backs up for the NFL’s Hall of Fame. Three of these men played the bulk of their careers as free safeties, while the other two were corners. Interestingly, the last three all played together in 2009 for the Denver Broncos*, and four out of five of these players played in Denver at some point in their careers, while three out of five played for the Jets–but never together.

*That Broncos squad, Josh McDaniels’ first, went 8-8 while the defense ranked third against the pass.

For my comparisons throughout this series, I’ve been looking at the Hall of Fame list posted on pro-football-reference.com. According to the last, there is no distinction between safeties or cornerbacks. Instead, PFR refers to all of those players as “defensive backs.” So, instead of breaking these five players down by position like I did yesterday with guards and tackles, I’ll be comparing them to fellow defensive backs.

However, I will be comparing them to defensive backs of a certain era–from 1989 until 2013, the former because that’s the earliest any of these five began his career, and 2013 because that’s the last year that any of these guys played.

Veterans Day with the Baltimore Ravens” by Maryland National Guard is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Steve Atwater, Free Safety: Denver Broncos, 1989-1998 & New York Jets, 1999

Atwater, known for his bone-crushing hits over the middle, went 20th overall to the Broncos in the 1989 draft out of Arkansas. Over the next decade, he started at least 14 games every season. He picked off 24 passes, forced five fumbles, recovered eight fumbles and collected 1,125 total tackles. He made All-Pro in 1991 and 1992 while reaching eight Pro Bowls in a span of nine years. He was one of the team’s defensive leaders when Denver won back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

 

John Lynch, Strong Safety/Free Safety: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1993-2003 & Denver Broncos, 2004-2007

Over the years in Tampa Bay, John Lynch led a revolution that helped transform the Bucs from the Yuks into a Super Bowl winner. The Stanford product went in the third round of the 1993 draft to Tampa, where he’d patrol the center of the field for the following 11 seasons. In that time, he went to five Pro Bowls, made All-Pro twice, and won Super Bowl XXXVII. Lynch later left for Denver, where he made another four Pro Bowls before retiring. In the end, that’s nine Pro Bowls, two All-Pro selections, seven trips to the playoffs and one championship.

 

Ty Law, Cornerback: New England Patriots, 1995-2004; New  York Jets, 2005, 2008; Kansas City Chiefs, 2006-2007; Denver Broncos, 2009

Ty Law was another first round pick, going No. 23 to the Patriots out of Michigan in 1995. He was part of the team that lost Super Bowl XXXI to the Packers, but then he collected three Super Bowl rings at the start of the Brady-Belichick Dynasty. By the time he retired as a member of the Broncos, he’d made five Pro Bowls (four with the Patriots, one with the Jets) and had been named All-Pro twice. He finished his career with 53 interceptions, seven of which he returned for touchdowns, which is the 11th most all-time.

 

Champ Bailey, Cornerback: Washington Redskins, 1999-2003 & Denver Broncos, 2004-2013

Before getting dealt to the Broncos for running back Clinton Portis prior to the start of the 2004 season, Champ Bailey had already intercepted 18 passes and collected 312 total tackles while getting voted into four Pro Bowls as a five-year member of the Redskins. Over the next 10 seasons in Denver, he’d be named All-Pro three times while making another eight Pro Bowls. He led the league in interceptions with 10 in 2006 and finished his career with 52.

 

Ed Reed, Free Safety: Baltimore Ravens, 2002-2012; New York Jets, 2013; Houston Texans, 2013

The 24th overall pick out of Miami (Fla.) in the 2002 draft, Reed played 11 years for the Ravens before splitting his final season between the Jets and Texans. In his first decade-plus in Baltimore, Reed was named the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year, won one Super Bowl, made nine Pro Bowls and was elected All-Pro five times. Throughout his 12-year career, Reed intercepted 64 passes, which is seventh all-time. His 1,590 interception return yards is the most all-time.

 

The Breakdown

Which of the five of Atwater, Lynch, Law, Bailey and Reed gets into the Hall of Fame? Remember two things: 1) Only a maximum of five finalists can be inducted in a given year, and 2) I’ve already selected center Kevin Mawae and guard Alan Faneca. I have at most three remaining spots between these five and three offensive playmakers I’ve yet to discuss.

Based on those factors, I believe only one defensive back has a shot at making it into Canton this season. Right off the bat I’m going to eliminate three of them: Steve Atwater, John Lynch and Ty Law. Each of those three defensive backs previously had shots to make it, yet failed. This year, they face even tougher competition with first-time nominees Champ Bailey and Ed Reed.

And it’s at those two that I’m going to take a closer look.

There are 26 defensive backs in the Hall of Fame. Of those 26, five retired after 1999: the ageless Darrell Green, Rod Woodson, Deion “Primetime” Sanders, Aeneas Williams and Brian Dawkins.

As far as longevity, both Bailey and Reed stack up with those five. Bailey made more Pro Bowls than any of those players, while Reed made more than all but Woodson. Only Woodson and Sanders made more All-Pros than Reed, while Bailey only edges out Green in that category. Regarding interceptions, only Woodson’s 71 overshadow Reed’s 64. Meanwhile, Bailey’s 52 interceptions only beats Dawkins’ 37.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Bailey and Reed both compare very well to the five defensive back members of the Hall of Fame from around their era. Much like with the discussion I had yesterday about guards Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson, though, the two will be compared against each other as their careers overlapped from 2002-2013.

Starting with longevity, Bailey gets the edge as he started longer at his position. Bailey also has a 12-9 edge regarding Pro Bowls. But, in less time as a starter, Reed has more All-Pro selections, 5-3. Reed won a Defensive Player of the Year award while Bailey never did. Reed also collected 12 more interceptions than did Bailey (again, in fewer years), and Reed was part of a Super Bowl-winning squad whereas Bailey never reached that height.

For the time being, Ed Reed gets my vote for Canton. Perhaps, after the next article, I’ll re-visit Bailey.

But for now, I’ve used three of my maximum five slots: Ed Reed joins Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca.

The Canton Worthy: Linemen

Today, I’m taking a look at the five linemen who are finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame. Among them, one is a center, two are guards, one is an offensive tackle and one is a defensive end/defensive tackle. I’ll first take a look at the three interior linemen before moving on to the lone tackle. Then I’ll wrap up with the sole defensive player.

Steve Hutchinson blocks B.J. Raji in a November 14, 2011 game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Interior Linemen

Kevin Mawae, Center: Seattle Seahawks, 1994-1997; New York Jets, 1998-2005; Tennessee Titans, 2006-2009

Though he began his career as a guard, Mawae moved to center in 1996 and played there for the next 14 seasons. As of today, there are only 12 centers in the NFL Hall of Fame. Mawae stacks up well with all of them.

One thing that can’t be overlooked is longevity in the league. That can incredibly help a player who’s able to play at a high level for years on end, but lack thereof can also be detrimental, as I’ll get to shortly with a different player.

For Mawae, it helps.

Mawae spent 15 of his 16 years as his team’s primary starter at his position, either avoiding or playing through injuries. He made All-Pro three times with a period of nine seasons coming between his first and third selections. He was elected to his first Pro Bowl when his was 28 and his last when he was 38. In 12 seasons, he not only played in, but also started all 16 games.

Among Hall of Fame centers, only one was his team’s primary starter at his position more than Mawae–Mick Tingelhoff, who is allegedly a real person, did it 17 times. Only three centers were named to more Pro-Bowl teams than Mawae. The biggest hit against Mawae is the low number of times he made All-Pro.

However, Mawae should overcome that. From his rookie year until he hung ’em up, Mawae was a stalwart on his team’s offensive line. Not only that, he anchored the lines as a center for 14 seasons. This LSU product should become the 13th center elected to the NFL’s Hall of Fame.

 

Alan Faneca, Guard: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998-2007; New York Jets, 2008-2009; Arizona Cardinals, 2010

Steve Hutchinson, Guard: Seattle Seahawks, 2001-2005; Minnesota Vikings, 2006-2011; Tennessee Titans, 2012

Perhaps unfairly, Faneca and Hutchinson are squaring off against each other for a single spot in Canton. Because their careers overlapped so much, from 2001-2010, these two will be compared against each other and will most likely take away votes from one another.

And now that I’ve pointed out how unfair it is comparing these two great guards against each other, I’m going to do exactly that.

First, let’s take a look at Faneca. Another LSU product, Faneca went to the Steelers as the No. 26 pick in the 1998 draft. He immediately stepped into the fray, playing in all 16 games the following season, starting 12 of them. For the following nine seasons, Faneca helped hold down the left side of Pittsburgh’s offensive line en route to seven Pro Bowls, six All-Pro selections and a victory in Super Bowl XL. After leaving Pittsburgh, he’d make another two Pro Bowls with the Jets before retiring as a member of the Cardinals after the 2010 season.

Then there’s Hutchinson, taken with the No. 17 overall pick by the Seahawks in the 2001 draft out of Michigan. In 10 seasons, Hutchinson would start at least 12 games, going the full 16 games on eight occasions. Between his time in Seattle, Minnesota, and Tennessee, he made seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. His teams reached the Super Bowl only once, where his Seahawks lost to Faneca’s Steelers.

There are exactly 20 guards in the Hall of Fame. Only three of those 20 have made more All-Pro teams than Faneca, with only five making more Pro Bowls and a mere two having been his team’s primary starter at his position longer. For Hutchinson, five made more All-Pro teams, eight made more Pro Bowls and 12 were primary starters for a longer period of time.

This year, Faneca gets the nod. Hutchinson may in the future, but not in 2019.

 

Offensive Tackle

Tony Boselli, Tackle: Jacksonville Jaguars, 1995-2001 & Houston Texans, 2002 (DNP)

A stalwart at left tackle for the expansion Jaguars beginning in 1995, Boselli made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1996-2000. In the middle of that run, he also made three straight All-Pro teams, from 1997-1999. Throughout his time in Jacksonville, he helped legitimize the young squad, helping the team reach the playoffs in 1996 (when they reached the AFC Championship game), 1997 and 1998.

Sadly, after playing a possible 47 out of 48 games between 1998-2000, injuries hit Boselli hard. He played in only three games in 2001. Later, the Houston Texans selected Boselli with their first pick of the expansion draft, but he never played for them, retiring after the 2002 season.

Though Boselli was dominant for a solid six seasons with Jacksonville, longevity is taken into account when being considered for the Hall of Fame. Of the 28 tackles in Canton, all of them played at least eight seasons. Of the three who played a mere eight seasons, two retired before 1930 while the other retired after the 1955 season.

While there’s no doubt that Boselli is one of the greatest Jacksonville Jaguars, he didn’t play long enough to make it in the league’s Hall of Fame.

 

Defensive Lineman

Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle: New England Patriots, 2001-2008 & Oakland Raiders, 2009-2012

The No. 6 overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Georgia, Seymour enjoyed a very successful start to his career with the Patriots, making five straight Pro Bowls from 2002-2006 while being named to three All-Pro teams from 2003-2005. Perhaps more importantly, he won three Super Bowls during his New England tenure, capturing Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. With the Patriots, Seymour accumulated 39 sacks, 357 total tackles, 64 tackles for loss and at least 37 quarterback hits.*

*Quarterback hits is a stat that pro-football-reference began keeping during the 2006 season.

After the 2008 season, the Patriots traded Seymour to the Raiders for a future first-round draft pick (used in 2011 to take tackle Nate Solder). While in Oakland, he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2010 and 2011 before retiring after the 2012 season. In his four seasons in Oakland, Seymour collected 18.5 sacks, 139 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 42 quarterback hits. Except for 2009, Seymour spent the majority of his Raiders career as a defensive tackle.

But despite Seymour’s versatility to slide back and forth between end and tackle, he didn’t do enough to get into the Hall of Fame. He was one of the defensive stars of those early Patriots dynasty teams, and yet the Patriots continued winning after he departed. He never collected more than eight sacks in a single season, nor did he disrupt offenses enough to ever threaten to win any Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Richard Seymour was good, not great, and won’t make it into Canton.

 

Recap Through Two Articles

Yesterday, I took a look at head coaches Tom Flores and Don Coryell, passing on both of them. With today’s selections of Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca, I’ve elected two of a maximum of five players. Tomorrow, I’ll look at five members of the secondary before wrapping up next Monday with an article on three offensive play makers.

Of the eight remaining players, only one is a lock.

The Canton Worthy: Head Coaches

On the eve of the Super Bowl, the National Football League will announce the newest members to its Hall of Fame. There are 15 finalists.

Among those 15 are two head coaches, four offensive linemen, one defensive lineman, three safeties, two corners, one tight end, one wide receiver and one running back.

In a series of four articles, I’m going to break down the candidates based on four categories: Coaches, Linemen, the Secondary and the Playmakers.

In today’s first article, I’m looking at the two head coaches who made the final cut.

Pro Football Hall of Fame” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Tom Flores: Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1979-1987 & Seattle Seahawks, 1992-1994

In nine years as the head coach of the Raiders, Tom Flores led the team to two Super Bowl victories. With his Raiders winning Super Bowl XV in 1980, Flores became the first minority head coach to take home the league’s ultimate prize. Another incredible feat is that Flores’ Raiders won the Super Bowl once while in Oakland (Super Bowl XV) and once while in Los Angeles (Super Bowl XVIII). Overall with the Raiders, he went 83-53 and 8-3 in the playoffs, winning the AFC West on three separate occasions to go along with his championship rings.

His success, though, would not continue in his second stop with the Seattle Seahawks. Between 1989-1991, he was the team’s president and general manager. In those three seasons, Seattle never reached the playoffs, going a collective 23-25. Between 1992-1994, Flores was the team’s head coach and general manager, and it got worse. After going 2-14 in 1992, the Seahawks went 6-10 in each of the next two seasons. As Seattle’s head coach, Flores went a horrendous 14-34.

There are 23 head coaches in the National Football League Hall of Fame. Only six of them finished with fewer than 100 career victories. Of those six, four finished their coaching careers before 1951. The two remaining head coaches are Vince Lombardi (who won five championships, including two Super Bowls) and Bill Walsh (who won three Super Bowls). Unfortunately, Flores is not on their level.

 

Don Coryell: St. Louis Cardinals, 1973-1977 & San Diego Chargers, 1978-1986

And, for that matter, neither is Don Coryell, an offensive-mastermind who brought into football a new air with his high-octane offenses. Coryell started off coaching the woeful St. Louis Cardinals for five seasons. He even took them to the playoffs twice, in 1974 and 1975. Both trips were one-and-done. With the Cardinals, Coryell managed to go 42-27-1 with only one losing season.

Then he headed to San Diego, where he made waves in nine years leading the Chargers. Mainly with quarterback Dan Fouts at the helm, between 1978-1986, the Chargers finished in the top five in yards eight times (including leading the league five times) and in points scored five teams (leading the league three times). “Air Coryell,” as his offense came to be known, was critical to the team’s success. But he only took the Chargers to the playoffs four times, winning a collective four playoff games, losing in the AFC Championship game twice. His final years were mediocre with a high being an 8-8 record in 1985. He was fired after a 1-7 start to 1986.

In the end he finished with a 111-83-1 record and went 3-6 in the playoffs with zero championship appearances. For comparison’s sake, there are only three head coaches in the Hall of Fame with zero championships. Two of those coaches, Marv Levy and Bud Grant, took their teams to four Super Bowls. The third, George Allen, reached the Super Bowl once, but finished with a much higher winning percentage (.712) than Coryell (.572).

While Coryell’s offense may have changed the league—for a time, at least—it just isn’t enough to justify enshrining him in Canton.

This is A Joke Right??

Terrell Owens
owens_6_bengals” by chrissun888 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By WC Peters

Terrell Owens is widely known as one of the most selfish football players in a game full of egomaniacs. In his last most despicable move, Owens has declared that after visiting Canton earlier in the year he has decided not to attend the induction ceremony, but rather hold his own celebration elsewhere at another time. The move is unprecedented, and at first glance, I thought maybe it was a form of peaceful protest against the NFL because of their new anthem policy. That I could have understood. No, this is totally a selfish and ungrateful move by Owens, who arguably doesn’t even belong in this class in the first place. I am sure Owens will have thousands of cameras at his ceremony, probably right before or right after the real inductions of the real Hall of Famers so he can steal the spotlight. This is a disgraceful move by Owens in a long line of disgraceful moves throughout his career. The guy was the worst teammate there was in the ultimate team game.  

Is Canton the greatest city in the world? Having grown up 20 minutes south of Canton and spent a lot of time there, I can say it is not, but that isn’t the point. The point is that Canton is where Professional Football was born and that is where the entry point of the greatest most select club is. It’s where Owens should be if he wants to go into the Hall. Canton, Ohio is a blue-collar gritty town that signifies what the NFL and the Hall of Fame are about. The Hall of Fame is not about loud mouth has-been’s making everything about them, but rather it is about grinding for years in the league to be the best there ever was, putting the team and team success first.

This was Owens’ third time on the Hall of Fame ballot. The first two times when he did not get in, he went on any and every radio and TV show and cried about how the voting was against him and how he was being persecuted, and then he pulls this stunt. Owens only cares about himself. What about the fans that want to go see his speech and see him get inducted it to the hall? He doesn’t care about it if it’s not about TO, he doesn’t care! There is a reason that a receiver with his type of talent was on five different teams. I don’t care how many times he gets on TV and cries about, “This is my quarterback man!” Owens only cares about himself and always has, he is a selfish child that doesn’t deserve to be in the same Hall with other great players. Randy Moss is another modern-day wide receiver that is going into the Hall in the same class, and Owens could not sniff Moss in the talent or teammate department.

If the Hall had any guts at all they should strip Owens of his Hall of Fame status, or at the very least there should be no mention of him at all during the weekend. There should be no picture hanging off the side of the stadium as is customary, nothing! If the networks had any guts at all, looking at you ESPN, there would not be a single mention let alone a camera at his “ceremony.” Do not allow this child to make a mockery of the most sacred Hall of the NFL and its opening weekend. I am sure Owens is only doing this so his broke ass can monetize his induction somehow. Terrell Owens is a selfish child and should be treated as such, having his status taken away by the Hall of Fame. Do not placate him ESPN, NFL Network, NFL, and Hall of Fame.