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.