The Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio is a little bit different from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Fans don’t take the Football HOF quite as seriously as they do the Baseball HOF and the arguments about who gets in are a bit more nuanced.
That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t some puzzling decisions. There can be some arguments made about what was considered “great” in different eras. Today, though it is easier to create a baseline for comparisons. Here are a number of Football Hall of Famers whose enshrinement can be argued against.
Lynn Swann had an incredibly memorable NFL career. Not only was the wide receiver known for his remarkably balletic catches, but he was also a member of four Super Bowl-winning teams. When comparing his resume against other Hall of Fame WR’s, however, it is sorely lacking.
Swann only made one All-Pro team back in 1978 and he was only a three-time Pro-Bowler. His career-high in catches during a season was a mere 61. He never surpassed 1,000 yards in a single season either. Swann falls well under the high bar set for new WR inductees.
Not to pile on the Steelers here, but John Stallworth has a case that is very similar to Lynn Swann’s. Like Swann, Stallworth was a part of four Super Bowl championship teams. Like Swann, Stallworth also only made three Pro Bowl teams and was only an All-Pro during one season.
When comparing the two, Stallworth has slightly better numbers than Swann. His career year came in 1984 when he went for 80 catches, 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
There is an incredibly long list of players who have had three or four great seasons and then were largely forgotten about. One thing that can make those players much easier to remember is Super Bowl championships. Guard Russ Grimm was a member of three Super Bowl-winning teams, but he was only a starter for one of those teams.
Some aspects of Grimm’s career are impressive. He made four All-Pro teams and was a member of the 1980’s All-Decade Team. But like most players on this list, when you compare his resume to other HOF Guards, it falls quite short.
When considering players for the Hall of Fame, sometimes there are players who were excellent for a short period of time and other players who could be considered compilers. Compilers are players who were very good and relied on long careers to climb up leader boards.
While Art Monk only made three Pro Bowls over the course of his career, he also finished his career as the NFL’s all-time receptions leader. That seemed to be enough to land him in Canton. As of today, Monk now stands at number 20 on the all-time receptions list.
Terrell Davis was a magnificent running back and without him, John Elway would have never won his two Super Bowl titles. He was 1998’s Most Valuable Player, made three Pro Bowls and was also a three-time All-Pro.
On the other hand, Davis only played a total of 78 games in his entire career. That works out to just under five full seasons. While he was transcendently good in those five seasons, it just does not seem like a long enough track record to be enshrined in Canton.
Jan Stenerud, who kicked for the Kansas City Chiefs in the ’60s and ’70s was a trendsetter in more ways than one. Stenerud, born in Norway, was one of the first foreign-born kickers to make an impact in the NFL. He was also one of the first placekickers to use the soccer-style kick which all players use now.
But when you compare Stenerud to other Hall of Fame kickers, however, he falls far short. While he did make four All-Pro teams, he only had a kicking percentage of 66.8%. Morton Anderson, the only other Kicker in Canton finished at 79.7%.
Marv Levy is, deservedly, a legend in Buffalo. Revered by both the city’s fans and the players that played for him, the Coach almost reached the mountain top on four separate occasions. He was never able to win the big game though.
While his teams reached four Super Bowls, Levy did not have the most impressive career totals. With a career record of 143-112 and a career winning percentage of 56.1%, the Coach’s track record doesn’t quite cut it for Canton.
Sometimes players are remembered for when they were at their best, even if they weren’t at their best all that often. When Andre Tippett was on, he was an unstoppable sack machine. The problem was, he was only on for about four seasons.
Tippett dominated from 1984-1987. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and was the 1985 Defensive Player of the Year. For all the other years of his career, though, he was pretty pedestrian. The body of work was not quite enough to justify enshrinement.
Dick LeBeau was a high-quality Defensive Back for the Detroit Lions throughout the 1960’s. He was a talented player who made three Pro Bowls in his career which was successful but didn’t quite reach Hall of Fame heights.
After his playing career, he became an incredible Defensive Coordinator, most prominently with the Pittsburgh Steelers. One could argue that the success of both his playing and coaching career is worthy of enshrinement, but he entered Canton only as a player.
The term ‘game manager’ has taken on a negative connotation over the last ten years or so. Game managing quarterbacks, though, are generally quite successful players. As the leader of the dynastic early ’70s Dolphins, Bob Griese was as good a game manager as there ever was.
When Griese’s statistics are compared to other Hall of Fame Quarterbacks, they fall far short. He never averaged 2,500 yards passing in a season. His career passer rating doesn’t rank in the top 50 all-time. Griese has been a bit overrated thanks to his team’s success.
Harry Carson began his career playing for some very bad Giants teams and ended it by playing for a Super Bowl winner. Carson was long the Giants leader and continued to mentor players like Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks.
While he made 9 Pro Bowls, the Linebacker only made 2 All-Pro teams. He was regularly the third-best Linebacker on his team’s defense behind Banks and Taylor. It’s ok to be a very good player and not quite a great one and that’s what Carson was.
There was once a time when an NFL running back could take 25 carries a game and do what he could with them. Jerome Bettis may have been the last of that breed of running backs. The Bus’s all-time numbers are impressive, but they weren’t registered all that efficiently.
While Bettis rushed for 13,662 yards over the course of his career, he only averaged 3.9 yards a carry. He didn’t really participate in the passing game either catching only 200 passes over 13 seasons. When measured up against contemporaries like Marshall Faulk and Barry Sanders, Bettis’ numbers don’t quite cut it.
It is an undeniable fact that the Chicago Bears Monsters of the Midway defense was chock full of talent. And defensive tackle/defensive end, Dan Hampton, was certainly a talent. The Bear was a four-time Pro Bowler who recorded 57 sacks over the course of his career.
The numbers for Hampton fall a bit short of his contemporaries. It’s hard to know how much of a benefit he had playing alongside guys like Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, and Steve McMichael, but the career of Hampton seems a bit short of Hall of Fame quality.
John Riggins was sort of the 1970’s version of another player on this list, Jerome Bettis. Riggins was an absolute bull of a rusher who could also be counted on to punch the ball into the end zone in short yardage situations.
But Riggins was not efficient at all. Despite playing a nice chunk of his career with the famed Washington Redskins “Hogs” offensive line, he finished his career with a YPC under 4.0. He also wasn’t much of a threat out of the backfield with only 250 career catches over 14 years.
Marcus Allen was football’s golden boy since he began his college football career at Southern Cal in 1978. He captured the Heisman Trophy at USC and then became an Oakland Raider when they drafted him with the 10th pick in the 1982 draft.
And this is not to say that Allen didn’t have success in the NFL. He scored 144 total Touchdowns and was a threat both as a runner and a receiver. But a lot of his success was based on high volume. For his career, Allen averaged about 55 yards a game on the ground and that number does not scream Hall of Famer.
For some reason, tight ends can cause quite a bit of a blind spot for Hall of Fame voters. Casper was a fine tight end who was a part of a number of great Raider teams and won a Super Bowl in 1976.
Casper, though, was a contemporary of Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow. They began the era of the dominant receiving tight ends who could also block. Casper wasn’t quite on their level so it’s hard to argue he should be in Canton.
It is really, really hard to compare today’s tight ends to those from the past. While previous tight ends had to both block and catch passes, modern tight ends are often specialized as either blockers or receivers. Still, while Charlie Sanders was a good blocker, his catching stats are quite empty.
Sanders only caught 386 passes and 31 Touchdowns in his 10-year career. His season-high in catches was 42 and his season-high in yards was 656. Those numbers don’t quite compare to other tight ends in the Hall of Fame.
Tony Dungy began his head coaching with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is credited with creating the Tampa 2 defense. Following his firing from the Bucs, he moved onto the Indianapolis Colts and ran a team featuring quarterback, Peyton Manning.
Dungy experienced tremendous regular-season success with Bucs and Colts amassing a 139-69 record. The playoffs were a different story as he only went 9-10 in postseason games. While he captured a Super Bowl in 2006, he didn’t have the same level of success as other coaches in Canton.
When he was growing up, Bob Hayes never had much time to practice football. He was an elite sprinter who won two gold medals at the 1964 Olympics. The Cowboys drafted him on a whim in hopes that they could develop him into a star.
Just to make it to the NFL was a feat for someone as raw as Hayes and for a time, he was a star. The wide receiver made Pro Bowls in his first three seasons but faded soon after that. With only 371 career receptions, Hayes doesn’t have the resume that other Hall of Fame receivers have.
Dan Deirdorf, was for a period, a very good NFL football player. After his career was over, he became a tremendous broadcaster. It seems like the former tackle might have been granted initiation into Canton on the strength of both of those things.
Dierdorf was a top-shelf First-Team All-Pro for five seasons. In 1980 though, he suffered a debilitating knee injury and was never quite the same. While he was a star for a legitimate chunk of time, his playing career didn’t warrant induction.
Cris carter already had to wait a couple of years before getting let into the Hall of Fame in 2013. The Hall of Famer started his career on the Eagles, made his mark with the Vikings, then finished his career with the Dolphins.
Carter had a few 1,000 plus yard seasons but they came later in his career on a pass happy team where he wasn’t even the best wide receiver. One former wide receiver says he practically “begged his way into the Hall of Fame.”
Winning Super Bowls as a quarterback drastically increases your chances of making the Hall of Fame. Troy Aikman would go on to win multiple rings, but he was never a true game changer.
The Cowboys already had some of the greatest talents in the world with Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. If we’re looking at stats alone, Aikman’s aren’t that spectacular. After 1996, his record was a measly 38052. His touchdown to interception ration wasn’t too impressive either at 165-141.
Broadway Joe Namath had the pleasure of playing during an era that is much different than the others. He isn’t a bd player, don’t get us wrong, but he played when there wasn’t much talent to go around.
He played well in AFL , but the NFL was still the dominant league. After the AFL and NFL merged, he helped legitimatize the NFL. Perhaps he deserves it because of that, but if we’re talking numbers, let’s not go there.
When someone gets surprised by their own induction into the Hall, that pretty much sums it up. He wasn’t being humble either, he was genuinely shocked. Sometimes, they don’t get it right and this might’ve been one of those occasions.
“I got into it with no fanfare and I got out of it with no fanfare,” Hanburger said. “To me, it was a job and I was just going to do it to the best of my ability until it was over and move on. I never ever gave any thought to being in the Hall of Fame.”
As far as talented tackles go, Rayfield Wright needs to be in the discussion. Was he that great to earn a spot in the Hall, well we aren’t too sure about that. He had a consistency problem.
He played for 14 seasons and made six Pro Bowls. When you compare him to other great linemen in his day, he can stand up to them, but barely holds a light. Of course, this is subjective, but still.
During a time long ago, the Cleveland Browns weren’t as bad as they’ve been over the past decades (hopefully that changes in 2019 and beyond). Frank Gatski played on the Browns when they were good, but like we said, that was long ago.
It took him almost 20 years to make the Hall because he only made one Pro Bowl and wasn’t a star in any sense. You do the math now and tell us what you think.
Paul Hornung made it to the Hall in a similar way that Marcus Allen did. The running back had a brief run in with success; he was nothing more than a flash in the pan.
Yes, he won the MVP award in 1961, but other than that, he didn’t do much. He only averaged 4.2 yards per carry while never hitting the 700 yard mark in a single season. That’s tough to work with but hey.
Roger Wehrli shocked a lot of folks when he entered the Hall of Fame, similar to that of Hanburger. Wehrli wasn’t a bad player and was pretty good, but his numbers weren’t elite enough to get a spot.
The defensive back never led the league in interceptions, and only made waves between 1975 and 1977. After retiring in 1982, they didn’t even consider him for the Hall until 2005, which is an extremely long time.
Pretty much every NFL fan knows of Terry Bradshaw. The quarterback is a commentator these days, so you can watch him talk up current players during on Sunday nights during the season.
Yes, we know he won four Super Bowls, but he also played for practically the best teams ever. His stats indicate he was an average player at the quarterback position. His touchdown to interception ratio was 212-210 and his career completion rate was only 51.9 percent.
Fred Dean might’ve been a solid player who helped his team win two Super Bowls, but they let everyone in who did that, the Hall of Fame would PACKED. Sacks weren’t officially counted until towards the end of Dean’s career, but he’s estimated to have around 93. That’s not a bad number, but many other linemen had better stats when Dean entered the Hall.
Many considered him to be a one dimensional pass rusher, so it seems like he needed to have a little more on his resume to get elected.
Imagine trying out for a team and when you go to check the cut list your name isn’t there. They didn’t include you, but they put someone who admittedly said you’re better than them.
That’s must be how it feels for other punters when they see that Ray Guy made the Hall. There’s no issue with a punter making the Hall of Fame, but if they’re just your average Joes, then yes, there is a little issue.
Warren Moon had some pretty great years playing in Canada. Then, he made the transition to the NFL and he put up some 4,000-yard seasons. Did you ever stop to consider that he did that because he threw the ball 600 times per year?
He once held the record for most attempts in a season with 655, which now ranks number ten. Moon was good, but the circumstances were different during his playing day and the stats show.
A Bears’ fan got asked what he thought of Richard Dent, to which he responded in a laughing manner, “Dent was a ‘play when he wanted to’ guy who disappeared for long stretches. Totally pedestrian against the run, which he could luckily afford because everyone else on Buddy Ryan’s defense bailed him out.”
Need we say anymore? We know about his Superbowl MVP, but that could have easily gone to five or six other players.
Don’t get us wrong now, Curtis Martin was a monster on the football field. He’s someone you’d want on your team if you could have him and you wouldn’t think twice about it. However, he falls in the same category as Cris Carter.
While they might’ve been great players, they never once were the best at their position. Can Martin go against any running back currently in the NFL, yes, but that’s not the topic.
There are a ton of folks that want O.J. Simpson tossed out of the Hall of Fame and right into the garbage can. The glove didn’t fit though, remember? (Kidding) There’s good reason to agree with that.
For the Hall, however, its about on-field achievements, not what’s going on off of it, so thats why he’s in there. Still, after causing such mayhem and tearing lives apart, perhaps it’s best to leave him out of there.
Gale Sayers, much like many other players on this list, had pretty average numbers. Here are his stats: 68 games played, 4,956 yards, 54 total touchdowns. Adrian Peterson could get that in his sleep in way fewer games.
He was a great running back but didn’t get as many touches as the backs get today. He also only played less than five full seasons, so that can skew your stats a bit. Still, nothing here screams Hall of Fame.
Y.A. Tittle played during the ’50s and he performed better than most during that time. In that era, running the ball was the focus and throwing took a back seat, so he only has two years where he threw for more than 3,000 yards.
He also only has two years with more than 30 touchdowns. Tittle threw more interceptions than touchdowns so that should tell you a lot. His completion rate is only 55% over his career. Shall we say more?
John Mackey played in the NFL for nine years standing 6’2″ and 224 pounds. He isn’t what you consider a powerful tight end these days, but he got the job done back then.
Over those nine years, he only caught 38 touchdowns. We’re sure that was great during that time, but didn’t Travis Kelce do that in two seasons alone? We know it’s hard to compare generations, but let’s be serious, he probably wouldn’t make the practice squad today.
Curley Culp was an offensive and defensive lineman that played his college ball at Arizona State University. He also wrestled there and was the NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion. If anything that’s where his Hall of Fame bid should be.
He has some pretty impressive stats, don’t get us wrong. Culp won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1975 and had six Pro Bowls to his name. Other than that, nothing stands out on his resume.
Did Jerry Jones buy his way here like he purchased the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million? If we’re talking strictly football triumphs, then yes, Jones helped the Cowboys secure three championships after he claimed the team.
Other than that, what has he done? He had a college football career at the University of Arkansas where he played the offensive lineman position. There, he was the co-captain of the 1964 National Championship team which is great, but players who have done more on the field haven’t even received a consideration to get in the Hall.