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Friday, 5 August 2011

Roundtable - Canton Calling? A debate on future first-ballot Hall of Famers (part 1)

(c) CityDictionary.com
With Randy Moss's recent retirement, a lot of debate has arisen over whether or not he deserves to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot. This got us wondering: which NFL players not yet eligible for the HOF are first balloters? In the first of two roundtables, we discuss retired players who have not yet reached their first year of eligibility. In the second roundtable, we will discuss active players. (Warning: brace yourself for some favouritism towards alumni of our respective favourite teams!). So guys, who'll be getting golden jackets on their first try?

Phil Gaskin: Well it makes sense to start with Moss, seeing as he's the one that has generated all the debate...

Toby Durant: If we're starting with Moss it's a no brainer. He's in straight away. He’s second all-time for career touchdowns, fifth in yards, and that’s with two statistically useless seasons in Oakland slowing him down

PG: Two useless seasons in Oakland because he couldn't be bothered to play.

TD: He  had no one throwing to him! Kerry Collins in ‘05 and Andrew Walter in ’06? That would demoralise anyone!

PG: A true professional would carry on playing 100% regardless.

TD: If you've got the single season TD record you're in the Hall. End of discussion.

PG: I'm not necessarily saying he shouldn't be in, or even not 1st ballot, I just think his name should be asterisked with *(as in, he was HOF-standard only when it suited him)

Gur Samuel: Firstly, he was notorious for taking ‘off’ several plays per game…

TD: He was yes, but he's the GREATEST deep threat the game has seen, and that's that.

"The greatest deep threat of all time"?
(c) GraphicsHunt
GS: so? Toby, you and I have discussed before how stats are such a minor part of what makes up a HOF bid when talking about Terry Bradshaw.

TD: Bradshaw has the rings and the whole "passsing wasn't big in the 70's" to back him up. Moss has the numbers and the flashy plays.

GS: The fact is randy moss never gave football his undivided attention and effort, and I think that, whether right or wrong, the HOF voters will be very wary about setting precedents, especially when you look at the other receivers who didn't get in on the first ballot. Michael Irving wasn't in on the first ballot, Andre Reed's been eligible for five years and still hasn't gotten in!

PG: To be honest Gur, I think with hindsight people are going to forget his attitude. Even in his final year when he was, by all accounts, an arse to everyone from the coaches to the catering teams, teams were still desperate to sign him because of his reputation as a dominant player.

GS: Weren't the Titans the only team to put in a waiver claim for him?

TD: So? The last year of a player is never great

PG: Unless they do the smart thing and retire at the top, like Kurt Warner did!

TD: Look at Orlando Pace. Still playing, but at a much lower level than he used to, but he’ll be voted in straight away because of how good he was in his prime. And it’s the same with Moss.

GS: I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it's wrong, but I really believe the HOF voters will let their emotions cloud their judgement, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who Moss rubbed the wrong way amongst the voters, and they will hesitate to put him in on the first ballot for that reason. His attitude will have soured enough people's judgements to let him in first time.

TD: He rubbed coaches and fans up the wrong way, but they don't vote for the HOF. Writers do, and Moss gave them stories. Besides, Moss is twice the player Carter or Reed was; no one struck fear in a defence like Moss did.

GS: Well, it seems we're all pretty entrenched on our views on Moss, so, moving on...

TD: Since I mentioned Pace in passing before, I’m going to stick with the linemen theme and say straight away, the two big left tackles: Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden. Jones and Ogden (and Pace) were the first wave of "dancing bears" at LT, and the best I've seen. Everyone respects them and knows how good they were.

Former Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones
GS: Obviously as linemen, I'm sure we'd all be in favour of that... but I believe it’s very hard for any offensive lineman to make it in on the first ballot.

PG: Absolutely agree with Jones and Ogden (and of course Orlando when he retires). And there have been first ballot linemen. If Anthony Munoz hadn’t been in on the first ballot after having not given up a sack in his entire career, it would have been a travesty!

TD: And don’t forget John Hannah, retired after ‘85, enshrined ’91.

GS: Whilst there's no denying how good Jones and Ogden were, and in a vacuum, I think they'd go in on the first ballot, the problem for me is that when it comes down to whittling all the candidates down to, I'm not sure that offensive linemen won’t be disregarded over the more prominent positions, regardless of how good they are.

TD: "Skill" position players tend to get prominence simply because they score the points.

PG: I certainly hope that’s not the case. I think the tides are changing on how prominently linemen are viewed in the NFL. We all know the stat that LTs are the second highest paid players in the league, and hopefully this will start to seep down to the voters

TD: Few can doubt the impact guys like Ogden and Jones had. And as LTs, with the NFL now in pass heavy mode, they'll get their recognition

GS: Maybe, but look at Willie Roaf. The class being enshrined this weekend would have been his first year of eligiblity, and outside of Marshall Faulk & Deion Sanders, it's not the strongest class. Roaf was voted to the Pro Bowl 11 times, was All-Pro 9-times, and was on the NFL All-Decade Team for both the 90s and the 2000s, which is voted for by the same people who vote on Hall of Fame candidates. And yet, he still couldn't make it onto the first ballot.

PG: This is very true. Not to take anything away from guys like Richard Dent, but maybe Roaf deserves his dues. I'm sure he'll get in on 2/3/4th ballot though.

TD: Roaf will get in VERY soon. Few guards have been as dominating
but lets keep moving, other names?

GS: OK, well I want to flip to the other line then

TD: Here it comes...

GS: And definitely put forward Warren Sapp as a first balloter

TD: No contest, LET'S MOVE ON!

PG: Agreed. Sapp is in, should be 1st ballot without question
Legendary defensive tackle Warren

GS: So, I don't even need to argue Sapp's case for him. Done deal!

TD: You can have 3 lines to praise him if you must haha, but we all know about his dominance though! It helps that he's moved into the studio (on NFL Network’s Total Access show), too.

GS: I’d rather leave it at that – nothing makes a stronger argument than not needing any argument at all! Any other defensive linemen jumping out at anyone?

PG: I assume we're all agreed that Michael Strahan is going?

TD: “Old Gap-Tooth?” Yeah, he's in, even if Favre did lay down for him to get the single season sack record.

PG: True. It would be hilarious if he and Sapp were voted into the Hall in the same year (both become eligible for the 2013 Class). The talk between those guys is always priceless.

TD: Again, with it being a passing league now guys, who get to, as well as protect, the QB will get more recognition in things like the HOF

PG: And like you say Toby, he's also moved in to the studio so no-one's going to forget his face

TD: Or his gap tooth!

GS: No-one else is immediately jumping out at me for D-line.

TD: Struggling to think who's retired recently!

GS: Same. I can think of people who could get in eventually, after a few years (Simeon Rice, maybe Kris Jenkins), but not first balloters

TD: I want to throw a name out there (not DL) for consideration: Lorenzo Neal

PG: Intriguing...

TD: Look at the guys who he's lead blocked for: Eddie George, Corey Dillon, LT (LaDainian Tomlinson). Dillon had 1,300+yd seasons when Neal was there, and then was quickly shipped out after he left.

GS: He would definitely have been in on the first ballot in an earlier age, but going off what you were saying about O-line being more prominent because it's such a pass-first league, the same argument takes away from Neal being a first balloter.

TD: I'm not sure how many true fullbacks are in the Hall, but he was a serious player, in possibly the most thankless position in the league, for a long time.

PG: It's also worth considering the media back-lash there was to Vonta Leach coming in at #65 in the NFL Network’s “Top 100 of 2011” list, just because he was a FB. Considering who's voting here, are they going to be too turned off by a blocking back to vote him in?

GS: Agreed. I think between the league being so pass-orientated, and as Phil points out, the negative reaction to Leach being in the “Top 100”, he's going to struggle to be 1st ballot

TD: I think he definitely deserves to be in the hall. Anyway, that “Top 100” list was a joke (bar who came 1) so I don't think it will matter too much.

PG: Does he deserve it? Yes. Is he likely to be over-looked for a few years at least? Almost certainly.

GS: Going back to defence – linebackers.

TD: Fine... LBs. Go on Gur, I'm a going to do a crossword while you talk about Brooks…

GS: Heh. Like with Sapp, I think it's pretty straightforward: 2002 Defensive Player of the Year, 2000s All-Decade Team, 11 Pro Bowls (10 consecutive), 9 All-Pro selections (all consecutive), Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2000, and the NFL all-time record for most consecutive starts at linebacker.

PG: Yeah, I suppose he does have a pretty decent case!

GS: I like to think so!

TD: That looks good… but can he ‘dance with the stars’?

GS: Haha, Sapp does have the edge on that one. So, #55 aside… candidates?

PG: OK Toby, I've got some names for you as a Patriots fan. What is your opinion on Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel?

TD: They won't get in at all, I don't think. I love them to pieces but that Pats D was so much of a "unit over individual" deal that they won't get in.

Mike Vabrel (#50) and
Tedy Bruschi
PG: really? I think Vrabel might. People will remember the “LB that catches touchdowns” selling point...

TD: Tedy deserves to. But he only had 1 Pro-Bowl.

PG: I'm not suggesting them as 1st rounders by any means, but potential names in a slower year..

TD: Vrabel had 10+ sacks once and that was in 07 when everyone HAD to pass to catch up with #12 and #81. In a slower year, I think the rings and the stroke will help Bruschi get in.

GS: Any other candidates?

TD: For LB?

GS: Oh, Juniour Seau!

TD: Oh my. Junior Seau is a HoF guy for sure.

PG: Ah yeah, very good point. Seau is in.

TD: 1990 - 2009 AT LINEBACKER.

PG: Unbelievable isn't it? Even Ray Lewis isn't going to last that long (no matter how he tries!)

TD: 1,849 tackles...

GS: 12 CONSECUTIVE pro bowls

TD: He barely played his last few years at New England, but he was still there getting it done at 40 when he was on the field.

GS: That said, he's technically not retired yet - but I assume he won't play again.

TD: He's not been on a squad for 2 years, and is now 42… I think that counts as retired! Has Zach Thomas officially retired?

PG: On May 18, 2010 Thomas signed a one-day contract, officially worth $1 to retire as a Dolphin.

TD: He was an absolute menace in that Miami D. 5th round pick, brutal tackler. Zach Thomas has more tackles than anyone in the HOF

PG: Really? that's a good stat! Convinces me he needs to go in!

GS: That's a pretty strong argument right there! So, with the league being so pass-happy these days, I'm going to swing the conversation round to a different position: defensive backs. Including Deion Sanders (who will be enshrined this Saturday), there's only 22 DBs in Canton. Now that DBs are more important than ever, do you think we'll see DBs appearing on the first ballot more often? And do any names come to mind?

TD: That have recently retired? I don't think so… Oh. Ty Law. Ty Law all day long.

PG: Quite possibly...

TD: Only Bill Belichick was more inside Peyton Manning's head than Ty Law. It was almost a guarantee that he'd get a pick when he played vs Indy.  53 career INTs, 5 sacks…

GS: And, because the voters do consider this sort of thing, he's got a lot of awards and accolades to his name - 5 Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pro selections, 2000s All-Decade Team, 2 NFL Alumni DB of the Year etc…

PG: Convincing argument I must say

TD: RODNEY HARRISON!!! Haha, I’m getting me excited. Rodney Harrison is going to the Hall, first ballot or not. The 1st (and maybe still only) DB to have both 30 INT and 30 sacks. Broke his arm in SB 38 and stayed on the field to make another tackle!

GS: Yeah, there's only 2 players (to have 30 interceptions and 30 sacks) full stop, and the other's Ray Lewis. 

GS: Ronde Barber is only four sacks away though…

TD: ALL HAIL 37!!! People on opposing teams HATED to play against Rodney Harrison

GS: I'm going to throw in a complete ‘homer’ candidate here, I think he's a HOFer, maybe not first ballot but still.... John Lynch?

PG: Dammit Gur Samuel, I've been sitting here waiting for Toby to stop gushing to say Lynch!

TD: Haha. John Lynch was a good safety but I’m not sure he was much more.

GS: 9 Pro Bowls, 4 All-Pros, and SO fun to watch hitting people.

PG: Lynch was a great safety, long career, and still very much in the public eye - all add up to a HOF entry at some point.

TD: At some point. First ballot though?

PG: 1st ballot, no.

GS: A shame. Imagine if he was, it could have been him, Derrick Brooks & Tony Dungy all on the same ballot! Hell, if Sapp missed out in his first year (not that he will), he'd be that year too!
Tony Dungy after winning
Super Bowl LXI

PG: Dungy is obviously a shoe-in for 1st ballot

TD: Yeah, first black head coach to win the Super Bowl. America loves that kind of thing!

PG: And he’s still hugely respected amongst his peers. Just look what he did to relaunch Mike Vick’s career

GS: So, Dungy straight in…

TD: If we're talking coaches who go in then Bill Cowher too.

PG: Is Dick Vermeil in yet?

GS: Vermeil's first year of eligibility was this year Phil

PG: Thought it might have been, he left the Chiefs after the '05 season
I think he'll have to make it in at some point though. Architect of the Greatest Show on Turf (which we will be discussing very soon!)

TD: Haha. Why don't we now?

PG: Well then, Kurt Warner gets my vote straight away.

TD: I just checked and Isaac Bruce retired, I want to give him credit as the "one people don't talk much about" from GSOT.

PG: Ike Bruce retired last year, yeah. He committed the cardinal sin and joined the 49ers for a year before retiring, but he re-joined the Rams on a 1 day contract so he would retire with St Louis.

TD: So the Greatest Show On Turf guys are starting to hang it up.

Kurt Warner, quarterback of the "Greatest Show on
Turf", throws a pass in Super Bowl XXXIV
PG: Well what is there to say about Bruce? He was the last remaining LA Ram in the NFL.

TD: Bruce, Holt and Warner all retired in 2010. It would be good if all three went in together, but I'm not sure they will as 1st ballots.

PG: I suspect they won't all be firsts.

TD: We've already discussed the difficulties of WR's getting in, and Warner is very much on the cusp for a number of reasons.

PG: I think the Kurt Warner story will make him a 1st ballot, coming from packing groceries, playing in NFL Europe etc.

TD: The Kurt Warner Story - bad film I suspect!

GS: Isn't he already in the AFL (Arena Football League) HOF?

PG: He is indeed, and has had his number retired by the Iowa Barnstormers (the AFL team he played for).

TD: When Pace goes in i hope they make a GSOT corner

PG: If/when they make a GSOT corner I'm booking my flights to Canton

TD: What worries me about Warner is those dead years he spent on the bench at NYG and Arizona.

GS: Well, Moss's seasons in Oakland didn't worry you!

TD: But for a QB it's different. It’s such a competitive position for slots on the ballot.

PG: I think it might work in his favour in the end - like a phoenix rise from the ashes.

TD: He did take Arizona to the Promised Land, his stats from ‘99-‘01 are eye popping, he's got 2 MVPs to his name and won a ring…

PG: Went to another SB almost 10 years later... most career passing yards in superbowl history...

GS: Top 3 passing records in Super Bowls! And most yards in a single playoff campaign – in ‘08, too, on the downside of his career.

PG: Yup, how much more statistical backing do you need!?

TD: He's got the credetials to get in, but really never hit the heights again. His INT% is pretty high

PG: He has post-season stats of 31TDs to 14INTs, .665pct completions, and 102.8 passer rating...!

TD: Well, just so you know, PFR (pro-football-reference.com) has his career in the same range as: Rich Gannon, Jeff Garcia, Joe Theismann, Randall Cunningham, Trent Green, Dante Culpepper, Drew Brees and Joe Namath for "career of a similar quality and shape". I think he'll be on the cusp for 1st ballot. Might just sneak it.

PG: Don't forget - he can dance with the stars too!

TD: It helps him a lot that Favre played in 2010. If he was on the same ballot as Brett he wouldn't get in. Holt and Bruce deserve to get in, but WRs sometimes don't. I think they have a better case than Carter/Reed because their offense had an awesome nickname!

GS: When move on to active people, Mike Martz will be an interesting one - but we'll leave that for next time.

PG: Well I think it'll be interesting to see what happens when they reach the ballot, because putting 3 guys from the same team and unit in a single year will be a stretch!

TD: Faulk is already there. Pace will be.

PG: Eventually all 5 of those guys will be in.

TD: Can we briefly discuss #4?

PG: Indeed we can, but he is, of course, going in to the Hall.

TD: Brett Favre is going straight in.. He's got the big time records, and we all know he should have won an Oscar for his role in "There's Something About Mary". But I've got a big time problem on a few levels: one is the insane number of interceptions. You look at that list of INT leaders and the other great names like Marino, Montana, Young are nowhere near the top. Favre is SO far ahead of everyone else on that list. I like my QB to keep a hold of the football!  Also, let's not forget that he also held the Packers ransom for several offseasons until they finally got tired of him. And then he did the same thing with Minnesota! Since '07 every season he's finished with an Interception to KILL his team. AND, his jeans adverts are really annoying…

PG: Hold on, Favre holding teams to ransom isn't ok; but Moss deciding not to bother play in Oakland because they weren't good enough is fine?

TD: There's a difference between spending the off-season umm-ing and aah-ing about retirement, and sitting out of camps before deciding to come back at the most important position on the team, and a WR taking some plays off. I have a big problem with the way Favre conducted himself during the off-seasons

GS: 2 seasons aren't a 'few plays'!

TD: Hah, he didn't take all the time off though. It showed in 2010 when Favre was just off sync with everyone that his actions were far more damaging than Moss’s. He'll go into the Hall because everyone loves the "gunslinging" way he plays.

PG: To be honest, i think favre would've been better off calling it a day before he even went to the Jets, let alone the Vikings. I'm sure there's a certain Jets employee who would agree, now that she has a picture of his member burned onto her retinas!

TD: I don't think I'd put him on the 1st ballot.

PG: I just think when you look at Favre’s and Moss's achievements side by side, their various discrepancies are pretty proportional.

TD: Players with the same career INT % as Brett Favre: Tony Eason, Patrick Ramsey, JOEY HARRINGTON!!!

Brett Favre throws
another interception
GS: That's one stat against his name, but when you hold pretty much every QB record in the book, that one stat doesn’t stick out nearly as much

PG: 11 pro-bowls and a ring

TD: Like I said, he'll get into the Hall 1st ballot no problem, but having Most TD's/Yards (and most INT's) is just an indication that you played the game a damn long time. I'd rather look at INT rates etc. and Favre's numbers there are nowhere near as pleasant for his fans.

PG: And the number of tackles and sacks Juniour Seau got doesn’t have anything to do with playing 20 years...?

TD: Harder to play Linebacker for a long time than QB

GS: Likewise, didn’t Kerry Collins play longer than Favre did? Yet, I’m pretty sure Collins has 11 Pro-Bowls, 6 All-Pros, or 3 consecutive MVP awards. It's not just down to longevity, Toby.

TD: No, of course not.

PG: You can't use the career length as a positive for one guy and a negative for another.

TD: At no point here am I saying Favre wasn't good, but he's not as good as people make him out to be. Just like I'd never say Seau was the best LB ever because of tackles etc. Same with Favre.

PG: Vinny Testaverde, now there's a guy that played a long time and threw A LOT of INTs.

TD: Favre will get in, and he deserves to. But he's not going to be in that top echelon of QB's with Marino, Montana etc and eventually Brady and Manning.

PG: Agreed, but that's how I feel about Moss. He'll get in, probably 1st ballot, but he'll never be Jerry Rice.

GS: Just to go back to the longevity thing, I want to throw this out there: Drew Bledsoe has the second most passing yards over any given 8-season stretch in NFL history, has the 5th most completions, 7th most yards & 13th most TDs…

TD: Yeah, but lost to Favre in a Super Bowl, the idiot.

GS: Anyway, we’ve touched on Warner & Favre, any other QBs we want to mention?

TD: Might as well mention Bledsoe since you bought him up. Retired in 2007, and personally I think he won't be a 1st ballot guy. He has some numbers but I don't think it's enough.

GS: Definitely not, that was sort of the point I was making with Favre, it's not just the records, it’s the accolades like the MVPS and stuff. Definitely wasn’t bringing Bledsoe up as a potential 1 balloter.

TD: Good. Career QB rating 77.1? Ouch.

PG: I wouldn't be surprised to see him make it. 4 Pro Bowls and a ring. Certainly not 1st ballot though.

TD: The ring is Tom (Brady)'s though. Despite Drew winning the AFC Championship game, everyone sees that ring as Tom’s.

PG: True.

TD: To move on to running backs… Given that Curtis Martin and The Bus (Jerome Bettis) are still waiting at the gate of Canton I'm struggling to see any 1st rounders unless LT retires tomorrow.

PG: Very much with Toby on this one, and it's all part of the "passing 1st" evolution.

TD: The only other guy is Edgerrin James, but he's not really in the same league as Martin and Bettis.

PG: I think Edge suffered from the quiet years in Arizona really. He was good, but not great.

TD: No team ever leant on Edge to win. He got his yards of the back of Manning scaring people witless. I've got a soft spot for Corey Dillon too.

PG: I suspected as much.

TD: Well, 1,600yd season with a ring is pretty good, but he's not 1st ballot guy. Retired in ’07.

GS: He won’t be a first ballot because of who retired around the same time he did, but in a slow year… thoughts on Warrick Dunn?

TD: Ha. I give props to Dunn, but again don't have him in the same class as guys still waiting

PG: Good back, but definitely not 1st ballot.

TD: Martin (4th) and Bettis (5th) are WAY ahead of him in yards, and they carried teams. In my opinion, the only back that will get in 1st ballot in LT, and after that I think we'll have to wait for AP (Adrian Peterson) to call it a day.

PG: Obviously I'll hope Steven Jackson gets considered, but the fact that the Rams were so horrific through the prime of his career almost certainly rule him out

GS: OK, running backs done… is there anyone we’ve left out, at any position?

PG: My final nomination, and the nomination to end all nominations, is Morten Andersen. Leads the NFL in career points scored

TD: There is all of 1 kicker in the HOF, but if you're going make it 2 then him yeah.

PG: Leads in games played, and played for 26 calendar years.

TD: Kicking is such a small part of the game that I can't see a 1st ballot pick for him. They ought to make a "ST" place for people like him on the ballot.

GS: I think he'll get in but I cannot see them voting even arguably the best kicker ever in on the first ballot.

Morten Andersen
(c) Real Sports Heroes
PG: He official retired at the end of 2008, so who else will be on that ballot? I suspect some big names...!

GS: Anderson would be first eligible in the same year as Sapp, Strahan, and Ogden

PG: Ah right, well I think 1st ballot is going to be a reach then. But I certainly think for the ridiculous number of NFL records he holds he deserves a place.

GS: Agreed, he definitely deserves in – eventually. Right, I think that wraps up all the recent retirees. Next time, we’ll have the same debate, but about players and coaches still active in the NFL. Looking forward to it! 

1 comment:

  1. Was it essential you mentioned the turn of the century Rams so much?!

    Started so well for Toby mentioning Hannah and Neal and then it got a lot worse once his personal prejudices started showing.