Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Pro Football Hall of Fame's Worst of the Best: The Worst Hall of Famers by Position

Last weekend, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted their newest members into the Hall. Which got me thinking a little bit about which players would be considered the worst of the best, the lowest of the elite, the players that make you wonder how he got in and another similar player is on the outside looking in. Well, a week later, I finally decided to get around to it and list who I think are the worst Hall of Famers by position. Were all of these men good football players? Sure, but nevertheless, their inductions range from questionable to downright dumbfounding. So, without further adieu, here are the most mortal of the immortals, the worst Pro Football Hall of Famers by position, as well as players on the outside looking in who perhaps should be in instead.

Quarterback: Joe Namath, 1965-1977, Inducted 1985

Namath is best known for leading his New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III after guaranteeing a win against the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. While that is one of the greatest moments in NFL history, it shouldn't be enough to get into the Hall. Looking at Namath's numbers, one wonders just how a quarterback with his numbers could get in. Namath threw more interceptions than touchdowns (220-173) and only threw more touchdown than interceptions in two of his thirteen seasons. His completion percentage (50.1) and quarterback rating (65.5) are downright pedestrian. Namath defenders will say that it was a different game, and those statistics were low for all quarterbacks. Well, maybe so, but over the course of Namath's career (65-77), Namath ranks 33rd in completion percentage and 28th in quarterback rating amongst quarterbacks with over 1000 attempts. Namath ranks behind such legends as Randy Johnson, Bill Munson, and Bob Berry. Bottom line, Namath got in thanks more to the perception that he was a great quarterback rather than reality.

If Namath is in, then why not:

Kenny Stabler? Stabler and Namath are similar in many aspects. Both men led their teams to a Super Bowl win (Stabler in Super Bowl XI). Both men won MVP awards (Namath in 1968, Stabler in 1974). Both men threw more interceptions than touchdowns (222 INTs, 194 TDs for Stabler). Both men quarterbacked at the University of Alabama under Bear Bryant and both men had reputations for scoring both on and off the field. However, Stabler had the better numbers, as he completed 59.8 percent of his passes and finished his career with a quarterback rating of 75.3. While Namath finished his career with a losing record in games he started, Stabler put together a record of 96-49-1 as a starter. Yes Stabler had better teams around him, but Stabler deserves some credit, as he lead his teams on 26 game winning drives late in the game (Namath had 16, btw). Yet after all these years, Stabler is still on the outside looking in.

Running Back: Paul Hornung, 1957-62, 1964-66, Inducted 1986

Hornung is remember as being a key member of the Vince Lombardi era Green Bay Packers of the 1960s, and acquired the nickname 'The Golden Boy' due to his accomplishments at Notre Dame and with the Packers. However, while Hornung was considered a threat to score whenever he handled the ball and not only played running back, but also served as the placekicker for a few years, he seemed to be a jack of all trades but a master of none. In his nine years with the team, Hornung only received 100 or more touches in only four seasons. He never gained more than 1000 yards from scrimmage in a season, and was named to only two Pro Bowl teams in his career. Yes Hornung has 62 career touchdowns and led the NFL in scoring three straight seasons (1959-61). But I have a hard time putting somebody in the Hall of Fame when he was only the second best running back on his team (Jim Taylor got most of the carries for the Packers, btw).

If Hornung is in, then why not:

Timmy Brown? Brown played for three different teams, primarily for the Philadelphia Eagles, from 1959-1968. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever made an argument that Timmy Brown should be in the Hall of Fame. But Brown, drafted in the 27th round in 1959 by the Packers, was actually quite a similar player to Hornung. A three time Pro Bowler, Brown finished his career with more touchdowns than Hornung (64 to 62), more rushing yards (3,862 to 3,711 in nearly the same amount of carries), more receptions (235 to 130) and more yards from scrimmage (7,261 to 5,191). While Hornung helped his club on special teams by kicking field goals, Brown was a special teams maven in his own right, returning five kickoffs and a punt for a touchdown. In 1963, Brown set a record (since broken) by gaining 2,425 all-purpose yards. Yet since Brown toiled away for a mediocre Philadelphia Eagles team, he is hardly remembered today, while Hornung is due to his time with the Packers. I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Wide Receiver: Lynn Swann, 1974-82, Inducted 2001

There may not be a more controversial selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame than that of Lynn Swann. Swann's induction seems primarily based on his reputation of making spectacular catches, such as the catches he made in Super Bowl X in winning the Super Bowl MVP. Swann's detractors say that his stats weren't that of an elite receiver (336 career catches, no seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards) and that Swann was nothing more than a beneficiary of playing for such a great team in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Swann's defenders would have you believe that his stats are so low only because the Steelers were a running team first, and only used Swann when a big play was needed. Personally, I feel Swann was a good player but he wasn't even the best wide receiver on his team (John Stallworth, also a Hall of Famer), so, like Hornung, I have a hard time accepting that Swann is a Hall of Famer.

If Swann is in, then why not:

Cliff Branch? During Swann's career, Branch had more catches (413 to 336), more yards (7,257 to 5,462) and more touchdown receptions (59 to 51). Branch was a four-time Pro Bowler and three times was a first team All-Pro, compared to Swann's three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro selection. Branch had 2 seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving, Swann had none. Branch led the NFL in receiving yards in 1974, and in touchdowns in 1974 and 1976. Swann led the NFL in touchdowns only once, in 1975. Swann was a member of four Super Bowl winning teams, but Branch was a member of three such teams himself. Of the two, I'd say Branch had the better career, but since Swann had a big performance on a big stage and was more outgoing than Branch, he's the one in the Hall of Fame.

Offensive Lineman: Bob St. Clair, 1953-1963, Inducted 1990

I'll be honest, this was the hardest position to find a 'worst' for. St. Clair was a very good player for a number of years with the San Francisco 49ers, making five Pro Bowls and allegedly blocking 10 kicks during the 1956 season. The 6'9" St. Clair was a towering presence over his opponents and blocked for fellow Hall of Famers Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson. But somebody's got to be here, and St. Clair's lack of a single consensus All-Pro selection puts him on the list.

If St. Clair is in, then why not:

Jerry Kramer? In 1969, the NFL named Kramer one of the two guards on it's all 50th Anniversary Team. Of the players named on that team, Kramer is the only one not to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Not only was Kramer a key player on the Green Bay Packers' dynasty of the 1960s, the five time All-Pro also served as a placekicker for a couple of seasons for the team, and he threw perhaps the most famous block in the history of the NFL that allowed Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl. The only reason that I can think of as to why the Hall has yet to induct Kramer is that 10 of his Packers teammates are already in, and one more may be too much. To that I say hogwash. After all, Lynn Swann was inducted even though he had 10 or so teammates in the Hall already, and not to belabor the point, but Kramer was a much better player at his position than Swann was.

Defensive Lineman: Dan Hampton, 1979-1990, Inducted 2002

Hampton was a big part of the Super Bowl Champion 1985 Chicago Bears and was named to four Pro Bowl teams during his 12 year career. But for a supposedly dominant defensive lineman, Hampton seems to fall a little short of his reputation. Yes, he was named to four Pro Bowls and 1 consensus All-Pro team, but men such as Bob Baumhower, Fred Smealers, and Joe Klecko, and those guys aren't going to be in the Hall anytime soon. Was Hampton a great player, yes, but there are better lineman than him that are not in the Hall of Fame.

If Hampton is in, then why not:

Richard Dent? It was Dent and not Dan Hampton that was the most destructive force on the legendary Bears defense of the 1980s. Dent is sixth all time in sacks with 137.5, and like Hampton, Dent played in four Pro Bowl and was named an NFL All-Pro once. For years, Dent has been a Hall of Fame finalist, but every year Dent is passed over in favor of lesser candidates such as Fred Dean, Derrick Thomas and Andre Tippett. Eventually, you have to figure that the MVP of Super Bowl XX will join Hampton in the Hall, but until that day comes, we are left to wonder just why Dent has been passed over again and again.

Linebacker: Andre Tippett, 1982-1988, 1990-93, Inducted 2008

During a four year stretch for 1984-1987, Tippett was the best outside linebacker in the NFL not named Lawrence Taylor.  In those four seasons, Tippett recorded 57 sacks and was named to the other Pro Bowl after each of those seasons. In his other seven seasons, Tippett was a decent linebacker, but hardly a gamechanger. Yes, Tippett had a spectacular four year run, but so did DE Mark Gastineau and OLB Pat Swilling, and neither one of those players have been mentioned for Hall of Fame consideration.

If Tippett is in, then why not:

Kevin Greene? Greene, like Tippett, was a tremendous pass rusher from the Outside Linebacker position. Greene, like Tippett, played in five Pro Bowls and was named to two All-Pro teams. Unlike Tippett, Greene was more consistent, putting up 10 seasons with 10 or more sacks. Greene's 160 sacks is the third most in NFL history, and yet he has not even been on the final ballot in his five years of eligibility. Tippett did not get in until his ninth year of eligibility, so maybe there's hope for Greene just yet.

Defensive Back: Dick Lebeau, 1959-1972, Inducted 2010

Lebeau is the most recent induction on the list, and his 62 interceptions give him a strong case for his induction. However, there are a couple of factors to consider. One, Lebeau played nearly his entire career opposite Dick "Night Train" Lane and Lem Barney, two Hall of Fame cornerbacks in their own right. Therefore, Lebeau had a chance to pick more passes off because quarterbacks would rather throw at him than his teammate. Two, Lebeau only made three Pro Bowl, and never was selected a consensus All-Pro. Third, Lebeau gained momentum for his induction largely due to his role as the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers and as the innovator of the zone blitz, which is all well and good but should not be considered into inducting Lebeau the player. I'm happy that Lebeau was inducted after such a long wait, but one must wonder if he would have been inducted if not for his second career.

If Lebeau is in, then why not:

Johnny Robinson? Robinson, a 12-year pro for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1960-1971, was a Hall of Fame finalist six times during the 1980s, but is no longer on the ballot and now must be considered by the Veteran's Committee. He should be. Robinson played in seven Pro Bowls, and was named to the first team AFL and NFL teams six times during his career. Robinson finished his career with 57 interceptions, twice had 10 interceptions in a season, and was named to the NFL's All Decade team of the 1960s.  Robinson is probably the greatest defensive back in the history of the AFL, and deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Head Coach: Bud Grant, 1967-1983, 1985, Inducted 1994 

Grant coached the Minnesota Vikings for his entire NFL head coaching career, leading them to 12 playoff appearances, 11 division titles, and four Super Bowl appearances during his tenure in Minnesota. However, Grant failed to win a Super Bowl and even one of his team's appearances, and often the games were over by the end of the first half. Yes, the Vikings had a remarkable run, but it seems that a team as talented as they were would at least win one Super Bowl.

If Grant is in, then why not:

Dan Reeves. Like Grant, Reeves took a team to the Super Bowl four times, including three trips in four years. Like Grant, Reeves never coached a team to a Super Bowl victory and often the games were over by halftime. Unlike Grant, Reeves didn't coach teams exactly bursting with talent. Yes, his Broncos teams of the 1980s had John Elway at quarterback, but the rest of the team was primarily league-average talent at best, with a few solid players such as Karl Mecklenberg and Dennis Smith thrown in there. Reeves also led the 1998 Falcons to a 14-2 record and a NFC Title, and I doubt that any non-Falcon fan today could name more than five starters from that team. Yes, Grant has the better record, (158-96-5 to 190-165-2), but Reeves has the better playoff record (11-9 to 10-12) and was able to do more with less than most coaches to ever coach in the game.

Well, that's it, the worst Pro Football Hall of Famers by position. To be fair, all of the men mentioned were fine players, and I'm not asking that they be voted out of the Hall of Fame or anything drastic like that. It's just that there's got to be a player that just barely meets the specifications of what a Hall of Famer should be, and I was just interested in discussing just who that is. If you happen to agree or disagree with my selections, than feel free to express your opinions on this topic. If you have any comments on this post, or ideas for future posts, than send me them either by leaving a comment or by e-mail at kthec2001@gmail.com.


  1. Agree with you besides the Paul Hornung and Dick Lebeau statements. Hornung and Taylor were called thunder and lightening. Taylor wasn't better than Paul; rather they each played their own game. Also, 62 picks gets you in the Hall of Fame no matter who played across from you, sorry

    1. Really?? Paul Hornung is the one that bothers you? The guy who never had more then 700 yards rushinig in a season?!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for reading. Although I must ask, if Hornung and Lebeau aren't the worst Hall of Famers at their positions, then who do you think are the worst? I'm just curious.

  4. Lynn Swann is by far the least deserving player in your article, and the least deserving member of the HOF. There must be 50 receivers with better career numbers than him but aren't in the hall -- including several that have multiple superbowl rings (Ed McCaffery, Rod Smith, John Taylor, every receiver on the Patriots in the 00s, etc., etc.)

    Still boggles the mind that he got voted in...

  5. all it takes is a little steeler nation to get Swann (who is the most impressive wide reciever in NFL history)inducted.

  6. Dwight Clark is far less deserving WR that Swann. Swann made catches at the right time in games. Clark, like Bill Mazeroski in the Baseball Hall of Fame, got in on the basis of ONE PLAY.

  7. Dwight Clark is in the HOF???

    What were his career numbers? We really need to revisit some of these picks.

    1. 1 x 1000 yard year, and 1 x 10 TD year. Granted that was in the 1980s, but there should be some control on which people make the HOF with lousy numbers. Clark was good, but there were many better WRs.

  8. Jerry Kramer should be in the HOF. I hate the Packers, but when you think of great Packer football players in the 1960s, Kramer has to be one of the first you think of. More Offensive Linemen should be in the HOF. Mick Tingelhoff played in about 7 straight Pro Bowls for the Vikings. He should be in the HOF. ETC. etc.

  9. Timmy Brown should be in the HOF. His numbers are far better than Paul Hornung's. Brown was a better athlete.

  10. Namath should probably be in a special section for one-year wonders. Troy Aikman only had one 20+ TD season, and he had a great offensive line in front of him. There is no excuse for putting him in the HOF.

  11. Heck you could come up with a better HOF among the players who did not make the HOF!!! We have got to get some Offensive Linemen into the HOF. Jerry Kramer is not in the HOF? What kind of sick joke is that???

  12. I honestly can't believe that you included Bud Grant here. I understand the Dan Reeves argument, but if you include Bud Grant why not Marv Levy?

  13. This is an interesting debate. Thanks for sharing this. As a Bears fan, I used to love Dan Hampton. I understand your point but not entirely.

    Anyway, just found a cool Bears shirt on this website that I wanted to share: