Lost in the Shuffle: Offensive Players Who Deserve To be in Canton
As the years go by, the legends grow, the memories turn golden, and each August, a select group of men earn their ultimate reward: enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But for every one who makes it, there's another who missed the cut.
This list is made up of those players who most probably deserve to be in the Hall, yet for whatever reason, aren't there...and might never be.
This list isn't going to have players like Tim Brown, Kevin Greene or Deion Sanders: players who will certainly get in the Hall within the next five years.
This is a list of those whose memories are getting trampled under by the passage of time, and the emergence of the New Era of Football.
Of course this list is flawed, much like the committee of men who get to pick and choose who gets in and who stays out, but hopefully it'll get people thinking...
Ken Stabler, Quarterback
Coming out of Alabama in '68, who knew "the Snake" would go on to be one of the most successful quarterbacks of any era?
His list of accolades is staggering, but probably none as impressive as his .661 winning percentage, better than Favre, Elway, Unitas, Marino, Tarkenton, etc.
He was the fastest QB to reach 100 wins, beating Unitas' old mark. Since then, only Brady and Montana got to that mark faster.
Stabler also led the Raiders to one Super Bowl victory, and left the Raiders as their all-time passing leader in completions, yards, and touchdowns.
He was the 1974 NFL MVP, led the league in touchdowns two years, made four Pro Bowls, and was placed on the 1970's all-decade team.
He is also No. 14 in all-time quarterback wins, ahead of Simms, Young, Aikman, Starr, and more.
Out of all the dominant QBs of the '70s, how Stabler isn't in Canton with them is baffling.
Also in the mix - Jim Plunkett, 2x Super Bowl Champion.
O.J. Anderson, Running Back
Anderson was a dominant power back who played from '79 through '92. Drafted eighth overall by the Cardinals, Ottis ran for 7,999 yards from '79 through midway through the '86 season. He also won Rookie of the Year.
Five of his first six seasons he went over 1,000 yards, the only exception was the strike-shortened '82 season.
Injuries sent him to the Giants midway through the 1986 season, and scored a touchdown in the Giants first Super Bowl win.
By 1989, he had regained a starting running back job, won the Comeback Player of the Year award, gained over 1,000 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
The next year he was the Giants top rusher, and won the MVP award of Super Bowl XXV. Dependable and steady, he only fumbled three times in 739 touches as a Giant.
Maybe he wasn't flashy, maybe he was lost in the shuffle of Dickerson, Payton, Riggins, Allen, etc...but Ottis Anderson was a dominant back, and a clutch player whenever he was needed.
Also in the mix: Ricky Watters
Henry Ellard, Wide Receiver
Although players from the modern era have passed by some of his accomplishments, the voters need to take a good, hard look at Henry Ellard: a truly dominant receiver from '83 through '98.
After he left for the Redskins, Ellard was the Rams' team records for career receptions (593), receiving yards (9,761), 100-yard games (26), punt return average (11.3), and total offense (11,663).
Ellard truly exploded in '94, recording 74 catches, 1,397 yards (18.9 ypc), and eight touchdowns. He followed that performance with two more thousand-yard seasons.
He finished his career with the Patriots in '98. When he retired, he was third on the all-time receiving list, and scored 65 touchdowns. Out of the top 20 receivers, he still has the third highest yards per catch mark at 16.9 yards behind Maynard and Lofton.
Also in the mix: Andre Reed
Irving Fryar, Wide Receiver
Possibly one of the most grave injustices is the exclusion of Irving Fryar. Holding the distinction of being the first wide receiver ever drafted first overall.
Fryar managed to score the Patriots' only touchdown in their Super Bowl beatdown by the Bears. He played with the Patriots until 1993.
Fryar played until the 2000 season, 17 in all and played in five Pro Bowls. When he retired, he held numerous records:
1.) Touchdown receptions from different passers - 19
2.) Consecutive seasons with 10+ receptions - 17
3.) Consecutive seasons with 150+ receiving yards - 17
4.) Consecutive seasons with 2+ touchdown receptions - 16
5.) Consecutive seasons with 2+ touchdowns - 16 (tied with Marcus Allen)
6.) 1st player to record a touchdown reception in 17 consecutive seasons (since broken by Jerry Rice, who ended up with 20)
7.) Oldest player to score 4 touchdowns (all receptions) in a single game. 34 years, 22 days
Todd Christensen, Tight End
Originally slated to be a fullback, Todd Christensen spent the earliest part of his career injured and moving; starting with Dallas, then to the Giants, then to the Raiders.
The Raiders realized that Todd was no fullback and converted him to tight end in his second year in the league.
In 1982, Todd truly broke out, catching 42 passes for over 500 yards and four touchdowns in a strike-shortened season.
1983 is the year Todd truly became the dominant tight end of the 80s, when he became the second tight end to lead the league in receptions, with 92.
He topped 80 receptions the next two years before hitting an amazing 95 receptions, becoming the first tight end to lead the league in receptions twice.
From '83 through '86, no receiver caught more passes than Todd's 349 receptions.
Todd Christensen made the Pro Bowl five straight years and won two Super Bowls with the Raiders before injuries forced his retirement.
Perhaps his prime wasn't as long as some other tight ends, but for five years, no tight end had a more dominant career, a point the voters need to acknowledge.
Also in the mix: Jackie Smith, the tight end career yardage leader at the time of his retirement, though that dropped TD in the Super Bowl still hurts Cowboy fans to this day.
Mike Tingelhoff, Center (offensive line)
Getting the call for the offensive linemen out there, Mike Tingelhoff was a dominant center for the powerful Vikings teams of the 70s.
He had seven Pro Bowl nods and never missed a game due to injury in 15 years...240 games straight.
His ability to move and read helped Chuck Foreman become the Vikings best power back, and helped keep Tarkenton scrambling by sticking with the play and making extra blocks.
Also in the mix: Dermontti Dawson. Not as dominant as Tingelhoff, I'm afraid he'll get in first because of the "short memories" of the voters.
Ray Guy, Punter
That's right. Ray Guy. A punter. More than a punter though, Ray Guy was a weapon in his own right. Still the only punter taken in the first round, Ray was the 23rd overall selection in the 1973 draft.
Ray Guy was known for his potent hang time, which was so excessive opposing teams used to have the ball tested to try to prove he was loading the ball. He wasn't.
He played in 207 consecutive games, punted for nearly 45,000 yards with a 42.4 average, and put over 210 punts inside the 20 yard line.
I say over because the NFL didn't track that stat till Guy's fourth year! He led the league in punting three times and made seven Pro Bowls and made the NFL's 75th anniversary team. He won three Super Bowls with the Raiders.
John Madden called Ray the best athlete he'd ever been around. In college Ray was a starting safety, and set the Southern Miss record with eight interceptions on his way to being named an All-American defensive back.
He also kicked a 61-yard field goal in the snow during college, and later served as the Raiders emergency quarterback for much of his career.
Sadly, it's prejudice against special teams players that keeps a pure football player like Guy out of the Hall of Fame.
The voters refuse to acknowledge that a mere punter deserved to be in the Hall, those same voters who've never played an NFL game or coached an NFL game. When I make my Defensive list, he'll be there too.
One last thing to think about: during Ray's impressive career, he never had one punt returned for a touchdown against him.