Cleveland Browns: 4 Biggest Hall of Fame Snubs in Team History
Clay Matthews Jr.
As football fans, our memories are rarely fully objective about our own teams and players, particularly as time passes and they recede further and further into the past.
We seem to be able to remember both the spectacular and the horrific sharply, but it tends to get blurry for everything in between.
In light of this, grading where many of our team's players stack up against other players across the league and across time is particularly difficult. Certainly, we can tell you how great Jim Brown was or that Mike Junkin and Mike Phipps were monumental draft busts with a lot of accuracy, but when discussing all those in between, things get fuzzy. Good players become great, and bad players become awful, and the more time that passes, the more our perceptions tend to shift to one extreme or the other.
That makes the task of compiling a list of Browns' Hall of Fame snubs a tall order. There's a good argument that for the sake of objectivity, such lists should be compiled by writers from a different team than the one being analyzed.
Still, it's tough to resist the temptation to fight for recognition for your own players when you feel they haven't gotten their due. Thus in my efforts to both do right by players I greatly admire and to look at Hall of Fame selections objectively, I've compiled a very short list of just four Browns who I believe to be legitimate Hall of Fame snubs.
As always, your opinions are greatly valued. Please share your thoughts on the possible Hall of Fame snubbed players listed here as well as any others you think are worthy of mention in the comments below.
1. Linebacker Clay Matthews Jr.
Clay Matthews Jr.
Perhaps the most difficult former Brown to argue against Hall of Fame induction for is linebacker Clay Matthews Jr.
Matthews, one of the most beloved of many well-liked players on the Browns' playoff teams of the 1980s, had a tremendous career in the orange and brown. Matthews spent 16 seasons with the Browns and later closed out his career with three final years with the Falcons.
Drafted 12th overall in 1978 by the Browns, he would go on to play 232 games for Cleveland. He compiled 62 sacks, 14 interceptions, two TDs, 13 fumble recoveries and 1,430 tackles. Not too shabby.
Those numbers put him on par with other LBs inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that's before you even consider the intangibles that made Matthews one of the greats for the Browns and across the league.
Matthews stats are particularly impressive considering he was a good bit undersized for his position. And to take the intangibles one step further, he's also one of the greatest leaders both on and off the field of his era.
Of course being a locker room and fan favorite won't ever get you a Hall of Fame nod on its own, but it can matter as that extra push needed for a player on the cusp for his actions on the field.
The good news about Matthews is that we can be fairly certain that he will eventually get into the Hall. Still, considering his accomplishments, it seems he's already had to wait too long. Hopefully, we'll see Matthews' bust enshrined in Canton very, very soon.
2. Left End Mac Speedie
For my next Hall of Fame snub pick, we're going to have to go way back in Browns history to a time before many of us were even born. All the way back to 1946 in fact, when what we know today as a wide receiver was actually a comparable position called left end.
Enter Mac Speedie, counterpart to Browns' Hall of Famer Dante Lavelli in what was one of the greatest receiving tandems of all time.
Speedie played for the Browns from 1946 to 1952. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection during his time with the Browns and racked up a total of 5,602 yards. His best season (1947) saw him compile 67 receptions, 1,146 yards and six touchdowns. He was also a three-time leader in the AAFC for receiving yards.
Obviously, his total stats don't stack up against many receivers in the more recent past, but for his time, he was one of the best there was. Speedie was a Hall of Fame finalist in 1970 and 1972 but didn't get the required number of votes.
Sadly, Speedie died in 1993, still deprived of his rightful place in Canton. He is truly one of the greatest Hall of Fame snubs of the early days of football.
3. Cornerback Hanford Dixon
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The two prior candidates, Matthews and Speedie are, to me, very tough to question as players deserving a spot in the Hall of Fame. Now to two guys whose cases are a bit tougher to win, but I still believe have merit.
First is Hanford Dixon, the great cornerback for the Browns' in their 1980s heyday and 50 percent of the Dawg Defense's formidable CB tandem.
Along with Frank Minnifield, Dixon was part of one of the greatest CB tandems in history and easily the greatest duo of DBs to play in Cleveland.
From 1981 to 1989 Dixon played 115 games for the Browns. He had an impressive 26 interceptions for 225 yards and also logged four fumble recoveries. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection in 1986, 1987, and 1989.
Does Dixon have the impressive stats that many Hall of Fame-inducted CBs do? Probably not, but CB is one of the positions on the field that is most difficult to judge by stats alone. We have no official numbers for all the passes broken up, receivers covered too well to have the ball tossed their way, or ball carriers brought down immediately at the spot of their catch that Dixon logged throughout his career with the Browns.
His excellence in all of those areas, as well as the complete defensive shutdown that he and Minnifield created together, has gone unacknowledged by the Hall of Fame committee.
I'll be the first to admit that with his numbers and even with the unmeasurables of his performance considered, Dixon is a long shot for Canton. But numbers and any quality considered for induction aside, what sold me on Dixon as a Hall of Famer was watching him play.
Even as a little kid, I could tell he was something special. Together with Minnifield, he was a gamechanger. I understand the arguments against Dixon as a Hall of Famer, but I think there are some pretty good arguments in his favor as well.
4. Cornerback Frank Minnifield
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
That brings us to the other half of that great Dawg Defense cornerback tandem: Frank Minnifield.
Minnifield's career had an interesting progression. Instead of ending up in the USFL after he could no longer find work in the NFL at the end of a career, Minnifield actually started out in the USFL in 1983 and was picked up by the Browns in 1984 (though he had to sue his USFL team to get out of his contract and move to the NFL).
Minnifield racked up 20 interceptions in his career for 124 yards, as well as seven fumble recoveries. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection from 1986 to 1989 and was a member of the NFL's 1980s All-Decade Team.
Like Dixon, his Hall of Fame case is weakened by numbers that don't measure up and the inability to quantify and consider the things he brought to the field that made him so great.
Perhaps part of the problem was that what was Hall of Fame worthy was neither Dixon nor Minnifield individually but the combination of the two.
Is either one of them truly a candidate for Canton? I believe so, but going back to the thoughts in the introduction to this piece, it's difficult to be objective about the players you love who are on the cusp between good and great. It's hard not to want the best things possible for the two men who are credited with naming Cleveland's beloved "Dawg Pound" too.
Both Dixon and Minnifield are both members of the Browns "Legends," a team hall of fame of sorts, but as in the case of Dixon, I believe Minnifield is a legitimate candidate to at least get consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.