Every year the NFL’s many fans hotly anticipate the results for which of their legends will be sent to be immortalized in bronze with a bust at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Each year, there are surprises and disappointments and certainly controversy.
Here’s a look at 10 players who have either recently retired or, in one case, retired a while ago, who have no business getting into the Hall of Fame. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments and share your ideas on who doesn’t belong.
I pulled this list from the earliest list of potentials this year, so all of these players are now eligible for the ballot.
Don’t get me wrong. I watched Eddie George play in Tennessee and Dallas and the guy was a beast, but he doesn’t have the credentials of a Jerome Bettis or Curtis Martin, both of whom are also in the running.
George, like Martin, never won a Super Bowl, but he also never cracked the top five leading rushers in league history. Martin has done that. Bettis has the Super Bowl and is much higher on the list.
George was a great running back who played on some poor teams and some good ones, but he never really had that moment where I sat back and felt like he needed to be put in the Hall of Fame.
Like George, I never had that “wow” moment with Bledsoe. He played for a long time and for several teams and he was never an easy quarterback to beat despite being among the least mobile players in NFL history.
Bledsoe started in Super Bowl XXXI but lost, and he got a ring in 2001 when Tom Brady led the Patriots to the top after Bledsoe was injured. Bledsoe was never quite the same after leaving the Patriots.
He’s among the candidates mostly because he has some impressive career numbers and was a good quarterback for basically his entire career, but I don’t see any way he gets in. He’s not a Unitas or a Montana.
Good receiver, but never great.
Johnson also has the attitude and basically played himself off of a team. That doesn’t help you when it comes to Hall of Fame votes. The NFL, like every other sport, does take some behavior into account when they put players in bronze.
Johnson had more potential than he ever had production. He does have the ring, but I never got the feeling he was the major reason that Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl. He was a receiver on a team that leaned on running back Michael Pittman and their defense.
Johnson will always be among the top receivers of the 90s and early 2000s, but he doesn’t have the oomph of a Jerry Rice or Cris Carter. Carter is on the ballot and I feel like he’s going to be among those inducted in the near future.
Vincent was a favorite of mine. He’s a great corner who put up some wonderful career numbers, but he also never had that wow moment.
The tragedy is that Vincent is a great guy. He’s won three different Man of the Year awards (two in 2002 and one in 2004) and is one of the good guys in a league that’s had some reputation killers over the years.
As a player, I don’t see it. This is not a kind road to corners and defensive backs. There are plenty of great ones still waiting from the 1970s and earlier. I do think that Vincent, for his philanthropy and efforts to work on the business side of the league, might eventually get the nod as a contributor.
I freely admit that until I pulled the preliminary list of nominees, I had forgotten about Boselli.
There was a time when many defenders wished he could be forgotten. He was a beast of an offensive lineman who was the first ever pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was the prototype for everything a lineman should be except for one thing: health.
Boselli’s career ended a long time before it should have and he might still be playing if not for a spat of injuries that derailed his career.
In a league where offensive linemen go unnoticed a lot, he probably will never find his way into the Hall. I will always wonder what Boselli could have done with a healthy career. Like I said, he might still be playing.
Wycheck was once a revelation, playing halfback in the way we now see guys like Chris Cooley and David Johnson play. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and was one of those players that always seemed to be in the conversation for great players.
But then he just stopped. He was finished in 2003 after 11 years and he seemed to have peaked in 2000 when the Titans reached the Super Bowl.
Now he’s Hall of Fame eligible. He’s probably got a little better case than some of the other guys we’ve talked about here, but he’s still not someone I feel really belongs in the Hall of Fame. Tight ends have a hard time as it is and his work has since been overshadowed by the current crop of great tight ends.
He’s eligible since nobody bit on his comeback, but I get the impression that he’s worn on some NFL people because of his too-glib attitude and commentary.
Barber was a great running back in his day, but he never won a Super Bowl and he’s nowhere close on the all-time rushing list. He also had a reputation for mistakes, which isn’t going to help him when they put him up against other backs with similar career arcs.
Barber was always someone I felt never fully reached his potential. His last few seasons were actually very good and I think he made a huge mistake walking away from the game when he did. He could have been a part of New York’s Super Bowl team and maybe added enough to his numbers to make him a real discussion piece in the voting.
He, like Boselli, will always be one of those “what if” cases. Davis was one of the members of the Mike Shanahan school of running backs. The problem was that his success was so short-lived due to injuries that it’s hard to imagine he has the case for a Hall of Fame induction.
Davis has two Super Bowl rings, but his career basically ended in 1998 after three straight Pro Bowl seasons. He was plagued after that by injury after injury and never again played a full season.
In 2002, he retired during the pre-season and hadn’t even played a full decade in the NFL.
Perhaps the best case I can make for him is that he was a key cog on two Super Bowl teams, but he’s overshadowed there by John Elway. His yardage numbers aren’t impressive by themselves, but if you look at them in the context of his short career, they are impressive.
Maybe he belongs, but I don’t know. I do know that he’ll have a hard time getting in.
Smith was a good receiver on a mostly bad team. The Jaguars have never really had another receiver of note, so Smith has been impressive simply by being able to be so effective with so little around him.
He has over 12,000 yards. He has 69 touchdowns. He has over 850 receptions. He has two rings and five Pro Bowl selections.
He’s actually got the best case of anyone on this list, but he doesn’t have the wow. Both of his Super Bowl rings came from his time in Dallas when he wasn’t even on the field because of injury, so those don’t really count for his case.
He also is always going to be an afterthought because, in the generation he played in, he’s got a lot of great names ahead of him on the list. He may get in someday, but it probably won’t be soon.
Simms won two Super Bowls but only played in one of those games. He has the record for best completion percentage in the Super Bowl. He was a great player with the Giants, but he wasn’t anywhere near Hall of Fame caliber.
There’s a school that says quarterbacks have to win the Super Bowl to make the Hall of Fame. True or not, Simms has that.
But he was injured often and never was able to crack the Pro Bowl list consistently (two selections). He also has a career passer rating of 78.5, which has to count for something. There’s just nothing about Simms that jumps off the page besides the Super Bowl MVP award and there are plenty of guys who’ve won that who aren’t Hall of Fame worthy.