22 NFL Hall of Famers Who Don't Deserve to Be in Canton
When this assignment first reached my mailbox my initial thoughts were that I was going to upset a lot of fans. However, I've become quite good at that over the last few weeks, as any article that doesn't project absolute success for a team will draw the ire of a lot of fan bases.
I may have normally passed on this review, but there was a late cancellation and B/R wanted to have this article out following Hall of Fame weekend. I decided it would be a fun project to tackle.
The most important step was to determine what the guidelines are for contributors being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With a special thank you to Peter King of Sports Illustrated:
"We are asked to abide by the Hall's selection criteria, which includes taking into account, only in the case of players, what a player did on the field; and in the case of coaches or contributors, only what they did on and around the game that influenced the game."
With that in mind, I will avoid most concerns with off-field issues. Character won't be an issue; simply what did this individual do to make the game of football better for players, coaches, franchises and especially the fans.
As for the actual selection process (use the link for more information):
"The Committee consists of one media representative from each pro football city with two from New York, inasmuch as that city has two teams in the National Football League. A 33rd member is a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America and there are 11 at-large delegates."
Senior Nominees That Played After 1967
There is some room for the senior nominees in the balloting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After all, the Hall didn't start until 1963, and the players that were at the forefront of the league deserve some respect. There are a lot of great stories of the pioneers of professional football.
However, the idea that a Super Bowl-era player was overlooked for 15 years, but was still good enough to be considered for the Hall of Fame, is difficult to accept.
If Pro Football wants to recognize players that weren't good enough to make it when they were eligible as a normal nominee, then perhaps they need a special wing for the senior recipients.
Chris Hanburger, LB, Washington Redskins: 2011
Chris Hanburger entered the Hall this past weekend, much to the dismay of some fans.
"I got into it with no fanfare and I got out of it with no fanfare," Hanburger said. "To me, it was a job and I was just going to do it to the best of my ability until it was over and move on. I never ever gave any thought to being in the hall of fame."
Hanburger isn't the only one who didn't give any thought to him joining the Hall.
He did have nine Pro Bowl appearances during his 14-year career, and grabbed 19 INTs.
However, Hanburger didn't do enough to separate himself to be elected prior to becoming a senior candidate. 2011 was the first time he was even a finalist.
Dick LeBeau, DB, Detroit Lions: 2010
To be clear, I'm not saying Dick LeBeau doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. I'm saying he doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame yet and should enter as a coach, not a player.
It is hard to imagine those voting on the entrants last year really differentiated between LeBeau the player and LeBeau the defensive master-mind of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is certainly one of the most talented defensive minds to ever walk a sideline.
However, LeBeau did very little during his playing days to deserve enshrinement. He played 14 seasons, making just three Pro Bowls.
LeBeau did notch an impressive 62 interceptions, but he was the fourth-best player in the Detroit Lions' secondaries on which he played, included Dick "Night Train" Lane, Yale Lary and Lem Barney. His stats were aided by the rest of the defense.
I am far from alone in feeling LeBeau didn't earn his spot as a player, He had to wait until being eligible as a senior member, missing the mark when judged as a contemporary. He didn't earn his stripes as a player; it was his proficiency as a coach that gained him notoriety, as he wasn't even a finalist when voted on as a "modern era" player.
Russ Grimm, OL, Washington Redskins: 2010
One of the original hogs, Russ Grimm played on three Super Bowl winning teams. He became an instant starter in Washington and made four Pro Bowls early in his career.
Those are the highlights for Grimm, who likely rode his coaching success and association with the hogs to his Hall of Fame induction. That, and three Super Bowl wins.
However, there are a few notable issues with Grimm. First, he wasn't a full-time starter for a decent part of his career. In fact, he wasn't a starter in two of the three Super Bowl wins.
Of his 140 NFL games, he started in 114. While that is a decent percentage, that is almost two full seasons of not being good enough to start. It makes it hard to argue that the third-best guard on the team is worthy of making it into the Hall of Fame.
Bob Hayes, WR, Dallas Cowboys: 2009
Bob Hayes was a solid, speedy wide receiver that played in three Pro Bowls and helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl VI. However, none of that was enough to get him into the Hall of Fame prior to becoming eligible as a senior nominee, and he was a finalist just once (2004) prior.
Hayes had 371 career receptions, good for 222nd on the all-time list. He added 71 receiving TDs (30th all-time) while rushing for two more. He had an impressive 20.0 yards per reception, which ties for 11th with Bill Groman.
But Hayes surpassed 1,000 yards receiving just twice, his first two seasons in the league. Very little on his resume reveals a Hall of Fame-worthy player.
Fred Dean, DE, San Diego Chargers/San Francisco 49ers: 2008
Fred Dean is a questionable addition to this list, but I find him far less-deserving than several other DEs that have been snubbed by the Hall of Fame. Dean made just four Pro Bowls in 11 seasons, with an unofficial sack total of 93.
Those aren't bad numbers, but it is likely the two Super Bowl championships that catapulted him to Canton over other players, such as Chris Doleman (eight Pro Bowls and 150 sacks).
Andre Tippett, LB, New England Patriots: 2008
How many fans remember the contributions of Andre Tippett in New England? Not as many as one might think.
Again, Tippett was a solid rush LB, amassing 100 sacks in his 11 seasons. Over one-third of them came in two seasons early in his career, though. He had one career interception and forced a total of zero fumbles.
Tippett had two great seasons, and did play in five Pro Bowls. However, he did not have the continued success that a player needs to validate enshrinement.
Art Monk, WR, Washington Redskins: 2008
If there was a Hall of Fame for longevity, Art Monk would be a first ballot winner. But there isn't...at least not in the NFL.
Monk had a very solid NFL career and I don't want to diminish his accomplishments. He managed to play 16 seasons at a demanding position. However, he managed just three Pro Bowls during that time.
Monk's career marks put him 14th in receiving yards and 11th in receptions. He is 35th in TDs. However, those numbers are inflated due to the number of games he played.
While Monk should be commended for his longevity, that just isn't enough. He had just one elite season and voters got it right the first seven years Monk was a finalist, but didn't make it to Canton. But Monk did play in three Super Bowls, which is a recurring theme.
Roger Wehrli, CB, St. Louis Cardinals: 2007
This was the draft class that started a lot of head-scratching. While Roger Wehrli was a solid corner, he was hardly seen as elite during his tenure or the 25 years since he quit playing.
There is a defined need for the senior nominations, as many deserving players are overlooked during their initial nomination years. However, how does a player that wasn't really considered step up and enter the back door of the Hall?
There are a lot of more deserving players, and it is past time for voters to hold the senior nominees to the same rigors of modern nominees.
Charlie Sanders, TE, Detroit Lions: 2007
This won't be the last tight end to make this list. However, Charlie Sanders is the one that was voted into the Hall of Fame after Shannon Sharpe became eligible. Not that I'm a Shannon Sharpe fan, but he is one of the better TEs to play the game.
Sanders won't be making a top-10 list of TEs anytime soon and his career numbers don't turn many heads. The TE position was already transitioning from a blocker to a player that was also valuable in the passing game, so the deference given to John Mackey won't be passed on to Sanders.
Harry Carson, LB, New York Giants: 2006
I understand that Harry Carson was an emotional guy. He left a lot on the field of play, and had nine Pro Bowl appearances in 13 seasons. He also seemed to step up his game when it really mattered and was a key member of the Super Bowl XXI Championship team.
However, Carson seems to be another player that got into the Hall because of a Super Bowl win. There are better players without a title that have been left out.
But my biggest issue with Carson was his manner of lobbying. I followed the 2006 ballots more closely than usual, as I really wanted to see Warren Moon make the Hall.
That is when I heard Carson take his begs and pleas to the media. A player should not lobby for inclusion to the Hall of Fame, nor should he have been rewarded for hit. As glad as I was to see Moon on the right side of the decisions, 2006 was a watershed year for concerns with voting.
Rayfield Wright, OT, Dallas Cowboys: 2006
Obviously, Rayfield Wright was a talented offensive tackle. He was named to the 1970's All-Decade Team and was the right tackle (during the 70's, right tackle was more important than left tackle) for two Super Bowl teams.
He earned six Pro Bowl selections in 14 seasons, which is my biggest issue with Wright. He didn't have the same level of prolonged success that other offensive linemen have sustained.
Perhaps the Hall of Fame voters got this one right the first 21 years Wright was eligible.
After placing four members into the Hall each of the prior two years, 2006 began a dubious stretch of entrants...starting with Wright.
Dave Casper, TE, Oakland Raiders: 2002
Yes...another tight end makes the list.
Casper had decent overall numbers, but by 1974, TEs were being used more in the passing game. Casper only had four seasons with more than 50 receptions and averaged just over 30 catches a year. He had 5,216 yards and 52 TDs from 378 career catches.
These were solid stats, and his 62 catches in 1978 were more than Lynn Swann ever hauled in. However, he falls short compared to other TEs of the era (Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow).
Dan Hampton, DE, Chicago Bears: 2002
Dan Hampton's presence in the Hall of Fame bothers me for the same reasons as Fred Dean.
The part that really bothers me here, though, is Hampton played second-fiddle on that defensive line that led the Bears to a win in Super Bowl XX. Richard Dent (along with William Perry) was the standout performer on that line, but his bust was yet to make its way onto Canton's stage.
Hampton split time at defensive end and tackle, which could have hampered his Pro Bowl selections (he had four). But he also failed to put up respectable sack totals, with just 57 over his 12-year career.
He had a few solid seasons, but failed to put up the consistent performances that should put him in the Hall over other defensive linemen.
Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: 2001
As if Steelers' fans weren't already upset that I picked Baltimore to win the division in 2011, I now have the gall to list Lynn Swann as an undeserving member in the Hall of Fame.
However, I'm not alone. After all, he was eligible for the Hall the same year as his jersey (88 for those of you playing at home). He didn't get the nod until 2001. There must have been at least a few dissenters.
To be fair to Swann, he was one of the most graceful receivers to play the game. He also had one of the most memorable Super Bowl performances ever, gaining 161 yards on just four catches and earning Super Bowl MVP honors. He also played great in Super Bowl XIII, gaining 124 yards on seven catches and a TD.
However, style and two great games in the Super Bowl are hardly what Hall of Fame careers are built upon.
Swann was selected for three Pro Bowls. He had 336 receptions for 5,462 yards and 51 TDs in nine seasons.
His career highs came in 1978, with 61 catches for 880 yards and 11 TDs. Six players had more receptions and yards that season.
He never finished in the top five in receptions or yards, though. If he couldn't separate himself from the other receivers of his era, how does he earn his way to Canton?
Some will argue that he was playing second-fiddle to John Stallworth. I don't buy the argument, though, as Swann's coverage was reflective of being the second receiver on the team. We've seen plenty of No. 2 or even third receivers put up great stats over the years.
Dan Dierdorf, OT, St. Louis Cardinals: 1996
Really? How exactly did a really good offensive tackle on a bad Cardinals football team make it into the Hall of Fame?
It took Dan Dierdorf three seasons and a backup at guard and left tackle before he was able to crack the starting lineup. He then had six Pro Bowls in his 13-year career, hardly ground-breaking.
Dierdorf made a name for himself as a broadcaster, joining the Monday Night Football team in 1987. Similar to LeBeau, Dierdorf likely moved into the Hall based on performances that came after his playing days.
Jackie Smith, TE, St. Louis Cardinals: 1994
This is a simple decision for me. There are only eight tight ends in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and one of them is named Smith and only one is named Sharpe.
To be fair, Jackie Smith was a very good tight end. He made five Pro Bowls at a time that the tight end was really becoming a part of passing offenses.
Smith had 480 career receptions for 7,918 yards and 40 TDs. Those numbers were better than fellow TE Charlie Sanders, but Sanders was a better blocker. I'm tempted to add John Mackey, but he was the star TE of that era.
However, Shannon Sharpe had 65 TDs and led the NFL in receptions three times and receiving TDs twice.
John Riggins, RB, New York Jets/Washington Redskins: 1992
John Riggins is a tough player to add to this list, as he did accomplish a lot during his career. I enjoyed watching him play and appreciated his hard-nosed style of play, making it even more difficult to add him.
One item of note with Riggins is a theme that follows a lot of other players on this list. He was similar to other players that didn't make the Hall (Christian Okoye, for example), but he was part of a team that won a Super Bowl.
Riggins put up decent stats, posting five 1,000-yard seasons. However, he also averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and 64.9 yards per game. These are average at best. He never completely separated himself from his peers, demonstrated by his lone Pro Bowl appearance. With Riggins, you have a very good player that rode a Super Bowl win to Canton.
Jan Stenerud, K, Kansas City Chiefs: 1991
I think it is fair to say that Jan Stenerud made his way into the Hall because he was one of the first kickers that brought that funny-looking soccer kick fad to the NFL. That has to be the reason, doesn't it?
Stenerud's stats were never that great. By today's standards, he'd be struggling to keep a job. He did excel in long kicks, hitting 17 greater than 50 yards in his 19 seasons. However, he was a career 66.8 percent kicker and surpassed the 70 percent accuracy mark in just four of his seasons.
Some kicker had to be first to make the Hall based solely on his sole...it was just odd to see Stenerud as that kicker.
Bob Griese, QB, Miami Dolphins: 1990
Yes, the Miami Dolphins won two Super Bowls with Bob Griese at the QB position. However, what level of responsibility can be tacked to Griese's legacy for those wins?
The Dolphins ran a ball control offense, leaning heavily on a power rushing attack.
His passing numbers would be looked at as insignificant in today's terms, and weren't overly impressive during the 1980's. He had a career passer rating of 77.1, which just gets him in the top 75 in NFL history. Griese never surpassed a meager measure of 2,500 yards passing in a season.
Griese entered the Hall because of his leadership, but that is a hard measure when looking at his on-field production.
Frank Gatski,C, Cleveland Browns: 1985
It took Frank Gatski over 20 years to get the nod from Canton. During that time period, he was a finalist only once.
I'm not trying to say Gatski wasn't great. We've all heard of the Great Gad...wait. Wrong story. Still, Gatski was an important part of some great Browns' teams.
However, he wasn't elite at the time and shouldn't have been seen as such in 1985. He was a part of just one Pro Bowl, which is quite lacking in comparison.
Joe Namath, QB, New York Jets: 1985
Has anyone else wondered why, if Joe Namath was such a great quarterback, he wasn't a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee? I did...so I took a closer look at his statistics.
I know...some will say Joe was larger than life and the face of the franchise. His guarantee in Super Bowl III set him apart from other QBs. He needed something to set him apart, because his on-field performances certainly didn't do it. But thinking back to the first slide, it is precisely what is done on the field of play that should determine a player's consideration for the Hall.
As for his stats...Namath had a career record of 62-63-4, so he doesn't make it in on the Charlie Sheen factor (winning).
He completed more than half of his passes just five times in his 13 year career, with a career mark of 50.1 percent. He did have 173 TDs in 140 games, but also threw 220 picks.
As for Namath's passer rating...his career mark of 65.5 has him right below Norm Snead in 145th place.
Namath did have three good seasons, but precisely how did his on-field performances lead to induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
This shows once again...players need to win Super Bowls to have a good shot at making it to Canton without buying a bus ticket.