Spots in the NFL Hall-of-Fame are reserved for the best of the best. They are reserved for those athletes who dedicated their entire lives to their craft and somehow managed to rise above the rest. The odds of players having a Hall-of-Fame caliber career are slim. The chances of actually being selected are even less. However, if the players have the right mix of talent, heart and luck, they may one day sport the coveted gold jacket.
Determining the odds an NFL player will make the Hall is difficult. Every year a Selection Committee--comprising of 46 media members from around the United States--gather like a fellowship to elect new Hall-of-Fame members. The Committee doesn't have to meet a quota when determining entrants as they can select any number of players, but have usually elected between six and seven dating back to 2005. The largest class the Committee inducted was in 1963, which held 17 members.
The selection process is strenuous and seemingly random, as you can see by the following list. Unlike Baseball, numbers don't always determine an NFL's players chance to be inducted, although, yes it plays a big part. Players like Greg Lloyd and Terrell Davis didn't destroy the record books. Other players may have been great on the field, but even better off it, which helps their candidacy. I suppose in Baseball, this would be called padding the numbers. So maybe, after all, there are similarities between the sport's selection process...but I digress.
In any case, padding the numbers makes the process tedious, sometimes biased and most certainly not always fair. Some questionable players have entered the Hall, while many deserving players have been left out. And it is the latter that will examine today. Again, I did not use a statistical formula to determine who should make the cut, but you will notice that each player is examined on an individual basis and often compared with others at their position who did make it. While this may not be the most fair representation of a worthy candidate, it may be the best we have.
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20 Greg Lloyd, Sr., LB
Is it really a surprise that Lloyd is not in the Hall-of-Fame already? He never got along with the media, which may also explain why he was not selected to the 1990's Team of the Decade. However, based on Lloyd's overall body of work in the field, he is should be wearing the gold jacket. He was a feared player who had a knack to pressure the quarterback and then drop into coverage. He was also selected to five straight Pro Bowls from 1991-1995.
19 Sam Mills, LB
Mills is an interesting case study, because one could argue for his candidacy based more on his overall body of work in the world of football. Mills was an undersized linebacker out of Montclair State who had to join the failing USFL in 1983 after being cut by the Browns and the CFL's Toronto Argonauts. After the USFL's closure, he played 12 seasons in the NFL and racked up 1,319 tackles. He is a member of Louisiana's Sports Hall of Fame and New Jersey's Hall of Fame. More importantly, the NFL honored Mills with the Johnny Unitas Tops in Courage Award for his brave, but ultimately fatal fight with cancer.
18 Cliff Harris, S
Harris changed the way safeties played. Originally, they played deep and liked to collect interceptions. Harris altered that perception when he played both safety and linebacker, crouching up to the line of scrimmage to make the big hit on the unsuspecting receiver. Nicknamed "Captain Crush," Harris was a player who hit his way to six Pro Bowls, four First Time All Pro selections, and the 1970's All-Decade Team. He was a 2004 Hall-of-Fame Finalist.
17 Bob Kuechenberg, G
An eight-time finalist, Kuechenberg is out of chances to enter the Hall-of-Fame as a regular candidate. He now has to enter the Hall-of-Fame as a member of the Senior Committee, which selects two candidates each year. Keuchenberg was a beast along the offensive line. He once had a 10-inch metal rod inserted into his broken forearm so he could play in Super Bowl VIII. Doctors advised otherwise. He was part of the Dolphins' 1972 undefeated season and won back-to-back Super Bowls with the team.
16 Terrell Davis, RB
While there is a strong case against Davis' Hall-of-Fame candidacy, an even stronger one should be made for it. Davis played only seven seasons in the NFL, before injuries took their toll. However, other Hall-of-Fame running backs like Gale Sayers and Earl Campbell also only played seven and eight years respectively. Time spent in the NFL shouldn't be the deciding factor. Instead, look at Davis' overall body of work. Davis and Campbell both rushed for over over 6,000 yards during their first four years, and like Campbell, Davis also trailed off during the later stretches of his career. Yet, the former still received the nod.
15 Karl Mecklenburg, LB
His strong work ethic helped him get drafted in the 12th round of the 1984 draft, and his high motor helped him become the leader of the Broncos' defense--a defense that allowed the fewest points in 1989. Mecklenburg is also easily the most versatile player on this list as in 1985, he played all seven defensive front positions. The former Broncos' captain was also selected to six pro bowls, and he appeared in three Super Bowls with Denver.
14 Cornelius Bennett, LB
Bennett was an unsung hero on the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s. Playing behind Bruce Smith would overshadow anyone, but when you look closer at Bennett's career you can see that he stepped out of the shadows. In 14 NFL seasons, Bennett was elected to the Pro Bowl five times, and he played in four Super Bowls. He also racked up 1,190 tackles and recovered 27 fumbles. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
13 Tim Brown, WR
For 16 years, Brown dominated secondaries, amassing over 1,000 receptions and nearly 15,000 yards. The latter statistic is good enough for second all-time behind Jerry Rice. From the time Brown first set foot on the field until he walked off it in the mid-2000s, he electrified fans. And he entertained without a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. However, for those who want to argue that his receiving numbers aren't quite good enough, Brown added a layer of versatility that guys like Marvin Harrison and Chris Carter failed to do, by also returning punts and kicks.
12 Nate Newton, G
Newton may have been former Redskins' head coach Joe Gibbs worst mistake. That is, Gibbs cut the undrafted rookie in 1983, and the Guard eventually found a home on the Cowboys' roster. Newton would have been the perfect fit for Gibbs' monstrous offensive line called "The Hogs." Newton would help propel many Cowboys' into the Hall of Fame, but he's still waiting for his ticket.
11 Roger Craig, RB
The one knock against Craig might have nothing to do with his football ability. Critics cite the main reason Craig is not in the Hall of Fame is because they believe he was a product of the other Hall of Famers around him. Craig played with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and was coached by Bill Walsh. He also doesn't have mind-blowing stats. However, he was arguably the first successful dual-threat running back, which helped carry Walsh's west-coast offense. Craig was a finalist for the Hall-of Fame in 2010.
10 Isiah "Butch" Robertson, LB
The main reason voters overlook Robertson is because he joined the Rams when the "Fearsome Four" and other legendary defensive players were still on the team. However, as those players faded away, Robertson stepped in. He replaced another Hall-of-Fame worthy candidate, Maxie Baughanm, when he retired. Robertson was named to the Pro Bowl six times and elected the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. In 12 seasons, the linebacker recorded 25 interceptions and scored 3 touchdowns.
9 Charlie Hennigan, WR
The argument against Hennigan is that his NFL career lasted a short seven years due to knee problems. However, when you look closer at his statistics, you'd be amazed at what he did during those seven years in an era better suited for the running back.
Hennigan became a legend in the old AFL, amassing a record 1,746 receiving yards during his second season on a 14-game schedule. Jerry Rice and Issac Bruce broke the record an incredible 34 years later on a 16-game schedule. Hennigan was also the first receiver to surpass 100 receptions in a season, and he became the first to have two seasons of 1,500-yards in a career.
8 Deron Cherry, S
Cherry, one of the Kansas City Chiefs' most popular players, had a celebrated career as a punter turned ferocious safety. Yes, that actually happened. Cherry entered the NFL as a rookie free agent punter, but his disappointing training camp prompted coach Marv Levy to cut him. Cherry protested and begged to switch positions. Levy agreed, and the rest is history. It should've been a Hall-of-Fame worthy decision on both men's parts. Cherry is a five-time All Pro and six time Pro Bowler who made 50 interceptions.
7 Marvin Harrison, WR
Was it Harrison who helped make Peyton Manning a perennial all-star or the other way around? Answering that question may determine the reason why Harrison should or shouldn't deserve a Hall-of-Fame nomination. During Manning's second season with the Colts, Harrison caught a then personal record of 1,663 yards and 12 touchdowns. He'd follow up that performance with seven straight seasons of at least 1,100 yards and ten or more touchdowns, and finished his career with 14,580 receiving yards, 1,102 receptions and 128 receptions.
6 Will Shields, G
"Will Shields will get into the Hall of Fame. Likely next year. Definitely in the next few years," said Randy Covitz, Kansas City's representative to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors. During his first year of eligibility, Shields had some hefty competition in guards Larry Allen and Jonothan Ogden. However, Covitz said that when he made Shield's presentation this year, more representatives discussed the guard's candidacy. His longevity (14 years in the NFL and 224 consecutive starts), skill to excel in the West Coast offense, and community outreach will ultimately help Shields get in.
5 Kevin Greene, LB
Many believe Greene isn't in the Hall-of-Fame because he lacked versatility. In other words, he was a one-trick pony who collected sacks, but failed to do much else. When did we stop recognizing players for what they excelled at? Tom Brady can throw touchdowns and lead game-winning drives, but he can't run. Is he any less of a Hall-of-Fame quarterback? For you Patriot haters, let me help you here...the answer is no. In 15 seasons with four different teams and likely many more defensive schemes, Greene piled up 160 sacks--27 with the Carolina Panthers during his last two seasons in the league. He's 3rd all time in career sacks, making his omission quite strange.
4 Kurt Warner, QB
The debate for Warner's candidacy has raged on since he retired following the 2009 season. The main question is this: Had Warner done enough in his 11-year career to warrant a Hall-of-Fame induction? Those who argue he didn't often cite how the Giants relegated Warner to a backup role mid-way through the 2004 season. However, Warner's supporter rebuttal by arguing that he had actually done enough during the season to remain their starter, and the Giants were more in a rush to put in rookie Eli Manning. Beginning his career at 28-years old, Warner had an uphill battle to climb from the start, but he still managed to bring two teams to three Super Bowls, winning one. Further, he was elected to the Pro Bowl four times and twice as a First-Team All-Pro.
3 Jerome Bettis, RB
Bettis capped off his career with a Super-Bowl ring, but that may not be the most interesting aspect of his last season on the gridiron. Because the Steelers had begun to phase him out of their offense, he ran for only 360 total yards that season. Yet, "The Bus" had some gas left for the playoffs and ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns. The reliable Bettis racked up 13,662 career rushing yards and 91 touchdowns and ran for nearly four yards per carry. He was a finalist for the Hall of Fame in 2011 and 2012.
2 Lester Hayes, CB
Hayes was a master cornerback who specialized in using bump-and-run coverage to suffocate his receivers. His physical play likely evolved from his college days when he played linebacker. While with the Raiders, "The Judge," as Hayes was known, recorded 39 career interceptions and notched five career Pro Bowl selections. He was also selected to the 1980's All-Decade Team. Hayes was a Hall-of-Fame finalist in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
1 L.C. Greenwood, DE
Greenwood has flirted with the Hall-of-Fame six times, but has never been enshrined. He was a finalist in 1991, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2005 and 2006. A member of the renowned "Steel Curtain," Greenwood made 6 Pro Bowls and won 4 Super Bowls. Former teammates have spoken out against Greenwood not being selected saying they believe it's because voters are biased. "I've...heard people say, "What are we gonna do, build a wing out here for all of the Steelers from back then?" said Jack Ham.
For Greenwood, I'd say, why not?
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