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Thoughts on Tony Dungy and the Hall of Fame

In the Hall of Very Good Mustaches

In the Hall of Very Good Mustaches

Tony Dungy was selected for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Dungy is the 23rd head coach selected to the Hall of Fame: among that group, who ranks 12th in wins with 139, 9th in winning percentage at .668, and 7th in wins over .500. Those are all impressive numbers, given the sample; the “worst” mark on his resume would be the lone championship, which places him in the bottom six among Hall of Fame coaches (John Madden and Sid Gillman each won one; George Allen, Marv Levy, and Bud Grant won zero titles).

Dungy entered the league in 1996. Excluding Bill Belichick, who is clearly the best coach of this era, where does Dungy rank among the other Super Bowl-winning head coaches? Is he the best choice for the Hall of Fame among this group?

Statistically speaking…. yes. Dungy ranks 5th in wins among this group, but first in winning percentage (in fact, his winning percentage is even higher than Belichick’s!). Perhaps most importantly, he ranks first in wins over .500, which blends raw wins and winning percentage. Coughlin and Shanahan have two rings, but both have combined to win just 52 games more than they have lost; Dungy himself is at +70. [click to continue…]


Today’s guest post comes from Adam Harstad, a co-writer of mine at Footballguys.com. You can follow Adam on twitter at @AdamHarstad.

On Saturday, the Hall of Fame selection committee will meet, lock themselves in a room, and debate the relative merits of the 15 modern-era finalists for induction. After an intense discussion, the results will be announced nationally as the final event in the festivities leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl.

While the list of 15 finalists includes several names who have been waiting longer than they should for their call, the one that stands out the most to me is Terrell Davis, who has been a semi-finalist more than anyone else in this year’s class, reaching the top 25 ten times in his ten years of eligibility.

Hopefully the Hall of Fame committee can manage to make room for him in what could easily be a stacked class. Whatever they do this Saturday, however, will not change one simple fact: Terrell Davis should have long ago been elected to the Hall of Fame. [click to continue…]


Patrick Willis and the Hall of Fame

There are six modern players in the Hall of Fame who primarily played the inside linebacker position.1 Ray Lewis will be number seven. Brian Urlacher, who retired the same year as Lewis, will likely be number eight. And Patrick Willis is now very likely to be number nine.

There is only one knock on Willis’ star-studded career: he played in just 112 games, spanning 8 seasons. But let’s compare Willis to the other six modern HOF inside linebackers (Mike Singletary, Nick Buoniconti, Jack Lambert, Harry Carson, Willie Lanier, and Dick Butkus), Lewis, and Urlacher. The best way I can think of to compare defensive players is through Approximate Value, the all-encompassing metric created by Pro-Football-Reference.com. I’ll leave it to a different writer to debate the merits of whether AV is an appropriate metric by which to measure Willis.

Through seven seasons, Willis accumulated 104 points of AV: he recorded 16 points as a rookie, then 13, 19, 15, 16, 16, and 10 in 2013. Those other eight inside linebackers averaged 83 points through seven seasons, which puts Willis’ remarkable start to his career in the proper light. In fact, other than Willis, just three defensive players have recorded over 100 points of AV through seven seasons: Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, and Alan Page. [click to continue…]

  1. AV goes back to 1960, so I am defining modern as players who entered the league in that season or later. That means we have to exclude Sam Huff, Ray Nitschke, Bill George, Joe Schmidt, Mike McCormack, Les Richter, Chuck Bednarik, and Bill Willis. []

Guest Post: An Argument For HOF Expansion

Bryan Frye is back with another fun guest post. Bryan, as you may recall, owns and operates his own great site at nflsgreatest.co.nf, where he focuses on NFL stats and history. You can view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link. You can follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.

What makes a Hall of Fame player in your opinion? Is it being in some arbitrary percentile grouping at his position? Perhaps it is a combination of stats and memorable moments. How about playoff performance? Maybe you give extra credit for champions. I certainly don’t know, and my personal Hall likely wouldn’t resemble yours. Any of those criteria you prefer, however, calls for an attendant expansion of the Hall of Fame.1

Arbitrary Percentile

One criterion people use to determine if a player belongs in the Hall of Fame discussion is his place relative to his contemporaries. If a quarterback or halfback is at or near the top of the league for a good portion of his career, he is almost guaranteed a bust in Canton.2 I’ve heard some analysts argue that the Hall should be reserved for the top 3-5% of players. If the top 3-5% (or any arbitrary percentage you choose) is your cutoff, then it follows that induction class sizes should increase to accommodate the increase in players. The 90th percentile of twelve starting quarterbacks includes one quarterback, whereas the 90th percentile of 32 starting quarterbacks includes three quarterbacks. Since the league has nearly thrice the teams it had fifty years ago, it makes sense to have a concomitant increase in class sizes. [click to continue…]

  1. Thanks to Adam Harstad, who was a great sounding board for my ideas and who probably helped keep this from being twice as long. []
  2. The same can’t be said for some positions. I don’t hear many people talking about the legacies of Kevin Williams, Nick Mangold, or Lance Briggs. []

2015 Hall of Fame Candidates

Tomorrow, the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be announced.  There are three first-year candidates that are finalists: Junior Seau, Kurt Warner, and Orlando Pace. This year, the Seniors’ Committee was only allowed to select one candidate, and that was Mick Tingelhoff; the former Vikings center will receive a simple up or down vote, and will not take a space from any of the 15 modern-era candidates (of which a maximum of five will be selected).

In addition, the Hall will open its doors to a special class of Contributors, who, like the Seniors’ choices, will receive a yes or no vote where 80% is required for induction. The choices this year are Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.   So we could have as many as eight members in the Class of 2015, and there’s a very good chance that we’ll have exactly that many.  While the Seniors’ Committee selection is not guaranteed induction, Tingelhoff is a strong candidate and I doubt he would have been chosen if they didn’t think he would be selected; ditto Polian and Wolf, and my guess is the “Contributor” choices will have a pretty easy time gaining entry most years.  Let’s take a look at all 18 candidates, courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference: [click to continue…]


Guest Post: Is Reggie Wayne a Hall of Famer?

Bryan Frye is back with another fun guest post.  Bryan, as you may recall, owns and operates his own great site at nflsgreatest.co.nf, where he focuses on NFL stats and history.  You can view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link.

A future HOFer?

A future HOFer?

Reggie Wayne has been in the news recently because Chuck Pagano called a pair of late-game pass plays in order to stretch Wayne’s streak of consecutive games with at least three receptions to 81 games.1 Frankly, I don’t care to criticize either of them for that. What I do want to do is acknowledge an impressive record from a great player and discuss whether or not he is likely to join fellow greats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.2

Hall of Fame voters don’t seem to care too much about advanced stats, so I won’t bother covering anything beyond simple box score numbers.3 What voters do seem to care about are counting stats and a good story, or a combination thereof. Without any more ado, let’s get into the stats and the narrative.

The Stats

Currently ranks 7th all-time in receptions, 8th all-time in receiving yards, and 22nd all-time in receiving touchdowns. I am making the assumption that he will play a few more years at a diminishing level until he retires. That will leave us with a few questions about his statistical merits.

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  1. That number has since grown to 82. []
  2. And yes, it is a very impressive streak, regardless of how it was achieved. According to Pro Football Reference, the second longest such streak is Cris Carter’s 58 from 1993-1997. []
  3. However, if you do want a more in depth look at receiving stats, check out Chase’s series on the greatest wide receivers of all time. []

Mick Tingelhoff is the 2015 Senior Committee Nominee

Another HOF battery?

Another HOF battery?

Dermontti Dawson is the only Hall of Fame center to play in the NFL in the last 20 years. Go back 30 years, and the only other HOF centers are Mike Webster and Dwight Stephenson. Go back a few more years, and you only get to add Jim Langer. In fact, since 1975, the only teams to have Hall of Fame centers were the Steelers and Dolphins.1

Go all the way back to 1960, and the only other Hall of Fame centers to play in the NFL were Jim Ringo and Jim Otto. In other words, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has a center problem. And the nomination of Mick Tingelhoff for induction into the HOF is one small step towards fixing that problem.

This year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has named Tingelhoff the 2015 Senior Committee Nominee.  Tingelhoff still needs to have 80% of the voters give him the thumbs up, but unlike other players, he won’t be “competing” against the rest of the field for the right to earn a bust. Tingelhoff’s candidacy will be handled via a simple yes or no vote.

Hall of Fame fans may wonder why I’m talking about the Senior nominee, because there are generally two nominees from the Senior Committee.  But things have changed for this year:

A bylaws modification to the selection process was approved earlier this month by which a Contributor – defined as an individual who has “made outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching” – will automatically be included among the annual list of finalists for election. The Contributor finalist will also be voted on for election independent of all other finalists.

The Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees, in an effort to address the backlog of deserving Contributor candidates, also approved a temporary measure allowing for two Contributor finalists in years one (starting with the Class of 2015), three and five, of the next five years. In years two and four of that same period, there will be just one Contributor finalist. To keep the maximum number of nominees elected at no more than eight per year, the Senior finalists will be reduced from two to one per year in years one, three and five of the same five-year period. In years two and four and each year thereafter, there will be two Senior finalists.

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  1. Yes, I know Webster’s career ended with the Chiefs and Langer’s with the Vikings. And that Bruce Matthews played a little bit of center, too. []

Most Hall of Famers on an NFL Team

Today’s trivia is a straightforward one: only one team in NFL history has fielded 11 players who are currently members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Can you name that team?

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show
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2014 Hall of Fame Candidates

Tonight, the newest members of the Class of 2014 will be announced. Here are the 15 finalists:

Rushing Receiving
Rk Name Pos From To AP1 PB St CarAV G Att Yds TD Lng Rec Yds TD Lng
1 Derrick Brooks LB 1995 2008 5 11 14 140 224
2 Marvin Harrison WR 1996 2008 3 8 12 124 190 10 28 0 15 1102 14580 128 80
3 Michael Strahan DE 1993 2007 4 7 14 121 216
4 Will Shields G 1993 2006 2 12 14 113 224 1 4 0 4
5 Aeneas Williams DB 1991 2004 3 8 13 106 211
6 Tim Brown WR 1988 2004 0 9 13 104 255 50 190 1 19 1094 14934 100 80
7 Andre Reed WR 1985 2000 0 7 14 98 234 75 500 1 46 951 13198 87 83
8 Walter Jones T 1997 2008 4 9 12 96 180
9 Kevin Greene LB 1985 1999 2 5 11 94 228
10 John Lynch DB 1993 2007 2 9 13 88 224 1 40 0 40
11 Charles Haley DE 1986 1999 2 5 8 84 169
12 Jerome Bettis RB 1993 2005 2 6 12 79 192 3479 13662 91 71 200 1449 3 34
13 Morten Andersen K 1982 2007 3 7 24 51 382
14 Edward Debartolo, Jr. Owner
15 Tony Dungy coach

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Harrison actually caught this pass.

Harrison actually caught this pass.

In a couple of weeks, the newest class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be announced. Only five modern-era wide receivers have been selected enshrinement on their first ballot: Jerry Rice, Paul Warfield, Steve Largent, Raymond Berry, and Lance Alworth. This year, in his first year of eligibility, Marvin Harrison is one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I suspect the majority will view Harrison as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but there are a few minority voices who disagree.

As best as I can surmise, there are three primary reasons why Harrison shouldn’t be selected in 2014. Two of those reasons can be addressed rather easily, but let’s start with the more complicated issue to analyze.

Harrison’s numbers are inflated because of Peyton Manning

Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver of all time. Rice was probably better at his position than any football player has ever been at theirs. Rice might be the most dominant sportsman of his generation. Rice probably isn’t in the discussion of greatest athletes in the history of mankind, which is about the only negative thing I’m willing to say about him. All of that is important background to say, being worse than Jerry Rice is not a negative, but just a fact of life as a wide receiver.
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The consensus view on John Elway is clear. He was the greatest draft prospect ever, a league MVP, a two-time Super Bowl champion, a Hall of Famer, and one of the most clutch quarterbacks in football history.

But that’s not necessarily what the numbers say. In my quarterback ranking system, which rewards efficiency and longevity and adjusts for era, Elway only ranked as the 26th best regular-season quarterback of all time. If you’re so inclined, it’s not hard to find the numbers to argue that Elway – at least until Mike Shanahan returned to Denver as head coach in 1995 — was overrated. Consider:

  • Over the first 10 years of his career, Elway threw 158 touchdowns and 157 interceptions.
  • Elway never led the NFL in passer rating, completion percentage, touchdowns, yards per attempt, or Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. Elway didn’t finish in the top ten in passer rating until his eleventh season in the league. In Net Yards per Attempt, Elway ranked in the top 10 just once from 1983 to 1994 (a first-place finish in ’87); in ANY/A, Elway’s only top ten finishes during his first ten seasons were in ’86 (10th) and ’87 (4th).
  • Elway ranks fourth all-time in passing yards, but that’s because he ranks fourth in career pass attempts. While he led the NFL in passing yards in 1993, Elway only finished in the top five in passing yards four times in his career: 1985 (2nd), 1987 (4th), 1990 (5th), and 1995 (5th).
  • Elway ranked 2nd in passing touchdowns in 1993, the only time he finished in the top 5 in that metric from 1983 to 1995. Despite throwing the fourth most pass attempts in NFL history, he ranks only 7th in passing touchdowns. In eight of sixteen seasons, including seven of his first ten years, Elway produced a below-average touchdown rate.

Here’s another interesting stat: from 1983 to 1992, the Broncos were slightly better on defense than offense. Over that time period, Denver’s Offensive SRS average was +1.01 while their Defensive SRS was +1.32. On average, the Broncos ranked 12th in points scored and 11th in points allowed. Those Denver teams are remembered as Elway’s teams — and perhaps rightly so — but the defense was just as valuable as the offense.1
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  1. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that the ’83-’92 Broncos won more games than their Pythagorean record would have predicted, so perhaps Elway was responsible for more wins than his passing numbers would indicate. []

Not the answer.

Not the answer.

Kurt Warner will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2 years, making him a potential member of the Class of 2015. Warner is an interesting candidate, and while I suspect he does get in on the first ballot, it’s certainly not a given. Warner won more than 8 games just four times in his career, and he had a relatively nondescript six-year stretch from 2002 to 2007.

But I suspect Warner makes it on his first try because he was a two-time AP MVP choice, he appeared in three Super Bowls, revived two franchises, and he used to bag groceries. Few have a story as incredible as Warner’s, and sportswriters seem to love the guy, so I don’t expect there to be too many hurdles. If he doesn’t get in on the first ballot, he’ll certainly get in eventually.

And that would be a pretty rare feat. Can you name the last quarterback to be selected to the Hall of Fame who was not as a first-ballot choice?

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

You are what your bust says you are

You are what your bust says you are.

The process took over eight hours this year, and according to Rick Gosselin, over one hour was spent on Bill Parcells alone. Another HOF voter, Tony Grossi, said that Parcells took 55 minutes and Art Modell was discussed for over a half hour, while Cris Carter and Jerome Bettis were the two most heavily-debated players.

When the committee concluded, they chose the following men as the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

That means owners Art Modell and Edward Debartolo, Jr., along with Jerome Bettis, Charles Haley, Kevin Greene, Will Shields, Andre Reed, Tim Brown, Aeneas Williams, and Michael Strahan will have to wait at least one more year. When the committee narrowed the list from fifteen modern-era candidates to ten, Modell, DeBartolo, Shields, Brown and Greene were the five eliminated. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Strahan, but the pain is likely short-lived: I suspect he’ll be pretty happy getting inducted next year when the Super Bowl is his old stomping grounds.

A note about Carter. There have been 22 wide receivers to enter the NFL since World War II and wind up in the Hall of Fame. It took Carter six years to finally make the HOF, but that places him right in the middle of the pack:

Jerry Rice198520041101318160303154922895197
Paul Warfield1964197712811105157427856585
Steve Largent197619891171410320081913089100
Raymond Berry1955196713613102154631927568
Lance Alworth1962197216710971365421026685
Charley Taylor196419772181396165649911079
Michael Irvin19881999315101051597501190465
James Lofton19781993518141022337641400475
Charlie Joiner1969198651316952397501214665
Fred Biletnikoff196519785261288190589897476
Cris Carter198720026281398234110113899139
Elroy Hirsch19461957623973127387702960
Art Monk1980199581314932249401272168
Don Maynard19581973914131001866331183488
Tom Fears1948195691164887400539738
Bobby Mitchell1958196810141095148521795465
John Stallworth1974198710141080165537872363
Pete Pihos1947195510561173107373561961
Lynn Swann197419821413862115336546251
Dante Lavelli1946195614031147123386648862
Tommy McDonald19571968SS06975152495841084
Bob Hayes19651975SS23883132371741471

Not doing a squirrel dance.

Not doing a squirrel dance.

On Sunday, I looked at how the football legacies of certain Ravens would be affected by a win in Super Bowl XLVII; today I will do the same for the 49ers. And the best place to start is with the only surefire Hall of Famer on the team.

Randy Moss turns 36 in a couple of weeks, and he’s caught just 56 passes over the last three years. Super Bowl XLVII may not be his final game, but it probably will be Moss’ last chance to give us one final “Randy Moss” moment. Moss will one day be in the Hall of Fame, despite the fact that he rubbed many fans, sportswriters, teammates, coaches, owners, and a few referees the wrong way. But Moss is a six-time Pro Bowler, a four-time first-team AP All-Pro, and ranks 9th in career receptions, 3rd in career receiving yards, and 2nd in career receiving touchdowns. He’s had 64 100-yard games in his career, second only to Jerry Rice. He’s produced despite a relatively unstable quarterback situation for much of his career (admittedly, some of this was due to Moss): over one-third of his career receiving yards came from Daunte Culpepper, and no other single quarterback was responsible for even twenty percent of his yards. When he finally got a HOF-caliber quarterback, Moss broke the single-season record for receiving touchdowns in a season. But even before New England and Tom Brady, Moss had established himself as one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. If the 49ers win on Sunday, he’ll be like a modern Lance Alworth, who won a forgettable ring with the Dallas Cowboys in 1971.

It’s fitting that Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis are in the Super Bowl together. Willis was only 11 years old when Lewis entered the NFL, and Willis has modeled his game and his uniform number after Lewis. And in turn, if any linebacker has resembled Lewis over the last decade, it’s Willis, and there will be a figurative passing of the torch on Sunday. Even if he isn’t the next Ray Lewis, Willis has paved his own path towards Canton: he has been a first-team All-Pro choice by the Associated Press in five of his first six seasons. Lawrence Taylor, Eric Dickerson, Jerry Rice, Gale Sayers, and Reggie White are the only other NFL players since 1960 to be selected as a first-team AP All-Pro five or more times in their first six seasons. Absent a serious injury or a shocking career turn, Willis will one day be a Hall of Famer himself, but it sure can’t hurt to add a Lombardi Trophy to the resume.
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Lewis looks to cement his legacy

Lewis looks to cement his legacy.

Being a Super Bowl champion is a pretty nice bullet to place on your Hall of Fame resume. For players like Jerry Rice or Peyton Manning (or say, Steve Largent or Dan Marino), the failure to acquire a ring wouldn’t have prevented their induction; on the other hand, would Lynn Swann or Paul Hornung or a host of quarterbacks have made the HOF without a Super Bowl ring (or two, or three, or four?)

Just winning a Super Bowl guarantees nothing — Charles Haley and his five rings are on the outside looking in, as is Fuzzy Thurston, winner of six NFL titles. The borderline cases are the ones most helped or hurt by that Lombardi Trophy (or lack thereof) on the resume, and that class of players seems to be among the largest growing segment each year. So today, I’m going to take a look at how winning the Super Bowl could impact the legacies of certain Ravens.

Ray Lewis is a first ballot Hall of Famer regardless of what happens in Super Bowl XLVII, although his status as the game’s best inside linebacker of all-time might be boosted with a second Lombardi. The Ravens have been on a magical “Ride with Ray” and he’s been the face of a defense that’s turned from average in the regular season to excellent in the playoffs.

Ed Reed is another obvious Hall of Famer, even though unlike Lewis he was not a member of the 2000 Ravens teams that won the Super Bowl. Still, considering Troy Polamalu has appeared in three and won two of these games, Reed’s resume will look slightly less glamorous if he never is able to win a Super Bowl. And while it isn’t particularly relevant here, but I’ll just note that from 2005 to 2007, Bob Sanders made them a “Big Three” at the position, when Sanders won both a Super Bowl and a Defensive Player of the Year award. All three have battled injuries, showing just how dangerous the safety position can be in the NFL.
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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced the nominees for the Class of 2013:

John Lynch, Michael Strahan, Steve McNair and Morten Andersen are among 13 first-year eligible players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Safety Lynch, defensive end Strahan, quarterback McNair and kicker Andersen join offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and 121 other total nominees for induction. The list will be whittled to 25 semifinalists in late November.

Fifteen finalists from the modern era will be announced in early January, with elections taking place Feb. 2, 2013, the day before the Super Bowl.

Between four and seven new members will be selected, with inductions next August.

Other first-time nominees are running back Priest Holmes, wide receiver Keenan McCardell, center Tom Nalen, defensive tackles Sam Adams and Ted Washington and defensive end Bryant Young.

Among the contributors nominated are former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and longtime team owners Bud Adams of the Tennessee Titans and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots. Former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, who died this month, also is a nominee.

Other holdover nominees include receivers Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown, running back Jerome Bettis, guard Will Shields, defensive end Charles Haley, linebacker Kevin Greene and defensive back Aeneas Williams, all finalists for the 2012 class.

Sapp is shocked to learn that a bronze bust of him is not technically an asset.

As you may recall, the two senior nominees, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson, were announced last month. On the modern era side, I’d be shocked if the Hall’s selectors did not use their maximum allotment and select five players.

This could be a particularly enjoyable class for fans of the trench battles. There have only been two classes with four lineman. In 2001, Mike Munchak, Jackie Slater, Ron Yary and Jack Youngblood were inducted, while this past year, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf took center stage.

At first blush, Will Shields seems like a likely selection, as the only explanation I can come up with as to why he wasn’t selected last year was that some didn’t feel he deserved “first-ballot” status. With 12 Pro Bowls, Shields will soon have a bust in Canton. Among the first-time selections, Larry Allen (11 Pro Bowls, 6 first-team All-Pros from the Associated Press) and Jonathan Ogden (11, 4) seem like the safest bets.

On the defensive side, I can see a polarizing player like Warren Sapp having to wait, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Michael Strahan and Sapp inducted in 2013. Or it’s possible that Charles Haley or Kevin Greene finally get over the hump. Add in Curley Culp’s likely induction, and this could be the heaviest HOF class of all-time.