Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer are the two Seniors Nominees for the Hall of Fame this year. The man known as “Dr. Doom” was a great outside linebacker for the Houston Oilers, and is remembered as the first great pass rusher from the 3-4 position. In fact, it was Brazile who helped create the position that Lawrence Taylor made famous — as Jene Bramel once noted, he was “LT” before Taylor came into the league. The 3-4 defense entered the NFL in 1974, with Bum Phillips in Houston being one of the early proponents. In 1975, the Oilers used the 6th overall pick on Brazile, who became an instant star. He was a first-team All-Pro by at least one major publication in each year from ’76 to ’80 under Phillips, but there are three reasons why Brazile never made it to the Hall of Fame.
- Sack totals were not kept during his time, which made it hard to quantify his strong play.
- He only played for 10 years, which is relatively short for a Hall of Famer.
- He didn’t play for great defenses.
Thanks to the great John Turney, we do have unofficial sack totals for Brazile. He had 48 in his career; although that’s not a remarkable number, Brazile was not just a pass rusher. He was an all-around linebacker with strong coverage skills and was regarded as strong against the run.
The third item is the most interesting one. We know that Bum Phillips was a great defensive coach, at least by reputation. And we know that the Oilers had not just Brazile, but two Hall of Famers on defense: Elvin Bethea and Curley Culp starred at RDE and NT, respectively, for Houston, and each was 29-34 years of age from ’75 to ’80. That *should* have been enough to produce a great defense, right? Except, it didn’t. The Oilers ranked 11th, 10th, 14th, 17th, 13th, and 5th in yards allowed and 5th, 17th, 14th, 16th, 16th, and 2nd in points allowed during those years, when the NFL had only 28 teams (and 26 in 1975). In terms of estimated DVOA, the Oilers ranked 6th, 10th, 4th, 20th, 4th, and 10th — which isn’t bad, but it’s not exactly notable for a team with three Hall of Famers and Phillips. [click to continue…]