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Congrats to the Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Tune in tonight for the 2016 HOF Class Enshrinement

The 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony is tonight.

Congrats to the 2016 Hall of Fame Class, that will be inducted tonight. We spend a lot of time debating and talking about someone’s Hall of Fame worthiness, but today is a day to celebrate and honor some of the game’s best players. We have an 8-person class being enshrined tonight:

This is a great class, of course, just like every other year.  With so many deserving Hall of Fame candidates and a large backlog, we’re getting excellent classes every year.  Brett Favre is one of the best quarterbacks in pro football history: here is what Brad Oremland had to say about Favre last year:

9. Brett Favre
Atlanta Falcons, 1991; Green Bay Packers, 1992-2007; New York Jets, 2008; Minnesota Vikings, 2009-10
71,838 yards, 508 TD, 336 INT, 86.0 rating

From 1994-98, Brett Favre passed for over 30 touchdowns every year. The only other player with five consecutive 30-TD seasons is Drew Brees (and Peyton Manning, if you omit the 2011 season he missed due to injury) — but that’s following the illegal contact rule, defenseless receiver rules, and additional protections for the quarterback.

Favre made 11 Pro Bowls, won three NFL MVP Awards, and set career records for passing yards and touchdowns. He led the league in yardage twice and TDs four times. Part of what people loved about Favre, at least early in his career, was his approach to the game. He was fun-loving and exuberant, made jokes on the sideline and tackled his teammates in the end zone. His throwing techniques were atrocious, but he had phenomenal arm strength and he mastered the West Coast Offense. He never gave up on a play, scrambling to avoid pressure, and he would force the ball into any tiny opening. He was fun to watch: a high-risk, high-reward gunslinger who won more often than not.

Favre’s willingness to take risks made him the most exciting QB of his generation, but it also contributed to two all-time records Brett probably wishes he didn’t hold, and which will probably never be broken: Favre holds the career records for most interceptions (336) and most fumbles (166). No active player is within 100 INT of Favre, and the closest fumbler is Michael Vick (96), who will retire long before he fumbles another 70 times.

[But we] don’t remember John Elway for his early Super Bowl failures, or Jim Kelly for his interceptions. We don’t remember Troy Aikman for his low TD rate or Randall Cunningham for his huge number of sacks. And we don’t remember Favre for his turnovers or his struggles against the Cowboys. We remember Favre for his arm strength and play-making. We remember his joy for the game. We remember his 500 touchdown passes and 70,000 yards, his eight division championships, his three MVP seasons. Favre set important career records, and in his prime, he was the best player in the game.

Kevin Greene has the third most sacks by any player since 1982, and ranks 2nd in Gray Ink, too. Greene led the NFL in sacks two times, and also had 2nd-place, 3rd-place, and 4th-place finishes in his career.  He also ranked 6th one year and 7th in two other seasons.  All that adds up to a ton of Gray Ink: He and Reggie White are the only two players with eight top-7 finishes in sacks; no other player has more than six.

Want more Greene stats? How about this:

Kevin Greene left the Steelers after his age 33 season. He then proceeded to lead the NFL in sacks during the next four year period, from ages 34 to 37. That’s pretty insane: no other player was older than 30 during his four-year run as champion.

And, when I ran the numbers, I had him as the 3rd best pass-rusher in the NFL from 1982 to 2011.

Before the 2014 class was announced, here is what I wrote about Marvin Harrison:

Marvin Harrison is another obvious pick, as I explained a couple of weeks ago. He is the second-most statistically dominant wide receiver since Don Hutson. The Hall of Fame threshold is much lower than “being as good as Jerry Rice” so Harrison should be a first-ballot choice.

Yes, that article is still the definitive read on Harrison’s Hall of Fame case.  But don’t just listen to me: here’s what Brad Oremland had to say a few weeks ago:

Marvin Harrison
Indianapolis Colts, 1996-2008
1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 TD

In eight consecutive seasons, Marvin Harrison finished with more than 80 receptions, 1,100 yards, and double-digit touchdowns. He is the only player in history with four consecutive 1,400-yard seasons, and one of only five (Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson) to go over 1,400 in any four seasons. Harrison still holds the single-season record for receptions (143). He led the NFL twice in receptions, twice in receiving yards, and once in receiving TDs. He was first-team all-pro three times and qualified for eight Pro Bowls.

Harrison was not the biggest, fastest, or strongest receiver in the game; he didn’t intimidate opponents the way Terrell Owens and Moss did. But Harrison was one of the smartest receivers ever to play, and like Rice, he worked very hard to be the best; the extra practice hours he put in working with Peyton Manning are legendary. Harrison was an exceptional route-runner, and he was the best I ever saw at the toe-tap on the sideline. Give him an inch and he’d make the catch.

Harrison, Rice, and Andre Johnson are the only players with three 1,500-yard receiving seasons. Harrison has the most receptions, receiving yards, and TDs of any player to spend his whole career with one team.

One last Harrison stat: among all players in NFL history during the ten-year window from age 25 to 34, Harrison ranks 1st in receptions, 2nd in yards, and 3rd in touchdowns.

Orlando Pace is a guy who looked like a Hall of Famer in college. He is yet another former number one pick who is now in the Hall of Fame. Here’s what I wrote about his case two years ago:

He was a consensus All-Pro in 1999 and 2001, with the AP, Pro Football Weekly, Pro Football Writers, and the Sporting News all selecting him. The Sporting News chose him in 2000, too, the year the AP made him a second-team choice. Pace missed six games in ’02, but he was a first-team choice by the AP and the Sporting News in ’03, and a first-team choice by the Sporting News in ’04.

Pace was a dominant force in his prime and a pretty clear choice for the Hall of Fame.  He will be the 13th player selected first overall in the NFL Draft to be inducted into the Hall of Fame; in five years, the man drafted the year after him will become (at least) the 14th.1  That breaks what was a tie with the 6th overall pick for the most Hall of Famers: the 6th selection got off to a great start with Hall of Famers in the first three years of the draft, and currently has 12 players in Canton.  That includes a player selected the same year, who played the same position, and in the same division as Pace: Walter Jones.

Tony Dungy was an outstanding head coach, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. He ranked 3rd in the aptly named Dungy Index as of 2012.  When Dungy was selected back in February, here is what I wrote:

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, he 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.

Year after year, his Colts avoided regressing to the mean, much like Belichick’s Patriots. Consistently keeping a team that far above average is obviously a lot easier with the greatest quarterback of all time, but you won’t find many Hall of Fame coaches that didn’t have great quarterbacks. If you want to say that Dungy shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame because he had Peyton Manning and only won one championship, that’s fine.

But winning multiple championships is obviously not a prerequisite. And among coaches that won only one — or zero — titles, Dungy’s record does stick out as pretty remarkable. Winning over 2/3s of your games is pretty much an automatic pass to the Hall of Fame: every coach with at least 90 wins that has done that is in the Hall. Drop it to 50 games, and the only coach not in there is Blanton Collier, who like Dungy, only won one title. But he coached only one team — the stacked Cleveland Browns — and coached for only 8 years. Given Dungy’s success with multiple teams, he seems like a pretty good Hall of Fame choice.

Ken Stabler was a controversial choice, but he definitely meets the “fame” test.  Here’s what Brad Oremland wrote about Stabler last year:

Ken Stabler
Oakland Raiders, 1970-79; Houston Oilers, 1980-81; New Orleans Saints, 1982-84
27,938 yards, 194 TD, 222 INT, 75.3 rating

The second left-handed quarterback profiled in this series, Kenny Stabler was the most accurate passer of the 1970s. He led all QBs of the decade in completion percentage (59.9), yards per attempt (7.69) and net yards per attempt (6.51), and TD% (6.0). He threw too many interceptions, but you’ll live with that for all the positive plays he created.

Stabler was NFL MVP in 1974, and in 1976, he led the Raiders to a 13-1 record and their first Super Bowl victory. Stabler was at the heart of three famous plays: the Sea of Hands, Ghost to the Post, and The Holy Roller. He’s the only player in history to be associated with three plays that have names.

Stabler’s own nickname, Snake, was given by his high school coach after a long, winding touchdown run. Knee injuries limited his running in the pros, but he was a fearless passer, a four-time Pro Bowler and second-team All-70s, tied with Terry Bradshaw.

Stabler’s off-field partying was legendary, and some of his teammates loved him, but others were appalled by his lack of effort. Stabler seldom read the game plan, and Dave Casper complained that the Snake didn’t seem to care about losing. Stabler himself told Peter Richmond, “I skipped practices. I got kicked off my high-school team. I got kicked off my college team. I [quit] pro football in 1969.” That kind of player, who gets by on moxie and natural ability, couldn’t exist today. Stabler was probably the last really good pro QB with that attitude.

I think of Stabler like a smart-but-lazy student. He could get A’s if he studied, but getting B’s is easy, and it’s not worth the extra effort to get top marks. Stabler could drink and party and still be a good quarterback. But if he had committed himself to greatness, he might have been the best QB of his generation. I don’t downgrade Snake for lost potential, but some people try to rank Stabler according to the times he exerted himself, rather than on his overall profile. Stabler at his best wasn’t the real Stabler. The real Stabler was a B student.

Stabler’s peak wasn’t long, but from ’73 to ’79, he was a Hall of Fame caliber passer:

Query Results Table
Rk Player From To Draft Tm G GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int TD% Int% Rate Sk Yds Y/A ANY/A Y/G W L T
1 Roger Staubach* 1973 1979 10-129
DAL 100 100 1483 2598 57.08 19757 135 93 5.20 3.58 83.7 251 1684 7.60 5.82 197.6 72 28 0
2 Ken Anderson 1973 1979 3-67 CIN 95 94 1327 2353 56.40 17335 113 90 4.80 3.82 79.8 230 1695 7.37 5.36 182.5 52 42 0
3 Ken Stabler 1973 1979 2-52 RAI 99 94 1416 2352 60.20 18234 145 135 6.20 5.74 81.2 177 1579 7.75 5.33 184.2 68 25 1
4 Fran Tarkenton* 1973 1978 3-29
MIN 79 79 1396 2292 60.91 15868 108 86 4.70 3.75 81.8 149 1364 6.92 5.24 200.9 57 20 2
5 Bob Griese* 1973 1979 1-4 MIA 88 84 1052 1786 58.90 13383 105 88 5.90 4.93 81.5 164 1365 7.49 5.21 152.1 57 27 0
6 Jim Hart 1973 1979 CRD 97 96 1398 2651 52.73 17968 110 108 4.10 4.07 71.1 119 915 6.78 5.20 185.2 50 45 1
7 Bert Jones 1973 1979 1-2 CLT 68 62 890 1592 55.90 11435 78 56 4.90 3.52 80.3 159 1423 7.18 5.17 168.2 38 24 0
8 Dan Fouts* 1973 1979 3-64 SDG 80 73 1141 2005 56.91 14739 82 101 4.10 5.04 72.8 150 1047 7.35 5.01 184.2 33 39 1
9 Terry Bradshaw* 1973 1979 1-1 PIT 88 84 1041 1960 53.11 14362 116 105 5.90 5.36 74.3 152 1397 7.33 5.00 163.2 64 20 0
10 Steve Grogan 1975 1979 5-116 NWE 73 67 831 1666 49.88 12151 89 102 5.30 6.12 66.3 120 1042 7.29 4.65 166.5 41 26 0

I have less to add about Dick Stanfel and Edward DeBartolo, Jr., given the unique circumstances of both (Stanfel played in the ’50s, DeBartolo was just an owner). Here is what the Professional Football Researchers Association had to say about Stanfel:

In only seven seasons with the Lions and Redskins, Stanfel was all-NFL five times and chosen to five Pro Bowls. He was named to the AII-1950s team by the Hall of Fame electors.

You can even read a PFRA Scouting Report on Stanfel.

As for DeBartolo, 16 playoff appearances in 23 years as an owner and five Super Bowl rings is an incredible legacy.  His team was dominant for over two decades, and I’m not sure what more you can ask out of an owner than that.

Congrats to the 2016 Class!

  1. Note that this excludes Joe Namath, the first overall pick in the 1965 AFL Draft, and Steve Young, the first overall pick in the 1984 Supplemental Draft. []
  • sacramento gold miners

    Tony Dungy deserves much credit for turning around a depressing Buccaneers franchise, the ’99 edition nearly upset the Rams in the NFC Title Game. I always felt Ken Stabler had a stronger case than Ken Anderson for the HOF, he was feared, and better in big game moments. One of Stabler’s great wins didn’t even involve the postseason. In the 1976 season opener, the Steelers held a convincing 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter, which would have normally been a win against everyone else. Stabler produced 17 points, and Oakland won, 31-28.

    Ken Anderson was very efficient, and has some impressive accomplishments. He just wasn’t very successful in the postseason, and was a poor comeback QB. For me, just shy of Canton.

    • bachslunch

      I don’t think Stabler is more HoF deserving than Anderson. Looking at adjusted rankings by Chase Stuart and Kiran Rasaretnam show Anderson highly ranked and surrounded by HoF QBs, with Stabler at the outer periphery of HoF QBs at best. Anderson being the first successful West Coast style QB counts for innovator credit, something Stabler lacks. And lack of postseason success is not a barrier to HoF QB membership, otherwise Tittle, Jurgensen, Fouts, Marino, and Moon would not be in. Besides, Stabler only won one title and lost plenty of playoff games himself. Plus there are still questions in some quarters about whether or not he may have shaved points or thrown games late in his career.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Without the benefits of real evidence and/or an investigation, I can’t penalize a current or former player of possible wrongdoing when it comes to HOF. Tittle and Jurgensen played before the era of expanded playoffs, so the standards are different, and I do credit Moon somewhat for those Grey Cups.Fouts and Marino were just more lethal than Anderson. Both Fouts and Marino had porous defenses, which hurt them in the postseason.

        I do credit Anderson for an excellent career, but his numbers are a little misleading. Stats tell part of the story, but not all of it. Anderson was a horrible comeback QB, and would complete the eight yard pass on third and 11. Mediocre in his last two postseason appearances, Stabler was much better when it counted most, even though he did hang on too long. Liked Anderson as a player, but maybe he was too efficient for his own good.

        Proponents of Anderson like to talk about the great single game he had in 1974 against the Steelers. But Stabler was more successful against Pittsburgh, while Anderson and Bill Walsh were usually ineffective against the Steelers. Were it not for Franco Harris, the Raiders would have played Miami in the 1972 AFC TG.

        • bachslunch

          I would like to see solid, tangible case-by-case evidence of the notion that Anderson was “a horrible comeback QB, and would complete the eight yard pass on third and 11.” He lost his only Super Bowl appearance because he had the bad luck to encounter Joe Montana at his utter best in a last-minute drive (one could argue that the Cincy defense let him down here), and had preceded this game with solid wins against the Bills and the Chargers (the latter the Freezer Bowl game). Best as I can tell, he played well in all three games. I’m absolutely not willing to accept the attempt to hand-wave away Anderson’s top notch regular season stats and make more of Stabler’s comparatively mediocre numbers than they are (Stabler unfortunately surrounded his 4-5 fine years with about 10 unremarkable to flat-out bad years, especially those post-Oakland). I’m also not sold on considering Grey Cup titles even somewhat equivalent to Super Bowl titles. Stabler had only one Super Bowl win, which means he too had plenty of postseason losses — and to give him credit for almost winning the Immaculate Reception game while giving no parallel acknowledgement to Anderson’s play in his Super Bowl loss strikes me as simply unfair.