Friday, February 25, 2011

NFL All-Decade All-Time Canton Snubs : Offense

Quarterback : Ken Stabler

6'3 215
Oakland Raiders
1970 - 1984
15 Seasons
184 Games Played
1974 NFL MVP
1976 Bert Bell Award
4 Pro Bowls
NFL 1970's All-Decade Team

Stabler was a second round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1968. He joined the Spokane Shockers of the Continental Football League for two seasons until the league folded. The 1970 season was his first with the Raiders.

Daryle Lamonica was the starting quarterback for Oakland. Stabler mostly sat on the bench the first three years of his NFL career, but was called into action during a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972 after Lamonica was injured.

Lamonica had been ineffective up until that point, and Pittsburgh led 6-0 in the fourth quarter. Stabler was slightly more effective as a passer, but a 30-yard scoring scamper put the Raiders up 7-6 late into the game. This set the stage for the "Immaculate Reception", when Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris took a deflected pass 60 yards for the winning touchdown.

Stabler went to his first Pro Bowl in 1973. After Lamonica started the first three games of the season, Stabler replaced him and lost just twice the rest of the way while leading the NFL in completion percentage. Oakland reached the AFC Championship Game before losing to the eventual champion Miami Dolphins.

Now firmly entrenched as the starter, Stabler had perhaps his finest season in 1974 by winning the NFL MVP Award. He was given his only First Team All-Pro honor and went to the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL in touchdown passes, touchdown percentage, adjusted yards per pass attempt, net yards per attempt, and adjusted net yards per pass attempt.

He was far from sharp the next year, throwing eight more interceptions than touchdowns, but lost just three times. He rebounded in 1976 by leading the NFL with career best marks on touchdown passes, completion percentage, touchdown percentage, yards gained per pass attempt, net yards per pass attempt, quarterback rating, and longest pass.

His excellence and leadership was crucial, tossing the ball to Hall of Famers like Fred Biletnikoff and Dave Caspar, along with Pro Bowler Cliff Branch. Coupled with Pro Bowl fullback Mark van Eeghen's 1,012 rushing yards, the Raiders went on to win Super Bowl XI. Stabler won the Bert Bell Award and the very last Hickok Belt.

After his last Pro Bowl season in 1977, the Raiders and Stabler's play started to dwindle. After two more years with the team, he was traded to the Houston Oilers for Dan Pastorini. He played poorly, tossing 19 more interceptions than touchdowns in his two seasons with Houston.

He joined the New Orleans Saints in 1982, but spent three ineffective seasons there before retiring. He still holds the Raiders franchise records for passing yards, touchdown passes, and interceptions for a career. His 30 interception tossed in 1978 is also a team record.

There are many NFL fans who believe Stabler belongs in Canton. Nicknamed "Snake" for a long winding touchdown run in high school, he did win 69 of 93 starts with Oakland. Detractors will point out Lamonica won just seven less game while losing ten fewer times. Lamonica threw 28 less interceptions and just two fewer touchdowns while garnering one more Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro nod than Stabler.

There are fans who think Ken Anderson deserves induction ahead of Stabler. Though Anderson never won a Super Bowl, he threw 47 more touchdowns and just 17 more interceptions with a slightly higher quarterback rating than the "Snake".

Yet Stabler won five more games and lost 32 fewer games. He had that rare intangible of willing his team to victory in spite of the statistics. He won more games and had fewer losses than such Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Len Dawson, Bart Starr, Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, Troy Aikman, Joe Namath, Norm Van Brocklin, and Bob Griese. He also had more wins than Steve Young and Roger Staubach, amongst others.

Stabler was a winner, despite just one Super Bowl appearance and with with Oakland before his career bottomed out with Houston and New Orleans. He helped make the Raiders a yearly powerhouse throughout the 1970's. The "Snake" had a gift you could not coach.

He is one of just two quarterbacks on NFL All-Decade Teams not yet inducted. Stabler has been a finalist three times and a semi-finalist six times. It seems inevitable that he will one day find his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Cecil Isbell is the only other quarterback on an NFL All-Decade Team not inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Fullback : Cookie Gilchrist

6'3" 251
Buffalo Bills
1962 - 1967
Six Seasons
65 Games Played
4 Pro Bowls
AFL All-Time Team

Gilchrist was signed by the Cleveland Browns at 18-years old in 1953 after completing his junior year in high school. When the NFL deemed the contract illegal, Cleveland owner Paul Brown reneged on his promise to Gilchrist, so the youngster left the teams training camp.

He headed to Canada and began playing rugby, where he was the MVP of his team in each year he played. Gilchrist the joined the Canadian Football League and soon became a legend. He was an All-Star in five of his six seasons with the CFL as both a running back and linebacker.

The Buffalo Bills, of the American Football League, attempted to woo Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis in 1962, but Davis chose to play with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Buffalo then signed Gilchrist, a move that benefited them immediately.

Gilchrist became the first 1,000-yard rusher in AFL history, leading the league with 1,096 yards at am impressive 5.1 yards per carry average. He also set an AFL record with 13 rushing touchdowns that went unbroken the entire time the league existed.

Besides leading the AFL with a 78.3 yards per game average, he caught 24 balls for two scores and handle the place kicking duties. He made eight field goals and 14 extra points. The 128 points he scored that season was a team record until O.J. Simpson surpassed it in 1975. Gilchrist was named First Team All-Pro, AFL All-Star, and AFL MVP.

The next three seasons saw Gilchrist lead the AFL in rushing attempts and be named an AFL All-Star each year. He led the league in rushing yards and rushing yards per game once. He also led the AFL in rushing touchdowns three times, while being named First Team All-Pro two more times.

After helping lead the Bills to a championship in 1964, he was waived, after a contract dispute, and claimed by the Denver Broncos in 1965. There he enjoyed his last All-Star season with the Broncos. Joining the expansion Miami Dolphins in 1966, Gilchrist got injured and missed six games. He tried to play for Denver the following season, appearing in one game, before retiring.

In a stretch of 10 straight seasons, Gilchrist was named an All-Star each time in both the CFL and AFL, let alone the two previous seasons he was a MVP in his rugby league. He is the only person to have accomplished this. What makes his success even more impressive was due to the era he played.

Bigotry was prevalent during this time. So much that Gilchrist refused induction into the CFL Hall of Fame, citing the bigotry he encountered in the CFL as the reason. He led a boycott of the AFL All-Star Game being played in the Louisiana Superdome. The AFL relented, moving the game to Houston.

Gilchrist also had a long running disagreement with Bills owner Ralph Wilson that was not reconciled until a week before Gilchrist died of cancer in 2010. Gilchrist wanted a pay raise in 1964 after Buffalo won their first championship.

"I wanted a percentage of the hot dog sales, the popcorn, the parking and the ticket sales," Gilchrist recalled once. "Lou Saban, the Bills head coach, said that would make me part owner of the team. I was a marked man after that."

Bills legend Booker Edgerson said it best. "He was very outspoken," said the former cornerback now on the Bills Wall of Fame. "He understood the economics and the monetary value of a player. He expressed himself, and that got him in trouble a lot.

He was already in trouble with the team in 1964, having refused to go back into a game where Buffalo was throwing ball nearly every down. He reportedly said 'They're not giving me the ball, so why the hell should I play?'

The coaches were ready to cut him, but quarterback Jack Kemp coerced them to keep Gilchrist. This move paid off, helping the Bills win their first title. He ran for 122 yards in the championship game.

He ran for 31 touchdowns over three seasons, which still ranks third behind Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas as the most ever in Bills history. He still has the team record for five rushing scores in one game, where he also had 243 yards. Simpson broke that record in 1973 with 250 . Gilchrist averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his Bills career, which is second best behind Simpson.

He is one of the few men to have played modern professional football without having attended college. Van Miller, the "Voice of the Bills", says Gilchrist was the most explosive player Buffalo ever had.

When he was the teams kicker, he was also their wedge buster. His first kickoff as Bill saw him bury the returner inside the 15-yard line. He lobbied to play linebacker on defense, in order to double his salary, but Wilson and Saban shot that idea down.

Buffalo has yet to put him on their Wall of Fame. A big reason was his dispute with Wilson, who is known to hold a grudge. Wilson has kept Saban off the Wall of Fame over their own dispute. When offered, Gilchrist wanted to be paid an appearance fee. By the time he dropped his demands, he passed away.

Expect his inclusion soon now that he and Wilson reportedly reconciled. He is also the starting fullback on the AFL All-Time Team. On a franchise that has a deep and rich history of running backs, Gilchrist is the best fullback to have ever played for the Bills.

Even though the building in Canton says Pro Football Hall of Fame, it is unlikely the "Cookie Monster" will ever get inducted. Never mind the fact he was an All-Star 10 straight years in professional football, critics will point to his lack of years played in the AFL.

Most observers already know the AFL gets so very little respect in Canton, mainly because their success forced a merger after years of the NFL calling the AFL a "Mickey Mouse outfit with inferior players". The Canadian Football League gets even less respect, with only four men inducted into Canton with CFL ties.

But the impact of Gilchrist goes far beyond his actual achievements on the gridiron. His work for Civil Rights were more important, helping open eyes and avenues. His refusing induction into the CFL Hall of Fame was a selfless act that helped the league grow up even more.

It has been over 46 years now that Gilchrist was running over opponents. knocking them unconscious, while giving everything he had. There are fewer people around who actually saw him play, but one only needs to watch any game of football today to see the impact he had.

Roger Craig, Alan Ameche, Pat Harder, and Bill Osmanski deserve mention.

Halfback : Terrell Davis

5'11" 206
Denver Broncos
1995 - 2001
Seven Seasons
78 Games Played
3 Pro Bowls
Super Bowl XXXII MVP
1998 NFL MVP
NFL 1990's All-Decade Team

Davis was the Broncos sixth round draft choice in 1995. He bailed out a franchise desperately seeking a franchise back, gaining 1,117 yards on the ground and grabbing a career best 49 passes.

The Broncos began to increase his workload each of the next three seasons, where Davis was named First Team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl each year. He ran for an amazing 4,296 yards and 49 touchdowns over that time. Davis led the NFL is rushing touchdowns in two of those years.

Denver started to become an upper echelon team in the NFL this tine, thanks to Davis and Hall of Famers like John Elway and Gary Zimmerman leading the way. Davis was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1996, an award he would win again after the 1998 season.

The team won two consecutive Super Bowls starting in 1997, when Davis led the league with 15 rushing touchdowns. As Denver got set to play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, Davis was suffering from a severe migraine headache and listed as questionable.

Not only did he play, but he was listed as the MVP of the game, the first championship in Broncos franchise history, after running for 157 and three touchdowns. He was the first player to ever run for three scores in a Super Bowl and the Broncos were the first AFC team in 13 years to win the game.

Davis had his finest year in 1998, leading the NFL with a career best 2,008 yards and 21 scores on the ground. His 125.5 rushing yards per game and a healthy 5.1 yards per carry average also led the league and were career high marks as well. All are franchise records. Denver went on to win Super Bowl XXXIII and Davis ran for 102 yards and got 50 more off a pair of receptions.

Catastrophe stepped into his career in 1999 when injuries derailed his career. He had 493 rushing yards in nine games played over two years. Showing a tremendous amount of grit, Davis returned to run for 701 yards on basically one leg in 2001, the only year of his career he failed to score.

He decided to retire after 2001, holding the Broncos franchise records in rushing yards, touchdowns, and carries in a career and single season. He also gained 1,140 yards in the eight postseason games he appeared in, including an NFL record seven straight games with at least 100-yards gained. Davis gained 91 yards in his first postseason game.

Though he has been a semi-finalist for induction into Canton in each of the last four years, critics point out his obvious lack of longevity. Yet he also can be compared with Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers in some ways.

Though Sayers was a much more versatile player who was as deadly on special teams as he was at running back, his career was also cut short because of injuries and has just one more Pro Bowl that Davis, yet Sayer's also ran for 2,651 fewer yards and scored 21 less times as a running back than Davis did.

It seems likely the man Denver fans called "TD" will one day get inducted into Canton, where he might yet again be able to perform his "Mile High Salute". Though it may take some time because Broncos legendary halfback Floyd Little was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

John David Crow, Paul Lowe, Clem Daniels, Abner Haynes, Byron "Whizzer" White, and Beattie Feathers deserve mention.

Wide Receiver : Mac Speedie

6'3" 203
Wide Receiver
Cleveland Browns
1946 - 1952
7 Seasons
86 Games Played
349 Catches
5,602 Yards
33 Touchdowns
5 Pro Bowls
NFL 1940's All-Decade Team

Speedie was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 15th round of the 1942 draft. He was the 154th player picked overall. He had to serve in the Army because of World War II. While playing football on base, he was recruited by Hall of Fame Coach Paul Brown to play for his expansion Cleveland Browns in the fledgling All-American Football Conference.

Speedie joined the Browns in 1946 at 26 years old after the Browns offered him twice as much money as Detroit. The plan was to play him at defensive end, but the Browns quickly moved him to split end.

His impact was immediate. Though he started 10 of 14 games in his rookie year, Speedie scored a career high seven touchdowns on 24 receptions, while also averaging a career high 23.5 yards per catch.

He started nine of 14 games in 1947, but managed to snare a career high 67 balls. He scored six times, and gained a career high 1,146 yards. He scored one touchdown on a 99-yard jaunt, which is a record. Speedie was named First Team All Pro team that year, and would continue to be given that accolade until Cleveland joined the NFL.

Speedie snagged 58 passes for 816 yards in 1948, and followed that up the next year with 62 receptions for 1,028 yards. He also matched his career high of seven touchdowns. It would be the last season that he would start a game again in his career.

Cleveland won the AAFC Championship every year that Speedie was with the Browns and lost only 4 games total. The AAFC folded after 1949, and the Browns joined the NFL. They won the 1950 NFL Championship, as Speedie caught 42 passes.

He managed to catch 34 balls the next year before suffering a knee injury in week 10, causing him to miss the rest of the season. The Browns got back to the NFL Championship game, but lost.

In 1952, Speedie returned to catch 62 passes for 911 yards and five touchdowns. He suffered a knee injury in the season finale, which would be his last season in the NFL. Cleveland would go on to lose in the championship game. He was named to his final Pro Bowl that year and was also named the Browns team MVP.

Speedie's next move took Browns fans by surprise, when he bolted for the Canadian Football League. There are several theories surrounding this move. One is his personality clash with Hall Of Fame Coach Paul Brown. Brown was known as a strict disciplinarian, while Speedie was known as a free spirit.

Before the 1952 season had begun, Mac showed up at the Browns training camp with a skunk he had named "Paul". Another theory was that when Speedie asked for a raise, he was rebuffed, so he took the more lucrative CFL offer.

Also, there was a story that Speedie, now 33 years old, thought that he would be phased further out of the offense. Speedie joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and was All-CFL in 1953 and 1954. In 1955, Mac broke his leg and retired at the end of the year.

He didn't stay away from the game long. He was lured by an ex-Browns teammate, Lou Rymkus, to join him in coaching the expansion Houston Oilers in the newly formed American Football Conference in 1960. Houston would go on to win the first AFL Championship. Rymkus was fired shortly into the 1961 season, so Speedie resigned as well.

The Denver Broncos then hired Speedie as their Receivers Coach in 1963. He was promoted to Head Coach four weeks into the 1965 season. Mac held the position until he resigned two games into the 1966 season, accepting a position with the team as a scout until 1981. His coaching record was 6-19-1.

It is evident on the influence Paul Brown has used to hold many hostage, including the respect due for Speedie. It took the Browns until 1999 to put him on their Honor Roll. This move was made by then Browns owner Al Lerner. Problem was, Speedie had died in 1993. Still, kudos to the late Mr. Lerner for doing something Art Modell had not done. Some say Modell had promised Paul Brown to not honor Speedie.

The lasting disdain Brown had for Speedie was on display in 1977. Browns and Speedie met for the first time in 25 years at a college All-Star game. When Speedie tried to approach Brown, he was given the cold shoulder and was referred to as, "the one who went to Canada."

Whatever Paul Brown's problem was, it should not have effected the voters from seeing the reality. Speedie helped the Browns reach the championship game in each season he played, as the Browns won five.

He was a First Team All-Pro or Pro Bowler every season that he played in the AAFC, NFL, and CFL except three seasons in 10 years. He averaged over 16 yards a reception for his career, which is very impressive in any era. Remember, this is the PRO FOOTBALL Hall Of Fame I am talking about.

The AAFC and CFL both fall under this category. Speedie has made it into the final selection process several times, but has fallen short so far. He spent the last years of his life lamenting how Paul Brown had been preventing his induction.

I wouldn't be surprised if Brown's son, Mike, is carrying on this spite filled campaign as owner of the Cincinnati Bengals. Speedie has been a finalist twice and seniors candidate once for induction into Canton.

If the voters would just let this vindictive hatred lay with Paul Brown in his grave, where it belongs, they would then allow the facts of Speedie's gridiron career take its rightful forefront in this debate. One also must remember that Speedie lost four years of his career due to WWII. It is sad that Mac has passed on, and cannot be part of this long overdue induction. There is NO question that Mac Speedie belongs in Canton.

Wide Receiver : Harold Carmichael

6'8" 225
Wide Receiver
Philadelphia Eagles
1971 - 1984
14 Seasons
182 Games Played
590 Receptions
8,985 Receiving Yards
79 Touchdowns
4 Pro Bowls
1980 NFL Man Of The Year
NFL 1970's All-Decade Team

Carmichael was a seventh round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1971 NFL Draft. He was the 161st player chosen overall.

The Eagles decided to move Carmichael to tight end for his rookie campaign, starting in six of the nine games he played. He led all Eagles tight ends with 20 receptions, which was the fourth most on the team that year.

He was then permanently moved to wide receiver the following season, and he started in five of the 13 games he appeared in. He caught another 20 passes, and scored the first two touchdowns of his career.

The 1973 season saw Carmichael establish himself as one of the top receivers in the league. He led the NFL with 67 receptions for 1,116 yards. His 79.9 receiving yards per game also led the league, which are all career best marks. While scoring nine times, he also ran the ball a career high three times for 42 yards and was named to his first Pro Bowl team.

The Eagles struggled to find a steady quarterback over the next three seasons, and Carmichael suffered somewhat because of this. He caught 147 balls over that time, along with 20 touchdowns, but his yard per catch average never exceeded 13 yards over that time.

Ron Jaworski was named the starting quarterback for the 1977 season, and provided much needed stability for the team. Carmichael averaged 14.5 yards on 42 receptions, along with seven scores, while helping break in the young signal caller.

He averaged a career best 19.5 yards on 55 receptions the next season, gaining 1,072 yards and scoring eight times. He was named to his second Pro Bowl as well, an honor he would attain in each of the two following seasons.

Carmichael caught 100 passes over that time, averaging 17 yards a reception, and scored 20 times. His 11 touchdowns in the 1978 season was a career high.

The 1980 season was special to many Eagles and their fans. The team would win the NFC crown, and appear in Super Bowl XV. Carmichael was a key member of that team. Though Philadelphia lost to the Oakland Raiders in that game, he led led the team with six receptions for 91 yards.

He followed that year up by gaining 1,028 yards on 61 receptions, along with six scores, in the 1981 season. He also caught a pass for a career long 85 yards.

The NFL went on strike in the 1982 season, and this event cut into Carmichael's production. He was on his way to having another stellar year, catching 35 balls and scoring four times.

Now at 34 years old in 1983, Carmichael was nearing the end of his career. He snagged 38 passes, and scored the last three touchdowns of his career. He also tossed a 45 yard touchdown pass, the only one of his career.

The Eagles then released him after the season completed.

He joined the Dallas Cowboys the next year, and caught one pass for seven yards in the two games he suited up for. Carmichael then decided to retire from the game.

Harold Carmichael's name is all over the Philadelphia Eagles record books. His 180 games played with the club is the most ever. He is still on top of the teams list for most receptions, reception yards, and receiving touchdowns for a career. He is still ranked 12th in receiving yards for a season, and 18th for receptions in a season.

Carmichael once held an NFL record by catching a pass in 127 straight games, and ranked sixth all time in league history in career receptions at the time of his retirement.

His 590 receptions still rank as the 53rd most in league history, his 8,985 receiving yards is the 42nd most, and his 79 total touchdowns is the 48th most ever.

Harold is also well known for his off the field accomplishments in community work. He was named the 1980 NFL Man of the Year, the Jacksonville Pro Athlete of the Year, and the New Jersey General Assembly Man of the Year.

Carmichael is a member of the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, and is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll.

I have wondered, through the years, why Carmichael has not been inducted into Canton yet. Looking at his statistics, one might consider him a fringe prospect. If you look beyond that, you can easily see he is worthy.

Carmichael was the target on every down the Eagles dropped back to pass. Not only because of his enormous size, but because of his sure and steady hands. His long strides often got him far into enemy territory, as one can see by his 15 yards per catch average over his career.

He was much more than a very dangerous red zone threat. He was tough, and an excellent blocker. His battles with Pat Fischer, of the Washington Redskins, are legendary. Those two men would spend several Sunday's putting welts on each others bodies.

Carmichael had to achieve his successes in an era where the ten-yard chuck rule was in play, making it much more difficult to get open. Cornerbacks then were much more adept at man to man coverage than they are in these times. A receiver not only had to get open then, but he had to literally fight his way to the spot on the field where a ball was to be thrown.

Harold Carmichael has joined a long list of many of his contemporaries. This list is of forgotten players on a forgotten era by a society today that has little to no idea of the path paved to present time. Many of the Hall Of Fame voters never saw Carmichael play, nor the era he played in.

You will see inferior players inducted before Carmichael most likely. Men who benefited from the five-yard chuck rule, the offensive lineman's ability to hold, as well as the defenders inability to hit anyone like they used to.

It is more than a shame. It is a disgrace. Harold Carmichael certainly belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but time and opportunity for his respect trudge onward into obscurity.

Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Del Shofner, Gary Collins, Boyd Dowler, Charley Hennigan, Art Powell, Bobby Walston, Jim Benton, Ken Kavanaugh, Jack Ferrante, Gaynell Tinsley, Lavern Dilweg, and Drew Pearson deserve mention.

Tight End : Ben Coates

6'5" 245
Tight End
New England Patriots
10 Seasons
158 Games Played
499 Receptions
5 Pro Bowls
NFL 1990's All-Decade Team

Coates was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round of the 1991 draft, the 121st player chosen overall. He was brought along slowly in his first two seasons. catching 30 total passes and four touchdowns.

Business began to pick up for Coates in 1993, when Bill Parcells was named head coach of the Patriots. Parcells had a rookie quarterback in Drew Bledsoe, and is known for his wanting to get the tight end heavily involved in the offensive scheme. Coates grabbed 53 balls and scored eight times that season.

He led the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI in 1995, after setting an NFL record of 96 receptions by a tight end. This record stood until 2004. He also gained 1,174 yards and scored eight times. Though the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl, Coates scored a touchdown on six receptions.

He was named to the First Team All-NFL, and went to his first Pro Bowl that year. Coates followed that up with 84 catches in 1996, scoring six times. He again was named to the First Team All-NFL, and went to the Pro Bowl.

Coates had a career best nine touchdowns the next season, on 62 receptions, and took one pass a career long 84 yards. He was named to the Pro Bowl again. He went back to the Pro Bowl in 1998, catching 66 passes and scoring eight times.

His last Pro Bowl year was in 1999, when he caught 67 balls and scored six times.
Coates last year with the Patriots was in 2000. He caught 32 balls, and scored the last two touchdowns of his career.

The Patriots cut him, so he signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Coates was used as a backup that year, catching nine passes, as the Ravens would go on to win Super Bowl XXXV. He then retired.

His 490 receptions with New England is the most by any tight end in Patriots history, as is his 5,471 yards and 50 touchdowns. Coates is a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, the Patriots All-Time 1990's Team, and the NFL 1990's All-Decade Team.

He caught 460 balls in seven years, which is an astonishing rate for any player. It is an even more remarkable total if you realize he never caught more than 96 balls once. Yet Coates was also a good enough blocker to be able to stay on the field at all times.

Detractors will point at his lack of service time as the reason for exclusion so far. He has yet to even be a semi-finalist in the voting process. But his massive production over a short time certainly warrants serious consideration for induction.

Fred Arbanus and Dave Kocourek deserve mention.

Offensive Tackle : Jim Tyrer

6'6" 280
Offensive Tackle
Kansas City Chiefs
14 Seasons
194 Games Played
9 Pro Bowls
6 First-Team All-Pro
AFL All-Time Team

Tyrer was drafted in the third round of the 1961 American Football League draft by the Dallas Texans, the first draft the league ever held. He was the 22nd player chosen overall. He was also drafted in the 14th round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.

Tyrer was named the starting left tackle immediately by the Texans, now in their second year of existence under the leadership of future Hall of Fame head coach Hank Stram. The Texans would go on to win the AFL Championship in 1962, as Tyrer was named to his first of nine straight Pro Bowl honors.

Hall of Fame owner Lamar Hunt, a founder of the AFL, was unhappy with attendance despite winning the title. Though he wanted to keep the team in Dallas, he decided to move the Kansas City and rename them the Chiefs because he was tired of sharing the same stadium, the Cotton Bowl, with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL and suffering from low attendance figures.

Tyrer was unaffected by the transition, as he received the first of six straight First-Team All-Pro nods in 1965, establishing him as the top left tackle in all of professional football.

The Chiefs would win the 1966 AFL title, but it was also the first season the AFL and NFL decided to hold a championship game between the two leagues. Kansas City faced the Green Bay Packers of the NFL but lost the game 35-10.

In 1967, Hunt was watching his children play with a toy called a Super Ball. He then had the idea of calling the AFL and NFL title game the Super Bowl. The Chiefs would reach this game in 1969, the last one player between AFL and NFL teams before the two leagues merged. It was also the season where Tyrer was named the AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year. Kansas City would win Super Bowl IV, dismantling the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. It has, so far, been the last Super Bowl in which the Chiefs have appeared.

Tyrer missed two games in 1973 for the first time in his career. His string of 180 straight games played is the third-longest streak in club history, and he started in each one of them.. Kansas City thought the 34-year old was nearing the end of his career because he had finished his second season where he failed to make the Pro Bowl. They traded him to the Washington Redskins.

He played in every game for the Redskins in 1974, though he mainly served as a back up to Ray Schoenke. He did, however, start in one game. Washington won their division, but were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams. Tyrer decided to retire at the end of the year.

Despite being the best left tackle in AFL history, he has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though he was a finalist once in 1981, no player in the history of professional football has more accolades than Tyrer and has failed to be inducted.

One reason may be because of the reason he died in 1980. Suffering from depression, Tyrer committed suicide after killing his wife. Though depression was not much of a subject to speak about in that era, it is as though the Hall of Fame voters have kept him out of Canton due to perhaps their lack of knowledge of this subject.

In recent years, professional football has almost begrudgingly acknowledged depression and the fact that it can occur after severe head trauma over a long period of time. "Post Concussion Syndrome" is the commonly used term and these effects have been brought to light by gridiron legends who have suffered from it following their football careers.

Hall of Famers like John Mackey and Mike Webster are two who have suffered from this type of trauma. A game thought to be so violent that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was recently seen on television contemplating banning the three-point stance from the game in an attempt to reduce head injuries.

Tyrer played in an era where offensive linemen were instructed to use their heads as weapons. They were told to bury their heads into the chests of defenders first. This was also an era where offensive linemen were not allowed to use their hands like they do in the current game. They had to put their arms in the shape of a chicken wing, as they relied on quick feet and strong shoulders to take control of their opponents.

Opposing defensive ends were allowed to use their fists back then, and the head slap move was perhaps the most used method to beat blockers. While unable to defend themselves, offensive linemen lead with their heads as they had been taught. Defenders would attempt to counteract this by dodging blockers, then slapping them upside their heads to get the blocker off balance. In doing so, they were given a clearer path to those who possessed the football.

Though Tyer regularly faced the opposing teams' best pass rushers, he was unflappable and consistent. Men like Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea, Rich "Tombstone" Jackson, Larry Eisenhauer, and Ben Davidson were just a few of the stellar defensive ends he faced each week for several seasons.

Davidson is the man who Tyrer admitted was the toughest opponent he faced. The respect was mutual. Davidson called Tyrer a "mountain of a man," though Davidson stood 6'8" and weighed 275 lbs himself.

"He was easily the best blocker I ever faced," Davidson recalls. "He had power and finesse. He could have made an excellent guard, too. We were friends off the field, as Tyrer was all about good sportsmanship. We used to go to the AFL All-Star games together on a bus. We would joke if either he or my teammate, Hall of Famer Jim Otto, had the biggest head in football. I often would say at banquets that Tyrer basically wore a big red trash can as a helmet when he played."

Davidson believes that Tyrer has long deserved his induction into Canton, as does Bethea. Bethea was inducted himself in 2003. "Tyrer was the pioneer of big offensive tackles. He was the best blocker I ever faced. I used to try to run as fast as I could upfield to get around him, but it rarely worked. It pissed me off that I couldn't defeat him, as I could with other left tackles regularly."

Bethea also admits he feared facing Tyrer. "He was THE preeminent left tackle in all of football. All other blockers I faced in the NFL were mediocre compared to him. He would just swamp me each game to where I would be lucky to beat him even once in a game," he said.

Paul Zimmerman, a Hall of Fame voter and writer for Sports Illustrated, has long said Rich "Tombstone" Jackson was the greatest pass rusher in pro football history and has long lobbied for Jackson's induction into Canton. Jackson, though he would like to be inducted, himself, also has a tremendous amount of respect for Tyrer.

"It is a travesty that Jim Tyrer has yet to be inducted into Canton," he said. "He was one of the first big offensive linemen with quick feet to play pro football. Besides having good feet, he was crafty and smart. You had to be prepared facing him, as the Chiefs won-loss record was proof of how excellent their players were. Tyrer was the top offensive lineman I ever faced, and that included the AFL and NFL."

Larry Eisenhauer, whose four Pro Bowls are tied with Bob Dee and Richard Seymour as the most in Patriots franchise history, also echoes Davidson, Bethea, and Jackson in thinking that Tyrer should have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame long ago.

"He was the best I ever faced," Eisenhauer recalls. "He was equally excellent run blocking and pass blocking. He was a very strong man, and I never looked forward to facing him. I really cannot believe he has not been inducted into Canton yet. He was the best left tackle in AFL history."

Tom Keating was a two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who played on two AFL Championship teams. "Jim Tyrer was one of the most dominant tackles in all football," he said. "When I was with the Raiders, Ben and I rarely ran stunts against Ed Budde and Tyrer. If I went first in the stunt, Jim would close down and I was faced with 6'6" and closer to 300 lbs. I was 6'2" and weighed 247 lbs. If Ben went first (took an inside rush), I had to loop way outside and by the time I got outside, Lenny Dawson was throwing the ball. Ben and I had much better luck one-on-one with Ed and Jim."

"Jim was a excellent drive blocker and was good at hooking the defensive players," said Keating. “He deserves induction into Canton.

If Tyrer has the respect of his peers, many who are amongst the finest to ever play, then it adds to further confusion as to why he has yet been given his long awaited induction.

One theory is a lingering disrespect to the American Football League itself. NFL players were told back then that the AFL was an inferior brand of football, full of players who lacked the skills to play in the NFL.

Homer Jones, a Pro Bowl wide receiver of the New York Giants, is known as the man who invented spiking the football after a touchdown and holds the record for most yards per catch for a career. "We were told the AFL was a Mickey Mouse organization yearly to keep us from wanting to play there, even for more money. When we finally faced those guys, we realized that they were as good as us. Maybe even better in some areas," he said.

Jackson recalls his Denver Broncos played the first preseason contests between the two leagues. "We played against both the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings," he said. "We weren't always the best team in the AFL, never winning more than seven games in a season in the entire time we spent in the AFL. We were told we had no chance against the NFL, but we won both games."

The AFL has just 30 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who once played in their league. Several joined the league just before the merger, having played the majority of their careers under the NFL umbrella. Only one, Billy Shaw, was inducted despite having played his entire career in only the AFL. At his ceremony, he was forced to wear a jacket that had the NFL logo emblazoned on it.

"There may be a lingering AFL disrespect when it comes to voters," said Ed Budde, an offensive guard also on the AFL's All-Time First Team and teammate of Tyrer for eleven years. He played alongside Tyrer and went to seven Pro Bowls himself. "Jim played at a top level with great skill for a long time. His body of work is proof of his excellence, and he should be inducted into Canton," he said. Many football fans and his peers believe Budde should also be inducted, but he has somehow not yet been given this honor.

For some reason, Canton has become the NFL Hall of Fame, instead of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though several players spent time in other leagues, the Hall of Fame seems to make sure these contributors' biographies concentrate mostly on their NFL exploits. The Cleveland Browns, who dominated the All-American Football Conference, never get their true respect as a dynasty because they came from another league initially.

There is a long list of AFL players awaiting induction into Canton to this day, as inferior modern players go in ahead of them. One theory for this is that the NFL still is upset at being forced to merge with the AFL, because the upstart league was taking viewers and money away from them. Voters living in the wallets of the NFL have chosen to ignore gridiron excellence for fear of losing their positions. Positions they no longer sit in with the pure intentions they once held.

Though many feel the way Tyrer's life ended was the reason for his exclusion from the Hall of Fame thus far, it also points out another hypocrisy of Canton. When Michael Irvin was inducted in 2007, it was met by a huge backlash from NFL fans who couldn't understand his induction ahead of Art Monk and others, because of his notorious lifestyle as opposed to the squeaky clean lifestyle of others.

The official reason given for Irvin's induction is that garnering the honor is based on a player's body of work on the field, not off of it. If this truly is the case, then it shows the flaw in logic for omitting Tyrer thus far.

"It is time to wipe the slate clean and induct him," says Davidson. "Life goes on. These types of events happen daily. We are turning him into a Pete Rose by excluding him, though everyone knows he should be in."

Depression was an issue people in Tyrer's era dealt with internally -- it was not as acceptable to seek help for it as it is today. He battled it as his business ventures failed and he struggled to keep his four children enrolled in private schools.

"We didn't make a lot of money," Davidson remembers, "so we worked extra jobs to make ends meet. I worked with several teammates as valets at a race track. We would park the customers' cars, then sprint back as a way to keep in shape. I remember one time I was riding a bus to an AFL All-Star game with Jim. I was telling him of my post-career plans of being a landlord. He proceeded to tell me of all of these plans he had. He kind of made me feel inadequate, my owning apartment buildings. I also thought perhaps he was too spread out in his interests and might be too aggressive."

As his financial situation suffered, his depression worsened to the point it led to his death.
Though none of his family members saw it coming, most acknowledged that he was depressed at the time.

"I felt my dad's mental state at the end of his life must have been impaired and that very well could have been as a result of the trauma his brain experienced during his football career", says Brad Tyrer, the oldest son of Jim and Martha.

One thing all of his children have done is forgive him for that fateful day. They still love their father and hope to see Canton finally give him his long overdue earned respect. "Dad belongs there, but I am unsure if the voters will ever put him in," says Brad.

Pete Duranko was a defensive end for seven seasons with the Denver Broncos. Not only was he a friend, having had dinner with Tyrer and their wives, but he faced him several times on the field. "He was the best offensive tackle ever, and one of the best to ever have played football," Duranko says enthusiastically. "He didn't get his full recognition because he was on those excellent Chiefs teams, but he was load to deal with."

Duranko has spent his post-football career working with players who suffer from depression and also deals with his own health issues and depression. "It creeps up on you. People, especially the voters, do not understand mental illness. Jim was a strong man who did his best to hide his disease. He didn't want people to know he was depressed and preferred to try to deal with it himself. When we were in the game, if you didn't play, you'd go highway. Meaning you got released. This made you play through all sorts of injuries, especially concussions."

Duranko is yet another of a long line of players who feel Tyrer deserves induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A list that includes Hall of Famer Willie Lanier and Fred Urban's. Arbanas, a six-time Pro Bowler and member of the AFL All-Time Team and Chiefs Hall of Fame, was Tyrer's roommate for ten years and perhaps his best friend on the team.

While many of those close to Jim Tyrer feel head injuries suffered while playing football contributed to his depression, there are some who are unsure. Al Lundstrom is Tyrer's brother-in-law and played football with him at Ohio State University. "Jim was smart, hard to move, was fast on his feet, and was also very big. Many players were unable to use the head slap on him because of his height. Though he was depressed about his financial situation, I am not convinced his depression was brought on by post-concussion syndrome," he said.

Even if he did not suffer from a head injury after his career, his accolades speak loudly for a long overdue respect that should be attained now. The voters really have no excuse nor reason not to bestow it. If it is AFL disrespect, the building clearly has a sign that says PRO FOOTBALL Hall of Fame, NOT the NFL Hall of Fame. The American Football League certainly played pro football, as their two Super Bowl wins in four meetings with the NFL prove.

No player in the history of professional football, who is able to be voted into Canton, has attained more accolades than Jim Tyrer and has failed to be inducted by the voters yet. He was named All-AFL in each of the eight seasons he played in the league

Canton is full of players with much less accomplishment and respect. Many defensive ends who faced him state he was the best offensive tackle ever in AFL history. Even better than Hall of Famer Ron Mix or eight-time Pro Bowler Winston Hill, who also awaits his induction.

If the excuse of the voters is that they have not forgiven him for how his life ended over 30 years ago, they fail to realize it has been three decades and it is time to forgive. Especially having hurriedly inducted a questionable character like Michael Irvin.

If an induction into Canton truly is about what a player does on the gridiron alone, their exclusion of Tyrer becomes more ludicrous and has to bring into question what reasons the voters have used to prevent his induction.

Tyrer, himself, once described what playing offensive tackle was like. “You have to have a certain personality to be an offensive lineman. You have to be orderly, disciplined. You have to take the shots like a hockey goalie. It's a passive violence. You build up anxiety. But when you finally get a clear shot at a guy, you say, 'Take this for all of those.' ”

Not only did his opponents "Take it for all of those," but he gave it better than anyone who ever played his position in the entire history of the American Football League. He had no peer at his position. Quite simply, he was the best to ever suit up at offensive tackle for the Chiefs or the AFL. Jim Tyrer is a member of the Chiefs Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame.

As time passes, not only do we tend to forget the life of Jim Tyrer and how it ended, but we also tend to forget all of his excellence attained in the game of football. The voters of Canton can be held guilty of this, especially the Seniors Committee. A committee whose sole job is not to forget greats.

All you have to do is look at the career of Jim Tyrer to see how great he was, because it is in plain black and white print. There are few who ever played his position in the history of pro football to succeed on his level.

Of the 11 men who were voted into Canton so far as offensive tackles, nine have fewer accolades than Tyrer. Only Lou "The Toe" Groza has appeared in as many Pro Bowls, though he was named to two less First-Team All-Pro Teams. Anthony Munoz is the only offensive tackle in Canton who has more combined Pro Bowls and First-Team All-Pro honors than Tyrer.

"A travesty," as Rich Jackson states, might be too light a word for Tyrer's exclusion from Canton. Utterly disgusting, distasteful, and disrespectful may be also apt. If his own family can forgive him and move on, it is time the voters do so as well. There may be no player right now in the entire history of professional football more deserving of induction into their Hall of Fame than Jim Tyrer.

Offensive Tackle : Al Wistert

6'1" 214
Philadelphia Eagles
1943 - 1951
9 Seasons
95 Games Played
8 Time All Pro
NFL 1940's All-Decade Team

Wistert was drafted in the fifth round by the Philadelphia / Pittsburgh Steagles in 1943, the 32nd player chosen overall. The Steagles were a team that was comprised of Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers into one team because of World War II.

Wistert is a member of the Michigan University Hall Of Honor, and a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame, as are two of his brothers.

He went to his first Steagles practice knowing no one. He saw Hall Of Fame defensive end Bill Hewitt sitting on some rocks smoking a cigarette. Then he approached Hewitt to introduce himself to the fellow Wolverine Alumni who had played alongside his brother Francis in college.

Hewitt had just come out of a three-year retirement to play for $4,000. It was the most Hewitt had ever made in the NFL. Wistert had just signed with the Steagles for $4,500. As he extended his hand and introduced himself, Hewitt did not say a word or offer his hand. Wistert then decided to run laps around the field by himself. Pretty soon, the entire Steagles team was following him and running around the field.

The Steagles disbanded the following season, and the Steelers and Eagles went back to being separate teams. Wistert stayed in Philadelphia . Al would get his initial First Team All-Pro nod that year in 1944, and would garner this achievement for every year until 1947. He also was named a Pro Bowler every year of his NFL career from his second season on. In 1946, he was named team captain, an honor he served until 1950.

The Eagles went to their first championship game in 1947, but lost to the Chicago Cardinals 28 - 21. The 1948 season saw the Eagles win their very first championship during a blizzard in a rematch against the Chicago Cardinals 7 - 0. The Eagles then went back to the NFL Championship the next year and beat the Los Angeles Rams 14 - 0 in heavy rain.

The Eagles are the only team in NFL history to win back to back championships and not allow their opponents to score. The Pro Bowl was not played between 1942 and 1950. After becoming the Eagles first Pro Bowl player in 1950, he announced he would retire after the 1951 season.

The Eagles held an AL WISTERT DAY in the fourth from last home game that year. The team gave him a brand new car, and many other gifts. One gift was a hand crafted dining room table that he still uses this day to eat his meals off of.

The Eagles then retired his #70 jersey in 1952, the first Eagle to ever have had this done. Wistert is a member of the NFL 1940's All-Decade Team.

I find it utterly amazing that Wistert has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame! This man truly embodies what Canton is supposed to represent. Not only was he an eight-time All-Pro in his nine-year career, but he was a very important member of an Eagles team that dominated the NFL in the late 1940's.

He introduced the NFL to the stand up style of blocking you all see today, instead of the rolling type of blocks that were employed then, which allowed Wistert to use his speed and agility to keep on blocking more defenders downfield and making him better than all the rest.

Wistert was a true leader on and off the field. He captained a powerhouse squad full of Hall Of Fame players like Steve Van Buren, Pete Pihos, Alex Wojciechowicz, and Chuck Bednarik. His coach was Hall Of Famer Earle "Greasy" Neale. Wistert also gave back to the community by coaching a high school team in New Jersey over 50 miles away, even though he did not own a car.

Neale liked and respected Wistert so much that he would lend his personal car daily to Wistert so he could go teach kids how to play football. This says a lot, because Neale was a noted task master.

One game, Wistert came to the sideline to tell the coach he thought he had just broken his leg. Neale replied, " Well, get back in there until you are sure that it is." Al never missed a game in his career. He started every game of his career except the first five of his rookie season. He was a 60-minute player who never left the field.

He would soon supplant veteran Ted Doyle after the fifth game. The only other time he missed a start was in 1950 season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Wistert had a severely sprained ankle and could hardly walk, but he ended up playing most of the game anyways.

Though he was the smallest tackle in the NFL, weighing 214 pounds, Wistert was a master technician who would out think, outwit, out gut, and dominate his opponents on both sides of the ball for every minute of every game.

Wistert said, "I never gave then the same thing twice. I always confounded them with a new plan of attack." His team mates dubbed him "Ox", because he was incredibly strong and dependable.

The game was much different then. A rougher and more violent game with less rules and padding for self preservation. They played games in all sorts of poor weather, unlike the climate controlled stadiums so many players enjoy today. They would spend days traveling to cities by train, instead of a few hours on an airplane like today.

Just to get a taste of these times, the Eagles took a train from Philadelphia to Los Angeles after beating the Giants. Despite only having a few days in L.A. , they shut out the Rams in monsoon like conditions to win an NFL Championship.

To say these men were tough is an understatement. They did this for the love of the game, not the love for the money.

The fact the Eagles retired his number first, and only one year after his retirement, shows how special a football player he was. Wistert is also a member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall Of Fame.

As the years go on, the more we tend to forget great gridiron stars like Wistert. The veterans committee for the Pro Football Hall Of Fame MUST be blamed for not doing the jobs they were given to do. It is plainly evident to see, with all of the accolades, that a grave injustice has been perpetrated in regards to Wistert.

It was not lost on his fellow players. After he retired, over 23 players, coaches, and owners have written to the Hall Of Fame asking that Wistert be put in. Greats ranging from Chuck Bednarik to even former Eagles owner Norm Braman. Why the voters have chosen to ignore such a rich, diverse cast of NFL Alumni requests is bewildering. There is NO QUESTION that Albert Wistert belongs in Canton .

YOU can help by signing this petition:

Richmond Webb, Tony Boselli, William Roaf, Joe Jacoby, Jimbo Covert, Ralph Neely, Stew Barber, Winston Hill, Vic Sears, Baby Ray, Al Blozis, Bucko Kilroy, Frank Cope, Bill Lee, and George Christensen deserve mention.

Guard : Ed Budde

6'5" 265
Kansas City Chiefs
1963 - 1976
14 Seasons
177 Games Played
7 Pro Bowls
AFL All-Time Team

Budde was the first round draft pick of the American Football League's Dallas Texans in 1963. He was the ninth player picked overall. Budde was also a first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL.

The Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs before the 1963 season began. Budde's impact was immediate. He was named to the AFL All-Star team in his rookie year. Budde went on to have the second longest tenure in Chiefs franchise history, behind Chiefs Hall of Fame punter Jerrel Wilson.

Budde was fast and explosive. He would pancake most of his opponents with regular proficiency. He had the quickness to get to the next level to clear even a wider path for his team mates. He was also technically sound and rarely let his opponent sack the Chiefs quarterback.

Budde went to seven Pro Bowls in his first nine seasons and was named First Team All-Pro twice. He was hurt in 1975 and only played one game. After returning the next year to play 11 games, Budde retired after the 1976 season. He is a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame.

He played in six AFL All-Star games. He was named to the Sporting News AFL All-League team in 1969. Budde was the first offensive lineman to be selected by the Associated Press as an Offensive Player of the Week. Budde is considered to be one of the greatest guards to have ever have played in the AFL by many.

He helped lead the Chiefs to two American Football League Championships wins and a victory in Super Bowl IV. Budde was named to the AFL’s All-Time team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His son, Brad Budde, also played guard with the Chiefs for six seasons.

Ed Budde may be the greatest offensive lineman to have ever played for the Chiefs. That is quite a statement when you recall the long list of NFL greats who have been Chiefs. He was very athletic and strong. He did not miss a game his first nine seasons, and missed just three games in his first 12 years.

He was the anchor of a great Chiefs offensive line that featured such greats as perennial Pro Bowl center Jack Rudnay, perennial All-Pro tackle Jim Tyrer, tackle Dave Hill, and perennial All Pro TE Fred Arbanas. All are members of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame. Tyrer and Arbanas are also members of the AFL All-Time Team team with Budde.

Perhaps, due to all of the great Chiefs players during his era, Canton has overlooked Budde's place in history? If you look at all of his accomplishments on the gridiron, it should be a fairly easy decision to induct Ed Budde into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Guard : Walt Sweeney

6'4" 256
San Diego Chargers
1963 - 1975
13 Seasons
181 Games Played
9 Pro Bowls
AFL All-Time Team

Sweeney was a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 1963 American Football League draft. He was the second player picked overall. The Cleveland Browns also drafted him in the eighth round, the 107th player picked overall, in the NFL.

He did see action in his rookie year, mostly as a reserve. He got his hands on one kickoff and returned it 18 yards. The Chargers would end up winning the 1963 AFL Championship.

Sweeney was fully entrenched as the starting right guard in 1964, and finish that season being named to his first AFL All-Star Team. Sweeney would earn this distinction every year until the AFL merged with the NFL after the 1969 season.

Sweeney would then earn a Pro Bowl berth the next two seasons up to the conclusion of the 1971 season. His blocking opened up holes for such Chargers legends like Keith Lincoln, Jacque MacKinnon, Paul Lowe, and Dickie Post.

He also protected great Quarterbacks like John Hadl, and Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Dan Fouts. He mostly played guard, but versatile and smart enough to play anywhere along the offensive line when injuries would knock out the other starters.

After the 1973 season, he was traded to the Washington Redskins. He started the next two seasons for the Redskins before retiring after the 1975 season. Sweeney is a member of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame and was named one of the 50 Greatest Chargers ever.

Sweeney is one of the finest lineman to have ever played professional football. He is a member of the AFL's All-Time Team. He has been an immense success from college to the pros. He was part of an exciting Chargers offense that was one of the best units to ever have played the game.

He was a sound technician who was very athletic. He was equally adept at pass blocking or pulling in front of some of the best rushers to have ever suited up in pads. His exclusion from Canton can only be attributed to his AFL ties.

He went to the name number of Pro Bowls as his teammate, Hall of Fame Tackle Ron Mix, but still waits to be called. Hall of Fame Center Jim Ringo is the only Syracuse alumni to have played in more Pro Bowls than Sweeney. He is tied with Hall of Fame Running Back Jim Brown as having the second most.

I find it amazing to see that this man has not had his long overdue induction into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame yet. This is obviously another case of being snubbed because of the NFL's hatred and envy of the AFL, though some theorize Sweeney upset a lot of football brass by once having sued the NFL over their failure to supervise coaches giving drugs to players.

As time marches on, many of the newer voters will be those with little knowledge of the AFL. Sweeney's case may get more faint as these events transpire. I suggest all real football fans to wake up the Canton voters in their represented areas. Walt Sweeney most certainly deserves induction.

Steve Wisniewki, Bill Fralic, Jerry Kramer, Howard Mudd, Bob Talamini, Dick Stanfel, Buster Ramsey, Len Younce, Bill Edwards, Dick Barwegan, Bruno Banducci, Buckets Goldenberg, Ox Emerson, Russ Letlow, and Hunk Anderson deserve mention.

Center : Dermontti Dawson

6'2 288
Pittsburgh Steelers
1988 - 2000
13 Seasons
184 Games Played
7 Pro Bowls
NFL 1990's All-Decade Team

Dawson was drafted in the second round of the 1988 draft by the Steelers. He did start five games as a rookie, but at guard while learning from Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Webster became a free agent after that year, so Dawson was handed the starting job.

The next 10 seasons saw Dawson start and play in every game for Pittsburgh. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1992, an honor he would continue to attain until 1998. He was named First Team All-Pro in 1993, something he did yearly up until 1998 as well.

Not only was he considered the best center in the game during this time, his peers considered him one of the nicest players in the league. He was nicknamed "Ned Flanders", the same name of an ultra friendly character on the iconic television show "The Simpsons".

Dawson injured his hamstring in 1999, which limited him to seven games. This issue plagued him in 2000, forcing him to miss seven more games. Pittsburgh then released him, which forced Dawson to eventually retire.

With seven Pro Bowls and six First Team All-Pro nods, it seems likely that he will one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dawson has been a finalist twice and a semi-finalist three times since 2006.

Though Webster is widely considered the greatest center in NFL history, Dawson has joined him as a member of the Steelers All-Time Team and should soon join his mentor in Canton.

Mark Stepnoski, Joe Morris, Charley Brock, and George Svendson deserve mention.

Kicker : Jim Bakken

5'11" 200
Saint Louis Cardinals
1962 - 1978
17 Seasons
234 Games Played
1,380 Points Scored
4 Pro Bowls
1960's NFL All-Decade Team
1970's NFL All-Decade Team

Bakken was drafted in the seventh round of the 1962 draft by the Los Angeles Rams, but the Rams decided to let Danny Villanueva handle both the punting and kicking duties. The Cardinals picked him up for eight games that year, having Bakken kickoff for veteran placekicker Gerry Perry. Perry retired after that season, thus giving the job to Bakken.

He led the NFL in field goal attempts and conversions in 1964, scoring 115 points, and made his first Pro Bowl in 1965 by leading the NFL in field goal percentage that year. He even punted the ball 26 times for a career best 42.2 yards per attempt average, and also ran the ball the only time in his career for 28 yards.

Bakken punted the ball a career high 29 times in 1966, yet would only have to punt ten more times the rest of his career. He also missed his first extra point attempt in 145 career attempts that season. He returned to the Pro Bowl in 1967, scoring a career best 117 points, and led the NFL in field goal percentage and 27 field goals made.

He made seven field goals in one game, which stood as an NFL record until 2007. Bakken continued being a steady and reliable force for the Cardinals. He had 100 points in 1973, making it the third and final time in his career that he would eclipse the century mark.

Bakken was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro in both 1975 and 1976 and the Cardinals won 21 games over that time. He then retired after the 1978 season. No kicker in Cardinals history has attempted or made more extra points and field goals than Bakken, nor has any played in more games or more seasons. None have been named First Team All-Pro or to the Pro Bowl more than him either.

His 1,380 points almost doubles Neil Rackers, who ranks second in points scored in franchise history. Jim Bakken is a member of both the NFL's 1960's and 1970's All-Decade Team, and he is easily the greatest kicker in Cardinals history.

He probably won't get serious consideration into Canton until voters start finally inducting men like Ray Guy, Morten Andersen, and others go in. Yet he surely is worthy.

Garo Yepremian, Gary Anderson, Eddie Murray, and Jim Turner deserve mention.

Return Specialist : Billy "White Shoes" Johnson

5'9" 170
Wide Receiver
Houston Oilers
1974 - 1988
14 Seasons
143 Games Played
337 Receptions
4,211 Yards Receiving
10,785 Total Yards
33 Touchdowns Total
3 Pro Bowls
1975 Pro Bowl MVP
1983 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
NFL 1970's All-Decade Team, NFL 1980's All-Decade Team

Johnson was a 15th round draft pick by the Houston Oilers in 1974. He was the 365th player picked overall despite the initial objections of GM/Head Coach Sid Gillman who didn't want a "midget" on his team.

Johnson made the team as a return man and stood out immediately. He was given the moniker "White Shoes" in high school when he wore the white cleats, as opposed to most wearing black cleats. In his first four seasons, he returned five punts for touchdowns, as well as two on kickoffs.

In 1975, he tied an NFL record with four kick returns for touchdowns in a season. He would celebrate his touchdowns with the "Funky Chicken" dance.

This dance, coupled by his shoes, made him a fan favorite across the league. He was used as a third down slot receiver in multiple wide receiver sets mostly. He caught 113 balls for seven touchdowns his first three seasons.

He was used as a possession type due to the teams offensive scheme, but he also ran the ball for a touchdown. He caught 20 balls his fourth year for three touchdowns at a 20 YPC average. He also took a reverse 61 yards for a touchdown, the last rushing touchdown of his career.

In his fifth NFL season, in 1978, he blew out his knee during the fifth game. He only managed two games the following season due to its lingering effects. In 1980, he returned to be used only as a third receiver and caught 31 balls for two touchdowns.

Disenchanted with his role, he bolted for the Canadian Football League to play for the Montreal Allouetttes. That year in Montreal, Johnson caught 65 passes for 1,060 yards and five touchdowns.

He returned to the NFL in 1982. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons. He played nine games that year and only caught two passes, but was able to return 24 punts at an impressive clip of 11.4 YPR.

"White Shoes" was used as the Falcons full-time punt returner in 1983. He also started at wide receiver. He caught a team and career high 64 passes while scoring five touchdowns total. One touchdown was via a punt return.

He won the Pro Bowl MVP when he took a punt 90 yards for a touchdown, as well as accumulating 159 total return yards. Both are still Pro Bowl records.

Johnson got off to a good start in 1984 by catching 24 balls for three touchdowns, as well as a touchdown on a punt return. He was injured the sixth game of the year and did not return until 1985. He was used very sparingly as a punt returner that year, instead focusing on his wide receiver duties. He caught 62 passes for a career high 830 yards to go with five touchdowns.

Johnson was hurt the following year and caught only six passes and took eight punt returns in four games. He came back to play 12 games the following year and returned 21 punts and caught eight passes.

He left the Falcons, but tried to play for the Washington Redskins in 1988. He played only one game and took four punts, returning three of them for 26 yards. He then retired.

"White Shoes" was named to both the NFL's 1980's All-Decade Team, and to the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

He set seven team records in Houston and four in Atlanta and held the NFL record for punt return yardage when he retired. He is still ranked third all-time in punt return yardage in NFL history, and still holds the Oilers' record for punt return yardage.

Johnson may be known to many fans as an innovator of the touchdown dance. He is credited as being one of the first, but certainly his can stake claim to having been the best ever.

Celebrations with more choreography may have been employed since then, but it is much like the students trying to emulate the master. He was not just a crowd pleaser with his dance. He was a premier return specialist who took eight kicks to the end zone in his career.

He also worked hard to become a threat at wide receiver. Others, like Terence Mathis, Troy Brown, and Derrick Mason, have followed similar steps in their careers. Johnson was a very special player who battled through injuries and came back to produce.

One must remember that knee injuries in those days ended, or slowed down, most careers. The surgical procedures used then are a far cry from today's advances in medicine. It took even more determination to return, and a lot longer of a rehab session.

Billy "White Shoes" Johnson may not make every list of guys who should be inducted, but he is on the All-Time NFL Team. This fact, coupled with his stats and the fun he brought to the game, make it a no brainer that he should be inducted into Canton in my opinion.

Rick Upchurch, Mel J. Gray, Michael Bates, Mike Nelms, and John Taylor deserve mention.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Almost All-Time New Orleans Saints

REMEMBER : This Is A Team Of Greats Who Are Not, And Maybe Never Will Be, Inducted into The Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Quarterback : Archie Manning

In the very first nationally televised college football game ever in 1969, Archie Manning gained 540 yards. It is still a SEC record and Manning would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The Saints used their first round draft pick, the second overall selection, in 1971 to attain his services. New Orleans was entering into their fifth season of professional football, and most experts considered them severely undermanned in talented players.

Manning was looked upon to be the savior of a franchise that did not seem interested in getting enough talent surrounding him by putting together terrible drafts yearly. Manning would spent much of his time running for his life in New Orleans.

While he led the NFL in passing attempts and completions in his second year, Manning was also sacked more than any other quarterback in three of his first five seasons. What made the statistic even more astonishing was the fact that Manning was extremely mobile and not easy to tackle.

With seemingly 11 defenders jumping on his back virtually every time he dropped back to pass, the Saints lost more games than they won. Manning was only able to suit up for every game in an entire season once up until 1978 because he was getting destroyed on the gridiron weekly.

Things got so bad that defenders like Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood were telling reporters that they were trying to take it easy on Manning because he was so poorly protected. Manning's toughness and desire to keep lifting his carcass off the turf every play garnered the respect of every NFL player.

With New Orleans losing so much, fans called the team the "Aint's". They wore paper bags over their heads as the team seemed to lose on a weekly basis. The team won more than five games only twice in Manning's career.

He made his first Pro Bowl in 1978 after New Orleans set a franchise record with seven wins. He was named the NFC Most Valuable Player by the Sporting News and UPI. Manning went back to the Pro Bowl the next season after the Saints posted their first non-losing season in franchise history.

After the Saints won one game in 1980 and three games in 1981, they traded Manning to the Houston Oilers during the 1982 season. Like the Saints, Houston had fallen on hard times and were in the process of rebuilding. He started in eight games over two seasons, failing to win once. He was then traded to the Minnesota Vikings during the 1983 season and retired at the end of 1984.

When the novice fan sees that he win just 35 of 139 starts, they may fail to realize the talented quarterback never had the chance to prosper with the teams he played with. Manning was sacked 340 times in his 11 seasons in New Orleans.

He has two sons, Peyton and Eli, playing quarterback in the NFL and both were also first round draft picks who have gone to the Pro Bowl. Unlike their father, they have been surrounded by exceptional talent and both have won a Super Bowl. Their father never appeared in even a playoff game.

While Peyton is headed for Canton one day, and Eli still has an outside chance of accomplishing this as well, their father had the stronger throwing arm and was much more athletic than either child. He did not get to enjoy the rules heavily slanted in the offenses favor like his sons have.

He and his favorite passing target, Danny Abramowicz, were the very first players inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame. He has stayed in New Orleans and is an ambassador of the team and community, much beloved and respected by all in the Big Easy.

Not only is he probably the greatest quarterback in Saints history, but he could be the very best Manning to play in the NFL.

Billy Kilmer, Bobby Hebert, Jim Everett, and Aaron Brooks deserve mention.

Fullback : Tony Galbreath

Galbreath was the Saints second round draft pick in 1976. New Orleans had drafted Chuck Muncie in the first round and the pair was called "Thunder and Lightening". While Muncie got the majority of the carries, Galbreath was used in many different ways.

He led the team with seven rushing touchdowns and 54 receptions, which was the sixth most in the NFL that year. He also returned a team leading 20 kickoffs and a pair of punts.

Though the roles remained the same the next year, Galbreath continued to be an excellent blocker and pass catcher. He snagged a career best 74 balls in 1978, which was the second most in the NFL that year. He followed that up with 58 more receptions and a career high 708 rushing yards the next season.

The Saints were decimated by injuries in 1980, causing them to win just one game all year. Galbreath caught 57 passes, but was then traded to the Minnesota Vikings at the end of the year. Though he didn't carry the ball much for the Vikings, he caught 45 passes one year.

A free agent in 1984, Galbreath signed with the New York Giants in 1984. Mainly used as a blocker for Pro Bowl halfback Joe Morris, he did average 32 receptions over four seasons before retiring at the end of the 1987 season. The highlight of his career came in 1986 when the Giants won Super Bowl XXI.

Galbreath wasn't just a great blocker and pass catcher, he was a versatile athlete. He made two of three field goal attempts, as well as an extra point, when called upon i an emergency situation during the 1979 season. He also threw seven career passes, completing three.

When he left the Saints, he was the second leading rusher and pass catcher in team history. He is currently ranks sixth in receptions and seventh in rushing. Galbreath is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and the greatest fullback in franchise history.

Wayne Wilson, Lorenzo Neal, and Tony Baker deserve mention.

Halfback : George Rogers

After a Heisman Trophy winning collegiate career that eventually got him inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Rogers was the first draft pick of the 1981 draft and the Saints leaned on him heavily.

He was named Rookie of the Year, First Team All-Pro, and to the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL with a whopping 378 carries for 1,674 yards at an average of 104,6 rushing yards per game. He also scored 13 times

Rogers was on his way to duplicating his rookie year when a players strike derailed his 1982 season. He was named to the Pro Bowl. He gained 1,144 yards the next year despite missing three games. After 914 rushing yards in 1983, he was traded to the Washington Redskins.

He shared carries with Hall of Famer John Riggins and halfback Keith Griffin in his first season with the Redskins, but still gained 1,093 yards and scored seven times. Washington made him the primary ball carrier the next year, after Riggins retired, and he led the NFL with a career high 18 rushing touchdowns while gaining 1,203 yards.

His last season was in 1987, which was marred by a players strike and nagging injuries. Rogers still led the team in rushing as Washington went on to win Super Bowl XXII.

Though he still ranks second on the Saints all-time rushing yards list for a career, his 1,674 yards in 1981 is still the best in team history. His 13 rushing touchdowns that year is tied with Deuce McAllister and Dalton Hilliard as the most for a single season in Saints history. The 83.7 yards he averaged per game with New Orleans is also a team record.

Though Rogers lasted just four years with the Saints, his impact lasted much longer. New Orleans spent many years in last place in their division before his arrival. The team steadily improved and the previous losing culture that had dogged the franchise soon became a thing of the past.

He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and Rogers is the only Saints running back to be named First Team All-Pro. His two Pro Bowls is still tied as the most in franchise history by a running back. On a franchise that has had many excellent running backs, Rogers may be the best.

Deuce McAllister, Rueben Mayes, Chuck Muncie, Dalton Hilliard, Andy Livingston, Fred McAfee, and Ricky Williams deserve mention.

Wide Receiver : Eric Martin

Martin was drafted by the Saints in the seventh round of the 1985 draft. He was initially used as both a return specialist and wide receiver, but he stopped being the primary punt returner after his third season.

The 1988 season was his best, making his only Pro Bowl after catching a career high 85 passes. He gained a career best 1,090 yards and caught a career high eight touchdown passes the next year. He caught 63 or more passes between 1989 to 1993.

Martin joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1994, but was seldom used. He retired at the end of the season. His 532 receptions for 7,854 yards are still the most in Saints history, and his 48 touchdowns and 18 100-yard receiving games are the second most in team history.

He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and there are several New Orleans fans who consider him the best wide receiver in team history.

Wide Receiver : Joe Horn

Horn was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs after having played a year in the Canadian Football League. He was rarely used in his first three seasons with the Chiefs, catching 18 balls total, but the Saints signed the free agent after a promising fourth season that accrued 35 receptions.

New Orleans put Horn to work immediately in 2000, having him catch a career best 94 balls in the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl years. He duplicated that reception total in 2004, his last Pro Bowl season, but added a career high 11 touchdowns and 1,399 receiving yards.

His next two years saw his production decline greatly, as Horn dealt with nagging injuries along the way. He was cut by New Orleans, but signed a big contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Soon he was not producing and asked to be traded. Atlanta cut him and no other team was interested in his services, so Horn retired.

Fans either loved or hated him for a style of play and clothing that earned Horn the nickname "Hollywood". He once hid a cell phone in the padding of a goalpost during a nationally televised game, pulling it out upon scoring to call his children to share in the celebration. He was fined heavily by the league for his antics.

Horn caught 50 touchdowns in his seven years with New Orleans, which is a team record. He is tied for the most touchdown receptions in a season with Marques Colston, and his 1,399 yards in one year is also a team record. Horn also ranks second in Saints history in catches and receiving yards.

Inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2010, his four Pro Bowl appearances is a franchise record for wide receivers. No other Saint receiver has gone to the Pro Bowl more than once. It is safe to say that Joe Horn is one of the best wide receivers in Saints history.

Wes Chandler, Jeff Groth, Quinn Early, and Danny Ambramowicz, a Saint Hall of Famer who is the only New Orleans receiver to be named First Team All-Pro and once held the NFL record for consecutive games with at least one catch. deserve mention.

Tight End : Hoby Brenner

Brenner was drafted in the third round of the 1981 draft by New Orleans. Though he was used sparingly as a rookie, Brenner became the primary starter from his second season on for the Saints.

While he was very good at stretching the seam, especially in the first seven years of his career, blocking was something Brenner was exceptional at. He refined this skill in college blocking for two Heisman Trophy winning running backs named Charles White and Marcus Allen on the 1978 National Champion USC Trojans.

He caught a career high 42 passes in 1985, but he exceeded 34 reception just three times in his career. He was such a respected blocker that Brenner was named to the Pro Bowl in 1987. Brenner and Henry Childs are the only Saints tight ends to go to the Pro Bowl.

Brenner retired at the end of 1993 having appeared in 1975 games, the most in team history by a Saints pass catcher.. He still ranks fifth all-time in team history with 267 career receptions, the most ever by a Saints tight end. He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and may be the best tight end in team history.

Henry Childs and John Tice deserve mention.

Tackle : Willie Roaf

With the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 1993 draft, New Orleans selected Roaf. They started him immediately at left tackle and he would remain there the rest of his career. He made the first of seven consecutive Pro Bowls in his second season, including two straight First Team All-Pro nods in his second and third seasons.

While he was considered amongst the very best left tackles in the NFL, Roaf hurt his knee in 2001 and missed nine games. New Orleans made the mistake of thinking Roaf was in decline, so they traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional draft choice.

Roaf showed immediately that he had lost nothing to his game, and he went to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons with the Chiefs. He was honored with his final First Team All-Pro nod in 2004, then retired at the end of the 2005 season.

Not only is he a member of the Saints Hall of Fame, but he is a member of the NFL's 1990's First Team All-Decade Team and a member of the Second Team on the 2000's All-Decade Team.

It is a matter of time before he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 11-time Pro Bowler was a finalist in the 2011 vote, and it seems likely he will go in the next year.

His seven Pro Bowls with the Saints is the most in franchise history, as is his two First Team All-Pro honors. He is the best blocker to ever wear a New Orleans Saints uniform.

Tackle : Stan Brock

Brock was the Saints first round draft pick in 1980. He played college football for head coach Chuck Fairbanks, who coached his older brother Pete with the New England Patriots.

He earned the starting job in the fifth game of his rookie year at right tackle and held onto it for the rest of his Saints career. Though he missed 11 games in two years, because of injury, Brock started and played in every game for 10 years.

Brock became a free agent after 1992, then joined the San Diego Chargers for three years. The highlight of his career was playing in Super Bowl XXIX for San Diego. He retired after the 1995 season.

Brock was dependable, playing in 186 games over 13 seasons for New Orleans. He is considered by many to be one of the finest blockers in team history and he is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame.

Kyle Turley, Don Morrison, and Jammal Brown deserve mention.

Guard : Jim Dombrowski

The Saints used the sixth pick of the first round to draft Dombrowski in 1986 after a collegiate career that was so outstanding that Virginia University retired his number and he would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

After playing just three games as a rookie, the Saints put him in as the starting left tackle. for almost three years before deciding guard might be his best position. He stayed entrenched there until 1993, where he spent most of the season as a reserve due to injuries.

Starting every game the following two season, Dombrowski was forced to miss six games in 1996 because of an injury. They were the first games he missed since the strike-shortened season of 1987, which caused him to retire at seasons end.

Dombrowski is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame. His versatility, toughness, and durability helped make him play a team record 147 straight games and become one of the best blockers the Saints ever had.

Guard : Jake Kupp

Kupp was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the ninth round of the 1964 draft. He earned a starting job for the last ten games of his rookie season and held the job until he was traded to the Washington Redskins before the start of the 1966 season.

He was a reserve for the Redskins, but they like Kupp's athleticism enough to toss him four passes for 28 yards that year. He joined the Atlanta Falcons the next year, but was released after six games. New Orleans grabbed him and Kupp spent the last five games on the year with them.

Earning the starting job in 1968, Kupp became a top blocker for the team. He became the first Saints offensive lineman ever to go to the Pro Bowl in 1969. He continued to start until the end of the 1975 season when he retired.

Not only is Kupp a member of the Saints Hall of Fame, he is one of the very best offensive guards in tam history.

LeCharles Bentley, Del Williams, Emanuel Zanders, and Brad Edelman deserve mention.

Center : Joel Hilgenberg

Hilgenberg was drafted in the fourth round of the 1984 draft by the Saints. He spent his rookie year as a reserve, but started five games the next year. He earned the starting job in 1987 then was moved to guard for the 1988 season. He went back to center the next year and stayed there for the rest of his career.

He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1992, marking the eighth consecutive year a Hilgenberg played for the NFL in a Pro Bowl. His older brother, Jay, had went the previous seven times as a member of the Chicago Bears. Jay Hilgenberg joined the Cleveland Browns in 1992, opening the way for Joel to get honored.

The Hilgenberg brothers were both members of the Saints in 1993. When Joel was injured after nine games, his older brother finished the season in his place. Both Hilgenberg brothers retired together at the end of the year.

Though the Saints have had many fine centers in the history of their franchise, including Saints Hall of Famer John Hill, Joel Hilgenberg was the first to ever go to the Pro Bowl. LeCharles Bentley is the only other one to have accomplished this. Hilgenberg is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and may be the est center the team has ever employed.

John Hill, Jerry Fontenot, and LeCharles Bentley deserve mention.

Defensive Tackle : La'Roi Glover

Glover was a fifth round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1996. Oakland had a pair of productive 27-year old Pro Bowlers named Chester McGlockton and Russell Maryland as their starting defensive tackles, so Glover appeared in just two games that year and was released just before the season ended.

The Saints grabbed him in the off season and had him play in NFL Europe. He stood out as his team, the Barcelona Dragons, won World Bowl V. He then returned to New Orleans to come off the bench and collect 6.5 sacks.

He earned the staring job by his third season and remained entrenched there the rest of his career. He quickly became a star, getting 10 sacks, an interception, forced a career best three fumbles, and had a career high 67 tackles in 1998. After an excellent 1999 season, Glover was considered one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.

The 2000 season was the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl nods for Glover, and it was the best of his career. He led the league with 17 sacks, the second most ever in a single season by a defensive tackle, and matched his career high totals on forced fumbles and tackles. He also earned his only First Team All-Pro honor.

Despite another productive season that had him named a Pro Bowler in 2001, New Orleans released Glover instead of picking up the option of his contract. The Dallas Cowboys quickly signed him. He played four years in Dallas and went to the Pro Bowl each year.

Dallas went to a 3-4 defense in 2005, forcing Glover to play nose tackle. Though he made the Pro Bowl, his 6'2" 285 pound frame was not thought to be conducive to play that position. He became a free agent and was signed by the Saint Louis Rams. He lasted three years with the Rams before retiring.

Only seven defensive tackles have more sacks than the 83.5 Glover had in his career. The 50 he had with the Saints is the seventh most in franchise history and the most by a defensive tackle. His two Pro Bowls as a Saint are the most by a defensive tackle in team history, and he is the only Saint defensive lineman ever to be named First Team All-Pro.

New Orleans lucked into signing him in 1996, and obviously made a mistake letting him go in 2002. He was superb in his short time with them and might be their best defensive tackle ever.

Defensive Tackle : Derland Moore

Moore was a walk-on player at Oklahoma University who stood out enough to be drafted in the second round by the Saints in 1973. He was the highest drafted walk-on in NFL history at the time.

He played all over the defensive line as a reserve, during his rookie season, and picked off the only pass of his career. He was named a starter the next season and would remain there the rest of his Saints career.

Moore was a tall, rangy player who was athletic enough to start at defensive end the entire 1981 season after New Orleans switched to a 3-4 base defense. Moore was plugged in at nose tackle the next year. After collecting six sacks in 1983, Moore went to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement.

Playing in just 18 games the next two years, New Orleans cut him at the end of the 1985 season after he appeared in only six games. He suited up for one game with the New York Jets the next season then retired.

The 170 games Moore played with New Orleans was a team record at the time by a defensive player, and it is still the fifth most. He is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and is considered one of their finest defensive lineman ever.

Bob Pollard, Elex Price, Tony Elliott, and Norman Hand deserve mention.

Defensive End : Wayne Martin

New Orleans used their first round draft pick, 19th overall, by selecting Martin in 1989. After spending his rookie year coming off the bench, Martin started in every game he played in the rest of his career. He missed five games in 1990, then never missed a game again.

He exploded with a career best 15.5 sacks in 1992. Martin made the Pro Bowl in 1994, and had double digit sacks in five of six seasons starting in 1992. He was a key component of the famous "Dome Patrol", which saw all four starting linebackers for New Orleans go to the Pro Bowl on a top-rated defense that is considered one of the finest in modern football history.

The Saints moved him to defensive tackle in 1995, and he responded with three consecutive years of double digit sacks and had a career best 88 tackles in 1996. He had a safety in 1998, then retired after the following season.

The 82.5 sacks Martin had is the most by any Saints defensive lineman and is second behind Hall of Fame linebacker Ricky Jackson for New Orleans. His 171 games played are the fourth most by a Saints defender. The 531 tackles he had are the most ever by a Saints defensive lineman and ranks fourth best overall in franchise history.

Not only is he a member of the Saints Hall of Fame, but Martin is probably the best defensive end the team has ever had. His 144 straight starts are the most by any Saints player.

Defensive End : Frank Warren

New Orleans drafted Warren in the third round of the 1981 draft. He was a key reserve of an improving Saints defense until 1987. He could play any position along the defensive line and be productive. When he was named a starter in 1988, Jumpy Geathers also started a few games.

He had perhaps his best season in 1989. Jim Wilks, his bookend, was now starting at nose tackle and Geathers replaced him at defensive end. Warren piled up a career best 9.5 sacks, 50 tackles, and collected a safety. The versatility of the Saints defensive line often gave opponents problems.

Continuing to start, he was moved from the left to the right side the next year and had seven sacks. New Orleans then moved him to nose tackle in 1994. Warren retired at the end of the season. Though sacks were not a recognized statistic until 1982, the 52.5 sacks Warren had ranks fifth best in team history.

Warren is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame and the 189 games he played in are the most ever by a Saints defensive lineman. He was athletic, versatile, and durable. He is certainly one of the best defensive linemen the franchise ever had.

Jim Wilks, Joe Johnson, Darren Howard, Bruce Clark, Jumpy Geathers, Willie Whitehead, and Elois Grooms deserve mention.

Outside Linebacker : Pat Swilling

After a legendary collegiate career that eventually ended with induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Swilling somehow lasted until the third round of the 1986 draft until the Saints selected him.

He spent his rookie year coming off the bench but was named a starter from his second season on. Swilling's specialty was rushing the passer, getting double digit sack totals in five of his seven years with the Saints.

Swilling made the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls in 1989 after getting 16.5 sacks and forcing five fumbles.He had perhaps his best season in 1991 when he led the NFL with a career best 17 sacks. He also forced a career high six fumbles, scored a touchdown off his only interception, and was named First Team All-Pro and NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

He was named First Team All-Pro again the next year, but the Saints traded him to the Detroit Lions at the end of the season. His first with the Lions was his best, as well as the last Pro Bowl year of his career. Swilling picked off a career best three balls and forced five fumbles. He left Detroit after the 1994 season to join the Oakland Raiders.

Oakland put Swilling at defensive end for them and he responded with 13 sacks in his first year with them. He retired after playing two more years with them. Though he played on some very good teams, Swilling is the only player in NFL history to play in six playoff games without ever winning once.

Swilling is the only Saints player ever to have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Of his 107.5 career sacks, which is the 17th most in NFL history, 76.5 came with the Saints. That is the third most in team history. He forced 24 fumbles with New Orleans, which is the second most in team history.

Though Rickey Jackson is often the first named mentioned on the famous "Dome Patrol" linebackers corp, Swilling is the only one to be named First Team All-Pro with the team. With a career that had one less Pro Bowl than Jackson, some fans feel Pat Swilling should also be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Middle Linebacker : Sam Mills

Mills went undrafted in 1981, then tried out with the Cleveland Browns and was cut. He then tried out with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and was cut again.

The United States Football League began playing in 1983 and Mills tried out for the Philadelphia Stars. Not only did he make the team, he became an instant success. Nicknamed the "Field Mouse", the 5'9" Mills was known for his leadership and intensity both on and off the field.

The USFL folded after 1985, but it did have many successes. Six members of the USFL are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including four players. Mills played in the USFL Championship Game all three seasons, winning twice. He is a member of the USFL All-Time Team, and was named All-USFL, their version of the Pro Bowl, all three years.

David Dixon created the USFL. He also was instrumental in bringing the Saints to New Orleans. His connections with the USFL proved to be valuable when that league folded as he signed many former USFL personnel.

He hired Jim Mora Sr. as his head coach, Bobby Hebert as his starting quarterback, Chuck Commiskey as a starting offensive guard, Buford Jordan as the starting fullback, Antonio Gibson as the starting strong safety, Mel Gray as the return specialist, and Mills and Vaughn Johnson as his starting inside linebackers. Mora had coached Mills, Commiskey, and Gibson in the USFL.

The Saints already had Hall of Famer Ricky Jackson at one outside linebacker slot, and had just drafted future Pro Bowler Pat Swilling to bookend him. Teamed with Mills and Johnson, New Orleans has one of the best linebacker corps in NFL history. The group was so devastating that they were called "The Dome Patrol".

Mills was the leader of the group and made his first Pro Bowl in his second season. He was always around the ball and averaged almost 100 tackles a year in his nine season with the Saints. He also took two fumble recoveries in for touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl four times total.

When his contract expired in 1994, the Saint allowed the 36-year old to leave despite the fact he had just piled up a career high 155 tackles that year for them. Mills signed with the expansion Carolina Panthers determined to show he had a lot of football still in him. He became an instant hero for the Panthers.

The 1996 season was one of his best. He was named to the Pro Bowl and was also given his only First Team All-Pro honor. Mills had a career best 5.5 sacks to go with 122 tackles and became the oldest player in NFL history to recover a fumble and return it for a score.

He retired after the 1997 season and became a linebackers coach for Carolina. He found out he had intestinal cancer and only had a few months to live in 2003, but kept coaching and pleading for his players to "keep pounding". This inspired Carolina to reach Super Bowl XXXVIII that year.

Mills died in 2005 and the Panthers have a statue of him outside of their stadium in his honor. He is a member of the Panthers Hall of Honor, the Saints Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey, and the College Football Hall of Fame.

There is still a good chance Mills will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. Though critics may say his five Pro Bowls with the NFL isn't enough for induction, that means they are discounting what he did in the USFL.

The USFL was professional football, and Mills was a huge star in that league. The building in Canton has the words Pro Football" engraved on their buildings, signs, and letterheads everywhere. The USFL obviously had tremendous impact and influence on the NFL as well.

His is a story of perseverance. The "American Dream" that became reality. Even if Mills never gets into Canton, he is probably the greatest inside linebacker the Saints franchise ever had wear their jersey.

Joe Federspiel, Vaughn Johnson, Charlie Clemons, and Winfred Tubbs deserve mention.

Outside Linebacker : Keith Mitchell

The Saints signed Mitchell as an undrafted free agent rookie in 1997. He was used sparingly as a rookie, but still accrued four sacks. He won the starting job the next year and would remain in the starting lineup the remainder of his time in New Orleans.

Mitchell had a propensity of making the big play. After scoring off a fumble recovery in 1998, he repeated that event in 2000 and scored again on an interception while getting a career high 6.5 sacks. He was named to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.

He started to get phased out by Charlie Clemons in 2001, so Mitchell asked to be released. He signed with the Houston Texans but spent one injury filled season with them. Joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003, he got hurt for the year early on then retired.

Mitchell was a pass rusher who was quite a find for the Saints. He was productive and became just the fourth outside linebacker, along with Mark Fields, to go to the Pro Bowl representing New Orleans.

Reynaldo Turnbull, Whitney Paul, Mark Fields, Wayne Colman, and Jim Merlo deserve mention.

Strong Safety : Sammy Knight

Knight joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent rookie in 1997. He quickly won a starting job at free safety and intercepted 11 passes over two years. He also scored twice, one coming off a 91-yard interception return.

New Orleans moved him to strong safety in 1999 and he responded with 102 tackles. He had 100 tackles, two sacks, five interceptions, and two touchdowns the next year, which put him amongst the best strong safeties in the NFL.

His 2001 was his lone Pro Bowl year after matching his career high of six interceptions. The Saints moved him back to free safety the next year and Knight piled up a career best 107 tackles.

Now a free agent, Knight joined the Miami Dolphins for two years and recorded a safety. He moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2005 and spent two years as their starting strong safety. Joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, he moved onto the New York Giants the next year for a hefty contract.

He spent much of the year hurt, the first time he missed a game since1998. The Giants released him, so he retired. Not only is Knight the first Saint strong safety to ever go to a Pro Bowl, but his impact was significant.

Knight ranks third in franchise history in interceptions and sixth in tackles. His four touchdowns off interceptions is also a team record. Though some Saint fans might prefer Gene Atkins here, Knight was more productive in a shorter amount of time and may be the best strong safety in team history.

Gene Atkins, Brett Maxie, Jay Bellamy, Benny Thompson, Chuck Crist, and Hugo Hollas deserve mention.

Free Safety : Tom Myers

Myers was drafted by the Saints in the third round of the 1972 draft. He worked his way into the starting lineup by mid-season and held onto that honor the remainder of his career.

The NFL knew of him as a big play artist in 1975, when he took a fumble recovery in for a score. He duplicated that feat the next year as well. He was at the top of his game by 1978.

He intercepted six balls that year for a career best 167 yards. He took one ball a then-team record 97 yards for a score, which was the longest interception return of the year. He followed that up with an even better performance the next season.

Myers became the first Saints safety ever to be named to the Pro Bowl in 1978. He was also the first Saint defender ever to be named First Team All-NFL. Myers picked off a career high 7 passes that season, returning one for a score.

He played two more years before retiring, but his final season saw him attempt two passes. He completed one for an eight yard touchdown. The 36 interceptions Myers had was a Saints record at the time, and it still ranks second. He was inducted into the teams Hall of Fame in the second year it existed.

Though he played on some truly awful teams in his career, Myers still was able to excel and garner a lot of respect along the way. He is probably the best defensive back in team history.

Gene Atkins, Frank Wattelet, and Josh Bullocks deserve mention.

Cornerback : Dave Waymer

Waymer was a second round pick of the Saints in 1980. He started ten games at right cornerback as a rookie, but was switched to left cornerback the next year. He stayed there for eight seasons, becoming the teams top cornerback.

After getting a career best nine interceptions in b1986, he made his only Pro Bowl the following year. The 1987 season saw him play 12 games because of a players strike, but that did not prevent Waymer from swiping five balls.

He made a seamless transition to free safety in 1989, intercepting six passes. Waymer then joined the San Francisco 49ers for the next two years to play mostly strong safety. He then went to the Los Angeles Raiders for the 1992 season, then passes away during the off season at 34-years old.

Of his 48 career interceptions, 37 came with the Saints. It is the most in franchise history. His 149 games in New Orleans are the most ever by a Saints defensive back. Waymer is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame.

The Saints have had three cornerbacks go to the Pro Bowl. Waymer was the second to accomplish this, but he might be the best cornerback the team ever had.

Cornerback : Dave Whitsell

Whitsell was drafted in the 24th round of the 1958 draft by the Detroit Lions. He played in Detroit until 1960, then joined the Chicago Bears. He lasted six years there, intercepting 26 passes.

Joining the expansion Saints in 1967, Whitsell became the first star in Saints history. Leading the NFL with 10 interceptions, returning them for 178 yards and two scores, he became the first player in team history to be named to the Pro Bowl.

New Orleans had him play free safety the next two years mostly, and he responded with nine passes picked off. He then retired and is a member of the Saints Hall of Fame. Not only did he lead the team in interceptions in each of his three seasons, but the 19 Whitsell had as a Saint ranks the fifth most in team history.

When the Saints started out as a franchise, they were not a team full of talent. Of the excellent players they did have, Dave Whitsell stood out perhaps the most.

Fred Thomas, Toi Cook, Johnnie Poe, Ernie Jackson, Ashley Ambrose, Vince Buck, and Mike McKenzie deserve mention.

Kicker : Morten Andersen

Drafted in the fourth round of the 1982 draft by the Saints, Andersen spent the next 13 years with New Orleans becoming the greatest kicker in team history.

He made the first of his seven career Pro Bowls in 1985, then was named First Team All-Pro the next two seasons. He led the NFL in field goal attempts twice, field goals and field goal percentage once with New Orleans. He was known for a very strong kicking leg, once hitting a 60-yard field goal that is three yards short of the NFL record set by Saints legend Tom Dempsey.

After the 1994 season, the Saints felt that the man called "Mr. Automatic" and "The Great Dane" was no longer quite as effective at 34-years old. They let him go into the free agency pool. The Atlanta Falcons would end up signing Andersen.

Named to the Pro Bowl and his final First Team All-Pro in his first year with Atlanta, he showed the Saints he has plenty of leg left by becoming the first player in NFL history to kick three field goals of 50-yards or more against them. Andersen spent six years with the Falcons. His highlight was kicking a game-winning field goal in the NFC Championship Game in 1998 to send the Falcons to their only Super Bowl appearance.

He joined the New York Giants in 2001, then the Kansas City Chiefs the next year. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, then rejoined the Falcons the next season. He stayed with Atlanta for two years before retiring at the age of 47-years old.

Andersen in the leading scorer in NFL history. He is also the leading scorer in both Saints and Falcons history. No one has attempted or made more field goal in NFL history, nor played in as many games. He is a member of both the 1980's and 1990's NFL All-Decade Team.

He holds 22 NFL records four Pro Bowl records, and is the only player to set records for two team, the Saints and Falcons, in both field goals and extra points attempted and made. He is also second in six other NFL records for kicking. When he retired, he was just two days away from passing Hall of Famer George Blanda as the oldest person to play an NFL game in the modern era.

It seems inevitable that he will be in Canton, especially after the great Jan Stenerud broke the barrier for allowing kickers to be inducted. There was little Andersen couldn't do kicking a football. Not only did he possess a big leg, but his NFL record of 103 game winning kicks show nerves of steel. He may be the greatest kicker in NFL history, but he is the best in Saints history.

Tom Dempsey, Doug Brien, Charlie Durkee, and Rich Szaro deserve mention.

Punter : Tommy Barnhardt

Barnhardt was a ninth round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, selected ahead of notable players like Clyde Simmons and Vai Sikahema. Tampa Bay decided to go with veteran Frank Garcia and cut Barnhardt.

He joined the Saints and Chicago Bears for a total of five games the next season, then for four games with the Washington Redskins in 1988. The Saints were dissatisfied with the performance of George Winslow after five games in 1989, so they replaced him with Barnhardt.

Staying with the Saints the next six years, Barnhardt was known for his consistency and leg strength. He led the NFL with 3,743 punting yards in 1991. He joined the Carolina Panthers for just the 1995 season, punting the ball a career high 95 times.

Barnhardt spent the next three seasons with the Buccaneers before rejoining the Saints in 1999. He went back to the Redskins in 2000, then retired at the end of the season His 515 punts for 21,880 yards are the most in team history.

His career average of 42.5 yards per punt with New Orleans shows his leg strength. It is the most by any Saint with at least 228 attempts. Though Brian Hansen and Mitch Berger went to the Pro Bowl for New Orleans, both spent just four and three years respectively with the team as opposed to the eight that Barnhardt did.

Tom Blanchard, Brian Hansen, Mitch Berger, and Russell Erxleben deserve mention.

Kick Returner : Michael Lewis

Lewis was driving a beer truck when he made the team at 30-years old in 2001 after playing semi-pro football for several years. He was rarely used by the Saints as a wide receiver, catching 28 balls over three years, but he did average nearly 20 yards per reception.

Used mainly as a kick returner as a rookie, Lewis exploded on his second year and made the Pro Bowl. He led the NFL in kickoff returns, kickoff return yards, punt return yards, and all purpose yards. His two scores on kickoff returns also led the league, and he scored once more on a punt return..

He returned 114 kicks and punts that year for 2,432 yards, both of which are NFL records. His 625 punt return yards that year are the 12th most in NFL history, and his 1,807 kickoff return yards are the third most ever. His 2,647 all-purpose yards are the second most in NFL history, and his 70 kickoff returns are the fourth most.

Unable to stay healthy enough to play an entire season the next four years, Lewis remained New Orleans' primary return specialist. He joined the San Francisco 49ers in 2007 and was used primarily as a punt returner before retiring at the end of the season.

He has remained popular with the Saints organization since and was given a Super Bowl ring in 2010 after the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV. He is most likely the greatest return specialist in team history. Lewis holds the team records in both punt and kickoff returns in attempts and yards gained.

Tyrone Hughes, Mel J. Gray, Eric Guliford, Wayne Wilson, Aaron Stecker, and Rich Mauti deserve mention.

Punt Returner : Tyrone Hughes

Hughes was drafted by the Saints in the fifth round in 1993. He made the Pro Bowl immediately, leading the league in punt return yards, two touchdowns, and a 13.6 yards per return average. He also scored off a kickoff return.

Though the Saints did not use him much on defense, he had the only four interceptions of his career the next two years. He recovered three fumbles in 1994, returning them for a league leading 128 yards and two scores.

He also tied an NFL record that year by returning two kickoffs for scores in one game. He would lead the NFL in kickoff returns and yards in each of the next three years. Hughes left New Orleans after 1996 and then played a season each for the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys the next two years before retiring. He even caught eight balls for the Bears.

Hughes ranks second in Saints history in punt and kickoff return yardage but first in touchdowns scored. Lewis could hold this slot too, but I gave it to Hughes because he was such a productive and exciting player.

Michael Lewis, Jeff Groth, Mel J. Gray, Howard Stevens, and Eric Guliford deserve mention.