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Pro Football Hall of Fame Welcomes Worthy Class 21

Posted on February 02, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Andre Reed finally received the "call from the hall" in his eighth year as a finalist.

Andre Reed finally received the “call from the hall” in his eighth year as a finalist.

For the fourth time in the last five years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will add a maximum class of seven following the announcement last night of the 2014 class for induction.

Though some will question a couple of the selections, in total it is pretty impressive group that will be honored in Canton later this year.

Included are first year eligible players Derrick Brooks and Walter Jones along with wide receiver Andre Reed and defensive players Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams. Also selected as senior-era selections were Claude Humphrey and Ray Guy.

While I think there was no debating the worthiness of both Brooks and Jones, who ironically are both products of Florida State, but am a little surprised that Jones made the cut during his first year of eligibility.

Though he didn’t always receive the same publicity as his defensive teammates in Tampa Bay Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, Brooks was the consistent star of that unit. An 11-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first team All-Pro, Brooks was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 when the Buccaneers won their only Super Bowl.

There is no question that Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro pick, has Hall of Fame credentials. However, with some other very talented players up for consideration (including 12-time Pro Bowl guard Will Shields), I wasn’t sure the voters would put Jones into the Hall in his first try.

Two players who also had Hall of Fame worthy careers, but who had to wait before receiving the call were Reed and Williams.

The Hall of Fame voters have always struggled with how to handle the wide receiver position. Reed is the 12th receiver since 1995 to be selected for the HOF, but only Jerry Rice and Steve Largent made it in their first year on the ballot. It took Reed eight times as a finalist before making the cut. Many believe that in the committee pecking order they had to get Cris Carter (who was selected last year in his sixth year of eligibility) into the HOF before Reed could make it in. The road is now clearer for Tim Brown, who has been a finalist five times, and Marvin Harrison, who was a finalist in his first year on the ballot, to be the next receivers in. Read the rest of this entry →

Can Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters Keep Their Winning Streak? 1

Posted on February 01, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Will this be the year that five-time Super Bowl champion Charles Haley adds the Hall of Fame to his resume?

Will this be the year that five-time Super Bowl champion Charles Haley adds the Hall of Fame to his resume?

It is that time of year again, when some of the great players we enjoyed watching on the gridiron receive their much-deserved place in pro football immortality.

With very few exceptions, the players considered each year are all among the NFL all-time elite and worthy of Hall of Fame induction. So, to me judging whether the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee does a good job has become less about which players, coaches or contributors they select, but more about how many they allow into the Hall of Fame each year.

Though the rules say that up to seven worthy candidates can be selected into the Hall of Fame each year, between 1988 and 2009 the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the maximum number of candidates only twice (1990 and 2001) while on six occasions choosing only four candidates, the minimum number allowed in a year.

The thing you must understand is that it isn’t like keeping the Hall of Fame classes so small for all those years was in some way preserving the elite status of the HOF.

Between 1988 and 2009 there were a total of 113 players, coaches and executives inducted into the Hall of Fame. Only 36 (31.9%) were inducted in their first year of eligibility. That means nearly 70% of all those who were eventually inducted were passed over at least once.

What this horrific and totally unnecessary display of incompetence did was create a back-log of worthy candidates. It also meant that some players whose careers were eventually recognized as Hall of Fame worthy were deprived of that honor until either after their death or far later in their life than necessary.

While the Baseball Hall of Fame selection process has some major problems, with only a few exceptions through their veteran’s program, most of those who are going to be honored as Baseball Hall of Famers receive the recognition no more than 20 years after their retirement.

In just the last five years there have been eight Pro Football Hall of Famers inducted more than 30 years after their retirement. Heck, Jack Butler, who was inducted in 2012 and passed away in 2013, finished his playing career in 1959.

I am not at all suggesting that these players should not have been inducted into the HOF, but rather that had the Hall of Fame selection committee been doing their job more efficiently for more than two decades these players would have received that honor earlier and thus would have been able to enjoy the recognition longer.

Fortunately, beginning in 2010 the Hall of Fame committee seemed to start understanding the mess they had made and since then have done a good job starting to reduce the backlog.

In the last four HOF voting cycles the HOF class has included the maximum seven members three times and six members once. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the 25 Greatest Individual Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History 2

Posted on January 30, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Has there ever been a better Super Bowl performance than Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIII?

Has there ever been a better Super Bowl performance than Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIII?

Sunday’s Super Bowl will feature the most prolific offense in NFL history against a squad that has a dominant running back and budding star at quarterback. Who will rise as the greatest star of the biggest game of the year? While Super Bowl history is full of second tier players having a career day, it is also full of future Hall of Famers who rose to the ultimate occasion.

This article marks part two of our look at the top 50 individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. Of the 50 performances picked for the list, 31 were by players who either are in the Hall of Fame or should realistically expect to receive a bust in Canton at some point. However, when you look at the “best of the best” performances, 19 of the top 25 were by players who are Hall of Fame caliber.

So, as we look toward Sunday, expect the cream to rise to the top and the top performers to be from marquee players like Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Russell Wilson. However, I wouldn’t put it past Julius Thomas, Eric Decker, Golden Tate, Percy Harvin or Doug Baldwin to emerge as a Super Bowl hero.

Here is a look at our picks for the 25 best individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. For this list we looked at statistics, but also considered game situations. That is why the Super Bowl where Joe Montana threw 5 touchdowns was highlighted in the first look at performances 50-26 and two others where he arguably wasn’t as statistically dominant are included here. We did take into account whether the team won the game, but did not give any weight to who won the game MVP Award as there have been many occasions where you can scratch your head at who received that award.

Be sure to check out part 1 with numbers 50-26. I welcome your comments or ideas as to which performances you think should be on this list.

25. Joe Montana – San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XIX – 24-35, 331 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT; 5 rushes, 59 yards, 1 TD
Even though Joe Montana already had a Super Bowl ring prior to facing the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX, he was generally considered the “second quarterback” entering the big game. Conventional wisdom was that Miami’s big armed quarterback Dan Marino was going to blow away Montana and the 49ers. As it turned out, Montana and his team proved dominant in a 38-16 victory. Montana passed for 13 more yards and tossed three touchdowns with no picks, compared to one TD and two interceptions for Marino.

 

Max McGee was an unlikely hero in Super Bowl I.

Max McGee was an unlikely hero in Super Bowl I.

24. Max McGee – Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl I – 7 rec., 138 yards, 2 TD
It was no surprise that the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl, but it was quite a shocker that one of the stars of the game was aging wide receiver Max McGee. Having caught just four passes in limited action during the season, McGee expected his biggest score of the weekend to be when he broke curfew the night before the game. Yet, after Boyd Dowler suffered a broken collar bone in the first minutes, McGee made history by scoring the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

23. Kurt Warner – St. Louis Rams – Super Bowl XXXIV – 24-45, 414 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Before the 1999 season Kurt Warner had thrown all of 11 passes in the NFL. In Super Bowl XXXIV he threw the ball 45 times for 414 yards (still the single game Super Bowl record) to lead the Rams to a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Rams marched up and down the field, but were held to just three field goals in the first half and the Titans came all the way back to tie the score at 16. Warner then connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner.

22. Eli Manning – New York Giants – Super Bowl XLVI – 30-40, 296 yards, 1TD, 0 INT
With his team trailing 17-9 after the New England Patriots scored on the first drive of the second half, Eli Manning completed 17 of 23 passes for 176 yards to lift the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in five years. He was especially impressive when marching the Giants down for the game-winning touchdown as he completed five of six passes for 74 yards.

21. John Elway – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 18-29, 336 yards, 1TD, 1INT; 1 rushing TD
In his final NFL game, John Elway went out in style by passing for 336 yards and a touchdown and scoring another touchdown on the ground as the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl. The Broncos seized control early with Elway’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith giving them a 17-3 lead. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the 50 Greatest Individual Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History: 50-26 2

Posted on January 26, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Despite losing Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens, Colin Kaepernick still had one of the finest performances in Super Bowl history.

Despite losing Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens, Colin Kaepernick still had one of the finest performances in Super Bowl history.

Since Super Bowl I in 1967, the “big game” has become the premier stage for NFL players to either create or cement their legacy. The first 47 Super Bowls are full of special Super Bowl performances. Some were by familiar names that used the Super Bowl to either put a stamp on a Hall of Fame career or propel them into a spot in Canton. But not every Super Bowl hero was a household name before their performance on the big stage. There have been several players whose otherwise unspectacular career includes one shining performance in front of one of the largest television crowds of all-time.

In this article and the second part (which will be posted later this week), we are looking specifically at the 50 best individual performances on offense in a Super Bowl. This list includes only offensive performances and not kickers or special teams players.

To develop the list we did take into account game statistics, but also looked at game situations when analyzing which players and moments were worthy of inclusion. For example, though Joe Montana tossed five touchdowns as the 49ers routed Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, he actually was ranked higher in other Super Bowls because his performance in critical moments was instrumental to their victory.

In ranking performances whether the team won the game was considered, but there have been some Super Bowl performances by players on losing teams that were clearly among the most important. One thing that received little consideration was who was awarded the Super Bowl MVP as there have been numerous occasions when the MVP award has gone to someone other than the player who seemingly provided the best performance.

So below is a countdown of performances 50-26.

50. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XLVII – 16-28, 302 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7 rushes, 62 yards, 1 TD
If he has been able to lead the 49ers to a final touchdown and victory over the Baltimore Ravens, Kaepernick’s performance in his first Super Bowl would have certainly been higher on the list. However, even in defeat the first year starter led his team to a near-comeback victory using both his arm and feet.

49. Mark Rypien – Washington Redskins – Super Bowl XXVI – 18-33, 292 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Utilizing a talented receiving corps that included Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders, Rypien picked apart the Buffalo Bills with a pair of touchdown passes and time consuming drives to lift the Redskins to their third Super Bowl in a decade (all with a different starting quarterback).

48. Kurt Warner – Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII – 31-43, 377 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
For a fleeting moment, it appeared that Kurt Warner was going to be the first quarterback to lead two different franchises to Super Bowl victory. He and the Cardinals played well enough to win, but a late Pittsburgh drive denied them of victory. Interestingly enough, Warner holds the record for the top three passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history with his 377 yards in Super Bowl XLIII ranking second.

47. Rod Smith – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 5 rec., 152 yards, 1 TD
While Terrell Davis and John Elway are the best remembered offensive players from their back-to-back Super Bowl wins, receiver Rod Smith also played an important role in their win over the Falcons. His 80-yard reception in the second quarter helped break the game open and he finished with 152 receiving yards.

46. Michael Pittman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl XXXVI – 29 rushes, 124 yards, 0 TD
While the defense garnered all the headlines during the Buccaneers victory over the Raiders, Michael Pittman was the workhorse for the offense. He rushed for 124 yards, including 75 in the first half as the Buccaneers established control of the contest. Read the rest of this entry →

Richard Sherman is a Loudmouth, But Not an Original 1

Posted on January 20, 2014 by Dean Hybl
It might have been better if Richard Sherman had let his play on the field do all his talking.

It might have been better if Richard Sherman had let his play on the field do all his talking.

Much was made on social media of the unsportsmanlike display of Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman after he made a game-saving play in the final seconds of the NFC Championship Game between Seattle and the San Francisco 49ers.

While there is no question that Sherman’s gestures and trash talking at the end of the game were certainly un-called for and slightly diminish the greatness of his play, they are in no way original.

In fact, loud-mouthed defensive backs playing in the Super Bowl dates back to the very first NFL-AFL Championship Game when Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Fred “the Hammer” Williamson garnered headlines for his boasts about how he would handle the receivers for the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers.

“Two hammers to (Boyd) Dowler, one to (Carroll) Dale should be enough,” Williamson claimed.

Interestingly, Williamson and Sherman actually have more in common than just their bravado.

Both players attended schools known more for their academics than their football, Williamson at Northwestern and Sherman at Stanford.

They also were both lightly regarded coming into the NFL.

Williamson was an undrafted free agent and originally signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After spending one season in Pittsburgh, Williamson developed into an All-AFL defensive back during four seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He then moved to Kansas City where he ultimately played three seasons. Read the rest of this entry →

Bart Starr: NFL’s Ultimate Champion 2

Posted on January 20, 2014 by Dean Hybl

The January Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls and is the only quarterback to lead his team to five NFL Championships.

After quarterbacking the Alabama Crimson Tide to an 0-10 record in 1955 and then being drafted in the 17th round of the 1956 NFL Draft, few would have predicted that Bart Starr would become known as one of the greatest winners in NFL history. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Rod Carew: Hitting Machine
      July 5, 2014 | 3:42 pm
      Rod Carew

      Rod Carew

      With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

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