Hall of Fame Addendum

While I generally agree with Erik’s take, I feel my role here is to note that one of his arguments is all kinds of wrong:

Terrell Davis remains not even close to election. Yes, he got hurt young. He also had one of the greatest 4-year stretches in the history of running backs, playing a key role in 2 Super Bowl titles. Given the reality of NFL running backs, I don’t see that a devastating knee injury should disqualify him. It certainly didn’t disqualify Gale Sayers.

I’m sorry, Terrell Davis is nowhere near a Hall of Fame player. His candidacy is, if anything, being taken far too seriously:

  • Four very good but hardly historic years at a low-impact position — that’s not a Hall of Famer.  As for the Gale Sayers comparison, of Sayers’s 5  non-token years, two were exceptional and he performed at a historic level for 9 games in 1968, at a time in which running backs had a much greater impact on the game.  Davis had more than 5 yards a carry exactly once.  Is Larry Johnson a Hall of Famer?  Chris Johnson?  Priest Holmes, who had the same yards per carry as Davis in more attempts?   How about Tiki Barber, who was better than Davis in a significantly longer career?  The Hall of Fame is going to have to move to a skyscraper to hold the plaques if we’re going to induct modern every running back who had a flash of glory, and then try to induct the countless players who were better in much longer careers at more important positions.
  • Yeah, he got hurt.  So what?  The Hall of Fame also isn’t big enough to hold every player who might possibly had a Hall of Fame career had he remained healthy.  (Herb Score for Cooperstown!)
  • While Davis is clearly not a Hall of Famer on the face of it, his case becomes even worse in context.  Not only did he only exceed 5 yards a carry only once in a very short career, there’s the even greater problem that basically everybody who runs in Shanhan’s blocking scheme — including such immortals as Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, and Steve Slaton — can be about as effective as Davis was.   We can now add 6th round pick Alfred Morris, who had a season indistinguishable from a Davis season, to the list.  Is he a Hall of Famer if he has a couple more years like that too?

Davis wasn’t even close to a Hall of Fame player; we shouldn’t even be discussing him while legitimately dominant players like Strahan and Haley aren’t in.

125 comments on this post.
  1. Scott P.:

    I think Priest Holmes has a good HOF case. Why don’t you think so?

  2. rea:

    None of them can hold a candle to Ray Guy . . .

  3. JKTHs:

    Hell Clinton Portis might have a better case than Davis.

  4. Seitz:

    I’m not going to argue for him either way, and I think the “would have been great if he hadn’t gotten hurt” argument is particularly weak. But how exactly is a 2,008 yard, 21 touchdown season in which a guy wins an MVP and a Super Bowl not historic? He scored 33% more touchdowns that season than any of the 2,000 yard rushers in NFL history, so you could make a case that he’d be higher on that list if the endzone hadn’t stopped him an additional seven times.

    You can throw out whatever metrics you’d like, but that’s like arguing that a pitcher that won 28 games in 2010 didn’t have a historic season because he only had an ERA+ of 125 or something. And I say that as someone who thinks wins are a pretty poor measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness.

  5. c u n d gulag:

    Tiki was an @$$hole, and still is an @$$hole, but he was a far better running back, for much longer, than Davis.
    But I’m not advocating for him to be in the HOF.

    Why isn’t Joe Klecko in yet?

    He was an All Pro at all of the different Defensive Line positions.
    I hate the Jets, and have my whole life, being a Giants and Dolphins fan, but he was one of the best D linemen of all time, imo.

    And Haley’s a no-brainer.
    He was great on the 49ers, AND the odious Dallas Cowboys.
    And the only team I hate even more than the Jets, are the Cowboys.
    I hate the Cowboys with the heat of a trillion suns – far more than I ever hated the Red Sox.
    But c’mon – how is he NOT a HOFer yet?

  6. c u n d gulag:

    Good point!
    Greatest punter ever.

    And on those Raider teams, he was like a choirboy in a Maximum Security Prison.

  7. Pestilence:

    I can’t help feel that your argument about low-impact positions is a total red herring. This isn’t an argument about who ‘won the game’, but about who deserves to be famous for their play – and in that context, I’d argue that anyone who plays outstandingly in their position deserves to be famous.

    Not that I’m advocating for Davis, however, one season does not a HOF career make.

  8. JKTHs:

    Barber’s a close call in my eyes. I think maybe one or two more seasons at his 2005/2006 effectiveness would have put him over the top.

  9. Sherm:

    Yeah, Gale Sayers probably doesn’t belong in either, but he was also an exceptional kick returner and a legend in college as well. He’s regarded as one of the greatest and most exciting open field runners ever (college and pro), and that’s probably why he is in the HOF.

  10. JKTHs:

    Bob Welch for HOF!

  11. Sherm:

    Agreed. Had he padded his stats a bit with another 1,000 yard year or two, he’d get in.

  12. Seitz:

    I know, funny, but it completely misreads what I was trying to say. Like it or not, that season is looking more and more historic. Doesn’t make him a hall of famer, but I don’t feel the need to shit all over his career to make the point that he’s not a hall of famer.

    And while I did have him in mind (I chose 28 wins just so that it wouldn’t turn into a discussion of Welch), the ERA+ number was completely drawn out of my ass, and lo and behold, that’s exactly what he put up that year. I swear I didn’t check his B-REF page until I read your comment.

  13. Joshua:

    Plus he might have been on a Super Bowl winning team, which doesn’t hurt.

  14. Scott Lemieux:

    Because running backs who have a couple great years just aren’t unique or valuable enough to merit induction. His case is clearly better than Davis’s, though.

  15. Scott Lemieux:

    I actually don’t think that a pitcher who “won” 28 games with an ERA+ of 125 is having a historic season, in fact. And the same goes for someone getting 5.1 yards a carry. Plenty of guys who aren’t going to the Hall of Fame have had seasons as good or better than that, and the fact that he hit a round number is neither here nor there.

  16. mpowell:

    Ray Guy wasn’t even a particularly good punter. I’m not sure if this comment was ironic or not.

  17. mpowell:

    Jamal Lewis ran for 2000 yards in an offense not known for producing prolific backs and exactly nobody is talking about his HoF credentials. People just have an irrational attachment to Terrell Davis as a historically great back because he got injured before he started to disappoint.

  18. c u n d gulag:

    One of the reasons that the Giants won in 2007-2008, was because Tiki left after the season before, and in that SB winning season, Jeremy Shockey got hurt, and that let Eli come into his own.

    Those two were holding Eli back, criticizing him constantly, both to other team members, and to the press.

    Yes, another year or two like the last few that Tiki had, would have gotten him into the HOF.

    But I don’t think the Giants and Eli win with him on that team.

    He was a clubhouse lawyer and a cancer on the team, and trust me, the Giants shed no tears when he left.

  19. Sherm:

    Ray Guy wasn’t even a particularly good punter.

    Seriously? Just because his “greatness” has been overstated, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t an excellent punter.

  20. Sherm:

    Its kind of sad how much the Giants fan all hate the guy now. He was a great player, and he gets booed whenever he shows up at a game.

  21. bill:

    I’m not quite getting why you’re including Portis at the end there- he was a genuinely excellent RB who had a very productive career. On the broader question, though, I agree with you 100%.

  22. witless chum:

    I think the eye test is a legitimate argument for putting someone in the Hall of Fame. If Barry Sanders had had his career shortened like Sayers, I’d still want him in because he could just do stuff that almost nobody else could do. People talk about Sayers like that, but I don’t remember Terrell Davis as doing anything other good but not truly, exceptionally great didn’s also do. I don’t have a problem putting guys in like that if they do it for an abnormally long time, but Davis didn’t.

  23. Scott Lemieux:

    I’m not criticizing Portis; he was a very good player. The points are 1)that he had a much better career than Davis but nobody’s going to be upset if he doesn’t go to the Hall of Fame and 2)Davis was working in a system in which almost everybody runs well.

  24. Sherm:

    I think we’re largely in agreement here. Sayers possessed a mystique of greatness on account of his speed and open field running ability, which Davis never possessed. Old-timers talk about Sayers in ways which no one who has seen Terrell Davis play will ever talk about him.

  25. Brien Jackson:

    Hooray for silly, unrealistic, hypotheticals?

  26. gmack:

    I agree with this. There was a magnificence about, say, Barry Sanders (or Walter Payton or Earl Campbell, or to use a different example, a player like Lynn Swann) that goes beyond their career play or their statistics.

  27. Sherm:

    I actually don’t think that a pitcher who “won” 28 games with an ERA+ of 125 is having a historic season, in fact.

    It would be historic more for its statistical improbability than for its actual excellence.

  28. c u n d gulag:

    Yeah, he was a terrific player – maybe even great.

    But we fans didn’t realize the damage he was doing to Eli and the team (with Shockey’s help, of course), until after he retired (and Shockey was traded), and the remaining players could talk about it.

  29. John Protevi:

    On the other thread I supported Davis, but the eye test thing is legit I think. To do another hypothetical, if Julius Erving had wrecked his knee in say 1976, I’d still put him in the b-ball HOF.

  30. Scott Lemieux:

    You know what Welch did, in fact, win 27 games with a 125 ERA+ (and a 127/77 K/W ratio), right? Historic!

    In fairness, he has a much better Hall of Fame case than Terrell Davis.

  31. Scott Lemieux:

    Right. I don’t know that I would vote for Sayers, but he was a legitimately extraordinary player while he was healthy. Davis was nowhere near that level.

  32. gorillagogo:

    Agreed. In the previous thread there was an oddly dismissive attitude towards Curtis Martin, as if he only got elected because of some East Coast Bias. Never mind his ten straight 1000 yard seasons or the fact that Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders were the only other backs to ever accomplish that feat.

  33. BobS:

    Denny McLain for the Hall of Fame!

  34. Brien Jackson:

    Yeah, you either need a real anomaly or some other factor that makes the season stand out (like, say, averaging 8 innings per start), to make that possible.

  35. JKTHs:

    Still, Portis had a number of great years in Washington outside of Shanahan’s system.

  36. shah8:

    I wish you didn’t spend as much time tearing down RBs as you do.

  37. Kurzleg:

    Don’t tell Chris Kluwe!

  38. c u n d gulag:

    I guess I bought into the Guy hype.

    I don’t play fantasy football, so I’m not sure about Guy’s stats, and how they compare to others.

    I don’t play fantasy baseball either, but I LOOOOOOOOOVE the stats involved in that sport, and grew-up with them.

    And, I will worship at the altar of Bill James forever and ever, since he opened up my eyes to things I’d never looked at, but had seen before, and how they prove how great the really great players really were.

  39. Sherm:

    Guy’s case pretty much rests on the “eye test” discussed below. First round pick, great athlete, celebrity punter, etc..

  40. patrick II:

    Sayers was hurt the first three games of his rookie season and played sparingly before started the fourth game. In spite of that he scored 22 touchdowns his rookie year. He still a holder of the record for total kickoff returns (6),despite playing in only 68 games (or what would be just over four sixteen game seasons). His average of over 30 yards per kickoff return is still also the best. He held the record for punt returns until Hester passed him recently. In the famous six touchdown San Francisco game he only touched the ball fourteen times — Halas held him out for most of the fourth because he felt sorry for the 49ers. He gained 336 yards in those 14 touches. One punt return, on pass reception and four running td’s. There has never been anyone like him. He not only is in the hall-of-fame he was a first ballot hall-of-famer. Everyone who saw him play knew he belonged.
    For those of you who haven’t seen him, a youtube of some of his runs Sayers

  41. Green Caboose:

    That stat is quite misleading. During the 16-game season era there were two strike seasons, 1982 and 1987, that depressed individual stats. In ’82 they played 9 games – in ’87 they played 12 non-scab games. Walter Payton, for one, would have had a streak of 11 such seasons.

  42. mpowell:

    I meant ‘good’ in the HoF sense. Or in the sense that he wasn’t obviously or even likely the best punter in the league during his playing career. I imagine we basically agree on how good he was.

  43. Sherm:

    Good point. And Payton had a couple of those years in 14 game seasons, including the last 14 game season (I think 1977) when he had a chance to break OJ’s record entering week 14, but was shut down by the Giants. The Giants were awful back then, except that they had an excellent front 7 on defense, including Harry Carson and Brad Van Pelt. If memory serves, they held Payton to something like 38 yards.

  44. Sherm:

    We probably do agree then. But who was a better punter in the 70′s?

  45. mpowell:

    Well, not if you just look at the number. Portis didn’t get to 2000 yards in Denver, but he was as amazing as Davis and it’s certainly feasible that he could have done it. When he got to Washington he was still a productive back, but nowhere near the same totals or eye-popping ypc. And it was because of the rest of the offense and system in Denver. So unless you think Portis should go to the Hall, it’s awfully difficult to argue for Davis.

  46. gorillagogo:

    Ok so add Payton to the list. Regardless, if you tally up the total number of 1000 yard seasons, consecutive or not, the only guys in double digits are Smith, Sanders, Payton and Martin. Nobody else even had nine.

  47. Scott Lemieux:

    As I said in the other thread, the problem is that 1,000 yards in a 16-game season isn’t any guarantee of quality play, let alone a Hall of Fame credential. For some of those 1,000 yard years Martin was a below-average runner, and he was never great.

  48. L2P:

    I think that’s probably why a lot of the pro-Davis people are going to disagree with you. Football is more about dominant seasons rather than strong careers, at least compared to baseball where you can get all sorts of statistically weird one-off seasons.

    Nobody ever had or has had a season like Davis’s best. Some get the yardage, others can match the TD’s, but never both. OJ did’t do it. Smith didn’t. Dickerson didn’t. Sanders didn’t. Most HOF RBs don’t even come close that sort of season. And Davis performed on a Superbowl champion, where his year mattered.

    The only 2,000 yard rusher who isn’t in the Hall or likely to get in is Chris Johnson, and he could still make it if he doesn’t decline or can limp into a Superbowl. Except, of course, Jamal Lewis. IMHO Lewis would be a serious HOF contender if he wasn’t, you know, a convicted drug dealer. He’s still a borderline case despite, you know, the convicted drug dealer thing. Whenever anyone talks about Lewis as a HOF player it usually goes something like “Great career, dominant year. But the drug dealing . . .”

    The argument is over whether there’s some reason that absolutely dominating the league as a RB for a season isn’t worthy of the HOF. In football, I don’t see it. Besides Davis, what player who truly dominated his position for a Superbowl season shouldn’t be in the Hall? Are there any?

  49. Green Caboose:

    I know numbers don’t lie, and the retrospective numbers aren’t that good for Guy, but there was a LOT of TV attention in the 70s and early 80s (on pre-game shows and during the games themselves) on the punting skills of Ray Guy and, to a much lesser extent, Reggie Roby. They would so diagrammed pictures of their kicking positions, leg height, etc. There was a “hang time” clock for punts and he always got amongst the best times. Visually, it *seemed* like his punts had a lot more force and distance.

    Like much of football, the science of the punting game was a lot less exact back then so hang time was maybe all they had to go on – like RBI and average were the big stats in baseball.

    So, I think we all just assumed Guy really was that good. There were even a lot of false rumors that his stats were padded because Al Davis figured out a way to get helium-enhanced balls in for Guy to kick. No really, a lot of people repeated those rumors back then – an indication that the widespread perception was he was that much better than anyone else.

  50. Green Caboose:

    But as Scott says below, Martin ran a lot of yards but was never great. Sanders and Payton – teams built game plans around them every week of their careers, except perhaps Payton’s last year (even near the end of his career, in the Super Bowl, he served primarily as a decoy because the Patriots were so focused on him). The same for guys like Simpson, Sayers, Campbell, and Dickerson.

    Martin was a workhorse as a running back who also played at a good level for a long time.

  51. Green Caboose:

    It was 47 yards on 15 carries:

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/197712180nyg.htm

    The weather had a lot to do with it:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/sports/football/27giants.html?_r=0

    Even so, Czonka got 100 yards and Kotar 94.

  52. Green Caboose:

    Being on a super bowl winner tends to have way too much influence on people’s evaluation of a player’s career, and multiple wins does even more so. The 70s Steelers have 9 HoF players and there are many who argue for a 10th. I wonder how many of those guys would have made the HoF if they’d played for, say, the 1970s Saints.

  53. gorillagogo:

    I’m guessing the 1970s Saints would have won a lot more games if they had Greene, Lambert, Blount, etc. playing for them.

  54. Eric:

    You don’t win 4 SBs in such a short amount of time without really good players though, wouldn’t you expect a team that dominated an era that much to have multiple HOFers?

  55. efgoldman:

    Al Davis figured out a way to get helium-enhanced balls in for Guy to kick.

    I watched a lot of games back then. (Oakland was always on, it seems, even on the East coast.) i never saw a ball go up and never come down….

  56. efgoldman:

    …far more than I ever hated the Red Sox.

    See, that’s why I love you.

  57. Jim Lynch:

    Ray Guy was that good. Remember, kickers were a short generation away from being a position player who got the job because he could kick better than any of his teammates- think Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall. Guy’s foot was also head and shoulders above his meat and potatoes competition. He broke the mold, that guy. He was a blue blooded specialist and the best punter throughout most of his career, when the game was different, slower. The only reason he’s not in Canton is the overt prejudice against any kicker being enshrined. For crying out loud, Morton Anderson isn’t in.

  58. gorillagogo:

    I guess it depends on what you think is Hall-worthy, then. Nobody will argue Martin’s peak was as good as Payton, Dickerson, Sanders, etc but he played the position with arguably the highest attrition rate in any sport for a very long time and he did so at a very good level. If Martin isn’t a HOFer, I would argue that the standards are too high.

  59. gorillagogo:

    One or two 1000 yard seasons, sure, but ten? I think the durability factor alone is Hall-worthy. Running backs don’t just hang around and pad their stat totals like a 40-something pitcher trying to get to 300 wins. They take a remarkable amount of punishment over the years.

  60. Sherm:

    Thanks for the links. But I actually remember the game fairly well. There was a lot of hype leading into the game about it being the last chance any player would have at beating OJ’s single-season record, and the Giants’ front seven really came to play and shut him down. Payton had broken the single-game record just a few weeks earlier as well.

    One play I remember is Joe Pisarcik fumbling while attempting to throw — it was quite comical at the time given his ineptitude and my young age. Of course, Joe Pisarcik would go on to bigger and better fumbles.

  61. efgoldman:

    I said in yesterday’s discussion: Martin is an example of very good-excellent players who built HOF career stats out of longevity. His 14000+ yards are the 4th most all time.
    Think Fisk, and to some extent, Yaz in baseball.

  62. Jim Lynch:

    I only begrudge the exclusion of one player at a time. For the past 5 years or so that’s been Chris Carter. Now it’s Haley. He arguably makes any all time roster, and I’d argue it.

    My favorite induction of all time was that of linebacker and former 49er Dave Wilcox, who went in with the Montana-Lott class. He was eminently deserving, and it came out of the blue. It was a banner class.

  63. Scott Lemieux:

    I have no problem with peak value being considered of primary importance. The problem is that Davis’s peak just isn’t that impressive. When you have only 4 years and only one of them involves even 5 yards a carry, that’s not remotely close to a Hall of Fame peak. He wasn’t nearly as good as Sanders or Faulk, even in his best year. The idea that Davis was “dominant” rests solely on the fact that his coach chose to run rather than throw for TDs, and that’s bullshit.

    And you’re also ignoring the fact that any random waiver-wire pickup can run effectively in Shanahan’s system.

  64. Scott Lemieux:

    If we’re going to compare Martin to Yazstremski, my question: where’s Martin’s 1967? Martin’s more like, I dunno, Bill Buckner.

  65. Brien Jackson:

    “And you’re also ignoring the fact that any random waiver-wire pickup can run effectively in Shanahan’s system.”

    This, along with the fact that (unlike Sayers) Davis never seemed to be a unique physical talent, is really the nail in his cases’ coffin.

  66. rea:

    The only reason he’s not in Canton is the overt prejudice against any kicker being enshrined

    Well, I assume that the reason Lou Groza is in the Hall is not because of his skills as an offensive lineman.

  67. L2P:

    The idea that Davis was “dominant” rests solely on the fact that his coach chose to run rather than throw for TDs, and that’s bullshit.

    Why’d the coach choose to run him with Elway in the backfield? Why didn’t Sanders get more “chances?” Or OJ? Or Dickerson? Do we just assume the Rams chose to avoid Dickerson in the red zone to take advantage of the dominant Rams QBs during that era?

    Getting wins in baseball is opportunity. Getting 20 TDs in football is amazing, and shows complete dominance of the offense. Getting that with a 2,000 yards season is unique. No one’s done that. Except Davis

    Not even in the vaunted Shanahan system.

  68. BobS:

    Frank Gifford kicked just a handful of times (5 FG attempts in 1953, 2 in 1956, according to pro-football-reference.com) in his pro football career. Sammy Baugh, George Blanda, Doak Walker, Bobby Layne, Lou Groza, and Paul Hornung are other Hall of Famers who were kept a lot busier kicking than Gifford.
    Another Hall of Famer, Yale Lary, was the Lions punter for virtually all of his career at safety. Several of those years overlapped that of linebacker/placekicker Wayne Walker. As a kid, between those 2 and Hornung in Green Bay, I just assumed that was the normal way of doing things.
    I’ve reconsidered my opinion regarding Guy and the Hall of Fame- I think he probably belongs there (and Morton Anderson as well).

  69. Seitz:

    Well, let’s not lose sight of the goal, which like it or not, is to win a Super Bowl. I doubt any of those guys go into their careers saying “My goal when it’s all said and done is to be the most statistically effective player at my position according to stats that very few people understand.” More likely they say “I want to win a Super Bowl”.

    I hate to sound like Mr. Anti-Stats guy in this thread, as I’m generally pretty sympathetic to the movement.

  70. Thlayli:

    Jan Stenerud is the only HOF-er who was a kicker for 100% of his career.

  71. Sherm:

    If you look at Guy’s numbers, he just wasn’t as dominant as his legacy would lead you to believe. He was a first round pick, who played for the Raiders, and who led the league in gross average three times early in his career, and he thus got a lot of hype. But my the middle of his career, he was not particularly unique or special because the quality of punting went up around him league wide.

  72. Sherm:

    And he’s really only in the HOF due to the impact he made as one of the first full-time and soccer-style kickers in addition to his excellence. I don’t think that an argument could be made that Ray Guy impacted the sport in any such fashion.

  73. mpowell:

    Oh, I don’t know. I read an article once with stats and everything, but since I don’t really care about punters from that era I forgot their names. But there were a few guys who were netting as much or more yardage and also doing directional punting at the same time or before Guy.

  74. mpowell:

    Sherm makes the important point here. If you look at the video evidence (which I have not, but have read about 2nd hand), Guy didn’t invent directional punting, which would have been a big deal if it was true.

  75. BobS:

    Chicken, or egg?
    I think that’s been at least a part of the argument I’ve heard made against Ray Guy’s inclusion in the HoF (although not in this thread)- he was surrounded by other great players in Oakland/LA who were responsible for the team winning which made him more Hall of Famous than his skills deserved.
    Like Seitz says, the whole point of playing is to win, and Guy and his Raider teammates, as well as those 9 Steeler Hall of Famers, won alot. They earned their accolades.

  76. Scott Lemieux:

    Why’d the coach choose to run him with Elway in the backfield?

    I dunno, but it’s implausible that the Hall of Fame QB wouldn’t have gotten most of those TDs had they chosen to throw.

    Why didn’t Sanders get more “chances?”

    Because he played on mostly on offenses that weren’t very good?

    Getting that with a 2,000 yards season is unique.

    That’s nice, but it’s a freakshow stat, nothing more. That season is his only argument as an elite runner, and it’s not nearly as impressive as any of Faulk’s seasons from 1999-2001, or Johnson’s 2009. Hell, it’s no better than Shaun Alexander’s 2005 (same yards per carry, 28 TDs, but he didn’t get an arbitrary round number of yards who gives a fuck.) It’s not any kind of historic season in terms of effectiveness; he just hit some arbitrary numbers.

  77. Bill Murray:

    probably nobody. Jerrell Wilson was better before Guy got in the league, but dropped off within a year or two and Rohn Stark and Reggie Roby were better in the 80s, but that was when Guy started going downhill. But in the 70s, after 1973 and before 1982, Guy was only consistently challenged by Dave Jennings.

  78. Bill Murray:

    well Guy was in the top 3 in the NFL in yards per punt for 8 of his first 9 years, which is not as good as Jerrel Wilson (although this technically counts many years where Wilson was in the AFL and differentiated from the NFL), but still pretty good and better than anyone else of his generation.

  79. c u n d gulag:

    ef,
    I actually rooted for you guys in ’67, and especially, in ’86 – ’cause I HATED that feckin’ Mets team – but not in ’75, because my beloved German teacher was a Red Sox fan, and, as much as I loved him, he was pretty obnoxious about his fandom.

    And I rooted for your Red Sox in 2004, after my Yankees lost in oh-so humiliating fashion.
    Why?
    To shut-up you folks in Red Sox Nation.
    I figured, that after over 85 years of loyalty, you poor folks deserved a WS win!
    Winning in 2007 was NOT something I wanted, or in the game plan – you fecker’s exceeded your quota! :-)

  80. Sherm:

    I agree with this. The question is thus — was he so much better than the other punters of the 1970′s to merit selection as the only hall of fame punter in history? Probably not.

  81. A Different John:

    Holy bleep, what a highlight reel.

  82. tucker:

    Sorry, punters aren’t just that valuable. If you’e expecting your punter to be a major weapon, then your offense isn’t that good.

  83. Richard:

    I remember watching those games on tv. What a runner. Only person I ever saw who was arguably a better running back was Jim Brown (who had a very different style).

  84. LosGatosCA:

    “He just hit some arbitrary numbers.”

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but those arbitrary numbers were 2008 yards and 23 TDs.

    And the HoF QB’s numbers in the Super Bowl up to the point tyhat Davis shows up are 20-39, 10-42, and 10-55.

    That’s 13 points a game on offense.

    So unless you are capable of hitting some ‘arbitrary numbers’ I’d show a little more respect.

  85. LosGatosCA:

    What about your place kicker?

    When I lived in SE Michigan Eddie Murray was the best athlete on the Lions.

    He never did hit any ‘arbitrary numbers’ however.

  86. Alan in SF:

    “Punter” is a position and there’s no reason why someone who dominated his position shouldn’t be in the HoF. That being said, altho I saw Ray Guy throughout his career and have always been a Ray Guy partisan, his numbers don’t really stand up, and watching a good modern-day punter like Andy Lee dispels any notion that Guy revolutionized the position.

  87. Alan in SF:

    “During (the prime) of his career, Guy almost certainly led all punters in touchbacks. He officially led the league with 15 in 1976 and 14 in 1977, and he tied for the lead with 14 in 1978. In 1974, in Week 3, Guy had four chances to pin the Steelers deep in their own end. One was caught at the 4 and returned to the 12. He punted the remaining three into the end zone.”

    Touchbacks, for the non-fan, are a very bad thing for a punter.

  88. Alan in SF:

    Guy nearly always kicked straight down the middle of the field, without much touch, just as punters had always done. He kicked very few “coffin corner” out of bounds, and very few of his kicks were downed inside the 10. His gross average was impressive but his net average, not so much.

  89. Jim Lynch:

    “Frank Gifford kicked just a handful of times..”.

    Goes to show you the value of good PR. I thought otherwise.

  90. Alan in SF:

    Bob Welch for HOF!

    That’s what I was going to say.

    Okay, how about Denny McLain?

  91. Alan in SF:

    I’d be prepared to say Sayers was the best running back ever. Jim Brown played primarily in an era when there weren’t many defensive players who could cope with him, — not that he couldn’t have thrived in a later era, just not sure he’d be better than Payton or Campbell or other power running backs. In an era when strong, fast linebackers and DBs were much more prevalent than Brown’s, Sayers was like LeBron James, a man among boys, a hot knife cutting through butter.

    You know who else was really, really good? He whose name we dare not speak — OJ.

  92. Steve S.:

    I don’t have a strong opinion on whether TD belongs in the HOF, but the notion that any old back was able to replicate his numbers is a pretty big stretch. I took the liberty of looking up Denver’s Football Outsiders stats during the Shanahan years:

    DYAR
    Davis 1998 602
    Davis 1997 526
    Portis 2002 410
    Davis 1996 376
    Portis 2003 328
    Anderson 2005 322
    Anderson 2000 283
    Davis 1995 263

    DVOA
    Davis 1998 26.5
    Portis 2002 25.5
    Davis 1997 24.3
    Anderson 2005 21.1
    Portis 2003 17.9
    Anderson 2000 17.3
    Davis 1995 16.6
    Davis 1996 16.0

    EYds
    Davis 1998 2478
    Davis 1997 2226
    Davis 1996 1927
    Portis 2002 1699
    Portis 2003 1596
    Anderson 2000 1544
    Anderson 2005 1461
    Davis 1995 1327

    In fact, Davis’ DYAR in 1998 was the best of any back in the NFL from 1995-2008. There’s really no argument that he didn’t produce the best single year, the best two-year and best four-year stretches of any back under Shanahan, is there?

    As for this: “…of Sayers’s 5 non-token years, two were exceptional and he performed at a historic level for 9 games in 1968, at a time in which running backs had a much greater impact on the game.” Apparently his impact was not great enough. The Bears were a cumulative 29-38-3 those years. Seems they had sucky QBs, which was hard to overcome in the 1960s just as it is now.

  93. efgoldman:

    1967 was magical (I was there, Charlie), but if Yaz hadn’t played long enough to get 3000 hits and 400 HR, do you think he’d have been HOF worthy?

  94. efgoldman:

    Damn, you must be as old as I am.
    My HS girlfriend’s best friend’s father was a great Browns fan. I don’t know why, he was born and brought up in Boston. The normal Sunday feed for us was the Giants; on the Sundays when they played the Browns, the game-watching was at this guy’s house. After Brown made a play (which was often) he’s gloat and punch one of us (high school kids, remember) in the shoulder. Hard!
    Those old-school Giants were terrific, but Brown was transcendent.

  95. James E. Powell:

    I don’t think it is tearing down RBs to recognize the ways in which the game has changed since Vince Lombardi left Green Bay.

    Even really good to great RBs, say LaDainian Tomlinson or Adrian Peterson, do not add that much value over replacement level RBs. This has been true for years and has been documented here and elsewhere quite extensively.

    Recall the 1985 Browns with Mack and Byner, both 1000 yd rushers. The Browns were 8-8 and averaged just under 18 points per game.

  96. Sherm:

    Showtime or HBO had a special about the AFL a few years back, which was absolutely fantastic because they had great clips. But one of the odd things which i learned was that the patriots started off playing Friday night games because they didn’t want to compete against the giants on tv in Boston. I also had to call my dad the next day to ask him about cookie gilchrist.

  97. sparks:

    Remember, kickers were a short generation away from being a position player who got the job because he could kick better than any of his teammates- think Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall.

    You don’t even have to go back that far, think Dan Pastorini.

  98. ADM:

    John Elway was a 2-time Superbowl loser before Shanahan and Davis came along. I think that’s where a lot of the sentimentality comes from. People loved Elway, the CW at the time was that a team needed to run and stop the run in the playoffs, and low and behold, Davis came along and proved the CW right! And got Elway a ring! In probably the biggest Superbowl upset to date.

  99. Scott Lemieux:

    Well, yes, before 1993 Elway was an essentially ordinary, insanely overrated QB. After that, he was actually as good as his reputation. This had nothing to do with Davis, though — when his QB rating suddenly jumped 20 points his running back was the immortal Rob Bernstein, getting 3.7 yards a carry. That team still had the 3rd most points in the league because the quality of modern offenses is determined mostly by the pass game.

  100. Scott Lemieux:

    Of course. He was a tremendously good player from 1967-1970, a clear Hall of Fame peak, and he was very good for many more seasons; he wasn’t just a mediocrity piling up bulk numbers. He has 109 WAR; that’s not something that just happens if you hang around forever being just good enough to play. His career is nothing like Martin’s, who was sometimes below average and rarely one of the best in the league.

  101. LosGatosCA:

    Elway didn’t win any Super Bowls with Rob Bernstein.

    And I personally don’t give a crap about when or if Elway’s numbers ever went up.

    Calling 2008 yards and 23 TDs ‘arbitrary numbers’ is about as good an analysis as I can get from the end of the neighborhood bar. Plus I can get a drink there.

  102. shah8:

    So Adrian Peterson totally does not deserve to be MVP.

    Ok.

  103. LosGatosCA:

    Consistently great teams have consistently great players.

    Pretty coinkydinky that way.

  104. LosGatosCA:

    3 time.

  105. LosGatosCA:

    Not only that, but players that could ring up stats (particularly in basketball) subordinate their personal goals to the team objective of winning.

    It’s a lot easier to run up assists and scoring averages when your team averages 110 points a game on a team that never competed for an NBA championship because it could not stop any elite team than to win back to back championships, and an explosive night was 95 points while holding opponents under 90, including Larry Bird, Kevin McHale led Celtics and Jordan, Pippen led Bulls.

    People value winning, because it takes a lot to win that doesn’t show up in the stats (baseball excepted).

  106. LosGatosCA:

    Wrong comparison. Think Don Sutton.

  107. LosGatosCA:

    Jim Brown rolled up his stats in 12 games per year at first, the 14, and retired when he was 30.

    When he retired he held the records for yards per carry, yards per game, yards per season, yards per career.

    I’d be happy to hear that Earl Campbell ever owned any part of any of those records or that Payton owned more than one before he was 30.

    Come on.

  108. LosGatosCA:

    I’m thinking arbitrary myself.

  109. LosGatosCA:

    I do think Pete Rose said something pretty close to that.

    And Ted Williams always said that his motivation was to be called the greatest hitter who ever lived.

    Football, basketball, and hockey are team sports but a baseball player can be pretty selfish in motivation and still be successful.

  110. elm:

    The arbitrary number Scott’s talking about is 2000 yards as opposed to just under 2000 yards.

    Which season was better? Davis (1998) with 392 rush for 2,008 yards (5.1 ypc) and 21 TDs; or Shaun Alexander (2005) with 370 carries for 1,880 yards (also 5.1 ypc) and 27 touchdowns?

    If that 120 yards didn’t span the arbitrary 2000 yard mark, would that take some of the luster off of Davis’s season?

    How about Marshall FaulK in 2000? Only 1350 rushing yards but with a 5.5 ypc and 830 receiving yards and 26 total touchdowns? Faulk’s 99 season was even better in yardage (over 1380 rushing/1050 receiving, but only 12 TDs.)

    Between 2001 and 2003, Priest Holmes got over 2100 yards combined rushing receiving each year and in 2002 had 24 TDs and 27 in 2003.

    LaDanian Tomlinson, 2006: 2300 combined yrds (1800 rushing) with 31 total TDs.

    In fairness to Davis, he did have 200 yards receiving and a couple of receiving TDs in 98, while Alexander did nothing in the air in the air in 05. Still, Davis’s season is clearly less impressive than LT’s and at best equally impressive to some of Faulk’s and Priest’s. Unless you ascribe some magical quality to “2000,” I don’t know how historic a season can be when about half a dozen equal or exceed it in the next 7 years.

  111. LosGatosCA:

    They were a developing team that ended up playing the Dolphins in Miami ahead through the whole game until Q4 and then the next year they were 1 drive from the Super Bowl before losing in OT to the Broncos, going 12-4.

    Bad example.

  112. LosGatosCA:

    20-12 over 2 years.

    Losing two playoff games in the 4Q an OT by a total of 6 points.

    Not exactly dominated by the new paradigm.

  113. LosGatosCA:

    Oh, I get his point completely.

    To diminish Davis’s effort because ‘he hit some arbitrary numbers’ in his mind says much more of what he understands about football than it sheds light on the actual performance.

    Only 7 guys have done it.

    Only 1 more person has run for over 1900 yards.

    Only 8 more have run for over 1800 yards.

    The number of TDs scored has never approached 23 in the same season.

    Emmitt Smith is not on that list. LT is the last person on it – at 1815 yards.

    The only people rushing over 1800 yards more than once are Dickerson (3), Sanders (2), Simpson (2).

    Color me impressed that he joined the 1800 yard club and I don’t see anything ‘arbitrary’ about that or 2000 either.

    Davis benefitted from being a ‘system player’ fine, I don’t really care. But to diminish the achievement in any way is borderline ignorant.

  114. James E. Powell:

    Neither Mack nor Byner is a Hall of Fame candidate. They are the replacement level RBs.

  115. LosGatosCA:

    I think you lost sight of your point:

    “Recall the 1985 Browns with Mack and Byner, both 1000 yd rushers. The Browns were 8-8 and averaged just under 18 points per game.”

    to which my point is:

    They made the playoffs, played on the road against the Dolphins, led 21-3, and lost by 3 in Q4, because they were a developing team ( Byner, Mack, Kosar were 22/23 ) that went 12-4 the next year.

    Characterizing them as a mediocre team (as opposed to an inconsistent, young team that was maturing quickly) because they used a run oriented offense is simply wrong and does not prove your point.

  116. LosGatosCA:

    doesn’t show up in the stats

    s/b

    doesn’t show up in the personal comparative stats.

    And that’s because team style dictates individual roles that can differ significantly even if the positions are the same.

  117. gorillagogo:

    I don’t see how Elway’s Broncos were bigger underdogs than the Jets in SBIII or the Giants vs the undefeated Patriots.

  118. John Protevi:

    I appreciate a good contrarian argument, and indeed you may very well be prepared to say that Sayers was better than Brown. But I think you’d have a very hard time convincing anyone else of that. There are many universally held positions that are not well-grounded. But that Jim Brown was the best running back ever is not one of them.

  119. Western Dave:

    It’s bad enough I live in Philly now, where that gets brought up constantly (as in every pre-game radio show the call is part of the highlights hype) but you gotta bring it up here?

  120. Western Dave:

    Probably watched him at college playing for Syracuse.

  121. Western Dave:

    Not only is Jim Brown the greatest running back of all time, he’s in the conversation for greatest lacrosse player of all time, and was the clear pick in that conversation until the Gait brothers came along. People talk about Brown coming back to my hs for an alumni game when he was in his forties and not only destroying the hs talent on the lax field, but dominating the DI players as well. I have heard grown men who weep as they describe Brown at that game juking a current Hopkins player so badly the guy falls down, Brown waiting for him to get up and then doing it to him again.

    Growing up I was always told, football was his second sport.

  122. BobS:

    Gale Sayers was an exciting player to watch (more so as a returner than a running back in my opinion), but he doesn’t belong in the conversation about greatest running backs, which starts and ends with Jim Brown at #1. Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, OJ Simpson, Marcus Allen, Earl Campbell, & Eric Dickerson were clearly superior to Sayers. I’d probably also put Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith, Bo Jackson, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Adrian Peterson above him on my own list of great backs.
    I don’t remember Sayers ever hurting the Lions that badly. My dad and grandpa took me to quite a few football games back then (as well as baseball and hockey games- I was lucky to have been in the same building with a shitload of HoF players from all 3 sports) and one of them was the season opener in 1966 against the Bears, which I recall being excited about seeing more for Dick Butkus than Sayers. The Lions own badass middle linebacker, Joe Schmidt, had just retired.
    A couple years earlier, we went to Cleveland when the Lions played the Browns, which was the only time I saw Jim Brown play other than on tv. He got something like 150 yards rushing and a couple touchdowns that day.

  123. Sherm:

    Good call. Or Danny White and Pat McInally.

  124. Sherm:

    It got George Young hired, who proceeded to draft Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Mark Bavaro, Leonard Marshall, Mark Collins and Joe Morris, and to hire Bill Parcells (after Ray Perkins left for Alabama). The Giants have won four super bowls since the fumble. The Eagles have won as many since the fumble as they won before — zero. So let the miserable bastards enjoy their little highlight.

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