By John Turney
Clay Matthews was voted the the Pro Football Hall of Fame Semi-Finalist list of 25 this week. He was a starting outside linebacker from 1979-95, both in a 3-4 and 4-3 defense and both at right outside linebacker and left outside linebacker. In 1996, in his 19th season he played right defensive end in the Falcon's nickel defense as a designated pass rusher and tallied 6.5 sacks in that role.
He was not on the Official HOF All-Decade Team but was named to the Second-team on the Sports Illustrated, USA Today and Pro Football Reference.com All-Decade Teams.
The HOF committee, in 1990, voted Ted Hendricks to the 1980s team and we've opined here that he wasn't really a good pick for the 1980s, but rather the 1970s and a 1975-85 team, were there one.
The best picks for the 1980s All-Decade Team would be Lawrence Taylor and Andre Tippett on a First-team. For the Second-team? Ricky Jackson for one, in our view. The other? Matthews would have been a good choice, likely better than the HOF selection: John Anderson (who received one vote) or others who played about half the decade.
In addition to the six seasons he got some kind of post-season honor, 1992 is one of the fine seasons that didn't get a lot of notice with his 81 tackles, 9 sacks, 3 FF, 4.5 run/pass stuffs and 6 PD. His All-Pro season of 1984 was an oddity in that he was not voted to the Pro Bowl, although we suspect he was an alternate that season (as he was in 1986). That is why we like to use a more comprehensive approach to post-season awards (the "Alls"). Sometimes a player may make First-team All-Pro and not be a Pro Bowler or even All-Conference.
Thus, we try to see how many seasons they are "above the line", Pro Bowl alternate or Second-team All-Conference and up to MVP and then look at other seasons to see if they are similar in stats.
Tackles and assists and other stats in the above chart come from NFL Gamebooks and differ from the seasons the Browns used stats based on coaches' tape review. We try and keep our charts with an apples-to-apples comparison when possible.
Pro Bowl: 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989
Pro Bowl Alternate: 1986
1984 All-Pro (NEA, SN)
1988 Second-team All-AFC (UPI)
1989 Second-team All-AFC (UPI)
We will know in January if Matthews will make the cut to the Finalist list of 15. In 2012 he didn't advance that far, and the competition is extremely fierce with most, if not all, the Final 25 (26 this year) very qualified to be in the Final 15. In fact, many would be great selections to the Hall itself.
But, if the voters like longevity and steadiness, they will love Matthews.