Thursday, March 31, 2016

All-Decade Team "Repeaters": Did All of Them Fit?

By John Turney
All-Decade Team 'Repeaters'

All-Decade repeaters, or players who were named to the Official HOF All-Decade Team more than once, rightly deserve a higher place in history than those who only made one team, so it is said. It connotes that a player was so dominant for a long period of time he had to be voted to both. Right?

Well, in my view, yes and no. Sure, in theory, but in practice, has it always worked? Not really.

The All-Decade teams have been voted on by the Hall of Fame voters since January, 1970. The 1970 HOF selection committee voted for the 1960s, 1950s, 1940s, 1930s, and 1920s all at the same meeting. Then, in January, 1980, they voted for the 1970s team, and so on. From 1970 to the present First- and Second-teams were listed, though it was a straight vote with the leaders being First-team and the runners-up the Second-team, i.e., no "Second-team" was listed on the ballot.

One case-in-point, in January, 1980, Earl Campbell was voted Second-team on the 1970s All-Deacade team despite playing in only 1978 and 1979. That seems to be too short a tenure for Campbell to be considered in our view.

It also begs the question, How many seasons should a player have to warrant "All-Decade" consideration in a given decade? Five? Six? Well, it can never be exact, and maybe one answer for all players may not be the solution.

In the 1960s, for example, Jim Brown played six seasons and Gale Sayers five and those players seem to fit ideally even though they played 60% or less of the decade. Brown retired while he still had lots of gas in the tank, but for that decade no one was really close to his accomplishments. Sayers was close, he was All-NFL five times in five years, and did it battling knee injuries.

However, since there are no official "mid-decade All-Deacde Teams" the voters are in a binary, either-or situation. Either he's in the 1960s or not. Either he's on the 1970s and so on. Sometimes either-or or black and white thinking can miss needed nuance.

So, we will try and list all the All-Decade repeaters and opine where they should fit and why mid-decade teams might fill in some gaps. Each of the players who have ever been named First- or Second-team All-Decade on one of the Official HOF NFL All-Decade teams is listed and commented upon:
Doug West Galleries
Dick Butkus was 1st team in both the 1960s and 1970s. If you are a voter in that room in the Summer of '69 Butkus, though he played just 4 years is the choice, his peak was so high that the lack of seasons in the decade is not relevant, really.

Also, it seems that middle linebacker was not on the ballot, just three spots for "linebacker" and as a result five linebackers were named and three of them were middle linebackers, including Tommy Nobis who had just completed his fourth seasons. Joe Schmidt, who was dominant in the early 1960s and still very good when he retired after the 1965 season (his sixth of the 1960s) was not mentioned. He was on the 1950s team, though.

Now, if one were in a meeting in January, 1980, picking a 1970s team, Butkus might not come to mind as he played only four seasons and the last couple he was really not himself due to really bad knee injuries. He got nine of the 25 votes. Jack Lambert got six votes. So, there are ten votes to other players. It is safe to assume Bill Bergy got some, maybe Lee Roy Jordan, or Willie Lanier. The honorable mentions have never been released.

So, in our view, Butkus really does not fit in the 1970s. He would, however, be a likely unanimous choice for a 1965-75 team, were there one (stay tuned).
Bobby Bell was an All-AFL All-Decade choice and a Second-team pick for the 1970s, garnering four votes. Like Butkus, the 1970s was not "his" decade. And, like Butkus a 1965-75 decade would fit ideally. Players like Isiah Robertson or Phil Villapiano or even a Chris Hanburger would have been better fits for the 1970s Second-team than Bell. The First-team 1970s would clearly be Jack Ham and Ted Hendricks.

Jim Bakken was All-Decade in the 1960s and Second-team for the 1970s. Frankly, we didn't look that closely at kickers for the 1960s, but Bakken is good choice for Second-team in the 1970s.
Gary Thomas
Willie Brown was All-AFL All-Decade, rightly so, and First-team 1970s. He was certainly more dominant the first half of decade that the last half, but he aged gracefully and seems like a very reasonable choice for both decades (and would be in high consideration for the 1965-75 team as well).

But, in our view he'd be maybe 4th in the 1970s behind Roger Wherli, Mel Blount and Lemar Parrish. But, he'd be slightly ahead of Jimmy Johnson, Emmitt Thomas, Mel Renfro and Lem Barney, all Hall of Famers who had excellent seasons in both the 1970s and the previous decade. 
Credit: Doug West Galleries
Bob Lilly was on the 1960s team and First-team 1970s. This would be the same analysis as Butkus and Bell. Lilly played five years of the 1970s, and his last two seasons, 1973 and 1974 he was lifted on passing downs. Not sure that he should he on the 1970s team. Alan Page and Joe Greene would be best fits for the 1970s First-team (Greene was First-team, Page Second-team).
Credit: Doug West Galleries
Merlin Olsen was on the 1960s team and Second-team for the 1970s. He played seven years in the 1970s and was a Pro Bowler for six of them, but he was more dominant in the 1965-75 decade and even the 1960s than the 1970s, though he was still good. Were we to pick Second-team defensive tackles for the 1970s, it would likely include Curly Culp at one of the spots and one of couple of top players who battled injuries: Wally Chambers and Jerry Sherk. We'd then shift Lilly and Olsen to a mythical 1965-75 team.
Credit:  Gary Thomas
John Hannah was Second-team on the 1970s and First-team in the 1980s. Again, a perfect fit for 1975-75, but at his peak, he was the best guard for the 1980s, but there might me a couple of guards in the 1980s that played nine or ten years that could come close.
Credit: Doug West Galleries
Walter Payton was First-team on the 1970s and the 1980s team. Though this will be controversial, I thought the 1970s First-team running backs should have been O.J. Simpson and Franco Harris and the Second-team backs Chuck Foreman and then Payton. Earl Campbell would easily be on the pro forma 1975-85 team. And he's also clear choice for the 1980s team. Pretty impressive.
Credit: Marc DeWalt
Ted Hendricks was First-team on both the 1970s and 1980s iterations. The 1970s team, 100% yes. The 1980s? No. 1975-85? Probably. I just cannot see him taking the place of a Clay Matthews, to name one excellent 1980s outside linebacker who was passed over.
Credit: James Byrne
Jack Lambert was Second-team in 1970s and Second-team in the 1980s. In the 1980s he played 5 years, though 1984 he barely played. He'd be one of the two ILBers on a 1975-85 team, though, but doesn't fit the 1980s team profile and really, should have been voted to it.
Credit: Ben Teeter
Jerry Rice, again, this will draw criticism, but he was First-team for both the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s, he was certainly dominant from 1986-89, but were his four dominant years better than someone else's close-to-dominant 8-9-10 years? Tough call. Rice is the clear choice for 1990s and also 1985-95 (were there one), but 1980s? No sale.
Credit: Gary Thomas
Reggie White was First-team 1980s and First-team 1990s. Same exact analysis as Jerry Rice.
Credit" Angelo Cane
Bruce Smith. Second-team 1980s, First-team 1990s. Same exact analysis as Reggie White.
Credit: Gabe Richesson
Gary Zimmerman Second-team 1980s, First-team 1990s. Same exact analysis as Bruce Smith. Unless USFL honors count, he's not a fit for the 1980s team, starting in 1986. But would be perfect for the 1985-95 team.
Credit: Bart Forbes

Ronnie Lott He was the only choice as a 1980s team member but not as a 1990s team member (even as a second teamer. He only played half a decade and even though he was effective from 1990-92 he wasn't the star he'd been in the 1980s.
Credit: Skyline Pictures
Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, Second-team in 1970s (lost out to Rick Upchurch) and First-team 1980s. Like with Jim Bakken have not looked at this closely enough to comment.
Credit: Merv Corning
Morten Andersen was First-team in 1980s and in the 1990s. Seems reasonable, but have not looked at kickers. However, we always thought Nick Lowery was a top 1980s kicker and he didn't get enough mention. We think he'd be the best pick for First-team 1980s kicker.

Gary Anderson Second-team in 1980s and again in the 1990s. Again, have not looked into this.
Credit: Gary Thomas
Willie Roaf was First-team in 1990s and Second-team 2000s. Seems reasonable and impossible to critize. We have him as a Second-team pick on the 1995-2005 team.
Credit: Robert Hurst
Larry Allen Second-team in both 1990s and 2000s. He would be #1 guard from 1995-2005 without question.
Credit: MT Pattison
Warren Sapp was Second-team in 1990s and First-team in 2000s. We already opined that Sapp didn't belong on the 1990s team, but that 1995-2005 was "his" decade and would be the top tackle, along with Bryant Young for that decade.

Agree or disagree? Post in comment section below.

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