Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ray Lewis & Brian Urlacher and the Hall of Fame

By John Turney
In two week the Hall of Fame selection committee will meet and vote on the Class of 2018. Both Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher have a chance to have the extra cachet of being first-ballot Hall of Famers.

So, how do they stack up? Below is a chart showing the parts of their careers that can be measured. Clearly, some things cannot, they are the "intangibles" that are needed to be a Hall of Famer, things such as toughness, work ethic, leadership, etc.

But other things can be measured, games, All-Pro selections, Pro Bowls, interceptions, defensive touchdowns and things like that are among them.
Here is the chart—(Click to enlarge)
Lewis seems to have quite an edge.If you compare his stat line with the bottom two lines he is ahead in most categories. The bottom two lines are the averages of all Hall of Famers and the average of the linebackers who have been first-ballot HOFers.

Urlacher, on the other hand, is almost exactly, by the numbers, the average for an NFL HOF linebacker. He comes up a little short in terms of All-Pros and other awards for a first-ballot contender. If he did get in this year it would be any kind of surprise and it would be that he's not very close to the previous numbers.

In our view, he'd be a better first-ballot selection than Jason Taylor, who got in last year on his first try. Only four previous defensive ends were first-ballot players—Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Gino Marchetti and Deacon Jones. Somehow Taylor's name does not have the gravitas of the other four. However, that ship has sailed.

Here are the statistics of both players as well.

Again, statistics are just one part of a Hall of Fame candidates "resume" if you will. The honors and awards in the first chart are another part. The "intangibles" are yet another thing that is often considered. Certainly, the "hardware" or Super Bowl/Championship rings is another factor.

Another factor is the "what they said" statements about a player or "testimonials".  These testimonials can be from opponents, teammates, coaches, general managers, etc.

Of course, these can be problematic in terms of bias. If Player A is from  "Sante Fe" and the coach of Sante Fe said "this guy is a HOFer" perhaps it is taken at somewhat of a discount. In this case, the voters have to discern the value of the "expert witness".

In some ways, it is very similar to a court of law. Vermont law has jury instructions that read as follows:
Now, I have said that you must consider all of the evidence.  This does not mean, however, that you must accept all of the evidence as true or accurate.  You are the sole judges of the credibility or “believability” of each witness, and the weight to be given to any testimony.  In weighing the testimony of a witness you should consider
·           relationship to the Plaintiff or to the Defendant;
·           interest, if any, in the outcome of the case,
·           manner of testifying;
·           opportunity to observe or acquire knowledge concerning the facts about which the witness                   testified;
·           candor, fairness and intelligence; and
·           the extent to which testimony has been supported or contradicted by other credible evidence. 
You may, in short, accept or reject the testimony of any witness in whole or in part. 

F.      Credibility of Witnesses
You must consider all of the evidence.  This does not mean that you must believe all of the evidence. It is up to you, and only you, to decide whether the testimony of a witness was reliable, as well as how much weight to give the testimony.
The following factors may help you to evaluate the testimony of witnesses:
•           did the witness have an interest in the outcome of the case?
•           how did the witness behave while testifying?
•           did the witness seem candid?
•           did the witness seem to have a bias?
•           does the other believable evidence in the case fits with the witness’s testimony, or is it                           inconsistent with it?
•           how well could the witness see or hear the facts about which he or she testified?
•           did the witness seem to have an accurate memory?
You may believe as much or as little of each witness’s testimony as you think appropriate. Keep in mind that people sometimes forget things, and sometimes they make honest mistakes.  You must decide whether an omission or a mistake is innocent or minor, or whether it is something more serious that affects the rest of their testimony.

G.      Expert Witnesses

Some witnesses testify as experts. This means that they have special knowledge, training, or experience that qualifies them to give an opinion on a certain matter. You should evaluate the opinion of an expert witness the same way you would consider any other testimony. Then, you should evaluate whether the opinion is based on the facts proved at trial and supported by their knowledge, training, or experience.

Click to enlarge:

Lewis tops the list of players on the 2018 Final 15 list and his 13 Pro Bowls really stand out. But in terms of All-Pros Steve Hutchinson, Terrell Owens and Brian Dawkins and Alan Faneca are right there with Urlacher. However, Joe Jacoby and Everson Walls are in their last yer of eligibility and there is likely sentiment to keep them from going into the Senior pool, often called the "swamp" by Hall of Fame voters.


  1. Great article.

    Lewis is a much more accomplished player. There really isn’t a comparison.

    Lewis was already being compared to the all time greats by his 5th-6th season.

  2. John,

    I think Dave Robinson’s total turnovers are incorrect at 61.

  3. If I'm reading that chart right...Urlacher is the leader for "big plays" per season among Inside/Middle LBs. Impressive credential for #54!