Wednesday, July 31, 2019

What a Nightmare—How Can HOF Voters Separate the OLBers with So Many Excellent Ones?

By John Turney
With the upcoming 2020 Centennial Class for the Hall of Fame, we've read quite a few named that are being pushed or looked at. Many of them are outside linebackers. And for the life of us, they are hard to distinguish one from another. Their credentials are all similar.

Here are the current OLBers in the Hall of Fame.
(click to enlarge)

Here is a long list of some modern-era and some senior candidates.
(click to enlarge)

In the 1960s there were not true All-Pro teams, really, until 1969. Most of the selections for outside linebackers in the era are All-NFL and All-AFL selections. Five of the first six we list fall under that category.

Mike Stratton was a Second-team All-1960s for the AFL and was All-AFL four times. Larry Grantham's credentials are almost identical to Stratton's. But it's hard to gauge greatness in terms of honors with both leagues picking All-League teams

Bill Forester, Joe Fortunato and Dan Currie were corner linebackers (as they were called then) around more famous middle linebackers. They would have been competing for All-Pro honors in the early-1960s before there were combined All-AFL/NFL teams. So who was better? Hard to tell.

Maxie Baughan has nine Pro Bowls, which is the most among the waiting linebackers, and he has three All-Pro seasons, though none were consensus. He is seemingly getting some traction based on some recent articles. However, the negatives would be that a couple members of the Fearsome Foursome didn't think any of the Rams linebackers were "very good" and that the line and secondary had to cover for them some. Perhaps he was better with the Eagles.
Still, it seems Chuck Howley is the strongest candidate his honors are about the same as Dave Robinson, Dave Wilcox, and Chris Hanburger—the outside 'backers from his era. His stats are very similar as well.

So the question is why has Howley been overlooked? We don't know. Pro Football Researcher Association's founder, Bob Carroll, was a big fan for Howley. Though he admitted a personal bias in that they had a West Virginia connection.  Howley also has the endorsement of Paul Zimmerman who says Jack Ham and Howley were the two best cover linebackers he ever saw and as far as we know there is not a West Virginia connection there.

We could be wrong but it seems Howley has not gotten as many recent mentions as Baughan and we can only speculate it's because there are two other Cowboys who were 1970s All-Decade picks (Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson) who have gotten a lot of buzz. However, even though Howley wasn't All-1960s you could argue he would have been a better choice than Larry Morris. Nonetheless, for whatever reason Howley wasn't All-Decade but he was All-Pro more often than Harris and Pearson and has a ring and also a Super Bowl MVP. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews is still a modern candidate so he's not in the so-called 'senior swamp'—but his time is running out. He was named by Mike Giddings as one of the two outside linebackers of his scouting service's era that is Hall of Famer-worthy. He was a linebacker who was more of a complete/cover 'backer earlier in his career but evolved as a guy who put in hand in the dirt on third downs as a rush backer-type. We won't hear about his candidacy until later in the Fall when the modern candidates are narrowed to 25, then in January when they are cut to 15.

Carl Banks is interesting in that he has very few honors—One All-Pro season (though his 1989 season was certainly All-Pro level) and was a Second-team All-Decade. He has two rings and was a tremendous run-stopping strong-side linebacker in the Giants 3-4 defense. However, he's had almost no HOF buzz since he became eligible for the HOF in 2001.

Rams outside linebacker Isiah Robertson has quite a few honors but many of his Rams teammates thought he made to many errors to be a HOFer. Yes, he made some huge plays, too, but was not consistent enough.

The rest of the players have some good things about them, but may not have the numbers, honors, and testimonials of some of the one's we've mentioned.  But, we could be wrong, there could be a darkhorse among them.

Art by Merv Corning

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

George Halas Picks Bears All-Time Team & Greatest Players

By Chris Willis
As the NFL's 100th season approaches PFJ will take a look at several players-coaches testimonies of who they thought were the greatest of all-time. These random posts will show how some of the NFL's greatest players, coaches, executives, and game officials thought about who played the game in the league's early years.

First up is Mr. Papa Bear himself-—George Halas.

In 1939 Halas selected his 6 greatest players he had ever seen. It was a Mount Rushmore of the early stars of the NFL. Bronko Nagurski, Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Ernie Nevers, Dutch Clark, and Paddy Driscoll.
1939 George Halas 6 Greatest Players Ever Seen
Two years later (1941) Halas choose an All-Time Bears squad that was published in the Chicago Tribune. This team did not include any of the current Bears stars on the 1941 team—so sorry no Sid Luckman, Dan Fortmann or Bulldog Turner. Halas's starting eleven included 7 future Hall of Famers, very impressive for a Bears franchise that was just 21 years old.

The Ends were Bill Hewitt and Bill Karr; tackles were Ed Healey and Link Lyman; guards were Hunk Anderson and Jim McMillen; the center was George Trafton. In the backfield was quarterback Paddy Driscoll, left halfback Red Grange and fullback Bronko Nagurski. Can't argue with those choices.

The only real surprise was Joe Lintzenich at right halfback. Lintzenich only played 2 years with the Bears (1930-31) and scored just 2 career TDs. Halas could've picked Beattie Feathers, Jack Manders or Bill Senn, but went with Lintzenich.

1941 George Halas All-Time Bears Team, published in Chicago Tribune
 In the Tribune article, Halas does have a list of Honorable Mention players.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sledgehammer Doug Smith, in 1983, Snaps With Left Hand

By John Turney

Kevin Mawae is in the Hall of Fame because he was very good for a very long time. However, it caught our eye that Rich Ciminini focused on the time Mawae snapped with his left hand when he had broken his right hand.
And kudos to Mawae, well done. But we'd like to mention that former Rams center Doug Smith did the same thing in 1983. Smith played fourteen seasons in the NFL and was voted to six Pro Bowls.

He was quite an interesting player in that he took over the Rams center spot in 1982, his fifth season when Rich Saul retired and he held that position for a decade. But what is interesting in our view is that he was the kind of guy who was always filling in for someone his first four years and doing a great job as a fill-in. Often holding off starters for a long while.

As a rookie in 1978, he started once for Rick Saul and another for Dennis Harrah. In 1979 he started another game for Harrah before getting injured himself. In 1980 Harrah held out be reported in time for the opener, but Smith was filling in so ably that Harrah didn't get his starting sot back until Smith injured a knee in week eight.

In 1981 the Rams offensive line was a mess. It was plagued by poor play and injuries. Smith filled in for slumping guards and injured tackles, playing every position except center—his actual position.

In 1983, his second season as a starter, Smith broke his right hand and he did miss a pair of games he came back and snapped left-handed and did a good job. So, we give plenty of praise for Mawae, Doug Smith deserves some kudos as well.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Is Duke Slater a Lock for the HOF?

By John Turney
Slater with Rock Island 
The answer is, of course, no. The reason for that is no one is a lock—things are fluid and can change. Where would we put his chances? Ninety percent. Or higher.

Slater is truly someone who got overlooked by previous Hall of Fame committees. Slater, the most successful African-American in the NFL's early history would have been All-Pro more often and perhaps All-Decade except for the clear racial prejudice of the time, a prejudice the eventually led to a ban on all block players for over almost two decades and ugly stain on the NFL history.

As it was, Slater was First-team All-Pro five times (1923, 1925, 1926, 1927, and 1929) and a Second-team All-Pro twice (1924, and 1930). Two of those seasons he was consensus All-Pro.

He played collegiately for Iowa and then for the Milwaukee Badgers (where he blocked for Fritz Pollard, Jimmy Conzelman and Paul Roberson) in 1922 and for the Rock Island Independents (where he blocked for Jim Thorpe) from 1922–1925 and then the Chicago Cardinals (where he blocked for Ernie Nevers) from 1926–1931.
Slater with the Chicago Cardinals
All-Decade guard Hunk Anderson said of Slater, “Duke repeatedly swept me out of the way by body-blocking me from the side. Frequently, I found myself sitting on the grass.” Walter Eckersall wrote, "so powerful that one man cannot handle him and opposing elevens have found it necessary to send two men against him every time a play was sent off his side of the line.”

Elmer Layden, one of Notre Dame’s immortal Four Horsemen said Slater was “the greatest tackle I ever saw.” Wilfrid Smith of the Chicago Tribune, a former NFL player himself, stated,“Slater…is one of the best tackles who ever donned a suit. His phenomenal strength and quickness of charge make it almost impossible for his opponents to put him out of any play directed at his side of the line.”

Slater was on the Hall of Fame Final 15 twice, in 1970 and 1971 but was never again a finalist.  He was selected to the 1920s All-Decade Team in the book The Pro Football Chronicle.

It seems clear that Slater checks the boxes—honors and testimonial. Linemen don't have stats and the teams he played for were not very successful so he doesn't have the ring. Still, many Hall of Famers don't have a ring so there is no reason to penalize Slater.

Joe Horrigan the Hall of Fame's former executive director stated to Talk of Fame Network, “A guy . . .named Duke Slater. I’d like to see him get in the Hall of Fame. His plight was not so much his ability on the field, but when he became eligible (for the Hall) in 1963 the world was not so cosmopolitan as it is today. And he was one of the few black men to play in the 1920s and had the longest … and by far probably the most successful … career.”

Horrigan's opinion will certainly carry a lot of weight the upcoming Centennial Class of 2020. Slater seems a perfect fit for that and we, as we said, are 90% or more certain he will have one of the ten available senior slots.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Team of Oxen, Equally Yoked

By John Turney
Some time ago the Pro Football Researchers Association released profiles of a handful of players they thought were Hall of Fame-worthy.

Two of them were linemen—Grover "Ox" Emerson and Al "Big Ox" Wistert. Both Emerson and Wistert were All-Decade selections (both First-team), both were on NFL Championship teams, both were six-time First-team All-Pros, both were on teams that set statistical marks, some of which still stand to this day in team or NFL annals and yet neither were in the Hall of Fame which was the purpose of those dossiers—to inform Hall of Fame voters of a pair of NFL greats who fell through the nomination cracks.

Not only were the "Ox-men" on the First-team Hall of Fame All-Decade Teams for their respective decades, but they were also consensus choices for the "Combined" All-1930s and 1940s teams.

The "Ox" who played with the Lions, Emerson, in a recent profile by Chris Willis a producer at NFL Films and author of many books from the relevant eras, had many excellent "testimonials" or "What they said" quotes about him.

Here are a few:
“I regard Emerson one of the greatest linemen I have ever seen perform on a football field. Having him out of our first five games hurt us more than anyone will ever know.”—Potsy Clark, former Spartans-Lions head coach, in 1935.

(Ox) Emerson, the Detroit guard, according to Link Lyman of our Bears, is the fastest, ‘slicing’ forward and the hardest to block, he has ever met in football. And Link is almost a football line all by himself.”—Red Grange, former Bears Hall of Fame back, wrote in 1934.

“Emerson’s low charging made him one of the toughest guards to drive out of play, while he was fast enough to pull out and block on the Lions’ intricate reverse plays.”—wrote the UPI on Emerson when naming him to 1936 NFL All-Pro team.

Willis also mentioned that as he was a major part of the 1935 NFL Champion Lions, and that the "1936 the Lions set an NFL record for rushing yards in a season with 2,885 yards (in 12 games), a record that stood until 1972 when the Miami Dolphins broke it (in a 14-game season)"

Here are the team records as found in the Lions media guide. Three of the top five seasons for attempts are still listed. With a team that featured Barry Sanders on it, two of the top three rushing seasons are still part of the Emerson/Dutch Clark-era. Pretty impressive.
Emerson, as a two-way player (as almost all were in that era) was also part of the Lions 1934 Defense that posted seven shutouts and allowed just 59 points on the season.

Clearly, the defensive charts are more misleading due to era, season length and so on. But the 1950s and 1960s Lions teams were known for defense...and the 1930s defense still was dominant. A deep look would be required to get more meaning, but it is fair to say it was a great defense and Ox Emerson was a part of that.

As far as NFL records, the Lions from that era are still in the NFL Record and Fact Book's pages.

They still hold the record for most yards rushing in a game and are second in consecutive seasons leading the NFL in rushing yards behind a pair of Bears teams—one was recent, even.

And there are still third in fewest points allowed.


Wistert's "testimonials" include George Allen in his book Pro Football’s 100 Greatest Players and also selected him as one of the ten best defensive linemen of all time. Allen wrote, “He was as fine a blocker as you could want. He didn’t have the size to overpower people on the pass block, but he was a master of every kind of block.”

In 2016 the Talk of Fame Network had this quote as well, "Al was the greatest offensive tackle I’ve seen or played with," said former teammate Bosh Pritchard. He also said, "He was our best offensive tackle," referring to the great Eagles teams of the late 1940s.

Steve Van Buren set the NFL's career rushing mark in 1949 (which he held for six seasons) Wistert was the most decorated blocker the Eagles had. And during the "Wistert era" the Eagles were at the top or near the top in rushing offense, and scoring offense and were at or near the top of total defense and scoring defense as well, topping it off with two NFL Championships.

Wistert was a "quick type" tackle in our view He would cut block a lot—but that was common for the era. He was a good athlete for a tackle, not a big, slow "power type" as was often seen in that era. 

As a defender, Allen added, "He always played in perfect position and was seldom off his feet. He was a superb pursuit man and seemed somehow to get in on every play. He was a sure tackler. He was maybe best against the run, but he was among the good early pass rushers."

As a pass rusher, he used his hands pretty well, which was unusual for that era when players would often lead with their shoulders. He was no Gino Marchetti (who advanced the use of hands in pass rushing in the 1950s), mind you, but he was very good at getting pressure. He was also excellent in pursuit in run defense.

In the mid-1940s sometimes he played what looks to be a standup defensive tackle/linebacker position - a hybrid position. From it, he'd take a motioning T-running back out of the backfield in man-to-man coverage. It was a wrinkle in how the Eagles coaches would coverages in the mid-1940s. That is a tough assignment for a defensive tackle.

In that same era he could be seen playing stand-up defensive end as well, which looking at it today would be considered an outside linebacker/edge position and he got good pressure when going after the passer from that spot.

He really does not get enough credit for how good a defender he was. He did a lot of things, played the run from a down position, rushed from an up or down position and covered from an inside stand-up position. 

Van Buren's accolades still dot the Eagles' recent Media Guides

And to this day the 1944 Eagles are second in fewest rushing yards allowed in a season. (Again, we get it's a different era, but the point is to highlight what the offenses and defenses of the "Ox" men did and that they hold up, not to prove said offenses and defenses played under the same rules and circumstances, we know they didn't).
Here are the teams that allowed the fewest rushing yards from 1937-52. Four Eagles teams, in which Wistert was a starter (five if you count the Steagles of 1943 where he was a rookie).
And there are more things we could clip and post to further buttress the accomplishments of Emerson and Wistert.

But the bottom line is this:
We feel confident there are plenty of players in recent eras and from eras gone by that don't check as many boxes as these two do.

Two oxen make a team and for them to work well they have to be yoked together, equally, or there will be an imbalance and the team will not be efficient. These two are so even it is impossible to separate them. Maybe it's time, with the expanded Centennial Class of 2020, to use two of those "Centennial" slots on these oxen. It would be fitting, fair, and just.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The NFL's Mercenaries

By Nick Webster
So much talk in the sports world these days is about ‘player empowerment’ particularly in the NBA where it has essentially taken over the league. Though it’s difficult to see the actions of Le’Veon Bell or in the past few days Ezekiel Elliot and suggest its not at play in the NFL as well.  Even in the NFL this isn’t really new, think back to Eli Manning, Bo Jackson, or JohnElway in the draft . . . or working your way out of town while doing situps in your driveway!

So who are the NFL’s all-time hired guns, mercenaries willing to go anywhere to play another day for pay?  How can you measure such a thing?  First, a hired gun must be good, a quality player, many players have bounced around multiple teams but frequently this isn’t driven by the player themselves but rather teams’ unwillingness to invest in them long-term; think Ryan Fitzpatrick. So let’s start with players who at some point in their career were All-Pro’s, these are players with leverage, the ones teams want. They must have played for at least three different teams as a single move is often attributable to a change in scheme, or coach, or a team parting ways with an aging vet.  

Finally, the player must have played well in his stops to avoid the ‘aging vet’ scenario; Jared Allen wasn’t a mercenary when he went to Carolina, he was trying to hang on at the end of a phenomenal career. 

We’ve come up with a fairly simple way to identify the mercenaries of all-time, take the value of a player’s peak season from each team and add them together.  

An example, who was more mercenary Eric Dickerson or Tony Dorsett?  The former had just over 13,000 yards the latter just under 13,000, but Dickerson produced his yardage across 4 different teams and only his final season in Atlanta could really be described as hanging on. Using our method, Dickerson gets credit for 4,584 yards across the four different teams and Dorsett gets 2,349 across two teams, this certainly passes the eye test, Dickerson was a mercenary, Dorsett was not.

So a refresher, a player must have been an All-Pro, played for at least three teams, then we sum the highest AV he had with each team. The mercenary of all-time . . . Ted Washington. 

But how do we compare across positions, after all DeionSanders needs a fair shake in this fight.  Not our favorite metric, but one publicly available is Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value (AV).  Not arguing the merits of the measure – as I have many misgivings – but it is a way to quantify by some measure the value players have created across positions. We take essentially the same as the Dickerson-Dorsett approach but using AV to compare across positions. This does limit us to post-1960 as that’s the period where the metric is available, which we think is fine as there was generally less player movement in the ’40s and ’50s.

This might not feel intuitive at first, but Washington was an All-Pro and played in many Pro-Bowls as well, he played from 1991 to 2007 a full 17 seasons, played for seven different teams, twice he played for a team for a single season, three times just two seasons. While he certainly wasn’t the first name to mind, it does appear that Washington fits the criteria well, odd as the son of a man who played his entire 10-year NFL career with a single team.  
In the second spot, an intuitive choice shows up. TO bounced all over the league, often leaving unhappiness behind, but he always produced with 1,000-yard seasons with the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys and – often forgotten – he had a near-miss with 983 in his final season with the Bills.  He may have been miffed about not being first-ballot Hall of Fame, but to our mind he’s an absolute first ballot Mercenary.
Wilber Marshall brings a slightly different feel to the list, was he a mercenary, or simply a man willing to follow Buddy Ryan around the league late in his career, we think more the latter.
Then there’s Deion Sanders, we think there’s no doubt he belongs high on the list, the man was the inspiration for taking on the exercise to begin with. Like Elway from the prior decade, he used baseball in part as a wedge between himself and his first team. In San Francisco in ’94 he found a team on the cusp of winning, and willing to put up with him being in for a partial season to get them over the Cowboys hump.  

Then, in the ultimate mercenary move, after leading the 49ers over the Cowboys in ’94 he switches teams in ’95 going to the very same Cowboys picking up a second straight Super Bowl ring in doing so. After a series of All-Pro seasons in Dallas Deion signed with divisional foe Washington in 2000, again moving away from a team to join a hated rival. He wasn’t done, posing a 52.5 passer rating against in 2000, but decided to hang it up after the season likely due in-part to the lackluster 8-8 Redskins team.  

Finally Deion came back in 2004 to join a Baltimore Raven team that was loaded on defense which will – in all likelihood – send four players to the Hall of Fame once Reed and Suggs are qualified.  He played quite well in ’04 as well with 3 Int’s and 0 TD’s allowed, then in 1995 it was over.

Next on the list, Vinny Testaverde feels a bit more like Ryan Fitzpatrick than we’d like, at his best he was a quality QB but was rarely someone a team wasn’t looking to upgrade from or use as a plan B.

Rod Woodson checks in at the next spot and is the highest of any player with just 4 different teams, remember more teams more peak seasons to add, in other words, Rod Woodson was probably most consistently a quality player across all the teams he played for.  This does pass a basic smell test, he was a Defensive Player of the Year for Pittsburgh and led the NFL in interceptions when he was with both the Baltimore Ravens and the Oakland Raiders.

Andre Rison is an interesting case mercenary or malcontent, I tend to think more the latter. Rison was the very rare example of a highly drafted player who had an excellent rookie season only to get shipped off the next season and start his second year with a different team posting his only All-Pro season in year-two with the Falcons.
Brandon Marshall and Kevin Greene are next on the list. Greene might have come out higher had we allowed players credit for multiple stints with the same team. We thought about this scenario and thoughtfully decided to exclude it as so frequently there’s a return to where a player either started or spent a meaningful portion of their career, hard to be called a mercenary for coming home again.  Does Brandon Marshall find his way onto an NFL roster this year and break the tie; hard to see, but he could be no more than a training camp injury away.

The final name on our list is another familiar one and the fifth Hall of Famer on the list. Moss came back from lost time in Oakland to have one of the all-time seasons for a wideout in his first season with the Patriots. After his time with the Pats Moss rotated though teams but was never the same impact player again.

Who is the current generation, could we see Le’Veon Bell added to this list, Odell Beckham, others?  It may never be the like the NBA – and we certainly hop not – but with Bell and Beckham it’s becoming increasingly clear that while the teams may still hold more power, the balance is tilting in the players’ direction with every passing season.

Did the HOF All-Decade Teams Have First-teams Prior to 1970s?

By John Turney
Earlier today Hall of Fame voter from the Houston Chronicle's John McClain listed the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Team members who are not yet in the Hall of Fame. He stated he stopped at the 1980s because many of the 1990s selections are not eligible to be a senior candidate. And he also wrote, "I only included the first teamers from the 1970s and 1980s, which was the first time the teams were split into two."

Actually, that is an oddity. Originally and then again recently the Hall of Fame did list all the All-Decade picks together. However, there was a time in the Internet-era (we think around 2000-2007) that the HOF listed only the First-teams.

We don't know why we got the glimpse into the top players being separated from the Second-team or runners-up or honorable mentions, or whatever they can be called. They did that for the 1920s-1950s, but not the 1960s. But the 1960s had a newer, Combined All-1960s team that included both AFL and NFL players.

The team was published in the NFL 75th Anniversary Book and here is the art that accompanied the 1960s Team, which, in our view should be the official NFL 1960s team.

We've posted on these subjects before—1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s, and 2000s. These are the posts that we listed the Combined All-Decade Teams by decade to show that others, aside from the HOF committee picked teams as well. And when they are combined and players appearing most often are considered "consensus picks" we can see who the ones who were considered the best are. Sometimes (and we've written this as well) the official HOF All-Decade teams made errors, and that's not a rip on the selectors, it's just that with any process that involves humans there will be mistakes.

Please understand, we are certainly not calling out Mr. McClain or any of the voters out on this, we simply doubt they were able to capture the information as we, and others, were able to do. Rick Gosselin, a Hall of Fame voter also got this information.

According to Joe Horrigan, an executive at the Hall, it was former Hall of Fame president that kept track of those things and released them to the media with vote counts.

So, here is McClain's list. He only uses the official HOF teams, which is fine. But we will bold and highlight the ones who were listed as First-teamers in that short span when the Hall of Fame website separated them.

1920s: E LaVern Dilweg (Milwaukee Badgers, Green Bay Packers); G Heartley “Hunk” Anderson (Chicago Bears, Cleveland Indians)

1930s: QB Cecil Isbell (Packers); HB Beattie Feathers (Bears, Brooklyn Dodgers, Packers); E Gaynell Tinsley (Chicago Cardinals); T George Christensen (Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions); E Frank Cope (New York Giants); T Bill Lee (Dodgers, Packers); G Grover “Ox” Emerson (Spartans/Lions, Dodgers); G Charles “Buckets” Goldenberg (Packers); T Russ Letlow (Packers); C George Svendsen (Packers)

1940s: HB Byron “Whizzer” White (Pittsburgh Steelers, Lions); FB Pat Harder (Cardinals, Lions); FB Bill Osmanski (Bears); E Jim Benton (Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams, Bears); E Jack Ferrante (Philadelphia Eagles); E Ken Kavanaugh (Bears); E Mac Speedie (Cleveland Browns); E Ed Sprinkle (Bears); T Al Blozis (Giants); T Bucko Kilroy (Phil-Pitt Steagles, Eagles); T Buford “Baby” Ray (Packers); T Vic Sears (Eagles, Steagles); T Al Wistert (Steagles, Eagles); G Bruno Banducci (Eagles, San Francisco 49ers); G Bill Edwards (Giants); G Garrard “Buster” Ramsey (Cardinals); G Len Younce (Giants); C Charley Brock (Packers)

1950s: FB Alan Ameche (Baltimore Colts); E Bobby Walston (Eagles); G Dick Barwegen (New York Yankees, Colts, Bears); LB Joe Fortunato (Bears)

1960s: HB John David Crow (Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals, 49ers); SE Del Shofner (Rams, Giants); F Gary Collins (Browns); F Boyd Dowler (Packers, Washington Redskins); T Ralph Neely (Dallas Cowboys); G Howard Mudd (49ers, Bears); T Alex Karras (Lions); LB Larry Morris (Rams, Bears, Atlanta Falcons); LB Tommy Nobis (Falcons); CB Bobby Boyd (Colts); S Eddie Meador (Rams)

1970s: WR Drew Pearson (Cowboys); S Cliff Harris (Cowboys)

1980s: T Jimbo Covert (Bears)

So, rather than 48 players, the ones who were actually First-teamers total seven. That is far more manageable.

So, while we certainly applaud the HOF voters for focusing on All-Decade teams because it is harder to make an All-Decade team than an All-Pro team or Pro Bowl team for that matter.

However, there are caveats. One is that sometimes a player starts his career in the middle of a decade his All-Pro span or "peak" performance may be split between two decades. Another issue is there are the mistakes we've spoken about, Another thing is the focus of this post" First-teams are harder to make than Second-team and should be given extra cachet.

What should also be given extra cachet, if you will, is Player of the Year Awards, especially Defensive Player of the Year Awards because so many defenders compose the group of players who have been overlooked. Not in every case, but offensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs, in our view, have been the most "snubbed".

So we think plenty of these Second-teamers (not highlighted) are HOF-worthy and there are some players who never made an All-Decade team are also very HOF-worthy.

So, as long as it's not the end-all, be-all, we applaud the mentions of All-Decades. The HOF voters have a tough job and those ten slots will fill up fast and there will be HOF-worthy players who will not be part of the Centennial Class of 2020. We all need to accept that. There are more than ten senior pool players who are worthy so not everyone will be happy.

All we can ask is that the committees that are filled by HOF voters give it their best shot, use the best information available (which includes the accurate All-Decade teams the—the subject of this post) and that they avoid parochial or partisan interests. If they do that, it will be a great class of 2020.

PFJ's All Pre-WW II Era Team

By John Turney
Over the past eight days we've posted the NFL's top players from the pre-WWII era. The articles were written by Chris Willis, a producer at NFL Films and the author of seven books including the upcoming biography of Red Grange.

Today we compile those choices and include Willis' choices for specialists to compose an All-Time Pre-WWII squad.
We've included both a First- and Second-team selection for T-Formation quarterbacks and also the Single-Wing era picks. And "Def" refers to defensive specialists.

Here a colorized gallery of some of the picks—
Mel Hein
George Trafton

Danny Fortmann

Ox Emerson
Cal Hubbard

Pete Henry

Don Hutson
Sammy Baugh
Sid Luckman

Bronco Nagurski

Clark Hinkle

Dutch Clark
George McAfee