By John Turney
expand the Class of 2020 to uo to twenty players. The breakdown, as announced, is as follows: Five modern-era candidates, ten senior candidates, three contributors, and two coaches.
The five modern candidates will be business as usual. There will be a final fifteen and up to five will be part of the 2020 class.
The senior committee usually picks one or two (depending on the year) candidates. For the NFL's 100th Anniversary there will be ten selected.
The contributor committee was slated to pick one this year will get to choose three. And There will be a set aside for coaches, totaling two.
Starting with the coaches we would say, of course, things can change but in recent years Tom Flores and Don Coryell have come closest to making the Hall but have been aced out by players. Jimmy Johnson has gotten some traction, too.
Other two-ring coaches Mike Shanahan and George Seifert have gotten nowhere. Seifert's second act with the Panthers was not pretty and he shares that trait with Flores who was not good in Seattle after his success with the Raiders.
Our guess is that Flores and Coryell will be the two and both are deserving but even though their fans won't admit it, neither were shoo-in, first ballot types. They may simply be the best of those waiting. It is our view their positives outweigh the negatives, but that both had to wait, it's sad, but if the Hall of Fame is to have high standards then the committee, as a whole, has every duty to examine the great things a player or coach did and also look at any possible warts. Every great player has them, and it's best to just be honest about them and discuss them.
As for contributors, we'd guess George Young will be one. The other two? Art McNally name seems to come up in Google searches. We'd chose Steve Sabol as one. And interesting candidate would be Elias Sports Bureau's Seymour Siwoff. he's the father of all metrics. His company, Elias, is the foundation of anything you see as it concerns statistics. If you are coming up with your own formulas based on statistics you find on the Internet, thank Seymour. He was the beginning of the standardization and the expansion of "the numbers".
The ten seniors are where the committee will struggle the most. Though it sounds like a lot of nominees (ten) it's not. You could fill up have the slots with wide receivers. Or offensive linemen.
We hope they will use some of the slots for pre-WWII players. Our favorites are Al Wistert, Ox Emerson, Lavvie Dilweg, Duke Slater, and Verne Lewellen. And we could easily name five more from that era. We are content to let the collective wisdom of the committee sort that out.
If there are 4-6 more modern players, call it 1950s-1980s, there are plenty of contenders there. For some reason, fans care more about the skill positions than other spots. We could think of ten linemen and linebackers that are Hall-worthy that exceed the careers of all the possible skill players. But the committee always seems to balance it out and the linemen and linebackers (non-edge rusher 'backers) get shorted. It's just the nature of the beast.
The names we hear most often for Hall of Fame at the receiver position (speaking of skill positions) are Drew Pearson, Otis Taylor, Cliff Branch. We will look at them now, along with Harold Jackson and Del Shofner—some of the overlooked from the 1960s,70s, and 80s.
We put Lynn Swann's numbers first because any time and by that we mean EVERY time someone touts their favorite wide receiver who is getting "snubbed" they scream "LOOK AT SWANN'S NUMBERS COMPARED TO MY GUY".
It gets old. But it's a reality. We sho their catches per sixteen games and per 16 games in seasons they were a starter.
Note" PSI began scoring in 1976 and rated top players in 1975 though the company was not yet formulated.
Those five "blue" seasons are part of what Swann's advocates spoke about when they were pushing for Swann's election in the 1990s. Paul Zimmerman was the leader in that push, always saying "Quality over quantity".
So, some may disagree with Swann being in but they sure use his relative lack of stats to propel "their guys".
Branch, like Swann, scored blue on PSI scale in 1975-77 (no score from 1974 but likely "blue" that year) and also 1979 and 1980. He was "red" or "low-red" in 1982 and 1983 as well. "Red" is the next highest grade, not quite All-Pro but a player you can win with. In 1978, 81, 84 he didn't fare as well.
Turning to the scouting grades of PSI Pearson was looked on favorably. PSI didn't have a grade for 1974 and in 1975 he was high but that was the year before PSI began in earnest. He was blue in 1976, red in 1977. He was then blue in 1978, red in 1979, blue in 1980. From 1981-83 he was solid but not spectacular but rating higher than Cliff Branch every season.
All of Taylor's career was pre-PSI but four seasons sure look good. The rest seem average. On film, he looks great. We at PFJ have been able to see a lot of AFL games and Taylor is certainly wide receiver eye candy. But so was Lionel Taylor and Charley Hennigan.
A while back I though Lionel Taylor may not be too fast because he had a low yards per catch average. I was looking just at stats. And he was in photos he had a slightly stocky build (for a wide receiver). But seeing him on film he had good speed and great moves and excellent hands. Much more athletic than I thought. Hennigan was speed. He ran very, very well. A poor man's Del Shofner in a way.
So, the question is if Otis Taylor becomes the 10th Chief (including owner and coach) to make the Hall of Fame. This is a team that dominated the AFL, but all told, won but one world title. They are not the 1960s Packers or 1970s Steelers or 1980s 49ers or even 1990s Cowboys or the 2000-2018 Patriots. Will his "scouting report accolades" surpass his production. Will the "he was the prototype big WR, the kind of guy that teams look for now" type of declarations carry enough weight to dispell the four great years and maybe six-seven so-so years? Unknown.
However, we see his name a lot on chat boards, Facebook and Twitter so he has some momentum. How much of that support is pro-Chief partisanship is hard to tell.
Jackson was not highly rated by PSI in 1976 or 1980 but he was 'blue' in 1977, 1978 and red 1979. We think 1969, 1972 and 1973 would have likely been blue.
He was also All-Decade for the 1960s and a five-time consensus All-Pro.
All of his years were pre-PSI. However, T.J. Troup's observations of Shofner show that while Bob Hayes got credit for changing the game it should have been Shofner who got that distinction as it relates to how zone defenses were used.
Troup will explain that zone defenses existed in the 1950s and usually, they would roll the zone to the strong side of the formation. But, when there was a speed demon on the split end side (away from the tight end) teams would roll the coverage to the weak side to give that weak cornerback some deep help. It happened with players like Harlon Hill, according to Troup but not in tremendous numbers. It was with Shofner and his terrific speed that teams began to do that with regularity.
It's true teams did it with Bob Hayes and did it a lot, but they did it with Shofner before Hayes was in the NFL. Hayes was faster than Shofner (and everyone else) but Shofner was extremely fast as well.
Will he ever be recognized for it? Unknown.
Speedie was dominant in the AAFC and did very well in NFL and then was a CFL All-Star after bolting to the CFL. He's had chances before and the writers of the 1960s and 1970s didn't reward him like they did Dante Lavelli the Browns other fine end. Speedie's name gets mentioned by some members of the Pro Football Researchers Association and some HOF voters.
One has to ask if his numbers plus his five rings are enough to justify another Brown of that era. They have good representation as it is. That could factor in to some degree.
In upcoming weeks we will look at other positions. We do this to show how hard it is to separate great players. Who is the most worthy of these wide receivers? Hard to say. If you had to choose one, and only one who would it be?
And if you had to exclude the receiver who may have played for your favorite team who then would you select?