By John Turney
Here are the current OLBers in the Hall of Fame.
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Here is a long list of some modern-era and some senior candidates.
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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.
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.
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.
Art by Merv Corning