By John Turney
They cite that he was a good receiver and a kicker for eleven seasons for the Boston Patriots and then was a beloved broadcaster for 28 seasons years (from 1983 through 2011).
Cappelletti was a five-time AFL All-Star and was the AFL MVP/POY in 1964. He was a Second-team All-AFL in 1961, 63, 64, and 66. He is a rare MVP who was not All-Pro in the season he was voted the top player.
However, it needs to be asked, how good was he?
The AFL was a passing league and there were some excellent receivers, some worthy of the Hall of Fame. On that last Cappelletti would rank behind AFL receivers Lance Alworth (already HOF), Don Maynard (already HOF), Art Powell, Charley Hennigan, Lionel Taylor, Otis Taylor and maybe even Chris Burford. To be fair, often Cappelletti was taken out on third down because head coach Mike Holovak wanted him to be fresh on forth down in case the needed to kick a field goal. That reportedly frustrated Gino, so that is one factor that was beyond a player's control and shouldn't be held against him but the question still remains: Should the seventh or eighth best receiver in the AFL be in the HOF?
"But wait", the Cappelletti supporters would say, "He was also a great kicker".
Well, he was a kicker. Great? No. Good? Not really. Average? Yes, to be fair, maybe above average for holding the job so long.
From 1960-70 NFL and AFL kickers converted 53% of their field goals (3872/7299). That was the average of both leagues in the eleven years Duke Cappelletti kicked. In that span, Gino converted 53% of his kicks—exactly average. He also didn't have much range, kicking just 2 of 18 field goals from fifty yards or beyond. Now that is not a knock, few kickers had any range in that era.
He was not worse than average or a bad kicker. He just did not stand out. He did have excellent moments, he led the AFL in field goal percentage in 1965 and was close to the league lead in 1964 as well. But is that the stuff of the Hall of Fame especially since he was really an average kicker overall?
In terms of team success, the Patriots had some good teams but never won an AFL title, so there isn't that "chip" for Cappelletti supporters to play. He should get some intangible "chips" for being a position player who also kicked. Though not rare in that era by any means, to do it for so long wasn't exactly common either. it was when there was a transition into kicking specialists so some teams had guys who played a position and kicked or had a kicker/punter combination. To overall, it's a net plus that he did both and was good enough to do it for quite a while.
So, if there is a checklist, one that lists the accomplishments of players it seems Gino falls short. His honors are good (1 MVP, 4-time Second-team All-AFL, five AFL-All-Star games) but not great. He missed the AFL All-Time Team for example and was never First-team All-AFL. The MVP award is the crown jewel if you will.
His stats are okay in receiving and kicking but not great—not head and shoulder above average.
His intangibles are okay, no AFL title but he was a good two-position player.
All told, it seems the Pro Football Researchers Association got it right by voting to their Hall of Very Good. Duke Cappelletti does not seem like a Hall of Fame player.