Friday, August 9, 2019

Gino Cappelletti's HOF Credentials—Are They There?

By John Turney
Credit: 888
For years AFL fans and Patriots fans alike have sung the praises of Gino Cappelletti and say he deserves a place in the Hall of Fame one writer even posting this, "Needless to say that Cappelletti is deserving of the (HOF) honor, and now is the voters’ best chance to show that they agree and recognize him as the all-time great he is."

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.


  1. "but.....but....he was a beloved broadcaster for 28 years?"....what kind of point is that? There are literally hundreds of players more deserving than Gino Cappelletti and that's not meant as a knock on the fine player that he was

  2. Alot of Gino supporters believe he should be in, based on Paul Hornungs career, who scored points with kicking and rushing totals, while Cappelletti had the kicking and receiving numbers.
    It's a good argument, but Hornungs postseason success, was what influenced voters, though personally, I wouldn't have put him in. Good, with some great moments, but not a QB, or a good kicker.

    Thanks for mentioning Chris Burford, an underrated receiver, who made great catches for a nervous Len Dawson in SB I. Still hoping that guy in NY, will release or sell the only known video recording of the game, so young fans, could see how good Burford was. An early star of the AFL, like Art Powell, when Hank Stram first saw Dwight Clark of the 49ers, he said Clark reminded him of Burford.

  3. Retired as the 3rd leading scorer in pro football history.... that's enough for the Hall...

  4. All time leading point scorer in the AFL. Nuff said HOF worthy on that alone.

  5. Brian, thanks for the nice thoughts and favorable recollection.....
    Regards, Chris Burford

  6. p.s. Cappeletti was a great player and an important part of AFL and pro football history!