Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Five Great No-All-Decade Players

By Andy Piascik
Chuck Howley
Increasingly, the Hall of Fame Selection Committee appears to be using the All-Decade teams as guideposts on who to elect as Senior candidates. While this is likely to continue to lead mostly to good choices, there are also problems.

For one, there were a number of mistakes made when the various all-decade teams were selected. Better players were left off in favor of less deserving ones. Then there are great players whose best years were divided between two decades and thus missed out on making an all-decade team.
Duane Putnam
To some degree, that was a dilemma difficult if not impossible to avoid. If you’re selecting a team on a strict 1950-59 basis, then a player who played from 1955 to 1966 and whose great years were equally divided between the 1950s and 1960s will likely get bypassed in favor of a player who had all his best years from 1950 to 1959.

That’s fine when it comes to an All-Decade team. But it’s problematic when making an all-decade team is then used as a main argument to elect a player to the Hall of Fame. That’s especially true when it can be clearly demonstrated that the 1955-66 player is more deserving of the Hall of Fame than the 1950-59 player.

To illustrate the point, here are five players from the Senior category who did not make any of the all-decade teams and are not in the Hall of Fame: Chuck Howley, Verne Lewellen, Jimmy Patton, Duane Putnam, and Jim Ray Smith.
Vern Lewellen

All five are better than many players who made an all-decade team. More importantly, all are better than many players who made an all-decade team AND are in the Hall of Fame. That’s true whether you’re comparing them to others who played the same position in roughly the same era, comparing them to others from their position from all eras, or comparing them to all Hall of Famers, period, from all eras and positions.

None of the five is a particularly sexy choice. Two are guards, one is a defensive back, one a linebacker and one a two-way back who played so long ago we barely have any statistics for him. Three – Howley, Patton and Smith – are examples of players whose great years were divided between two decades. In the case of Patton and Smith, it’s almost evenly so.

All five are very worthy of the Selection Committee’s close consideration. This is not to say any of the five should be fast-tracked to the Hall of Fame; not at all. Rather, it is a call for the selectors to seriously examine the credentials of these players.

Perhaps more importantly, this is a call for the Selection Committee to set aside or at least downgrade all-decade teams as a criteria for the Hall of Fame. If the Selection Committee does, then it’s my opinion they will deem all of these players more worthy of enshrinement than the vast majority of all-decade players not in the Hall of Fame. 


  1. I was checking Chuck Howley's career statistics and saw that he played three full seasons in the 1970's and one game in 1973. He also played a couple of seasons with Chicago though only three in 1959 and he missed the entire 1960 season due to injury. This man should definitely be in the Hall Of Fame and I believe had he played for any other team he would have been inducted decades ago. I'm not taking anything away from Ray Nitsche, but compare his career statistics against Howley, and you would be surprised how close they are.