Thursday, January 16, 2020

Give the Blue Ribbon Committee Credit—They Did Due Diligence but Also Made Errors

By John Turney
Ed Sprinkle

Coach TJ Troup always throws out this challenge to major media types when he makes a claim, "Come on down to Louisville, Kentucky, I will put on a pot of coffee and some films and we can discuss what we see".

That's what Coach will say to those who challenge this assertion "Ed Sprinkle is not a HOF player". That's because the coach knows of what he speaks and can prove it through the great teacher: game film".

Ed Sprinkle was one of the 2020 Centennial Class Hall of Fame inductees announced yesterday and he may be the weakest choice. We just simply cannot agree with Papa Bear Halas. Halas referred to Sprinkle as "the greatest pass-rusher I've ever seen" and "a rough, tough ballplayer, but not a dirty one." The "rough, tough" sure. We agree. "(G)reatest pass-rusher"? We cannot. There is too, too much evidence to the contrary and even George Halas is not above being questioned.

Halas must have had his eyes closed when Len Ford or Gino Marchetti or even Doug Atkins was on the field because PFJ has seen a lot of film on Sprinkle and he is just not a dominant rusher, down-in and down out.

He was an arc rusher, coming wide from what might be called a 'cocked 9-technique' and didn't really vary his charges. "He never used his inside shoulder to take on a tackle and rush tight to set himself up for an inside move". He was good, even very good at times, but Hall of Fame? No. He was a smaller guy (6-1, 207) and did have some thick calves and some natural strength but Troup states, "He was neither quick nor fast, even for that era".

Additionally in an era that was run first, Sprinkle was a liability. "In the early 1950s the Rams just feasted in the run game by running off-tackle on Sprinkle. Dan Towler and Tank Younger just ate him up.". To be fair Troup suggests that Clark Shaughnessy's "mystical defenses" couldn't have helped. But in 1956, when "Atkins was there and the Bears were in the 4-3 they stopped those off-tackle plays to the left".

The numbers back up Troup's assertion if anyone cares to look them up. In 15 games during the peak of Sprinkle's career then Rams ran for over 2,100 yards thus showing what Troup saw on film is backed up by the gamebooks.

Again lest anyone get mad, it is not that Sprinkle was not good, he was good, but this is the Hall of Fame, it is supposed to be the best of the best.

Sprinkle made the 1940s All-Decade team even though he made All-Pro only in 1949 (by INS). Then he was First-Team All-Pro by New York Daily News. And then was Second-team in 1951, 1952 and 1954 by major organizations UP and AP. Essentially a two-time All-Pro by a pair of semi-major organizations. He also went to four Pro Bowls.

So when looking that those honors,  two-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler his honors are light. What that means is the media of the day preferred other players in general over him as the best of the best. Was Halas not promoting his guy? Did they not listen if he did promote his guy?
We've posted about there are inherent issues with All-Pro/Pro Bowl teams, some guys get perhaps an honor or two and the end of their peak years and perhaps get shorted at the beginning. That happens and we recognize that. It does not seem Sprinkle fits that narrative. Mainly because he never had a real "All-Pro" run where he was a consensus All-Pro—a defensive end considered one of the top two in the NFL

We admit Halas' comments carry a lot of weight. And we have to accept it as is. However, we get to ask what he was looking at when he picks his guy over contemporaries like Ford, Marchetti, Atkins and even Gene Brito or Jim KatcavageNorm Willey was far more conspicuous on film with real speed and quickness for his era. Even Bill McPeak and Jack Zilly looked as good, if not better, than Sprinkle. Sprinkle was just not that special on film. Or on paper.

We could buy his inclusion on a 1945-55 All-Mid-Decade team, we can buy Hall of Very Good. Hall of Fame? No.

Oh sure, the Blue Ribbon Committee did a great job overall, we even posted that opinion. But that does not mean they are infallible. Just because something goes through an excellent vetting system does not mean errors cannot be made.

We know how voting works, and that at the bottom of any plurality votes there are players getting two or three or votes beating out someone who perhaps get one or two votes. That's the way voting distribution falls. And that could have happened here.

So, if anyone takes this as a criticism of the committee please don't. They did a fine job. It's just that we are free to criticize and scrutinize their work just as many of them (writers) made a living scrutinizing the work of players and coaches. And the general management/coaching types make a living doing that to players, who should be drafted or traded or cut.

So, 99% of those men and women can take the criticism (if any) professionally. Maybe not all but the vast majority will. What we hope is they don't descend into personal attacks on us or pull the old illogical "appeal to authority" argument of "we know more than everyone or committee was stacked with the best minds so don't dare criticize us".

That won't work here. We've seen the film, we know what's on it. We know the record books, we know what's in therm. And if we see a mistake, we will say it. And if anyone wishes to debate Coach Troup or anyone at Pro Football Journal, we'll take the challenge. You see, we KNOW, we make mistakes and we KNOW we have tons to learn and welcome any opportunities to increase our understanding in the game we love.

It comes down to the fact that we know there are experts that were not on the Blue Ribbon Committee who didn't have a say and Coach TJ Troup was one of them. The man literally wrote the book on the 1950s that reads like an encyclopedia. So no committee, Blue Ribbon or not gets a free pass and as we stated, 99% would expect that. But we've seen some who apparently do.

It's not going to happen. If Coach Belichick were to ever be willing to discuss this or any issue, we'd listen and not say a word bit try to ask as many questions as he'd answer. But if he asked, "Do you think Ed Sprinkle is a Hall of Famer, based on what you've seen". We'd look him in the eye and say, "No, sir. Respectfully".
So while we don't know what exactly happened here as a good player got vaulted above his ability (ironically the same thing happened with the other Blue Ribbon Committee naming Doug Atkins one of the top seven defensive ends ever. Top 15? Sure. But JJ Watt, Willie Davis, Jack Youngblood, Carl Eller, and Michael Strahan all were better and had better careers than Atkins). And lest anyone the we are anti-Bear, Coach TJ states "I bleed navy and burn orange).

For time and memorial writers and now bloggers question the work of the Hall of Fame committees, and now the Blue Ribbon Committees. And as much as they work hard, vet, discuss, mistakes will be inevitable. And we contend that through the evidence of detailed film study and research this one one of them.

We welcome contrary views in the comment sections.


  1. Any other disagreements guys ?

    Carmichael has good numbers but I felt postseason play would vault Pearson and Branch ahead but it didnt happen.

    Though the overrall list was good, surprised that Wistert, Dilweg/Lewellen, Emerson and especially Gradishar didnt make it.

    The gold panel selections on Talkoffame/Maven I thought were better, but I am biased.

  2. What did you think of these selections, JHoltgym ? Likes/Dislikes ?

    1. Brian, I haven't seen enough game film to have a strong opinion 'yay or nay' about it all....I know that Sprinkle has had sort of a legendary cachet "tough guy" persona (as I recall without looking it directly up Dr.Z refuted the supposed 11 sacks in a game claim)...I do think that Al Wistert would be a better rep (4 time all-pro) for the 40s....and agree that Mr. Gradishar has been unfortunately overlooked.....thrilled for Duke Slater's family....have you seen his jersey on display in Canton?

    2. Yes, but its been awhile. I wish the HOF would sanction or partner with Mitchell and Ness on throwback jersies of its members. I have always wanted actual replicas of jerseys from Warfield in Cleveland, or Bobby Layne in Detroit or Pitts, but either cant afford them, or they were unavailable from Mitchell and Ness. The PFHOF could endorse them as well, as sell them like hotcakes.

    3. Brian, that's a FANTASTIC would think the HoF would have taken advantage of this long ago....(however, unfortunately I'm guessing the market for replica Bobby Layne, Gino Marchetti, Steve VanBuren jerseys isn't the massive bonanza you and I perhaps presume!)…..I'm sitting at my desk looking at my 1960 Denver Bronco vertical striped stockings a Bronco fan/friend gave me a couple years you recall the photo of Coach Troup in his Raymond Berry throwback from a couple months back? there was something historically inaccurate about it, but Coach hasn't responded to my prompts/teases.....if I'm a Brown fan, I definitely want a Jim Brown (the obvious), a Motley, or Ford.....a 64 Graham would be cool too.....or an Oorang Indian....I like those 33 Steeler/Pirate bumblebees an SI writer mentioned that the 49ers want to wear their 94 white throwbacks at the SB....doesn't the writer know that those throwbacks were already "throwbacks" (to their 54 whities?)….this blog is so awesome.....covers the FULL of pro football history

  3. During the period of 1973 (his breakout season) through 1983 (his last productive season) when he, Branch and Pearson were all in the league, Carmichael led the NFL in receiving yards (8,414), catches (549), touchdowns (77). No other WR was within 10 TDs. Pearson finished with only 48.

    His 79 career receiving TDs are still in the top 30 all-time. Among active players, only Larry Fitzgerald has more.

    While he maybe didn't have any "signature catches", he did play well in the post-season. Over seven games, he had 29 catches for 465 yards and 6 TDs. Had a TD catch in four straight post-season games.

  4. It appears that Covert is viewed by a number of people who saw all of them first hand as being at least equal to Jacoby and Kenn during the mid 80's. Besides the first-team all decade nod, Dan Pompei got this quote from Lawrence Taylor that was apparently corrabarated by Belichick-

    "I played against a lot of excellent offensive tackles and I put him in the top echelon. I put him up there with the best of the best. I look at a lot of people who are in the Hall of Fame, and if Jim Covert can't be in the Hall of Fame, then we got a problem there."

    Pretty safe bet that John Madden was advocating for him, too, since my recollection is that he regularly raved about Covert whenever he and Summerall did a Bears' game during that time and Covert was an "All Madden" choice more than once.

    Personally, I would've chose Branch and Wistert over Carmichael and Covert, but just trying to lay out thecases for Carmichael and Covert.

  5. Should add that coach Troup would be the best advocate here for Covert

  6. as a cowboys fan loved too see cliff harris get in and I will always say if lynn swann is in the hall drew pearson and cliff branch should be in the hall . but the biggest travesty again is that chuck howley isn't in the hall of fame I just don't get it . you guys were grown men when he played can you tell me what did dave wilcoxs and chris hamburger have over him ? his individual awards were the same or even better and howley played on winning teams with very good defenses and a lot of post season success . for goodness sake in 2 suberbowls he accounted for 5 turnovers , has any other defensive player in the super bowl era accomplished that in back to back super bowls ? plus the 1st defensive player to win the mvp as a defensive player and the 1st and last (probably) to win it on a losing team . howleys yrs from 1965 to 1971 was a 5x 1st team olb and 1 year a 2nd team selection . dallas in that time frame would go 70-26-1 and he would play in 4 championship games winning a super bowl ring for the 1971 season (1972 super bowl 6). what else does a player have to do ?

  7. shame on the hall of fame for not putting randy gradishar in the hall of fame some say he is the godfather of the inside linebacker position in the 3-4 .

  8. has Harold Jackson been considered for the hall of fame ? played a long time and had 6 to 7 really good years