By John Turney
SI/Talk of Fame's Clark Judge is doing a needed and fun exercise with some AFL experts to see if there can be a consensus of who is most worthy of being inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
So often folks will just look at the easy stats listed on Pro Football Reference (and we will do that) and will also eyeball the post-season honors (we will do that, too) but we will also try to dig a little deeper with extra stats that we've studied and also the place in history these players have earned.
Also, we'll discuss what is a Hall of Famer and the criteria that was in place when these players were up for discussion, and the place longevity was played in the mix as opposed to now.
It's easy to just say "AFL guys have been ripped off, there is an anti-AFL bias" and so on. There likey was. WAS. Now? We don't think so.
Not only that, it's also easy to look at the All-Time AFL team and say "such and such is on it and he should be in HOF because of that". Well maybe, but how many guys played enough years at his position to even warrant being AFL All-Decade? There were a couple soft spots there. So, that, too should be considered.
In that spirit, we will give a thumbnail sketch of 44 finalists Judge has listed.
John Hadl (San Diego, 1962-72; L.A. Rams, 1973-74; Green Bay, 1974-75; Houston 1976-77)
Hadl's career went eight years into the 1970s—the NFL with six of them starting seasons, one an NFC Player of the Year, All-Pro, Pro Bowl season (1973). He went to the Pro Bowl in 1972 but didn't deserve it. Though in 1970 he had a Pro Bowl-worthy season and didn't go, so it evened out.
In his AFL years, he went to four AFL All-Star games. n 1965, 66, and 68 he was a Second-team All-AFL pick. In the AFL he never got any MVP or Player of the Year awards. The only ring he got was backing up Tobin Rote in 1963.
His stats were typical AFL—lots of yards, lots of touchdowns, and lots of picks. Threw to Lance Alworth and other fine receivers in San Diego. he led the AFL in passing yards twice and in touchdown passes once.
In the final analysis, Hadl is not a Hall of Fame quarterback. Hall of Very Good? Yes. Hall of Fame? No.
Jack Kemp (Pitt, 1957; L.A./SanDiego, 1960-62; Buffalo 1962-69)
Kemp is interesting in that only Abner Haynes, a running back rushed for more touchdowns in the history of the AFL. Kemp was certainly not shy about calling his own number. We've not researched it be we'd wager that he also did the same thing on 3rd and 4th and short as well.
He tied Len Dawson for the most QB wins in AFL history and owns two AFL title rings. During his prime (1960-66) he won 71.7% of his starts and 63.3% for his career. He was the 1965 AFL MVP (AP) and was All-AFL in 1960 and 1065 and was Second-team All-AFL in 1961, 1963, and 1966—all very good.
The issue is that his stats were iffy. He has a cannon for an arm, but his 57.3 passer rating was low, even by the standards of the time. The AFL's passer rating for its existence was 61.7. So, his HOF resume rests with the fact that he was a winner, not a passer.
Daryle Lamonica (Buffalo 1963-66; Oakland 1967-74)
Lamonica was a passer and backed up Kemp for four years and even saved a handful of Kemps QB wins in those years before being dealt to Oakland. There he went on to win 77% of his starts for a total of a 78.4 winning percentage, but he lacked the "big one" though he has two "gravy trainer" rings with Buffalo.
He was All-AFL in 1967 and 1969 and was Second-team All-AFL in 1968 and Second-team All-NFL in 1970 and All-AFC in 1970. Additionally, he was the AFL consensus MVP (AP and UPI) in 1967 and the AFL Player of the Year (UPI) in 1969. All those are HOF worthy.
In his five-year prime (is that enough for HOF?) from 1967-72, he threw for 145 touchdowns, 21 more than the next closest quarterback His 61 wins are five more than the next best.
Did he do it long enough and did he perform well enough when it mattered—In the playoffs? Probably not.
Clem Daniels (Dallas, 1960; Oakland, 1961-67; San Francisco, 1968)
Twice All-AFL, twice Second-team All-AFL, four times an AFL-All-Star game pick. In 1964 he led the AFL in rushing yards AND yards per catch. A rare combination.
A theme of all these running backs is they had short careers. Daniels 9; Gilchrist 6; Haynes 8; Lincoln 8; Lincoln 10; Lowe 10; Nance 7; which in and of itself is not an issue since many HOF running backs are in that range. It's that many of those years of service are not productive.
For Daniels, it is more like 5½ productive seasons. For Cookie, it's 4 or so. For Haynes, it's 4. For Keith Lincoln, it's 4, maybe. Lowe? Maybe 5. Jim Nance is 3, maybe 4.
So, with these running backs in the AFL, we've never thought it was anti-AFL bias keeping them out it was the shortness of their productive seasons when they were coming up. Later, in the 1990s, when the Seniors Committee was looking back they first went with Leroy Kelly who had 6-7 productive seasons so you could see him getting the jump on the AFL runners.
Then, later, Floyd Little got in and though he had some AFL legacy, he was an NFLer but he had five productive seasons, maybe six if you push it. So now it seems the door is wide open for some of these AFLers. And with Terrell Davis (4½ productive season) there is no) longer any valid excuse. That is the very definition of a slippery slope. Not to mention NFL runners like Chuck Foreman and others.
Cookie Gilchrist (CFL, 1954-61; Buffalo, 1962-64; Denver, 1965, 1967; Miami, 1966)
Two AFL rushing titles, four AFL rushing TD titles. Three-time All-AFL (four if you count NY Daily News). Was the AFL MVP/POY in 1962 and won a title in 1964, though had to be coaxed to play in a dispute with the coach down the stretch, but that is a story for another time.
Averaged 1000 yards rushing from 1962-65. Only AFL runner to maintain such an average for such a long time.
What is interesting about Gilchrist is like Warren Moon, perhaps some (not a lot) weight should be given to his CFL career where he played seven years before entering into American football. He was a five-time CFL All-Star as we understand it and won a Grey Cup.
Part of Warren Moon's appeal was bypassed by the NFL unfairly when he came out of Washington largely because of race and he went to the CFL and dominated, winning five titles before returning to the US and signing with the Oilers in 1984. Moon's NFL career was the bulk of his resume, but there was some weight given to his CFL exploits. (Same is true, to a much smaller degree to Jim Kelly's USFL's success).
Why can't Cookie get some of the same consideration? Just asking.
Abner Haynes (Dallas/Kansas City, 1960-64; Denver, 1965-66; Miami, 1967; N.Y. Jets, 1967)
1960 AFL Player of the Year (Consensus), Three-time All-AFL, once Second-team All-AFL. One AFL ring. Led AFL in rushing once. Three times led AFL in rushing touchdowns.
In addition to being a good runner and receiver, Haynes was a very good punt returner and kick returner. That gives him, in our view an edge over some of the other halfbacks here.
Keith Lincoln (San Diego, 1961-66, 1968; Buffalo, 1967-68)
Twice All-AFL, five AFL All-Star games. One AFL title ring.
Paul Lowe (L.A./San Diego, 1960-68; Kansas City, 1968-69)
1965 AFL Player of the Year, Twice All-AFL, once Second-team All-AFL, one AFL title ring. One rushing title and twice led AFL in yards per carry and twice led the AFL in touchdowns rushing.
Jim Nance (Boston/New England, 1965-71; N.Y. Jets, 1973, Houston/Shreveport-WFL (1974–75)
Two rushing titles, AFL MVP, twice All-AFL, once Second-team All-AFL. Also was All-WFL once if you want to give him some partial credit there.
Chris Burford (Dallas/Kansas City, 1960-67)
Was very good in the first half of the 1960s. Not a Hall of Famer.
Gino Cappelletti (Boston, 1960-70)
Gino is beloved by Boston fans and has lots of merit to his career. He was the AFL MVP/POY in 1964, went to five AFL-All-Star games, and was four-tine Second-team All-AFL.
His big stat is scoring, being a starting flanker and a kicker. But how good was he at those positions? In his time in the AFL (and one year in the NFL) the league average for field goal percentage was 53.9%. Cappelletti's was 52.9, about one percent below average.
In his prime, 1961-67, he averaged 40 catches for 623 yards for 15.7 yards a catch and 6 touchdowns per season.
Was he a great player? Or a pretty good player at two positions? We think the latter and that's not Hall of Fame. Hall of Very Good? Sure. Not Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Elbert Dubenion (Cleveland, 1959, Buffalo, 1960-68)
"Golden Wheels" was a three-time Second-team All-AFL, had a monster season in 1964, two AFL title rings, tremendous speed guy and deep threat. Not a Hall of Famer
Charley Hennigan (Houston, 1960-66)
Here is an interesting one. Three times All-AFL and one-time Second-team All-AFL. Five AFL all-Star games and two AFL rings but just seven seasons.
He stood out on film with great speed and good routes and excellent hands. He led the AFL in receiving yards twice, both times over 1,500 yards, and in 1964 caught 101 passes.
He was dogged by some injuries late in his career and he hung 'em up early. During his prime (1960-65) he averaged 64 catches, 1085 yards, 17.0 yards a catch, and 8 scores a season.
Art Powell (Philadelphia, 1959; New York, 1960-62; Oakland, 1963-66; Buffalo, 1967; Minnesota, 1968)
Powell was a big man for a wideout, 6-3, 211, and could really run. He was ahead of his time, really. In his prime (1960-66) he averaged 65 receptions, 1096, a 16.7 average, and 11 touchdowns.
He was a five-time AFL All-Star and was a four-time All-AFL pick but just one was a consensus pick.
Outside Lance Alworth, to us, he stood out on film more than anyone with his combination of size and speed and strength. He most certainly could play today and be an All-Pro. His hands might not have been as good as Alworth, Hennigan, or Lionel Taylor but they were good. If you were to have a "scout's pick" for the Hall of Fame among these wide receivers it would likely be Powell.
Lionel Taylor (Chicago, 1959; Denver, 1960-66; Houston, 1967-68)
A four-time All-AFL pick, five times he led the AFL in receptions. His prime (1960-65) numbers per season were: 85-1071-12.6-7.
His yards per catch suggest he was a "possession" receiver, and to some extent that may be true, but he played on a team without great blockers and without a great quarterback throwing to him. He had decent speed and terrific hands.
Smart, crafty, but fast enough, but more athletic on film that you might expect. Taylor is certainly in the top three in this group in our view.
Otis Taylor (Kansas City, 1965-75)
Taylor still gets lots of support for the Hall of Fame among Chiefs media and fans and others and we get that. However, looking at his record it's hard to see it when compared to others, even on the AFL-only list, not to mention NFL players like, say, a Del Shofner and others.
He played longer than most here, 11 years, but he had just two great ones (1966, 1971) and two very good ones (1967, 1972). The other six were just okay. One was kind of a throwaway. In his prime (1966-73) he averaged 45 catches 811 yards, 18.0 yards a catch for 6 touchdowns.
He was All-AFL/All-Pro twice and went to three AFL All-Star game/Pro Bowls and earned a Super Bowl ring.
Like Art Powell, he was a big man, a scout's dream. And yes, he could play today. He ran well, was smart, he had all the tools. He played on a great team with a great quarterback. He did seem to get nicked a lot but still, given all the advantages he had over Lionel Taylor or Powell or others, he just didn't get the results they did.
Warren Wells (Detroit, 1964, Oakland, 1967-70)
All-AFL in 1969, Second-team All-Pro in 1970. Wells was the penultimate deep threat. In his short, three-year prime he averaged 48 catches for 1111 yards, a 23.3 average, and 12 touchdowns.
That's the problem though. A three-year prime. he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. At some point one has to have some longevity. Also had some ugly off-field issues.
Fred Arbanas (Dallas/Kansas City, 1962-70)
Received post-season honors every season from 1962-67 including All-AFL selections in 1963, 64, 66, and 1967. He was All-Time All-AFL. Was part of two ultimate championships and one other AFL championship (losing in the Super Bowl to the Packers in Super Bowl I)
He was a fine blocker and receiver. We'd equate him to Ron Kramer as a two-way tight end. His receiving numbers don't stand out but that was simply a function of the era. Few tight ends put up big numbers. His key role was as a blocker. Still, had Arbanas been in the NFL he'd not have been getting as many post-season honors. Again, he'd have been like Ron Kramer—one of the best two-way ends.
Dave Kocourek (L.A./San Diego, 1960-65; Miami, 1966; Oakland, 1967-68)
Was a two-time All-AFL, but neither consensus and twice more was Second-team ALl-AFL. He did put up good receiving numbers, got an AFL title ring, and his 1961 season was akin to Mike Ditka's breakout season in the NFL for tight ends.
Still, Kocourek is not a Hall of Famer.
Jim Tyrer (Dallas/Kansas City, 1961-73; Washington, 1974)
Tyrer had one shot at the HOF in 1981 didn't make it and was forgotten largely because of his murder-suicide involving his wife. With more and more being learned about CTE and its link to depression and his wife's family having forgiven him, Tyrer is getting more traction.
It's silly to list his credentials, he's more than qualified to be in the Hall of Fame, both by honors, but also by the "rings" and also by the "testimonials". George Allen and others have written and spoken about how good he was.
We'd like to see him get in. We are not in favor of putting ALL these Chiefs in, but without question, Tyrer should be the one.
Ernie Wright (L.A./San Diego Chargers, 1960-67; Cincinnati, 1968-71; San Diego, 1972)
Not a Hall of Famer
Walt Sweeney (San Diego, 1963-73; Washington 1974-75)
Went to nine consecutive Pro Bowls/AFL All-Star games, was All-AFL, and was a three-time First-team All-AFL/All-Pro and twice a Second-team All-AFL/NFL.
Was called by Merlin Olsen as his toughest opponent as the Rams and Chargers met often in the preseason in an era when they played those games full speed. He was a 6-4 265 or so (listed perhaps 10 pounds lighter) guard who could run really well.
His combined nine Pro Bowls/AFL All-Star games is the most of this group but Talamini has more All-AFL selections.
Ed Budde (Kansas City, 1963-76)
Seven times a Pro Bowler/AFL All-Star and three times All-AFL.
Budde was part of three AFL Championship teams and one Super Bowl-winning team. What hurts him is the fact that his teammate Jim Tyer is likely more qualified if one goes by the All-AFLs and AFL All-Star picks.
Like Sweeney, Budde was a big guard for that era, 6-5, 265, and like Sweeney could run.
Bob Talamini (Houston, 1960-67; N.Y. Jets, 1968)
Six-time All-AFL (four times consensus). six AFL All-Star selections.
Talamini was a squatty guy, 6-1, 255, more typical of guards in that era than Sweeney or Budde were. His team had a lot of success early in the AFL and likely led to some of his "honors" but he was a strong guy and said to be a good trap-type blocker.
A pure AFLer (never played in the NFL, Talamini got two rings with the Oilers and then one with the Jets in 1968.
Wayne Hawkins (Oakland, 1960-69)
Five AFL All-Star selections, three-time All-AFL (one consensus)
At 6-0, 240, again, if you check NFL and AFL rosters of that era, there were plenty of guards this size in the pro leagues. Often they were referred to as "technicians". Sometimes it was a euphamism, other times not. Though a pure AFLer (like Talamini) and though he had a worthy career, he's not a Hall of Famer.
Hawkins did get an AFL championship ring in 1967 and played in Super Bowl II.
Jon Morris (Boston/New England, 1964-74; Detroit, 1975-77; Chicago, 1978)
A lot of Second-team All-AFL selections. Not a Hall of Famer
Houston Antwine (Boston/New England, 1961-71; Philadelphia, 1972)
Four-times All-AFL (once consensus) and six All-AFL games.
Antwine was able to be relatively injury-free and have a long career, but he didn't have the "peak" that some of the other AFL defensive linemen had. He was good, but never, you know, great as in Hall of Fame great. He was on the All-Time AFL team, but again, that was more for long and meritorious service than for peak performance. Ladd was a better player.
Tom Keating (Buffalo, 1964-65, Oakland, 1966-72; Pittsburgh, 1973; Kansas City, 1974-75)
Keating played long enough, but some of those seasons he was just hanging on as a rotation player. He had a severe knee injury that cost him the 1968 season and he was never quite the same though 1969 was a good season, but when he was with the Steelers and Chiefs and his last couple of years with the Raiders it was not like 1966 and 1967 with the Raiders when he was stellar.
He was a three-time All-AFL picks (one consensus) and a one-time All-AFL pick.
Ernie Ladd (San Diego, 1961-65, Houston, 1966, Kansas City, 1967-68)
When he wanted to be great, he was great. Was it often enough? Three-time All-AFL, one right, Five-times he got AFL post-season honors. One AFL title ring.
Often (with Earl Faison) in money disputes with the Chargers. Possibly that is what led to his lack of motivation. he was 6-9, listed at 290, but was likely more like 320 (or more).
He played just eight seasons and in his last three he was just kind of "there".
Tom Sestak (Buffalo, 1962-68)
"Big Ses" was a combination of Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen—right between them in size and quickness from our film study. When you are the best player on the best defense in your league that wins two titles you are a Hall of Famer.
He was a three-time All-AFL pick and once a Second-teamer. He would have been the AFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1964 if they had such an award with 17½ sacks.
Knee injuries cut his career short and that, again, is the holdup. Were AFL players curses? So many felled by injuries and had short careers and came up for the Hall of Fame when longevity matter to voters.
Earl Faison (San Diego, 1961-66; Miami, 1966)
Four times All-AFL, once Second-team AFL-AFL
Every year he was healthy he made All-AFL, likely would have been an AFL Defensive Player of the Year in one of those seasons if they had that award then.
Back problems ended Faison's career. He was huge, strong, maybe the strongest linemen, NFL or AFL, of his era. He was 6-5, 270, and could run (5.8 50-yard dash). The Chargers, like All AFL teams would often toggle from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 and would alternate the sides they did it, meaning that when it was to Faison's side he was essential an outside linebacker who would usually rush, like a Lawrence Taylor but 2 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier.
Like Ladd, needed to be motivated at times, but Faison could play.
Rich Jackson (Oakland, 1966; Denver, 1967-72; Cleveland 1972)
A Paul Zimmerman favorite and another of the short-career AFLers. "Tombstone" was All-AFL/All-Pro in 1968-70 and All-AFC in 1971.
Skill-wise/film-wise, he's a Hall of Famer. We've seen tons of film an him and he's all that Dr. Z said he was. It comes down to fairness and equity, is it fair to put someone in the Hall of Fame with so few productive seasons? It's a hard question.
Yes, he played seven seasons. Aaron Donald has played six, and if he never played another down, he'd be a Hall of Famer, no question. But there is a difference. Donald has played six injury-free dominant seasons. Jackson didn't.
In 1966 he barely played. In 1967 he played right end and was just leaning his trade and ended the season with 4½ sacks. Then we have his 1968-70 dominant run which extends though 1971 midseason when he hurt his knee.
In 1972 he was not himself and was traded to the Browns and he struggled. So, all told he had three full seasons and being generous two half-seasons of dominance for total of four. It's a fair question to ask if that is enough.
He was asked to play nose tackle for the Patriots in 1973 by Chuck Fairbanks but Jackson wanted to be a player/coach and Fairbanks didn't want that. Jackson, an education major, wanted to begin the next phase of his career—coaching and teaching. Had that worked out, and Jackson, playing on the nose for a couple of years on what became a recurring team playing the 3-4, say a prequel to Curley Culp maybe that makes a difference for Tombstone's HOF chances.
Ike Lassiter (Denver, 1962-64; Oakland, 1965-69; Boston/New England, 1970-71; Jacksonville WFL (1974)
Few have heard of Ike Lassiter, but he was very good. He was Second-team All-AFL in 1966, 1968, and 1969 but his best season was 1967. He also has an AFL title ring
Ben Davidson got all the ink for the Raiders defensive line in those days but no AFL team sack quarterbacks more than the Raiders from 1965 through 1969 and the guy who had the most was Ike Lassiter.
He was the size of Earl Faison and almost as quick. He sometimes got a little heavy but still, he knew how to rush and could also play the run well. A very, very underrated player. He's the third-best defensive end on this list.
Jerry Mays (Dallas/Kansas City, 1961-70)
Mayes made the AFL All-Time Team and won 3 AFL rings and was a six-time All-AFL pick (two consensus) and played in seven AFL All-Star games/Pro Bowl.
Chiefs fans and media love him (like Otis Taylor) and he has more credentials than Taylor in terms of post-season honors. On films he's okay, but more of a "Steady Eddie" than a standout defensive end.
In 1968 he broked out some with 10½ sacks (he averaged just under 5½ sacks a year before that) and had a career-high 11 in 1969 then had six in 1970. He was certainly a solid run defender and got some pressure from his left end, but he was not special enough to be a Hall of Fame player. Even on this list, he'd be last.
Gerry Philbin (N.Y. Jets, 1964-72, Philadelphia 1973, New York-WFL, 1974)
Twice All-AFL, both consensus (three times if you count NY Daily News, if not he was Second-teat year anyway). His 1968 would have put him in contention for a mythical AFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, but he would have had to beat out Rich Jackson for it. He also won a Super Bowl ring.
An aggressive, high motor (as we say these days) player, an average-sized end that paid hard and played tough. He really was a joy to watch. Shoulder injuries limited him after 1969—yet another excellent player who never got to fulfill his full potential.
He broke out early totaling 55 sacks from 1965-69 (just 1½ as a rookie) but then came the bruises, injuries, and so on—Just 9½ the rest of his career.
Dan Conners (Oakland, 1964-74)
Post-season honors in 1967, 68, 69.
Not a Hall of Famer. Solid, but not an all-time great.
Larry Grantham (N.Y. Titans/Jets. 1960-72; Florida-WFL 1974)
If you include the NY Daily News Grantham was Five-time All-AFL, five times Second-team All-AFL, one-time Second-team All-AFC, one Super Bowl ring.
Grantham has a great Hall of Fame case. He has 24 picks and 31 sacks. Grantham had a long and pretty healthy career, a rarity among this bunch. He was a pine nut, 6-1, 210 (maybe a bit bigger later in his career) but he could cover and dog and stop a sweep can scrap over the top, all the things would ask an outside linebacker to do in his era. He wasn't a physical stud like George Webster or Mike Stratton but he got the job done.
E.J. Holub (Dallas/Kansas City, 1961-70)
A linebacker that converted to center. Enough with the Chiefs. Not a Hall of Famer
Mike Stratton (Buffalo, 1962-72; San Diego, 1973)
Has all the awards one could want, is in the same category as Grantham, Chris Hanburger (who is in the HOF), Chuch Howley (who should be) Dave Robinson, Dave Wilcox, and other linebackers who did it all, and didn't have huge sack totals but who red dogged well and could cover well and pick off a few passes a year.
Stratton had 21 picks and 30½ sacks went to six AFL All_Star games was All-AFL four times (three consensus) and was Second-team All-AFL twice more. He has 2 AFL title rings and the "Hit Heard 'Round the World". He has a solid HOF case but Sestak was far better and Stratton would have to wait for Ses to get in before he got a shot in our view.
George Webster (Houston, 1967-72, Pittsburgh, 1972-73; New England, 1974-76)
AFL-All-time team, Three-time All-AFL.
Talent-wise he is as good as any but the injury bug got him, too, in his fourth year. He gutted it out for six more years, but was never the same, never made another All-Pro team or Pro Bowl, never picked off another pass.
He's like so many AFL players that had super-high peaks but injuries limited the production in their careers and it begs the question as to whether they played long enough or if the post-injuries seasons were good enough to be considered great.
Butch Byrd (Buffalo, 1964-70, Denver, 1971)
Including NY Daily News, a Four-time All-AFL (three times without NYDN), Second-team All-Time AFL Team, Two AFL title rings
Picked off 40 passes, five of which were pick-sixes.
Dave Grayson (Dallas Cowboys, 1961; Dallas/Kansas City, 1961-64, Oakland, 1965-70)
All-Time AFL Team, Five-time All-AFL, seven AFL All-Star games, 2 AFL title rings.
Grayson had 49 picks (five for touchdowns) and led the AFL in interceptions once.
Stands out on film. Excellent speed and ball skills, he could sure run and cover ground. He was equally good at cornerback and safety, as a corner, he was on the "gambler side, a 'cluer' if you will. Would give up some big plays but would also get his team the big plays—like later Chief Gary Green perhaps or a poor man's Deion Sanders.
As a safety, he had great range and ball skills. In our view, he's the best AFL defensive back not in the Hall of Fame and he has the "peak" and the longevity and the honors, the rings. The whole package.
Goose Gonsoulin (Denver, 1960-66; San Francisco, 1967)
Post-season honors in six seasons, including All-AFL picks in 1960, 62-63, and Second-team picks in 1961 and 1964.
From 1960-65 he averaged 7.3 interceptions a season for the Broncos which is impressive, even in the AFL when they were tossing up aerials nearly every play (or it seamed).
He was a big safety, 6-3, 210, (bigger than Larry Grantham by quite a bit) he had good ranges, good un support and could track a ball and had a wide receiver's hands.
Very, very good. Hall of Fame? Maybe stretching it but maybe not. Injury in 1966, went to the NFL in 1967, and poof, another AFL great gone played just eight seasons.
George Saimes (Buffalo, 1963-69; Denver 1970-72)
Including NY Daily News, a Five-time All-AFL (four times without NYDN), Two AFL title rings
Once had four sacks in once game. Could track the ball, pick off passes, the classic free safety.
SPECIAL TEAMS (2)
Jerrel Wilson (Kansas City, 1963-77; New England, 1978)
Wilson has all the post-season honors that you could want, but sure had a lot of punts blocked for a great punter. Obviously, not all are the punter's fault, but over a career, patterns emerge and some punters seem to avid blocks, with others they add up. With Wilson, it's the latter he's among to top five in the percentage of punts blocked. Again, that is not something that disqualifies him it's just something voters need to consider.
However, on the positive side, unofficially, though our research he led the AFL in net punting in 1964 and 1968 and tied for the AFC lead in 1970 and led the AFL/NFL in gross yardage five times.
He was the All-Time AFL punter who received post-season honors in 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972.
In the final analysis, he was a good punter, but we've spent a lot of time looking at this subject—punters of the pre-official punting stats era (pre-1976) and the one who stands out is not Wilson or even Dr. Z's favorite, Tommy Davis, it's Bobby Joe Green. But he never gets any consideration at all. Of course, maybe it will turn out that Wilson and Davis get in and Green does not, but all we'd ask in all the stats get looked at as they would now.
We've contacted Elias Sports Bureau and the Bears about getting a complete net punting analysis done to perhaps 1950 or so and they are interesting, but who knows how long that may take.
Jim Turner (N.Y. Jets, 1964-70; Denver, 1971-79)
Turner was All-AFL in 1968 and 1969 (and led the AFL in scoring both seasons) and Second-team All-AFC in 1976 and earned a Super Bowl ring in 1968.
A solid straight-on kicker, above-average percentages for the time. He didn't have a strong leg. But if one were to put a straight-on kicker from that era in, it would have to be Jim Bakken, he had the most points above average for that era. Points above average you ask?
PFRA member, the late Ruppert Patrick's metric PAL—estimated points above average (Pro Football Persepctive's (PFP) Chase Stuart has a similar metric) and Turner is 22nd. They simply take the field goal percentages and measure them against the league averages during a player's time in the league. PFP has Turner as 18th as of 2015.
For comparison, Bakken, a contemporary, is 6th according to PFP and Patrick's PAL has Bakken is 7th.
Or put another way, Turner never led the AFL or NFL in FG percentage.
We don't bring up Bakken to promote him but to illustrate that one not only has to be a top AFL kicker, but also the best, or one of the best kickers of his era and with all the new information available the voters can consider, a player needs to measure up in all of it to be considered the best of the best or one of the truly great.
So, how would we rank these players? In terms of HOF worthiness? That is not for us. But in terms of peak skills, not considering longevity, we'll take a stab at listing them.
1. Tom Sestak
2. Rich Jackson
3. Art Powell
4. Jim Tyrer
5. Earl Faison
6. George Webster
7. Abner Haynes
8. Dave Grayson
9. Walt Sweeney
10. Cookie Gilchrist
11. Jim Nance
12. Ike Lassiter
13. Mike Stratton
14. Clem Daniels
15. Warren Wells/Otis Taylor
3. Art Powell
4. Jim Tyrer
5. Earl Faison
6. George Webster
7. Abner Haynes
8. Dave Grayson
9. Walt Sweeney
10. Cookie Gilchrist
11. Jim Nance
12. Ike Lassiter
13. Mike Stratton
14. Clem Daniels
15. Warren Wells/Otis Taylor