Yesterday the Hall of Fame committee met and discussed and voted for the HOF Class of 2021. Among the Final fifteen moderns players discusses was Clay Matthews.
As has been widely discussed on the Internet and especially social media Matthews was All-Pro Just once and went to Pro Bowls in four other seasons. He had (according to us, using play-by-plays as a source) 1,440 tackles and 82.5 sacks. Good, but to what you'd call over-the-top numbers. He didn't have a ring and wasn't All-Decade. His biggest "hook" was that he was a man out of his time, he was the 1970s or 1990s player in the 1980s, when linebackers were rushing the passer all the time and he was an all-around linebacker, rushing some, covering a lot, and playing the run well.
We don't know if he will be inducted into the Hall or not, that will be announced Super Bowl Saturday.
However, we did want to discuss one aspet of his career we thought was pretty cool.
In 1996, at age 40, Clay Matthews played a new role one he had done before—right defensive end in the Falcons nickel defense. It was his final year and in that role, he totaled 6.5 sacks.
Maybe you don't think that is an impressive number, and maybe it isn't, even for a 40-year old converted linebacker.
But consider this:
The 6.5 sacks--the most ever for a 40-year old. And that's more sacks in his final year than these players—
- Bruce Smith (5.0 sacks), who was a nickel end for the last half of his final year.
- Reggie White (5.5).
- Deacon Jones (3.0), who was a nickel left end for Washington in 1974.
- Claude Humphrey (3.0) was a nickel left end for the Eagles in 1981.
- Fred Dean (3.0) was was nickel right end for 49ers (elephant) his final season.
- Richard Dent (4.5) played nickel right end for Eagles his last year.
- Charles Haley (3.0) Was the Elephant nickel end for 49ers.
- Lawrence Taylor (6.0) in his final year.
- Howie Long (6.0)
- Carl Eller (3.0)
- He had the same number of sacks Elvin Bethea had in Elvin's last FIVE years (6.5)
So, for those who were situation pass rushers, he did a better job than they did though it was relatively new to him and he was older than all of them except Bruce Smith. And he had more than some players who were still starting. And that is just among Hall of Fame edge rushers. This list would be much longer if non-HOF edge rushers were included.
We are not suggesting one year makes him a Hall of Famer, of course, but it does suggest the man was a football player who could do what was asked of him—at any age and that is one piece of the puzzle or one extra intangible few others have on their Hall of Fame resume.
Just food for thought.