Monday, August 15, 2022

Thoughts On The Senior Category Final 12

 By John Turney 
Tomorrow the Seniors Committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will meet virtually to choose three candidates for the Hall of Fame. Those three will then be presented to the full committee prior to the 2023 Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

The committee is composed of twelve voters and for the first time, all twelve will be included in the discussions and voting. In previous years a rotating group of five would meet and choose a candidate(s). 

Recently there has been only one senior player who would emerge from this process. In the recent past, there also was a period when two players would be selected. This year there will be three.

Here are our thoughts on the twelve players on the final list who will be considered—

Ken Anderson: Quarterback (1971-1986)
A four-time pro-bowler who started at quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1971-1986.
Anderson has been on the modern category Final 15 twice. He has four passing titles and an MVP season as well. The knock is he had a few seasons in the middle of his career that were subpar. This "donut hole" is in a sense like Kurt Warner's—who played great for three years with Rams and then the Cardinals he played well and in between he had several years of not-so-spectacular play. 

Maxie Baughan: Linebacker (1960-1970, 1974)
A nine-time Pro-Bowler, Baughan played linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles (1960-65), the Los Angeles Rams (1966-1970) and the Washington Redskins (1974).
Went to a lot of Pro Bowls but also 1960s Pro Bowls were in a league with fewer teams. He was All-Pro in 1964, 1966, and 1967. He was the defensive signal caller with the George Allen-coached Rams. He had 24½ sacks and 18 picks. He also has a ring as a rookie starter for the 1960 Eagles.

Randy Gradishar: Linebacker (1974-1983)
Centerpiece of the “Orange Crush Defense,” Gradishar played all 10 seasons as linebacker for the Denver Broncos, seven of which were Pro Bowl years.
Gradishar stands out in that he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978 and was third in the voting in 1977. He was All-Pro in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981 and Second-team All-Pro in 1983 and was also All-AFC in 1976 and never missed a game. He was also the first 3-4 inside linebacker to make an All-Pro team—breaking the 4-3 middle linebacker streak.

Historian TJ Troup said this, "(B)ased upon film study and what I learned from Billy Thompson Randy had pass defense responsibilities no other inside linebacker ever had before or since"

It is odd that there is no member of the Orange Crush honored in the Hall of Fame, from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s they were consistently among the NFL's best in defensive passer rating and in stopping the run.

Chuck Howley: Linebacker (1958-59, 1961-1973)
Being the only player on a losing team to win Super Bowl MVP (Super Bowl VI), Howley received six Pro Bowl selections and five first-team All-Pro selections while playing for the Chicago Bears (1958-59) and the Dallas Cowboys (1961-1973).
A Paul Zimmerman favorite who wrote that Howley was among the best weak-side linebackers ever. He was, like Baughan, able to rush the passer (26 sacks) and cover well (25 picks) and throw in 18 recovered fumbles. He has a ring and also a Super Bowl MVP trophy. 

Though Dr. Z touted Howley as a weak-side great, remember that he played the strong side (called Sara in Dallas terminology) more than "Wanda" (Cowboys term of weak-side or "Will" position).

Cecil Isbell: Tailback/Defensive Back/Halfback (1938-1942)
Of Isbell’s five playing years with the Green Bay Packers (1938-1942), he had four Pro Bowl appearances. 
Isbell was the thrower and Don Hutson was the record-setting pass catcher. He was All-Pro twice and Second-team All-Pro three times and led the Packers to one NFL Championship. 

Joe Klecko: Defensive End/Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle (1977-1988)
A member of the famed “New York Sack Exchange,” this defensive powerhouse had four Pro Bowl selections and two first-team All-Pro honors in his 12-year NFL career, all spent with the New York Jets. 
Klecko is akin to Howie Long and Dan Hampton. He played multiple positions well. He led the NFL in sacks in 1981 with 20½ and in 1985 was the top NFL nose tackle—and was All-Pro both seasons. He was also a Pro Bowler as a 4-3 defensive tackle in 1983 and 1984. Earlier in his career he played 3-4 defensive end as well.

Bob Kuechenberg:  Guard/Tackle/Center (1970-1983)
A member of the Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame and a six-time Pro Bowler, Kuechenberg spent the entirety of his 14-year career as a member of the Dolphins.
A two-time First-team All-Pro and a Second-teamer once and also an eight-time modern-era finalist . He was the model offense guard according to John Hannah and Joe DeLamielleure. Some say he was the best offensive linemen on those great Dolphins teams. A master at the trap block and could lead sweeps and well and showed great balance in pass protection. If the Hall voters like textbook players, Keuch qualifies

Eddie Meador: Cornerback (1959-1970)
Meador played his entire career with the Los Angeles Rams, where he earned selection to two first-team All-Pro teams and six Pro Bowls. He is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s. He finished his career with 46 interceptions, which remains a Rams franchise record.
A three-time All-Pro (two consensus) Meador began his career as a cornerback and he moved to free safety in 1964. TJ Troup noted that Meador, "(H)is knack for a key takeaway, and his tackling ability place him above all the other candidates."

Meador was a great placekick holder who could run a fake into the end zone and is the Rams all-time leader in blocked kicks with 12.

Tommy Nobis: Linebacker (1966-1976)
Nobis was the first player the expansion Atlanta Falcons drafted and played his entire career in Atlanta. He won NFL Rookie of the Year, played in five Pro Bowls, selected first-team All-Pro (1967) and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s.
Nobis was stuck on a lot of poor teams and still played well. However, he was First-team All-Pro just once and Second-team once. He also didn't pick off a lot of passes, recover a lot of fumbles, or total a lot of sacks. So, compared to the other linebackers his "stat" box is not checked.

Ken Riley: Cornerback (1969-1983)
Riley played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and recorded 65 career interceptions, more than any other player not already in the Hall of Fame and the most by a player who saw action exclusively at cornerback. He was named first-team All-Pro in his final season.
His case is simple and divisive in some ways—If you go by his interception total and you think the Bengals are getting shorted by Hall voters you think he's a Hall of Fame. If you go by post-season honors (All-Pros and Pro Bowls) you don't think he belongs. In most cases, Hall of Famers check the "stat" box AND the "honors" box. Riley could be the exception.

Sterling Sharpe: Wide Receiver (1988-1994) 
Sharpe made five Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro teams during his seven-year career with the Green Bay Packers. His 18 touchdown receptions in his final season is still good for third best all-time.
He had a career like Terrell Davis and Dwight Stephenson in that he had a high peak but an injury ended his career early. Probably the second-best wide receiver behind Jerry Rice over the course of his career. He checks the stat box and the honors box but not the "longevity" box nor the "ring" box. It will be interesting to see how far he goes given that usually skill players often get the benefit of the doubt and the blockers and tackles have a tougher row to hoe.

Everson Walls: Cornerback (1981-1993) 
Playing most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, Walls made three first-team All-Pro teams, four Pro Bowls and led the NFL in interceptions three times while in Dallas. He finished his career with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns and helped New York to victory in Super Bowl XXV.
Walls had 57 interceptions, just eight fewer than Ken Riley, in an era where the league-wide interception percentages dropped from 5% (1969-83) to 3.9% (1981-93). He has a ring and was a three-time First-team All-Pro and had three interception titles. 

Walls played for three teams, after leaving Dallas he went to the Giants, playing for Bill Belichick's defense, and then was signed by Belichick to play corner for his Browns teams. Belichick must have liked something about Walls.


  1. will be interesting to see how voters (in this new process with 12 voters, including 3 new ones) plus individual presentations for each 12 finalists, evaluate the group and which end up elected-as there are several possibilities, hard to exactly predict the outcome

  2. great comments as always Ken RIley...I get the INTs but isn't Lemar Parrish the more qualified Bengal DB from the era? 6 Pro Bowls (to RIley's zero) in their shared time at Cincy (8 total) and 47 career INTs.....I'm not an expert on the Bengals or that time frame, am interested in your thoughts......also "nitpicking probable typos dept.".....Howley was MVP of SBV, not VI (the Jim O'Brien Bowl)

    1. Hi Jim and Alen ... What did you guys think about yesterdays selections ?

    2. From Brian wolf