NFL Hall of Fame: Class of 2018 Modern Nominees

The 2018 nominees of the modern era for the NFL are out. I thought it would be fun to go by position and discuss who we think is worthy, unworthy, the best of the group, etc. Let’s start with the QBs:

Randall Cunningham, Rich Gannon, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Phil Simms

Off the top of my head, of this group, I’d go with Sims–as being the best. However, I don’t think I’d pick any of them to get in. Is McNair really even worthy of consideration? I must admit that I don’t remember how he played when he had his best year, but was it really that much better than when he went to the Super Bowl? Also, how many years did he play at a high level?

I feel like Cunningham was the best running QB I saw, maybe up until Vick–especially in terms of his moves. He was the first QB that seemed to have running back moves.

I don’t think much of McNabb or Gannon. I feel like the ball security of the former wasn’t very good, and his performance in the Super Bowl is a black mark. To me, he’s like a Brett Favre, without a less strong, accurate arm, and less playmaking ability. Gannon is fine, but I don’t get why he’s on here. Are his stats really that terrific? I’m guessing he accumulated good stats because he played for a long time, sort of like Dave Krieg. Speaking of which, would you rather have Gannon or Krieg?

RBs: Tiki Barber, Earnest Byner, Roger Craig, Corey Dillon, Eddie George, Edgerrin James, Lorenzo Neal, Fred Taylor, Herschel Walker (also KR), Ricky Watters

I’m a little puzzled by Byner and Neal being on the list. Were those guys really that good, for that long? I love fullbacks, and I recall that Neal was solid for a long time, but was he really exceptional?

The ones that seem close, to me, are Roger Craig, Eddie George, and Edgerrin James. Fred Taylor was really good, but the guy kept getting hurt. Did he ever play an entire season?

WRs: *Isaac Bruce, Donald Driver, Henry Ellard (also PR), Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, *Terrell Owens, Sterling Sharpe, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Steve Smith, John Taylor, Hines Ward

TO for sure. He’s one of the best I saw. Moss would be too, although I sort of feel like he underachieved. Sharpe and Chad Johnson seemed really good, but I’m not sure they played at a high level long enough. I’m kinda iffy on Hines Ward and John Taylor. I guess, the same with Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Henry Ellard, Isaac Bruce as well. They’re all sort of close. Driver is sort of like the Curtis Martin or Jerome Bettis of WRs. He may not have been great, but he was good for a long, long time.

TEs: Mark Bavaro, Ben Coates, Ferrell Edmunds, Jay Novacek

I feel like Bavaro didn’t play long enough at a high level. I feel like Coates handful of years when he was really good, and then a few when he was just OK. I liked Novacek. The thing, when you think of these guys (and I don’t know who Edmunds is), and then compare them to Gronk, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates–it seems like the gap between the two groups is really large. So, I’m inclined to vote against the first group.

I’ll get to the defense later. (I’m going to skip the O-linemen, because I would be just guessing or going on reputation. But feel free to discuss them.)

31 Responses to “NFL Hall of Fame: Class of 2018 Modern Nominees”


  1. Reid

    Defense

    DL: La’Roi Glover (DT/NT), Leonard Marshall (DE/DT), Keith Millard (DT/NT/DE), Leslie O’Neal (DE), Michael Dean Perry (DT/DE), Simeon Rice (DE), Richard Seymour (DT), Neil Smith (DE), Greg Townsend (DE/NT/LB), Kyle Vanden Bosch (DE), Bryant Young (DT)

    I don’t think any names really stand out–maybe Richard Seymour, but I think that’s more no reputation. Millard, maybe.

    LBs: Carl Banks, Cornelius Bennett, Tedy Bruschi, Seth Joyner, Ray Lewis, Greg Lloyd, Wilber Marshall, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest (also DE), Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, Joey Porter, Darryl Talley, Zach Thomas, Brian Urlacher

    For sure, Ray Lewis. What about Urlacher? That’s a little closer, but I think I lean toward a yes. Mecklenburg seems like a guy that should get in. I love Sam Mills, but I can’t be objective.

    DBs: Eric Allen (CB), Steve Atwater (S), Ronde Barber (CB/S), LeRoy Butler (S), *Brian Dawkins (SS), Rodney Harrison (S), *Ty Law (CB), Albert Lewis (CB), *John Lynch (S), Dennis Smith (S), Everson Walls (CB), Darren Woodson (S)

    I really like Brian Dawkins. I’m not sure he’s the best of the bunch. I liked Woodson, too, but I’m not sure if he’s good neough.

    Kickers/Punters: Gary Anderson (K), Sean Landeta (P), Nick Lowery (K)

    Special Teams: Brian Mitchell (KR/PR also RB), Steve Tasker (ST also WR)

    I don’t have any strong feelings for any of them.

    Coaches: Don Coryell, Bill Cowher, Tom Flores, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Buddy Parker, Richie Petitbon, Dan Reeves, Marty Schottenheimer, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil

    I would think Coryell has to get in. No to Reeves or Cowher–they were good, but not great in my view. Schottenheimer is close. Great regular season coach. To me, he’s almost the coaching equivalent of Peyton Manning: a great regular season coach, but not so great in the playoffs.

    I’m on the fence with Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Tom Flores, and Dick Vermeil. I guess Johnson and Vermeil should get in. With Flores, you just got the sense that Al Davis was a big reason for their success. (I feel somewhat similar about guys like Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin, and John Harbaugh–good coaches all, but more great because of their GM/organizations.)

    Richie Petibon is strange pick. I’m guessing he’s getting in for being an assistant coach (OL?).

    (Note: I have a feeling I might be evaluating the nominees way too stringently–as in, if I used this approach, there wouldn’t be many people in the HoF; which, actually, might not be so terrible.)

  2. Mitchell

    This Steve Smith nomination is preposterous. The Steve Smith you see on this list isn’t Steve Smith the Panthers/Ravens guy, who only retired last year and is not eligible. It’s Steve Smith the Giants/Eagles/Rams/Buccaneers guy. This guy has the Giants team record for receptions in a season (107) and led the NFC in receptions in 2009. He was in one Super Bowl, which he won, and was in one Pro Bowl. Who’s on this committee anyway?

    Gannon at least won an NFL MVP and went to the Super Bowl. He also is the only player to win Pro Bowl MVP honors in consecutive season (oooooooh!) and holds a Super Bowl record (most interceptions in one game, 5 of which 3 were returned for TDs).

    It’s hard to compare TEs from the 80s with TEs from today. Gates and Gonzalez might as well have been WRs. At least Gronk stays back as a blocker on occasion. Too hard to compare Bavaro or Coates to those guys.

  3. Mitchell

    When Flores played, Al Davis was still pretty good about leaving the coaching to his guy. If you have a problem with Flores, you should have one with Madden as well. Flores was just as successful, and he won two Super Bowls vs. Madden’s one.

  4. Don

    TO over Moss? Moss is the most talented receiver ever. Moss may have taken plays off, not played to his potential (not sure if this is true), but he was a huge part of two of the greatest offensive performances ever with Minnesota and New England.

  5. Don

    Oh for me Moss and Ray Lewis are locks. And I agree none of those QBs or TEs.

  6. Reid

    Mitchell,

    This Steve Smith nomination is preposterous.

    Agreed. Someone said that one or more of the voters must have confused Smith with Steve Smith Sr. That’s gotta be it, but it’s still a hoser move. (When I first heard it was the Smith that played for the Giants, I was like: “Well, what about Hakeem Nicks?”)

    Gannon at least won an NFL MVP and went to the Super Bowl.

    Yeah, but do you think he should get in or is even worthy of getting in?

    It’s hard to compare TEs from the 80s with TEs from today. Gates and Gonzalez might as well have been WRs. At least Gronk stays back as a blocker on occasion. Too hard to compare Bavaro or Coates to those guys.

    I think what you’re saying applies more to a TE like Jimmy Graham, more than Gonzalez and Gates. But I do think that the eras are different, and the same sort of issue applies to WRs and QBs. Still, my problem with Bavaro and Coates have to do with longevity. Besides the Super Bowl year, how many good years did Bavaro have? (I believe he eventually played for the Browns.) Coates may have been good for a longer period, but was he really great? I feel like I’d choose Novacek, Brent Jones, or Todd Christensen over them.

    If you have a problem with Flores, you should have one with Madden as well.

    I think it’s legitimate to question whether Madden was really a great coach, for similar reasons. Do you think Madden was a great coach? One thing about Flores: he went to another organization and didn’t have the same success, although you can say that about Lombardi and Jimmy Johnson, and probably other coaches who are considered great as well.

  7. Reid

    Don,

    You’re probably right about Moss being the most talented WR, but that, alone, isn’t sufficient in my view. I feel like he had some dead years, like when he played for the Raiders. Was he always really good at NE?

  8. Mitchell

    Moss played three full seasons with the Patriots.
    2007: 16 games, 160 targets, 98 receptions, 1493 yds, 15.2 yds/reception, 23 TD, 93.3 yds/game.
    2008: 16 games, 125 targets, 69 receptions, 1008 yds, 14.6 yds/reception, 11 TD, 63.0 yds/game.
    2009: 16 games, 137 targets, 83 receptions, 1264 yds, 15.2 yds/reception, 13 TD, 79.0 yds/game.

    These were his 9th, 10th, and 11th seasons in the league. That 2008 year, Brady only played one game.

  9. Mitchell

    I think five and only five guys are allowed to make it in from this ballot (but correct me if that’s incorrect), so that’s another way to approach it. You have to pick five: which five go in, and how do you feel about it? That makes most of the decisions easy.

    Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Ray Lewis are the no-brainers. That leaves me only two, and the ones who came closest to these three as no-brainers (for me) are Karl Mecklenburg, Brian Urlacher, and Ronde Barber. I’m allowed two of those three, so I’ll vote for Mecklenburg (because his eligibility is closer to being up) and Urlacher, and hope I get another shot at Ronde in the coming years.

  10. Mitchell

    Oops. That table came out a bit weird at the bottom, but it says that over 10 years, Madden’s record was 103-32-7, for a .759 winning percentage. He finished first in the AFL/AFC West 7 times, 2nd in the AFC west three times (yes, that 9-7 in 1978 was good for 2nd), and that’s it! He never finished lower than 2nd in his division.

    It’s tough to argue against these numbers for John Madden, at least looking at them without context.

    This isn’t relevant, but it’s worth commenting on: Madden was only 33 when he took over as head coach. Al Davis always was open-minded about the kinds of people he gave that position to. He hired the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL (Flores) and the first African American head coach in the modern era (Shell). He hired Mike Shanahan at age 36, Jon Gruden at 35, and Lane Kiffin at 31. They didn’t all work out, but at least for these examples, you could see Davis recognized good coaches when they were still young.

  11. Reid

    Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Ray Lewis are the no-brainers. That leaves me only two, and the ones who came closest to these three as no-brainers (for me) are Karl Mecklenburg, Brian Urlacher, and Ronde Barber. I’m allowed two of those three, so I’ll vote for Mecklenburg (because his eligibility is closer to being up) and Urlacher, and hope I get another shot at Ronde in the coming years.

    I’m fine all the picks, but I’m uncertain about Ronde Barber. I have almost no memory/impression of how good he was. I would lean toward Dawkins, John Lynch. I sort of like Ty Law, but I mix him up with Lawyer Milloy. The reason I would choose Dawkins is that I feel like I saw the impact he had on a team. The defense with him versus without him made a big difference. And he was a guy that almost seemed to make the entire defense more physical. (Bob Sanders of the Colts was like that, too, I think.) And Dawkins, if I recall, had a long career, and played at a fairly highly level even at the end.

    As for Madden, I guess you could compare his won-loss record to Flores and make a case for why Madden was deserving and Flores is not. (I’m assuming Flores’s record wasn’t as good.) But, honestly, I wonder how much of the success should be attributed to Davis.

    They didn’t all work out, but at least for these examples, you could see Davis recognized good coaches when they were still young.

    I think this is valid, and it’s great that he chose minorities. But over the years, I got the sense that Davis, while he wanted to choose a good coach, and could identify them, felt like he could win with almost anyone, because he was the one that really called the shots. To some degree, this hypothesis is bolstered a little in the last decade or more of Davis’s career. Once he lost it, the Raiders went crashed, regardless of who coached there (with the exception of Gruden, although I never liked that team very much).

  12. Don

    A few days ago on Dan Patrick, the question of the day was Randy Moss or Ray Lewis, who would you draft for your team? I also heard a comment, I forget where, that Steve Smith, the Giants guy, only had one pro bowl. I think there was a mistake on this guy. One pro bowl doesn’t equal HOF.

  13. Mitchell

    That’s what I said.

  14. Reid

    The theory is that some voters confused Steve Smith with Steve Smith Sr. That’s the most plausible theory to me.

    As for Lewis versus Moss, I’m going with Lewis.

  15. Don

    You talking about the Steve Smith comment right? Or did I miss the Moss or Lewis comment/question from you as well? Yeah I know you said the Smith comment, but I was trying to confirm that “for real” I think it is a mistake that he’s on this list/ballot.

  16. Reid

    I’m confused.

    Yes, my comment about Steve Smith Sr. referred to your comment about Steve Smith (from the Giants).

    My response about Lewis was in response to the question, “Who would you draft for your team?” Me: Lewis.

  17. Mitchell

    He’s asking me, not you. Yeah, I said the thing about Smith only being to one Pro Bowl.

    During the Dallas-Denver game, Joe Buck kept calling Jason Witten a future Hall-of-Famer. I think he’s probably right about Witten getting in, but he’s a great example of someone who was never the best at his position, and never actually great, but very good for a long period of time. Plus, of course he’s helped by being on the most visible team in the NFL. If he were a Buccaneer, would he get into the HoF?

  18. Don

    Reid,

    Sorry that comment was to Mitchell. You snuck your comment in before I submitted mine.

  19. Don

    Mitchell,

    You right I did miss the one Pro Bowl comment.

  20. Don

    Witten just broke the record for the most receiving yards as a Cowboy. The greatest receiver for the greatest team, that has to amount to something. haha

  21. Reid

    Don,

    OK, got it.

    Mitchell,

    I agree with all your points about Witten. I’m ambivalent about guys like him, and I would include players like Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin.

  22. Don

    Who would you choose between guys with long careers like Witten and Martin or guys with short careers with great years like Terrell Davis and Calvin Johnson.

  23. Reid

    I think that’s a real tough question to answer. With Davis, I’d prefer putting him in because a) he was really, really good, and b) I want to say the time he played was long enough. That said, the fact that Bettis and Martin played so well for so long as RBs should be something to consider as well.

    A part of me is fine if none of them get in.

    As for Calvin Johnson, I’m not sure. A part of me doesn’t really know how good he actually was. He was a physical specimen, and that alone creates a kind of aura about him. But that really shouldn’t be a big factor in choosing him.

    Where do you guys stand on that?

    Also, should Sproles get in?

  24. Mitchell

    Man, you really like Darren Sproles. He’s definitely a fun player to watch, but if you put him in the Hall, it really means you value a very specific kind of player, a guy who can get yardage a lot of different ways. In a sense, yards are the basic measurement in football, so it makes sense.

    There’s a non-official baseball stat called Total Average (it was highly touted every year by Inside Sports magazine, which dedicated an issue to it once a year) which is basically the total number of bases a player earns divided by the total number of outs he creates. And that makes sense, too. The basic unit of offense in a baseball game is the base. The basic negative unit of offense is the out. One step closer to a run or one step closer to the end of the inning. Sproles’s numbers remind me of Total Average because on the naked surface, they look wonderful. But they don’t tell enough of the story, even from a stats-only perspective.

    Sproles has the record for all-purpose yards in a season with 2969, and that’s kind of a mind-blowing number but it’s was 603 yards rushing and 710 yards receiving (and the rest ostensibly on kick returns), which comes out to 82.2 combined rushing and receiving yards per game. A good number and possibly Hall-worthy if he sustains it for a long period, but this is his high (I think).

    For comparison, in 1985 Roger Craig had 1050 yards rushing and 1016 yards receiving, for an average of 129 yards rushing and receiving per game.

    Yes, I’m only looking at one season each, but the comparison shows the difference between Sproles’s all-purpose yards and Craig’s, and a much stronger case can be made for Craig, who’s not in the Hall. If you subtract Craig’s last two seasons (during which he only played like 4 games total), he averaged 1359 yards per season, or 84.9 yards per game, across eight season, running and receiving.

    Return yardage is certainly not nothing, but a return yard is not equal to a yard from scrimmage. Sproles isn’t even close to being a HoFer for me. You’d have to put Brian Westbrook and Roger Craig in long before you let Sproles in.

  25. Don

    Reid,

    I’m not necessarily disagreeing. I would rather lean to the great for short period rather than good for a long period. But to put it into perspective with numbers, I’m pretty sure Curtis Martin has twice the rushing yards that Terrell Davis has in their careers (if not twice pretty close). Oh and you said Davis’ time was long enough, I’m pretty sure he only had four productive years.

    I’m pretty sure Calvin Johnson had season leading stats for a good three to four year stretch and was playing at a high level for at least eight to nine years. In terms of career production, he was definitely more productive then Terrell Davis, but Johnson never won a Super Bowl.

    I have never seen Sproles’ numbers, but I cannot imagine he can get in. I agree about Roger Craig being more productive than Sproles. I would think Westbrook is about the same as Sproles. Westbrook had a couple great years, but he was often injured if my memory is correct.

  26. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I like Sproles, but I don’t feel strongly that he should be in the HoF. I don’t know if he’s a great player. I’m just mostly impressed that he has played so long, while maintaining effectiveness. I also love the fact that he’s of small stature, but actually can run with surprising power (or at least he could). Finally, he is versatile as you mention, and this value may not turn up in the stats. I can see him being a potent chess piece in the hands of a creative OC. And the fact that he is a good ST player adds a lot of value, as you can save a roster spot for another player.

  27. Reid

    Don,

    I know that TD didn’t have many years, but I think Campbell had four or five really productive years. TD’s performance may not have been at Campbell’s level, but it stood out. The type of RBs that played at that level are in the HoF, or at least that’s what it felt like.

    You could be right about Megatron. I didn’t follow his career close enough to say for sure. (His last two years didn’t seem all that great, though.)

  28. don

    I looked up Terrell’s stats. When you said Campbell had four or five years, I think you mean at a high level and at other times not as high a level? In Terrell’s case, he really only had three years at a high level from 1996 -1998. In 1995, which was his first year he had 1100 yards, so that would count as productive. In 1999 and 2000, TD only played 9 total games and rushed for less than 500 yards. And in 2002, he played 8 games and had 700 yards before bowing out. So in TD’s case he literally only had four years or if you want to include 2002, four and half years of production.

  29. Reid

    When you said Campbell had four or five years, I think you mean at a high level and at other times not as high a level?

    Yes. At a certain point, Campbell wasn’t very good, like once he went to New Orleans. At least, that’s the way I remember it.

    Let’s try to name the RBs that really stood out in the 90s–RBs that weren’t just good, but seemed on another level. Barry Sanders. Emmitt Smith. Who else would get in there? (I must be missing a lot of players. I would count Marcus Allen as a more of a 80s RB.) Oh, Marshall Faulk. (Faulk is great, but I actually would rather have TD, I think.)

    By the way, who do you think is better, TD or Roger Craig? Oh, Ricky Watters was a 90’s RB. I’d choose TD over him. I think I’d choose TD over Craig. One difference is the extent to which the Broncos relied on TD versus the way that the 49ers relied on Craig. Broncos had good players like Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe, and Ed McCaffrey (They were playing the same time as TD, right? Actually, I might be wrong about this, and I’m too lazy to look this up.) Anyway, I feel like TD carried his team, in a way that was similar to Sweetness or Earl Campbell or AP. (If AP was on the Bronco team he’d probably go to a couple of Super Bowls as well, if not more than a couple.)

  30. Mitchell

    Mike Alstott, Warrick Dunn, Jamal Lewis, Thurman Thomas, Edgerrin James, Christian Okoye, Marion Butts, Ernest Byner, Daryl Johnston, Marcus Allen, Leroy Hoard, Ricky Watters, Natrone Means, Chris Warren, Larry Centers, Craig Heyward, Kimble Anders, Eddie George, Dorsey Levens, Robert Smith, Corey Dillon, Stephen Davis.

    Most of these are serious reaches, but I include them in case they remind you of someone we haven’t thought of.

    I guess FBs need to be considered in a different manner than HBs. I think by the FB-only measures, good cases could be made for Alstott and Johnston, but that would be a completely different scale from the one we weight Terrell Davis and Marshall Faulk on.

  31. Reid

    Most of these are serious reaches, but I include them in case they remind you of someone we haven’t thought of.

    Good idea. As you alluded to, I think many don’t qualify. Thurman Thomas should be in there. Eddie George might be close, but I’d put TD ahead. George seems more like Martin and Bettis. Do you guys agree with that, or do you think he was better? I wouldn’t put in Okoye, Dillon, or Stephen Davis.

    On another note, do you guys think Frank Gore should get it? I really like him, but he’s more like Martin and Bettis.

    I guess FBs need to be considered in a different manner than HBs. I think by the FB-only measures, good cases could be made for Alstott and Johnston, but that would be a completely different scale from the one we weight Terrell Davis and Marshall Faulk on.

    Totally agree. I would love if Moose got in. (I love FBs, by the way.) Do you guys think Lorenzo Neal should get in? Who are some other really good FBs? Who was the FB that played with TD? I think he was pretty good. It’s a dying position, although some coaches like Kyle Shanahan, Belichick, John Harbaugh, and Carroll seem to value it. (Carroll and his staff don’t seem to do a good job of drafting and developing FBs, though.)

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