2012 NFL Season Predictions

The 2012 season picture is not as clear as 2011 was but I think I can make some sense out of it.  Last season I correctly foresaw the Patriots losing the Super Bowl after beating the Ravens.  I correctly predicted the NFL MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the Executive of the Year.  I correctly predicted 8 out of 12 playoff teams including the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans.   As I look into the crystal ball I see some divisions with a clear cut winner and many situations like the AFC West last year where the division will be highly contested top to bottom.  I see a team with a 12 year playoff drought finally getting back in and I see a future Hall of Famer winning his first playoff game of his career.  I will include below my regular season rankings, playoff projections, and the worst five teams in the NFL this season.   Overall, I think we’re going to see a lot of interesting things this season and so without much further ado, let me tell you what to expect.

AFC North –

Baltimore Ravens (2)
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC East –

New England Patriots (3)
Buffalo Bills (5)
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins

AFC South –

Houston Texans (1)
Tennessee Titans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West –

Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Denver Broncos (6)
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders

AFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
New England (3) vs. Denver (6)
Kansas City (4) vs. Buffalo (5)

Divisional Round
Houston (1) vs. Kansas City (4)
Baltimore (2) vs. New England (3)

AFC Championship
Houston (1) vs. Baltimore (2)

NFC North –

Green Bay Packers (1)
Chicago Bears (5)
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings

NFC East –

Dallas Cowboys (4)
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC South –

Atlanta Falcons (2)
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers

NFC West –

San Francisco 49ers (3)
Seattle Seahawks (6)
St. Louis Rams
Arizona Cardinals

NFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
San Francisco (3) vs. Seattle (6)
Dallas (4) vs. Chicago (5)

Divisional Round
Green Bay (1) vs. Chicago (5)
Atlanta (2) vs. San Francisco (3)

NFC Championship
Green Bay (1) vs. Atlanta (2)

TOP 5 PICKS of 2013 NFL DRAFT

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Cleveland Browns
5. Indianapolis Colts

SUPER BOWL

Green Bay (1) vs. Houston (1)

CHAMPIONS

Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl MVP

Keep an eye out tomorrow for my postseason award predictions!

 

Cafe 101: The 7th Course

Sports Heaven’s most exclusive restaurant is the Cafe 101. As the name suggests there are only 101 tables, each reserved for the greatest to don that number.

Imagine there’s a sports heaven;
It’s easy if you try.
Where sports’ greatest legends

Depart to when they die.

Imagine all the athletes, of past and present day.

Now imagine a Cafe;
It’s not that hard to do.
There’s only 101 tables;
It’s open to a select few.

Imagine all the athletes, hoping to get a seat.

You may say I’m a dreamer;
But I’m not the only one.
Deciding the greatest athletes by number;
Who get to enter the Cafe 101.

<< 6th COURSE

Well after a long absence highlighted by the postseason push of the NBA and NBA D-League seasons combined with the need to get mock NFL drafts in the hands of all the football fans who read this blog, Cafe 101 is back!  And back in glaring fashion!  Since it’s been awhile you may recall that the premise is that in sports heaven, the Cafe 101 is the most exclusive restaurant with only 101 tables, each table numbered 00 – 99 and reserved for the best athlete to have ever worn that number.  When I went to the random number generator I knew this would be a great article when it gave me #12 but then when the next number I was given was #33?  I knew this post may have the most firepower and debate of any Cafe 101 yet.   Of course these are two numbers that are pretty popular across all of sport and have been worn by the best of the best of the best.  Getting either table will be no easy feat.  Additionally we have some good debate at #63 and #85 so let’s get right to it and see who deserves each table.

TABLE

TOM BRADY

Quarterback, New England Patriots (2000 – Present)

3x Super Bowl Champion, 2x Super Bowl MVP, 5x AFC Champion, 2x NFL MVP, 3x AFC Offensive Player of the Year, 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 7x Pro-Bowler, 2x 1st Team All-Pro, 2nd Team All-Pro (2005), 2009 Comeback Player of the Year, NFL All-Decade Team (2000′s)

Being a fan of Midwestern sports teams (for the most part) and living just two hours from Boston and 30 minutes from Boston’s greatest propaganda machine ESPN I have grown tired of the hype that surrounds Boston sports teams and athletes.  If Boston has a king though, that man is Tom Brady.  Others may argue with my giving him the honor of being the greatest to ever wear #12 and yes you can argue for others like Terry Bradshaw, Thierry Henry, Jim Kelly, Roger Staubach, etc. but let’s just take a moment to look at what Tom Brady has accomplished.

When I was a child (though they lost the Super Bowl when I was 1 and again when I was 11) the New England Patriots were a joke of an NFL franchise.  Even though they had a championship drought unlike any other, the Boston Red Sox instilled more hope in Boston fans than the Patriots ever would.  Then comes along Tom Brady, a 6th round draft pick out of Michigan who nobody ever expected to start but now we all know the story.  It only took him 131 starts to win 100 games (the fastest to 100 of any QB in NFL history).  His .780 winning percentage over the past 13 seasons is the best all time.  He started off his career with 10 consecutive postseason wins (best all-time).  He has gone undefeated at his home field 5 times in his career.  He threw for 50 touchdowns in 2007 which is an NFL record and his regular season records are unreal.

He is tied for the most postseason wins of all time with Joe Montana.  He is tied for most Super Bowl appearances by a starting quarterback with John Elway (5).  And he is just 1 Super Bowl win away from tying Joe Montana & Terry Bradshaw’s record of 4.   In my opinion, with just one more AFC Championship (although a Super Bowl win would cement this) we might have to consider Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time.  There’s no doubt he is already in the top 5.   While I am not a Tom Brady fan, this table is all about the best and Tom Brady is the greatest athlete to ever wear #12 and he deserves this table.

RUNNER-UP: TERRY BRADSHAW, Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983)

ON THE WAITING LIST:  Jim Kelly, Thierry Henry, Dwight Howard, Roger Staubach, Kenny Stabler, Bob Griese, Joe Namath, George Yardley, Dick Barnett, John Stockton, Jarome Iginla, Stan Smyl, Simon Gagne, Colt McCoy (College), Aaron Rodgers, Wade Boggs, Steve Alford (College), Oscar Robertson (College), Roberto Alomar, Randall Cunningham, & Andrew Luck (College)

TOO SOON TO TELL: Andrew Luck (NFL), Colt McCoy (NFL), Percy Harvin, Lamarcus Aldridge, Marques Colston, A.J. Pierzynski, Eric Staal, & Darrius Heyward-Bey

TABLE

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR

Center, Milwaukee Bucks (1969-1975) & Los Angeles Lakers (1975-1989)

6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA MVP, 19x NBA All-Star, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 10x All-NBA 1st Team, 5x All-NBA 2nd Team, 5x NBA All-Defensive 1st Team, 6x NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team, 1970 NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, 3x NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion at UCLA, 3x NCAA Tournament MVP, Naismith College Player of the Year – 1969, No 33. retired by the Bucks and the Lakers, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee

Like the #12 there is a lot of debate as to who the best to ever wear the #33 is.  And as with #12, where the debate primarily came down to one sport (football), the debate with #33 mainly comes down to basketball.  While for some this would be a difficult decision for me it was pretty easy to give the go ahead to Kareem for Table #33.  After all I believe that, wait a minute let me make this it’s own line.

In my opinion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest basketball player in history.

There, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way you can understand why I had to go with Kareem.  When someone is the greatest to ever play their respective sport, you have to give them the nod for the table.   Let’s take a look at what Kareem accomplished.  First off, he won an astonishing 3 NCAA Championships in his 4 years at UCLA and on all three occasions was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.  He was the first ever winner of the Naismith College Player of the Year award in 1969.   Abdul-Jabbar was so dominant in college that the NCAA banned the slam dunk after 1967 and did not bring it back for nearly a decade.  He led the Lakers to 5 NBA Championships (and the Bucks to 1) and was twice named the MVP of the NBA Finals.  He was named NBA MVP a record 6 times and to this day is the NBA’s all-time points leader.  And of course who could forget his trademark “Sky hook” that he could shoot with either hand and was virtually impossible to defend.  While many basketball greats have worn #33, I must tip my hat to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

RUNNER-UP (TIE): HONUS WAGNER, Louisville Colonels/Pittsburgh Pirates (1897- 1917) & LARRY BIRD, Boston Celtics (1979-1992)

WAITING LIST: Patrick Ewing, Tony Dorsett, Scottie Pippen, Sammy Baugh, Patrick Roy, Roger Craig, Brian Jordan, Stacey Nuveman, Alonzo Mourning, Henrik Sedin, Grant Hill & Shaquille O’Neal (College)

TO SOON TO TELL: Cliff Lee, Michael Turner, Nick Swisher, & Justin Morneau

TABLE

GENE UPSHAW

Guard, Oakland Raiders (1967-1981)

2x Super Bowl Champion, 1967 AFL Champion,  6x NFL Pro Bowl Selection, 3x All-AFL, 3x First team All-Pro, 1970s NFL All-Decade Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee

Gene Upshaw is one of the greatest guards of all-time and he is the only player in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl with the same team in three different decades.  Upshaw was one of the greatest guards to ever play the game and for 14 years was the cornerstone of a great Raiders offensive line.   It was his domination of Hall of Famer (and owner of Table #88 at the Cafe 101) Alan Page in Super Bowl XI that allowed the Raiders to rush for over 260 yards and win their first title.    He shut down the Eagles’ vaunted defensive line in Super Bowl XV to help the Raiders win another championship.  Upshaw was one of the greatest Division II players of all time and the annual lineman of the year award in Division II is named for him.

RUNNER-UP: WILLIE LANIER, Kansas City Chiefs (1967 – 1977)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Dermontti Dawson, Y.A. Tittle, Mike Munchak, Lee Roy Selmon, and Jeff Saturday

TOO SOON TO TELL: Mike Pouncey

TABLE

JACK YOUNGBLOOD

Defensive End, Los Angeles Rams (1971 – 1984)

7x Pro-Bowl Selection, 5x 1st team All-Pro, 3x 2nd team All-Pro, 7x 1st team All-NFC, 2x 2nd Team All-NFC, 1975 NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year, 2x NFC Defensive Player of the Year, 1971 All-Rookie Team, NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, St. Louis Rams #85 retired, NFL Hall of Fame inductee, College Football Hall of Fame

When it came to table #85, I knew I had to give it to Jack Youngblood.  There are a lot of great receivers in the game today who wear #85, but Youngblood is one of the greatest pass rushers of all time.  In 202 career games, he had 151.5 sacks.  Not only was he a great pro but he was also one of the best players in the history of Florida Gators football.  In his first full season as a starter with the Rams, he amassed 70 tackles in 11 games played.  In 1973, the Rams were the best defense in the NFL and Youngblood led the way with 16.5 sacks.  The following season the Rams still had the best defense in the NFL.  Few recall that in the 1970’s, the NFL championships were almost always between a combination of the Rams, Cowboys, and Vikings.   Youngblood’s stellar play is what allowed the Rams to have the success they did.  What Youngblood will always be remembered though is his toughness.  During the 1979 postseason, Jack Youngblood played the entire playoffs and Super Bowl with a broken left leg.  No doubt that Youngblood is the best to ever wear #85.

RUNNER-UP: NICK BUONICONTI, Boston Patriots & Miami Dolphins (1962 – 1976)

ON THE WAITING LIST: Mark Duper, Chuck Hughes, Chad Ochocinco, & Derrick Mason

TOO SOON TO TELL: Greg Jennings, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Vernon Davis, & Antonio Gates

Agree? Disagree? Tweet us @can_of_corn using the hashtag #Cafe101 to tell us your picks!

Click to enlarge the seating chart for sports heaven’s most exclusive restaurant

Will your favorite athletes be able to get a table at the Cafe 101?  Please post below or tweet any questions, comments, or snide remarks to @can_of_corn! Thanks for reading!


 

2011 NFL Offseason Grades – AFC West

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL Draft Picks: Corey Liuget, DT (1-18); Marcus Gilchrist, CB (2-50); Jonas Mouton, OLB (2-61); Vincent Brown, WR (3-82); Shareece Wright, CB (3-89); Jordan Todman, RB (6-183); Stephen Schilling, G (6-201); Andrew Gachkar, OLB (7-234)

 

I really like the Liuget pick for this Chargers defense

A lot of people did not talk about the Chargers draft but personally, I thought they had one of the better drafts.  They had five picks in the first three rounds and did a great job with them.  Liuget had a great career at Illinois.  He is a large, athletic tackle who gets off the ball quick and has great instincts for finding the ball.  He can made an immediate impact for this team.  The Chargers addressed secondary issues but getting a solid pair of corners in Gilchrist and Wright.  I really like the additions of Vincent Brown (who I think will have a pretty good rookie campaign given Rivers’ ability to distribute the ball) and with uncertainty at running back, sixth round pick Jordan Todman could get a chance to get some touches early on. The only negative in their draft is that they failed to address their need for an offensive tackle.

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Vincent Jackson, WR (Chargers); Malcolm Floyd, WR (Chargers); Takeo Spikes, LB (49ers); Bob Sanders, S (Colts); Jeromey Clary, OT (Chargers); Antwan Barnes, LB (Chargers); Jacques Cesaire, DE (Chargers); Scott Mruczkowski, C (Chargers); Travis LaBoy, LB (49ers); Randy McMichael, TE (Chargers); Eric Weddle, S (Chargers); Billy Volek, QB (Chargers)

KEY LOSSES: Darren Sproles, RB; Brandon Siler, LB, Legadu Naanee, WR; Jyles Tucker, LB; Craigh Davis, WR

Keeping Vincent Jackson happy was the Chargers' #1 priority this offseason

Great teams keep their best players.  The fact that San Diego was able to make it through their free agency period and somehow keep both Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd is a huge win for that team.  The departure of Darren Sproles hurts that offense but it was pretty inevitable.  It’s hard to believe that in the last four years this team has allowed L.T., Michael Turner, and now Darren Sproles to just walk.

I really like the additions of Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy to the Chargers linebacking corps.  But the biggest move that San Diego could have made on the defensive side was locking up their own Eric Weddle and pairing him with the Colts’ Bob Sanders.  The question with Sanders is always if he can stay healthy but if he can, this defense could be a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

NFL DRAFT

2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS: Johnathan Baldwin, WR (1-26); Rodney Hudson, C (2-55); Justin Houston, DE (3-70); Allen Bailey, DE (3-86); Jalil Brown, CB (4-118); Ricky Stanzi, QB (5-135); Gabe Miller, OLB (5-140); Jerrell Powe, DT (6-199); Shane Bannon, FB (7-223)

Baldwin is a large receiver with great initial burst, but still very, very raw

Last season right after the draft I gave the Kansas City Chiefs the highest draft grade after somehow grabbing Eric Berry, Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, and Tony Moeaki all in the same draft.  This year I’m not as big on Kansas City’s draft but I do believe that Scott Pioli knows exactly what he is doing.  This is the guy who used his Mr. Irrelevant pick to grab Ryan Succop a couple years back, who I believe to be one of the best kickers in the league.  The Chiefs grabbed Baldwin in the first round who I thought was a bit of a reach but it was clear that the Chiefs needed immediate help at wide receiver and Baldwin is a big receiver with good hands who has great initial burst off the ball.  He is very raw and will take some development.  I still believe that taking an offensive lineman here and grabbing someone like Torrey Smith, Titus Young, or Randall Cobb in the second round would have been the better move.  Hudson was a perfect second round pick and I cannot believe that Justin Houston fell to them in the third round.  I definitely thought he was an early second round talent.  I like the addition of Ricky Stanzi to back up Cassel in the fifth round who was a very underrated college quarterback.  I am mostly intrigued by Jerrell Powe who is a very raw, but could be a very effective run stopper for the Chiefs.  The last time Pioli had the 199th overall pick (with which Powe was selected) he selected Tom Brady in New England so he is clearly a guy that knows how to find value late in a draft.

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Tamba Hali, DE (Chiefs); Steve Breaston, WR (Cardinals); Kelly Gregg, NT (Ravens) Brandon Siler, LB (Chargers); Wallace Gilberry, DE (Chiefs); Le’Ron McClain, FB (Ravens)

KEY LOSSES: Brian Waters, G; Ron Edwards, DT

Steve Breaston makes a lot of sense for this Chiefs team given his familiarty with coach Todd Haley and his skill set.

The Chiefs made the biggest move they could have in free agency – they locked up Tamba Hali long term.  He’s not a big name but he is an elite pass rusher.  Chiefs fans have to be glad after seeing elite talent like Jared Allen and Tony Gonzalez leave the past few years that the Chiefs could lock up one of their own.   They then turned around and re-signed Gilberry to bookend with Hali while Houston develops.   Kelly Gregg is aging but he’s definitely a solid nose tackle pick-up for the Chiefs.  The ideal pick-up would have been Aubrayo Franklin from the 49ers but Gregg is a good consolation prize.  The one addition I love is Steve Breaston.  Last year the Chiefs had Bowe and Moeaki at tight end and then nobody else to catch the ball.  Now with McCluster having another season to catch out of the backfield and the addition of Baldwin and now a speedy receiver like Breaston who had 1,000 yard seasons under current Chiefs coach Todd Haely in Arizona, Kansas City has put together a solid little receiving corps.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Von Miller, LB (1-2); Rahim Moore, S (2-45); Orlando Franklin, G (2-46); Nate Irving, ILB (3-67); Quinton Carter, S (4-108); Julius Thomas, TE (4-129); Mike Mohamed, ILB (6-189); Virgil Green, TE (7-204); Jeremy Beal, DE (7-247)

 

Barring injury, Von Miller will be the defensive, and perhaps the overall, rookie of the year

If you had to ask me who was the best player in the draft – it would be a toss-up between Von Miller and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.  I really feel like Von Miller could make an immediate impact for the Broncos and he was the player that made the most sense for Denver.  Denver’s biggest needs in this draft were on the defensive side of the ball and this was their primary focus.  Denver was able to take the first safety off the board in the second round and if Nate Irving can avoid injury, could be a steal in the third round.  The one thing that is lacking in this draft for Denver is they did not really address the concerns along their defensive line.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Ty Warren, DT (Patriots); Brodrick Bunkley, DT (Eagles); Jeremy Jarmon, DT (Redskins); Derrick Harvey, DE (Jaguars); Marcus Thomas, DT (Broncos); Daniel Fells, TE (Rams); Willis McGahee, RB (Ravens); John Fox, Head Coach (Panthers Head Coach)

KEY LOSSES: Jabar Gaffney, WR, Daniel Graham, TE;  Ronald Fields, NT; Renaldo Hill, S; Ryan Harris, OT

New Broncos head coach John Fox, has his work cut out for him in Denver

Surprisingly, Denver did not have a lot of cap room to work with going into free agency.  The Broncos started off by immediately addressing defensive line issues with the addition of Ty Warren, Brodrick Bunkley, Derrick Harvey, and the re-signing of Marcus Thomas.  I love the trade of Jabar Gaffney for Jeremy Jarmon as he fits John Fox’s scheme in Denver perfectly.   Derrick Harvey has never lived up to his draft hype BUT he is definitely a risk worth taking and if there is one thing John Fox knows it’s defensive ends.  I also really like the addition of Daniel Fells though the Broncos really did put a huge emphasis on tight ends in their offseason.  I think McGahee was a risk worth taking in their backfield to pair with Knowshon Moreno.  Of course what is going to be really interesting is to see how new head coach John Fox (great hire) deals with trying to implement his system with a mixture of Shanahan and McDaniels guys.

 

 

 

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS

 

NFL DRAFT

2011 DRAFT PICKS: Stefen Wisniewski, C (2-48); Demarcus VanDyke (3-81); Joseph Barksdale, OT (3-92); Chimdi Chekwa, CB (4-113); Taiwan Jones, RB (4-125); Denarius Moore, WR (5-148); Richard Gordon, TE (6-181); David Ausberry, WR (7-241)

 

Anyone who knows the Raiders could see the Wisniewski pick coming from a mile away

I saw the Wisniewski pick coming from a mile away.  He satisfied a need on the Raiders’ offensive line and given that his uncle Steve is a Raiders assistant coach and legendary lineman – it was clear that Wisniewski was Al Davis’ guy.  Van Dyke was a necessary pick-up given the later departure of Nnamdi Asomugha.  Of course, the Van Dyke pick was pretty obvious given that he was the fastest guy in the draft and everyone knows how Al Davis loves his speed guys.  They waited awhile in the draft to address their wide receiver and outside linebacker positions but I think getting Denarius Moore out of Tennessee in the 5th round represents great value.  Like any Raiders draft, a lot of head scratching moves here and a hard draft to gauge at this moment in time.

 

 

 

 

 

FREE AGENCY

KEY ADDITIONS: Kamerion Wimbley, LB (Raiders); Michael Huff, S (Raiders); Khalif Barnes, OT (Raiders); Jarvis Moss, DE (Raiders); Samson Satele, C (Raiders); Stephon Heyer, OT (Redskins);  Justin Smiley, G (Dolphins); Trent Edwards, QB (Jaguars), Hue Jackson, Head Coach (Raiders Offensive Coordinator)

KEY LOSSES: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB; Zach Miller, TE; Robert Gallery, G

Re-signing Michael Huff was a great move for Oakland but they were unable to bring back their top 2 free agents.

The Raiders did a good job of resigning their free agents, unfortunately they missed out on the three most important ones.  This free agency period is definitely more about what they lost as opposed to what they brought back.  They lost the best cornerback in the NFL with Asomugha, they lost a big part of their offensive line in Robert Gallery, and then Zach Miller who I consider a top 10 tight end and has been vastly underrated.  Huff, Moss, and Wimbley all had strong years for a good Raiders defense but they have underperformed for most of their careers.  I do like the hire of Hue Jackson and like bringing in Trent Edwards to back up Campbell; but the Raiders free agency definitely left a lot to be desired.

 

 

 

 

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

Los Angeles’ NFL Team?

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

Waiting on that Gold Jacket

All 7 Members of this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class are deserving but it still feels like somebody's missing.

Every year when a Hall of Fame class is named or inducted in any sport, just as much time is spent talking about those who did not get in as much as it is those who did.   The longer that a potential Hall of Famer is snubbed, the more the event becomes about them than those actually getting inducted.   Baseball’s Hall of Fame induction is never complete every year without some mention of Roger Maris not being enshrined in Cooperstown.  This weekend marks the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in Canton.  Unlike most years, I can honestly look at this class top to bottom and say that every single person in this year’s class is deserving which is not always the case.   Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, and Richard Dent all had Hall of Fame caliber careers.  My only real complaint about those who make up this year’s class is that Ed Sabol, the founder of NFL Films,  is being inducted.

My complaint is not that Sabol is finding a home in Canton, it’s that Ed Sabol should’ve been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame decades ago!  His ideas about preserving sporting events on film and using that as a marketing tool changed sports forever. It came as a shock to me that he was being inducted because, to be completely frank, I thought he had already been enshrined.

However, like anyone, I find it necessary at Hall of Fame induction time to talk about some of the people not in the Hall of Fame who deserve to be in the hope that if we talk about them enough, like the thirteen years of talk about Bert Blyleven prior to his induction in Baseball’s Hall of Fame this year, these great players will finally get the recognition they deserve.

So below I give you my top 11 Pro Football Hall of Fame Snubs.   Why 11?  Well first off, everyone does a top 10  and I have never been one to do something just because everyone else does (my mom would be proud  that her “If all your friends jumped off a cliff….” logic rubbed off on me).  Secondly, because while the common adage is “less is more”, as you can tell from my previous writings, I am  a proud member of the “more is more” camp.  Third of all, for a variety of reasons, 11 is my favorite number.  I started with a list of 25 guys and after much thought, was able to get it down to 11.  So without further ado from 11 to 1, my top 11 Pro Football Hall of Fame snubs.

11.  Steve Tasker, Wide Receiver/Special Teamer – Houston Oilers (1985 – 1986),  Buffalo Bills (1986 – 1997)

Buffalo Bills Head Coach Marv Levy once called Steve Tasker, “the most important man on the Bills roster.”  On a roster that included greats like Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas that should mean something.   Many are going to be shocked that I have put a a Special Teamer on this list but in my mind, Steve Tasker is, without a doubt, the greatest special teams player of all time.    He had an ability to cover kicks/punts, block kicks/punts, and make plays on the Special Teams side of the ball.  He was so good at what he did, that while he was a capable receiver, Marv Levy rarely used him on offense because he didn’t want to risk injury to Tasker or do anything to that could prevent him from giving 100% to special teams.  Bill Parcells admitted that he had to game plan around Tasker.  There are many who believe that special teams players like coverage guys, kickers, and punters don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame but many coaches would tell you that “special teams is one-third of the game”.  My question is, if this is the case – why doesn’t Canton reflect that?

10.  Ray Guy, Punter – Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1973 – 1986)

Most would concur that Ray Guy is the best punter that the NFL has ever seen.   He is so good in fact that the collegiate award for the best punter is named after Ray Guy.   People usually don’t realize how important it is to have a good punter, until your team has an awful one.  Punters dictate field position throughout the course of a game.  In Guy’s 14 year career, he was named to six straight Pro Bowls, was an All Pro three times, and was named the punter on the 1970’s All-Decade Team and the NFL 75th anniversary team.  He is remembered as a key part of a Raiders team that won three Super Bowls.  He is remembered for being able to not only punt the ball far (average of 42.4 yards over career and had five punts over 60 yards in the 1981 season) but for having a high hang time.  His hang time on his punts was so high that the officials once tested a ball he had punted for helium.   He had 210 career punts inside the 20 yard line, never had a punt returned for a touchdown, and finished his career with a streak of 619 unblocked punts.

Like Steve Tasker and Gary Anderson (maybe the greatest kicker of all-time who just missed my list), Ray Guy is often overlooked because he was a specialist.  While many of his teammates would tell you that he won them games because of how he was able to control field position, many believe that special teamers don’t belong in Canton.   I find it hard to understand why the 29th best quarterback in NFL history is deserving of enshrinement but the best special teams player and punter in NFL history are not.  This exclusion is American professional sports’ version of the Caste System.

9.  Andre Reed, Wide Receiver – Buffalo Bills (1985 – 1999), Washington Redskins (2000)

Of my top five wide receivers of all time that are eligible for enshrinement, three of them still find themselves on the outside looking in.  Many make fun of the Bills inability to win a Super Bowl after winning four straight AFC Championships in the early 1990s but that does not detract from the fact that the Buffalo Bills were a great team.  As a Minnesota Vikings fan (the other 0 – 4 Super Bowl franchise) I have always sympathized with the Bills’ streak of bad luck.  Andre Reed was a big part of that success.   He finished his career with 951 career receptions (8th all time), 13, 198 receiving yards (9th all time), and 87 touchdown receptions (11th all time).   He is third all time in Super Bowl receiving yards and second all time in Super Bowl receptions.  To understand the difference maker that Reed was, you only need to watch the highlights of the Bills/Oilers 1993 playoff game comeback victory where Reed finished with 136 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns.  One thing that I always appreciated about Andre Reed was that he just went out and played ball.   Unlike many receivers today and of the 90s, he did not self promote, he just let his body of work on the field do the talking.

8.  Kenny Stabler, Quarterback – Oakland Raiders (1968 – 1979), Houston Oilers (1980 – 1981), New Orleans Saints (1982 – 1984)

Kenny “The Snake” Stabler found ways to win.  That more than anything sets him apart from many quarterbacks out there.  The ability that Stabler had to bring his team from the jaws of defeat to late comeback victories allowed him to lead the Oakland Raiders past the Minnesota Vikings to their first Super Bowl win (Super Bowl XI) in franchise history.  Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw remarked that, “When we were behind in the fourth quarter, with our backs to our end zone, no matter how he had played up to that point, we could look in his eyes and you knew, you knew, he was going to win it for us. That was an amazing feeling.”  I am continuously dumbfounded that Stabler has been overlooked for enshrinement.  He is the only member of the 1970’s All-Pro team not enshrined and he broke Johnny Unitas’s record for fastest quarterback to reach 100 wins (only Tom Brady and Joe Montana reached 100 wins fasters than Stabler).   He was the 1974 MVP, a 4 time Pro Bowler, and twice led the league in passing touchdowns.   Stabler is one of the all time great quarterbacks and is in my mind, the most worthy Hall of Fame eligible quarterback of enshrinement.

7.  Charles Haley, Defensive End/Linebacker – San Francisco 49ers (1986 – 1991, 1998 – 1999), Dallas Cowboys (1992 – 1996)

The main reason that Charles Haley is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is because his off-field troubles have distracted from his on-field accomplishments – particularly a physical confrontation with Steve Young that led to Haley being traded to Dallas.   Charles Haley is the only player in NFL history to be a member of five Super Bowl winning teams (2 with the 49ers, 3 with the Cowboys).   Haley was a ferocious defensive player known for his hard work and unmatched ability to rush the pass.   Haley finished his NFL career with 100.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 9 fumble recoveries.  He was an All-Pro player twice and named to the NFC Pro-Bowl team five times.

6. Curtis Martin, Running Back – New England Patriots (1995 – 1997), New York Jets (1998 – 2006)

In his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility Curtis Martin was overlooked which I consider a shame.  He is one of the NFL’s all-time great running backs and perhaps, one of the game’s most underrated.  Martin is one of only two running backs all-time (Barry Sanders being the other) to start his career with 10 straight 1,000 yard seasons.   He is one of 16 players all-time to have scored 100 touchdowns (90 rushing, 10 receiving) and his 14, 101 yards rushing are 4th all-time.  Most impressive is that Martin sustained excellence over such a long period of time.  He fell short in his quest to become the first player in NFL history to have 11 straight 1,000 yard seasons when he missed 4 games of his 11th season to injury.  Regardless he still had 735 yards rushing that year.  In 2004, at age 31, Martin rushed for 1,697 yards and beat out Shaun Alexander by only 1 yard to become the oldest NFL rushing title winner ever.   Curtis Martin is a Hall of Fame running back that will one day will find himself in Canton but unfortunately for Martin and Jets fans everywhere, today is not that day.

5. Jim Marshall, Defensive End – Cleveland Browns (1960), Minnesota Vikings (1961 – 1979)

Jim Marshall is the true Iron Man of the NFL.  He finished his career with 282 consecutive games played and 270 consecutive starts.  Brett Favre broke both of these records as a member of Marshall’s old team,  Minnesota Vikings, but what player hasn’t had a record broken by Brett Favre?  Jim Marshall was a part of the famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line (of which Alan Page and Carl Eller are both Hall of Famers)  and recovered 30 fumbles in his career, an NFL record.   The trade that brought him from Cleveland to Minnesota in the Vikings’ first year of existence is a big part of the reason the Vikings were able to rise so quickly into one of the NFL’s (and later NFC’s) top teams.  While many remember Jim Marshall most for his famous “Wrong Way Run” in which he recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards in the wrong direction for a touchdown (which resulted in a safety), he is one of the all-time great and resilient players and is deserving of a spot in Canton.

4. Tim Brown, Wide Receiver – Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1988 – 2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)

Tim Brown is the second wide receiver to make this list.  I really thought that we would see more wide receivers make the Hall of Fame now that Jerry Rice, the consensus best wide receiver of all time, is now enshrined but it seems that wide receivers that played during the Rice era can hardly catch a break.  Brown is one of the best wideouts to ever play the game.  As a collegiate player, he became the first wide receiver to ever win the Heisman trophy and as a pro he became one of the most prolific receivers of all time.   As a member of the Raiders, he owns the franchise records for games played, receptions, receiving yards, and punt return yards.   He was just as dangerous as return man as he was a receiver and holds the record for being the oldest man to ever return a punt for a touchdown.  He was the third receiver to ever have 1,000 receptions.  He is second all-time in receiving yards, has 19,683 all-purpose yards, and finished his career with 105 touchdowns (100 of which were receiving TDs) which had him tied for 3rd all time when he retired.  He accomplished all of these things in spite of the fact that for most of his career he played with mediocre quarterbacks.

3. Willie Roaf, Offensive Tackle – New Orleans Saints (1993 – 2001), Kansas City Chiefs (2002 – 2005)

While special teams players clearly have the hardest hill to climb to enter Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, offensive linemen are not far behind.   What makes it even more difficult is that there are no real stats (other than pancakes) to really measure how good an offensive lineman really is.   Roaf started out his career with the New Orleans Saints.  He quickly became one of the NFL’s premier linemen because of his combination of size, speed, and strength.   In nine years with the Saints, he was named to 7 Pro Bowls.  After suffering an injury, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs where he was a Pro Bowler all 4 of his years in Kansas City.   Roaf was a member of both the 1990’s and 2000’s NFL All-Decade teams.

2. Jerry Kramer, Guard – Green Bay Packers (1958 – 1968)

Jerry Kramer was a key part of the Packers dynasty of the 1960’s.  With Kramer at right guard, the Green Bay Packers won five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls.  Kramer is best remembered for his block that allowed Bart Starr to dive into the endzone and beat the Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl” but there was more to Kramer’s career than that one block.  His agility and strength made him the key component of Lombardi’s “Packer Sweep” that the Green Bay dynasty was built on.   Kramer is one of the all-time great guards.  He was an All-Pro five times and is the only member of the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team not in the Hall of Fame.

The difficulty with offensive linemen is without the stats it is hard to see on paper the caliber of a guard, tackle, or center.  However, all you need to do is watch old Packers highlights to realize that Jerry Kramer belongs in Canton.

1. Cris Carter, Wide Receiver – Philadelphia Eagles (1987 – 1989), Minnesota Vikings (1990 – 2001), Miami Dolphins (2002)

If you were to ask most people who the biggest Hall of Fame snub is they would either answer Jerry Kramer or Cris Carter.  Considering that one of these two is my favorite player of all time, it was pretty easy for me to choose a one and a two.  In the words of famed Eagles’ coach Buddy Ryan, “All he [Carter] does is catch touchdowns.”  Considered by many to have the best hands of any wide receiver ever, Carter is most likely the greatest possession receiver of all time.  He started his career with the Philadelphia Eagles but was cut after two seasons due to problems relating to drug and alcohol abuse.  The Minnesota Vikings decided to take a chance on a wide receiver that was trying to turn his life around, which has since become the team’s M.O. (Randy Moss and Percy Harvin), and that gamble paid dividends in his second season in purple.  Carter was an 8 time Pro-Bowler, 3 time All-Pro, and was the 2nd starting receiver on the 1990’s All-Decade Team behind Jerry Rice.  He was the 2nd receiver to ever pass the 1000 reception plateau and at the time of this retirement was 2nd all-time in receptions (1,101) and receiving touchdowns (130).   He finished his career with 13, 8999 receiving yards and holds the vast majority of the Vikings franchise records for wide receivers.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!