Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series – Pass Rushers

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Earlier this month, CowGirl Cas and I posted our opinions and reasoning for who should next be enshrined in the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. This was in our He Said (Darren Woodson ); She Said (Harvey Martin) series. Afterwards, we had a lively discussion on which Cowboys players should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. That got me thinking. While that in itself is a dangerous thing, I was interested in looking at which players, by position, were the most deserving of getting a call from the Hall of Fame throughout the league. Over the next few days, we will do this by looking at the players I believe are the top 5 not now Hall of Famers at each position. This is not a ranking but rather an alphabetical listing. For reference, the player must be eligible for Hall of Fame. Here is the order of our journey through some of the NFL’s all-time greats.

Pass Rusher (4-3 DE, 3-4 OLB)

Defensive Tackle

Inside Linebacker

Cornerback

Safety

Specialists

Offensive Tackle

Offensive Guard

Center

Tight End

Running Back

Full Back

Wide Receiver

Quarterback

Without further adieu , let’s get started today with Pass Rushers. We will look at 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 Outside Linebackers as their major job is to get after the quarterback. Please note that sacks were not an official stat in the NFL until 1982 so any sack totals accumulated before 1982 are  from the individual team’s numbers.

KEVIN GREENEPossible Hall of Famer Greene

Case for the Hall of Fame:

3 First-team All-Pro Selections; Voted 1st Team 1990’s All-Decade; 160 Career Sacks (Good for 3rd most ever);Greene was a consistent performer throughout his career and remained an effective pass rusher to the end. He finished 7th in the league for sacks in his last season in the league in 1999. While he led his team in sacks 11 out of 15 seasons, he routinely played on defenses that also ranked highly against the run.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Many veteran NFL observers believe that Greene was one-dimensional as a player. He struggled in a few seasons with production as he was moved from his natural position at 3-4 OLB to 4-3 DE (not big or strong enough to consistently handle LT) or to 4-3 OLB (not quick enough to move back and cover). It seems he also may suffer repercussions from multiple hold outs and contract disputes during his career. This led to an impression that he was a mercenary. It affected his popularity while playing and kept him from having one solid fan base backing his candidacy. In fact, the team with whom he is most associated is the Pittsburgh Steelers but he only played there for three out of his 15 seasons in the NFL.

L.C. GREENWOODPossible Hall of Famer LC Greenwood

Case for the Hall of Fame:

2 1st team All-Pro Selections; Voted 2nd Team 1970’s All-Decade. Greenwood showed up big on the biggest stage. He recorded 5 sacks in his four Super Bowl appearances (including 4 on the elusive Roger Staubach). He batted down two passes against Fran Tarkenton’s Vikings in another Steelers’ championship run. While he led his the Steelers in sacks six times out of 13 seasons, he was a key cog on one of the best run defenses in the history of the league.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

The Steelers list Greenwood as having 73.5 career sacks. His top season was only 11 sacks. The pass is so much more dominant in today’s NFL that current sack-masters have the advantage of many more opportunities to bring the QB down. This makes Greenwood’s numbers seems less than Hall of Fame worthy. The other major obstacle Greenwood has faced to being inducted has been the number of his 1970’s Steelers teammates that are already Hall of Famers.

CHARLES HALEYPotential Hall of Famer Charles Haley

Case for the Hall of Fame:

2  All-Pro Selections; Major contributor on Five Super Bowl championship teams. Haley is the only player in NFL history to win 5 Super Bowls. After helping the 49ers to back-to-back NFL championships in 1988 & 1989, he wore out his welcome in San Francisco. He was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and most observers believe he was the final piece taking the young Cowboys from contenders to champions in the three of the next four seasons. He finished his career with 100.5 sacks but his value to his 49ers and Cowboys teams went beyond the stats. He was the tone-setter for highly ranked defenses that helped outstanding offenses claim those five championships

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Haley was not voted to the NFL’s 1990’s all decade team. Most observers believe that Haley’s erratic, anti-social behavior towards writers that covered him is still being held against him. Haley’s reputation also suffers from the perception of him as a locker room problem. In the years since his retirement, Haley was diagnosed as bi-polar which could go a long way in explaining behavior that was often seen as troubling or even destructive.

JIM MARSHALLPotential Hall of Famer Jim Marshall

Case for the Hall of Fame:

Retired as the record-holder for most consecutive games played (282) and most consecutive games started (270).  He is still the record holder for fumble recoveries with 30. Major contributor for the famed “Purple People Eaters” defense that led the Minnesota Vikings to win the 1969 NFL Championship and make 4 Super Bowl appearances. He finished his career with a team recognize 127 sacks. That was good for the second most in Vikings history behind only his teammate, Carl Eller.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Marshall was not voted to the NFL’s 1960’s or 1970’s all decade teams. He was never voted an All-Pro. Many observers discount his records as merely a function of longevity. It also doesn’t help to be responsible for the infamous “Wrong Way Run” in which he picked up a fumble and ran it 60+ yards to his own end zone and cost his team a safety.

HARVEY MARTINPotential Hall of Famer Harvey Martin

Case for the Hall of Fame:

Four time All-Pro Selection; Defensive Player of the Year (1977), Voted 2nd Team 1970’s All-Decade; 114 Career Sacks (Good for unofficial team record until 2013 season). Martin was known by many names; “The Beautiful Harvey Martin”, the Martinizer and “Too Mean” were the most popular. Harvey Martin probably best represented by the nickname “Too Mean” because he played with a ferocity that grew out of practicing against Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright on a regular basis. Along with Hall of Famer Randy White, Martin dominated the Broncos in Super Bowl XII to such an extent that they earned co-MVP for the game. His ability to dominate was never on greater display than in his Defensive POY season 1977. Although sacks were unofficial he recorded 23 in the 14 game season playing in a read and react defense.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Martin’s dominance was on display for only about a 5 year window from 1976 – 1981. Many observers believe that Martin’s candidacy is hurt by his off-the field issues with drugs and the law. Another obstacle to “Too Mean” getting into the Hall is the perception among the writers that the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers greats were more worthy due to their two Super Bowl victories over Martin’s Cowboys.

These are my five most worthy for induction. I’m interested in your opinion on where I got it right and who I may have missed. Add your comments below to let me know your thoughts on this group.

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