Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series – Cornerbacks

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Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series – Cornerbacks

Earlier this offseason, CowGirlCas 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 players who are not currently Hall of Famers at each position. This is not a ranking, but rather an alphabetical listing. For reference, the player must be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Here is the order of our journey through some of the NFL’s all-time greats.

  • Cornerback
  • Safety
  • Specialist
  • Offensive Tackle
  • Offensive Guard
  • Center
  • Tight End
  • Running Back
  • Full Back
  • Wide Receiver
  • Quarterback

Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series – Cornerback

Today we will take a look at the guys that gave nightmares to the quarterbacks they faced. Most of the time these cornerbacks were put out on an island in man-to-man coverage and asked to shut down the best receiver on their opponents team. Some played before zone coverages were in vogue. All of these cornerbacks distinguished themselves over their careers and compare favorably to players already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

DAVE GRAYSON  Cornerback Dave Grayson

Case for the Hall of Fame:

4 First-team All-Pro Selections (One additional 2nd team All-Pro); 1978 NFL Defensive Player of the Year; Voted member of All-AFLTeam; Dave Grayson holds the AFL all-time record for interceptions with 47. He also holds the record for the longest interception returned for a TD (99 yards). He was a play-making, defensive leader on 2 separate AFL Championship teams: the 1962 Dallas Texans and the 1967 Oakland Raiders

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Dave Grayson is like many of the players that have shown up in this series. His candidacy for the Hall of Fame is hurt because he played his entire career in the AFL. Many voters just do not give the proper respect to the accomplishments achieved by players in the old AFL. Many have always felt the AFL competition was inferior through the mid 60’s.  It didn’t help that when he was on a team that competed with the NFL: his 1967 Raiders were pummeled by the Green bay Packers in Super Bowl II.
LESTER HAYESCornerback Lester Hayes

Case for the Hall of Fame:

1 First-team All-Pro Selection (5 additional 2nd team All-Pro selections); 1980 NFL Defensive Player of the Year; Voted 2nd Team 1980′s All-Decade Team; Lester Hayes played his entire 10 year career with the Oakland/LA Raiders and is tied for the Raiders interception record with 39 career interceptions. He also holds the single season record of 13 set in his DPOY campaign. He was known as one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in league history and he was instrumental in bringing a Raiders Super Bowl victory to both Oakland and LA in 1980 and 1983 respectively.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Lester Hayes’ HOF candidacy is hurt by the fact that his individual greatness was always overshadowed by other great players on his own team. He was so outstanding in Super Bowl XVIII that almost no balls were thrown his way but that Super Bowl is remembered as Marcus Allen’s coming out party. He wasn’t the best cornerback on his own team that season either. That distinction belongs to Mike Haynes, whose greatness has already been rewarded with a bust in Canton. Hayes is also hurt by the perception that he somehow cheated to get his statistics by famously using large amounts of Stickum. This is a negative on him but didn’t seem to hurt the writers perception of Fred Biletnikoff, who introduced the substance to Hayes.

ALBERT LEWISCornerback Albert Lewis

Case for the Hall of Fame:

3 First-team All-Pro Selections (Two additional 2nd team All-Pro selections); Member of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame; Albert Lewis had 42 career interceptions over 16 seasons between the KC Chiefs and the LA Raiders. He was an effective blitzer, accumulating 12.5 sacks in his career. He was an outstanding cornerback for the Chiefs and was smart & tough enough to transition to Free Safety in his later years with the Raiders. In his 16 seasons, he demonstrated his play-making ability with 13 forced fumbles and 13 fumble recoveries. He was also a tremendously effective Special teams player with 11 blocked kicks in just his 1st eleven seasons

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Albert Lewis was not voted into membership on either the 1980’s or 1990’s All-Decade teams. Even though he played on many good defenses, his teams never experienced the ultimate success of even a conference championship. While his career numbers are impressive, many voters discounted them as products of longevity. They argue that he really had only a 4 year dominant span from 1987 through 1990 and was merely good outside of that time frame

KEN RILEYCornerback Ken Riley

Case for the Hall of Fame:

4 All-Pro Selections;Ken Riley was one of the most consistent performers the NFL has seen at the cornerback position.He recorded at least 3 interceptions in 12 of his 15 seasons. He finished his career with an amazing 65 career picks. This had him in 4th place in NFL history at the time of his retirement. His total turnovers of 83 includes recovering 18 fumbles and showcase his play-making ability.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Despite all of his great career numbers, Ken Riley was never elected to a Pro Bowl team throughout his career. This is a major hole in any Hall of Fame resume. He is also hurt in his HOF candidacy because he toiled in relative anonymity for a Cincinnati team that was usually an also-ran. While he was on the 1981 AFC Championship Bengals team, this hasn’t been enough to garner the necessary interest to get Riley on the final Hall of Fame ballots.

LOUIS WRIGHT Cornerback Louis Wright

Case for the Hall of Fame:

Four 1st team All-Pro Selections;  Voted 2nd Team 1970′s All-Decade Team and he is the only cornerback elected to that team that is not already in the Hall of Fame; 1977 DB of the Year; Louis Wright was an outstanding cornerback who spent his entire 12-year career with the Denver Broncos. He was elected to the Denver Broncos Ring of Honor in 1993. He was a top performer for the Orange Crush Broncos defense in the late 70’s that led Denver to winning the 1977 AFC Championship.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Louis Wright’s numbers were never eye-popping. In fact, his 26 career interceptions are pedestrian at best. He was often overshadowed in just his own division by better-known cornerbacks such as Lester Hayes, Albert Lewis and Hall of Famer Michael Haynes. He is also hurt in his HOF candidacy because his teams were not very good after the 1977 AFC Championship season.

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. You can add your comments or suggestions  below.

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Big Harb is the Director of Operations for YDCFF. Growing up in S. Dallas and SW Ft. Worth, the two most important things to him as a kid were playing baseball and the Dallas Cowboys. While his joints won't allow him to play baseball (or even softball) anymore, he still lives and dies with the Cowboys. His all-time favorite Cowboy is Drew Person while his kids love #82 and the latest incarnation of the Great 88. He has lived all over the world, but everywhere he's been, he represented his Cowboys to the fullest. He played NAIA college football, but these days he fulfills his passion for sports through coaching youth football and basketball, the Texas Rangers, the Mavericks and, of course, the Cowboys. He lives by the last 2 lines of the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley: "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul". Through life's ups and downs, I strive to live life and not just be alive. Follow Big Harb on twitter @bigharb06

  • Al

    How could Cornell Green not be on this list? Green played CB for his first eight seasons in Dallas. He lead the team in picks 4 times. He was named to 5 Pro Bowls and 3 All-Pro teams. Tom Landry said, “He had the athletic skills from basketball to become a fine defensive back.
    His only transition was playing a sport where you could tackle someone
    with the ball, and Cornell never had a problem dealing with that”.

    Green never missed a game. In 13 seasons he played 168 games, including 145 consecutive starts for the Cowboys between 62 and 74. He made five Pro Bowls at two different positions — CB and SS. He is tied with michael downs for fifth in career interceptions (34) in Cowboys history.

    • Big Harb

      Green was definitely in my next 5. He falls into the same rut as many of the versatile players in the 60’s and 70’s. The voters penalize them for being able to play multiple positions and automatically assume that they are masters of none. I think it is more of a travesty that Ken Rily could make 4 All-Pro teams but never make a Pro Bowl. That is a big reason why you’ll notice I do not reference pro bowls as a case FOR enshrinement.

  • Al

    I forgot to mention that Green had 2 seasons with 7 picks 63 and 67 and this was a guy whose biggest knock was he couldn’t catch. There is no record I can find of his PDEF, but I grew up watching this guy and it is off the charts. I don’t even think they recorded those as a stat back then.

  • californy

    Wow Riley was consistently Good, but played for team that were not NFL champions. If he couldn’t get recognition when he was playing I doubt he get in after the Fact. Riley is ahead of many Hall of farmer on that list. I am very impressed with his numbers.

    • Al

      Cornell Green avg 3.9 int’s a year as the starting LCB for the Cowboys and that was in 14 game seasons. In his 9th season Landry moved him to SS and he still avg 2 a year playing in the box. He was also a model for consistency. he had

      All-Pro Teams

      Year

      Team

      Level

      Voters

      1966 1st Team All-Conf.Sporting News
      1966 1st Team All-NFL Associated Press
      1966 1st Team All-NFL Newspaper Ent. Assoc.
      1966 1st Team All-NFL NY Daily News
      1966 2nd Team All-NF LUPI
      1967 1st Team All-Conf.Sporting News
      1967 1st Team All-NFL Associated Press
      1967 1st Team All-NFL Newspaper Ent. Assoc.
      1967 1st Team All-NFL NY Daily News
      1967 1st Team All-NFL UPI
      1968 1st Team All-Conf.Sporting News
      1968 2nd Team All-NFL Associated Press
      1968 2nd Team All-NFL Pro Football Writers
      1968 1st Team All-NFL Newspaper Ent. Assoc.
      1968 2nd Team All-NFL NY Daily News
      1968 2nd Team All-NFL UPI
      1969 1st Team All-NFL Associated Press
      1969 2nd Team All-NFL Newspaper Ent. Assoc.
      1969 1st Team All-NFL NY Daily News
      1969 2nd Team All-NFL UPI 1971 1st Team All-Conf.Associated Press
      1972 2nd Team All-Conf.UPI

  • californy

    I was looking at the sack leader in the NFL, and I donrt see Charles Halley getting in that way. What I do see Halley as, he is a true champion, who help elevate the play of player around him. If I am Charles I wouldn’t feel to bad, he is alone all by himself with the number of SB rings, he can start his own exclusive club.

  • californy

    I wonder how many year Terrel has to wait to get in. In my book he is a first ballot hall of famer. My guess is they will make an example out of him just like they did to Michael Irvin.