Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series Tight Ends

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Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series  Tight Ends.

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. With the 2014 Hall of Fame induction this weekend, we willfinish out the series.

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 of my top 5 tight ends. 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.

Today we will take a look at the Tight Ends that helped their quarterback’s move the chains controlled the middle of the field for their offenses. These tight ends were considered prolific pass catchers during their career but their Hall of Fame candidacy suffers now in comparison to today’s record-breaking pas catchers. These five tight ends distinguished themselves as the best at their position when they played and deserve further consideration for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Fred Arbanas Tight End Fred Arbanas

Case for the Hall of Fame:

6-time All-AFL selection; Voted member of American Football League All-Time Team; Fred Arbanas was a 2nd round draft pick in both the NFL and the AFL. He chose to play for the Dallas Texans who later became the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Chiefs/Texans, Arbanas became an important member of three AFL championships. Two of those led to Super Bowls against the NFL establishment with the Chiefs splitting them. Arbanas’ Chiefs won the final game in AFL history by beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Widely recognized as the best tight end in AFL history, Arbanas proved to be a tough blocker and excellent receiver.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Fred Arbanas is one of many great players whose greatness has been undervalued because they played their best years in the AFL. His candidacy for enshrinement has been hurt by the fact that he played his entire career in the old AFL. Arbanas’ case suffers due to his short career. He only played nine seasons and missed three separate all-star games due to injury. Since this was the only time many NFL observers watched the AFL, he missed out on those opportunities to showcase his talents.

Todd Christensen Tight End Todd Christensen

Case for the Hall of Fame:

Todd Christensen was a dominant pass catching tight end for the Oakland/LA Raiders for a decade. Christensen was only the second tight end in NFL history to lead the league in receptions. He wound up leading the league in receptions twice. He became the first tight end in history to catch 90 passes in two separate seasons and his 349 receptions from 1983 through 1986 (four seasons) was an NFL record for any 4 year period. Christensen was a stand out performer on two Raiders championship teams (1980 & 1983 seasons) and was also an injured reserve member of the 1978 Dallas Cowboys championship team.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Todd Christensen played in an era of great AFC tight ends. Even with his outstanding statistics, he was always overshadowed by Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome. Because of this, Christensen was never voted All-Pro and never made an All-Decade team. While he had a dominant stretch as a pass catcher, Christensen was not known as a great blocker. This hurt his candidacy because he followed Hall of Famer Dave Casper as the tight end in Oakland and Casper was considered a complete tight end.

Keith Jackson Tight End Keith Jackson

Case for the Hall of Fame:

5-time All-Pro selection; 1988 NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year; Keith Jackson was dominant in high school, he was dominant in college and he came in to the NFL dominating. Jackson performed so well right away that he was voted to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. Jackson was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988 and in only 9 seasons he amassed over 5000 receiving yards and 49 touchdown catches. His final season (1996) was punctuated by a career-high 10 touchdown catches and culminated in a victory in Super Bowl XXXI with the Green Bay Packers.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Keith Jackson only played 9 seasons. Jackson was primarily a pass catching tight end and he had a reputation for not wanting to block at all. This allowed his accomplishments to become overlooked because the receiving statistics have exploded for tight ends. Jackson is also hurt by the fact that he never made an NFL all-decade team. While Jackson’s career was bookended by an outstanding rookie campaign and an impactful final season for the champion Packers, the years between were merely above average.

Jay Novacek Tight End Jay Novacek

Case for the Hall of Fame:

5-time All-Pro selection; Jay Novacek was a member of all three Dallas Cowboys championships in the 1990’s. While Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman had their names on the marquee, Novacek was just as valuable to those teams and their offensive success. While he spent five mostly, nondescript seasons with the Cardinals in St. Louis and Phoenix, Novacek more than made up for it with his contributions on the Cowboys where he received all five of his All-Pro nods. Like the “Triplets” mentioned above, he was at his best in the biggest games, recording 17 catches, 148 yards and 2 touchdowns in those Super Bowl wins.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Jay Novacek was the perfect complement to the Cowboys’ star-studded offense in the 90’s and that is where many voters think his value ends. Novacek was a one-dimensional pass-catching tight end and many NFL observers believe his lack of production with the Cardinals shows that his impact was due to the greatness of the skill players around him. He also benefitted by playing with Dallas’ “Great Wall” and with that group’s dominance, the team was able to hide his lack of blocking ability. He is also hurt because, while his career lasted 11 seasons, he was only an impact player in five of them.

Pete Retzlaff Tight End Pete Retzlaff

Case for the Hall of Fame:

3-time All-Pro selection; 1965 NFL player of the year (Bert Bell Award); Pete Retzlaff played his entire 1 year career with the Philadelphia Eagles. He also has his #44 jersey retired by that franchise. Retzlaff caught 50 or more passes five times in his career and led the league in receptions in 1958 playing running back and receiver. In his 1965 POY season, Retzlaff dominated opposing defenses as a tight end with 66 catches for over 1100 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a versatile player with dependable hands that was a matchup nightmare for his defensive contemporaries and his Eagles gave Vince Lombardi’s Packers their last post-season defeat before Green Bay became the team of the 60’s. That was Philadelphia’s last NFL Championship

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Pete Retzlaff is considered one of the all-time great Eagles, in part, because of his versatility. That versatility has also worked against him in the journey towards the Hall of Fame. His statistics are hard to compare with others at a specific position since he played running back and wide receiver in addition to tight end. In the end, Retzlaff only played four full seasons as a tight end and while those were excellent years, many voters don’t see them as enough to merit induction in Canton.

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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  • Karl Flood

    Todd Christensen was All Pro 4 times Career highlights and awards5× Pro Bowl selection (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986,1987)
    4× All-Pro selection (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986)
    2× Super Bowl champion (XV, XVIII)