We’re back this week with the final two installments of our Active Hall of Fame series, starting with everyone’s favorite boys club, the NFL.
I liken the NFL Hall of Fame to the lunch table in middle school that you thought the cool kids sat at, but really they weren’t that cool and the exclusivity of it was just a mere facade.
You think you really care about it, it’s supposedly important, but in all honesty it’s not all that prestigious. And when the voting committee tries to puff its chest and exclude a player, at least for one year, to send a message; we barely get mad about it because we know that player will get in next cycle.
Yes, that was a subtle shot at the Terrell Owens situation.
Of the editions we’ve already unveiled: the NBA Hall of Fame is a lot like the Golden Globes (it’s basically a party), and the MLB is the Oscar’s (not easily attainable), then the NFL Hall of Fame is a lot like the Grammy’s.
That’s a nice way of saying it’s beyond diluted and in the end it doesn’t matter the artistic quality of the work, Taylor Swift wins anyways.
Now players move from team to team often in the NFL, so the easiest way to do this is take the 2015 team rosters for reference.
Brace yourself, there are a lot of quarterbacks. Let’s do this.
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, Dwight Freeney
If there is one player in the NFL that I want to get a Super Bowl more than anyone it’s Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz embodies everything it means to be a Hall of Famer on and off the field, and a model for consistency at the wide receiver position.
I feel like I can’t even be writing about him without being in a suit and tie.
I so badly want to include Carson Palmer to this list, but injuries and the fiasco in Cincinnati may be too big of detriment to overcome without the added help in the playoffs. Had Carson not been a serial playoff flop we’d be singing a different tune on him.
Atlanta Falcons: Devin Hester
Devin Hester is the greatest special teams player of all time and was the most electrifying player in the NFL for a solid five or six years. If you elect him to the Hall of Fame it’s because he did one thing exceptionally well despite doing everything else pretty poorly and I’m totally cool with that.
Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Suggs, Joe Flacco, Steve Smith
Steve Smith could be considered the best pound-for-pound player in NFL history while Terrell Suggs was a cog in some of the best defenses of this decade. He has a slew of All Pro nods and a DPOY award to boot.
Joe Flacco is a very interesting case. His statistics in the regular season are pretty average. Not great, not bad. But he’s won a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP and that counts for something.
I extrapolated Flacco’s yearly averages just for kicks. If you take his current 232.1 yards per game average and apply it over the next five (he’ll likely play longer) seasons he’ll finish with roughly 48,000 yards passing — currently good for 8th on the all time list.
At 31, and with the durability he’s proven over his career (sans 2015), that is an attainable figure. And if the Ravens franchise rights the ship like they’ve proven themselves capable of doing in the past, he’ll have a chance at another title.
Should those things happen, you’re looking at a very strong Hall of Fame resume for Flacco.
Buffalo Bills: None.
The Ryan Brothers could have their own Hall of Fame and I would go to that induction ceremony for sure.
Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly, Jared Allen
Brian Urlacher reincarnate.
Jared Allen has since retired. Perhaps I’m reaching a bit here but Allen’s numbers and respected nature could see him enshrined one day.
Chicago Bears: None.
Good Lord this is disappointing but a painfully accurate representation of the status of this franchise.
Cincinnati Bengals: None.
A.J. Green gets log jammed in the waiting room with the 500 other wide receivers we love in fantasy football.
Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas
JT is the only offensive lineman in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl in the first nine years of his NFL career. Oh, he’s also a six-time first team All Pro.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten, Dan Bailey, Tyron Smith
Tyron Smith has only been in the league for four years but his trajectory is well on its way to Canton.
I understand kickers need to be leaps and bounds off the page to make it to the Hall of Fame but Dan Bailey is the most accurate kicker in NFL history and at only 28 that could easily last for another 10 years.
Jason Witten, well, his 1,020 career receptions are currently 10th in NFL history.
You were probably expecting to see Tony Romo when you got to the Cowboys. Romo is a cusp guy for me, along with Palmer amongst veterans. I need to see one more remarkable season, and a few playoff wins before I’m comfortable saying it.
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning, Demarcus Ware, Von Miller
Manning is as good as Papa John’s is bad.
Demarcus Ware finally got his elusive Super Bowl ring and ranks among the tops in NFL history in sacks.
And I think we may just be scratching the surface at how good Von Miller can be which is scarier than all hell.
Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson
There was a five year stretch that Calvin Johnson was the most dominant player in the entire NFL. It’s a shame that he didn’t have much playoff success and ultimately nagging injury slowed him down the past few seasons.
He’ll be enshrined one day though.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Julius Peppers
I can smell the anguish in Bears’ fans breath as I type this but I also kind of feel like I’m being modest. I didn’t even list Clay Matthews who has six Pro Bowls and an NFC DPOY to his name.
Rodgers and Peppers are first ballot guys and I don’t think I need to go into much detail as to why.
Houston Texans: JJ Watt, Vince Wilfork
Vince Wilfork’s impact in the NFL doesn’t show up on the stat sheets quite like some of these other defensive players but that shouldn’t matter. He has two rings, five Pro Bowls and four All Pro nods.
JJ Watt has four Pro Bowls, four First-Team All Pro nods, and three NFL DPOY awards in five seasons. That’s almost not believable.
Indianapolis Colts: Adam Vinatieri, Andrew Luck, Andre Johnson
Adam Vinatieri has won four Super Bowls, played in a fifth, and kicked the first six weeks of the season for a sixth team that went to the Super Bowl. I wish I could be that awesome when I’m 43.
Luck has no merit as I write this but I just have one of those feelings.
And Andre Johnson has the most receiving yards amongst active NFL players despite the fact that he has caught like 99 percent of his passes from the likes of Matt Schaub and David Carr in his career I have a strong feeling he’ll find his way into Canton.
Jacksonville Jaguars: None.
In 2015 the Jaguars had the youngest average age of any offense in the NFL and the defense isn’t that good. Those pukey uniforms don’t deserve a hall nod either.
Kansas City Chiefs: None.
The Kansas City Chiefs are really good top to bottom with nothing truly special. Jamaal Charles probably has the best case of any Kansas City player, even the defensive ones, and injury may derail that from coming to fruition.
Los Angeles Rams: None.
Jeff Fischer deserves a front row seat to the Hall of Woefully Average.
Miami Dolphins: None.
Seasonally, this team is a trainwreck loaded with bad contracts of overrated players.
Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson
I’m afraid that Adrian Peterson may be left off any Hall of Fame ballots because they are meant for human beings and Adrian Peterson is in fact a cyborg.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski
About as absolute as a Gronk spike is thunderous.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
New York Giants: Eli Manning
Two Super Bowls, this is a no brainer no matter how hard you try and fight it.
New York Jets: Darrelle Revis
You don’t get the nickname “Revis Island” unless you’re a Hall of Fame caliber player.
Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, Charles Woodson
Woodson is the ultimate duh.
Mack in only his second year was a First Team All Pro player at two different positions in the same season. Way early but damn this guy is elite as it gets.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Peters
Probably the least recognized player on this list, but Peters is an eight time Pro Bowler and six time All Pro. My second point has nothing to do with him making the hall but I just want to point out that he ran a 4.93 40-yard dash at the 2004 NFL Combine where he weighed 328 pounds.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Terrell Owens didn’t get into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot because of off-the-field character issues. Ben Roethlisberger has had his share of those to an even greater degree.
He’ll get in but how long will it take?
San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates
Philip Rivers is a more nuanced debate because even though we live in an era of elite quarterbacking just how far down the list can you go before you have to draw a line.
Rivers has nearly 42,000 career yards and 280 career TDs. 50,000 yards and 300 TDs are both landmark stat totals that appeal to voters and with two more good years he can attain both of them. He’s one of the most durable guys in the NFL, the only real knock is he’s come up short in the playoffs year after year, and has only made it once since 2009.
I think ultimately Rivers gets in but it may take a try or two.
Antonio Gates is a first ballot guy, top five in history at his position.
San Francisco 49ers: None.
This is a far, far cry from where this franchise was a mere two years ago.
Seattle Seahawks: Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas
The status of these four players and their resume’s for future Hall of Fame consideration hinges on the staying ability of the current Seattle Seahawks. Two Super Bowls (including one win) in the past three years is incredible but each player individually has their pros and cons for consideration.
Russell Wilson never quits. With him, you are never out of a game. But can he accumulate the statistics to make him Hall worthy?
The safeties are arguably the best tandem in the NFL but are they co-dependent or can they ultimately succeed without the other?
Richard Sherman often feels like a flavor of the week at a position that has so many great players.
The Seahawks are one of the best teams of the 2010’s, but while the team continues to carve out its place in NFL history I worry the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: None.
Tennessee Titans: None.
Washington Redskins: None.