Continuing my discussion of the Hall of Fame cases of some former Oakland Raiders:
5) Ray Guy: I already discussed Guy at length here. Simply put, the statistical case for him to be considered the greatest punter of all time is surprisingly weak. But I doubt that’s the main thing keeping him out. No pure punter’s ever been selected but Guy’s come the closest by far. So my guess is he can’t get over the hump because of anti-punter bias, not anti-Raider bias. A good chunk of voters simply don’t believe any punter deserves to go in ahead of a “real” football player. And until somebody can establish that a great punter is as valuable as a great player at any other position, we might never see a punter get in. Plus, with more and more punters coming along who are statistically superior to Guy, his window might have shut.
6) Lester Hayes: The main thing keeping Hayes out of the Hall of Fame isn’t anti-Raider bias. It’s a Raider. Mike Haynes to be specific. Haynes and Hayes made up maybe the greatest cornerback tandem in NFL history. But Haynes was the better player. Hayes made one AP All-Pro team. Haynes made two. Hayes went to five Pro Bowls. Haynes went to nine. Hayes has been a Hall of Fame semi-finalist five times and a finalist four times. Haynes is actually in the Hall of Fame. In 1980 Hayes had as great a season and postseason as it’s possible for a cornerback could have. But, understandably, he never came close to having a season like that again. Haynes had a number of outstanding seasons that could each be considered his best.
Actually, there’s probably one other thing that might be helping to keep Hayes out so far. It’s called Stickum. As you might remember, Hayes was known to cover his hands, arms, elbows, and his entire uniform with the gooey adhesive. At least he did until 1981, when the NFL passed a rule banning any player from using it. And of course Hayes’ INT total went from 13 to 3 the year of the ban. Coincidence? Whether or not Hayes should be in comes down to what your standards are. If Mike Haynes is the standard then Hayes is out. But if there’s room for a defensive back not quite as good as Haynes then Hayes would be a worthy candidate.
7) Jim Plunkett: Jim Plunkett may be one of the greatest QB’s in Super Bowl history but honestly, his Hall of Fame resume doesn’t consist of much else. Plunkett played so badly for his first two teams he was actually out of football in 1978 and his career was all but over. He caught the break of a lifetime when Oakland grabbed him as a backup in ’79 and an injury to the starter (Dan Pastorini) forced the Raiders to make Plunkett their starter in 1980. But excepting the postseason he was never a great quarterback. His lifetime QB rating is 67.5. His career won-loss mark is 72-72. As a Raider he only played more than 9 games in a season twice. He never made an All-Pro team. He never got a single vote for an All-Pro team. Postseason performance is important but it can’t be the beginning and ending point of the discussion. A great comeback story but Plunkett's just not really a Hall of Famer.
8) Ken Stabler: For awhile now I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a lengthy piece about Stabler. I’m still not ruling it out so I’m going to keep this bit short. The big four QB’s of Stabler’s era were Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, Terry Bradshaw and Bob Griese. All four are in the Hall. If you take the totality of each man’s career, i.e. career passing numbers, rushing ability, consistency, postseason play, and championships, then it’s clear they were all better players than Stabler. Stabler played as well as a quarterback can play in 1974 and 1976. He was excellent in 1973 and 1977. And…that’s pretty much it for greatness. You could argue Stabler was a better passer than Bradshaw but you can’t ignore Bradshaw’s four rings versus Stabler’s one either. Stabler took his team to five straight AFC title games but only played in (and won) a single Super Bowl. He missed some chances. I think that, more than anything, is what’s kept him out so far. His laid-back partying lifestyle probably didn’t endear him to sportswriters either. Those guys like their QB’s hanging out in the film room not the bar. Stabler wouldn’t be an undeserving selection but if we want to make room for the fifth best QB of the 70’s I’m not sure that title doesn’t belong to Ken Anderson.
9) Jack Tatum: No chance. Even if the Stingley thing had never happened. If they ever open a Hitters Hall of Fame he’s got a shot.