Well, Past Interference took a more-than-fair look at each of the Raiders prime Hall of Fame candidates and we’ve come to the only conclusion possible: Raider fans have nothing to complain about. Not one of the 9 candidates has anything like an overwhelming case for the Hall of Fame. No bias. However, I can see how you might cry about exactly two of the players on the list: Tim Brown and Ray Guy.
There’s no definition of a Hall of Famer, no specific list of statistical accomplishments or awards won that automatically open the Hall’s doors to a player. A player just needs to have the kind of career resume that convinces enough voters that he’s one of the best ever at his position. Funnily enough, Guy and Brown kind of have resumes that are the polar opposite of each other. In Guy’s case it’s all about the awards. He was the consensus All-Pro punter six times and he’s the punter on the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. No other punter’s ever come close to the kind of recognition Guy received for his punting career. Now, as I’ve already noted, no statistical measure supports the belief that Guy’s the greatest punter ever. But I can see how a fan of Guy could legitimately think the man’s been robbed for years now.
Unlike Guy, Tim Brown’s all about the numbers. Over 1000 catches. 101 TD’s. Almost 15,000 yards receiving. Oh, and commenter JA Morris notes that all of Brown’s punt returns can't be forgotten either (326 punt returns to be exact). And while Brown never made an All-Pro team it’s not like he went unrecognized all those years. He made 9 Pro Bowl squads and got selected as a second team wide receiver on the 1990’s NFL Team of Decade. So while Past Interference’s own opinion may be that as a player Brown’s a cut below Chris Carter, Michael Irvin, Sterling Sharpe, and Mark Clayton, a Tim Brown fan can certainly ask what more was the guy supposed to do to be a Hall of Famer?
Here’s how PI ranks them in Hall of Fame worthiness:
1) Cliff Branch
Tim Brown (Tie)
I’m having a hard time figuring out which of these receivers deserves the honor more. In my heart of hearts I feel that Branch at his best was better than Brown at his best. But it’s hard to ignore Brown caught over twice as many passes as Branch. However, Branch has got those three Super Bowl rings and was the superior postseason performer. On the other hand, Brown made 9 Pro Bowl teams to Branch’s 4. But, Branch made All-Pro three times to Brown’s none. I don’t know. I lean to Branch but both have solid cases for the Hall.
3) Ken Stabler
4) Lester Hayes
5) Todd Christensen
6) Tom Flores
7) Jim Plunkett
8) Ray Guy
9) Jack Tatum
And here’s PI ranks them all in order of their chances for election:
1) Tim Brown
2) Ray Guy: He’s been a finalist 7 times and a semi-finalist 5 times. At some point the voters are going to get sick of hearing about him and they’ll vote him in just to shut everybody up. Like what happened to Art Monk.
3) Ken Stabler: PI’s as surprised as anyone that Stabler’s not already in. As soon as he became eligible he was a Hall of Fame finalist for two straight years, then dropped off the Hall of Fame map altogether for over a decade. A finalist once again in 2003, Stabler then hit another wall; he’s only made it to the semifinal stage every year since.
He was one of the most famous players of his time. He certainly had a flair for the dramatic (“The Sea of Hands”, “Ghost to the Post”, the last-second 1976 playoff win over the Patriots, the (ugh) “Holy Roller”). He won two MVP awards. He won a championship. And he won period. 96 games to be exact, still 14th-most all-time by a QB and his winning percentage is higher than all but three (Manning, Montana, Brady) of the guys ahead of him. In fact, of the top 50 winningest QB’s of all-time only five guys have posted winning percentages than Stabler (the above three guys plus Staubach and Jim McMahon). On the flipside he turned the ball over too much, he was immobile, and he went 1-4 and AFC Championship Games but still, it seems like he did more than enough to make the Hall. But he’s not in. Why?
In comments sptfrn writes In comments sptfrn writes that sportswriters have focused too much on Stabler’s off-the-field activities. And I completely agree this focus had helped keep Stabler out of the Hall to date. But I’m not sure the off-the-field stuff is completely irrelevant. If, as legend has it, Stabler studied his playbook by “the light of the jukebox” then can’t we say his off-the-field activities interfere with his on-the-field play? Stabler played with an extremely talented bunch of teammates and a brilliant coach, yet kept coming up short in conference title games. Maybe a certain lack of dedication to football was in fact to blame. I don’t know. It’s possible.
But Stabler probably won enough on the field to justify his induction. Winning and playing in just the one Super Bowl is probably what’s kept him out so far just like it’s what kept John Madden waiting for so many years. Seems like if Madden’s in now though that the QB who won all those games for him ought to be in too. Stabler’s a senior citizen now and if the voters do plan on getting him in someday they really ought to do it while he’s alive. I think he’ll get in soon.
4) Lester Hayes: Might benefit from the concerted effort voters are making to get more defensive players in
5) Cliff Branch
6) Todd Christensen: Doubt he ever makes it
7) Tom Flores: Never
8) Jim Plunkett: Never
9) Jack Tatum: Never