The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters announced 28 semi-finalists for induction into the 2012 class. As always, it is a dubious list missing a ton of superior players, coaches and contributors languishing in a black hole called the "Seniors Pool". Just two players from that pool have a chance each year, which shows the huge flaw of this voting process.
The voters have an extremely hard group of players to sift through this year. There are as many as 13 or more players I feel belong in Canton.
While the next vote to slim the list will not come for a few months, yours truly thought his ineffectual vote should be heard despite not counting. Here is the list :
Steve Atwater Safety Denver Broncos 11 Seasons 8 Pro Bowls 2 First Team All-Pro Teams 24 Interceptions
I don't think he is even the best safety in Broncos history, an honor I bestow on Goose Gonsoulin then Dennis Smith and Billy Thompson. Atwater will never get my vote.
Jerome Bettis Running Back Pittsburgh Steelers 13 Seasons 6 Pro Bowls 2 First Team All-Pro Teams 13,662 Yards Rushing 94 Total Touchdowns
Bettis was involved in one of the biggest steals ever, when the Steelers got him from the Saint Louis Rams in a trade. He ran for over 1,000 yards in eight of his first nine seasons, showing remarkable durability because his game was running between the tackles.
Not much of a receiver, he could be depended on once handed the ball. He fumbled 41 times, but he usually rewarded his teams with a pounding style that wore out opponents while chewing up the clock.
There is no question that Bettis is worthy of Canton, so I would vote him onto the finalist's list without hesitation.
Jack Butler Safety Pittsburgh Steelers 9 Seasons 5 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams 52 Interceptions 10 Fumble Recoveries 9 Touchdowns
He is the last person to play in the NFL from Saint Bonaventure University because the school dropped their football program after 1951. Butler joined the Bonnies football team at the request of Bonnie athletic director, Father Dan Rooney, the brother of Steelers owner Art Rooney. Butler then joined Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent rookie.
He retired early because of an injury, but his 52 interceptions in nine seasons were second most in NFL history at the time. He still ranks second in the Steelers history in total interceptions.
When he retired from playing, Butler became an NFL scout. He was the director of BLESTO for over 40 years until he retired at 80 years old in 2007. Butler has helped start the career of innumerable scouts, player personnel directors, and general managers in the NFL.
Butler was one of the hardest hitting cornerbacks to have ever played the game. Yet, he also had shut down ability, which is shown with his 52 thefts. Personally, I think his contributions off the field make him worthy two different ways.
But, sticking to just his play on the gridiron, there is no question that is is truly a disgrace that Jack Butler has not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame already. He goes into Canton if I voted. NO question.
Tim Brown Wide Receiver Oakland Raiders 17 Seasons 9 Pro Bowls 1,094 Receptions 105 Touchdowns
Brown certainly is a product of the rule changes that allows receivers to roam untouched after five yards, but he was more than just a pass catcher. Brown also made an impressive mark on special teams
My issue with his being inducted is the fact he was never selected First Team All-Pro and led the league in receiving just once. Brown did lead the NFL in punt and kickoff return yards.
But is that worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I say no and chalk him up as a good and reliable player who lasted a long time.
Cris Carter Wide Receiver Minnesota Vikings 16 Seasons 8 Pro Bowls 2 First Team All-Pro Teams 1,101 Receptions 130 Touchdowns
Carter, like Brown, go to enjoy rules friendly to the offense in an obscene fashion. He had a gift, however, of making catches in the end zone.
That gift had him once released by the Philadelphia Eagles, where head coach Buddy Ryan the reason was that all Carter did for the Eagles was "catch touchdown passes". The truth was that Carter was abusing drugs and the wide receiver credits his being cut as the wake up call that saved his life.
The Minnesota Vikings claimed him off the waiver wire right away, where he eventually started and would hold that spot the remainder of his Vikings career. One of Carter's strengths was his conditioning and durability. Though he missed four games because if injury in one season, he played every other game possible for Minnesota.
He led the NFL in receptions once and in touchdown catches three times. Seven different quarterbacks were the primary starter in his 12 seasons with the team. Despite all the lunacy and confusion, Carter was a beacon of steady leadership and consistent production.
Carter accumulated double figures in touchdown receptions in five of his Pro Bowl years. What also made his production even more special is the fact he had to share receptions with future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, Pro Bowl wide receivers Jake Reed and Anthony Carter, and Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan.
Carter has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame three times so far. He ranks third in NFL history in career receptions, fourth in career touchdowns catches and eighth in career receiving yards and total touchdowns.
Then there are the old school fans who point to the obvious fact Carter never dealt with the ten-yard chuck rule, which makes it much harder to excel as a receiver, as opposed to the offensive-friendly rules he participated in. Rules that greatly inflate statistics and can help make a player look better than players who did not benefit from the rule changes. This fact has made modern statistics dwarf the numbers from the ten-yard chuck era.
Men like Mac Speedie, Lionel Taylor, Charlie Hennigan, Harold Carmichael, Drew Pearson, Gino Cappelletti, Sonny Randle, Cliff Branch, Harold Jackson, Pete Retzlaff, and LaVern Dilweg are just a few great receivers on par with Carter, Brown, and Andre Reed also awaiting their inductions. Men who dealt with a much rougher game, let alone the ten-yard chuck.
Carter has a feel-good story attached to his career, one that has now extended to where he provides analysis on television. With his career on the ropes because of drugs, he rebounded and became a leader and won the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award, the Bryan "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Besides the 17 NFL records he either owns or shares, he is a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 40th Anniversary Team.
The Vikings have retired his jersey and have had a huge amount of great receivers to play for them. Cris Carter may be the best ever for this franchise and certainly deserves to move on to being a finalist once again.
Don Coryell Saint Louis Cardinals San Diego Chargers 14 Seasons 111 Wins First Coach With 100 Wins In Pro And College Football Only Coach To Lead NFL In Passing 6 Straight Years 5 Division Titles
The biggest no-brainer of the semi-finalists. It is disgusting he hasn't been inducted already, and even more revolting he passed away last year and will never get to enjoy his deserved respect from a game that still leans heavily on his genius to this very day. Crazy Canton Cuts profiled Coryell in 2009.
Coryell played college football at the before getting into coaching. He succeeded George Allen, who later became a Pro Football Hall Of Fame coach.
He also showed his innate ability to develop players, especially on offense. He had 54 players go to the NFL from his college teams, including five players drafted in the first round. Nine of his players were First Team All-Americans. In 1967, he had eight players drafted, and five went in the first two rounds.
The Coryell coaching tree from his collegiate era is very impressive as well.
Joe Gibbs was a player on Coryell's team at first and won the team's Most Inspirational Player Award once. Gibbs later became a graduate assistant, then assistant coach at San Diego State.
He also was an assistant under Coryell with both the Cardinals and Chargers before becoming head coach of the Washington Redskins. Gibbs is a member of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.
Another Pro Football Hall Of Fame coach who coached under Coryell at San Diego State was John Madden. Madden would join the Oakland Raiders and then become the youngest head coach of the league the next season at 32 years old.
Legendary men like Jim Hanifan, Ernie Zampese, and Rod Dowhower also coached under Coryell at San Diego State. Coryell's 104 victories and .840 winning percentage are the best in Aztec history, and he is a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame.
He then moved to the NFL to lead the Saint Louis Cardinals. His 42 wins are the most by any coach in the Cardinals franchise's history, and his five years as head coach with the team is the second longest tenure ever.
The San Diego Chargers would later hire Coryell. This was when "Air Coryell" was born as a common term, even though Coryell's years in Saint Louis also featured high-powered offenses running under much of the same schemes also used in San Diego.
When Coryell retired from the NFL with 111 wins in 195 games overall, he is the first head coach with 100 victories in both professional and collegiate football.
To try and sum up this man's career or impact on football is nearly impossible. Virtually every offense today, on all levels of the game, is a variation of his system. In his 14 seasons as a coach, his offenses led the NFL in net yards gained per passing attempt five times. They finished in the top-five of the NFL six more times.
His teams led the NFL in passing yards seven times and none of his teams finished lower than seventh. They led the NFL in passing touchdowns three times and finished in the top ten nine other times.
Many Hall Of Fame players and Pro Bowlers were coached by Coryell in the NFL. The list of players inducted into Canton includes Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner, Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith, Fred Dean and Roger Wehrli.
Coryell changed the way football was played. It is still being played the way Coryell invented to this very day. The now all-to-common sight on multiple receiver sets was first started by Coryell, as are many versions of offenses being run these days.
They are all spawns of his genius.
Winslow stated it best when he said, "For Don Coryell to not be in the Hall of Fame is a lack of knowledge of the voters. That's the nicest way that I can put that. A lack of understanding of the legacy of the game."
An ignorance that has wrongly kept Don Coryell from taking his rightful place.
Roger Craig Running Back San Francisco 49ers 11 Seasons 4 Pro Bowls 1 First Team All-Pro Team 8,189 Rushing Yards 566 Receptions 83 Touchdowns
A lot will point to Floyd Little as reason why Craig belongs in Canton. Like Little, Craig had a couple of great seasons and a couple of good ones. Unlike Little, he did not play on lousy teams nor did he save a city from losing their football team.
Many will point to his three Super Bowl rings, which could get him in but my opinion is that a championship is a team accomplishment. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is an individual accomplishment.
A versatile back, Craig also had the luxury of being surrounded by a ton of talent that included two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and a Hall of Fame wide receiver. He certainly was a reason the 49ers won three titles, but he was part of an offensive onslaught opponents could not stop.
I consider him a guy on the cusp, but equal to many other deserving running backs like Larry Brown, Spec Sanders and more. It wouldn't bother me to see him a finalist, but I do not consider him more worthy of induction than many other players.
Terrell Davis Running Back Denver Broncos Seven Seasons 3 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams 7,607 Rushing Yards 65 Touchdowns
Davis had four consecutive years of over 1,000 yards rushing before a knee injury basically ended his career. Two seasons were monstrous, where Davis led the league in rushing scores. He led the NFL with 2,008 rushing yards once as well.
Gale Sayers is an argument for Davis in a way. Sayers had a career also cut short by an injury, but he still got into Canton. Unlike Davis, Sayers was a terror as a punt and kickoff return specialist as well.
Davis was like a comet that burned brightly and flamed out fast. It shouldn't be enough to get him into Canton.
Dermontti Dawson Center Pittsburgh Steelers 13 Seasons 7 Pro Bowls 6 First Team All-Pro Teams
Dawson first started out as a guard before switching the center and became one of the very best in the business. He has been a semi-finalist three times and and finalist twice. It is time he gets inducted.
Eddie Debartolo Jr. Owner San Francisco 49ers 23 Seasons
Ummm....No! Really? This guy is a semi-finalist with a ton of worthy players not? I hope he never reaches these heights again.
Chris Doleman Defensive End Minnesota Vikings 15 Seasons 8 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams 150.5 Quarterback Sacks 8 Interceptions 2 Touchdowns 2 Safeties
Defensive end is a position stacked with worthy candidates who are not amongst the current semi-finalists. Men like Claude Humphrey, Jim Marshall, Coy Bacon, L.C. Greenwood and many others head a list of men at this position worthy of induction.
Doleman's numbers do not lie. He was a play-making machine. But he was more than a pass rush specialist at defensive end, which is shown by the fact he exceeded 100 tackles twice in his career. Doleman did get more than 10 sacks eight season and led the league once.
There is no doubt Doleman is worthy of induction, and it would be a shame if he had to wait as long as other past greats like Humphrey or Bacon. Yet I can't say he deserves to go into ahead of them too.
Kevin Greene Linebacker Los Angeles Rams 15 Seasons 5 Pro Bowls 2 First Team All-Pro Teams 160 Quarterback Sacks 5 Interceptions 26 Fumbles Recovered 3 Safeties
A hired gun as a pass rush specialist, Greene played for five different teams in his career. While getting to a quarterback was his main focus, he did get 87 tackles one year. He had 10 or more sacks in 10 different seasons.
Greene was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year once and led the league in sacks twice. He is a lot like Charles Haley in that he did just one thing really well, but the fiery player was versatile enough to create turnovers defending the pass on occasion.
He is worthy of being a finalist, but there are a ton of other outside linebackers I'd put into Canton ahead of him.
Charles Haley Linebacker San Francisco 49ers 13 Seasons 5 Pro Bowls 2 First Team All-Pro Teams 100.5 Quarterback Sacks
The only reason Haley has been a semi-finalist three times and finalist once before is because he played on five teams that won Super Bowls. Strictly a pass rush specialist, he never had more than 69 tackles in a season.
Honestly, Charles Haley does not belong in Canton. He never led the league in any category, though he did have the good fortune to play on good teams and was able to line up at defensive end as well. There are way too many candidates more richly deserving of induction over him.
Cortez Kennedy Defensive Tackle Seattle Seahawks 11 Seasons 8 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams 58 Sacks 3 Interceptions
Kennedy is a bit of a conundrum for me, as far as being worthy of Canton. He was a playmaker who sacked the quarterback pretty often for a defensive tackle. He did enjoy three excellent seasons where he piled up 242 tackles over that time.
Yet he recovered a measly six fumbles in his career and he had four mediocre season. I can't say he is worthy, just because there are many defensive tackles, like Curly Culp, I consider superior. Yet it wouldn't be that frustrating if he went in either.
Curtis Martin Running Back New York Jets 11 Seasons 5 Pro Bowls 2 First Team All-Pro 14,101 Rushing Yards 484 Receptions 100 Touchdowns
One of the more underrated running backs of his era, Martin rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the first 10 seasons of his career. Reliable and durable, he led the NFL in carries and rushing yards in his tenth season.
Martin was much more than a guy who carried the ball. He was an effective receiver and fumbled just 29 times in his career. He is easily the most worthy running back amongst the semi-finalists and surely gets my vote.
The Matthews family may be the most famous in the NFL. Bruce is already in Canton, something Clay Jr. hopes to do as well.
His longevity is a big reason he got this far, and he was still a very effective player at the end of the career. Matthews Jr. was an excellent player, I just can name a great deal many more outside linebackers I would put in first.
Karl Mecklenburg Linebacker Denver Broncos 12 Seasons 6 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams 79 Quarterback Sacks 2 Touchdowns Scored 1 Safety
After starting out as a pass rushing specialist, Mecklenburg moved to inside linebacker and became a star. He once 13 sacks despite just nine starts.
An effective tackling machine, he had eight years of 97 tackles or more. He was a leader by example, and is one of the greatest Broncos defenders ever.
Yet I consider Randy Gradishar, who is still awaiting induction into Canton, the greatest Broncos linebacker ever. Mecklenburg was a very good player, but I would not vote him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bill Parcells Coach/ General Manager 31 Seasons 172 wins 2 Super Bowl Wins
Parcells is here because he coached the New York Giants, a team flooded with media attention. While a good coach who has 42 more victories than defeats, he also had some limited successes with the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots.
Known as the "Big Tuna", he was named NFL Coach of the Year three different seasons and is a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. He then went on to become a general manager and had mixed results.
Does Parcells belong in ahead of such legendary coaches like Buddy Parker, Chuck Knox, Tom Flores, Dick Vermeil and others? He doesn't belong in ahead of Don Coryell, but the New York City factor might push him in. I think he fairly worthy, but I think that of a few others as well.
Andre Reed Wide Receiver Buffalo Bills 16 Seasons 7 Pro Bowls 951 Receptions 88 Touchdowns Scored
Reed was a precise route runner who was more good than great. He never led the league in any category and exceeded 1,000 yards receiving just four times despite playing in a era that caters to offensive production.
What gets him this far is the fact he played on four teams that reached the Super Bowl. He had a Hall of Fame quarterback and running back helping him as well. I classify Reed as a very good player, but I'd put a ton of wide receivers into Canton ahead of him.
Willie Roaf Offensive Tackle New Orleans Saints 13 Seasons 11 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams
Roaf deserves induction this year. Plain and simple. I think there are a ton of blockers who belong, but the position is usually overlooked.
Even though he missed 17 games because of injuries, Roaf started in every one of the 189 games he played in his career. A cerebral player with immense strength and incredible dexterity, the nimble tackle was rarely beat whether run blocking or protecting the blind side of the quarterback.
Donnie Shell Safety Pittsburgh Steelers 14 Seasons 5 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams 51 Interceptions 19 Fumbles Recovered 4 Touchdowns
Shell is the fourth Steeler on this list. A key member of the famous "Steel Curtain" defense, he is a lot like L.C. Greenwood in that he has been overlooked because that defensive unit already has three members in Canton. Yet there should be three more, even if the voters appear to have a quota per team
The 70 turnovers and four scores in his career may show that Shell was incredible, but he was mainly known for his bone-jarring tackles. There were few safeties more feared in his era.
While I feel Johnny Robinson may be the most deserving strong safety not yet in Canton, I'd put Shell in as well.
Will Shields Guard Kansas City Chiefs 14 Seasons 12 Pro Bowls 2 First Team All-Pro Teams
Shields better go in immediately. He missed one start, but played in all 224 games in his career. He was always one guards in the AFC annually. He deserves induction now, but I have been saying this about Chiefs legends Jim Tyrer, Johnny Robinson and Ed Budde for years and years as well.
Dick Stanfel Guard Detroit Lions 7 Seasons 5 Pro Bowls 5 First Team All-Pro Teams
Stanfel lasted only seven years, but he was amazing in his time. His rookie year was the only season he did not earn an accolade. After four seasons with the Lions, he joined the Washington Redskins and suddenly retired at just 31 years old.
He played in an era where the pay scale was so minimal, players usually made more money working other jobs. Stanfel left the game so he could feed his family at a higher-paying job. There were just three starting offensive lineman in the NFL older than Stanfel when he left the game.
Yet many historians agree there were few guards better. Despite his limited years, Stanfel is a member of the 1950s All-Decade Team. I'd put him in Canton, so hopefully he gets to the list of finalists.
Paul Tagliabue Commissioner 17 Seasons
No way does this basketballer belong. He helmed the the ruination of the NFL by gearing the rules of the game to carry the offenses while building a false pedestal for the quarterback. His toad, Roger Goodell, continues to carry that message today.
Steve Tasker Special Teams Buffalo Bills 14 Seasons 7 Pro Bowls
Tasker was an overachiever who became a terror on special teams as a gunner. But no way does anyone belong in Canton via the special teams ahead of Ray Guy.
Aeneas Williams Cornerback Arizona Cardinals 14 Seasons 8 Pro Bowls 3 First Team All-Pro Teams 55 Interceptions 23 Fumble Recoveries 12 Touchdowns Scored
Williams is one of many cornerbacks who belong in Canton, joining greats like Lemar Parrish, Pat Fischer, Louis Wright and more, but he may beat them in the race for induction. Like them, he was a premier defender.
One fact easily seen is that Williams made opponents pay when they tried to move the ball in his direction. I believe he is worthy of immediate induction, but I been saying that about Parrish and others for years.
Ron Wolf General Manager Green Bay Packers 24 Seasons
Wolf had a career that even traveled into the Canadian Football League. He orchestrated a deal with the NFL so Joe Kapp could leave the CFL and quarterback his Minnesota Vikings team. Not only did he build them into a powerhouse where the defense was named the "Purple People Eaters", he helped the Oakland Raiders build into dominant franchise as well.
He joined the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and suffered through a 0-25 record until the team got to the NFC Championship Game. Wolf later went to the Green Bay Packers and acquired the services of Brett Favre in a trade that would later result in a Super Bowl win for the team.
Wolf belongs in Canton, but I believe coaches, owners, contributors and executives should be in a separate category so they do not steal a slot from players.
George Young Executive New York Giants 33 Years
An employee of the Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and NFL, Young was named Executive of the Year five different times. His teams won three Super Bowls and one NFL Championship.
Young belongs in Canton, but coaches, owners, contributors and executives should be in a separate category so they do not steal induction slots from players.
Charlie Hennigan 6'1" 187 Wide Receiver Houston Oilers 1960-1966 7 seasons 410 Receptions 6,723 Receiving Yards 51 Touchdowns 5 Pro Bowls AFL All-Time Team First With 101 Receptions In A Season
Charles Taylor Hennigan joined the expansion Houston Oilers as an undrafted 25-year old in the fledgling American Football League in 1960. He had previously been a high school teacher at a high school, where he earned $4,000 annually. He kept a monthly pay stub of $270.72 in his helmet for inspiration on the gridiron.
He had initially went to college at LSU on a track scholarship, where the coaches of the school had designs for him to compete in the Olympic games. The Tigers were the SCC mile-relay champions in his freshman year, an event Hennigan specialized in.
Football became Hennigan's primary interest soon after his high school sweetheart passed away from cancer. LSU did not want him switching sports, so Hennigan transferred to Northwestern State University and played running back for three years.
After college, he was invited to try out for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. He was cut after a week, so he had a stint in the United States Army before returning to Louisiana to teach biology and gym class while also coaching both football and track.
Hennigan used his time as a track coach to run and stay in shape, along with using isometrics. Red Cochran was a former NFL player who later became a scout. He happened to live nearby Hennigan, so Cochran got him to try out for the newly founded Oilers. Cochran's career would last 52 years in the NFL, ending up in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
Having no real experience as a wide receiver, Hennigan asked Cleveland Browns legend Dub Jones for some help. Jones, whose son Bert would later become a Pro Bowl quarterback with the Baltimore Colts, was a former Pro Bowl receiver who happened to live close by Hennigan as well.
Jones, who still shares the NFL record for six touchdowns scored in one game, drilled Hennigan on how to fake the defender and not the area. NFL defenses employed man-to-man coverage in those days, as opposed to the zone coverage most teams use in the game today.
Hennigan went into a Oilers camp that had a few stars trying out for the team. The team cut future stars like Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown and Pro Bowl wide receiver Homer Jones. Jones, who still holds the NFL record for yards per catch in a career, is known best for inventing the football spike after a score.
A big reason Brown didn't make the Oilers is because he had difficulty covering Hennigan in practice. The two would butt heads many times over the years, often complimenting each other as the toughest opponent either had faced in their careers.
There was a few hundred men trying out for the Oilers and Hennigan began to hear rumors he was about to be cut as well. Yet he made the team and had Browns great Mac Speedie, a former teammate of Dub Jones, as his wide receivers coach.
He and Oilers teammate Charley "The Human Bowling Ball" Tolar are the first persons at Northwestern State to play professional football. The school would later produce such greats like Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith, Pro Bowl players like quarterback Bobby Hebert, cornerback Terrence McGee, wide receiver Mark Duper, running backs Tolar, John Stephens and Joe Delaney. They are amongst the 44 players from that school to play professional football.
The five Pro Bowls Hennigan accrued is tied with Smith as the most ever by a Northwestern State Demon. Also a track star, he has been named one of the 100 greatest football players in school history.
He soon won a starting job in camp and developed an amazing repertoire with Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda. Hennigan scored the first touchdown in Oilers history, which happened in the first game in franchise history against the Oakland Raiders.
Separating his shoulder in the first half of that game, Hennigan then sat out for three games as he healed from the injury. He returned to be second on the team in receiving yards and touchdown catches as the Oilers eventually reached the first ever AFL title game.
Playing against the Los Angeles Chargers, Houston came back from an early deficit to capture the championship with a 24-16 victory. Hennigan's four receptions for 71 yards were both the second best totals on the team.
The 1961 season started out strange for the Oilers. After stumbling out to a 1-3-1, they replaced head coach Lou Rymkus with Wally Lemm. This awoke the Oilers roster, as they would then explode upon the AFL with 10 straight wins on their way to winning the second, and so far last, title in franchise history.
The offense was ranked first in the league in offense, total yards and passing yards. They also finished second in rushing yards, points and total yards allowed. It was also the finest season of Hennigan's career.
He had to share receptions with Pro Bowlers like Tolar, Billy Cannon, Willard Dewveall, Bob McLoud and Bill Groman. Groman led the AFL with 17 touchdowns off of 50 receptions for 1,175 yards that year, as well as leading the league in yards per catch.
Hennigan racked up 82 catches at an impressive 21.3 yards per reception average that was second best in the AFL. He led the league with a career best 1,746 receiving yards, breaking an 11-year old record previously set by Hall of Famer Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch.
He had started out the season charting out a way to break Hirsch's record. Hennigan once calculated the number of receptions and receiving yards he needed to break the record by writing on a bathroom mirror with soap as he shaved.
Not only did he set a career best mark by leading the AFL with 124.7 receiving yards gained per game, he also caught a career high 12 touchdowns. The 124.7 yards mark stood as a record until 1982, when Wes Chandler surpassed it in a strike-shortened season that lasted nine games that year. Hennigan appeared in 14 games 21 years earlier and his average still ranks second best in pro football history.
Yet he also piled up more records. He still owns the record for three games of which Hennigan had over 200 yards receiving. He also owns the record for seven straight games of at least 100 yards receiving, which is how he started out the 1961 season. Hennigan was also the first player ever to have 10 games in a season with over 100 receiving yards.
Hennigan had 11 total games that year of at least 100 yards receiving. It, as well as his streak of seven games, was tied in 1995 by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. Irvin needed 16 games to tie the record.
His streak of seven games ended after getting 232 yards and two scores against the Buffalo Bills. After missing his eighth straight game by 22 yards the next week in a game Houston won 55-14 over the Denver Broncos, he did not catch a pass the following game.
While the Oilers beat the San Diego Chargers for the 1961 AFL Championship, they did a good job limiting Hennigan to 43 yards on five catches. The reason was because they concentrated on him after he had burned them for 214 yards and three scores just three weeks earlier.
Not only did his 1,746 total yards lead the AFL on 1961, Hennigan began a streak of five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. The record of 1,746 receiving yards stood as a record until 1995, when Isaac Bruce and record holder Jerry Rice surpassed it. Yet Hennigan's total still ranks and the third most ever.
The difference between Hennigan's record setting seasons to those who tied or surpassed him is the fact he passed Hirsch's record in 12 games, the same number of games Hirsch had played in 1951. Rice and Bruce needed 16 games, two more than Hennigan played in 1961, to surpass him.
Another difference is that only Irvin was on a championship team like Hennigan was during these record-setting years. Rice, a Hall of Famer, and Bruce would win titles in different seasons.
Hennigan, who was named First Team All-Pro in 1961 and 1962, then continued his excellence after his incredible year. He grabbed 115 balls for 1,918 yards and 18 touchdowns over the next two seasons. The 1962 Houston team reached the AFL title game for a third straight season, but lost in overtime.
Some say Hennigan's 1964 season was his best, while Hennigan prefers to think his 1961 season was. Though he was good friends with Denver Broncos legend Lionel Taylor, he set out to break Taylor's 1961 record of 100 receptions.
He broke the record by grabbing 101 passes that year. This mark stood 20 years until Hall of Famer Art Monk had 106 in 1984, a record would stand for. Hennigan also had 1,546 receiving yards, which also led the AFL and still ranks as the 21st most in pro football history.
The 110.4 yards gained per game receiving average he has in 1964 also still ranks as the eighth best ever in pro football history. Hennigan is the first pro player ever to have two seasons of over 1,500 yards receiving, and he is also the first to have four games of 200 or more receiving yards.
Concussions began to catch up to Hennigan by 1965, as well as the fact he was running around on an injured knee. He gutted it out over the next two years, catching 68 passes for 891 yards and seven touchdowns over that time.
One game against the Chargers saw San Diego cornerback Claude Gibson hit Hennigan with a rabbit punch, knocking the Oilers star out cold. Hennigan woke up in the locker room, but was dazed. He was put back out on the field, but didn't know where he was most of the time because of the concussion he suffered.
It turned out to be a mistake by Gibson, a great punt returner who led the AFL in punt return yardage and average twice. Player in those days took care of their own teammates.
Unbeknownst to Hennigan, two of his teammates set up Gibson during a preseason game a few years later. He was hit in the knees, which ended Gibson's career. Hennigan was told this story at a 50th anniversary reunion by his teammates.
Concussions went untreated back then, and medical technology was not good enough to do a good job repairing knees either. Houston traded Hennigan to the Raiders for a future draft pick, but he failed the physical and decided to retire.
Not only was Hennigan on the gridiron for the love of the game, but he was able to pursue his doctorate in education with an increase in salary compared to what he earned as a teacher.
He once asked Oilers owner Bud Adams for a raise after his monster 1961 season, but was refused. Instead, Adams cut him a check for $10,000 and sent Hennigan out of his offices.
When Hennigan retired after the 1966 season, he basically owned every receiving record there was for the Oilers and AFL. He still has the most touchdown receptions in franchise history, as well as the fourth most receiving yards and sixth most receptions in team history.
He owns the Oilers record of most catches and receiving yards in a game, when he went for 276 yards on 13 receptions in 1961. His 26 games of at least 100 yards receiving is also a franchise record.
His 71.8 receiving yards per game is not only the best in team history, it is still the 12th best ever in pro football history. Four of the players ahead of him on this list are still active, so Hennigan could move back up the list as the years go on.
The 16.8 yards per reception average is excellent for any era of football, especially one that dealt with the 10-yard chuck rule. Not only does it rank 39th best ever in yards per touch in pro football history, it is the second best in Oilers/ Titans history behind Oilers great Ken Burrough.
I do not know what disgusts me most. Hennigan's exclusion from the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the fact Adams has seemingly spit on his teams earlier history.
Blanda and Jim Norton are the only early Oilers in the franchises Hall of Fame. Ken Houston and Elvin Bethea, two more Hall of Fame players, are the only other AFL Oilers inducted into the teams Hall of Fame.
Hennigan should have been inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Oilers/ Titans Hall of Fame by now. Not only is he the greatest wide receiver in that franchises history, he is one of the very best in AFL history. Hennigan is a member of the AFL All-Time Team.
There are the obvious signs of the continued AFL disrespect by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the reasons to why Hennigan has not yet been inducted. Even though the building in Canton does not say NFL Hall of Fame, it has become just that.
The NFL's anger of being forced to merge with the successful AFL still seems to burn brightly. The voters obviously cower and heed this anger by inducting modern inferior players instead.
Not only did Hennigan have to deal with the 10-yard chuck rule, which is a lot harder to have success in compared to the modern five-yard rule, he dealt with playing fields that were nowhere as near as pristine as they have been the past few decades.
Football used to be a game for men in Hennigan's era. Players had to actually earn their accolades then, as opposed to the rule changes that guarantee successes like now. Yet the numbers he put up easily match or exceed many players today that are deemed as stars.
Some detractors will point at he fact he lasted just seven seasons, but the Hall of Fame is filled with men who had careers of that length or less. Men who put up inferior production as well.
While Hirsch is in the Hall of Fame, he went to two less Pro Bowls and had one less First Team All-Pro honor than Hennigan. Though a great wide receiver, Hirsch had two excellent seasons and several decent ones.
Lynn Swann, another Hall of Famer, lasted nine years but many of his number pale in comparison to Hennigan. Swann was finalist 13 times before induction, while Hennigan hasn't even been named a semi-finalist once. Hennigan also has more receptions than Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes, let alone the fact he either owns or shares several other records with some of the best receivers to ever play the game.
Blanda, who was later a teammate of Brown's, often lamented the exclusion of Hennigan from the Hall of Fame up until his death. Hennigan set his receptions record after catching nine passes against Brown, who also agrees with Blanda that the Oilers legend deserves a bust in Canton.
Not only did Hennigan's 101 reception season stand as a record for 20 years, his 1,746 yards gained stood as a record for 34 seasons. He is the only player ever to have three games of 200-yards receiving in a season.
Voters should look at the travails Hennigan had to persevere through compared to the game now. Not only the rules to empower the modern offense that he did not have to help him nor the shoddy fields he played on often. How the hash marks placement greatly differed then and the goal posts used to be placed hazardously on the goal line in his day.
How the defenses of his day actually were allowed to play defense and even extend it further to the realm of crossing the lines of fair play. Even with medical care that didn't have as much expertise as now, Hennigan went out there and performed at a Hall of Fame level no matter how hurt he was.
There is no doubt that Hennigan belongs in Canton. The seniors committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is afforded just two nominees each year, which is unfair to the tremendous backlog they have to sift through annually. Yet Hennigan should never have reached the seniors pool, because it is obvious he should have been inducted long ago.
While he is in that deep seniors pool now, Hennigan easily rises to the top of the best wide receivers not yet inducted. Yet too much times has passed in his omission, so the voters must get it together now and put him in so Hennigan can enjoy his long overdue induction.
It is easy to see Charlie Hennigan is the greatest wide receiver not yet put into the hallowed halls within Canton. He belonged long ago, but now is the time to right the wrongs made by past voters. Contact all of the voters and tell them that Hennigan deserves his rightful place inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mike Kenn 6'7" 273 Tackle Atlanta Falcons 1978-1995 17 Seasons 251 Games Played 11 Fumble Recoveries 5 Pro Bowls
Michael Lee Kenn was drafted in the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, where he was the 13th overall selection. Kenn attended college at the University of Michigan under legendary head coach Bo Schembechler, where he was twice named All-Big Ten and helped lead the Wolverines to three Big Ten championships and three bowl appearances
He started right away as a rookie for Atlanta and quickly established himself as a premier NFL left tackle. Kenn was named First Team All-Pro in 1980, as well as making his first Pro Bowl. He would make the Pro Bowl five straight years until 1984.
Kenn missed a career high five games in 1985, but he was durable and reliable. He missed just 10 contests in his entire career, never missing a start when he did play. Though Kenn was named First Team All-Pro by the Pro Football Writers Association in 1983, as well as First Team All-Pro by most everyone in 1991, he was underrated.
A big part of this reason was due to the struggles the Falcons endured most of Kenn's career. Atlanta made the playoffs just four times his his 17 seasons, winning two postseason games total. The Falcons won their division just twice over that time.
Yet Kenn was part of some excellent offensive lines that included Pro Bowlers like Jeff Van Note, R.C. Thielemann, Bob Whitfield, Chris Hinton and Bill Fralic. Kenn also protected the blind side of strong armed, but immobile, Pro Bowl quarterbacks Steve Bartkowski and Chris Miller.
His 252 starts and games played are both team records for the Falcons. With a franchise that has noted players throughout history like Van Note, Tommy Nobis, Claude Humphrey, William Andrews, Gerald Riggs, George Kunz and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, Kenn is rated the Falcons top player by approximate average.
Kenn is a member of the Falcons Ring of Honor. His five Pro Bowls is tied for the second most in team history with Kunz, Van Note, Nobis, Jessie Tuggle and Keith Brooking. His two First Team All-Pro nods is tied with Humphrey, Fralic and Sanders as the most in team history.
Atlanta has not had a better left tackle than Kenn. He was sometimes overshadowed by Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz and Gary Zimmerman for First Team All-Pro nods for left tackle, as well as Pro Bowler honors to players like Joe Jacoby, Jimbo Covert, Pat Donovan, Luis Sharpe, Jim Lachey and Lomas Brown.
Make no mistake that Kenn was as good a left tackle as anyone to ever play professional football. While able to open huge holes for Andrews and Riggs in the run game, he was nimble and athletic while pass protecting.
He may not be deemed a sexy choice for induction into the Hall of Fame by some, but it is a disgrace he hasn't even been named a semi-finalist in any year he has been eligible to go into Canton. It as if the voters are penalizing him for the Falcons woes. This same argument can be made for deserving candidates like Humphrey, Nobis, Van Note and Kunz.
But if you just shine the spotlight on the playing abilities and accomplishments of Mike Kenn, it is easy to see he is worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Notable Players Drafted in 1978 ( * Denotes Hall of Famer )
1. Earl Campbell, RB, Houston Oilers * 2. Art Still, DE, Kansas City Chiefs 3. Wes Chandler, WR, New Orleans Saints 5. Terry Miller, RB, Buffalo Bills 6. James Lofton, WR, Green Bay Packers * 12. Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Cleveland Browns 14. John Jefferson, WR, San Diego Chargers 17. Doug Williams, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23. Ozzie Newsome, TE, Browns * 40. Al Baker, DE, Detroit Lions 56. Todd Christensen, TE, Dallas Cowboys 61. Mickey Shuler, TE, New York Jets 78. Frank Corral, K, Los Angeles Rams 92. Dennis Harrison, DE, Philadelphia Eagles 150. Dwight Hicks, SS, Lions 159. Tony Green, RB, Washington Redskins 163. Doug Betters, DE, Miami Dolphins 175. Fred Quillan, C, San Francisco 49ers 206. Jim Breech, K, Lions 215. Mosi Tatupu, RB, New England Patriots 247. Bruce Hardy, TE, Dolphins 333. Bill Kenney, QB, Dolphins
Ox Emerson 5'11" 203 Guard Detroit Lions 1931-1938 8 Seasons 86 Games Played 6 First Team All-Pro NFL 1930s All-Decade Team
Grover Conner Emerson joined the Portsmouth Spartans in 1931 because the NFL did not institute a draft until 1936. Emerson attended college at the University of Texas, but had to leave school before his senior year. He had participated in two plays as a freshman, which was against NCAA rules then. He is a member of the Texas Longhorns Hall of Honor.
Emerson signed a contract for $75 a week to play with the Spartans. He stood out immediately, where he was known for being excellent in run blocking especially. Emerson was also an exceptional defensive tackle, playing both ways like most players did back then.
The Spartans took on the Chicago Bears in a playoff game which took place indoors in 1932, the first of its kind for both an indoor game and playoff game. Emerson was thought to have stopped Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski's game-winning touchdown pass, but the controversial score was allowed.
This game led to the NFL adopting their own rules on the forward pass, instead of the college rules they had followed. The league then moved the goal posts, kept play within the hash marks, and divided the teams into two divisions because of the influence of this game.
The 1932 season was the first of six consecutive years that Emerson would be named First Team All-Pro. He was not only a bruising tackler, but he was a fast and athletic offensive lineman who could either use his strength or technique to overwhelm an opponent.
He blocked for Hall of Famer Dutch Clark, who had joined the Spartans the same year Emerson did. The team was a powerhouse during their careers, often placing at the top of the league in both offensive and defensive categories.
Besides Clark, the Spartans had other excellent running backs in Father Lumpkin and Glenn Presnell. The 1934 team moved to Detroit and renamed themselves the Lions.
That 1934 squad played 13 games because the fledgling Saint Louis Gunners went defunct after three games and the expansion Cincinnati Reds stopped play after eight games in their inaugural seasons.
The NFL's 12-game schedule was skewered over the Gunners and Reds departures, forcing several teams to alter their schedules. The Chicago Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Eagles played 11 games while the Lions, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and eventual champion New York Giants played 13.
The 1935 Detroit Lions, led by the great play of Emerson on both sides of the trenches, won the franchises first NFL title. On that team was a rookie fullback named Buddy Parker, who would later become the Lions head coach and lead the team to a pair of titles in the early 1950's.
Detroit's 1936 season saw them set an NFL record by piling up 2,885 yards rushing that season. This record stood for 36 years until the undefeated Miami Dolphins surpassed it in 1972.
Emerson was named First Team All-Pro for the final time in 1937, then surprised the team by retiring at the end of the season despite being just 30-years old. He had taken a job to become an assistant coach for the Dodgers because Lions head coach Potsy Clark, the only head coach Emerson played under in the NFL, had just left Detroit to take the Brooklyn job.
The Dodgers had seven rookies starting, so Clark wanted to do a better job protecting Hall of Fame quarterback Ace Parker. Though Emerson had been teaching future Hall of Fame tackle Frank "Bruiser" Kinard the tricks of the trade, Clark asked him to suit up as well.
Emerson played the entire season while doubling as the line coach for the Dodgers. He then decided to retire as a player after that year. When Clark was fired after the 1938 season, Emerson and the rest of Clark's staff was let go as well.
While working with the Ford Motor Company, he also was an assistant coach at Wayne State University. World War II broke out in 1942, so Emerson enlisted in the Navy. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on an aircraft carrier, which would be sunk by the enemy off the Canary Islands.
Emerson survived and returned to the United States to finish his services until discharge. He later decided to become a high school history teacher and football coach for over 20 years after having spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Longhorns.
The six First Team All-Pro nods that Emerson accrued are the second most in Lions history, tied with Hall of Famers Jack Christiansen, Barry Sanders, Lou Creekmur and Dutch Clark. He leads all Lions guards in this category as well.
Not only is he a member of the Lions All-Time Team, Emerson is a member of the NFL's 1930s All-Decade Team. Of the 11 linemen selected on this team, just four have been inducted into Canton.
His exclusion for the Hall of Fame is a case of time passing and putting the memories of Emerson's greatness in the distance. While being a war hero and excellent coach, he was one of the best NFL players of his era.
It is most likely a fact that there aren't few Hall of Fame voters, if there are any at all, who know who he was. It is doubtful any were even alive when he played. Yet the seniors committee of the Hall of Fame has the lone job of not forgetting the past and reminding us of it.
There is no question that Ox Emerson is the greatest guard in Detroit Lions history, as well as one of their finest defensive tackles. Though he is no longer alive to enjoy his deserved induction into Canton, it is time to make him a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.