It is funny how you just assume that something is when it isn’t really. Case in point: After watching the documentary “Full Color Football” which chronicles the American Football League of the 1960’s and seeing the NFL Network’s coverage of the death of Al Davis who was a key player in the leagues success, I just assumed that many of the players shown in the clips were in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wrong. As several AFL tribute websites have pointed out, the AFL consistently gets the shaft at HOF voting time. I would take it a step further and state that some of the original 8 AFL franchises get shut out when it comes to some of their stellar players from the decades after the merger.
A case in point are some of the Denver Broncos that came into the league P.E.(pre-Elway). Many of them played on the first Super Bowl team in 1977-78. Some even pre-date that team. The first player that should be there and isn’t is Richard Jackson. You won’t find any long list of sacks, tackles, assists and so on under his bio. You will find that Al Davis stated that he was the best to ever play on the defensive line. Watch game film of him. He was a terror. But playing on a team that never finished above .500 until the year after he left in a medium size TV market won’t get you much recognition.
Billy Thompson played at cornerback and then was switched to strong safety in addition to returning kicks. 13 years with at least one interception per year for a total of 40. You could group Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater in here as well.
Louis Wright played corner just as well as other CB’s in the HOF. He is not up there in the total of interceptions because no one wanted to throw his way. But others with similar stats have made it in. Wright has not even been nominated let alone inducted. Did the writers in the big markets never see their team play Denver? Or were they too busy kissing the rear ends of George Halas and Tex Schramm to notice someone other than the Bears and Cowboys?
Most people know Tom Jackson as a very capable and entertaining NFL analyst on ESPN. Prior to that he played 14 years for Denver. Remember who was one of the linebackers in 1977 when the Orange Crush was the top defense in the NFL? And do you remember how much success teams running against Denver had that year? That 3-4 defense was a killer in no small part due to the speed of Tom Jackson. And while we’re on the subject of the 3-4 and some of the best players to fit that system I have another name for you: Randy Gradishar. Still not in Canton. Woody Hayes said he was the best linebacker he ever coached at Ohio State. But Andre Tippett is? Go figure.
Rubin Carter. Again not gaudy on the stats. But virtually invented the nose tackle position. Most teams put 2 and sometimes 3 guys on him which allowed a linebacker to blitz or for the ends to collapse the pocket for a sack. But since he dd not play in Landry’s flex or Buddy Ryan’s 46 he will not get the credit he deserves.
Karl Mecklenburg, Simon Fletcher and other 1980’s Broncos at least deserve consideration. But in case you think I only have a huge blue and orange axe to grind I will show you some Raider players that are getting screwed as well.
Ray Guy. 1st round pick. Punter. Talk about the ability to change a game. But that is what the HOF ignores. He could change a game with the swing of his leg. As in hang time and the skill to pin a team deep in their own end.
Cliff Branch. No wonder Al Davis loved him. He defined the go vertical philosophy.
Ken Stabler. Similar stats to Namath. More games won. More playoff appearances. So why isn’t he in the HOF?
Daryle Lamonica was another good QB. Was just not recognized for the work he put in in the AFL. They called him the Mad Bomber. Watch the game films.
Other American League players. Jack Kemp, John Hadl, Lionel Taylor, Billy Cannon, Gino Capalletti. And the list could go on.
Maybe they should also be able to revoke someones HOF status. Like O.J. Simpson and Lawrence Taylor and some of these other bad actors who are there because the sportswriters chose to ignore what they knew or saw.