The NFL season is right around the corner. Every team is now full-go with training camp. Before you know it, the Hall of Fame Game will kick off the NFL preseason as new inductees are celebrated and welcomed into the shrine in Canton, Ohio. But how about the players who are eligible for induction, belong in the Hall, but haven’t received the stamp of approval?
Here are three great former players, and one coach, who deserve nomination.
When you revolutionize the NFL passing game, there should be a bust waiting for you in the Hall of Fame. Coryell began his NFL career in 1974 as the St. Louis Cardinals’ head coach, a post he held for three years. During that time, St. Louis won the division twice. Prior to Coryell’s arrival, the organization hadn’t seen the postseason in 26 years. But Coryell left his biggest mark with the Chargers after changing franchises in ’78. “Air Coryell” was what the offense was all about, and San Diego won three straight division titles from 1979-81. Of course Coryell had fantastic offensive weapons, with Dan Fouts throwing to Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, and Wes Chandler. But his system was unlike anything seen before in the NFL … and, wow, did it work well. His Chargers led the NFL in passing in seven of his eight years as head coach.
Coryell’s influence is greatly felt even today. There are really only three offensive systems being run: West Coast, Coryell, and Erhardt-Perkins. Mike Martz’s “Greatest Show on Turf” was taken from Coryell, who also had a profound impact on John Madden and Joe Gibbs, both Hall of Famers. The system uses numbering from the route tree instead of long verbiage to communicate, and pre-snap motion (a Coryell innovation). It has begun to fall out of favor in the NFL, but the system has had a profound effect on the league for many years. For this reason, as well as the sheer success he had coaching offense, Coryell is an easy Hall of Famer.
The road to Canton can be difficult for offensive linemen – even more so for guards. The case for Faneca might not be as long as others here, but Faneca was an elite guard after being drafted by Pittsburgh in the first round of the 1998 draft. Along with Steve Hutchinson, Faneca was the best guard in football for much of his 12-year career in which he went to nine Pro Bowls, was All Pro eight times, and won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers. In protection, few guards were in his class and he even bumped out to left tackle in emergency situations. Faneca was fun to watch pulling in the run game, often leading the way for Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis. With the Steelers’ great defense of that time, Faneca was the ideal guy to pave the way for “The Bus” and put the opponent away.
James is a more deserving Hall of Famer than Terrell Davis, who is about to be enshrined. Davis had a great three-year stretch, but he wasn’t nearly the receiving weapon James was and “Edge” had nine highly productive years when he ranked among the best running backs in football. James seems to be overlooked because he played alongside Peyton Manning and with great wide receivers like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Actually, it isn’t crazy to think all four of the fantastic Colts should be enshrined. Many were shocked when Indianapolis selected James fourth overall ahead of Ricky Williams in the 1999 draft. It was the right choice, especially for a Manning-led offense.
James played in 65 games during his first five NFL seasons, catching 261 passes. He was ahead of his time in this area of the game and was by no means a small, scatback-type (he rushed for over 1,700 yards in his second year). James elevated his rushing production in 2004, although he’d already averaged 95 yards on the ground per game to that point. James was at his best on the ground over the 2004 and 2005 campaigns, racking up over 3,000 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns. Reaching the end zone was something James did with regularity, finding pay dirt 17 times as a rookie while winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. In his first seven seasons, the prime of James’ career and his entire tenure with the Colts, he scored 75 times in 96 games. James was a do-it-all back who would fit in well in today’s NFL.
The argument can be made that Owens is the third-best wide receiver in the history of the NFL, behind only Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Of everyone listed here, Owens has the best case for enshrinement. However, with a very outspoken personality, Owens had a reputation of dividing locker rooms, which is how such a special receiver can play for six NFL franchises over 16 years, including a 20-day stint in Seattle. But Owens was simply a great football player and one of the most difficult players to contain in the history of the sport. He had rare power and physicality to go along with prototypical size for his position. But he wasn’t short on speed or route running skills. Owens caught 1,078 passes for almost 16,000 yards and a whopping 153 touchdowns in his career. Owens caught at least 13 touchdown passes in an amazing seven different seasons. In four other years, he caught at least eight. Owens went over 1,000 receiving yards nine times and was over 900 on two other occasions.
Owens might have been at his best in 2005 with the Eagles, when he appeared in only seven games but averaged well over 100 yards per contest and just under a touchdown per game. That was the year Owens returned for Super Bowl XXXIX against New England, and clearly wasn’t 100 percent, but caught nine passes for 122 yards. In 2005, Owens averaged over 16 yards per reception, something he accomplished two other times despite often acting as his team’s deep threat as well as the possession receiver. On the field, Owens did it all. He is one of the very best wide receivers who ever lived.
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