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VaBeach_Eagle

Listing each NFL team's best all-time non-Hall of Fame player

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This is an article from March of last year, so it's more than a year old, but I think it's an interesting topic.

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http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000919962/article/listing-each-nfl-teams-best-alltime-nonhall-of-fame-player

Listing each NFL team's best all-time non-Hall of Fame player

Matt Forte is my favorite Bears player of all time. My dad had Gale Sayers and Walter Payton -- I have Forte. When Forte recently retired, I marched to my editor's office (actually, Slacked my editor at his cubicle) and demanded (meekly requested) that I get to write the definitive "Matt Forte should be in the Hall of Fame" piece.

No player in the last 10 seasons has had more scrimmage yards than Forte's 14,468. He had more than 100 receptions in 2014. He's one of just nine players ever to have at least 1,000 scrimmage yards in each of his first nine seasons. So I thought I was all set.

But much like the Bears on a trip to Lambeau Field, I was defeated. (Well, except for that one time Chicago beat Green Bay on Brett Favre's number-retirement night on Thanksgiving, know what I'm saying???) Still, we did end up having a pretty fun discussion about the best players on every team who will never be in the Hall of Fame.

Here's the thing: Sometimes your favorite player is not going to make it to the Hall of Fame. Like, just look at all of those Yankees fans still pissed Don Mattingly isn't in Cooperstown. I won't concede that Forte is never getting a bust (let me have my dreams, damn it), but since we're on the subject, here are the best players from every NFL team who will not get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They were great. Enjoy them. Retire their number. But they ain't donning that gold jacket.

Note: Years in parentheses denote time spent with the specified team.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: QB Jim Hart (1966-1983). Hart was a four-time Pro Bowler whose career really took off once Don Coryell became head coach in 1973. While I have you: Put Coryell in the Hall of Fame, please.

ATLANTA FALCONS: LB Tommy Nobis (1966-1976). The first-ever draft pick of the Falcons was also recruited to the AFL's Oilers by an astronaut aboard Gemini 7. Nobis chose Atlanta, going on to appear in five Pro Bowls and earning the tag Mr. Falcon (which sounds like a Bond villain).

BALTIMORE RAVENS: LB Peter Boulware (1997-2005). Overlooked on a great defense. Don't sleep on what Boulware contributed to that team, though. He was an unsung hero, like LeBron James in "Trainwreck" or whatnot.

BUFFALO BILLS: RB Joe Cribbs (1980-85). Cribbs was the perfect bridge from O.J. Simpson to Thurman Thomas. Might have had a shot at the Hall if he didn't jump to the USFL in the mid-1980s. Thanks, Trump.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: LB Sam Mills (1995-97). Mills is the only player in club history to have his number retired. (Though I feel 89 is not far behind.) His inspirational battle with cancer and his "keep pounding" mantra have fueled the Panthers.

CHICAGO BEARS: QB Jim McMahon (1982-88). OK, despite Matt Forte serving as the inspiration of this piece, I'm actually not closing the door on him yet. Devin Hester is in. So, I'll pick McMahon, because he's the best Bears quarterback of my lifetime, ahead of Jay Cutler and Walter Payton. I know what I wrote.

CINCINNATI BENGALS: QB Ken Anderson (1971-1986). NFL MVP in 1981. Led the team to its first Super Bowl. More importantly, he was one of the first to run Bill Walsh's "West Coast" offense when Walsh was OC in Cincinnati.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: LB Clay Matthews (1978-1993). Yes, this is the Packers player's dad. The elder Matthews went to four Pro Bowls and was the leader of a Browns defense that -- and you millennials won't believe this -- was pretty damn good in the 1980s.

DALLAS COWBOYS: WR Drew Pearson (1973-1983). I should add the caveat that Pearson might start getting some consideration if he continues to kill the alumni selection at the NFL draft every year. Because honestly, that's how the Hall of Fame works. But he was the best receiver on the Cowboys in the 1970s, and the original No. 88.

DENVER BRONCOS: WR Rod Smith (1995-2006). He's better than some of the guys currently in the Hall -- cough Tim Brown cough. Smith topped 100 receptions in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons, including a league-high 113 in '01.

DETROIT LIONS: WR Herman Moore (1991-2001). Dude, Moore was so nice for the Lions. He set an NFL record with 123 receptions in 1995, and it stood until 2002. And then he followed that up with 106 and 104 receptions in the next two campaigns. He was Megatron before Megatron. Don't @ me on this.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: WR Donald Driver (1999-2012). I think we can all acknowledge Sterling Sharpe was amazing and would have walked in if not for the neck injury. But give some love to Driver, who also established himself as one of the top receivers for a franchise that has had some damn good ones.

HOUSTON TEXANS: RB Arian Foster (2009-2015). You might think I picked Foster because of my extensive background in fantasy football. And you'd be right.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: C Jeff Saturday (1999-2011). We're hoping Edgerrin James is going to get in at some point. But what about the man up front who started everything?

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: RB Maurice Jones-Drew (2006-2013). I'm sure MJD would say it's Fred Taylor. Well, MJD can make his own list. And I'm going to keep him here.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: DE Neil Smith (1988-1996). The 104.5 career sacks (85.5 of which came in K.C.) are nice. But let's be honest, we all remember the sack celebration in which he mimicked George Brett's home-run swing. And I'm a huge George Brett mark, so there you go.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: DE Leslie O'Neal (1986-1995). He was overshadowed by Junior Seau during their time together, but dude was legit. Had at least 12 sacks in seven of his nine seasons in San Diego and was a Pro Bowler six times. Or the same number of times as Dan Fouts. Just saying.

LOS ANGELES RAMS: WR Flipper Anderson (1988-1994). Prolific in a time when receivers weren't putting up the kinds of gaudy numbers they are now. Even saying that, Anderson had 336 receiving yards in one game against the Saints in 1989. That's more yards than Terrelle Pryor had in eight games last year.

MIAMI DOLPHINS: LB Zach Thomas (1996-2007). Dude. Thomas went to seven Pro Bowls. He was an All-Pro five times during his time with the Dolphins. And yet, he never gets a sniff of the Hall of Fame. This puzzles me.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: DE Jim Marshall (1961-1979). Oh man -- I hate to believe one ill-fated play (running the ball like 60 yards the other way for a touchdown safety) would keep somebody from the Hall of Fame. But here we are.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: LB Willie McGinest (1994-2005). Anybody who ever doubts how great McGinest is needs to go back and watch the 2005 AFC Wild Card Game against the Jaguars, when he had 4.5 sacks.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: LB Pat Swillling (1986-1992). The Dome Patrol was amazing. His 1991 season, when he was Defensive Player of the Year and had 17 sacks, is still talked about to this day in New Orleans.

NEW YORK GIANTS: RB Tiki Barber (1997-2006). If you think he's better than Forte, consider this: Forte leaves the Bears and the team gets worse. Barber leaves the Giants and they win the Super Bowl. Case closed.

NEW YORK JETS: DE Joe Klecko (1977-1987). Klecko was overshadowed during his time with the Jets by the flamboyant Mark Gastineau, but on the down low, he was the legit better one. So he was the Noel Gallagher of the New York Sack Exchange.

OAKLAND RAIDERS: Coach Tom Flores (1979-1987). Pop quiz: Who has more Super Bowl wins as a head coach, John Madden or Flores? Of course it's Flores. Why else would I have asked? Flores has long deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. I feel bad for giving in to defeat. But it's time to be a realist. I've seen the voters.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: QB Randall Cunningham (1985-95). Man, I would argue Cunningham was one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. He was, unfortunately, too far ahead of the game. But I will say, if he doesn't get hurt in 1991, the Eagles get back to back Super Bowl titles. Of this, I have no doubt.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: RB Jerome Bettis (1996-2005). Another example of a player who was fun. Became a local legend. Had a rad nickname. But he's not a Hall of Famer. Wait, what's that? He's in the Hall of Fame? You have to be (pooping) me. Find me one person in this world who would take Bettis over Forte. This is why I won't give up on Forte!

For the record, there is no best Steeler not in the Hall of Fame, because every Steeler gets into the Hall. I can't wait for Landry Jones' induction in the coming years.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: WR John Taylor (1987-1995). Hey, who caught a pair of 90-yard touchdown passes against the Rams on "Monday Night Football" on Dec. 11, 1989? Who caught the winner in Super Bowl XXIII? Taylor is obviously not the best 49ers receiver ever. Might have been the most annoying.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: RB Shaun Alexander (2000-07). Alexander had double-digit touchdowns in five consecutive seasons, including 27 in his MVP campaign in 2005. And sure, his career sort of cratered after that season. But what a magical ride it was.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: DE Simeon Rice (2001-06). Rice was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 1996 and was sort of squandered in the desert. Well, more than sort of. But he found his career in Tampa Bay and helped lead the Bucs to a win in Super Bowl XXXVII.

TENNESSEE TITANS: QB Steve McNair (1995-2005). Take a moment and think about how great McNair was as an NFL player. Now realize that he did this with Jeff Fisher as his head coach. He might be the greatest of all time.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: T Joe Jacoby (1981-1993). Dude was filthy. I would, at some point, just like to see all of the Hogs inducted into the Hall of Fame as one group. Like how the WWE inducted the Four Horsemen. But you know, that will never happen.

For the Eagles, I can agree on his pick of Randall, but I also lean toward Harold Carmichael.

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Cunningham had MVP level seasons in 1990 and 1998.

He had a top 10 in the MVP race season in 1988.

That right there is a better career than Jim Kelly unless you pretend that a 20 TD 28 pick playoff QB who was lapped by his backup actually did anything on his own while surrounded by Hall of Fame players and coaches.

  • Randall achieved greatness in Philly
  • He achieved greatness in Minnesota
  • At age 37 he was better than Aikman in Dallas ( I can't claim expertise on the fine details of that year)
  • At age 38 he was far better than Grbac in Baltimore. ( I lived in Maryland for 2000-2001 and Cunningham clearly should have been the starter all year in 2001)

His Ultimate Weapon season in 1990 is why guys like Vick and Newton went #1 overall.

  • He was a 91.6 rated passer in a 77 rating average league. He had 30 TDs to 13 picks with .3466 yards
  • He ALSO ran for 942 yards and 5 TDs and an incredible 8.0 yards per pop.
    • He did this with a pair of rookie WRs who were 3rd and 5th round picks (the 2nd rounder WR that year was a dud)
    • Compare that to Vick 2006 who ran for 1039 and 2 TDs at 8.4 per pop
    • BUT he was a 75.7 rated passer in an 80.4 average rating league (20 TDs 13 picks and 2474 yards)

He was arguably a better PASSER than Jim Kelly between 1986-1990. (before you factor the 3232 rushing yards and 23 TDs at 7.1 per run)

  • Switch QBs between the Bills and Eagles and the Bills win 2 Super Bowls ... in blowouts.
  • Give him to Norv Turner and the Cowboys win the same 3 Super Bowls.

The talent level around Cunningham on offense in Philly is what people pretend it was for Barry Sanders in Detroit.

  • Horrific O-lines
  • Converted D-lineman, practice squad dudes, deflating post-steroid guys(Solt), gigantic draft busts(A Davis)... we had it all
    • There were no Lomas Browns or Kevin Glover's or Jeff Hartings
    • Tommy Conwell's brother even started 21 games for the flab five
  • He even had a redneck center (Alexander) who said he preferred playing for the white dude (McMahon)
    • It may have been about the scrambling offending him but dude, shut up!
  • Baldy even got some starts in 92 and 93 (he is a much better analyst than he was an O-lineman at age 32+)
  • Terrible running game RBs.
    • Toney had 639 Eagles rushes at 3.6 a pop
    • Byars had 750 Eagles rushes at 3.6 a pop.
    • Haddix had 262 carries at 3.2 a pop from 85-88
      • All three of those guys were franchise crippling early round round picks (Byars at 10th, Toney at 37th, and Haddix at 8th overall)
  • The only year they really ran the ball well with RBs was 1992 with Walker and Sherman.
  • He got 2 good years of Mike Quick in 86 and 87 before Quick's body wore out.
  • He got 2 decent years of a young on-drugs party-dude version of Chris Carter.
    • Buddy changed Carter's life by cutting him and he became the man and the star in Minnesota because of people like Buddy and Denny Green.

What Randall did have were 2 excellent safety valves in Byars out of the backfield and Keith Jackson for 4 seasons (until Jackson sued the NFL in 1992)

  • BTW, both players put up similar numbers when playing with Marino.
  • Jackson also put up similar numbers when playing with Favre

His bosses in Buddy and Kotite were 2 of the dullest offensive minds in NFL history

  • Buddy was a Hall of Fame defensive mind but his offensive strategy was 'Hey Randall, go make 5 plays a game for me"
  • Kotite benched Cunniingham for Brister at one point and shortly thereafter finished on a 4-31 run as the worst 3 year period head coach in NFL history.
    • He took a 7-2 team to finish out 0-7 for 7-9 and then took  a 6-10 team to 4-28
    • Parcells replaced him in NY and went 9-7 the next season and took them to the AFCCG the following year.

 

I'll save the competition for another post but trust me. He played in the most accomplished division in NFL History. 

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I loved Randall, he was one of the reasons I started watching football.  The dude was just so electric, you really just couldn't turn the TV off.  

That being said, some of this is a bit over the top.  HoF is really all about the playoff victories.  If you don't have playoff credentials (superbowls), you will have a hard time getting enshrined.  He won 1 playoff game in Philly with a defense that was all-time great.  The Vikings should have at least gone to the superbowl in 1998 but they lost at home in the NFCCG.  However, he SHOULD get in, for THIS reason alone.  He changed the game.  He was a role model for future greats.  

19 hours ago, skippyx said:

His Ultimate Weapon season in 1990 is why guys like Vick and Newton went #1 overall.

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You can't really have a Hall of Fame with Gayle Sayers but not Randall Cunningham.

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On 8/12/2019 at 1:09 PM, skippyx said:

Cunningham had MVP level seasons in 1990 and 1998.

He had a top 10 in the MVP race season in 1988.

That right there is a better career than Jim Kelly unless you pretend that a 20 TD 28 pick playoff QB who was lapped by his backup actually did anything on his own while surrounded by Hall of Fame players and coaches.

  • Randall achieved greatness in Philly
  • He achieved greatness in Minnesota
  • At age 37 he was better than Aikman in Dallas ( I can't claim expertise on the fine details of that year)
  • At age 38 he was far better than Grbac in Baltimore. ( I lived in Maryland for 2000-2001 and Cunningham clearly should have been the starter all year in 2001)

His Ultimate Weapon season in 1990 is why guys like Vick and Newton went #1 overall.

  • He was a 91.6 rated passer in a 77 rating average league. He had 30 TDs to 13 picks with .3466 yards
  • He ALSO ran for 942 yards and 5 TDs and an incredible 8.0 yards per pop.
    • He did this with a pair of rookie WRs who were 3rd and 5th round picks (the 2nd rounder WR that year was a dud)
    • Compare that to Vick 2006 who ran for 1039 and 2 TDs at 8.4 per pop
    • BUT he was a 75.7 rated passer in an 80.4 average rating league (20 TDs 13 picks and 2474 yards)

He was arguably a better PASSER than Jim Kelly between 1986-1990. (before you factor the 3232 rushing yards and 23 TDs at 7.1 per run)

  • Switch QBs between the Bills and Eagles and the Bills win 2 Super Bowls ... in blowouts.
  • Give him to Norv Turner and the Cowboys win the same 3 Super Bowls.

The talent level around Cunningham on offense in Philly is what people pretend it was for Barry Sanders in Detroit.

  • Horrific O-lines
  • Converted D-lineman, practice squad dudes, deflating post-steroid guys(Solt), gigantic draft busts(A Davis)... we had it all
    • There were no Lomas Browns or Kevin Glover's or Jeff Hartings
    • Tommy Conwell's brother even started 21 games for the flab five
  • He even had a redneck center (Alexander) who said he preferred playing for the white dude (McMahon)
    • It may have been about the scrambling offending him but dude, shut up!
  • Baldy even got some starts in 92 and 93 (he is a much better analyst than he was an O-lineman at age 32+)
  • Terrible running game RBs.
    • Toney had 639 Eagles rushes at 3.6 a pop
    • Byars had 750 Eagles rushes at 3.6 a pop.
    • Haddix had 262 carries at 3.2 a pop from 85-88
      • All three of those guys were franchise crippling early round round picks (Byars at 10th, Toney at 37th, and Haddix at 8th overall)
  • The only year they really ran the ball well with RBs was 1992 with Walker and Sherman.
  • He got 2 good years of Mike Quick in 86 and 87 before Quick's body wore out.
  • He got 2 decent years of a young on-drugs party-dude version of Chris Carter.
    • Buddy changed Carter's life by cutting him and he became the man and the star in Minnesota because of people like Buddy and Denny Green.

What Randall did have were 2 excellent safety valves in Byars out of the backfield and Keith Jackson for 4 seasons (until Jackson sued the NFL in 1992)

  • BTW, both players put up similar numbers when playing with Marino.
  • Jackson also put up similar numbers when playing with Favre

His bosses in Buddy and Kotite were 2 of the dullest offensive minds in NFL history

  • Buddy was a Hall of Fame defensive mind but his offensive strategy was 'Hey Randall, go make 5 plays a game for me"
  • Kotite benched Cunniingham for Brister at one point and shortly thereafter finished on a 4-31 run as the worst 3 year period head coach in NFL history.
    • He took a 7-2 team to finish out 0-7 for 7-9 and then took  a 6-10 team to 4-28
    • Parcells replaced him in NY and went 9-7 the next season and took them to the AFCCG the following year.

 

I'll save the competition for another post but trust me. He played in the most accomplished division in NFL History. 

 

All of that makes Randall a borderline HOF guy.  What could get him over the top is his historical significance as a black Qb and his trailblazing for athletic Qb's overall.

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Lets talk competition now:

Cunningham was an Eagle from 1985-1995. During that time the Giants, Cowboys, and DC won 7 of the 11 Super Bowls.

He had to face those teams 2x a year and 3x in the playoffs.

He also had to face the 49ers and Bears who had elite defenses and won the other 4 Super Bowls of that Era.

The AFC was a junior league from '84-'96  (0-12 in those Super Bowls with 9 blowouts and 11 wins by double digits)

The NFC during Randall's career was the best competition in the history of American pro sports.

The nickname for the NFCCG was 'The Real Super Bowl'

 

Lets think of a current day analogy for one of Randall's playoff games:

January 2020: The Packers finish 10-6 with Rodgers carrying them while the RBs average 3.4 a carry and the D finishes 14th in points and 27th in yards.

  • They have to play on the road in Chicago who has the best D in the league (1st in yards and 2nd in points)
  • At halftime a crazy thick fog rolls in and you can't even see the field during the broadcast.
  • Rodgers throws a TD pass, but RB2 had illegal motion.
  • Rodgers throws another TD pass and his receiver drops it.
  • Rodgers finishes with 407 yards passing on the road in a fog against the best D in the league after his teammates cost him a pair of TD passes.
  • A new religion would form the next day to worship Aaron Rodgers.

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