The Makings of a Hall of Famer
After watching Andre Johnson’s performance last night against the Colts I started to think about his place amongst the greats and if he would be a lock at making it into the Pro football Hall of Fame. I’m a born and raised Houstonian the home town boys always get the get pushed to the front of the line if it were up to me, so the answer would be an emphatic YES if the question was posed to me about #80s place in Canton. I’m also the guy that stands by the FACT that Hakeem Olajuwon is the greatest center of all times. Warren Moon and Earl Campbell deserve to be mentioned in the tops of their respective positions, and since Roger Clemons went to high school 10 minutes from my house he’s the best to ever do it on the mound. Yes I’m a homer, but these guys were great in the true sense of the word.
So, how do you determine who should wear the faded, but hallowed, yellow jacket? From my vantage point there are only two ways that a player can earn that honor.
1)Production aka Stats
2)The voters must like you enough to vote you in.
I won’t spend much time on the voters because we all know how fickle that can be. They base it on emotions too many times to be credible in my book. In the case of Pete Rose everyone knows that he should be a hall of famer as a player, but the holier than God baseball purists that vote may never let him in or at least not while he’s alive because of violations that he committed after his playing days were behind him. I want to stick to product.
Numbers never lie, unless you are labeled a product of a system like Keenum is being branded. The men in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have compiled stats over a professional career that merit their busts to be put on display at the Mecca of American Football, but what was so special about these players that led them to put up faded yellow jacket deserving numbers? I believe it comes down to four things. 1)Football ability 2)Durability 3)Longevity and 4)The surrounding cast(coaches and teammates).
I’ve separated football ability into three sub-categories. 1)Talent 2)Motor aka Work Ethic and 3)Football IQ. Randy Moss had natural ability and Football IQ that allowed him to wow coaches, teammates, and football fans week in and week out, but he also had a poor work ethic that frustrated those same people. I believe that this hampered his football ability and kept him from owning all of the G.O.A.T.’s, aka Mr. Jerry Lee Rice, receiving records. Mr. Rice wasn’t as physically gifted as Moss, but he out worked and out thought anybody that had the futile task of lining up across from him to stop him.
Durability and longevity go hand in hand some what. Bottom line is if you can’t stay out of the trainers room, then you can’t stay on the football field. Your talent doesn’t matter if you can’t stay healthy enough to display it. I’m reminded of the Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming era in Rocket land. Yao was very skilled gave other big men fits with his length and touch but he couldn’t stay on the court with his brittle size 18 feet. McGrady was one of the most phenomenal players that ever touched the NBA court but back and knee problems kept him from reaching his full potential. Like my old school barber used to say, “he’s hell when he’s well but he’s always sick.” Longevity is pretty self explanatory. If you have enough football ability and your body can hold up to the beating that an NFL season can put on it, then you have a good shot at a lengthy career. Attitude also plays a key role in longevity. No one should want to be branded a “locker room cancer” because coaches don’t want those kind of guys around. There are a bunch of supremely talented guys out there that can’t land a job because they have been blackballed based on the perception of their attitude.
Emmitt Smith is a prime example of all four elements coming together. He wasn’t the fastest running back, but he was quick, tough, strong, versatile, great in pass protection, knew how to use his blockers, and had excellent field vision. It didn’t hurt that he ran behind what I consider the greatest Offensive Line ever. He also had a Hall of Fame receiver on the outside making plays after catching balls from a Hall of Fame QB so the defense couldn’t key on the run. Let’s not forget about the Pro-Bowl fullback that flattened Line Backers to clear even more room for him after the O Line opened holes that four lane traffic could have driven through. Fifteen years after he was drafted by the despised Dallas Cowboys he left the as the all time leading rusher.
He finished ahead of Jim Brown who retired early and played less games per season. He surpassed the more talented Barry Sanders who like Jim Brown also retired in his prime but had less talent surrounding him. He never had a 2,000 yard season like the much faster Eric Dickerson but he played for five more seasons than the Sealy Texas native. And lastly, he put on that ugly faded yellow jacket in Canton Ohio.
In closing, the Houston Texans have one sure fire Hall of Famer on the roster in Ed Reed who will go into football immortality as a Baltimore Raven, one potential inductee in JJ Watt if he continues to have the impact that he’s had for the first three seasons of his career, and one that continues to set records and should be a sure thing when he hangs up the cleats in #80. The only thing that could possibly keep Dre from being a first ballot addition is the fourth element that I listed earlier. He played on some poorly assembled teams for the better part of his career. Those teams included two Qbs that wore or wears a #8 Texans Jersey. I think David Carr could have been a better finished product if he hadn’t been the sacrificial lamb behind that “bleeping” NFL B-Team O Line. Schaub, on the other hand, just couldn’t get the ball out in front of Dre causing him to slow down and allow the Defensive Back to catch up after being initially toasted. These plays should have accounted for over a dozen more touchdowns. It would be a travesty, in football standards, if Andre Johnson does not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame because his team failed him.