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Old 09-19-2009, 03:08 PM   #1
Brad O.
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Default 2010 HOF Nominees

2010 Preliminary Nominees by Position

(But also, check out the typos in the AP release.)

A very strong class, with Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith among the first-time nominees.

25 of these players will advance to the semifinalists' round. My personal choices (not predictions):

Ken Anderson; Terrell Davis, Brian Mitchell, Emmitt Smith, Herschel Walker; Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Jerry Rice; Mark Bavaro, Todd Christensen, Shannon Sharpe; Dermontti Dawson, Russ Grimm; Chris Doleman, John Randle; Kevin Greene; Steve Atwater, Kenny Easley, Aeneas Williams; Gary Anderson, Steve Tasker; Don Coryell, Clark Shaughnessy; Paul Tagliabue, George Young.

That was really hard to narrow down, though. There are some guys I left off whom I would support for enshrinement.

The semifinalists will join Seniors nominees Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little.
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:26 PM   #2
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Looking at this list, there are two mortal locks, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith.

Would guess there will be three more modern candidates elected, and they could be anyone from a long list of players.

Am not at all a fan of the two Senior candidates, neither of whom I think belong in the HoF unless it gets a whole lot larger:

--re Floyd Little. It's tough to see the statistical difference (adjusted for era in some cases) between Little and players such as Chuck Foreman, Ken Willard, Don Perkins, Rick Casares, and Larry Brown.

--re Dick LeBeau. He's supposedly being considered solely as a DB, and it's not at all clear why someone with a postseason profile (AP 1st team all pro/pro bowl/all decade team) of 0/3/none belongs in ahead of Johnny Robinson (6/7/AllAFL), Dave Grayson (4/6/AllAFL), Jimmy Patton (5/5/none), Bobby Dillon (4/4/none), Cliff Harris (3/6/70s), Abe Woodson (2/5/none and monster KR), Lemar Parrish (1/8/none and monster KR), Bobby Boyd (3/2/60s), and Cornell Green (3/5/none). He's still active as a coach, so any such prowess should not count at present, as coaches need to be retired for 5 years before consideration. And even if one considers LeBeau as a combination candidate, why him and not Richie Petitbon (1/4/none as a DB, plus a long and distinguished assistant coaching career)? LeBeau had a load of INTs, but it would appear he was the CB that QBs preferred to throw on as opposed to Dick Lane or Lem Barney, both of whom manned the opposite CB post from him -- am thinking there's a good reason he got all those INTs.
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Old 10-12-2009, 02:37 AM   #3
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Am not at all a fan of the two Senior candidates, neither of whom I think belong in the HoF unless it gets a whole lot larger:

--re Floyd Little. It's tough to see the statistical difference (adjusted for era in some cases) between Little and players such as Chuck Foreman, Ken Willard, Don Perkins, Rick Casares, and Larry Brown.

--re Dick LeBeau. He's supposedly being considered solely as a DB, and it's not at all clear why someone with a postseason profile (AP 1st team all pro/pro bowl/all decade team) of 0/3/none belongs in ahead of Johnny Robinson (6/7/AllAFL), Dave Grayson (4/6/AllAFL), Jimmy Patton (5/5/none), Bobby Dillon (4/4/none), Cliff Harris (3/6/70s), Abe Woodson (2/5/none and monster KR), Lemar Parrish (1/8/none and monster KR), Bobby Boyd (3/2/60s), and Cornell Green (3/5/none). He's still active as a coach, so any such prowess should not count at present, as coaches need to be retired for 5 years before consideration. And even if one considers LeBeau as a combination candidate, why him and not Richie Petitbon (1/4/none as a DB, plus a long and distinguished assistant coaching career)? LeBeau had a load of INTs, but it would appear he was the CB that QBs preferred to throw on as opposed to Dick Lane or Lem Barney, both of whom manned the opposite CB post from him -- am thinking there's a good reason he got all those INTs.
I agree that Little was a disappointing selection -- there are more deserving players -- but he really is not comparable to Willard or Perkins; Little was much better than either of them. Little put up good statistics in an era when offense, and RBs in particular, had depressed numbers, and he did it for a team that surrounded him with very little help. Would I take Little over Larry Brown? Eh, probably not. Would I vote for him? Most likely, though not with a lot of enthusiasm. Most of the deserving RBs are already in, and I'd rather see the selectors (and the Seniors Committee in particular) focus on defensive players.

I strongly disagree on LeBeau. You're underrating both his playing career and his coaching career.

LeBeau retired with 62 interceptions (t-7th all-time, with Ken Riley the only eligible player ahead of him) and picked at least three for 12 seasons in a row. The problem with relying on Pro Bowl and all-pro selections is that a player who was very good, but not selected, effectively gets a zero. It isn't a good way to judge players who are consistently good but seldom spectacular (e.g. -- Joiner, Monk). Also, those awards are subjective, and the best players don't always win. In fact, they often don't. Players with great teammates are especially prone to being shortchanged by voters, and the mere act of comparing him to Night Train Lane and Lem Barney suggests that LeBeau deserves serious consideration.

As a coach, LeBeau has been the most successful defensive coordinator of this era. Even more than his sustained success in that position, though, I support him as an innovator. LeBeau effectively invented the zone blitz, and is the most influential defensive mind at least since Buddy Ryan, probably since Tom Landry. You induct LeBeau for the same reason you enshrined Sid Gillman, or even Al Davis: he changed the game.

Richie Petitbon had a nice run as Joe Gibbs' DC. He doesn't belong in the same conversation as LeBeau. Petitbon's assistant coaching career was nice, but ultimately unremarkable. LeBeau's schemes have influenced every team in the league.

Technically, LeBeau has been nominated as a cornerback. Purely as a DB, he probably doesn't deserve to be in, but he's close. I would support him solely as a coach/contributor; he's been that good. Realistically, all of his contributions should be considered, and to me, he is a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer. The guy will probably coach until the day he dies, and he deserves to see his bust in Canton before that day comes. Actually, though, the 5-year waiting period only applies to players. Coaches become eligible as soon as they retire.

I don't feel strongly about Little, but I hope you'll reconsider your opposition to LeBeau.
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Old 10-12-2009, 02:16 PM   #4
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I agree that Little was a disappointing selection -- there are more deserving players -- but he really is not comparable to Willard or Perkins; Little was much better than either of them. Little put up good statistics in an era when offense, and RBs in particular, had depressed numbers, and he did it for a team that surrounded him with very little help. Would I take Little over Larry Brown? Eh, probably not. Would I vote for him? Most likely, though not with a lot of enthusiasm. Most of the deserving RBs are already in, and I'd rather see the selectors (and the Seniors Committee in particular) focus on defensive players.
Will agree that most (likely all) of the deserving RBs who retired prior to 2000 are in the HoF already. Also agree that defensive players are mostly getting ignored here.

Here's the way I'm seeing it, and you may or may not agree. Little had a 9 year career, with 5 of those being first rate and 4 of those having some value; he returned kicks and did have some receptions but wasn't especially distinguished doing either, postseason profile of 1/5/none. Problem is, I'm finding it hard to distinguish his career value as being significantly better than that of Willard (10 years, 5 first rate, 5 of some value -- better pass catching numbers, no KR, 0/4/none), Casares (12 years, 7 first rate, 4 of some value, 1 worthless -- not much pass catching or KR, 1/5/none), and Perkins (8 years, all of significant value -- a little pass receiving and minimal KR, 1/6/none) .

More importantly, he looks no different to me than pretty much exact contemporaries Brown (8 years, 5 first rate, 2 of some value, 1 worthless -- better pass catching numbers, no KR, 2/4/none) and especially Foreman (8 years, 6 first rate, 1 of some value, 1 worthless -- first rate pass catching, the best of all these players, no KR, 1/5/none).

Little never did play on an especially good Denver team in his 9 years, true enough. But Perkins was stuck for 5 of his 8 years on some weak to godawful Cowboys teams in the early 60s, and Willard was on weak 49ers squads 6 of his 9 years with them.

These RBs all seem like the next level down from those in the HoF. And given that RB is not an under-represented HoF position, am wondering why Little deserves the boost over all these other players. He's certainly no stiff, but I don't see the difference here. Forced to vote for one of these, I'd probably pick Foreman for peak value, but I'm really not sold on any of them.
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Old 10-12-2009, 02:26 PM   #5
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Actually, though, the 5-year waiting period only applies to players. Coaches become eligible as soon as they retire.
This used to be the case, but not any more. Per the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website regarding eligibility:

"The only restriction is that a player and coach must have been retired at least five years before he can be considered. "

Source:

Hall of Famers: Selection Process FAQ

So regardless of what else one may think, LeBeau's coaching career is still active and thus by the HoF's own guidelines off limits in consideration.
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Old 10-12-2009, 03:16 PM   #6
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As a coach, LeBeau has been the most successful defensive coordinator of this era. Even more than his sustained success in that position, though, I support him as an innovator. LeBeau effectively invented the zone blitz, and is the most influential defensive mind at least since Buddy Ryan, probably since Tom Landry. You induct LeBeau for the same reason you enshrined Sid Gillman, or even Al Davis: he changed the game.

Technically, LeBeau has been nominated as a cornerback. Purely as a DB, he probably doesn't deserve to be in, but he's close. I would support him solely as a coach/contributor; he's been that good.
I agree that LeBeau has been a highly successful assistant coach, arguably one of the best of his time. Maybe even among the best who didn't become a successful head coach. But there are some issues to bring up besides the 5 year eligibility one:

--one can certainly argue with the assertion that LeBeau invented the zone blitz. Have a look at this article by Peter King, which I found to be interesting reading:

WITH THE SECONDARY BOLSTERING THE PASS RUSH AND LINEMEN - 09.01.97 - SI Vault

Did LeBeau perfect what Arnsparger came up with? (For that matter, did Arnsparger get the idea from coaches before him?) I can get on board with LeBeau learning from what Arnsparger had done, but then where does that leave us with the concept of LeBeau as an innovator?

--if we're rightly going to give LeBeau credit for the fine assistant coaching years he had with the Steelers, we also need to rightly consider that he was unsuccessful as the Bengals head coach from 2000 to 2002. Not to mention this quote from Peter King's article cited above, which suggests LeBeau wasn't exactly an overwhelming success while he was a Bengals assistant:

"In LeBeau's eight seasons as defensive coordinator with Cincinnati, the Bengals on average finished 17th in the league in sacks and 20th in points allowed, and the man with the radical scheme was run out of town in '91."

Fair's fair.

--if there were a precedent for inducting assistant coaches who did not go on to be successful head coaches, I could more easily get on board with the idea of LeBeau being voted into the HoF via this route. But there aren't any such players inducted, and one can argue (as Dr. Z apparently has done in the past) that Clark Shaughnessy could be seen as the most deserving such candidate. Do we break the mould with LeBeau and not Shaughnessy? Good question indeed.
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Old 10-12-2009, 03:31 PM   #7
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The guy (LeBeau) will probably coach until the day he dies, and he deserves to see his bust in Canton before that day comes.
It's a nice thing to say, and if in fact LeBeau belongs in the HoF, I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea. Of course, there are plenty of other candidates in this position, headed by 88-year-old Al Wistert, who has never once gotten a chance as a finalist.
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Old 10-12-2009, 05:27 PM   #8
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For now let's forget about Casares, who played in a different era, and focus on Brown, Foreman, Little, Perkins, and Willard.

You're using a liberal definition of "first rate season", which I think places undue emphasis on being above-average and not enough on being great. Brown, Foreman, and Little were exceptional in their primes. There's a reason those guys still get mentioned (or even nominated) as HOF candidates. Neither Perkins nor Willard ever had a season as good as Brown in '70, or Little in '71, or Brown in '72, or Little in '73, or Foreman from '74-'76.

Brown was a poor man's Walter Payton, a wrecking ball who never went down on first contact. He played too hard for his body and injuries necessitated a short career, but at the top of his game, Brown was a true standout.

From 1968-73, Little was an elite back. In the period between the Sayers/Kelly Era (1966-68) and O.J. Simpson's prime (1973-76), Brown, Little, and Larry Csonka were the three guys you mention as maybe the best RB in the league, and it's not at all clear that Csonka is ahead. 1969-73:

Brown: 5037 yards, 4.0 avg, 1774 rec yds, 43 TD, 34 fmbl, no returning
Little: 4601 yards, 4.1 avg, 1424 rec yds, 42 TD, 19 fmbl, 406 KR yds (25.4), 328 PR (8.9)
Zonk: 4611 yards, 4.8 avg, 460 rec yds, 28 TD, 9 fmbl, no returning

There's an argument for each of them. I like Brown, who had by far the most yards from scrimmage and two all-pro seasons. But Little had many fewer fumbles and was a valuable returner. Csonka was pretty useless as a receiver and didn't score many touchdowns, but he had the best average and the fewest fumbles and did some good things in the postseason. Worth noting: Washington (33-24-3) and Miami (49-19-2) were good during these years; the Broncos (26-39-5) were not. Anyway, Little's right there, and it's not at all clear who was the best. There was never a point at which Perkins or Willard was considered one of the three best RBs in the league, much less a possible #1.

To describe Little's 1971-73 seasons with the same term ("first-rate") as Willard's '70 or '71 seasons shortchanges Little and gives undue credit to Willard. Look at 1971:

Willard: 855 yards, 4.0 avg, 202 rec yds, 5 TD, 8 fmbl, no returning
Little: 1133 yards, 4.0 avg, 255 rec yds, 6 TD, 4 fmbl, 28.4 KR avg

Little is ahead in every significant category (including rushing average, though that's very close and they both round up to 4.0). To call both of these years "first-rate" implies that they were equal; clearly, they were not. Little was much better.

I think 1973 was Little's best season. Whether you agree or prefer '71, Little's best season was much better than Willard's best (1968). Little's second-best season was light years better than Willard's second-best. Little's third-best was much better than Willard's. His fourth-best was better. Same thing for fifth- and sixth-best.

Let's compare Willard's '68 (definitely his best season) to Little's 3rd-best, 1972.

Willard: 967 yards, 4.3 avg, 232 rec yds, 7 TD, 4 fmbl, no returning
Little: 859 yards, 4.0 avg, 367 rec yds, 13 TD, 4 fmbl, a few returns

Willard had a better average, Little had more yards from scrimmage and almost twice as many TDs. Which was better? Eh, it's close. But this is Little's 3rd-best season, and easily the best of Willard's career. The guy never had a prime. Same for Perkins, who consistently good but never great. What separates Perkins from someone like John L. Williams? He doesn't belong in the same conversation as Brown, Little, and Foreman.

Little and Foreman really were not contemporaries. 1973 was Little's last good season, and Foreman's rookie year. One season is not substantial overlap, and 1973 (or at least thereabouts) was a critical shifting point in running back production. The climate for RBs in the mid-70s, when Foreman was in his prime, was much friendlier than it was in the late 60s and early 70s when Little was at the top of his game. Look at the best RB seasons from 1969-72, then look at 1974-77. Ranked against his peers, Little stood out just as much as Foreman.

If you want to argue that Brown and Foreman were better than Little, I don't know that I really disagree with that. I think all three are pretty close to equal, and they're all borderline Hall of Famers, guys who could be left out and it wouldn't bother me. Maybe this is too long a reply considering that it sounds like we're more or less in agreement on Little, but in Perkins and Willard, you're comparing him to the wrong guys.

I think the best eligible RBs not in the Hall of Fame are all relatively recent players: Terrell Davis, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters, maybe O.J. Anderson or Roger Craig. After that, Dan Towler plus Brown, Little, and Foreman. That's the thing when you get to the borderline guys: it becomes tough to separate them. Was Foreman really better than, say, Lydell Mitchell? Was Craig clearly better than James Brooks? Were any of them better than William Andrews or Casares? I'd as soon leave Little (and the others) out, but I'm inclined to support the Seniors nominee unless he's clearly undeserving, and Little is not.

Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have mixed feelings. Other than Davis and Walker (and Emmitt, of course), we really don't need any more RBs in the Hall right now. Your general point -- that Little doesn't stand out from other very good RBs who haven't been enshrined -- is a sound one.
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Originally Posted by bachslunch View Post
These RBs all seem like the next level down from those in the HoF. And given that RB is not an under-represented HoF position, am wondering why Little deserves the boost over all these other players. He's certainly no stiff, but I don't see the difference here. Forced to vote for one of these, I'd probably pick Foreman for peak value, but I'm really not sold on any of them.
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Old 10-12-2009, 06:51 PM   #9
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This used to be the case, but not any more.

So regardless of what else one may think, LeBeau's coaching career is still active and thus by the HoF's own guidelines off limits in consideration.
Thanks for bringing that to my attention, I didn't realize it had changed. I recognize that the rules stipulate only retired coaches should be considered, but everyone understands that LeBeau's coaching career is part of this nomination. There is precedent for inductees being selected on the basis of both their playing and coaching careers, and this is obviously such a case.

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--one can certainly argue with the assertion that LeBeau invented the zone blitz. Have a look at this article by Peter King, which I found to be interesting reading:

WITH THE SECONDARY BOLSTERING THE PASS RUSH AND LINEMEN - 09.01.97 - SI Vault

Did LeBeau perfect what Arnsparger came up with? (For that matter, did Arnsparger get the idea from coaches before him?) I can get on board with LeBeau learning from what Arnsparger had done, but then where does that leave us with the concept of LeBeau as an innovator?
No, one can not argue with the assertion that LeBeau invented the zone blitz. From the article you linked:
Quote:
The zone blitz is the rage in the NFL these days. Carolina and the Pittsburgh Steelers are winning with it ... and more teams are following suit. The scheme's designer, 59-year-old Dick LeBeau...
The piece you're trying to use as evidence against LeBeau flatly calls him the designer of the zone blitz. This is not in question, and Peter King is one of LeBeau's biggest advocates, in part because "LeBeau invented the Zone Blitz".

By your logic, no one in the last 50 years was an innovator. Arnsparger was obviously very influential, but that doesn't mean he gets credit for LeBeau's work. Are we going to credit Sid Gillman and Al Davis for Bill Walsh's offense? Pop Warner for the Wildcat? Walter Camp for everything?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bachslunch
--if we're rightly going to give LeBeau credit for the fine assistant coaching years he had with the Steelers, we also need to rightly consider that he was unsuccessful as the Bengals head coach from 2000 to 2002. Not to mention this quote from Peter King's article cited above, which suggests LeBeau wasn't exactly an overwhelming success while he was a Bengals assistant:

"In LeBeau's eight seasons as defensive coordinator with Cincinnati, the Bengals on average finished 17th in the league in sacks and 20th in points allowed, and the man with the radical scheme was run out of town in '91."
Should we remove Terry Bradshaw from Canton because he struggled as a rookie? Will we hesitate to induct Bill Belichick because he got fired in Cleveland? Maybe we should remove Joe Gibbs because of the Snyder years, and Paul Brown for his time with the Bengals.

LeBeau has been an unqualified success as a defensive assistant for the last 20 years. I would suggest that:
1. The 1980s Bengals didn't have great defensive personnel.
2. LeBeau was undermined by Sam Wyche's no-ball-control offense.
3. LeBeau perfected the scheme in Pittsburgh. No one is suggesting that his years in Cincinnati add to his résumé, or that the system was already in its current form 25 years ago.
4. As the NFL has become more and more a passing league, the zone blitz has gone from curiosity to revolution. It is almost without question the most important defensive development of the last 30 years, and LeBeau was its pioneer.
Quote:
Just as the West Coast offense energized pro football in the '80s, so has the zone blitz given defense a catch-up tool in the '90s.
15 years ago, the Steelers were the only team in the NFL playing a 3-4 defense. Now, thanks to Bill Belichick and LeBeau, almost half the league uses it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bachslunch
--if there were a precedent for inducting assistant coaches who did not go on to be successful head coaches, I could more easily get on board with the idea of LeBeau being voted into the HoF via this route. But there aren't any such players inducted, and one can argue (as Dr. Z apparently has done in the past) that Clark Shaughnessy could be seen as the most deserving such candidate. Do we break the mould with LeBeau and not Shaughnessy? Good question indeed.
Two wrongs don't make a right. Shaughnessy should be in, too. So should Don Coryell, for that matter. Look at my original post in this thread, or any of my HOF articles from the last several years, and you'll find that I've been very consistent on this.

LeBeau has an opportunity this year, and he shouldn't be deprived of it just because Shaughnessy has been. It seems like you're arguing that precedent can never be broken, that the mistakes of the past should never be corrected.

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It's a nice thing to say, and if in fact LeBeau belongs in the HoF, I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea. Of course, there are plenty of other candidates in this position, headed by 88-year-old Al Wistert, who has never once gotten a chance as a finalist.
I think you missed my point. Al Wistert's full career is eligible for consideration right now. LeBeau's coaching career isn't supposed to be considered until he retires, which he may never do. Apples and oranges.
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Old 10-13-2009, 09:24 PM   #10
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Some good points here, and some criticisms I can agree with. Others, I'm less sure of. See below.

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You're using a liberal definition of "first rate season", which I think places undue emphasis on being above-average and not enough on being great. Brown, Foreman, and Little were exceptional in their primes. There's a reason those guys still get mentioned (or even nominated) as HOF candidates. Neither Perkins nor Willard ever had a season as good as Brown in '70, or Little in '71, or Brown in '72, or Little in '73, or Foreman from '74-'76.
Fair point to make. I've looked at Willard, Perkins, Foreman, Brown, and Little again in terms of where they finished in the top 10 in rushing yards during their careers. Reasonable? If not, would appreciate an explanation why not, as some kind of time period adjustment seems appropriate.

Little, Foreman, and Brown would seem to have varying degrees of big but short peaks with drier periods:

--Little: 9 years. 5 top 10 finishes: 1st (once), 4th (once), 5th (once), 9th (twice).
--Brown: 8 years. 4 top 10 finishes: 1st (once), 2nd (once), 4th (once), 6th (once).
--Foreman: 8 years. 3 top 10 finishes: 5th (once), 6th (twice).

They're almost identical in years played. Brown looks best here compared to his immediate peers. You're also right about Foreman not really being a contemporary, as the baseline suddenly got a lot higher for rushing stats when he was active. However, it still looks like Foreman has significantly better receiving stats than the other two (maybe a period adjustment needs to be made here, but am unclear how one would go about it). Note also that Little's 5th place finish year occurred while playing in only 9 games, which makes that particular season more impressive if one assumes similar production over a full season (maybe fair, maybe not, as Little might have done just as well or tanked one or more games -- we'll never know).

Willard may be just a shade behind, but when you (very importantly) compare him to his competition year by year, he ends up pretty close to the other three looking at things this way. Willard started two years earlier than Little, and two of his top 10 years came before Little started playing. In fact, if you don't give Little extra credit for his 5th place finish while doing so in fewer games, Little and Willard look surprisingly similar.

--Willard: 10 years. 5 top 10 finishes: 2nd (once), 4th (once), 5th (once), 9th (twice).

Brad, you're right that Perkins is indeed different from the rest, but if you value consistency and not peak, he's a good choice. In fact, he never once finished out of the top 10 in his career.

--Perkins: 8 years. 8 top 10 finishes: 5th (twice), 6th (three times), 7th (once), 8th (once) 10th (once).

However, he also never finished higher than 5th, which all the others did. Thus one can argue he had no real peak like the others had, more a flat baseline.

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I think 1973 was Little's best season. Whether you agree or prefer '71, Little's best season was much better than Willard's best (1968). Little's second-best season was light years better than Willard's second-best. Little's third-best was much better than Willard's. His fourth-best was better. Same thing for fifth- and sixth-best.
There is danger going this route. If indeed Little's best season was in 1971 and Willard's in 1968, there's three years difference. The top ten by numbers in rushing yardage for NFL1968, when Willard finished 2nd: 1239, 967, 947, 858, 856, 836, 813, 805, 761, 662. The top ten for NFL1971, when Little finished 1st: 1133, 1105, 1051, 1035, 1000, 948, 867, 865, 835, 811. The general leader terrain already looks very different between these two years, as the top 5 players in 1971 rushed for 1000 or more yards, while only one player did so in 1968 -- plus there are well over a hundred yards between the two at the 10th position. Am thinking there needs to be adjustment for year in some way, and things can shift a lot in a short time, as was seen with Foreman above.

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What separates Perkins from someone like John L. Williams?
Actually plenty. Williams never once finished in the top ten in rushing any year he played. Perkins did every time out.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Regarding Dick LeBeau. I'm thoroughly disgusted with his nomination for reasons I've outlined above -- especially because of clear HoF voter disregard for the 5 year waiting period on coaches and the fact that regardless of the circumstances, he'll be listed in the HoF as a DB and I firmly believe a none-too-deserving one. You seem heavily on board with his nomination. We'll just have to leave it at that, as I'm not sure we will be able to have a constructive discussion on the subject.
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Old 10-14-2009, 06:44 AM   #11
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Apologies for a very long post.

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Originally Posted by bachslunch View Post
Regarding Dick LeBeau. I'm thoroughly disgusted with his nomination for reasons I've outlined above -- especially because of clear HoF voter disregard for the 5 year waiting period on coaches and the fact that regardless of the circumstances, he'll be listed in the HoF as a DB and I firmly believe a none-too-deserving one. You seem heavily on board with his nomination. We'll just have to leave it at that, as I'm not sure we will be able to have a constructive discussion on the subject.
Fair enough. I'll just say this: if you oppose LeBeau strictly as a DB and disagree with a pretty obvious skirting of the Hall's by-laws regarding his candidacy as a coach, I can understand that and I'm not in total disagreement. If you don't think his coaching accomplishments merit induction, we can agree to disagree. But if you don't believe he invented the zone blitz, you're just wrong.

I suspect the first point is the relevant one here, and I'll certainly allow for a difference of opinion there. I respect your interest in the subject and your passion for getting the right people in. Let's talk running backs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bachslunch
I've looked at Willard, Perkins, Foreman, Brown, and Little again in terms of where they finished in the top 10 in rushing yards during their careers. Reasonable? If not, would appreciate an explanation why not, as some kind of time period adjustment seems appropriate.
I don't know if I'd go as far as unreasonable, but no, this is not a good way to assess these players. For one thing, it looks like you counted top-10 in the pre-merger leagues as equal to top-10 in the much larger post-merger league. This makes Willard, whose best seasons came in the '60s, look better than the others, whose best seasons were in the '70s.

In 1965, Willard was 4th in the 14-team NFL, but 7th if you include all 22 major pro teams. In 1966, Willard was 5th in the 15-team NFL, 9th out of all 24 teams. In '68, Willard drops from 2nd to 3rd. Little drops a bit, too: 22nd rather than 9th in 1968, and 13th rather than 5th in '69 (though as you pointed out, he didn't play the whole season and actually led both leagues in yards/gm). New ranks:

Brown: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th
Foreman: 5th, 6th, 6th
Little: 1st, 4th, 9th
Willard: 3rd, 7th, 9th, 9th, 9th

I also think you have to look at more than just rushing yards. Since you're sympathetic to Foreman, I'm sure you can appreciate that factors like touchdowns and receiving should play a role in our assessment of these players. The real question is: how many seasons were these guys actually among the ten best RBs in the NFL? Since we seem to be focusing on stats for now, here are purely statistical ratings, from my preferred RB-ranking system, with no consideration of anything other than regular-season numbers:

Brown: 1969 (9), 1970 (3), 1972 (2)
Foreman: 1974 (4), 1975 (3), 1976 (2), 1977 (7)
Little: 1969 (8), 1971 (3), 1972 (9), 1973 (2)
Willard: 1968 (4)

Those ratings mostly mirror the rushing yardage ranks above, except that Foreman does better (because of his TDs and receiving), and Willard is worse. Why? Let's go year-by-year, though I'm going to omit 1968, because my ranking is basically the same as his yardage ranking. I don't want to drown you in numbers, but if you look these up and consider factors like rushing average, touchdowns, receiving, returning, and fumbles, I think you'll agree that these are pretty close to the mark and that Willard is behind most or all of the players listed.

1965: Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Timmy Brown, Paul Lowe, Clem Daniels, Bill Brown, Ode Burrell, Curtis McClinton, Matt Snell, Tommy Mason.
If you want to bump Willard ahead of Mason and sneak him into the top 10, I can go with that.

1966: Gale Sayers, Leroy Kelly, Jim Nance, Dan Reeves, Dick Bass, Clem Daniels, Ernie Green, Charley Taylor, Mike Garrett, Bobby Burnett.
Taylor switched to end in mid-season, but he had 87 carries that year (6.2/game), so I count him as a running back. If you don't, let's slide Don Perkins into 10th.

1970: Macarthur Lane, Ron Johnson, Larry Brown, Ed Podolak, Frenchy Fuqua, Mel Farr, Bo Scott, Larry Csonka, Donny Anderson, Les Josephson.
Willard averaged 3.3 yards per attempt.

1971: Larry Csonka, Steve Owens, Floyd Little, John Brockington, Duane Thomas, Leroy Kelly, Willie Ellison, Norm Bulaich, Vic Washington, Marv Hubbard.
I don't think this one is even close.

If you have substantial disagreements with any of those, I'd be interested to hear them. If not, then you can understand why I don't regard Willard as an elite back. His problems basically are this: he was not an efficient runner (poor avg/att), he had a fumble problem, and he didn't do anything else exceptional (TDs, receiving, returning). All he has are the rushing yards, and those are just okay, not really special.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bachslunch
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad O. View Post
I think 1973 was Little's best season. Whether you agree or prefer '71, Little's best season was much better than Willard's best (1968). Little's second-best season was light years better than Willard's second-best. Little's third-best was much better than Willard's. His fourth-best was better. Same thing for fifth- and sixth-best.
There is danger going this route. If indeed Little's best season was in 1971 and Willard's in 1968, there's three years difference. The top ten by numbers in rushing yardage for NFL1968, when Willard finished 2nd: 1239, 967, 947, 858, 856, 836, 813, 805, 761, 662. The top ten for NFL1971, when Little finished 1st: 1133, 1105, 1051, 1035, 1000, 948, 867, 865, 835, 811. The general leader terrain already looks very different between these two years, as the top 5 players in 1971 rushed for 1000 or more yards, while only one player did so in 1968 -- plus there are well over a hundred yards between the two at the 10th position. Am thinking there needs to be adjustment for year in some way, and things can shift a lot in a short time, as was seen with Foreman above.
The difference you found exists almost solely because you exclude the AFL. If you include it, they're basically equal:

1968: 1239, 1023, 967, 947, 866, 865, 858, 856, 848, 836 (avg 930.5)
1971: 1133, 1105, 1051, 1035, 1000, 948, 867, 865, 835, 811 (avg 965.0)


Also, running backs in 1968 tended to be a slightly larger part of the passing game than they were in '71. Era adjustments are appropriate, but there is effectively no difference between '68 and '71.

Little's six best seasons were 1968-73. Willard's were 1965-66 and 1968-71. There's some overlap here: 1968-71. Let's look at their combined totals for those seasons:

Little: 3622 yds, 4.24 avg, 1001 rec yds, 29 TD, 16 fmbl, 1055 KR yd (25.1), 518 PR yd (10.0, 1 TD)
Willard: 3168 yds, 3.73 avg, 1019 rec tds, 32 TD, 21 fmbl, no returning

That's not even close, is it?

Little has a 500-yard advantage, his avg/carry is half a yard better, and he was an elite returner. This doesn't even include 1973, which I think was his best season.

If you want to argue that Willard is comparable to Little, you need to argue that Willard was much better than his stats reflect, or Little much worse.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bachslunch
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Originally Posted by Brad O. View Post
What separates Perkins from someone like John L. Williams?
Actually plenty. Williams never once finished in the top ten in rushing any year he played. Perkins did every time out.
Well, okay. But John L. Williams was one of the best receiving RBs in history. It's absurd to judge him solely by his rushing.

Williams ranked in the top 10 in yards from scrimmage three times: 1988 (5th), 1990 (6th), and 1991 (10th).
Perkins ranked in the top 10 in yards from scrimmage once: 1961 (10th). Throughout his career, Perkins contributed very little as a receiver.

It's also worth noting that this figure, and the yardage rankings you used for Perkins, are in a league with 14-16 teams, and Williams played in a league twice as large, when top-10 was much more impressive. If you include the AFL, Perkins is not a consistent top-10 rusher and never made the top 10 in YFS.

I compared these players because both were consistently productive over a period of 8-9 seasons, with no really spectacular years, sometimes not even the lead RB on their own teams. Perkins did it almost exclusively as a rusher, and Williams with an almost even mix of rushing (5006 career yards, 18 TD) and receiving (4656 yards, 19 TD), but I don't see one being clearly better than the other.

Perkins and Williams had nice enough careers, but they aren't HOF candidates. Neither even deserves to be nominated, IMO. If you want players who might merit induction based on consistency without an obvious peak, I would point you toward someone like Ricky Watters, or even Tony Dorsett. Perkins and Williams were consistently above average; Watters and Dorsett were consistently great.
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:28 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Brad O. View Post
Fair enough. I'll just say this: if you oppose LeBeau strictly as a DB and disagree with a pretty obvious skirting of the Hall's by-laws regarding his candidacy as a coach, I can understand that and I'm not in total disagreement. If you don't think his coaching accomplishments merit induction, we can agree to disagree. But if you don't believe he invented the zone blitz, you're just wrong.

I suspect the first point is the relevant one here, and I'll certainly allow for a difference of opinion there. I respect your interest in the subject and your passion for getting the right people in.
Thanks for the respectful reply, much appreciated. Interestingly enough, if LeBeau's strongest claim to HoF membership is as an innovator or some form of combination candidate, there would have been a really easy and fair way to accomplish this. There's no reason LeBeau couldn't have been nominated in the contributor category, and given the charge among HoF voters to get him in, am guessing he'd have breezed into the modern finalist list and then gotten elected. Contributors can be elected into the HoF while they're active, too, so this would have been ideal.

In terms of being profoundly disgusted with the HoF process lately, for me LeBeau's just one of the more glaring of many examples over the last couple years.

Nominating Marshall Goldberg, Emmitt Thomas, Bob Hayes, Little, and LeBeau over the last three years as Seniors to me at least suggests this committee has precious little grasp of NFL history and a very strong "flavor of the month" aspect to it. For me, the best of these nominees was Claude Humphrey, who inexplicably (if perhaps typically) got voted down by the general committee. In particular, the rush to elect DBs with high lifetime INT totals and poor postseason honor profiles (Thomas, LeBeau) suggests that other DBs like Ken Riley, and (later on) Eugene Robinson and Dave Brown aren't far behind -- I don't think any of them belong in unless they also get the Johnny Robinsons, Jimmy Pattons, and Lemar Parrishes of the DB world in as well. But then again, how big a HoF does one want?

And with the "flavor of the month" mindset on the Seniors committee, am thinking we'll continue to see weak, trendy Hall-of-the-Very-Good sorts like Jim Marshall nominated and elected before better candidates get a sniff. No, Marshall's not football's version of Cal Ripken -- Ripken was both durable and great. Marshall is really football's version of Everett Scott, who was a durable and talented but not Hall-worthy baseball player. It's also all too easy to see the Little and Hayes nominations as glamor-position sops to whiny Broncos and Cowboys fans (meanwhile, the un-trendy Bronco and Cowboy LBs Randy Gradishar and Chuck Howley get nowhere). "Flavor of the month" is not for me what the HoF should be honoring.

It makes the (I think) astute recent elections of un-trendy worthies like Roger Wehrli and Andre Tippett look like accidents instead of smart decisions.

Have dutifully sent in candidate nomination list letters c/o Joe Horrigan to the Hall trying to at least get the folks I think merit consideration on the Prelim List. Last couple years, some reasonable and eligible candidates I've put forth (Mark Gastineau and Harold Jackson -- yes, the latter is still eligible as he was on the Patriots active 1987 replacement squad, though he didn't actually play) simply haven't shown up on these lists, and it's my understanding they're supposed to at this initial stage. Certainly makes one wonder if they even bothered to look at the letters sent in at all, and really makes you wonder why you waste your time.

Used to be the PFHoF at least was reasonably consistent in who got elected and left out, if consistently a little too stringent with some positions and containing a few baffling omissions (but then again so does every HoF). With the last few years senior votes and guys like Fred Dean getting in, that's changing too. And the opaque secrecy of the committee members' votes just makes things look all the more arbitrary, silly, even mean-spirited. Such secrecy apparently allowed Baltimore writer and HoF voter John Steadman to tank John Mackey's HoF candidacy for years until exposed by Mike Preston, another local writer. Mackey was finally elected in his last eligible year. Preston's blog post on the subject is here:

Ravens Insider: John Mackey - The inside scoop and analysis on the team from The Baltimore Sun's Ravens columnist and Ravens beat writer. - baltimoresun.com

I've seen mention that something similar has been afoot with Houston's HoF voting rep and Robert Brazile's candidacy or lack thereof. If I find this again, will re-post with a link.

Frankly, I'm about to the point where I think as highly of the PFHoF as I do the Hall-of-the-Very-Good Hockey Hall of Fame and the Jann Wenner eccentrically manipulated Rock and Roll Hall. Which is to say not at all. What a disaster.

Yeah, OK OK, rant over.

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Originally Posted by Brad O. View Post
Let's talk running backs.

(snips for space)

I don't want to drown you in numbers, but if you look these up and consider factors like rushing average, touchdowns, receiving, returning, and fumbles, I think you'll agree that these are pretty close to the mark and that Willard is behind most or all of the players listed.
Again, good arguments here and points taken.

Interestingly enough, it would be interesting to see how all these RB parameters are taken into account and balanced. Is there a formula akin to, say, the passing rating system at work here? Stats have some usefulness limitations when it comes to football (especially I think in relation to defensive stats), but am thinking there's more here that could be done. And it has been done marvelously well in terms of baseball (though to be fair, baseball lends itself especially well to this kind of regimentation -- football's a little messier in this regard). Though if so, maybe sports-central.org isn't the right forum for it -- a paper in an appropriate publication might be the best. Maybe via pfraforum or Football Outsiders, if nothing else.
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Old 10-17-2009, 06:43 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by bachslunch View Post
Nominating Marshall Goldberg, Emmitt Thomas, Bob Hayes, Little, and LeBeau over the last three years as Seniors to me at least suggests this committee has precious little grasp of NFL history and a very strong "flavor of the month" aspect to it. For me, the best of these nominees was Claude Humphrey, who inexplicably (if perhaps typically) got voted down by the general committee. In particular, the rush to elect DBs with high lifetime INT totals and poor postseason honor profiles (Thomas, LeBeau) suggests that other DBs like Ken Riley, and (later on) Eugene Robinson and Dave Brown aren't far behind -- I don't think any of them belong in unless they also get the Johnny Robinsons, Jimmy Pattons, and Lemar Parrishes of the DB world in as well. But then again, how big a HoF does one want?

And with the "flavor of the month" mindset on the Seniors committee, am thinking we'll continue to see weak, trendy Hall-of-the-Very-Good sorts like Jim Marshall nominated and elected before better candidates get a sniff. No, Marshall's not football's version of Cal Ripken -- Ripken was both durable and great. Marshall is really football's version of Everett Scott, who was a durable and talented but not Hall-worthy baseball player. It's also all too easy to see the Little and Hayes nominations as glamor-position sops to whiny Broncos and Cowboys fans (meanwhile, the un-trendy Bronco and Cowboy LBs Randy Gradishar and Chuck Howley get nowhere). "Flavor of the month" is not for me what the HoF should be honoring.
I agree with most of this. The Seniors committee has done a miserable job the last few seasons, though I actually liked last year's. I think Hayes and Humphrey were both deserving candidates. But both choices in '08 were awful (Goldberg has got to be one of the least deserving finalists in the history of the process, and Thomas is certainly less deserving than some of the other DBs you mentioned), and Charlie Sanders is a disgrace to the Hall. We've already discussed Little (and it sounds like we're mostly in agreement there) and LeBeau (I like your "contributor" suggestion).

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Originally Posted by bachslunch View Post
it would be interesting to see how all these RB parameters are taken into account and balanced. Is there a formula akin to, say, the passing rating system at work here? Stats have some usefulness limitations when it comes to football (especially I think in relation to defensive stats), but am thinking there's more here that could be done. And it has been done marvelously well in terms of baseball (though to be fair, baseball lends itself especially well to this kind of regimentation -- football's a little messier in this regard). Though if so, maybe sports-central.org isn't the right forum for it -- a paper in an appropriate publication might be the best. Maybe via pfraforum or Football Outsiders, if nothing else.
I do have a formula for evaluating RB statistics, and I assure you it is a much more useful and accurate tool than the NFL's passer rating formula. It accounts for both production and efficiency, and includes everything running backs do with any frequency. The system is not perfect, but I think it produces intuitive results. It is my hope that this system will one day be part of a book.
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Old 10-18-2009, 01:36 PM   #14
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I agree with most of this. The Seniors committee has done a miserable job the last few seasons, though I actually liked last year's. I think Hayes and Humphrey were both deserving candidates. But both choices in '08 were awful (Goldberg has got to be one of the least deserving finalists in the history of the process, and Thomas is certainly less deserving than some of the other DBs you mentioned), and Charlie Sanders is a disgrace to the Hall. We've already discussed Little (and it sounds like we're mostly in agreement there) and LeBeau (I like your "contributor" suggestion).
Of the five nominees I was less taken with (Hayes, Goldberg, Thomas, LeBeau, Little), Hayes strikes me as the most deserving. I can see a case for him, but the more I looked, the more questions I had.

Case for:

1. he had 3 no-brainer HoF-level seasons as a WR (1965-1967) and three others that were varying levels of very good (1968, 1970-1971).

2. his "first team all pro/pro bowl" numbers are 2/3, not exactly earth-shattering, but not unreasonable either for a WR.

3. he was a very good punt returner, in fact excellent for three of the six years he did so on a consistent basis.

Case against:

1. his career is not especially lengthy (11 years, with two of them injury shortened). And nearly half of these eleven years look to be at average or below level performance. Thus his case is entirely peak-based, not longevity based -- and unfortunately, his peak is short.

2. his short career and weaker years keep his career counting numbers relatively low.

3. he rarely played well in the postseason. He only had two big games (the initial conference games in 1967 and 1968) in 12 appearances, otherwise being pretty much neutralized in the other ten. And during the Ice Bowl game against Green Bay, Hayes kept his hands in his pockets while lining up on running plays and out of his pockets while lining up on passing plays the entire day, which apparently helped tip off the type of play to Green Bay, giving them an advantage and likely contributing to Dallas's loss there.

4. he's not on the '60s all-decade team, while non-HoF receivers like Gary Collins, Del Shofner, and Boyd Dowler are.

Any claims that Hayes was the first to bring speed to the WR position are incorrect (receivers such as Harlon Hill and Ray Renfro were considered speedy WRs to reckon with in the '50s, and '60s star Paul Warfield was a 9.6 sprinter). And the zone defense was not created to stop Hayes. Steve Owen is generally credited with inventing both the umbrella and zone defenses in the early 1950s, created specifically to stop Paul Brown and Cleveland.

One further criticism of Hayes is that he didn't compensate well once teams figured out how to stop him, that he didn't have the best hands and wasn't especially imaginative running patterns, two things that would have elevated his game and made him a truly great WR. The result was a drop-off in production.

So what one had with Hayes was an on-the-bubble case that could have leaned either way, depending on how one sees it. In some ways, I'm glad he was nominated, as it finally settled his case for good, and he's not the worst player in the HoF. But he's not an elite-level player either, and I can see why his HoF candidacy failed in 2004 -- plus I'm really hard pressed to see why Hayes was voted in and fellow Senior nominee Claude Humphrey was not (this for me only reinforces the HoF committee's recent "flavor of the month" leanings and general lack of knowledge). Am also hoping Hayes's election will bode well for other likely deserving high-peak-short-career players in future (Sterling Sharpe, Tony Boselli, Mac Speedie, and Dick Stanfel, for four), but am having doubts about this, as voters haven't generally been kind to such candidates (Speedie, Stanfel).

Another concern here is that there are several worthy WRs not in from the 50s and 60s with good HoF cases, including Speedie, Shofner, Billy Howton, Billy Wilson, and Lionel Taylor. And one can argue that WRs in general seem to be held to a stricter standard than other skill positions.

I'm lukewarm at best on Charlie Sanders as well, if maybe not at vehement level. He was arguably the best TE of this time not in the HoF at his election, though one can argue that having a full career overlap with Jackie Smith and a partial overlap with Mike Ditka and John Mackey (all of whom would seem to be better HoF choices at this position) makes one wonder what the big urgency was to get Sanders in. It can also be seen as lowering the HoF bar for the position -- why Sanders and not, for example and as of yet, Todd Christensen, Ben Coates, Pete Retzlaff, Mark Bavaro, Keith Jackson, Fred Arbanas, Riley Odoms, Jerry Smith, Ron Kramer, Brent Jones, Bob Tucker, Bob Trumpy, or Russ Francis? Good question. Brad, do you have an adjusted numbers argument for TEs like you do for RBs? Also, how was Sanders's reputation as a blocker (was under the impression he was pretty good in this regard)? I'd also likely be a lot less happy about Sanders if he had gotten elected and fellow Senior nominee that year Gene Hickerson had been denied.

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I do have a formula for evaluating RB statistics, and I assure you it is a much more useful and accurate tool than the NFL's passer rating formula. It accounts for both production and efficiency, and includes everything running backs do with any frequency. The system is not perfect, but I think it produces intuitive results. It is my hope that this system will one day be part of a book.
Glad to hear it. Am thinking football needs more of this kind of thing.
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Old 01-30-2010, 03:10 PM   #15
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There's been a really good and well researched series of articles at pro-football-reference.com dealing with the various nominees, over in the blog section. I found them all most interesting. The last article is on Floyd Little, and there are links to the other candidates from there -- the Little article is at:

Pro-football-reference.com blog Blog Archive HOF 2010: Floyd Little
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