(Kent Hull photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)
(Joe Jacoby photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)
Talk of Fame Network
Sports in general — and football in particular — have become so stats-driven. How many yards, how many touchdowns, how many sacks and how many interceptions matter when one starts analyzing a player’s greatness.
Which brings us to offensive linemen, who have no stats. Team stats, yes, but individual stats, no. So there is no single barometer that can tell us why one blocker was better than another or why one offensive lineman belongs in the Hall of Fame while another does not.
There are 27 offensive tackles, 19 guards and a dozen centers in Canton. An argument can be made that there should be more.
That’s the question this week in our Talk of Fame Network poll – who’s the best offensive lineman not enshrined in the Hall of Fame? We’ve put together a slate that includes a player on the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, a couple all-decade selections and others who went to eight and nine Pro Bowlers. Here are your six options:
Ed Budde. Two guards were selected to the all-time All-AFL team, Budde and Billy Shaw. Shaw was enshrined in Canton as a senior candidate, but Budde has never been discussed as a finalist. Budde was the fourth overall pick of the 1963 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles but elected to sign with the AFL Chiefs, who also made him a first-round pick. Budde became a walk-in starter on Kansas City teams that would win three AFL titles and a Super Bowl. He was selected for seven AFL All-Star Games and two Pro Bowls.
(Ed Budde photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)
Winston Hill. Another overlooked blocker from the AFL era, Hill also arrived in the 1963 draft and played 15 seasons with the New York Jets. Protecting Joe Namath’s blind side at left tackle, Hill, who died this week at the age of 74, was selected for three AFL All-Star Games and five Pro Bowls. He started 174 consecutive games for the Jets at one point, and his blocking was instrumental in New York’s the Super Bowl III upset of the Baltimore Colts. The Jets rushed for 142 yards that day against the NFL’s best defense.
(Winston Hill photo courtesy of the New York Jets)
Kent Hull. A three-time Pro Bowl center, the only blemish on Hull’s resume is the absence of a championship ring. He started on Buffalo teams that went to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990s, but the Bills didn’t win any of them. Hull began his career in the USFL, blocking for Herschel Walker with the New Jersey Generals, before joining the Bills and starting for 11 consecutive seasons. Walker set a pro football rushing record with 2,411 yards for the Generals in 1985, and Jim Kelly won an NFL passing title for the Bills in 1990. Hull blocked for both Walker and Kelly those seasons.
Joe Jacoby. Championship rings are no problem for Jacoby. He has three of them from his career with the Washington Redskins. Undrafted out of Louisville in 1981, Jacoby became a walk-in starter and a mainstay of the “Hogs” blocking front. He played on four Super Bowl teams – the first three at left tackle and the final one (1991) at right tackle. Jacoby became the prototype for the modern-era left tackle with his basketball body (6-7, 295 pounds). He spent his career blocking the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White and Bruce Smith and was named to the 1980s’ NFL all-decade team for his efforts.
Jerry Kramer. Figure this one out – the Hall of Fame selection committee named Kramer the best guard of the NFL’s first half-century, yet he remains on the outside looking in at Canton. He has been a Hall-of-Fame finalist 10 times but was passed over each time. Kramer played 10 seasons with the Vince Lombardi-era Packers, helping Green Bay win five championships. He went to three Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL’s 1960’s all-decade team. Kramer served as Green Bay’s placekicker in 1962-63, scoring 156 points, and also threw the key block that won the Ice Bowl in 1967.
(Jerry Kramer photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
Bob Kuechenberg. Like Kramer, Keuchenberg has had his chances in the room. He’s been an eight-time Hall-of-Fame finalist without ever surviving the process for that gold jacket. Center Jim Langer and guards Keuchenberg and Larry Little formed the hub of one of the greatest rushing attacks of all-time at Miami – a ground game that delivered the Dolphins back-to-back Lombardi Trophies in 1972-73 and the NFL’s only perfect season in 1972. How dominant was that rushing attack? Bob Griese threw only seven passes in one of the Super Bowl victories. Kuechenberg went to as many Pro Bowls (six) as Langer and more than Little — yet Langer and Little are both in the Hall of Fame and Kooch is not.
(Bob Kuechenberg photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)