State Your Case: Why Steve Hutchinson belongs in Canton

Steve Hutchinson photo by Minnesota Vikings/Amos-Smith)

According to Pro Football Reference, there are only 12 modern-era offensive linemen named first-team All-Pro five times. Nine of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The other three are Cleveland’s Joe Thomas, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson.

Faneca is a two-time finalist for the Hall and will make it some day … hopefully, sooner rather than later. But Hutchinson is one of 27 semifinalists (including Faneca) for the Hall’s Class of 2018, and he’s there in his first year of eligibility.

That’s the good news. The bad is that he gets in line behind Faneca at a position that, historically, demands patience from its candidates.

I’m talking about guard, where Will Shields — a 12-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro — waited four years before Canton opened the doors to him and where former Lions’ great Dick Stanfel — the team’s MVP in its 1953 championship season — had to have his case brought back three times by the senior committee before the board voted him in.

Don’t ask me why. Voters just seem to have trouble warming up to guards.

Yet Hutchinson was one of the best to play the position, and that’s a pretty good place to start when pushing a Hall-of-Fame candidate. He was a seven-time All-Pro, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a first-team selection on the all-decade team of the 2000s. What he wasn’t was a Super Bowl champion, though he appeared in Super Bowl XL as the starting left guard for Seattle.

Those were the days when he was paired with Hall-of-Fame tackle Walter Jones in one of the best left sides of any offensive line anywhere. And those were the days when Shaun Alexander produced five consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons — including a league-best 1,880 yards in 2005 — and 87 touchdowns in five years, including what was then an NFL-record 27 rushing touchdowns in 2005.

That was the year Alexander was the league MVP, and the Seahawks won the NFC championship.

A year later, Hutchinson was gone– having left as a free agent for Minnesota — and so was Alexander’s productivity. He never again ran for 1,000 yards and, with Hutchinson missing, scored only 12 times (11 rushing) in three injury-plagued seasons.

Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe not. All I know is that Steve Hutchinson was around for Shaun Alexander’s best years, and he was around for almost all of Adrian Peterson’s best seasons in Minnesota. Plus, the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl when he was there, and the Vikings were one Brett Favre interception from going when he was there, too.

Steve Hutchinson was so accomplished he was signed to what was then the biggest contract ever for an NFL guard. He was decorated, with as many All-Pro nominations as Shields. He was durable, going seven straight seasons without missing a start. And he was clean, once going 44 consecutive games without have a penalty called on him accepted.

“I see him as a Hall of Famer,” said NFL historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal. “His All-Pros put him in the upper half of the ‘honors test,’ and as far as run blocking he was at the top.”

I see him as a Hall of Famer, too. I just don’t know when. I suspect it will be after Faneca, but that begs the question: When is he enshrined? He hasn’t been a Top-10 choice in his two years as a finalist. Yet Faneca and Hutchinson were the first-team all-decade choices for the 2000s. Larry Allen and Shields were the second-teamers, and both are in the Hall.

Alan Faneca is Canton worthy. So is Steve Hutchinson. Let’s not wait years before putting both these guys in the Hall.

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  1. Rasputin
    December 5, 2017

    Seattle was also robbed of victory by bad officiating in that Super Bowl. One official even apologized to the team for it a few years later, admitting he had “kicked” some big calls.

    I suspect he’ll eventually get in. Guys with 5 first team NFL All Pro selections virtually always get in…….unless they’re named Chuck Howley.

    • David O'Brien
      December 5, 2017

      “Robbed?” Maybe the Seahawks should have kept Willie Parker from going 75 yards for a touchdown or not let Hines Ward get behind them to catch that 43-yard touchdown pass. Or maybe it’s problematic for you to know that the Steelers will always have more Super Bowl trophies than the Cowboys. As it should always be.

      As for Chuck Howley, the Steelers–and many other teams–have simply produced greater linebackers than Howley. Dallas has never had a single linebacker make the Hall and with good reason. They weren’t game-changers like Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Kevin Greene. or even Greg Lloyd. Greene, Lloyd, and the rest of the city of Pittsburgh were “robbed” in a Super Bowl, too. By Neil O’Donnell.

      • Rasputin
        December 5, 2017

        Howley being named MVP in one Super Bowl and considered for that honor again in another after accounting for multiple turnovers underscores how much your claim is the opposite of the truth. Plus the Cowboys did have more SB trophies until the Steelers’ “wins” in the 2000s. Those things go back and forth.

        More interesting that your hysterical Pittsburgh homerism is this confession from the official himself that I mentioned above. From Pro Football Talk NBC Sports:

        “A trip to Seahawks camp on Friday gave referee Bill Leavy a chance to get something off his chest that he’s probably wanted to say for a while.

        “It was a tough thing for me,” Levy said in reference to his infamous performance in Pittsburgh’s 21-10 win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. “I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I’ll go to my grave wishing that I’d been better.”

        (It’s right about here Seahawks fans say: Only two? The Darrell Jackson pass interference in the first quarter and the upheld Ben Roethlisberger touchdown late in the first half also looked questionable.)

        “I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn’t good enough,” Leavy continued. “When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them. It’s something that all officials have to deal with, but unfortunately when you have to deal with it in the Super Bowl it’s difficult.”

        That’s some refreshing honesty at least. I haven’t seen any guys from some horrendously officiated 1970s Super Bowls ever publicly offer regret like that. Without some really “kicked” calls Dallas would have 7 Super Bowl trophies now.

      • bachslunch
        January 11, 2018

        How many “non game changers” are named first team all pros five times? I can’t think of any.

        Besides, whether Ham, Lambert, Greene, or Lloyd (not sold on this last, for sure, and maybe not Greene either) are better or not, it still doesn’t make Chuck Howley any less HoF deserving. By the standards already established for the position, he should have been elected long ago.

  2. bachslunch
    December 5, 2017

    No question that Steve Hutchinson (6/7/00s) is a deserving HOFer, and will get elected eventually. Clark, well written argument as always — and you’re right that he’ll be second in the pecking order behind Alan Faneca (6/9/00s) for guards. And you’re also right that the position doesn’t historically get a lot of voter respect unless you’re John Hannah, Gene Upshaw, Bruce Matthews, or Larry Allen. Besides Faneca, Shields, and Stanfel, add Randall McDaniel, Tom Mack, Billy Shaw, Stan Jones, Gene Hickerson, and Joe DeLamielleure to the “waited longer than they should have” list, and am hopeful we’ll soon be able to say the same about Jerry Kramer.

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