The list of senior candidates is endless, which is why we have dubbed it the “abyss.”
This is the fourth in our series of Talk of Fame Network polls highlighting worthy candidates for the one senior nomination in the Class of 2019. This week we offer up a couple of past NFL MVPs, all-decade performers, Super Bowl heroes and a record-setting cornerback. Of this slate, who would be the most deserving senior candidate for the Class of 2019? Here are your options:
John Brodie. The NFL MVP in 1970. Brodie played 17 seasons all with the same team, the San Francisco 49ers, and when he retired after the 1973 season he ranked third all-time in passing yards behind only Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton. Brodie led the NFL in passing in 1970 on his way to MVP honors in the first year of the merged AFL-NFL, winning the honor over Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Namath, Tarkenton and Unitas. With that caliber of annual competition, it’s understandable why Brodie only went to two Pro Bowls. Brodie took the 49ers to the NFC title game in both 1970 and 1971 but lost to the Cowboys both times. He led the NFL in passing yards in 19675, 1968 and 1970 and led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1965 (career-best 30) and 1968 (21). Brodie has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Larry Brown. The NFL MVP in 1972. The election of Terrell Davis to the Hall of Fame has opened the door to other elite backs with smaller windows of greatness. Brown played eight seasons with the Washington Redskins and went to the Pro Bowl in half of them. He led the NFL in rushing in 1970 with 1,125 yards, becoming the first Redskin to win a rushing crown in 32 years. Then Brown rushed for a career-best 1,216 yards in 1972 to power the Redskins to an NFC championship. Brown lacked size at 5-11, 195 pounds so his body took a beating over his first four season – a window that he led the NFL in total yards – and became more of a weapon in the receiving game in his final three seasons. He retired at 29 with 5,875 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns and 238 receptions and 20 more scores. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Todd Christensen. The 1980s represented a coming of age for NFL tight ends as offensive weapons. Mark Bavaro, Ozzie Newsome, Joe Senser, Kellen Winslow and Joe Senser all put up 1,000-yard seasons that decade. But few put the numbers up that Christensen did for the Raiders. Kellen Winslow led the NFL in receptions twice that decade. So did Christensen. Winslow posted three 1,000-yard seasons in the 1980s. So did Christensen. Winslow went to five Pro Bowls in the 1980s. So did Christensen. Winslow is now in the Hall of Fame. Christensen is not. In fact, Christensen has never even been a finalist. Christensen led the NFL with 92 receptions in 1983, helping the Raiders win a Super Bowl that season. He also led the NFL with 95 catches in 1986.
Roger Craig. A 1980s NFL all-decade selection at running back. The San Francisco 49ers were the team of the 1980s decade, reaching five NFC title games and winning four Super Bowls. But there are only five 49ers enshrined from that decade – Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Fred Dean, Charles Haley and Ronnie Lott. The 49ers believe Craig should be wearing a gold jacket as well. He spent his first five seasons with the 49ers as a fullback whose primary responsibility was catching passes. Craig led the NFL with 92 receptions in 1985 and added 81 more in 1986. He became the first player in NFL history to post 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in a single season in 1985. He moved over to halfback in 1988 and rushed for a career-best 1,502 yards and nine touchdowns as San Francisco’s primary ball carrier. He led the NFL with 2,036 total yards that season. He followed that up with a 1,054-yard rushing season in 1989 as the 49ers won back-to-back Super Bowls. He has been a Hall of Fame finalist once (2010).
Chuck Foreman. Like Brown, Foreman had a smaller window of brilliance, playing only eight seasons. The first seven were with the Vikings and he went to the Pro Bowl in five of them. He rushed for 1,000 yards in three of the seasons and also led the NFL with 73 receptions in 1975. That season he scored 21 touchdowns – 13 on the ground and nine more through the air. He played a final season with the Patriots in 1980 but was a bit player, touching the ball only 37 times. So his Hall of Fame resume is based on those seven season with the Vikings as a key offensive element on a team that played in three Super Bowls. He rushed for 5,950 yards and 53 touchdowns and caught 350 passes for 3,156 yards and 23 more scores. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Bill Fralic. A 1990s NFL all-decade selection at guard. The second overall pick of the 1985 draft behind Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, Fralic became a walk-in starter at guard for the Atlanta Falcons and his blocking helped pave the way for a 1,719-yard rushing season by Gerald Riggs. That earned Fralic a spot on the NFL all-rookie team. He was voted first-team all-pro in 1986 and went to the first of his four consecutive Pro Bowls. He blocked for three different 1,000-yard rushers in his career, including John Settle, who in 1989 became the first undrafted rookie free agent ever to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Fralic has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Joe Jacoby. A 1980s NFL all-decade selection at offensive tackle. An undrafted college free agent, Jacoby was a walk-in starter at left tackle and became a fixture on one of the most recognizable offensive lines in NFL history, the Hogs of the Washington Redskins. Jacoby’s blocking helped the Redskins win three Super Bowls. He played left tackle in the first two and right tackle in the third and final Super Bowl in 1991. The counter trey was the signature play of the Joe Gibbs’ championship era and Jacoby was a key element, pulling from his left tackle position to make a lead block on the right side of the line. Jacoby has been a three-time Hall of Fame finalist.
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. Member of the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. In fact, Johnson is the only member of that 49-player anniversary team not enshrined in Canton. Johnson also is the only player eligible for Canton who was named to two all-decade teams (the 1970s and 1980s) but still does not have a Hall of Fame bust. Taylor averaged 23.9 yards with his 123 career kickoff returns for two touchdowns and 11.8 yards with his 143 career punt returns for six touchdowns. Twice he led the NFL in punt returns with averages of 15.3 yards in 1975 and 15.4 yards in 1977. He also caught 337 career passes, scoring 25 touchdowns, and also rushed for two more scores. Johnson went to three Pro Bowls. But he has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Otis Taylor. For a two-year window, Otis Taylor was the best wide receiver in all of football. He was a physical specimen in the AFL with the Kansas City Chiefs – a 6-3, 215-pound wideout with 4.4 speed. But that was in the fledgling and supposedly inferior AFL. He averaged a league-best 22.4 yards per reception in 1966 and led the AFL with 11 TD receptions in 1967. When the two leagues merged, Taylor was even better. Now playing against the top-shelf NFL cornerbacks, Taylor went to his first two Pro Bowls in 1971-72, was a two-time first-team all-pro and the only receiver in the NFL with 1,000 yards in receptions in 1971. He also produced the game-breaking moment in the final game ever played by an AFL team, catching a 46-yard touchdown pass in a 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Taylor played 11 seasons, caught 410 passes and averaged 17.8 yards per catch. He’s never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Everson Walls. An undrafted college free agent from Grambling, Walls rose from his humble beginnings to play 13 seasons in the NFL and intercept 57 passes. Only 12 players in league history intercepted more passes, including only five pure cornerbacks. He started games at corner in all 13 of his seasons and three times led the NFL in interceptions. He became a starter five games into his rookie season with the Cowboys in 1980 and wound up leading the league with 11 interceptions. He led the league again with seven in the strike-shortened 1982 season and again with nine in 1985. Walls remains the only cornerback to lead the NFL in interceptions three times. He also won a Super Bowl with the Giants. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.