The Talk of Fame Network visits this week with two of the most underrated Hall of Fame contenders in recent memory, 2017 preliminary list candidates Eric Allen and Mark Bavaro, as well as catching up with Carlton Williamson, who is 1981 was one of three rookie defensive backs who started in the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl secondary.
Allen is one of three players in NFL history with 54 career interceptions but the only one not in the Hall of Fame. That number was good enough to make Willie Brown and Darrell Green first-ballot inductees but Allen is in his 12th year of eligibility and has never even been a finalist!
“The first couple of years (of eligibility) I was hurt and frustrated but you get older,’’ Allen joked. “I got four sons. I’m more concerned about getting four Comic-Con tickets!’’
Allen said one of his role models was Everson Walls, who led the NFL in interceptions three times yet also has never made the Hall. The sting of not yet having reached Canton has been mitigated some when he realizes Walls is also not there either.
“There’s no way I would have thought years later he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame’’ Allen said of Walls. “But I don’t look at him any differently that he isn’t.’’
Allen said although he made six Pro Bowls, is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame and had all those picks, the thing he’s most proud of is that in his 14th and final season he was the same thing he was in his rookie season – a starting cornerback in the NFL.
“(Eagles’ head coach Buddy) Ryan told me, ‘you’re our starting right corner,’’ Allen recalled of his rookie season in Philadelphia. “I’m 20 years old. Fourteen years later I left as a starter. Those things are important to me.’’
The induction of Terrell Davis last August despite a career severely shortened by knee injuries has opened the door for conversations about other players who shown brightly for a few years before injuries cut them down. Mark Bavaro was such a player.
Bavaro became the Giants’ starting tight end as a rookie in 1985 and was an All-Pro selection in 1986 and 1987, catching 66 passes for 1,001 yards in 1986 at a time when the tight-end position was more about blocking than receiving. Then 49ers’ head coach Bill Walsh once called Bavaro “the premier tight end in pro football’’ and watched in awe when it took seven Niners to bring him down on a Monday Night on a play where he literally carried future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott 20 yards on his back.
A degenerative knee injury began to gnaw at Bavaro, but despite it he continued to play, winning two Super Bowls with the Giants and making two key third down conversion catches in the 20-19 Super Bowl XXV win over the Buffalo Bills. The following July the Giants released him because of his knee but after a year off, Bavaro came back to play three more seasons. Is that enough production to make him Hall of Fame worthy?
“Every year, as time goes by, I care less and less,’’ the 53-year-old Bavaro said. “I don’t even consider the tight end position (today) tight end as I knew it. It’s evolved into a big-target receiving position…If you’re not catching passes in today’s game as a receiver…there’s really not much else to do.”
Bavaro says he considers only three Hall of Famers “true tight ends.” Tune in on our free podcast on iTunes, by using the TuneIn app or listening on SB Nation radio. You can also find this and all our shows and prior interviews on our website at talkoffamenetwork.com.
Carlton Williamson dropped by as well to relate what it was like to be one of three rookie starters (alongside Lott and cornerback Eric Wright) in a secondary that ended up in the Super Bowl on a team destined to become the most dominate team of the 1980s.
“We were under the radar,’’ Williamson said of Joe Montana’s first Super Bowl team. “We were taught to play the receiver not the ball. We knew (practicing against Montana) the ball would be there. We had a competitive practice every day.’’
Williamson competed well enough to intercept four passes from his strong safety position his rookie season and would later make two Pro Bowls during an eight-year career in which he also earned two other Super Bowl rings.
The loss of Aaron Rodgers was the story of the week so Talk of Fame visited with long-time Packers beat reporter Pete Dougherty to talk about the short-term future and how Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy will approach the rest of the season without his team’s biggest weapon. Can the Packers find a way to remain a playoff contender without Aaron Rodgers pulling the trigger at quarterback? Pete knows the answer.
Co-hosts Ron Borges and Rick Gosselin debate the Hall of Fame credentials of Eli Manning and Luke Kuechly. Manning is 37 and a two-time Super Bowl winner but is a guy who has never led the NFL in any passing category but interceptions truly Hall of Fame worthy?
And what of Kuechly, who suffered his third concussion of his career last week and may be looking at a shortened career. After Terrell Davis’ election, can a guy who has been named All-Pro each of his four seasons in the league, has more tackles than anyone in the game during his time in the league and who was the youngest player ever named Defensive Player of the Year be denied admittance to Canton if his career comes to a premature end?
The guys debate that and a string of other issues, including whether former AFL MVP Cookie Gilchrist has been unfairly ignored by the Hall and why home field advantage isn’t what it used to be. You can hear it all on Talk of Fame Network each Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on SB Nation or by downloading the podcast or visiting our website.