Bryant Young: Hall-of-Fame snub “makes you wonder”

Former San Francisco defensive tackle Bryant Young is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and fair enough. He’s only been eligible five years. But he’s never been a semifinalist for Canton, which means he’s never made the cut to 25 in any of those five years.

And that’s hard to fathom.

He was a four-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler, an all-decade choice and the 1999 Comeback Player of the Year after he returned from a career threatening leg injury. Furthermore, he’s an eight-time winner of the 49ers’ prestigious Len Eshmont award, given to the player who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of the former 49er,  and I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, well, so what?

Well, so no other 49er won it more than twice. Not Joe Montana or Jerry Rice or Steve Young or Ronnie Lott or Hugh McElhenny. Nobody. But Bryant Young did. And he won it the last four years of his career.

I pushed his candidacy last week in our State Your Case segment. Then we had the reserved and gracious Young, now the defensive line coach for Atlanta, on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast and asked him to do what he doesn’t like to do — namely, speak up for himself and make a Hall-of-Fame case for his career.

He was reluctant … but he complied.

“The numbers over the year are definitely a huge consideration,” he said. “And the impact on the game and the organization. Also, ask the teammates — the guys I played with — the impact and the importance of the job I that I was able to do that helped them in a manner. Then, also, you poll and ask those that I played against … and what they thought … (of me) as a player.

“So, just in terms of playing the game and the intensity and being able to affect the game from start to finish … I think that’s something that you really have to take into consideration. And certainly your opponents … those are the ones that can tell you the most telling stories in terms of the type of player and what he brought to the game and how he affected the game.

“So, for me, I may not have gotten the number of Pro Bowls that I deserved … I think I may have been slighted at times because I am such a selfless person, and I’m not going to be the one to jump out at you at times … but certainly I think you have to give credit where credit is due — in terms of just the impact and the importance of how one has represented the league and the organization and the type of player that I was.”

Young does have the numbers. He had more tackles and tackles for losses than Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp, and he had only seven fewer career sacks (96.5-89.5). Like Sapp, he starred on a Super Bowl winner, but, unlike Sapp, he’s not in the Hall. Sapp went in as a first-ballot choice. But Young? He can’t even get into the room for discussion.

“It’s a bit baffling,” said Young, “when you look at the numbers and the span of my career it makes you wonder. And all the things that you consider in terms of character and representation of the game … and just the impact you make on the team and the organization. I think it deserves to be talked about.”

Previous State Your Case: Bobby Boyd
Next State Your Case: Art Powell had a HOF career and a HOF life


  1. August 28, 2017

    The only case against Bryant Young is that he was never a “top 5 defensive lineman” in the league. He was an absolutely amazing player but he is also a Hall Of Very Good player with a few great years that disappeared in the playoffs (3 sacks in 11 games, no sacks in 9 playoff games).

    Yes Bryant was snubbed on pro bowls in 98 and 2000..but also made two undeserved pro bowls in 01 and 02 so those cancel out.

    Pretty much it comes down to Bryant not really being a Hall of Famer. I’d love Prime Bryant on my team, and would pick him over a HOFer like Sapp for various reasons such as durability and attitude, he is not the dynamic game changing player that belongs in the Hall.

    The unmentioned fact in the Sapp Bryant stat comparison is that Bryant played in 20 more games than Sapp did. Sapp dominated at the same time, while Bryant was just…very very good. Not a huge gap between levels, but Sapp is your Private Reserve level DT, while Bryant is your Top Shelf. Being Top Shelf is still great, but it isn’t Private Reserve.

  2. August 28, 2017

    Its called east coast bias. Look how long it took for Haley to make it. You have DL with less sacks & no SB rings make it. After two SB wins dumb 49ers traded Haley to Dallas. That deal sealed 3 SBs for Dallas. Where is Roger Craig when TD & LT make. How many playoffs games was Roger in. Look at his career performances as well as his SB performances. No one said the HOF was fair.

    • bachslunch
      August 31, 2017

      I’ve seen several allegations of “East Coast” and similar supposed biases regarding various players and the HoF, and haven’t yet found good evidence for it. The other three DTs on the 90s all decade team sailed in with minimal difficulty: John Randle (6/7/90s), Cortez Kennedy (3/8/90s), and Warren Sapp (4/7/90s00s), but only Sapp could conceivably be considered “East Coast” based — and that’s stretching it a little unless you consider the Gulf of Mexico “East Coast” — plus he spent his last four years as a Raider, which would be “West Coast.” Kennedy would also be “West Coast” (as would Young), and Randle would be…um…I don’t know, “Mississippi River Coast?” It all gets kind of silly the more one looks at it.

      There’s a bit of a gulf between the postseason honors numbers for Young (2/4/90s) and the others, which is a more likely explanation.

  3. MosesZD
    August 28, 2017

    It’s because BY didn’t have a BIG FAT MOUTH. Nor was he part of the hype train. There are guys in the HOF that don’t deserve to be there. But they had big mouths and the hype train, and there they are…

    • bachslunch
      August 31, 2017

      What’s this “hype train,” and who’s on it? Just curious.

  4. bachslunch
    August 31, 2017

    It’s not surprising to me that Bryant Young has found his HoF election path slow going so far. His postseason honors are relatively meager (2/4/90s), nearly identical to Joe Klecko (2/4/none), who dropped into the Senior pool — though I wouldn’t complain if Young got elected. My guess is that he falls in the Senior pool or maybe gets lucky and makes it in near the end of his eligibility. That all decade team membership may be just enough to do it. We’ll see. He does have plenty of eligibility left, at least.

    Besides, there are plenty of other fine DTs who might be wondering the same thing, such as Ray Childress (3/5/none), Michael Dean Perry (5/6/none), and Fred Smerlas (3/5/none). Smerlas just dropped into the Senior pool last year, while Childress and Perry have 3 and 4 more chances respectively before it happens to them as well. Tough competition, I’m afraid.

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