Former Washington running back Larry Brown isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, he’s never been a finalist or semifinalist.
But Brown, who for four seasons was arguably the best running back in the game, wonders if his candidacy might be affected — no, may be strengthened — by the 2017 Hall-of-Fame induction of former Denver star Terrell Davis.
Like Brown, Davis excelled for four seasons. Like Brown he was an NFL MVP. Like Brown, he was an NFL rushing leader. Like Brown, he led his team to the Super Bowl. In fact, he led the Broncos to two, with Denver winning both. And, like Brown, his career was cut short by injuries.
But Terrell Davis is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame … or will be soon. Larry Brown is not. So he understandably was quick to cite Davis when we asked on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast if his exclusion from Canton bothers him.
“It bothers me a little bit now because when I retired I was told that I didn’t play long enough,” he said. “And I said, ‘But I used to think all I had to do was make a significant contribution to the game.’ In retrospect, I think I did that.
“But with Terrell Davis being inducted this year, hopefully, things will change because we have very similar stats, and both of our careers were cut short because of injuries.”
He’s right about the injuries. Davis’ career effectively ended when he tore ligaments trying to make a tackle following an interception. Brown’s career was shortened by numerous injuries brought on by the heavy workload he carried in Washington.
And while Davis was a more effective runner — he gained 7,607 yards, including a career-high 2,008 in 1998, and scored 65 times — Brown was a more effective receiver. He had 238 catches for 2,485 yards and 20 scores to go with his 5,875 rushing yards and 35 TDs.
Bottom line: Brown is right. Their numbers are similar. Davis had 8,887 total yards and 65 TDs. Brown had 8,360 yards and 55 scores.
So can Davis’ Hall-of-Fame induction help? It can’t hurt.
Look, prior to Davis’ election, longevity was supposed to matter to Hall-of-Fame selectors. But his entry to Canton means voters are more flexible than they have been in the past — something Brown agrees with.
“But I could be biased,” he said. “I think it should be based on your contribution to the game. If you made a significant contribution to the game, then you should be considered.”
Brown did make a significant contribution. In fact, when the Miami Dolphins produced their perfect season in 1972 — the only perfect year in the Super Bowl era — it wasn’t a Dolphin that was chosen as league MVP. It was Larry Brown.
Yet he was all but forgotten by league voters after his retirement following the 1976 season. Nevertheless, Brown is hoping the election of Terrell Davis can … and will … cause voters to re-examine his candidacy — even though he understands that the years and odds are against him.
“I realize that the internet has forced a lot of sportswriters to change jobs or retire,” he said. “And I would imagine at some point and time, if not now, you’re going to have a lot of members of the voting committee … or senior committee … who have never seen me play.”