Former tight end Raymond Chester isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he could be. And maybe he should be.
He was a pass catcher in an era when most tight ends were viewed as third tackles. A star with the Oakland Raiders, he was the league’s Rookie of the Year. He was a four-time Pro Bowler. He was a Super Bowl champion. He was the USFL’s 1983 Man of the Year, and last month he was named to the Black College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.
But what the former Morgan State star is not is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and while he has spoken on his behalf before, he took advantage of an appearance on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast not to argue for himself … but for others who aren’t enshrined in Canton.
“Who I am would not allow me to sit up and petition for myself?” Chester said when asked what he would tall Hall-of-Fame voters. “So I would just say to them this: We really ought to do something about all the great players … who have been recognized as great players … and continue to be candidates. But they continue to be pushed further and further back by a lot of the current players that are coming out — and, specifically, like receivers and things like that.
“I mean, the numbers are astronomical. Guys catching 100, 150 balls, a year. Well, I could never compare with that if you just wanted to talk about how many balls I caught a year. But if you had a way to measure the total value of a player to his team … and every team he played on … I think that should be done.”
He has a point. Tight end Mark Bavaro was an invaluable member of the Giants’ teams that won two Super Bowls and has been recognized as one of the greatest blocking tight ends — if not the best — of any era. Yet he’s never been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist because voters increasingly measure tight ends by catches.
Chester was never a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist, either, because when you played in his era (the 1970s), receiving was secondary to blocking for a tight end. Nevertheless, Raymond Chester did both, and did them well. But he is not alone. There are dozens of qualified candidates, many of them all-decade choices from the 1900s, left on the wayside, waiting for a call that never comes.
“Something should be done about guys who are 60, 70 years old,” said Chester. “Just like last year, I went to Ken’s … Ken Stabler’s … induction, and it was sad.
“We need to take a hard look at pushing guys further and further back because those guys obviously … if they’re good enough to be in the Hall of Fame with their numbers and their contribution and character in their era … then they should be in there first.”
Chester’s comments could make a difference. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is considering a one-time proposal for senior candidates to mark the 100th celebration of the NFL in 2020 — with the Hall promoting 10 or more seniors for induction that year. It has support within the building, and, as Chester pointed out, it has support without it, too.