Anyone in or around Buffalo knows the name Ruben Brown. He was a star offensive lineman for the Bills, reaching the Pro Bowl nine times — including eight consecutive years — and starting all 181 games he played during his 13-year career. But that’s not all. A four-time All-Pro, he was named to the Bills’ 50th anniversary team, too.
Sweet, huh? So how come you haven’t heard of him? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, he played guard, and unless your name is Will Shields or Alan Faneca, there are few stars at that position lately that people recognize. Second, of course, unlike Shields, he’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And, unlike Faneca, he’s never been considered.
Now think about that for a minute. He was good enough to be considered one of the best at his position for over half his career, yet he’s never been a finalist or semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and wasn’t among the 94 candidates on the 2017 preliminary list.
But Richmond Webb wasn’t, either, and he was an all-decade tackle. Lomas Brown wasn’t, and he was good enough to last 18 seasons in the NFL and make six All-Pro teams. Yet he’s never been discussed and never been a semifinalist. Former Falcon Mike Kenn is another casualty, a five-time All-Pro who started 251 games in his career but never been a finalist. Same goes for Kenn’s former teammate, Bill Fralic, also an all-decade selection who has never reached the final 25.
I think you get the idea. There are more than a handful of offensive linemen who deserve Hall-0f-Fame consideration, yet they can’t get a sniff … and, Ruben Brown, take a number.
Brown is an intriguing candidate because he provoked visceral responses from loyal Bills’ fans, some of whom believed he was overrated. But this just in, people: Since the AFL-NFL merger, there are two guys in Buffalo Bills’ history with more Pro Bowl selections than O.J. Simpson, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas or Andre Reed — all of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
One is Hall-of-Famer Bruce Smith, the NFL’s career sack leader. The other is Ruben Brown.
But if you’re not in or around Buffalo, it’s as if he never existed … and while that’s a shame it’s also understandable. Here’s why: 1) He never played on a Super Bowl champion, though he was part of the 2006 Bears that reached Super Bowl XLI; 2) he was a guard, and Hall-of-Fame voters have trouble warming up to them and 3) he wasn’t an all-decade selection, and that distinction belongs to roughly 70 percent of the players in Canton.
All I know and remember about Ruben Brown is that he was good enough to be considered one of the best at his position — and for a long time.
“The top guys in the business,” he once told ESPN.com, “the guys that are going down as legends? I played against those guys, and I did all right.”
That’s an understatement. But he hasn’t done all right with Hall-of-Fame voters, and that’s a problem. At the very least, Ruben Brown … as well as other notable offensive linemen like Kenn, Fralic, Lomas Brown and Webb … deserves to have his case heard.
No, I’m not saying he … or they … belong in the Hall. What I am saying is that with their credentials … because they were considered by their peers among the best at their professions … they deserve to have voters examine their resumes and make a judgment.
And they deserve to have it done sooner rather than later.