State Your Case: Mike Curtis


Courtesy of Indianapolis Colts

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

Mike Curtis will be forever remembered for tackling a drunken fan trying to steal the football during a 1971 game between his Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins.

That’s sad, because there were so many more tackles, interceptions, sacks and fumble recoveries by Curtis that provide better feeds for the NFL memory bank.

Like his 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Minnesota in the 1968 playoffs and his late interception of Dallas quarterback Craig Morton that set up the winning field goal in Super Bowl V.

Curtis may have been the most versatile linebacker of his era. Curtis became a full-time starter in 1968 at strongside linebacker for the Colts and was voted first-team All-Pro. With the retirement of incumbent Dennis Gaubatz, Curtis shifted to middle linebacker in 1969 and earned second-team All-Pro acclaim behind Dick Butkus.

When Curtis moved to the expansion Seattle Seahawks for their inaugural season in 1976, he slid over to weakside linebacker and remained there for his final two seasons with Washington. Curtis also served as a team captain of both the Colts and Seahawks.

Curtis was the best player on a Baltimore defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL in 1968. That sent him to the first of his four Pro Bowls. He was the best player on the entire team in 1970 when the Colts won their first Super Bowl. That earned him the first of his two team MVP honors from the Colts.

Curtis stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in a golden era of linebacking from 1965-75: Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Willie Lanier, Sam Huff, Nick Buoniconti, Bobby Bell, Ted Hendricks, Dave Robinson, Dave Wilcox, Chris Hanburger, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. All are now in the Hall of Fame.

Curtis, however, has never even been discussed as a finalist.

His versatility is bolstered by his productivity. He intercepted 25 passes, sacked 22 quarterbacks (in an era when linebackers did little blitzing), recovered 10 fumbles and scored four touchdowns in his career. And he was feared. When he hit you, he hurt you.

Curtis is now in his 36th year of eligibility. His fate now rests in the hands of the Hall of Fame senior committee. His career deserved a better fate. So did Mike Curtis.

Courtesy of Indianapolis Colts
Courtesy of Indianapolis Colts
Previous What Does NFL Stand For Any More?
Next Tony Dungy Interview 9-12-14

30 Comments

  1. mike avolio
    December 17, 2014
    Reply

    Mike was as good or better than anyone in his era at the LB position…

    The HOF lacks credibility , as far as I’m concerned, until Mike gets his rightful place in Canton.

  2. Cindy Cooke
    August 6, 2015
    Reply

    No one can take the HOF seriously if they omit Mike Curtis. Who is on that senior committee that keeps overlooking him?

  3. Mike avolio
    August 8, 2015
    Reply

    Whenever I tell guys I grew up with who saw Mike Curtis play, every one of them is shocked that Mike is not in the Hall of Fame .

    When is the senior committee going to give Mike Curtis justice?

    Cmon guys !!!!!

  4. Tommy chandler
    November 21, 2015
    Reply

    Mike curtis was equal to butkus, nitchke, bergey, nobis, lanier, and all the MLB beasts against the run. But he was actually better than all of those in pass “D”. It’s a travesty that your michael strahans, curtis Martins are in h.o.f. and Curtis isn’t . AND I,M FROM NEW YORK!!

  5. Tommy chandler
    November 21, 2015
    Reply

    Here’s my long overdue HOF class) MIKE CURTIS,TOMMY NOBIS, BILL BERGEY, RANDY GRADISHAW, LEROY JORDAN, JACK TATUM, JOE KLECKO,RICH “TOMBSTONE” JACKSON,GREG LLOYD……C’MON put these guys in HOF already.!!! Especially the first eight on this list.

    • Mike avolio
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Tommy I couldn’t agree more ! Mike Curtis is better than a lot of linebackers already in the Hall, if they’re in, Mike should have been in long ago.
      I also agree with others on your list and I’d add Jerry Kramer.
      The Senior committee is way behind aa far as electing deserving members.

  6. Tommy chandler
    December 26, 2015
    Reply

    Mike I,m shocked Jerry Kramer isn’t in!! Totally agree! And I,ve got another one for ya mike- JIM TYRER!! … U can also throw in these long overdue greats- -Chuck Howley, Robert Brazile for posterity. Its disgusting Mike!!!

  7. Tommy chandler
    December 26, 2015
    Reply

    Too many young or dumb folks on h.o.f. Commite. Also too much politics. Tyrer not in h.o.f. Cause the murder suicide tragedy. It doesn’t ;feel right; to them to put Tyrer in… Tatum not in cause of Stingley tragedy and Tatum has been seen as not handling it nicely. Screw niceness!!!! Ya put a guy in the hall cause what he did on the field. PERIOD!! Also, politics with Mike Curtis cause he made a lot of enemies when he was the first player to break picket line in NFL,S early 70s strike. This is Bullsh$%#!!!! … Ty Cobb,s in M.L.B. H.O.F. and he was practically a Klansman. And he DESERVES to be in H.O.F. cause of what he did on the field. Nothing more nothing less!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Mike avolio
    December 26, 2015
    Reply

    Absolutely, Tom..

    It’s amazing how the vothers spin things to suit their friends, but what they may not realize is they are ruining the credibility of the HOF .

    To me it has become a farce.

  9. Tommy chandler
    December 26, 2015
    Reply

    Cronyism Mike. In politics too. I watch football with memories of these past era players, times. It’s kinda sad but thank goodness I can remember maddog curtis, butkus, 6543870 oops I meant o.j. Namath, b.lily. J.mackey, Etc. these guys played for the LOVE OF THE GAME. Some of em had off season jobs. Now a guy comes outta college with mega million guaranteed contract. Speaking in the third person, no class, don’t realize their PRIVILEDGED opportunity and act like jerks. Being an old school guy, this is irritating to me. I watch a lot of old school football films as a kind of tonic. Ha. Even boxing today pales in comparison to these same eras.A lot of things USED TO BE BETTER it seems. Oh we’ll.

  10. January 5, 2016
    Reply

    travesty,pure travesty that the great mike Curtis is not in the hall of fame,shame on you nfl

  11. bachslunch
    March 14, 2016
    Reply

    Sorry, but I don’t see Mike Curtis as a HoFer at all. His postseason honors profile is small at 2/4/none. And he doesn’t grade out all that well at Ken Crippen’s film study site at 7.6. There are so many other Senior LBs with better cases.

  12. Mike avolio
    March 14, 2016
    Reply

    Ask those who played with and against Curtis and they will tell you he’s a Hall of Famer.

    MIKE Made Six All Pro teams , there were UPI, AP and others back then, against the greatest competition ever in that position.

    Only player ever to be all pro at both middle and outside lb.

    Super Bowl champ, 4 pro bowls….vicious hitter…

    To me he’s an obvious choice…

  13. bachslunch
    March 15, 2016
    Reply

    According to pro football reference, Curtis was named a pretty much consensus 1st team all pro one time only, in 1968 (AP, UPI, Pro Football Writers, Pro Football Weekly, NY Daily News, 2nd team by NEA), as well as 1st team all pro by AP and 2nd team by Sporting News and UPI in 1969. In 1970, 1971, and 1974 he was named 2nd team all conference by UPI. He also went to pro bowls in 1968, 1970, 1971, and 1974. Curtis did not make all pro six times, and I’m well aware that there are other all pro organizations besides AP; I include them in figures I post. And I value good quality film study more than anecdotal comments, and as stated above, he didn’t grade out especially well at Ken Crippen’s site. I stand by my earlier post.

  14. Mike avolio
    March 15, 2016
    Reply

    He also was AFC Defensive Plater of the Year in 1970, which you should be aware of.

    Remember, the competition was the best ever at that position.

    He may not have been # 1, but he certainly was a Hall of Famer.

  15. bachslunch
    March 15, 2016
    Reply

    Here’s the thing — there are a lot of excellent LBs not in the HoF and the competition is fierce. Here’s a list of players not in with honors:

    Chuck Howley 5/6/none
    Maxie Baughan 5/9/none
    Robert Brazile 5/7/70s
    Randy Gradishar 4/7/none
    Joe Fortunato 3/5/50s
    Larry Grantham 5/5/allAFL
    Bill Forester 4/4/none

    Unfortunately I can’t rank Curtis above any of these folks given his 2/4/none profile and 7.6 ranking at Crippen’s site. Very good player, though.

  16. Mike avolio
    March 16, 2016
    Reply

    I hope Crippen used more than 7 graded games as indicated on his site to find his results. ..

    I rate Curtis over most if the players you named and on a par with Robert Brazile

    As qualified as Crippen is , I put much more stock in what a players peers say, and Curtis’s peers , have repeatedly stated he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

  17. bachslunch
    March 17, 2016
    Reply

    I’m actually very suspicious of what players say about their peers HoF worth, especially if they were teammates. They often lack objectivity — and there’s no better demonstration of this than Frankie Frisch during his tenure as head of the BBHoF Veterans Committee. And you can tell a good bit from seven games when it comes to film study, particularly if the same tendencies recur and you have a sampling that covers a broad range of time.

    • Mike avolio
      March 17, 2016
      Reply

      Seven games for a 13 year career,?

      With injuries, personnel changes, etc seems to be a ridiculously small amount of games on which to base a career.

      And I speak of Curtis’s opponents, not teammates, who vouch for his HOF worth.

      As much as I respect Nick Buoniconti and Chris Hanburger, no coach or Gm would have preferred either of them over Curtis.

      And both are deserving HOF members.

  18. bachslunch
    March 17, 2016
    Reply

    Mike: question — how do you justify Curtis ahead of Howley, Baughan, Brazile, and Gradishar — none of whom are in — never mind Fortunato, Grantham, and Forester? I can’t, given the info above.

    • Rick Gosselin
      March 17, 2016
      Reply

      You forgot Tommy Nobis, Karl Mecklenburg, Lee Roy Jordan and Robert Brazile. Forget the pecking order — there should be a lot more LBs in the HOF than there already are.

  19. bachslunch
    March 17, 2016
    Reply

    Rick: thanks for replying. Already mentioned Brazile above. Nobis, Jordan, and Bill Bergey are all Senior eligible MLBs, and while I can see a HoF argument for them, my feeling is that more OLBs need to get inducted first to balance things out. Mecklenburg and Sam Mills are regularly eligible and there’s still an outside chance they might sneak in under the wire, though I wouldn’t bet the rent on it. If it were up to me, they’d all get in — but the million dollar question is how and when. If the voters work smartly, they can get Meck and Mills into the finals ASAP and vote them in in a couple years. The Seniors though will take several years, and what’s the priority? For me, Howley, Baughan, Brazile, and Gradishar are in the top group and most deserving, followed by Fortunato, Grantham, and Forester in the next group, then Bergey, Nobis, Jordan, and Curtis in a third bunch. But it would take ca. 25 years to get them all in given the backlog of Senior safeties, WRs, guards, and folks like Ken Anderson, L.C. Greenwood, Pete Retzlaff, Jerry Smith, Winston Hill, Jim Tyrer, etc. who would need to be interwoven.

  20. Mike avolio
    March 18, 2016
    Reply

    Guys. I’ve said for years the amount of players who have been overlooked is ridiculous. .especially at the lb position …

    I think all of the lbs mentioned are deserving

    I’m not Colts fan, but along with Brazile, Curtis is my first choice …

  21. B. Haggerty
    September 9, 2016
    Reply

    Pro Football HOF is now similiar to the Rock and Roll HOF with so many deserving candidates getting snubbed. Mike Curtis was one of the most if not the most feared linebackers of his era and most certainly deserves to be in HOF, when compared to Chris Hanburger and Willie Lanier from the sam era (?) who were both great LB’s. (Excuse any spelling errors). Also consider he was drafted as a fullback and switched to LB! Better LB face than Mike Singletary!

    • September 10, 2016
      Reply

      Agree on the RNR Hall. How can you not have Jethro Tull in there? How can Todd Rundgren not be in? I gave up on Cleveland a long time ago … and Im not talking about the football team (although I could be). More like the pop HOF. As for Canton … agree there are a ton of qualified candidates on the outside looking in, and Mike Curtis is one of them. But hes one of many, many former players and coaches. How can Randy Gradishar not be in? Or Johnny Robinson? Or Al Wistert? Or Cliff Harris, Drew Pearson, Jerry Smith, Maxie Baughan … and Jerry Kramer? We have to have a means for thinning a line of so many deserving players and coaches. I havent given up on Canton; but Cleveland … not so much. If Todd isnt in now, he will never make it. A disgrace.

    • Michael Avolio
      September 10, 2016
      Reply

      See that’s my point so many deserving guys are not in who deserve enshrinement…

      Curtis is one of many who should be in the HOF

  22. Jim Houser
    January 13, 2017
    Reply

    I would put Mike Curtis up against any linebacker in the country. His toughness was unsurpassed and his mental ability for the game was second to none. He was to the defense what Johnny Unitas was to the offense. Given the career he had, not only in college but the pros, he should have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. You look at some of the clowns that have made it compared to him and you just shake your head and ask why. Maybe it is more political than you might think. It is about time that the committee do the right thing and put an outstanding football player and an outstanding individual like Mike Curtis into the Hall of Fame while he is still alive and can enjoy the honor he so much deserves.

    • January 13, 2017
      Reply

      Should be in HOF for that tackle of drunken spectator won wandered on to field at Memorial Stadium. One of best take downs ever.

  23. Tommy chandler
    July 9, 2017
    Reply

    I’m back!!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.