State Your Case: Pat Fischer

Pat Fischer photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins

NFL Historical Imagery

(Photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

Does the Pro Football Hall of Fame have something against the University of Nebraska?

This is one of college football’s most storied programs. Nebraska ranks fifth all-time in victories and has won five national titles. The College Football Hall of Fame has recognized those achievements, enshrining 16 Nebraska players and six coaches.

But the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been slow to embrace the Cornhuskers. Only three are enshrined in Canton: Coach Guy Chamberlain and offensive tackles Bob Brown and Link Lyman.

Chamberlain last coached in the NFL in 1928, Lyman last played in 1934 and Brown had to wait 26 years for enshrinement and only then as a senior candidate. Brown was named to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1960s — so Nebraska has had only one enshrinee from the last eight decades.

There have been other worthy candidates, and Mick Tingelhoff could be the school’s second modern-era player enshrined in 2015. He started more games than any player in NFL history at center (240) and also played in six Pro Bowls and four Super Bowls.

Despite his achievements, Tingelhoff has never been discussed as a finalist. Like Brown, his candidacy was resurrected by the senior committee. He has waited 32 years for his first visit to the finals in 2015.

Then there’s Will Shields, who won an Outland Trophy at Nebraska and was named to the NFL all-decade team for the 2000s. He started a franchise-record 223 consecutive games for the Kansas City Chiefs and was selected to 12 Pro Bowls in his 14 seasons. Only five players in NFL history have gone to more Pro Bowls.

Yet Shields has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame each of the last three years and has been passed over each time. Roger Craig also had a spin in the room as the finalist in 2010,  but the committee didn’t warm up to him, either.

At least Brown, Craig and Shields have been discussed as finalists, and Tingelhoff will soon join them with that honor. Pat Fischer has not been as fortunate.

Apparently, longevity runs at the school. Tingelhoff played 240 games, Shields 224 and Fischer 213. That places Fischer seventh all-time among cornerbacks at arguably the NFL’s toughest position. And Fischer did it the hard way — with no size.

At 5-9, 170 pounds, Fisher was nicknamed “Mouse” but played like a lion. He lasted 17 seasons lining up every down against someone bigger than him. But Fischer never lined up against anyone tougher than him.

“I’ve never been hit so hard as when Pat Fischer tackled me,” said Hall-of-Fame halfback Frank Gifford.

“Pat Fischer intimidated me,” added Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff. “He’s probably the one guy I played against that when you came off the line, you’d better know where he was at.”

Fischer played in an era when he was asked to cover players with Olympic speed (Bob Hayes) and basketball size (6-8 Harold Carmichael). But early on he found a way to succeed — as one of the first proponents of the bump-and-run.

There’s some debate where the coverage technique originated in the 1960s — with Fischer or in the AFL with Willie Brown and the Oakland Raiders. But Fischer was the first to use it as a primary coverage tool in the NFL.

Fischer broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1961 as a 17th-round draft pick and played alongside Hall of Famer Larry Wilson, a pioneer of the safety blitz.

When Wilson blitzed, that left a hole in the secondary that quarterbacks could exploit with quick passes before the pass rush arrived. Fischer needed to devise a plan to combat those quick passes — and he did so by jamming the receivers at the line, taking them out of their route and thus eliminating those quick throws. He bumped them and then ran with them.

“Pat was tough as nails,” added Hall-of-Fame safety Ken Houston, who played with Fischer in Washington. “He was a special breed.”

But there was more to the Fischer package than toughness. There was ability. He intercepted 56 passes, including 10 in 1964. Even though he has not played since 1977, Fischer still ranks eighth among pure corners interceptions. His 16 fumble recoveries also are a record for NFL cornerbacks.

Does Pat Fischer belong in the Hall of Fame? That’s open to debate. But he certainly should have been discussed as a finalist by now — and that’s not open to debate. Pat Fischer’s case needs to be heard.

Follow Rick Gosselin on Twitter at @RickGosselinDMN


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  1. Jerry Olsen redskinsalumndirector
    December 9, 2014

    Pat Fischer overall stats ranks 6th amoung the 24 Def. backs already in the hall of fame. I have been working with the senior committee for 6 years trying to get them to put Pat in he has to be put in 703-726-7488

  2. Jim Sullivan
    December 9, 2014

    Met Pat and Ron McDole several years ago at a golf tournament in Roanoke, VA

    Both great guys. When asked what solidified his decision to retire, Pat’s response was
    “Harold Carmichael”

  3. December 9, 2014

    Pat and I are from Omaha and went to the same high school, Omaha Westside. Pat was two years behind me. I was the first football all-stater at Westside, but Pat broke all my records, made all state and won the state championship. I have never seen a better football player. Ever, anywhere. Not only that, he broad jumped 23 feet. While at NU he single handedly beat Texas in Austin in 1961, running two punts back for TDs. While at a re-union 15 years ago we all asked him what was his toughest cover. Max McGee, maybe Ditka? I said Lance Alworth or Gene Washington. “Naww”, he said,”Bob Hayes”. George Allen had to make a special defense for him. And pat got the job.

    A group of old HS buddies has tried for 20 years to get him in the HOF, to no avail. The reason is, we found, is that a player needs active sports journalists who can remember accomplishments
    and who can actively tout him. No one’s around anymore; just his friends who know how great he was. His stats are incredible: 56 picks, 6 for TDs, invented the bump and run with Larry Wilson Unfortunately, the NFL didn’t keep track of tackles til after Pat retired in 1981. At 5’9 and 165 he was a tiger. He’s suffered a bad back for most of his life. And now, Pat is in assisted living with advanced dementia in the DC area.


  4. December 9, 2014

    My memory is not as sharp as it used to be; I believe Pat Fischer retired in 1977.

  5. Richard
    December 9, 2014

    Nebraska guy hardly ever get any respect. If Pat had played for ND or Michigan, he’d have gotten in by now, but I guess a program that is ONLY 4th all-time in wins isn’t good enough.

  6. December 10, 2014

    Will Shields is definitely in soon. Didn’t see Tinglehoff, but indivdual honors and team success say he’ll finally get in. Craig might because because of a variety of accomplishments (1000/1000, RB receiving record, OFF Player of the Year, 3 Super Bowl’s).

    Didn’t see Fischer play. You make a strong case, but 3 Pro Bowls and 2 All Pros suggests that he was “great” only briefly and “really good” the rest of the time. And there are a lot of careers like that. Unless he played for some championship teams (he didn’t), I doubt Veteran’s Committee will see that as enough to get in.

  7. mike avolio
    December 17, 2014

    Absolutely yes, if you saw Pat play or played against him you would vote yes…

    The HOF needs to put deserving players in and stop limiting players because of nonsense like too many from one era, one team, one position, blah blah Blah

  8. bachslunch
    March 16, 2016

    Not a big fan of Pat Fischer for the HoF. His postseason honors are skimpy at 2/3/none and he doesn’t score that highly at Ken Crippen’s film study site. He has a lot of career interceptions because he played forever. Would much sooner see Lemar Parrish (3/8/none, excellent KR), Abe Woodson (5/5/none, excellent KR), Dave Grayson (6/6/allAFL, solid KR), or Bobby Boyd (4/2/60s) get elected first among cornerback Seniors.

  9. Davan S. mani
    December 21, 2016

    He changed the game with the five yard bump rule.

  10. Roy Shields
    January 4, 2017

    Hall of Fame Coach George Allen said “Pat Fischer should be an All Pro, should be in the HOF someday”. Fischer was thought of very highly by Redskins Coach Vince Lombardi, I know because Pat told me so in 2005. You don’t make a Lombardi team if you are just ‘really good’ for the majority of your 17 year career. Two HOF coaches that think highly of Fischer, one of which by the way has the Super Bowl trophy named after him, make him a highly desired candidate for the HOF. Watch some film of him. I watched him play for most of his career in Washington. His size did not diminish his ability to be one of the greatest hard hitters. See what HOF WR and Super Bowl MVP Fred Biletnikoff said about him, that “he intimidated me. He was one player that when you came to the line of scrimmage, you had to know where he was at.” Fischer ‘dipped’ under pulling guards to tackle RBs like Larry Csonka and John Riggins on his own. Fischer was known first as a vicious hitter. Yet his 56 interceptions ties HOFer Lem Barney for 18th place all time and is only one short of HOF Great Mel Blount. Half the defensive players ahead of him are HOFers. Fischer has 2 more interceptions than HOFer Darrell Green, and Green played for 20 years. Does that make Green look like only a ‘really good’ player for most of his career?
    For what its worth, Fischer has the stats and Old School support to be in the HOF. I believe he will be inducted into the HOF someday…
    Roy Shields #37

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