Sometimes one can understand how certain players fall through the cracks, and the Hall-of-Fame process eludes them. Other times, as in “The Case of The Two Freds,’’ Fred Taylor and Fred Smerlas, there seems to be no logical explanation.
With both their names on this year’s preliminary list of Hall-of-Fame nominees, the Talk of Fame Network sat down with them to see how the Two Freds remain two guys waiting to have their resumes debated as Hall-of-Fame finalists.
Fred Smerlas is a five-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro selection who for a decade was not only the game’s most dominate nose tackle but someone opposing coaches studied to train their own nose tackles. Yet Smerlas has never been a semifinalist despite once named by Pro Football Weekly as one of the 200 greatest football players of all-time.
“I thought the job was to beat the crap out of somebody,’’ Smerlas joked on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “So that’s what I did.”
Asked if he felt the recent induction of former nose tackle Curley Culp might help his own candidacy, Smerlas said, “I don’t think I should need help. Curley Culp was the grandfather of nose tackles. He should have gotten in long ago.’’
At present there are only two pure nose tackles in the Hall – Culp and the Browns’ Bill Willis. Smerlas believes he should be next. He also believes had he remained in Buffalo after helping rebuild their defense to Super Bowl quality the Bills would not have lost football’s biggest game four straight times. So why has his candidacy been stalled for 20 years?
“Because of stats,’’ he said. “When you’re asked to take three guys on (to free the linebackers behind him to make plays) you’re not supposed to get stats.’’
Stats certainly should not be Fred Taylor’s problem. He retired eight years ago and remains 17th on the all-time rushing list with 11,695 yards and seven 1,100-yard seasons, mostly with the Jacksonville Jaguars. As of this season, he held 42 franchise records and has been told by the likes of Jim Brown and Ray Lewis that he belongs in Canton. Asked if he thought things might be different if he’d gained all those yards for more storied franchises like the Giants, 49ers or Steelers, Taylor laughed.
“You hear that chuckle?’’ Taylor said. “I don’t know if I’d be in the Hall of Fame, but I’d be in the conversation. I do know I do have worthy numbers’’
Taylor last summer went to social media to remind voters and the world of those numbers. It was a form not so much of self-promotion as it was information.
“I thought I was worthy to be in the conversation, but I understood how it goes,’’ Taylor said. “I thought if I don’t force the issue, they’ll bury you.’’
Also joining the Talk of Fame Network broadcast is former Oakland/L.A. Raiders’ director of college scouting Jon Kingdon, who, along with long-time Raider scout Bruce Kerbic, recently wrote the book, “Al Davis – Behind the Raiders Shield.’’ It’s a look back at nearly 40 years of working for the Davis’ Raiders and is filled with inside stories about the often successful and often wacky world of Al Davis.
Kingdon describes how Davis was obsessed with speed ever since he discovered former All-Pro wide receiver Cliff Branch. According to Kingdon, Davis spent the rest of his life searching for the next Branch. That search, and that fixation on speed, led to some odd moves on draft day.
“At the combine, someone would run really fast and the scouts would say, ‘There’s your pick,’’’ Kingdon recalled with a rueful laugh.
Both the book and Kingdon’s interview explain why JaMarcus Russell became one of the biggest busts in draft history, how Davis passed over Brett Favre for Todd Marinovich and why Davis was one of the most complicated – and brilliant – football minds Kingdon encountered.
With the Patriots playing the Raiders Sunday in Mexico City, the TOF also calls upon old friend Ulises Harada of Primero y Diez, Mexico’s biggest pro football website, to preview the game and explain its importance for NFL fans in Mexico.
“This is the first time a (NFL team) will be playing any international game as defending (Super Bowl) champion,’’ Harada said.
You can hear all that and more on SB Nation Radio stations around the country or by downloading the free podcast at iTunes or by using the Tunein App. You can also hear the show and explore our website at talkoffamenetwork.com