Who should be the senior nominee for the Class of 2019 (Round 5)?


Al Wistert photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles

We wrap up our five-week series of senior polls at the Talk of Fame Network with a look at eight players from the pre-1950 era whose careers are deserving of Hall of Fame consideration and discussion.

The first four polls featured senior candidates from the modern era and the winners were Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel, Eagles linebacker Maxie Baughan and Redskins offensive tackle Joe Jacoby.

Our final poll features seven all-decade performers and an NFL pioneer. If this was the slate of candidates for the one senior nomination in the Class of 2019, who would you select? Here are your options:

Lavvie Dilweg. A 1920s NFL all-decade end. There were 18 players selected to the NFL’s inaugural all-decade team for the 1920s and Dilweg remains one of only two who do not have busts yet in Canton. When he retired after the 1934 season, Dilweg was considered the greatest end in NFL history. He played nine season and was a first-team all-pro in five of them. He set the league receiving records that Don Hutson would later break. His hands, both on offense and defense, helped the Packers win three consecutive NFL titles from 1929-31. Dilweg also intercepted 27 career passes but has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.

Ox Emerson. A 1930s NFL all-decade guard. Emerson played eight seasons for the Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions and was a first-team all-pro in six of them, helping the Lions win their first championship in 1935. In 1936, in a 12-game season, the Lions set an NFL record for rushing with 2,885 yards. That mark stood for 36 years until the Miami Dolphins finally broke it in a 14-game season in 1972. Emerson has been enshrined in the University of Texas Hall of Fame and was named to the Lions’ all-time team. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.

Cecil Isbell. A 1930s NFL all-decade quarterback. Over the NFL’s first eight decades (1920-2000), there were 21 quarterbacks selected to all-decade teams. Isbell is the only one still not enshrined in Canton. He was the first in the line of great Green Bay quarterbacks, preceding Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. He was the batterymate of Hall of Famer Don Hutson for five years (1938-1942). Hutson had his only 1,000-yard season playing with Isbell (1,211 yards in the 11-game 1942 season). He also caught 49 of his 99 career TD passes from Isbell, who took the Packers to two NFL title games in his five-year career. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.

Bucko Kilroy. A 1940s NFL all-decade tackle. Kilroy played 13 seasons with the Eagles, helping Philadelphia win back-to-back NFL titles in 1948-49. He played both ways, starting on both the offensive and defensive line, and his toughness was renowned. He missed only one game in his career and at one point started 147 games in a row, which was then an NFL record. His blocking helped Steve Van Buren win four rushing titles and he also intercepted five passes on defense. Kilroy later served 47 years in NFL front offices as first a scout, then director of player personnel and general manager. He built the 1985 New England team that went to the Patriots’ first Super Bowl. Kilroy has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.

Mac Speedie. A 1940s NFL all-decade end. Speedie played seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns before bolting for Canada following a personality conflict with Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown. But in those seven seasons, Speedie led the league in receiving four times and helped the Browns reach seven consecutive title games. He led the All-American Football Conference in receiving from 1947-49 and, after the Browns were absorbed by the NFL in 1950, he led the league in receiving a final time in his final season in 1952. There were only six 1,000-yard seasons by receivers in the 1940s and Speedie posted two of them. He was a three-time Hall of Fame finalist.

Duke Slater. The Jackie Robinson of the NFL. He was the first African-American lineman in NFL history and played 10 seasons, earning all-pro honors six times. He missed only one game in his career – a 1924 game against the Kansas City Blues because blacks were prohibited from playing in Missouri. In 1927, when NFL owners discussed banning black players, eight of the nine African-American players disappeared from pro football. Slater was the lone exception — and he remained the league’s only African-American player from 1927-29. He became a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and was a two-time Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist.

Ed Sprinkle. A 1940s NFL all-decade end. Sprinkle played 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears and Hall of Fame coach George Halas called him, “the greatest pass rusher I’ve ever seen.” Collier’s Magazine once featured him on its cover and dubbed him, “the meanest man in pro football.” A four-time Pro Bowler, Sprinkle also caught 32 passes for 451 yards and seven touchdowns in his career as an offensive end. His defensive play helped the Bears win an NFL title in 1946. In the championship game against the Giants, Sprinkle knocked both New York running backs out of the game – George Franck with a separated shoulder and Frank Reagan with a broken nose – and he also broke the nose of quarterback Frank Filchock. Sprinkle has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.

Al Wistert. A 1940s NFL all-decade tackle. Wistert played nine seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and was a first-team all-pro in six of them, a second-team all-pro two other seasons. Like Kilroy, his blocking helped Philadelphia reach three consecutive NFL title games (1947-49), winning two of them. He served as a team captain for five consecutive seasons (1946-50). The Eagles retired his jersey number 70 and have enshrined him in their Hall of Fame. Wistert played at Michigan and also has been enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. But he has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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24 Comments

  1. Tom
    July 18, 2018
    Reply

    Here’s my thinking:

    It should come down to Lavvie Dilweg, Ox Emerson and Ed Sprinkle.

    Dilweg was arguably the best player ever at his position at one point. Not to mention Lambeau held him at a very high regard.

    Emerson probably is the most decorated player ever. One that was one of the key players on one of the best running teams ever.

    Sprinkle was one of the best defensive players on the most dominant team in NFL history. If Halas holds him in that high of regard, he should automatically be in.

    Overall, I think it comes down to Sprinkle and Dilweg. I feel that Sprinkle is probably the better player. However, Dilweg played nearly 20 years before Sprinkle.

    My vote would go to Dilweg and that’s coming from a Bears fan.

  2. bachslunch
    July 18, 2018
    Reply

    Rick, thank you so much for shining the spotlight on these Super-Seniors, real old timers who have wrongly been left at the curb for an ungodly amount of time.

    This set includes three of my top five worst snubs. Besides Chuck Howley and Johnny Robinson, that includes Lavvie Dilweg (6/-/20s), Al Wistert (6/1/40s), and Duke Slater (3/-/none). And Ox Emerson (6/-/30s) and Mac Speedie (6/2/40s, fine receiving stats for the time) are eminently deserving as well. Bucko Kilroy certainly has a case as a combo candidate; his profile of 3/3/40s is decent and he has easily as strong an argument in the Contributor category — I think he should be elected as a Contributor. I’m less taken with Cecil Isbell (2/4/30s) and Ed Sprinkle (2/4/40s), but no reason they shouldn’t have a day in the room, either.

    I’d also like to bring up two other highly deserving names from this period to consider: Verne Lewellen (5/-/none) and Riley Matheson (6/-/none). I’m all for them getting in someday as well.

    Would love to see the most deserving of these players finally get their due.

    • Robert ewing
      July 18, 2018
      Reply

      Excellent points bachs wistert is in my top 3 senior snubs also

    • Rick Gosselin
      July 19, 2018
      Reply

      We can only hope there is some sort of amnesty class for the NFL’s 100th anniversary season that could open the door for a greater number of these worthy seniors

      • Rasputin
        July 19, 2018
        Reply

        Who decides that and have you talked to these people? What’s their temperature?

      • bachslunch
        July 20, 2018
        Reply

        Boy, do I ever hope that happens. Rick, as you rightly said, there’s about 100 potentially viable HoF Senior options. Having an expanded Senior class for 2020 would at least make a little dent in that group.

        Would a letter writing campaign help on that? Maybe an email or letter to Joe Horrigan or something similar? Let us know what you suggest.

  3. Rasputin
    July 18, 2018
    Reply

    Cecil Isbell was technically a tailback, that being the single wing era. Maybe the most loaded of these polls. I give a slight edge to Lavvie Dilweg.

    • Rick Gosselin
      July 19, 2018
      Reply

      1930s NFL All-Decade team lists Isbell at QB. Same with Dutch Clark…

      • Rasputin
        July 19, 2018
        Reply

        Except that wasn’t chosen until 1969, retroactively. By then the quarterback was associated with the passer. Maybe they felt that might avoid confusion. But the contemporary 1930s/40s All Pro teams list Cecil Isbell as a tailback or halfback. This 1942 example has him at left halfback.

        https://www.newspapers.com/clip/10126778/cecil_isbell_again_named_on_official/

        That year he led the league in passing yards, passing TDs, and passer rating. In fact his Packer teammate HoFer Arnie Herber, also a “quarterback” on the 1930s All Decade team, was called a “tailback” or “halfback” when he played too and even lined up in the same backfield with Isbell at times.

        BTW, my comment above was an historical aside, not an argument against him being in the HoF.

  4. Rasputin
    July 18, 2018
    Reply

    I’ll add that it’s a shame all these man have passed away. Wouldn’t it be preferable if they had been inducted while they were still alive? Or am I crazy for thinking that? If that is preferable, then shouldn’t the senior committee factor in to some degree candidates’ living status and age to more efficiently induct them while alive and reduce the number of posthumous inductions? It seemed as if Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel passing way actually increased the urgency of nominating them (like right away). It should have been the other way around, maybe more urgency when they were still alive (especially for Stanfel who was older than most) and less when they weren’t. A dead player could be inducted every once in a while during lulls when the highest priority old but living players have been dealt with. But using both nominations in one year for deceased players? That only increases the odds of more posthumous inductions later.

    • Robert Ewing
      July 18, 2018
      Reply

      No Rasputin your not crazy for thinking that

  5. TanksAndSpartans
    July 18, 2018
    Reply

    In some cases like Dilweg (see link), HOF induction would still mean a lot to the surviving family:

    http://www.talkoffamenetwork.com/who-should-be-the-senior-nominee-for-the-class-of-2019-round-5/

    Fritz Pollard had grandchildren speak at his induction.

    My 2 cents would be get the earliest deserving players in first. I understand getting the living players in, but then I’m not sure when the deceased players get their chance.

    Great list of deserving players here and great comments as well.

    • Rasputin
      July 19, 2018
      Reply

      There are a few high priority cases age/merit wise. If they clear those out they could reduce the number of future deceased candidates and gradually reduce the number of existing deceased candidates by inducting one every once in a while. If they just go earliest first you’ll only increase the number of posthumous inductions going forward until maybe eventually most or all of the senior inductions are posthumous, barring them getting caught up through an expanded 100th anniversary class or something.

      What shouldn’t be happening right now are things like Kenny Easley, who’s not even one of the most qualified on pure merit and was barely old enough to be a senior candidate, getting in when he did, or two recently deceased players nominated the same year.

  6. bachslunch
    July 22, 2018
    Reply

    Hee hee — looks like a Rock Island Independents or Chicago Cardinals superfan just hit the poll with a multi-vote app. Didn’t know there were such critters out there. Apparently this poll winner will be Duke Slater in a landslide.

    • Rozehawk
      July 23, 2018
      Reply

      I can say anything for certain, but I doubt it was a voting bot. Duke Slater was (as usual) being criminally overlooked, so I *may* have mentioned this in a Hawkeye fan community, where Slater is still revered.

      Slater is a fascinating case, of course. He was a Hall of Fame finalist in 1970 and 1971, the first two years finalists were publicly announced. Although he didn’t win election, I have no doubt he would have been a finalist in ’72, ’73, and so on until he was finally elected through the regular process.

      But in 1972, the Hall of Fame created the Seniors committee (then known as the Old-Timers committee). Slater wasn’t a Hall of Fame finalist in 1972, because now his only path to being a finalist was through the Seniors committee. And the Seniors committee has passed him over for nearly 50 years now and never brought him forward as a finalist.

      Every other player who was a Hall of Fame finalist in 1970 and 1971 was eventually elected, except Slater. Duke Slater was a Hall of Fame finalist for the first two years they were announced, and then his modern-era chances were cut off by the very creation of the Seniors pool in 1972. This is a unique situation to Duke Slater – no one else in the Hall of Fame process had this happen to them. He’s the very definition of a man whose career slipped through the cracks.

    • robert ewing
      July 25, 2018
      Reply

      to be clear bachs i voted for slater because he is deserving obtw im not a ri fan or a cardinals fan

      • bachslunch
        July 25, 2018
        Reply

        Fair point, Robert. No question he’s HoF deserving and a good choice to vote for.

  7. TanksAndSpartans
    July 22, 2018
    Reply

    Might be an Iowa Hawkeyes superfan – I think its more likely they know who Slater is than 250+ NFL history buffs exist. I hope its not an app – I think that used to happen for the baseball All-Star game. Slater was my second choice after Dilweg.

  8. Anonymous
    July 22, 2018
    Reply

    Randy Gradishar – Even though he is not listed.

  9. James Daugherty
    July 22, 2018
    Reply

    Randy Gradishar – Even though he is not listed!

  10. Dhu
    July 24, 2018
    Reply

    My top seven seniors:
    1. Johnny Robinson (2019 Senior Candidate hands down top choice)
    2. Chuck Howley
    3. Maxie Baughan
    4. Cliff Harris
    5.L.C. Greenwood
    6. Duke Slater
    7. Walt Sweeney

  11. Tony P
    July 25, 2018
    Reply

    Duke Slater is absolutely deserving!! Thanks for bringing him to my attention Bachs. All you have to do is read what other all-time greats have said about the player. Hard to believe he wasn’t one of the first Seniors elected.

    It continues to be a mystery to me why certain players are continually passed over who are viewed as HOF caliber players by the masses. I’ve lost track of how many years Johnny Robinson has been near the top of most HOF deserving lists.

    I wish they would just tell us, hey we have this thick file on your guy with lots of cons and the feeling of us in the Committee is forget about it, it’s not not going to happen because of xyz. LOL ! It seems crazy to me how they finally came around on Jerry Kramer being a HOFer. I guess someone decided to form their own opinion. 🙂

  12. Robert
    July 26, 2018
    Reply

    Gil Brandt’s July 19, 2019 statement on former Kansas City Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson for 2019 Senior Candidate for Pro Football Hall of Fame

    “Johnny Robinson was drafted number three overall in the 1960 NFL draft, and was the Dallas Texans first selection in the AFL draft. He began his career on offense and was a very productive back and receiver. He was then moved to defense, and I cannot think of anyone else who made that change and played so well so quickly. He was very athletic, and his range and recognition made him an outstanding safety. In fact, I believe him to be one of the 100 best football players ever, regardless of position.”
    Gil Brandt, NFL.com Senior Analyst

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