Who’s the best cornerback not in the Hall of Fame?


tylaw
(Ken Riley photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals)
(Ty Law photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)

Talk of Fame Network

There are 23 quarterbacks and 24 wide receivers from the modern era in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet there are only 12 pure cornerbacks enshrined in Canton. If there are so few worthy pass defenders, have we over-inflated the quality of passers and catchers in the Hall of Fame?

The answer is no. The solution would be to enshrine more worthy cornerbacks, and there are plenty of them –and most haven’t gotten a sniff thus far from Canton. That’s the subject of this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll – who’s the best cornerback not in the Hall of Fame. Here are your candidates:

Bobby Boyd. An NFL all-decade selection from the 1960. Boyd played only nine seasons with the Baltimore Colts but ranks 13th on the all-time interception list with 57. His Colts won one NFL championship but lost in the Super Bowl that season to the New York Jets. Boyd retired after that game. He has never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.

bobbyboyd

(Bobby Boyd photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)

Pat Fischer. No cornerback in history overcame greater odds than Fischer. He was a 17th-round draft pick in 1961 and tiny for his position at 5-9, 170 pounds. But he went on to play 17 seasons, intercept 56 passes (18th all-time) and go to three Pro Bowls. He spent his first seven years with the St. Louis Cardinals and the last 10 with the Washington Redskins. His best season was 1964 when he intercepted 10 passes and returned two for touchdowns. He has never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.

NFL Historical Imagery

(Pat Fischer photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)

Lester Hayes. An all-decade selection from the 1980s. Hayes led the NFL with 13 interceptions in 1980 with the Oakland Raiders. He played 10 seasons and went to the Pro Bowl in half of them. Hayes intercepted 39 career passes and won two Super Bowls with the Raiders. He has been a four-time Hall-of-Fame finalist.

LesterHayes

(Lester Hayes photo courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)

Ty Law. An NFL all-decade selection from the 2000s’ team. Law played 15 seasons and intercepted 53 passes, which ties him at 24th all-time with Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders. He spent his first 10 years with the New England Patriots and won three Super Bowls. He was voted to five Pro Bowls — four with the Patriots and a fifth in his 12th season with the Kansas City Chiefs. He led the NFL with nine interceptions for the Patriots in 1998 and 10 for the New York Jets in 2005. He has never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.

Ken Riley. One of football’s great mysteries. Riley intercepted 65 passes to rank fifth all-time and second among pure cornerbacks behind Hall of Famer Dick “Night Train” Lane — but was never voted to a Pro Bowl in his 15 seasons. He led the AFC with nine interceptions in 1976 and eight in 1983, his final season. He also recovered 18 career fumbles but never won a championship. He has never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.

Louis Wright. An NFL all-decade selection from the 1970s. Wright played 12 seasons with the Denver Broncos and was a member of the Orange Crush defense that lost in the 1977 Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys. He intercepted 26 career passes and played in five Pro Bowls. He has never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.

Louis Wright

(Louis Wright photo courtesy of Eric Bakke/Denver Broncos)

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33 Comments

  1. Jeff
    March 30, 2016
    Reply

    All of these are fine players, some of them should be in the Hall of Fame….but Lemar Parrish was better than any of them.

  2. Jeff
    March 30, 2016
    Reply

    All of these are fine players, some of them should be in the Hall of Fame…but Lemar Parrish was better than any of them.

  3. bachslunch
    March 30, 2016
    Reply

    Agreed, Lemar Parrish is the best CB not in the HoF and absolutely should be on this list above. Would also be happy to see Dave Grayson or Abe Woodson get in. Of the folks listed above, Ty Law and Bobby Boyd are the most deserving, though I wouldn’t gripe unduly if Lester Hayes or Louis Wright got in. Neither Ken Riley nor Pat Fischer belong in.

  4. Ned Atkins
    March 30, 2016
    Reply

    Pat Fisher was one of the toughest defensive backs of all time . No Redskins fan who ever saw him play could disagree . He was only 170 lbs and played in the days of the old bump and run . People should ask the receivers that played against him what they thought at the time.

    • Anonymous
      March 31, 2016
      Reply

      Ned couldn’t agree more, there’s not a WR that wouldn’t agree to the toughness of Pat Fisher, it sucks that he’s not in the HOF…

  5. David
    March 30, 2016
    Reply

    You guys are nuts Ken Riley number5 all time in ints thats what every Corner is judge on just like wr on yards Qbs on TDs and yards thats what sucks about the hall now its all on Championship and pro bowls Riley does belong in the Hall just like his team mate Anderson

  6. Chris
    March 30, 2016
    Reply

    Pat Fischer was an overachiever for his size and weight.Just remember what a tough player he was . There’s footage of him lifting and planting John Riggins in a textbook tackle when Riggins played for the Jets.Another of him with bleeding face with more concerned with the game to care.He was one of toughest to play the game ,a real football player!

  7. Elizabeth Webb
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    Pat Fischer is and will always be one of my favorite professional football players. Needless to say my vote is for Mr. Pat Fischer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Anonymous
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    If you’re rooting for other than Pat Fisher you never watched him play …

  9. Anonymous
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    Pat Fisher was the best Corner ever! Given his size and weight he did wonderful things in that position and he was tougher than most players. Pat Fisher is the one to place in the Hall of Fame!!!!!

  10. Steve
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    Fischer was tough but Hayes played CB with the physicality of a LB/safety. Much as Pat Fischer fans remember the Riggins tackle, I remember Hayes driving his shoulder through Earl Campbell’s massive thighs and putting him down one on one in the open field. Defensive Player of the Year, 5 Pro Bowls, All Decade, 2 Super Bowls, and the quintessential “big plays in big games” great player. Should have been in long ago and deserves to be #1 on this list.

  11. herb goebel
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    Lemar parrish is the best player not in the hof

  12. Aquanut
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    What about the time Pat Fischer turned Jim Brown upside down? Brown said he was the toughest defensive back he ever saw.

  13. Pat Nichols
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    I loved to see him defend Harold Charmichael of the Eagles.

  14. bachslunch
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    Pat Fischer’s honors are very skimpy at 2/3/none and he doesn’t grade out that well at Ken Crippen’s film study site at 7.5, tied for second lowest score there. And Ken Riley’s honors are even less at 1/0/none. Both ended up with a lot of lifetime INTs because they played forever, and in Riley’s case likely because QBs preferred to take their chances against him rather than his CB teammate Lemar Parrish. Sorry, not convinced.

    • Rick Gosselin
      April 1, 2016
      Reply

      How do you have a pair of 9 interception seasons and not get invited to the Pro Bowl either season? The Pro Bowl is supposed to be about accomplishment, not reputation.

    • Jerome
      February 24, 2017
      Reply

      Who is the other corner that played along Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson, Charles Woodson, and all the other defensive back HOF’s? Your argument that Riley has the Interceptions numbers because he played on the other side of Lemar, where are all those DB’s and there numbers that played along side of the DB HOF’s?? Riley played 6 + years without Lemar and led the conference his last 2 years retiring at the age of 36 and playing all as a corner not safety. Pro Bowl is argument is weak at best!

  15. Glenn
    March 31, 2016
    Reply

    Pat Fisher was one tough dude. He would pace the sidelines while the offense was on the field. I saw him up end St Louis RB M Lane. A mathematitian..great corner..great tackler who should be in the HOF.

  16. bachslunch
    April 1, 2016
    Reply

    Rick: the PFR website lists Riley with one 9 INT season (1976), but maybe that’s wrong. As for why Riley didn’t make the pro bowl that year, I have no idea. None of Anthony Henry (2001), Lyle Blackwood (1977), Willie Williams (1968), or Dave Baker (1960) made the pro bowl in a year when they had 10 INTs for some reason, so I guess it’s not unheard of.

    • Rick Gosselin
      April 1, 2016
      Reply

      My bad — he had a 9 (1976) and an 8 in his final season (1983). How does a guy intercept more passes than all but one other pure CB in NFL history and never get to a Pro Bowl?

  17. bachslunch
    April 1, 2016
    Reply

    Rick: thanks for the replying. Whatever the reason, it may hold for Dave Brown as well; he’s another long-career DB with a ton of lifetime INTs (62, just three fewer than Riley) who only made one pro bowl and was never a 1st team all pro. Maybe they were plenty good enough to hold down a DB position for many years but not good enough to get much in the way of honors? There are plenty of other players like that at other positions such as Jim Marshall, Ray Brown, Bill Romanowski, and Ricky Proehl. No shame in that — good long careers in the NFL are plenty commendable. But I wouldn’t put any of them in the HoF either.

  18. Kjr
    April 28, 2016
    Reply

    I think it’s very unfortunate, for people to make the stance on Ken Riley, on Pro Bowl appearances. Numbers don’t lie, people do. For someone to knock him for Longevity as a reason for 65 Interceptions or to say the only reason he got 65 is because they threw at him?? Well it takes a great blessing from up above to play that long 1st of all 2nd you have to make the play there any plenty of corners that played along other hall of famers and don’t have the numbers, 3rd he played cornerback his entire career a lot of the top interception leaders switched to corner later in their career but Ken Riley ,played corner for all 15 years and last the AFC the last 3 years of his career retiring at the age of 36, while he still was on the top of his game.

    • Rick Gosselin
      April 28, 2016
      Reply

      Agreed. I’m not sure what happened in the 1980s & 1990s when he was eligible, but it’s flat-out wrong that a player with 65 career interceptions has never even been discussed for the Hall of Fame.

  19. bachslunch
    May 7, 2016
    Reply

    Kjr, several things. Riley doesn’t just lack pro bowls, he lacks significant all-pro recognition, and that’s a serious problem for me. They had ample opportunity to honor him with pro bowls or all pro honors but normally chose Lemar Parrish and Tommy Casanova instead. Beats me why that’s the case, but it is. And if longevity by itself were a HoF criterion, Ricky Proehl and Bill Romanowski would be no-brainers — but they don’t belong at all. It’s entirely possible to play at very good level for a long time and not be a HoFer, and there’s no shame in that, either. If a player like Riley and Jim Marshall has a lot of interceptions or fumble recoveries, they really should if they play that long. Dave Brown is another DB with lots of INTs, a hugely long career, and no honors to speak of, and I don’t think he belongs in either. Can I ask what, if anything, you have against Lemar Parrish for the HoF? He’s a longtime Bengal with three first team all pro selections, 8 pro bowls, and world-class kick return ability (Riley didn’t do much kick returning), and to me a significantly more glaring HoF omission I can really get behind. Hopefully your comment doesn’t imply I’m lying — I’m certainly not.

    • Kjr
      May 7, 2016
      Reply

      Play at a very good level for a long time, doesn’t count for anything, And a Pro Bowl counts for everything, doesn’t make sense to me? Lamar Parrish definitely deserves consideration for the HOF and so do a lot other players, my problem is when people use the Pro Bowl as the end all be all ,as a reason to argue why a person should not be considered.
      Longevity and great play should count, please go back and look at film and do your on research , ask former players who have played and coached against this players and in Ken Riley’s case a lot would say he was one of the Top corners in his era and has the numbers to prove it. Riley didn’t do kick returning, that was not ask oh him and Parrish was a great kick returner, was Roger Wehrli a kick returner or others? All I ask is do your own research and film study before judging and please don’t misunderstand, there are many more deserving candidates besides Ken Riley I believe who never get mentionedbased on a flawed system and no true voting criteria.
      Top 5 of All who has ever played in the National Football League in Interceptions deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Do you really know how hard that is to get 65interceptions? Or to play 15 years as a defensive back not safety and lead your conference the last 3 years of career in interceptions play against Stallworth and Swan twice a year, Paul Warfield , Cliff Branch and Lance Altworth were all in the AFC and he consistently held his own and those are just a few of the great WR’s he regularly faced.

  20. bachslunch
    May 8, 2016
    Reply

    Yup, Kjr, that’s what I’m saying — playing at a very good level for a long time all by itself isn’t HoF worthy for me. I don’t think Jim Marshall, Dave Brown, Ricky Proehl, Bill Romanowski, or Ray Brown belong in for the same reason. And you’re ignoring what I said about first team all pro selections, which for me count heavily — I see pro bowls as a sort of second level honor, but certainly worth noting (I did not say pro bowls are a be-all end-all stat — that unfairly distorts what I’ve said). To me, such honors give a clue to what contemporary observers thought of the player’s worth in relation to their peers. Problem is, Riley’s got practically nothing of the sort. Sorry, but I’m not interested in isolated testimonials because they’re often biased, especially when it’s from a teammate or someone within the same organization, as well as the problem of memory often being unreliable. Relying solely on a particular defensive stat regarding HoF worth is also a problem for me, since these usually reward certain niche skills which may or may not be meaningful. FWIW, I think Dick LeBeau and Emmitt Thomas, two DBs with lots of lifetime INTs and paltry honors profiles are very poor choices and don’t belong in. Like Riley, they played forever, and just playing forever by itself isn’t HoF worthy. Finally, your comment about film study suggests you think Riley looks terrific this way — and if that’s what you’re saying, I’ll want to see something at the detail level Ken Crippen provides at his website: detailed play description, numerical grading, detailed breakdown of general strengths and weaknesses, etc. (not at all a fan of “I saw every game he played” and vague things like that).

    • Ken
      May 8, 2016
      Reply

      Your opinion is just that, your opinion. If you are ok with the value placed on Pro Bowls ok great. Top 5 all time means something and that’s all I can say.

  21. bachslunch
    May 19, 2016
    Reply

    Ken: yes, I’m perfectly entitled to my opinion and have given good reasons to back it up. And sorry, but I don’t think being top 5 in lifetime interceptions all by itself is HoF worthy.

  22. Pete
    July 9, 2016
    Reply

    Steve, I totally agree with you. Lester Hayes was the ultimate cornerback of his time. And don’t let the number of interceptions (39) fool you. If you’re old enough to remember what other team coaches said about him it’s all telling not to mention the awards he got. The talk around the league was ‘don’t throw in Lester’s direction.’ Not many picks after the 1980 season because not many balls thrown his way. If you saw the particular game, Bernie Kosar got benched in the first quarter for throwing in Lester’s direction. After game press conference and coach was kept being asked what’s wrong with Bernie as it was not known why he didn’t play any more. Finally he said, “nothing is wrong with Bernie, I told him if he threw in Lester’s direction I was going to bench him. He threw in Lester’s direction, I benched him.” By the way, Lester picked the pass off. How many cornerbacks including those in the HOF with that kind of reputation where coaches would tell their QBs not to throw in his direction? There may be a few but none I can think of on the same level as Lester Hayes. Forget the stickum (he was select to 4 consecutive pro bowls and the 1980s NFL All Decade Team after the stickum ban) and the bad boy image bestowed upon the Raiders, Lester should most definitely be in the HOF. And yes, I recall Lester bringing down Earl Campbell one on one in the open field which was unheard of, Earl would run over defensive backs… had to gang tackle him. But then again, Lester was a linebacker in college but I think that only adds to his accomplishments. Converted from linebacker to become one of if not the most feared cornerback in the history of the NFL… remarkable.

  23. Pete
    July 19, 2016
    Reply

    The write up for Pat Fischer concerning his size is irrelative. His size was typical for cornerbacks during his era. I can’t recall the player but there was a cornerback even smaller than him, only weighed 140 pounds and a number of others that weighed less than 170, 160+. A 180 pound cornerback was a big cornerback during the 1960s and the 1970s a 190 pounds was a big cornerback. 200 pound cornerbacks are still considered a good size in today’s game. So please, I can’t consider his size as a relative factor during the era he played. And most certainly forget the height, 5’10” was average, 1 inch shorter means nothing. Yes, he was a tough and gritty player but other than that, not really that special. Another one of those with a lot of interceptions due to the longevity, 17 years. I cannot see voting him into the HoF above other truly great and more deserving cornerbacks.

  24. Max
    July 25, 2017
    Reply

    Pat Fischer will always be remembered by such players as Jim Brown and Joe Namath. Ask all of those who played against Fischer whether he belongs in the HOF. He’s long overdue for induction.

  25. Gregory Gates
    November 7, 2017
    Reply

    Just came across this article out surfing the internet. It’s amazing how many folks accept the subjectivity of the HOF voting process referring to the annual honors voting given out for all types play was more a popularity contest than actual performance. The HOF is full of players who I refer to as self promoters who talked a better game than they actually played. It appears that Ken Riley and the Pat Fischer types not worthy. HOF voting is a flawed process. I notice a lot of borderline players today go the TV announcing route to keep their name in front of the voters to improve their chances .

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