Former Detroit star Alex Karras is one three all-decade tackles from the 1960s … but the only one not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Worse, he’s never been discussed as a finalist.
Yet Karras is deserving. He holds the Lions’ record for sacks with 97-1/2, a mark that has stood for four decades, and he did that as a defensive tackle in an era when quarterbacks averaged 20-25 passes a game. Moreover, he was a nine-time All-Pro, including four first-team nominations, and missed only one game in 12 NFL seasons.
But Alex Karras also was suspended a season because of gambling, and that not only hurt his Hall-of-Fame candidacy; it may have sabotaged it.
At least, that’s the view of Hall-of-Famer, Joe Schmidt, one of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history and a Lions’ teammate of Karras. Schmidt joined the Talk of Fame Network this week and was asked about Karras and his failure to reach Canton.
“Because of the gambling thing and what he said and so forth and so on, I don’t think they would ever even consider (it),” he said of Karras reaching the Hall. “I believe he was up for the Hall of Fame one time, but I was told by people in the NFL that he would never grace the halls of Canton.
“Do I think they had their minds made up because of the circumstances involved? I think he was one of the best that ever played, but, unfortunately, that will never be recognized.”
Maybe, except former Green Bay running back Paul Hornung was also suspended in 1963 for gambling, and he was named to Canton. Hornung is another member of the 1960s’ all-decade team, but, more importantly, a member of a Green Bay club that dominated the decade, winning five championships in seven years.
So the bottom-line question: If Schmidt had a Hall-of-Fame pass to give to someone … anyone … not in Canton, would Karras be that guy?
“Oh, yeah, no question about that,” he said. “He killed the Green Bay guards (in the 1962 Thanksgiving Day Massacre, Green Bay’s only loss that season). I don’t know if he had four sacks or what.
“When he made his mind up, and he got in the groove I don’t think there was anybody who could block him. He was just so quick and so fast. He had natural ability. Just a great football player, but, unfortunately, they’re not going to change the rules and he’s not going to grace the halls.”
Again, maybe. But Karras is eligible for Canton as a senior candidate, and maybe, just maybe, with the backing of people like Joe Schmidt he gains the attention … and support … of the senior committee.