Damn near all of them are Hall of Fame locks, yet they couldn’t get in this year. That says more than anything Phillip and I possibly could about this year’s class, but we did our best anyway.
Chris Hanburger and Les Richter (Rev)
Admittedly, I know very little about Hanburger and Richter, the two linebackers to be enshrined this weekend in Canton. That’s probably an indictment on my football history, because by all accounts both Hanburger and Richter were stars in their day.
Hanburger played 14 seasons with the Washington Redskins (1965-78), being named All-NFL four times in five years from 72-76, and at the time of his retirement he had the most career fumbles returned for a touchdown with three. He was the leader of the talented 70s Redskins defenses and a legend for the Burgundy and Gold.
Richter played nine seasons for the Los Angeles Rams (1954-62), after being acquired from the Dallas Texans for 11 players…11 PLAYERS. So you know the man was talented; being drafted in the first round by the New York Yanks, who went defunct two days after they selected Richter, thus going to Dallas.
He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons, was named first or second team All-NFL six times and also played center and did the placekicking in his early years. Clearly, he was a stud athlete, and a durable one at that, never missing any of the 112 games the Rams played in his career.
Ed Sabol (Phillip)
Whether you know it or not, Ed Sabol has a lot to do with why you love your favorite team and the NFL so much. Sabol is the founder of NFL Films, one of the greatest production companies to ever to happen to man.
To watch NFL Films is akin to watching some of the greatest theatre ever produced. From the multiple camera angles, the close shots, the music, the slow motion -- I'm literally getting goose bumps while typing these words.
I remember when I was still young and impressionable, my pops used to pop in these old tapes of the Raiders, all produced by NFL Films. Nothing quite captures the Raiders culture like what Sabol was able to do with his crew.
I’ve never been able to remove the images of Fred Biletnikoff one-hand catches, Willie Brown running straight into my TV screen in slow motion with desire written all over his face and “The Autumn Wind” playing in the background, or Al Davis saying, “Just Win, Baby” right after Jack Tatum clothes lines an unsuspecting wide receiver. Those are the cultural images Ed Sabol created not just for the Raiders, but for all NFL franchises, and why he’s one of the greatest men who ever lived.
Richard Dent (Rev)
Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia as a diehard Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Eagles fan, I for whatever reason also had an affinity for all things Chicago. I loved Frank Thomas and the White Sox; Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and the Bulls; and thanks to Saturday Night Live, Buddy Ryan and Jim McMahon, I liked the Bears as well.
As we all know, the Bears of the 80s were known for Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense, and the dominating forces were without a doubt Mike Singletary and one of the most dominant defensive ends of his day, Richard Dent.
Dent notched 10 or more sacks in eight seasons, including recording 4.5 in one game twice. When he retired, his 137.5 sacks were third all-time, and although he was known as a Chicago Bear, he also spent one season in Philadelphia. Even as a youngster, I remember being excited having Richard Dent despite his best days being behind him. While I don’t really remember him at his best, he was widely considered the third best defensive end of his era behind the late, great Reggie White and Buffalo Bills legend Bruce Smith.
Shannon Sharpe (Phillip)
When I was growing up, I used to dream of punching Shannon Sharpe square in the jaw. Yeah, I hated the Broncos, but I HATED Shannon Sharpe. I hated Shannon Sharpe because he was a damn good football player on a divisional rival. He came into the league as an undersized tight end from Savannah State University and exited the league as the same undersized tight end with more catches than anyone who ever played the position.
When you talk about match up problems, the conversation has to end and begin with Shannon Sharpe. I’ll never forget watching him in motion before the snap with John Elway giving the cadence. As soon as Elway had the ball in his hands, Sharpe would crack down on the defensive end or the outside linebacker before running a 5-yard out, hands as sure as his jersey was ugly.
Elway would snap the ball right between the numbers while Sharpe outran slower linebackers or used his strength against outmatched DBs. There was nothing defenses could do about it, which was due to his unique skill set at the time. In the 90s, tight ends were out there to help boost the running game. Sharpe helped revolutionize the position. In today’s game, we have guys like Heath Miller, Jason Witten, Kellen Winslow Jr, and Zach Miller who are pivotal parts of the passing game, thanks in large part to the trail that Shannon Sharpe blazed.
Deion Sanders (Rev)
In all honesty, I could not stand Deion Sanders growing up, mostly because he played baseball for the hated Atlanta Braves and then flourished on the field for the Dallas Cowboys.
Even in his early years as a Falcon and during his time as a 49er (and later the Redskins and Raves), I couldn’t stand the flash and the fact that Deion couldn’t hit. My favorite cornerbacks were Eric Allen and Rod Woodson, great cover guys who could also tackle.
Deion couldn’t tackle. At all. And you know what? It didn’t matter. It’s easy for all the flash and that loud mouth to overshadow what Deion was able to do on the field. The high-stepping, the awful music, the Hammer pants, you know, Prime Time. In many ways, he was ahead of his time. However, when he stepped between those lines, there has never been a better cover corner on the planet.
He completely shut down his side of the field, effortlessly sticking with the fastest receivers in the league, and if a quarterback dared to challenge him, more times than you can imagine, he’d be picking it off and going back the other way.
There has never been a more electrifying defensive player with the ball in his hands, and beyond being one of the greatest shutdown corners to ever play, he was as lethal a return man as my eyes have ever seen. No, Deion couldn’t tackle. That’s because he didn’t have to. He is one of the rare defensive players that you absolutely had to alter the entire game plan to account for.
In all, Deion recorded 53 interceptions, scored 18 touchdowns – six punt returns, three kickoff returns and nine interception returns – was named first-team All-Pro nine times at corner, and when he retired was second all-time in interception return yardage, second for most interceptions returned for a touchdown and a season (3) and won Defensive Player of the Year in 1994.
He won one Super Bowl apiece with Dallas and San Francisco. And beyond that, he was one of the first NFL players to become an entertainer on and off the field. I always hated him, but I always knew how damn good he was. Easily the best cover corner I ever saw, hands down, no matter how much it pains me to say that.
Marshall Faulk (Phillip)
Although I’ve always been a Raiders fan, it was always hard not to keep an eye on the Rams after they left Los Angeles as well. Even though they weren’t the heart of the city, the City of Angels always had a special place in their heart for the Rams. During those “Greatest Show on Turf” years, I was enthralled. Not just by the way they threw up points, but by the way Marshall Faulk was utilized -- which ended up being one of the most underappreciated eras for any running back of my lifetime.
Marshall was a unique back who could do it all athletically, despite not having great speed. What he lacked in acceleration, he made up for in intelligence. Marshall was one of the few backs ever who was electrifying when he got outside of the tackles, but never had to dance around in the backfield to gain our attention.
A lot of his touches were in open space, but his shoulders were always square with the end zone. Faulk became the second back to record 1,000+ rushing and receiving yards in one season. He was an NFL MVP as well as a Super Bowl Champion. Most of all, he was a class act. No end zone dances, he was never a detriment to his team, and I can’t remember him ever complaining about a contract.
-P. Barnett and The Rev
Top picture courtesy of OutLandysh Society