Los Angeles Chargers 2020 NFL Hall of Fame Centennial Class Thursday, January 16, 2020
January 23, 2020
The special Centennial Class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame was announced last week by the NFL, sending 15 individuals to football immortality in Canton: Harold Carmichael, Jim Covert, Bill Cowher, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Jimmy Johnson, Alex Karras, Steve Sabol, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, Ed Sprinkle, Paul Tagliabue, George Young.
The list consists of 10 Seniors (players who last played more than 25 years ago), three Contributors (an individual other than a player or coach) and two Coaches were elected by a special Blue-Ribbon Panel during a meeting at the Hall of Fame last week.
While the selections are all worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there were questions about some individuals that were left off. The obvious question from NFL fans is, what is the criteria for the Hall of Fame?
Let's start with the two head coaches selected. Bill Cowher had a successful career with the Steelers, with a head coaching record of 149-90-1 and winning one super bowl championship. Cowher also played linebacker in the NFL for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
Jimmy Johnson had an NFL head coaching record of 80-64, winning two super bowl championships with the Dallas Cowboys. Both Cowher and Johnson were good selections for the Hall of Fame. But there were a few other coaches passed over that should have been considered or possibly selected.
Former Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Flores continues to get passed over for some unknown reason. Flores had a record of 97-87 as a head coach with the Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks, with two super bowl championships as head coach with the Raiders. Flores also won a super bowl ring as an assistant coach with the Raiders. As a quarterback for the Raiders, Flores threw for 11,635 yards and 92 touchdown passes. So, what gives Cowher the edge over Flores?
Former Charger head coach Don Coryell should also get consideration. Coryell never won or coached in a Super Bowl. Coryell led the Cardinals and Chargers to five division titles and the Chargers to two AFC Conference Championship games. His offensive scheme, known as "Air Coryell," helped the Chargers lead the league in passing in seven of eight years, from 1978 to 1985. The offense produced three Hall of Famers in quarterback Dan Fouts, wide receiver Charlie Joiner, and tight end Charlie Joiner.
Coryell's influence is felt today in the pass-happy NFL. Former Rams coach Dick Vermeil stated: "In the offense we won the Super Bowl with in 1999, the foundation was Don Coryell. The route philosophies, the vertical passing game ... everything stemmed from the founder, Don Coryell. The genius." Former Raiders coach John Madden, along with thee time super bowl champion coach Joe Gibbs and Fouts, stated: "All three of us are in the all Hall of the Fame because of Don Coryell."
On the player selections for the HOF, Harold Carmichael played 13 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagle, catching 590 passes for 8,985 yards and 79 touchdowns at the wide receiver position. He was very deserving of the HOF, but again, what do some players get passed over? Carmichael played in Super Bowl XV in 1981, when the Eagles loss to the Raiders 27-10. In that game against the Raiders, Carmichael had five receptions for 83 yards. Carmichael was selected to four pro bowls with the Eagles.
Playing for the Raiders, Cliff Branch had 501 receptions, for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns. Branch won three super bowls as a player with the Raiders. He was three-time first team All-Pro and four-time pro bowl wide receiver. In the Super Bowl XV victory that Carmichael played in, Branch caught five passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Branch's playing career compares very favorably to Carmichael's and he has three super bowl rings.
Harold Jackson had 579 catches for 10,372 yards and 76 touchdowns in his 16-year playing career. Jackson played in four conference championship games, three with the Rams. Jackson was a five-time pro bowl wide receiver. Jackson played four seasons with the Eagles, leading the NFL in receiving yardage twice, in 1969 and 1972. Jackson was traded to the Rams in 1973 and was first team All-Pro in his first season with the Rams, leading the NFL with 13 touchdowns catches.
Jackson was traded to the New England Patriots in 1978, where he played the next four seasons. He caught 156 passes for the Pats for an average of 20.2 yards per reception. Jackson had clearly established that he was a star on every team he played for. He finished his career with Seattle in 1983, playing his final NFL game in 1984 in the AFC Championship game against the Raiders at the age of 38. At the time of his retirement, only Don Maynard had more career receiving yards than Jackson.
Jackson is as deserving as any wide receiver from his era. Another wide receiver that should get consideration for the HOF is Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys. Pearson had 489 receptions for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. A three-time first team All-Pro, Pearson helped the Cowboys to three Super Bowl appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XII in 1978. He was named to the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team.
The players selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in this special centennial class should be congratulated but it just continues to be difficult to understand what separates a Tom Flores from a Bill Cowher or a Cliff Branch from a Harold Carmichael.