HOF Worthy: All-Decade Teams As A Canton Indicator

With Hall of Fame weekend starting today, I can’t think of a better time to open up the HOF Worthy discussion, specifically, the question of what makes a Hall of Famer? NFL.com published a pretty cool infographic on typical Hall of Fame traits last week. I touched on it a few times during Super Bowl weekend and will continue to do so in the coming days and throughout the 2013 season.

When looking at the incoming Class of 2013, a few traits are similar across the board. Clearly all of the modern-era inductees put together great careers and earned multiple Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections between the five of them. But Pro Bowls aren’t the best indicator of great seasons. And while All-Pro selections are a much better barometer of talent, a selection or two is far from a guaranteed entry into Canton.

Another trait they share are their Pro Football All-Decade Team selections, which seems to be the strongest indication of a Hall of Fame career. There are a few reasons for this. For one, the players chosen are being recognized for their dominance over an entire decade, not just a single season. Also, the same committee that votes for the All-Decade teams also votes for the Hall of Fame. In a way, a spot on an All-Decade team is like getting into a high school honor society. It’s usually indicative of greater accomplishments in the future.

Let’s take a look at the last three All-Decade Teams, starting with the 1980s. I’m only focusing on the offenses and defenses in these tables, since special teams players struggle to get into Canton no matter how great they may be.  I’m also only focusing on the First Team All-Decade selections for right now, though most Second Team players get in as well.

1980s All-Decade Team

Offense

Defense

Position

Player

Position

Player

Quarterback

*Joe Montana*

Defensive End

*Reggie White*

Running Back

*Walter Payton*

*Howie Long*

*Eric Dickerson*

Defensive Tackle

*Randy White*

Wide Receiver

*Jerry Rice*

*Dan Hampton*

*Steve Largent*

Linebacker

*Mike Singletary*

Tight End

*Kellen Winslow*

*Lawrence Taylor*

Tackle

*Anthony Munoz*

*Ted Hendricks*

Jimbo Covert

Cornerback

*Mike Haynes*

Guard

*John Hannah*

*Mel Blount*

*Russ Grimm*

Safety

*Ronnie Lott*

Center

*Dwight Stephenson*

Kenny Easley

*Denotes Hall of Fame inductees*

Success personified. Only two of the 22 selections have yet to make it into Canton. Both Calvert and Easley had their careers cut short due to injury, so were brevity not an issue they would likely be in as well.

1990s All-Decade Team

Offense

Defense

Position

Player

Position

Player

Quarterback

*John Elway*

Defensive End

*Bruce Smith*

Running Back

*Barry Sanders*

*Reggie White*

*Emmitt Smith*

Defensive Tackle

*Cortez Kennedy*

Wide Receiver

*Jerry Rice*

*John Randle*

*Cris Carter*

Linebacker

Junior Seau

Tight End

*Shannon Sharpe*

*Derrick Thomas*

Tackle

*Willie Roaf*

Kevin Greene

*Gary Zimmerman*

Cornerback

*Deion Sanders*

Guard

*Bruce Matthews*

*Rod Woodson*

*Randall McDaniel*

Safety

Steve Atwater

Center

*Dermontti Dawson*

LeRoy Butler

*Denotes Hall of Fame inductees*

With Cris Carter getting enshrined today, four of the 22 from the 1990s are currently not in Canton; but only three are really up in the air (Junior Seau will get in when he’s eligible). Greene has been a finalist the last two years, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in this year or next. Atwater has been a semi-finalist the last two years, but with so many great players becoming eligible in the coming years (and many of them DBs), he may be pushed further down the line.

Also not shown is Bill Parcells, the first team coach, who will be inducted today. Since coaches were first included in the 1970 All-Decade Team, all of the first and second team selections have been inducted pretty easily.

2000s All-Decade Team

Offense

Defense

Position

Player

Position

Player

Quarterback

Tom Brady

Defensive End

Dwight Freeney

Running Back

Edgerrin James

*Michael Strahan

LaDainian Tomlinson

Defensive Tackle

*Warren Sapp*

Fullback

Lorenzo Neal

Richard Seymour

Wide Receiver

Marvin Harrison

Linebacker

Derrick Brooks

Randy Moss

Ray Lewis

Tight End

Tony Gonzalez

Brian Urlacher

Tackle

Walter Jones

Cornerback

Champ Bailey

*Jonathan Ogden*

Charles Woodson

Guard

Alan Faneca

Safety

Brian Dawkins

Steve Hutchinson

Ed Reed

Center

Kevin Mawae

*Only three HOF-eligible players

Much of the 2000s All-Decade Team is still active, but the story will probably be the same. Ogden and Sapp are going in today, while Strahan and Brooks could go in next year. Guys like Brady and Lewis will be first-ballot.

Interesting debates will still be had regarding the 2000s team though, specifically Edgerrin James and Dwight Freeney. Hall voters like to reward good players on good teams but it’s hard for me to see Edgerrin James getting inducted. And with so many pass rushers putting up similar numbers to Freeney, he could spend years fighting for a bust as well.

Guard Larry Allen was Second Team All-Decade twice (90s and 00s), which is still a lock for Canton.

The only real downside of the All-Decade Teams are that they favor players whose NFL careers start in the beginning of the decade. Judging by past All-Decade teams, the incoming rookie class will likely be the last one to get any players onto the 2010s All-Decade Team, and even then they would need to make an immediate impact. Theoretically, a great player could enter the league in 2014 or 2015, retire by 2027, never making an All-Decade Team but still putting together a Hall of Fame career. Of course, an All-Decade selection isn’t the only way into Canton. Players will get in without receiving a single vote. But when it comes to player accolades and HOF chances, there may not be a stronger correlation in football.

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