Sports Reference Blog

PFR Celebrates the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Posted by Jonah Gardner on August 7, 2015

It's been a long six months, but this weekend the NFL is back in our lives. However, while the Hall of Fame Game is always a fun spectacle to start the preseason, we're just as excited for the Hall of Fame Induction. In order to celebrate this year's inductees, we combed through our database to find some interesting or unique accomplishments. This post is by no means comprehensive, but here are the charts, graphs, and tables that begin to scratch the surface of the greatness of the Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

Junior Seau

Starting with one of my favorite football players ever, Junior Seau's dominance was exceedingly rare, especially for a player who wasn't a quarterback. How rare? Here's every non-QB with 10 or more seasons of Approximate Value above 10

Draft From To Tm Count
Jerry Rice* 1-16 1986 2002 SFO/OAK 14
Bruce Matthews* 1-9 1988 2001 TEN 13
Bruce Smith* 1-1 1987 2000 BUF/WAS 13
Reggie White* 1-4 1986 1998 PHI/GNB 13
Derrick Brooks* 1-28 1997 2008 TAM 11
Ray Lewis 1-26 1997 2010 BAL 11
Randall McDaniel* 1-19 1990 2000 MIN/TAM 11
Curtis Martin* 3-74 1995 2004 NWE/NYJ 10
Anthony Munoz* 1-3 1981 1990 CIN 10
Jim Otto* 1960 1972 OAK 10
Alan Page* 1-15 1968 1980 MIN/CHI 10
Draft From To Tm Count
Walter Payton* 1-4 1976 1986 CHI 10
Barry Sanders* 1-3 1989 1998 DET 10
Jeff Saturday 2000 2012 IND/GNB 10
Junior Seau* 1-5 1992 2001 SDG 10
Will Shields* 3-74 1996 2006 KAN 10
Lawrence Taylor* 1-2 1981 1990 NYG 10
Rod Woodson* 1-10 1989 2002 PIT/BAL/OAK 10
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.

 

Seau is in a cohort with players universally regarded to be the greatest at their positions. This makes sense, but what impresses me the most about Seau's record is his dual ability to get to the quarterback and the ball carrier. On the career sack leaderboard, Seau is only 125th and while tackle data is incomplete pre-1994, Seau comes in 7th overall from 1994 on. However, when you look for players in that span of time with 1000+ tackles and 40+ sacks, here's what you get:

Games Sacks & Tackles
Rk From To Draft Tm Lg G GS Sk Tkl Ast
1 Junior Seau* 1994 2009 1-5 TOT NFL 205 181 44.0 1077 324
2 Ray Lewis 1996 2012 1-26 RAV NFL 228 227 41.5 1562 493
3 Brian Urlacher 2000 2012 1-9 CHI NFL 182 180 41.5 1040 314
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.

 

That, my friends, is historical dominance. And, by starting in 94, we're leaving out 3 100+ tackle seasons and 11.5 sacks. Since 1990, only one player in our database has 4 seasons with 100+ tackles and 4+ sacks:

Rk Draft From To Tm Count
1 Junior Seau* 1-5 1991 1996 SDG 4
2 Seth Joyner 8-208 1990 1992 PHI 3
3 Wilber Marshall 1-11 1990 1992 WAS 3
4 Karl Mecklenburg 12-310 1990 1992 DEN 3
5 Darryl Talley 2-39 1990 1992 BUF 3
6 Patrick Willis 1-11 2007 2010 SFO 3
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.

 

That's not all. Seau's 8-consecutive years leading the Chargers in AV were the most in a row I could find for any franchise, and while those years included some bad teams, they also included the 1994 squad that made the Super Bowl.

In short, Junior Seau ruled.

Jerome Bettis

With 8 1,000+ yard seasons, Jerome Bettis trails only 4 running backs for the most 1,000+ yard seasons in history (though one of the men he's tied with, Frank Gore, has at least a shot at #9 this year)

Rk Draft From To Tm Count
1 Emmitt Smith* 1-17 1991 2001 DAL 11
2 Curtis Martin* 3-74 1995 2004 NWE/NYJ 10
3 Walter Payton* 1-4 1976 1986 CHI 10
4 Barry Sanders* 1-3 1989 1998 DET 10
5 Jerome Bettis* 1-10 1993 2001 STL/PIT 8
6 Tony Dorsett* 1-2 1977 1985 DAL 8
7 Frank Gore 3-65 2006 2014 SFO 8
8 Franco Harris* 1-13 1972 1983 PIT 8
9 Steven Jackson 1-24 2005 2012 STL 8
10 Thurman Thomas* 2-40 1989 1996 BUF 8
11 LaDainian Tomlinson 1-5 2001 2008 SDG 8
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.

 

However, I'd like to focus on Bettis' absolute peak, his 1997 season for Pittsburgh. That year, Bettis rushed the ball 375 times and, despite one of the heaviest rushing loads of the 1990s, he still managed to put up 4.4 yards per attempt and 1,665 total yards. How rare is that? Since 1990, only 9 running backs have done what he did:

Bettis copy

Click to enlarge

 

 

Interestingly, of those 9 seasons, Bettis is the only one not to crack double digits in TDs. How is that possible? Kordell Stewart kept taking them! If you play fantasy football and get frustrated when your starting RB takes the ball to the goal line and then someone else punches that in, imagine having someone posting a 1600+ yard season and only getting 7 TDs from him.

Charles Haley

When you think of all-time champions, who do you think of? Perhaps Joe Montana, who famously went 4-0 in career Super Bowls? Or if you're younger, perhaps Tom Brady, who finally matched his idol's win total, if not his perfect record, in 2014. If you're more of a defense person, maybe you go with Mean Joe Greene's 4 Super Bowls. And, of course, who could forget Adam Vinatieri's reign of dominance, single-handedly leading 4 teams to Super Bowl titles within 6 years?

But you know what none of those guys have done? Win 5 Super Bowls. Charles Haley laughs at them all:

Rk From To Tm W
1 Charles Haley* 1988 1995 SFO/DAL 5
5 Tom Brady 2001 2014 NWE 4
10 Joe Greene* 1974 1979 PIT 4
18 Joe Montana* 1981 1989 SFO 4
26 Adam Vinatieri 2001 2006 NWE/IND 4
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.

 

Charles Haley's Super Bowl Record is untouchable. In addition to being the only player with 5 rings, he is tied for 2nd in Super Bowl sacks with 4.5 and he's one of only 6 players to register a sack a 3 Super Bowls:

Sacks & Tackles
Rk From To Tm G W L Sk
1 L.C. Greenwood 1974 1979 PIT 4 4 0 5.0
2 Willie Davis* 1966 1967 GNB 2 2 0 4.5
3 Charles Haley* 1988 1995 TOT 5 5 0 4.5
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.
Rk From To Tm W L Count
1 Manny Fernandez 1971 1973 MIA 2 1 3
2 Steve Furness 1975 1979 PIT 3 0 3
3 Charles Haley* 1988 1995 SFO/DAL 3 0 3
4 Willie McGinest 1996 2003 NWE 2 1 3
5 Alan Page* 1973 1976 MIN 0 3 3
6 Randy White* 1975 1978 DAL 1 2 3
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.

 

Charles Haley: Destroyer of Worlds, Winner of Super Bowls

Tim Brown

Only 4 Wide Receivers have 8 or more seasons with 80+ catches and 1,000+ yards.

Brown 80 catch 1000 yards

 

Of the four, only one of them never caught a pass from Joe Montana, Steve Young, Peyton Manning, or Kurt Warner: Hall of Famer Tim Brown. Of Brown's 8 seasons, 3 came with Rich Gannon, 1 with Jeff George, 1 with the immortal Donald Hollas, and the other 3 with Jeff Hostetler, which is easily the weakest collection of QBs of the 4 WRs on this list. Oh, and how about the 2001 Oakland Raiders, which had both Rice and Brown? (and saw Tim Brown beat Rice in both catches and receiving yards)

Will Shields

Offensive lineman may not generate the numbers that other positions do, but on reputation alone, Will Shields is pretty unassailable. Among players drafted in the 3rd round -- a list that includes Joe Montana, Jason Witten, Steve Smith, and Curtis Martin -- no one has more Pro Bowl appearances than Will Shields.

Misc Games
Rk Year Rnd Pick Pos DrAge Tm From To AP1 PB St CarAV G GS
1 1993 3 74 Will Shields HOF G 21 KAN 1993 2006 2 12 13 113 224 223
2 2003 3 69 Jason Witten TE 21 DAL 2003 2014 2 10 11 74 191 181
3 1993 3 82 John Lynch DB 21 TAM 1993 2007 2 9 11 87 224 191
4 1979 3 82 Joe Montana HOF QB 23 SFO 1979 1994 3 8 12 123 192 164
5 1991 3 59 Aeneas Williams HOF DB 23 PHO 1991 2004 3 8 12 103 210 206
6 2003 3 68 Lance Briggs LB 22 CHI 2003 2014 1 7 11 98 173 170
7 1976 3 86 Jackie Slater HOF T 22 RAM 1976 1995 0 7 13 87 259 211
8 1973 3 64 Dan Fouts HOF QB 22 SDG 1973 1987 2 6 14 122 181 171
9 1998 3 64 Olin Kreutz C 21 CHI 1998 2011 1 6 11 73 195 187
10 1996 3 89 Terrell Owens WR 22 SFO 1996 2010 5 6 13 119 219 201
11 1997 3 73 Jason Taylor DE 23 MIA 1997 2011 3 6 10 117 233 199
12 1997 3 66 Ronde Barber DB 22 TAM 1997 2012 3 5 13 110 241 232
13 1970 3 53 Mel Blount HOF DB 22 PIT 1970 1983 2 5 14 101 200 189
14 2005 3 65 Frank Gore RB 22 SFO 2005 2014 0 5 9 78 148 134
15 1995 3 74 Curtis Martin HOF RB 22 NWE 1995 2005 1 5 11 100 168 166
16 1972 3 70 Lawrence McCutcheon RB 22 RAM 1972 1981 0 5 5 76 109 82
17 1984 3 73 Guy McIntyre G 23 SFO 1984 1996 0 5 8 74 186 125
18 2001 3 74 Steve Smith WR 22 CAR 2001 2014 2 5 12 100 198 177
19 1989 3 57 Mark Stepnoski C 22 DAL 1989 2001 0 5 11 80 194 182
20 1986 3 60 Pat Swilling LB 21 NOR 1986 1998 2 5 9 99 185 142
21 2001 3 64 Adrian Wilson DB 21 ARI 2001 2013 1 5 11 64 181 162
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2015.

 

Mick Tingelhoff

It's been over 50 years between Mick Tingelhoff's first NFL snap and his Hall of Fame induction. With 6 Pro Bowl appearances, 5 First-Team All-Pro appearances, and a finish just outside the Top 100 on our all-time weighted AV leaderboard, it's just one more accolade for one of the 1960s most decorated players.

Mick Tingelhoff Leaderboard Appearances

 

 

Ron Wolff

If you were growing up in the 1990s, the chances are quite high that, no matter how much you rooted for your home team, your secondary allegiance was to Dallas, San Francisco, or Green Bay. In the same way that NBA fans from across the country rooted for the Bulls, these three teams loomed large of the 1990s NFL. Between Brett Favre and Reggie White, the 1990s Packers had one of the most dominant players of their era on either side of the ball. One of the men to thank for that is Ron Wolf. As GM of the Packers from 1992-2000, Wolf revolutionized scouting methods and brought the first title in 30 years to one of the NFL's most storied franchises.

He also built one of the best teams of that era. From 1993-98, the prime of Wolf's run, Green Bay was 2nd in point differential, trailing only the dominant 49ers.

Green Bay PD

 

Bill Polian

If you've watched playoff football at some point in the last three decades, you've probably seen a Bill Polian team. As GM of the early 1990s Bills, the mid 1990s Panthers, and the late 1990s-2000s Colts, Polian built teams with 5 Super Bowl appearances and 16 playoff appearances between 3 franchises. We don't have searchable records for GMs like we do for head coaches since, as you'll see in a moment, that term is somewhat flexible. However, I asked the team to search our numbers and find all GMs sorted by number of playoff wins. Here's what we got:

1. Al Davis | 1963-2010 | 25 playoff wins | Coach/General Manager, Minority Co-Owner/General Manager, Principal Owner/General Manager

2. Bill Belichick | 1992-2015 | 22 playoff wins | Head Coach/de facto General Manager

T3. Bill Polian | 1986-2009 | 18 playoff wins | General Manager, President/General Manager

T3. Tex Schramm | 1960-1988 | 18 playoff wins | President/General Manager

T3. Dick Haley | 1971-2002 | 18 playoff wins | Director of Player Personnel, General Manager, Director of Player Personnel/de facto General Manager

Obviously, how you define GM matters a bit here, and I don't think anyone would disagree that Al Davis and Bill Belichick's roles in their organizations were somewhat different from Polian's. Still, it's a testament to Polian's team-building ability that, despite a shorter tenure than most of the people on this list, he still makes the Top 5 for all-time playoff wins.

So, there you have it. This year's class represents some of the greatest football players in history, but it also represents the breadth of achievement that's possible in football. From the field to the front office, offense to defense, regular season grind to Super Bowl glory, the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 has done an awful lot.

One Response to “PFR Celebrates the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015”

  1. Chase Says:

    Fun stuff. Also, it looks like Seau actually did it in 9 straight years. That does appear to be the record.