Pick any hall of fame, whether it be the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or even the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame (such a place really exists). They all have something in common — someone who belongs in the hall has been left out. So it goes with the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The facility just inducted eight new members, but as with every year’s new class of honorees, talk arises about which players have been unfairly snubbed. We’ll skip the discussion about recent retirees, such as Terrell Owens, who are virtually a lock to be in someday soon, to look at five players who are long overdue.
5. Morten Andersen
Andersen was a finalist in 2016 in his fourth year of eligibility, and is a trendy pick to punch his ticket in the Class of 2017. But why should Andersen, who retired in 2007, have to wait even that long? Andersen is the all-time leading scorer in NFL history. He played, and played well, until age 47 (in his final season, he made 25 of 28 field goals, a career-high .893 percentage). Kickers are grossly undervalued by HOF voters; only one other player, Jan Stenerud, who played his entire career as a kicker is in the hall.
4. Steve Atwater
The longtime Broncos safety, who retired after the 1999 season, made eight Pro Bowls. He played on two Super Bowl champions, and seemed to violate the laws of known physics in that legendary moment when he hit 260-pound running back Christian Okoye, who was running almost full speed, and knocked him backward. One of the most fearsome hitters in NFL history, Atwater will almost certainly make it to Canton one day. A finalist in 2016 voting, that day might come next year.
3. L.C. Greenwood
That Pittsburgh Steelers defense of the 1970s was so good, that Greenwood seems to have been lost in the shuffle. A six-time Pro Bowler, the 6-6 defensive end was a disruptive force, leading the team six times in sacks; in Super Bowl X, he sacked Cowboys QB Roger Staubach four times. He’s been a finalist for the hall twice, in 2005 and 2006, but failed to make it both times. Maybe judges feel there are too many members of that Steel Curtain defense in the hall, but Greenwood, who passed away in 2013, is long overdue for this honor.
2. Lee Roy Jordan
Sometimes a great player will toil away in one of the NFL’s lower-profile cities, like Atlanta or Cincinnati, and end up overlooked. You certainly can’t make that case for Lee Roy Jordan. The Cowboys middle linebacker from 1963 to 1976, Jordan played for “America’s Team.” Not only that, he captained the vaunted “Doomsday” defense, made five Pro Bowls, and led the Cowboys to three Super Bowls. He could absolutely dominate a game, no small feat on a defense filled with HOFers and other Pro Bowlers. He once made 21 tackles in a game; in another game, he intercepted three passes in one quarter. It’s truly baffling why Jordan is not in the hall.
1. Ken Anderson
Many longtime football fans are surprised to learn that the longtime Bengals quarterback is not already in the hall of fame. He was a finalist in 1996 and 1998, but fell short both times. Now, the hall’s senior committee will decide his fate. Despite being one of the most accurate quarterbacks in NFL history, voters continue to overlook Anderson. Like other quarterbacks from the 1960s and 1970s (see John Brodie) Anderson’s HOF hopes have been hurt by the explosion in passing stats in recent years, which make his numbers look rather pedestrian by comparison.