Here is a fun one just for discussion sake. Who are the biggest longevity vs. peak guys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Football likes to say that they don’t value stats like baseball and there are not as many compilers, but while we don’t have the depth of statistics for positions like offensive guard or defensive back like baseball players, some players have been enshrined in Canton because they were good players for a long time, not because they were the best players during a given stretch.
I was reminded of this today by Mike Florio’s Floriolic take that Charlie Joiner should be ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson in Chargers’ lore. It’s hard to justify Joiner over Tomlinson based on peak or virtually any other measure. Joiner was a really good player for a long time, but was rarely the clear center piece of the “Air Coryell” offense that threw the ball a lot. Tomlinson was the best running back in the league for a large chunk of the last decade.
So to measure the compiler/longevity scale, I looked at a couple of things. One was career approximate value (AV) divided by years to get an average. I then also cross-referenced it with individual awards. Awards are part of the AV formula, but I didn’t want a player like Dermontti Dawson, who happened to not play for explosive offenses but was seen as the best at his position, showing up on the scale.
A look at the other end of the results shows some of the best players of all-time: Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Lawrence Taylor are the top three, and many of the other guys considered the best at their positions rank near the top.
Here are the starting eleven compilers/longevity guys in the Hall of Fame, in looking at average AV combined with award percentage:
- Jackie Slater (6.5 AV per year, 7 pro bowls/0 all pros in 20 seasons)
- George Blanda (4.4 AV per year, 4 pro bowls/1 all pro in 26 seasons)
- Charlie Joiner (7.4 AV per year, 3 pro bowls/1 all pro in 18 seasons)
- Jackie Smith (7.8 AV per year, 3 pro bowls/1 all pro in 16 seasons)
- John Stallworth (7.3 AV per year, 4 pro bowls/1 all pro in 14 seasons)
- Elvin Bethea (8.1 AV per year, 8 pro bowls/0 all pros in 16 seasons)
- Darrell Green (7.5 AV per year, 7 pro bowls/1 all pro in 20 seasons)
- Art Monk (8.1 AV per year, 3 pro bowls/1 all pro in 16 seasons)
- Ozzie Newsome (8.0 AV per year, 3 pro bowls/1 all pro in 13 seasons)
- John Riggins (8.6 AV per year, 1 pro bowls/1 all pro in 14 seasons)
- Dick LeBeau (8.8 AV per year, 3 pro bowls/0 all pros in 13 seasons)
It’s notable that with the exceptions of Stallworth and the three Redskins players, these players are not noted for winning RINGSSSSSSS! So they were not getting a bump for championship performances by their teams. None of them were selected as a first team all pro by the Associated Press more than once in their careers, but they were above average performers at their position for a long time. Seven of these guys show up playing offensive “skill” positions where there are more counting numbers, so if football people want to claim counting stats don’t matter, baseball folks may have a slight retort. One of those that wasn’t an offensive skill player just recently got in with a “counting stats” argument. Even though he really got in for a combination of things like being a long-time assistant, LeBeau was officially selected as a player, with things like his placement on the career interceptions list being noted.
Also, by the measure used here, Curtis Martin, who many decried as a compiler, checks in exactly middle of the pack for Hall of Famers. Reasons? He was considered among the best of his position a decent amount of times (5 pro bowls in 11 years) and averaged over 11 AV per year, and was often one of, if not the best player, on most of the offenses in which he played.
[photo via drDavidChao.com]