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5 NFL players who should be in the Hall of Fame

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

April 28th, 2020

Since 1963, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has enshrined 326 outstanding figures from professional football, including players, coaches, and team executives. Typically no more than eight inductees join the Hall of Fame each year, which leaves many deserving candidates on the outside looking in.

Here are five NFL players who left their mark on professional football, but have yet to receive their gold jacket in Canton, Ohio.  

Drew Pearson, WR

Longtime Dallas Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson has been eligible for the Hall of Fame since the late 1980s. The three-time Pro Bowler led the Cowboys in receiving from 1974-77 and topped the league in that category in 1977, the same year Dallas won Super Bowl XII. Pearson appeared in two other Super Bowls, but lost both times to the Steelers.  

In 1979, he made history along with wideout Tony Hill and running back Tony Dorsett when Dallas became the first team in the NFL to feature two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back.

When he retired in 1983, Pearson had accumulated 7,822 yards, the fourth most by a Cowboys player in franchise history. He became known for making clutch catches with the game on the line — most famously, he hauled in a Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to seal a win against the Minnesota Vikings in a 1975 playoff game.

Pearson is a member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor and was named to the 1970s All-Decade Team. He’s the only player on offense or defense from that team who has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In 2020, Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson and Cowboys safety Cliff Harris were selected to the Hall of Fame, but Pearson found out once again he had been snubbed.

Eddie George, RB

Ohio State great Eddie George earned the Heisman in 1995, one year before he made a splash with the Houston Oilers as NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He made the Pro Bowl from 1997-2000 and led his team (which became the Tennessee Titans in 1999) to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV, where they narrowly lost to the Saint Louis Rams. George ran for 95 yards, two scores, and caught two passes for 35 yards in that game.  

George is the second NFL running back (Jim Brown the other) to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start. He compiled seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is the only NFL running back to record 300 or more carries in eight consecutive seasons.

The four-time Pro Bowler averaged 1,160.1 rushing yards per season (seventh most in NFL history), before he retired in 2004. Only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders, Brown, Walter Payton, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Emmitt Smith averaged more yards per season. Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson, Terrell Davis, Tony Dorsett, Jerome Bettis, and Earl Campbell all rank behind George in that statistic.

Shaun Alexander, RB

Another running back awaiting an invite to Canton is former Seahawks star Shaun Alexander. The quiet but effective back landed in Seattle as the No. 19 pick in the 2000 draft and exploded onto the scene in his sophomore season.

Alexander rushed for 1,318 yards and led the league in rushing touchdowns (14) that year. He’d again top the league in rushing scores, with 27 in 2005, which tied Priest Holmes’ record for the most in one season. The next year, LaDainian Tomlinson broke that record by scoring 28.

Alexander earned NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 2005 as the NFL’s rushing yards leader (1,880). That season, the Seahawks reached the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history but fell to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

Alexander retired in 2009 with 9,453 rushing yards, 1,520 receiving yards, and 100 rushing TDs, tied for eighth all time. Alexander and Adrian Peterson are the only players in the top 10 in career rushing scores who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Peterson isn’t yet eligible for enshrinement, but certainly will become a member of the Hall of Fame. Alexander has yet to even be named a Hall of Fame finalist since his retirement.

Donovan McNabb, QB

One of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history, Donovan McNabb led the Philadelphia Eagles offense from 1999 to 2009. He guided the team to eight playoff appearances, five NFC East division titles, five NFC Championship Games, and one Super Bowl appearance, where he lost to the New England Patriots, 24-21, in 2005.

He’s tied with Hall of Famer Jim Kelly for most playoff victories by a quarterback (9) who did not win a Super Bowl.

In 2004, McNabb set a franchise record for passing yards (3,875), which he later broke in 2008 (3,916 yards). In 2004, he also became the first NFL player to finish a season with more than 30 touchdown passes (31) and fewer than 10 interceptions (8).

He was named to the Pro Bowl six times in his career and became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to tally more than 30,000 passing yards, 200 touchdown passes, 3,000 rushing yards, and 20 rushing scores. The first three QBs to accomplish that feat were Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton, John Elway, and Steve Young.

McNabb has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame every year since he became eligible in 2017 but has never made the final cut.

Gary Anderson, K

Though he may be most remembered for a missed field goal in the 1998 NFC Championship Game, placekicker Gary Anderson still goes down as one of the greatest at his position.

The first South African to appear in an NFL regular-season game, Anderson played with six different teams (his longest tenures on the Steelers and Vikings) from 1982-2004. A four-time Pro Bowler and the 1988 Golden Toe Award winner, Anderson racked up 2,434 points throughout his career, the third most in NFL history, behind Adam Vinatieri and Morten Andersen.

He held the record for points in a single season with no touchdowns scored (164 in 1998), until David Akers broke that record in 2011. He’s also third in field goals made (538), behind Vinatieri and Andersen, third in career games played, and fourth in extra points made (820), behind George Blanda, Vinatieri, and Andersen.

In 1998, at age 39, Anderson completed 100% of his regular-season field-goal tries (35-of-35), but botched that one crucial attempt for the Vikings in the postseason.   

Only four kickers have been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Andersen, George Blanda, Lou Groza, and Jan Stenerud. It’s time to add Anderson to the list.


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