5 players who don't deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
It’s not easy to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, considering only four to eight new members are immortalized in Canton, Ohio in a normal year.
Including the election class of 2020, there are 346 players, coaches, or front office personnel in the Hall of Fame, chosen for their contributions to football, most often in the NFL.
While all of them enjoyed success in the sport, some members are less worthy of the honor than others.
Here are five players whose career statistics put their Hall of Fame status into question.
Jan Stenerud, kicker
In 1991, Stenerud became the first pure placekicker to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. From 1967-1985, he spent time with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Kansas City Chiefs, with whom he won a Super Bowl.
Stenerud also made the Pro Bowl four times, but his stats don't jump off the page.
His field-goal percentage (66.8%) ranks 110th all time. He’s also 16th in field goals made (373) and extra points made (580).
Only five kicking specialists are in the Hall of Fame — Stenerud, George Blanda, Lou Groza, Morten Andersen, and punter Ray Guy. Blanda and Groza owned mediocre field-goal percentages as well, but they also contributed at other positions (Blanda was a quarterback, and Groza played tackle).
For a pure placekicker, Stenerud’s numbers aren’t elite compared to others at his position.
Dan Dierdorf, offensive tackle
From 1971-1983, Dan Dierdorf played for a St. Louis Cardinals team that went 4-9-1 his first three years in the league, and won more than eight games just three times.
Dierdorf never won a Super Bowl or made it to the conference championship round. Not only that, Dierdorf didn’t earn a full-time starting spot until his fourth year in the league.
He received six Pro Bowl nominations and was considered one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL during his peak, from 1974-78. He also helped set an NFL record at the time, when his unit allowed only eight sacks through 14 games, in 1975.
Dierdorf’s teams didn’t exactly dominate the league, and it’s likely his post-football career in the broadcast booth increased his popularity as a candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Lynn Swann, wide receiver
There are a few players from the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the 1970s who made the Hall of Fame more for the titles they won and less for their individual performance.
Receiver Lynn Swann is one of them. The former first-round pick out of USC played on a Pittsburgh team that won games primarily because of its Steel Curtain defense, along with Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in the run game.
That’s not to say Swann hardly contributed on the field. He excelled in both Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII, but his numbers pale in comparison to other receivers.
From 1974-1982, Swann tallied 5,462 receiving yards (246th all-time) and 51 touchdowns (tied for 119th). He never recorded a 1,000-yard season, nor did he finish in the top five in the league in receptions or yards in any of the years he played.
Excluding 2019, 1974 had 6 players drafted in the 1st Round make at least one Pro Bowl, the fewest in the 1st round of any draft in the Common Draft Era (since 1967).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 25, 2020
One of those six was Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Swann made 3 Pro Bowls during his career. https://t.co/P2rGUnGrx8 pic.twitter.com/9ZfXm3nOiP
There are receivers from his era, like Drew Pearson, who should have been enshrined before him.
Dick LeBeau, defensive back
Similar to Swann, Detroit Lions defensive back Dick LeBeau benefited from the star-studded cast around him.
From 1959-1972, LeBeau played on a Lions team that featured Dick “Night Train” Lane (the record-holder for most interceptions in one season), seven-time Pro Bowler Lem Barney, and five-time All-Pro Yale Lary.
Opposing offenses feared the three men above and took their chances in LeBeau’s territory, instead. That helped LeBeau record 62 career interceptions (tied for 10th all-time).
Through 14 seasons, LeBeau only made the Pro Bowl three times, and he reached the playoffs once in his career.
He went on to experience success as an NFL coach and won two Super Bowls as defensive coordinator of the Steelers.
He’s worthy of the Hall of Fame, but not as a player.
Joe Namath, quarterback
"Broadway" Joe Namath stood out on the field, but it was his personality, not his performance, that garnered the most attention.
Namath’s Super Bowl III win etched his name in history, especially after he guaranteed a victory prior to the game. The Jets quarterback had luck on his side, though, as his team faced a Baltimore Colts squad led by Earl Morrall, because Johnny Unitas was injured ahead of the season.
Easily the most overrated sports triumph of the last 50 years. Namath’s “guarantee” was a media creation and his performance in the game was mediocre. The Colts played 2 old guys at quarterback and made numerous blunders. If the Jets played in a small market no one would remember https://t.co/LI1cGWOFA8— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) January 12, 2019
Morrall threw three interceptions in Super Bowl III and completed just six of his 17 passes. Unitas came on in relief but also floundered.
Namath went 17-of-28 through the air, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Jets won, 16-7, with New York’s only touchdown coming on a 4-yard run by Matt Snell in the second quarter.
Namath’s Super Bowl performance emulated that of his entire career. It was just OK.
From 1965-1977, Namath recorded 27,663 passing yards on 50.1% passing, with a 173-220 touchdown-interception ratio.
He won 62 games, lost 63, and four ended in a tie. It's hardly a Hall of Fame career, based on the numbers.