This weekend, we will learn who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012. However, there are countless players deserving of recognition that have not been enshrined in the hallowed halls in Canton. This article will focus on the five most deserving of induction, and who have been retired for at least 25 years.
There is one absolute slam-dunk, and that is Lavvie Dilweg from the Green Bay Packers. His qualifications exceed those of men already in the Hall of Fame at his position. However, he played before the era of ESPN and highlight films. It was too long ago for the Hall of Fame selectors to care about his accomplishments.
Teams: 1926 Milwaukee Badgers, 1927-34 Green Bay Packers
Lavvie Dilweg belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dilweg was considered the best all-around end in pro football prior to Don Hutson, the man who replaced Dilweg on the Green Bay Packers when Dilweg retired. As a result of Hutson’s outstanding career, Dilweg’s name is all but forgotten.
The problem is that Dilweg was not a flashy player. However, Dilweg’s career deserves recognition. He was a consistent player who could clear out blockers for his teammates or tackle any runner near him. To provide you idea of his consistency, Dilweg was named consensus all-pro for six consecutive years, with four of those years being unanimous all-pro. From 1920 through 1950, only one other player at that position was able to match that accomplishment: Don Hutson with 10. Mac Speedie had four consecutive consensus all-pro selections and Bill Hewitt had three. The remainder of ends who played during that timeframe had no more than two consecutive consensus all-pro selections.
Dilweg was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-1920s team at end, along with Guy Chamberlin and George Halas. Let’s compare Dilweg to the other two selections. Dilweg was consensus all-pro six times during his career, while Chamberlin was named consensus all-pro three times and Halas was never consensus all-pro. Even if the 1930s all-pro selections were removed from Dilweg’s resume, he was still named consensus all-pro four times in the 1920s; more than Chamberlin and Halas combined, yet Dilweg only played the last half of the decade (four years for Dilweg, eight years for Chamberlin and nine years for Halas).
None of that would make a highlight film, but players, coaches and the media of his day knew that Dilweg was the best. On the offensive side of the ball, Dilweg showed excellent blocking skills, the primary responsibility of ends at the time. He also could catch the ball, however, the passing game back then was not what it is now. Even with his excellent offensive skills, it was his defensive prowess that made him dominant. He could tackle, block and hit. Offenses feared him. His defensive teammates knew they could always count on him. He consistently performed each and every game.
He is the true definition of a Hall of Famer.
Teams: 1960-65 Philadelphia Eagles, 1966-70 Los Angeles Rams, 1974 Washington Redskins
Baughan was a nine-time Pro Bowler and three times was named All-NFL. His ability to diagnose opponent’s defenses was only matched by his quickness and aggressiveness.
Baughan was selected in the second round of the 1960 NFL draft (20th
overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles. He played six seasons for the Eagles, making the Pro Bowl five times. In 1966, he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for Fred Brown and Frank Molden. He was named captain of the defense and went on to another four Pro Bowls under legendary coach George Allen.
After a brief retirement, Baughan came back in 1974 as a player-coach, but injuries prevented him from continuing, and he retired for good.
Baughan went into coaching, having stints as defensive coordinator for both the Baltimore Colts and the Detroit Lions. He then went to Cornell to take their head coaching job, amassing a 28-29-2 record, winning the Conference title his last year. He returned to the NFL to be an assistant coach with the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens.
Position: Tackle, Guard, Defensive Tackle
Teams: 1943-51 Philadelphia Eagles
Wistert played nine seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles and was named All-Pro in eight of those seasons. He earned All-NFL honors from 1944 through 1948. He was captain of the team from 1946 through 1950 and helped the team to NFL Championships in 1948 and 1949. In fact, the 1948 and 1949 Philadelphia Eagles are the only NFL Champions in history to win consecutive championships in a shutout.
Wistert is one of only seven players to date that have their jersey numbers retired by the Eagles.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Ring of Honor in 2009. He is part of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1940s.
While a relatively small tackle, Wistert was an excellent blocker and made up for his lack of size with quickness and agility.
Teams: 1962-78 Minnesota Vikings
When you think of the greatest centers of all time, you think of Mel Hein, Jim Otto, Mike Webster and Mick Tingelhoff. Known for his quickness and durability, Tingelhoff started 240 consecutive games for the Vikings. He earned six Pro Bowl nods and played in four Super Bowls.
He was named first team All-Pro in 1967 (NEA and UPI) and second team All-Pro by the Associated Press. In 1969, he was named the NFL’s Top Offensive Lineman of the Year. In 1970, he was named first team All-Pro by the Pro Football Writers of America, as well as Pro Football Weekly.
Tingelhoff was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor in 2001. He also had his jersey number retired by the team. In 1980, he was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.
Teams: 1958-68 Green Bay Packers
Kramer earned five all-NFL honors on his way to winning five championships with the Green Bay Packers. He was responsible for the block which gave Bart Starr room to sneak across the goal line for the “Ice Bowl” victory. One of the key cogs in Vince Lombardi’s Power Sweep, Kramer was considered one of the best guards in his day.
Not only did he excel at guard for the Packers, but he was also their place kicker. He kicked 29 field goals (54 attempts) and 90 extra points (95 attempts) in the almost three years he kicked for the team.
Kramer played in 130 games for the Packers, but he was often injured. In the 1961 season, he only played in eight games. In 1964, he only played in two games.
He was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.
Kramer was named to the NFL’s 50th
Anniversary team in 1969. He is the only member of that team to not be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When the NFL Network rated the Top 10 players not in the Hall of Fame, Jerry Kramer was number 1.
Position: Tackle, Center, Head Coach
Teams: 1920-21 Columbus Panhandles
Nesser will never make it into the Hall of Fame, and that is a shame. The bulk of his career was before the NFL began in 1920. However, that does not diminish his accomplishments in professional football.
The Nesser brothers were among the biggest stars of pro football during the 1900s and 1910s. Six of them were long time members of the Columbus Panhandles, and some historians have argued that Ted Nesser may have been the best player of the bunch. He played just about every position during his career, most notably at tackle.
All of the brothers were renowned for their toughness, but Ted may have been the toughest of the bunch. During a 1908 contest, he broke his arm in two places. He didn’t want to leave the field, despite the fact that the bone was protruding through the skin. He claimed to have broken his nose eight times. Nesser was also considered a great leader and an innovator. He developed several plays – the triple pass, the criss-cross, and the short kickoff – that quickly became part of the standard playbook.
By the time the NFL was formed in 1920, Ted was 37-years old. He spent two more years as the Panhandles’ player coach. He was the team’s center in 1921, snapping the ball to his son Charlie, the starting tailback.
Teams: 1975-84 Houston Oilers
Born February 7, 1953, Brazile was the sixth overall pick in the 1975 NFL draft. He was a middle linebacker in college, but switched to outside linebacker with the Houston Oilers. According to an article published in The Corpus-Christi Caller-Times
, teammate Willie Alexander stated, “He was the first of the big guys at outside linebacker. He could run sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line.”
Nicknamed “Dr. Doom,” the 6’4”, 230-pound Brazile was an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. According to his coach Bum Phillips, “He’s the one who started the 3-4 outside linebacker rush.” His speed propelled him to the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award and Pro Bowl selections his first seven years in the league.
Brazile excelled at rushing the passer from his OLB spot and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1970s (second team). With Brazile leading the way, the Oilers' defense led them to back-to-back AFC title games in 1978 and 1979.
Ken Crippen is the executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving football history. You can follow him on Twitter: @KenCrippen.