By In Stuff

Priest and TD

For three seasons, 1996-98, Terrell Davis was more or less unstoppable for the Denver Broncos. TD’s three glorious seasons, like Sandy Koufax’s four seasons from 1963-66, were a perfect blend of talent and circumstance and surroundings. Davis was a breathtaking runner. The Broncos had an all-world offensive line. And Denver quarterback, John Elway, still had the big arm and stature, keeping defensive players looking downfield.

All of it meant that a simple pitch play to Terrell Davis became probably the most feared play in the game. There’s something funny about football: Pro football coaches, by and large, despise risk. It is risk aversion, more than anything else, that drives the game forward. You probably know that this year, teams threw the football at a higher percentage than at any time in NFL history. A quick pass percentage chart:

2016: 57.9%

2006: 53.1%

1996: 54%

1986: 51.7%

1976: 41.5%

So, that would SEEM to suggest that coaches are less conservative and more willing to take on risk today than they were 40 years ago. But it isn’t so. It’s the nature of passing that has changed, not the coach’s nerve. Forty years ago, quarterbacks threw many more interceptions and completed passes at a much lower percentage. Coaches would constantly say that when throwing the ball only three things can happen and two of them are bad.

There was something to that. In 1976, quarterbacks completed just 52% of their passes and threw an interception just about 5% of the time — one every 20 passes.

In 2016, quarterbacks completed 63% of their passes and threw an interception 2.2% of the time, or once every 44 passes.

Coaches aren’t getting braver. The rules and the rhythm of the game have made throwing the ball much less risky. In many cases, throwing the ball is the much safer option over running it. The Patriots, as an extreme example, threw 0nly two interceptions all year and lost nine fumbles.

I only bring any of that up to say that when Terrell Davis was running the ball those three seasons, he fundamentally flipped the game. A pitch play to Davis was not only the Broncos safest play, it was also their best chance for a big play. It was a good play to run on third and long. It was a good play to loosen up the defense. It was a good play to run at any time anywhere on the field. In 1998, Davis ran for eight touchdowns of 20 yards or more.

Well, he had a musician’s sense of timing, that Broncos line always opened holes for him — often, Kansas City fans will tell you, with advanced forms of holding — and the Elway threat just made the whole thing almost laughable. In one playoff game against Miami, Davis had runs of 62, 28, 20, 13, 12, 11, 8 and 8 yards. In seven playoff games in 1997 and 1998, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. This included his insane 157-yard, three-touchdown performance against Green Bay in the Super Bowl XXXII.

You probably know, the Hall of Fame committee voted Davis into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. It’s a fairly controversial pick because while Davis was dominant those three years, those more or less make up the entirety of his career. He did rush for 1,117 yards as a rookie, though that’s nothing special. And injuries basically ended his career after the 1998 Super Bowl — he only played in 17 more games and was mostly ineffective in those.

Should a player be elected to the Hall of Fame based entirely on three wonderful seasons?

Here I bring up Priest Holmes. From 2000 to 2002, Priest Holmes was one of the best football players I have ever seen. You can compare his three seasons to Davis’ three seasons and see the story.

Davis, 1996-98: 47 games, 1,106 rushing attempts, 5,296 yards, 4.8 per carry, 49 touchdowns, 103 catches, 6,110 yards from scrimmage.

Holmes 2001-2003: 46 games, 960 rushing attempts, 4,590 yards, 4.8 per carry, 56 touchdowns, 206 catches, 6,566 yards from scrimmage.

Holmes was, I would contend, the better football player. Davis had more rushing attempts and yards, but they averaged the same per carry, Holmes caught twice as many passes and gained more total yards. He also scored more touchdowns.

Holmes also had the fuller career — he gained 1,000 more yards from scrimmage and scored 20 more touchdowns even if you include postseason games. Holmes only played in 19 games after his last great year, but he scored 20 touchdowns and ran for 1,500 yards in those games.

Of course, Holmes did not have the playoff success of Davis. He was a backup to Jamal Lewis on the Baltimore Ravens team that won the Super Bowl, but that was before he came into his own as a star. During his three-year run, the Chiefs offense scored more points than any team in the NFL. But the defense was wretched. Kansas City only managed to reach the playoffs once during that time because of terrible defense. In that one playoff game, against Indianapolis, Holmes ran for 176 yards, caught five passes for 32 more, scored two touchdowns …

… and it made no difference at all because the Colts scored every time they had the ball except when they ran out the clock at the end of the first and second halves. Holmes fumbled in that game, his only lost fumble of the season, and that proved decisive because it was the only turnover in a game where neither team punted.

The point here is not to say that if Davis is in the Hall than Holmes should be. Instead it is to point out the different philosophy of the football and baseball halls of fame.

In baseball, there is a constant effort to isolate the player’s performance. That is to say, we are always trying to find a player’s TRUE value, minus his teammate’s contributions, minus his circumstances, considering everything in context. In baseball, for instance, Larry Walker gets little Hall of Fame support despite great career numbers. Why? Because he played much of his career at Coors Field when it was a hitter’s paradise, and he took full advantage of that bit of good fortune.

Well, how is that any different than Terrell Davis or Priest Holmes running behind impossibly awesome offensive lines? It isn’t any different. Those players were given extreme advantages, and they made the most of them. It is likely that a handful of talented running backs, given the chance to run behind those Denver of Kansas City lines, would have put up extraordinary seasons too.

Baseball fans and voters think a lot about hypothetical stuff like that.

Football fans and voters … not so much.

Same thing with playoffs. In baseball, when considering a player for the Hall of Fame, playoff performance plays a small role. The thinking is: Some great players get a lot of playoff opportunities, some don’t get any at all. Curt Schilling was an incredible postseason pitcher, and yet he can’t quite get Hall of Fame traction — this was true even before his Twitter war began.


In football — playoffs matter a lot, more than the regular seasons. Yes, of course, John Elway and a great offensive line and a very good defense played important roles in Davis getting all those postseason games. If Ricky Watters or Garrison Hearst or Jamal Anderson had those advantaged …

But they didn’t. And Football hall of fame voters and fans general feeling about this is: So what? History is history. Davis’ playoff awesomeness speaks for itself.

These are just different philosophies. I think if you break it down to the particulars, Priest Holmes really was a better football player than Terrell Davis. He was as effective a runner, a better pass receiver, a better blocker and he had every bit the skill and drive for getting into the end zone.

Holmes had injury problems too but he was a bit more durable than Davis. He led the league in yards from scrimmage twice (Davis never did) in touchdowns twice (Davis led once) and in approximate value twice (same as Davis).

Holmes led the league in yards from scrimmage twice (Davis never did) in touchdowns twice (Davis led once) and in approximate value twice (same as Davis).

Holmes’ best year, 2002, he had more yards from scrimmage than Davis’ best year … and he only played 14 games.

And all of these would be effective baseball arguments. It doesn’t have to be Priest Holmes, there are any number of running backs you can put into this argument. But the Pro Football Hall of Fame is different. Terrell Davis is singular in Pro Football. He was the force that propelled John Elway to two Super Bowl titles. That’s history. And history is what the Pro Football Hall of Fame unapologetically celebrates.






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125 Responses to Priest and TD

  1. Mike says:

    And that is precisely what the Pro Football HOF will never have the status of the baseball HOF. There’s a quiz on Sporcle with the baseball players. I can name almost all of them if I have enough time. If you gave me a similar quiz on the football HOF, I couldn’t name more than 100 at best. And I’m a big football fan.

  2. Brian Rostron says:

    People complain about the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it does a much better and improving job of inducting deserving candidates with some degree of transparency (well, except for the Veterans Committees, which still need to be fixed). The Pro Football Hall of Fame election procedures involve a limited number of voters who specifically campaign for their favorites, often based on the teams that they cover. The maximum number of eligible players (5) is arbitrary and deserving players often have to wait several years as a result. The Basketball Hall of Fame has even more nebulous procedures and seemingly countless categories (modern NBA, pioneer, international, female, contributor), thus producing selections such as Ralph Sampson that defy logic and evidence.

    • Chris H says:

      In fairness to the basketball hall of fame, it’s trying to be one hall of fame for the entire sport, not simply the hall of fame for the American professional league. So that’s a much harder task and might explain choices like Sampson, who was arguably the dominant player during his college career.

      • Brian Rostron says:

        People certainly thought of Sampson as a dominant college players, as evidenced by his 2 or 3 player of the year awards depending on the award, but I don’t think that he was ever the best player in college during that period. UVa never won an ACC championship, let alone an NCAA title, during his four years there and only made one Final Four. James Worthy, meanwhile, led UNC to back to back NCAA finals, as did Hakeem. Patrick Ewing even led G’town to a final as a freshman during those years. People just assumed that the best centers would continue to be taller as they had from Russell to Wilt to Kareem and that Sampson at 7′ 4″ was the logical progression. It never was going to happen, even without injuries.

        • invitro says:

          James Worthy, Akeem Olajuwon, and Pat Ewing called me and asked me to remind you that their teams were also led by a few little-known players like Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Sleepy Floyd, and Sam Perkins. (Don’t worry, I haven’t heard of any of those chumps either.)

          • duffsovietunion says:

            Eh, Worthy was the best player on North Carolina, regardless of what happened afterwards. And I seriously hope you’re not saying Sleepy Floyd was better than Patrick Ewing in either college or the pros.

          • invitro says:

            I don’t know why you think I said Jordan was better than Worthy on NC, or Floyd was better than Ewing, but I didn’t. For the slow folks: switch Sampson and Worthy/Akeem/Ewing, and Sampson would be the one with champ game appearances. (Who was Sampson’s best teammate… Jeff Lamp? Jeff Jones?)

          • Mysterio says:

            You are not clever enough to be such a condescending prick.

          • invitro says:

            Such rage, Mysterio, such rage… did Sampson run off with Mrs. Mysterio or something?

          • Brian Rostron says:

            Jeff Lamp was a first round pick and won an NBA title with the Lakers. UVa did better without Sampson, making the Final Four the following year and taking Houston to overtime. I honestly think that Olden Polynice was a better center than Sampson.

          • invitro says:

            Do you know how many minutes Jeff Lamp played for those Lakers? Seven. That’s not per game, that’s for the entire season. And you’re using this as evidence? Either this is a joke, or you have no idea what you are talking about.

          • Dan says:

            What does “led by” mean?

          • invitro says:

            “UVa did better without Sampson” — This is such an idiotic statement it makes me wonder which drugs you’re on. With Sampson, VA went 29-4, 30-4, and 29-5; made a final 4, 8, and 16; and had final rankings of #3, #4, and #5. In the three years after Sampson, they went 21-12, 17-16, and 19-11; made a final 4 and 64 and didn’t make the tourney; and didn’t make the final rankings (they didn’t make the final rankings for 12 years after Sampson). And in the three years before Sampson, they went 20-8, 19-10, and 24-10; didn’t make the NCAA tourney; and were not ranked. The facts show that Sampson massively improved VA about as clearly as is possible.

  3. Jake says:

    It’s funny that people would always say John Elway has Terrell Davis to thank for winning two Super Bowls now that TD has Elway to thank for making the HoF, and probably should always have been the other way around. Adrian Peterson has had an amazing career, but the closest he ever came to a title was during that last great Favre year. A great RB season is nothing without a great QB, but an all time great QB season (Marino in 84, Brady, Peyton, etc) doesn’t need a great RB to get to the Super Bowl.

    Anyway, Priest was just as good as TD and for longer. But he had Trent Green and Davis had Elway, so here we are.

    • duffsovietunion says:

      Running backs are just absurdly over represented in the HOF. As you point out, a running back just isn’t that important and they’re probably more dependent on their teammates than any other players. A great QB with average teammates will go a long way, a great RB with average teammates will be pretty much average.

      Also, the diff between Holmes and TD wasn’t Elway vs Green, it was the defenses. Peak Trent Green was just as good as late career Elway.

      • MikeN says:

        > a running back just isn’t that important
        I remember when the Patriots were saying that and replaced Curtis Martin with Robert Edwards. Maybe they were right since Edwards did make the Pro Bowl, but he also suffered a career ending injury in Hawaii.

    • kehnn13 says:

      I don’t think Trent Green was the issue for Priest… it was that porous KC defense (as Joe pointed out).

  4. Jeremy Bender says:

    I think Terrell Davis is a perfectly fine selection. And yet, Terrell helped undermine his own case AND the cases for future running backs.

    Remember that Terrell Davis himself was not a high draft choice. Priest Holmes was not drafted at all, and was never the best running back for the Texas Longhorns.

    When Davis’s injuries ended his career, the Broncos did not draft a top college runner to replace him. They reasoned correctly that ANY good runner could put up big numbers with their system and their offensive line. And the Broncos barely missed Davis at all.

    Other teams took note. And since then, very few teams have spent high draft picks on tailback. Most teams now figure it’s more cost effective to build strong offensive linemen and then take a pretty good (not stellar) runner in the third round.

    Terrell Davis and Priest Holmes WERE great- but they helped convince NFL executives that great running backs are not essential, and are not particularly good investments. Why pick a George Rogers or a Billy Sims #1 overall and pay him a king’s ransom if you can get a 6th rounder (like Terrell Davis) or a free agent (like Holmes) who’s almost as good?

    • duffsovietunion says:

      “They reasoned correctly that ANY good runner could put up big numbers with their system and their offensive line. And the Broncos barely missed Davis at all.”

      This is overstated. It’s true that literally anyone could look average to good in Denver, but only Davis was great. The only Denver RB who even came close to Davis’ production in Denver was Clinton Portis and he was damn good in his own right, even if trading Champ Bailey for him was spectacularly stupid by Dan Snyder.

      • duffsovietunion says:

        With that said, your general point is right. Running back has by far the worst correlation between draft slot and performance of any position and drafting running backs in the first round is really dumb.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Which begs the Q: did the Cowboys make a mistake by drafting Ezekiel Elliott so high when they probably could’ve plugged any healthy RB behind that o-line and done just fine? If they take a guy like Jalen Ramsey at #4 instead of EE and then draft a different RB in the second or third round…would that have made more sense?

          It’s interesting to think about!

          • duffsovietunion says:

            I would say they did make a mistake, although not an especially big one.

            DeMarco Murray kind of proves the point. Remember when everyone thought he was awesome?

      • Patrick says:

        “The only Denver RB who even came close to Davis’ production in Denver was Clinton Portis.”

        Portis in 2002: 1,508 yards, 15 TD
        Anderson in 2000: 1,497 yards, 15 TD

  5. Larry Rosenthal says:

    Bum Phillips once said of Don Shula, “He can take his’n and beat your’n, or he can take your’n and beat his’n.” Bum was a pretty decent country coach hisself, (couldn’t resist,) and an even more astute judge of what influences people.

    Add to that the fact that many, many, many more people play baseball or softball growing up than football or flag football, and understand that size alone does not provide a baseball advantage, but just look at the guys playing college and NFL football and think about playing against them?

    It’s much easier, more comfortable, to nitpick baseball than football. And there’s nowhere to hide on the diamond.

    Just some thoughts.

  6. Chaz says:

    Baseball allows for clear individual accomplishment and the game is roughly the same as a century ago.
    Football, not so much.

    • Anon says:

      THis is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen posted on a sports thread in a long time. There is not a single sport that is anything remotely like “roughly the same as a century ago”.

      • invitro says:

        I think baseball is pretty much the same as it was in, say, 1921, after deadball was over. 96 years ago. There are of course piles of differences, but they’re all minor ones, except for the addition of lots of latino and black players, which doesn’t change the game itself.

        • Mike says:

          I think baseball probably is the closest in terms of how much the sports have changed, but it’s still different. I don’t believe for a second that old time greats like Walter Johnson threw 95+. You ever watch old clips from the 50s and earlier? The ball just doesn’t get to the catcher as fast as it does today.
          Having said that, the fact that the batters are all bigger/stronger/faster balances that out somewhat.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            But I don’t think the fact that pitchers ostensibly throw harder really changes the game that much, at least not in the way that the rule changes and increased size of players has changed football. Pitchers today still have to change speeds to get hitters out just as they did in 1921. Football, on the other hand, is radically different.

  7. invitro says:

    You guys are overthinking it. Baseball fans are smarter than football fans. It’s just that simple. 😉

    • duffsovietunion says:

      Have you seen NFL twitter?

      I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Just a bunch of mouth breathers with dog, egg and flag avi’s. Haven’t seen baseball twitter, but NBA twitter is great.

      • invitro says:

        I don’t know what NFL twitter, baseball twitter, or NBA twitter are :(. Let alone dog, egg and flag avi’s. 🙁 :)?

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Invitro – you and me both (assuming you weren’t being sarcastic). The thing is, I just don’t care that much about the opinions of very many people. And Twitter is all about stupid opinions. Was it Facebook or Twitter what spawned the wonderful quote: “Never have so many said so much about so little to so few.” People think their opinions on EVERYTHING matter. But they don’t. Football players should play football, musicians should play/sing music, and sports-writers should write about sports, which Joe does an amazing job of =) The point is, stick to what you’re best at, give your opinion on that, and then go away =) There’s a reason why I love Joe Posnanski and loathe the likes of Rick Reilly and especially Peter King: Joe talks about the things he knows about and isn’t arrogant enough to think that everybody cares about everything else. And that’s RARE these days! That’s why this blog is, in part, so good! It’s an escape from everything else…

        • invitro says:

          Oh, I like opinions. As long as they’re honest and someone’s own, rather than just a copy of someone else’s or something someone says to try to make themselves look good. Opinions are great. And I tried reading twitter for a few hours a couple of years ago. It just got SO boring. But I really don’t know what NFL twitter or egg and flag are. I guess I’m an old Internet fogey… I was all-in back in 1993. I still miss Usenet, message boards, AIM chat. The 1990’s were the Golden Age of the Internet. Then this goshdarned “social media” stuff came around and spoiled everything. But Wikipedia is a great newish Internet thing. And being able to download just about any book/movie/album I can think of, that’s awesome. But taking pictures of myself eating Froot Loops or watching a ball game? Thanks, but I’ll pass.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Nah, most opinions are a waste of time. Except for opinions about baseball, which is rarely a waste of time. But everything else? Meh. Even Joe’s posts on Bruce (“I’m embarrassed to be American” – don’t worry, Bruce, we’re embarrassed you’re American, too) Springsteen are boring. He likes Bruce. Okay, who cares? If he hated Bruce, that’s fine, nobody cares. But baseball? Baseball matters.

            And I agree about the 1990s being the Golden Age of the internet. AIM was awesome =) Crazy old America Online was awesome =) Myspace was awesome. Does anyone remember Music Boulevard? That was awesome, lol. But now? Not so awesome. I like books and CDs and DVDs and tangible stuff. And I don’t mind blowing on my video game cartridges to get them to work properly or using a pencil to get my cassette tapes fixed. But these are all boring opinions and I’d rather talk about baseball, which is the best thing ever =)

          • invitro says:

            Just so nobody gets the wrong idea… I used AIM (to chat with girls), but never America Online; I played computer games, not cartridge games; I listened to LPs, not cassette tapes; I never used Myspace. In fact, I had forgotten about Myspace, and that was probably the beginning of the downfall of the Internet. 🙁 I did have a whole lotta fun with books, CDs, and DVDs, but their downloaded versions are better because they’re free… and Springsteen is fine, or he was fine 25 years ago, anyway… the problem is that if you spend all your time on one artist like Joe does, you end up missing all the other artists, and saying things like how Wilco is your favorite new band, when they’ve been around for 18 years. 🙁

          • Marc Schneider says:

            What kind of intelligent comment can you possibly make in 140 characters?

        • duffsovietunion says:

          Twitter users whose avatar’s are pictures of their dog, a picture of the American flag or an egg (the default when you don’t upload a pic) tend to be highly racist, completely stupid and generally worthless. Think the absolute bottom of the barrel in your typical comments section. A disproportionate percentage of these people tend to be NFL fans, whereas NBA fans tend to be much wittier and generally worth reading.

  8. Pak says:

    I think selecting Jerry Jones is far sillier. Jimmy Johnson was responsible for the Cowboys success, and they have failed ever since Jones has tried to put together a Super Bowl team.

    • PBD says:

      While we are complaining about the NFL hall of fame choices, why is Tony Dungy in?

      • invitro says:

        He taught Peyton how to be a great QB?

      • duffsovietunion says:

        He basically invented (or at least popularised) a defense which dominated the NFL for years, turned Tampa from a laughing stock to a genuine contender and turned Indy from underachievers to perrenial Super Bowl threats. Why not Dungy?

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Jimmy Johnson was responsible for the Cowboys success??? I think maybe having Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin all in their primes at the same time might’ve had something to do with it =)

      • Sonny says:

        And who drafted and coached them?

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          And who actually went out on the field and played the games?

          • Sonny says:

            Johnson deserves the credit for putting the team together, and although even a clown like Barry Switzer could win a ring with that group of talent, they won only 1 more playoff game after that, even though the bulk of the team was still together. Emmitt, Aikman, and Irvin (and the rest of the team) weren’t the same without JJ.

      • MikeN says:

        Whose decision was it to trade Hershel Walker?

    • kehnn13 says:

      I don’t think they picked Jerry Jones because of the early 90s Cowboys; I think it was more about his impact on the financial side of football… ie he helped to make the owners a lot richer with the special contracts he signed (like the one with Pepsi) that allowed the owners to ultimately become richer.

  9. Tepposdad says:

    The NFL only has 16 games a year, and if you were not on a good or “national” team, fans only got to see you on the ten-minute ticker, and an occasional MNF or SNF game. Though now with fantasy everywhere players are a little better appreciated. So all players aren’t really observed equally, especially by the writers who are usually busy covering their local teams.
    Then it gets to the crux of the issue…”Winners”, obviously it is an intangible word, but many football “experts” and fans alike love to use it like they can identify it. After-the-fact it is easy to say someone is a winner, but even then, doesn’t it depend on who your teammates are?
    I am not a huge HOF guy, it seems a little “hubristic” to me. And for all you baseball HOF is better, please look at some of the really bad choices in there, Mazeroski, to name one.
    All this is just IMHO.

    • SDG says:

      The “experts” of every sport and the fans of every sport like to try to define winners, and hold up some players as having virtue and chatacter in a way that has nothing to do with actually winning games.

      In sports journalism, winners doesn’t actually mean games won. It means who’s a true teammate. Who works the hardest, who is a gritty, salt of the earth, gamer, with a simple love of team and country and an iron will that cannot be defeated. Who plays for the right reasons, not fame or money but for the bands of brothers. It’s weird if you think about it.

  10. Mark Garbowski says:

    Individual stats are uniquely meaningful in baseball because of isolation. A batter stands in the batter’s box alone, and the pitcher is similarly alone on the mound, with extremely limited and indirect input or assistance from teammates. Sure you get more RBIs with runners on base, and will see more good pitches with the bases loaded or with a great hitter behind you, and BABIP is influenced by team defense, but we even have stats in baseball that can (somewhat imperfectly) isolate the indirect effects of teammates and era, league, and ballpark. In the end one batter swings at pitches coming straight from one opposing player with no assists, team chemistry or team timing involved. No other sport, including football, matches this, and as a result people judging talent in those sports have to rely more on instinct, secondary effects, and such, and basically they often just go with what’s easy. One player is a proven champion because he won, and the other isn’t.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Great post, Mark! As far as baseball goes, the same thing can be said about base-running, pitching, and defense. Individual success in baseball is becoming much easier to quantify and define than it is in football.

    • Richard says:

      I’d also note that the rules of baseball haven’t changed in decades. The last big changes? The designated hitter, and before that, the change in the height of the pitching mound. Comparatively minor tweaks. Before that, you probably have to go back to 1931 when the Ground Rule (aka “Automatic”) Double was introduced. Before that, any batted ball that went over the outfield wall was a home run – even if it bounced first.

      The many rule changes in football (or basketball, for that matter) make it almost impossible to compare statistics on a year-by-year basis.

      • kehnn13 says:

        I agree, mostly, except in regards to playoff changes. Those changes (3 divisions and wildcards) have made the postseason more of a dice roll than it used to be.

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  12. Bryan says:

    Jim Brown, 1958-61: 50 games, 1,067 rushing attempts, 5,521 yards, 5.2 per carry, 53 touchdowns, 105 catches, 6,512 yards from scrimmage (130 per game)

    Davis, 1996-98: 47 games, 1,106 rushing attempts, 5,296 yards, 4.8 per carry, 49 touchdowns, 103 catches, 6,110 yards from scrimmage (130 per game)

    Jim Brown, 1962-65: 56 games, 1,090 rushing attempts, 5,849 yards, 5.4 per carry, 63 touchdowns, 141 catches, 7,302 yards from scrimmage (130 per game)
    Like they say, you can’t split Jim Brown in half because he’d kill you first, but if you did you would have two Hall of Famers.

    • duffsovietunion says:

      Do you know that Cleveland led the league in rushing after Brown retired and that his backups were just as good as he was on a per carry basis? Yes, they were both HOFers, but the more likely explanation is just that the line was awesome

  13. Bryan says:

    Gale Sayers: 7 seasons, 4,956 rushing yards, 6,263 yards from scrimmage, 9,435 all purpose yards, 55 touchdowns, 5 all-NFL selections
    Terrell Davis: 7 seasons, 7,607 rushing yards, 8,887 yards from scrimmage and all purpose yards, 60 touchdowns, 3 first team all-pro selections
    Sayers never made it to the playoffs and is in the Hall of Fame.

  14. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    As Mark suggested above, football success is far more context-driven than success in baseball. Indeed, both Holmes and Davis owe at least part of their three years of greatness to superior offensive lines. I’m not sure it’s even possible to achieve greatness in the NFL while playing for a truly terrible team. In MLB, on the other hand, Mike Trout’s greatness is generally undiminished by the fact that the Angels are now awful. I am sure someone can come up with exceptions in NFL history (there are exceptions to every rule), and some MLB pitchers were certainly penalized back in the day when the “win” was treated as the be-all and end-all of success for a starter. But you can name plenty of top-tier major leaguers who played most of their career for bad teams. I don’t think you can do that with the NFL. Archie Manning may have been the greatest quarterback in history, but even Tom Brady and Joe Montana would have been destroyed had they played for the 1970s New Orleans Saints.
    Then there’s the question of how the player’s talents fit in with his coach’s scheme, which is also only a limited issue in baseball (maybe if Lou Brock had played from 1945-1960 he wouldn’t be in the HoF, but it’s hard to think of too many cases like that). Would Dan Fouts, for example, have made it to Canton if Don Coryell hadn’t arrived in San Diego in 1978? Or Kellen Winslow, if he had landed on some team where the coach expected him to block 90% of the time?
    In short, given that greatness in the NFL is so wrapped up in context, it makes sense to choose TD over Priest Holmes(not that you have to choose, of course). It also makes sense to enshrine a large number of the impact players on NFL dynasties, as the NFL has done with the 1970s Steelers and the 1980s 49ers. Since football players’ careers are shorter, and since they don’t play 162 games per season, post-season success is a much larger factor in football greatness than it is in baseball. It’s impossible to imagine an NFL team winning three consecutive Super Bowls without having 5-10 of its players end up in the Hall of Fame. By contrast, the 72-74 Oakland A’s won the World Series three straight times, but only have three members enshrined in Cooperstown (and two of the–Fingers and Hunter–are marginal selections; so, sure, context matters a little in baseball, too 🙂 )

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      While I was typing this, Bryan made the comment above about Gale Sayers. He is, in fact, the player I had in mind when I suggested that it may occasionally be possible to achieve greatness in the NFL while playing for bad teams. But for every Sayers, there are probably 10 Ernie Bankses.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      One of the best examples of what you say is Sonny Jurgensen, a great quarterback who played on bad teams most of his career. He never gets talked about as being among the great quarterbacks. To a lesser extent, Dan Marino gets a bit downgraded for not having won a Super Bowl, even though the Dolphins were nowhere close to a championship-caliber team after Marino’s first couple of years.

      One of the problems I have with football is that these days the only QBs that are really talked about as all-time greats are guys like Brady and Manning, who play or played in a much more passer-friendly era. People don’t talk about Johnny Unitas as being potentially the greatest QB of all time because his numbers don’t compare; but that’s largely due to the rules he played under. As good as Brady is and as great as he was last night, I seriously doubt he could have pulled off a comeback like that if they were playing under the 60s/70s rules. (Of course, maybe the Falcons wouldn’t have gotten so far ahead either.) It’s simply a much more QB and passing driven league.

      Baseball, at least, makes it somewhat possible to compare teams and players from different eras because the basic rules haven’t changed. You can argue how Babe Ruth would do today but it wouldn’t be as ridiculous as talking about a 200 pound center from the 1930s would do playing center today.

  15. Roundeye11 says:

    A massive consideration:
    Baseball has an electorate of hundreds of voters.
    Football has a committee of, what is it, 15?
    That is an absurdity that renders the footballers a ridiculous joke.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      …which is why guys who are pretty obviously HOFers have to wait 2 or 3 years for inclusion. The football HOF is lovely, but there’s so little transparency in the voting, it makes it difficult to really care about in terms of the voting process. The baseball HOF is much more interesting.

    • invitro says:

      I don’t know anything about the NFL HoF. But I’m reading the Wikipedia article on it, and it says the committee has 46 members.

  16. Subrata Sircar says:

    Baseball is the least teammate dependent sport both because the heart of the game is the batter-pitcher matchup and the season is long enough that those individual matchups can be measured.

    Basketball and hockey are next, because you can go one-on-one but more common are combination plays with your teammates (pick-and-roll, give-and-go, penalty kill, etc.). Still it is possible to measure things like +/- rating over the course of a season to start untangling how much is you and how much is your teammates.

    Football is almost impossible to untangle that way. Football Outsiders has a tagline on its ratings that basically says “When we say Tom Brady produced X yards over average, what we really mean is that Tom Brady, playing behind the Patriots offensive line and throwing to Rob Gronkowski and company, while coached by Bill Belichek, produced X yards over average”.

  17. invitro says:

    Bill Belichick is a good coach and Tom Brady is a good quarterback and that was a good game.

    • Crazy Diamond says:


    • invitro says:

      I wasn’t really for either team. Atlanta is the second-closest team to me (after Charlotte), and much closer to my life than Boston is… but I like that the Patriot leaders support Trump. I like both QB’s, but I love Belichick, and so I was probably for the Pats a little bit. This season is the first where I’ve watched several NFL games from start to finish in about ten years, so I guess I picked a good time to resume being a bit of an NFL fan. Maybe next year I can learn the difference between a Guard and a Tackle…

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I rooted for the Pats despite their leaders liking Trump. I figured more of the Pats fans voted against Trump than did the Falcon fans. And I like that Martellus Bennett has said he won’t go to the White House with Trump there.

    • Patrick says:

      That was the single greatest collapse in NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL/ history. I’m a Falcons fan, and they had three distinct chances to end that game on offense and they failed to do so each time (to say nothing of the defensive issues). Just an utter catastrophe in every way

      • invitro says:

        It wasn’t even the greatest collapse/comeback in NFL playoff history, or even that close to it: (Those Oilers were my favorite team, in my five favorite teams of all time, and I watched every exhilirating/excruciating second.)

        • Patrick says:

          Not everything is a straight up math equation. The specifics of the Falcons collapse pushes it over the top for me. They had the league MVP. They twice moved *out* of scoring position in the 4th quarter, including once when they literally would have been better off taking a knee than running a play.

          • invitro says:

            I found seven NFL comebacks of 25 or more points. I’m sure you know what those seven are, since you’ve decided that SB51 is the greatest of them all, but I’m just curious, why in particular did you choose it over the other six?

          • MikeN says:

            That’s probably true of lots of comebacks. The Oilers up 31-3 could have taken a knee, and the Bills wouldn’t have had time to score four touchdowns.

          • invitro says:

            Just FWIW… the Oilers were up 35-3 early in the 2nd half. Thurman Thomas left the game due to injury around that time, and Jim Kelly was also out for the game.

      • invitro says:

        Other enormous comebacks/collapses in various sports, from memory: that Lakers-Kings referee fix around 2001 or 2002, Tennessee losing a ~20-point lead to Oden’s Ohio State team in the Elite Eight of the NCAA basketball tourney, the A’s losing the wild card game to the Royals a couple of years ago. I remember those because the losing team in each was my favorite (or 2nd-favorite) team in each one. Sometimes I feel like my fan life has been spent on overachieving teams who were doomed to a crushing collapse.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I don’t think it was a “collapse.” The Falcons made some key mistakes (or bonehead coaching decisions) that cost them. But, also, the Patriots, as much as they were struggling, kept the Falcon defense on the field and eventually wore them down. The game was sort of similar to the first game the Patriots lost to the Giants; a couple of balls that could have been intercepted and then a pretty lucky catch to keep a drive alive (and, again, on a ball that could have been picked). It was as much Tom Brady as the Falcon’s collapsing.

        • MikeN says:

          Lucky catches for both of the Giants wins, though before the first super bowl loss, Pats had first ad goal from the 7. If they give the ball to Maroney there, the Giants don’t have time to take the lead.

          Peyton Manning got two Super Bowl wins courtesy of some luck. Last year, missed extra point, forced Pats to go for two to tie the game, and that time they couldn’t do it(again I’d have preferred a run). Before he beat the Bears in the Super Bowl, he got lucky when Pats couldn’t hold the ball and run out the clock, and even luckier when earlier in the game Reche Caldwell dropped a pass after being uncovered at the line. He’s at the top of the field, and there is no one lined up across from him.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Agree about the Giants’ luck, although I think the Giants outplayed the Pats, at least in the first game. Eli was pretty lucky not to have been intercepted a couple of times before the long pass.

  18. Crazy Diamond says:

    Did Joe really just make a post about Terrell Davis without mentioning his 2,000-yard rushing season? Only 6 players in the history of the NFL have accomplished that feat. That’s pretty special and extremely rare stuff!

    • Joedick says:

      7 not 6, 3 after Davis in ’98, and Barry Sanders did it ’97. That’s 5 times in the last 20 years. It’s a fine season, but it it’s happening on average every 2.5 seasons it ain’t that rare.

      • Joedick says:

        Err… every 4 seasons.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          You’re right, it’s 7 not 6. Oops! But why are you cutting off the number at the last 20 years? Over the course of 60 years (Jim Brown started playing 59 years ago…) it’s only happened about once per decade. So yes, when put into context, it is rare.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            You have to look at the number of games played; the NFL season has increased by a third since 1960. Obviously, Jim Brown would certainly have gotten 2000 in 1963 when he got 1863 in 14 games. Probably several others would have as well. You have to look at context for all records.

  19. Zach says:

    As a KC fan, I’m happy to see Terrell Davis get elected.

    In fact, I think that he and Priest Holmes make the case that elite running backs with a short career should get special treatment for the Hall of Fame.

    Along with the quarterback, an elite running back has a unique ability to turn a pretty good team into a contender. They have more touches and affect more plays than anyone else on the field. But while elite quarterbacks stick around forever, elite running backs get hit too often and don’t tend to have long careers.

    TD’s three big years took a pretty good Broncos team and made them Super Bowl contenders. They won two of ’em, with Davis their best player by far. Anyone who has that large an impact on the history of their sport is a strong nominee, in my opinion.

  20. MikeN says:

    How many quarterbacks playing today will make the Hall of Fame. Numbers wise there are so many that are ahead of or close to what used to be Fran Tarkenton’s record for passing yardage.

    • Bryan says:

      Tarkenton 47,003
      Brees (Age 38) 66,111, Brady (39) 61,582, Rodgers (33) 36,827 will be in the HoF
      Eli (36) 48,214, Big Ben (34) 46,814 will be in the HoF but that partly depends on the playoffs
      Rivers (Age 35) 45,833, Palmer (37) 44,269, Ryan 37,701 (31), Stafford (29 tomorrow) 30,303 are going to at least be HoF finalists assuming Ryan and Stafford start another 5 or so years. They might end up creating a log jam at the position, same as receivers currently with a bunch of players eligible for the HoF with more yards and TDs than many HoF inductees at their position.
      Flacco (32) 32,639 could be in for a long wait like Stabler who died at Age 69 in 2015 and was inducted in 2016. Lots of yards and TDs for their era and a ring.
      That’s 11 players that it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they finished with more yards than Tarkenton.
      Wilson (28) 18,193 and 2689 rushing yards and a ring
      Newton (27) 21,772 and 3566 rushing yards and an MVP
      Luck (27) 19,078, Dalton (29) 22,214, Tannehill (28) 18,455, Bradford (29) 18,667
      Winston (23) 8,132, Mariota (23) 6,244
      I’d guess that around half the teams have a QB that has or will finish with more passing yards than Tarkenton. I’d guess that at least 10 end up in the HoF.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I hope they don’t just go by numbers. All of today’s QBs will have better raw numbers than Tarkenton, Unitas, et. al.

        • KHAZAD says:

          I don’t think they go “just” by numbers, but it makes a difference. I think there are people QBs and WRs who got left out as the game changed and their numbers paled in comparison.

          As someone who has watched football a long time, it is a completely different game now than it used to be. Receivers were getting legally mugged all the way down the field then. Defenders could take two full steps after the ball was thrown and hit the QB anywhere they wanted and most of the time would not be penalized. The timing patterns that the game is based on today could not be used.

          In 1975 when I was young, I got a stats book about Football, which I still have. Len Dawson and Sonny Jurgenson – both all time greats were tied for best career QB rating of all time with an 82.6. Of course in the 1975 season, the average QB rating was 62.8. They are tied for 45th today, which does not lessen their greatness, but does lessen how they are thought of by many. In 2015 the average QB rating was 88.4.

          In 1975 there were zero receivers with 8 catches and only 1 with 1000 yards. There were 21 and 26 respectively in 2015.

          In 1975 the average team threw for 2280 yards, in 2015 it was 3901. There were four teams in 1975 that had less yards passing than Julio Jones had in receiving yards in 2015.

          • Marc Schneider says:


            Absolutely right. I was a big Unitas fan when I was a kid and looked at his numbers in 1967 when he was MVP. He completed 58.6%, with 20 TDs and 16 interceptions with a passer rating of 83.6. (He actually had other years with substantially higher ratings). Those numbers would land him on the bench today. Same with Paul Warfield, a truly great receiver playing in a time with much less passing and, later with the Dolphins, on a running dominated team. No one talks about guys like this today because their numbers don’t compare and I think it’s a shame.

          • invitro says:

            When I was a kid, people talked about Unitas every day and twice on Sunday. Have things changed that much?

    • Patrick says:

      Brady, Brees, Rothlisberger, and Rodgers are the obvious calls. Great stats and at least one ring. Flacco and Eli are going to be interesting cases, since they have two rings and not great stats. Will they get Kenny Stabler’ed? Phil Rivers is the opposite of them: Great stats but no rings. Russell Wilson will be interesting, but he’s on track. Matt Ryan is done. He’ll never live this collapse down.

      I could absolutely see nine. But probably 6-7

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Eli will get in. His counting stats will end up being better than Elway’s and he has the rings and he has the signature moment in the Super Bowl (pass to Tyree). He won’t be first-ballot, but he’ll make it in with relative ease.

  21. Sonny says:

    Terrell absolutely belongs in the HOF, even though he’s an asshat. Too bad they elected the wrong Terrell. Owens, despite all his issues, was far more deserving than Davis. Surprised this isn’t getting more play.

    • kehnn13 says:

      I think a player who brings teams down should definitely lose votes despite his individual success (especially in football, where everyone seems to equate team success with individual greatness). Terrell had a talent for tearing teams down.

      • Sonny says:

        If you want to have that be part of his case, that’s fine, but his stats are so good that I don’t think it’s anywhere enough to keep him out. His teams made the playoffs 8 times in 15 years, so he couldn’t have been that big of an issue.

        I don’t know if there is a character clause for the football HOF like there is baseball, but regardless, TO was a better player for a lot longer than TD.

        • kehnn13 says:

          I wasn’t referring to a character clause…I was talking about the way Owens impacted the chemistry of teams he was on… like the Eagles from his first to his 2nd year with them, or the 49ers from 2002 until 2003, when he was ready to move on…

      • Sonny says:

        Side note: I am no TO fan. He was the epitome of a diva receiver, but I think it’s ludicrous that he’s waiting while Davis is in.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Terrell Davis waited 11 years for his call to Canton. He waited with class and dignity. Terrell Owens has had to wait 2 years (so far). And he acts like a spoiled child. The irony is that Terrell Owens’ petulant behavior now – calling the HOF a “joke” – is exactly what made him such a pariah during his NFL days.

      • Al says:

        And Owens’ teams were always WORSE in the year after he left them.

        • kehnn13 says:

          The Eagles went from 6 and 10 in Owens last year with them to 10-6 the following year.
          The Cowboys went from 9-7 in Owens last year to 11-5 the following year.
          And to blame the 49ers woes on Owens leaving, when they started tim rattay at QB…I think that was a much bigger factor than Owens departure.

  22. Edwin says:

    Also,Football is concerned with downs – what down is it?
    Baseball is concerned with ups – who’s up?

  23. Al says:

    I think it’s ridiculous how the media and fans just brush over who DIDN’T make the Hall in football like it’s no big deal. In baseball, there is debates forever about Craig Biggio missing by 2 votes or Trevor Hoffman by 5. In football? No big deal that one of the 3 best wide receivers of all time was denied entrance for a second straight year. The morons who vote for the Pro Football HOF have to have a committee meeting to discuss how good various players are whereas in baseball, you just vote your conscience. No meeting is required to determine how good Barry Bonds, Lee Smith or Larry Walker is.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      The fact that Jerry Jones made it and that TO and Joe Jacoby didn’t is a travesty, IMO. Yes, I get that Jerry made a lot of money for the owners but what other contribution has he made? One lucky trade with Herschel Walker. And I’m always pissed that Jerry Kramer never made the Hall.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      The Terrell Owens argument is weak for many reasons. Receivers, traditionally, have had to wait awhile before being inducted. Art Monk (who retired with the most career receptions) had to wait 8 years before being elected. Cris Carter had to wait, I believe, 5 years. Michael Irvin? He had to wait 3 years. So making TO wait a few years isn’t surprising or unprecedented.

      • Chris K says:

        It may bot be unprecedented, but that doesn’t make it right.

        As one commenter mentioned above, he WAS an asshat — but so what? Objectively speaking, he was one of the top 3 wide receivers of all time (top 5, at least) and should be enshrined. Plenty of asshats have been elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on their first go-round. Clearly, I know he WILL be elected eventually, but still..

        The real problem is that the voting committee can only vote for up to five modern era candidates each year. That number seems arbitrarily low — baseball writers can vote for up to ten candidates which, obviously I know you’re well aware of. Given that the active rosters for NFL team is set at 53 players while MLB rosters carry less than half that number just makes that voting process seem, in my humble opinion, lopsided to me.

        As an aside, as a Seahawk fan, I was pleased to see Kenny Easley get elected this year. That dude was fierce.

      • Sonny says:

        Sure, might make some sense if they were comparable, but Owens is clearly better than both.

        Owens has 328 more receptions, 4030 more yards, and 88 more touchdowns than Irvin. Irvin was a great player, a HOF’er, probably about as good as Owens, but Owens did it for 60 more games.

        Monk was a good player for a long time, but nowhere near TO’s level.

        Monk: 3 Pro Bowls, 1 1st team All-Pro, 4 times top 10 in receptions, 3 times top 10 in yards, 1 time top 10 in TD’s.

        Owens: 6 Pro Bowls, 5 1st team All-Pro, 3 times top 10 in receptions, 5 times top 10 in yards, 10 times top 10 in TD’s.

        Carter should not have had to wait that long, either.

        I don’t care if TO was a receiver and they normally have to wait. By almost any measurement you want to use, he was a better football player than Davis, and is more deserving.

  24. RaY-Zor says:

    Both Holmes and TD belong. I think Joe Poz’ Elway phobia is rearing it’s ugly head here, again. Remember it wasn’t just #7 who beat your guys 3 years outta 4 in the AFC Champshionship game. He had help. Lots of that spelled Marty.

  25. KHAZAD says:

    Football does tend to put alot of people in based on what their teams won. You could take two completely identical guys and put one on the early 90s Cowboys and one on the early 90s Browns and the one with the Cowboys would get in and the guy with the Browns would not.

    Also Joe, you might as well go four years with these two players as Holmes had a good half year in 2004 after his 01-03 dominance and TD had four good years. Davis had 7594 yards from scrimmage in 61 games, with 61 touchdowns and a total of 69 approximate value. In only 54 games, Priest had 7645 yards and 76 touchdowns and an AV of 70.

    Davis was great. Priest’s prime was the one of the top three I have ever seen from a running back. He was a joy to watch.

    As I watched Leveon Bell in his healthy playoff game, I listened to announcers laud his patient running style and saying they have never seen anything like it before, while I was having Priest flashbacks and wondering if Bell had ever studied his tape.

    • KTM says:

      Speaking of Terrell Davis and Priest Holmes, I’ve wondered why Shaun Alexander is not in the short career listing for HOF consideration. Like Priest Holmes he was a prolific scorer. For about 4 years he was a pile driver.

  26. The Priest Holmes Foundation is a recognized organization that is committed to encouraging education and enhancing the lives of children in the community.

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