Miller, Freeney didn't want sacks. They wanted the ball
Talk of Fame Network continued its series on the art of pass rushing this week, visiting with recently retired Dwight Freeney and former Defensive Player of the Year Von Miller. Both Freeney and Miller seem to be on Hall of Fame trajectories for the reason that separates the special defensive players from the rest: they separate the ball from the quarterback.
“A sack/forced fumble is the way you want to do it,’’ said the Broncos’ Miller. “A forced fumble is king.’’
So, too, is Miller. He has made six Pro Bowls in his first seven seasons in Denver and is one sack shy of the 100-sack mark. More importantly, he’s also only one sack from joining Reggie White and Demarcus Ware as the only players in NFL history to produce 10 sacks in seven of their first eight seasons.
Both Miller and Freeney certainly will be in the Hall of Fame conversation when they finally become eligible yet both realize how difficult it is to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only one per cent of all the players who ever played pro football have been enshrined in Canton, a fact Miller says greatly enhances the honor.
“That’s what makes it dope,’’ Miller said. “Making it an exclusive group is what makes it cool. Over time, all the guys who should get in there do.’’
One of those players may one day be Freeney, who presently ranks 19th all-time with 125 ½ sacks, one behind Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas. Freeney had double digit sacks seven times, including leading the league with 16 in 2004. And he did all that despite barely standing 6-foot-1 and lacking the prototypical size normally associated with edge rushers.
Freeney’s game was speed and he had plenty of it. Coming out of Syracuse he ran a sub 4.4 40, the kind of speed that led him to Tony Dungy. It was a perfect marriage of player and system with the coach best suited to make perfect use of his abilities.
“Coach Dungy’s defense is all about speed and quickness to attack the offense,’’ Freeney told Talk of Fame. “It was about getting from Point A to Point B.’’
One of the few guys to impede Freeney’s rapid progress from A to B, and from the line of scrimmage to the quarterback, was Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden. Of all the great left tackles Freeney sparred with, Ogden is the one he says gave him the most trouble.
“He shouldn’t be that big and that strong and if he is he shouldn’t be that fast,’’ Freeney said of Ogden. “That guy gave me nightmares. He’s the only guy I would say could eject me across the field.’’
Not many blockers often did that to either Freeney or Miller, two guys who were disruptive forces the game will not soon forget. While neither would say they were sure the Hall of Fame is in their future, Freeney admitted he knows what he accomplished.
“I’d love to be in the Hall of Fame but I also know it’s not up to me,’’ Freeney said “But I know this. I know I left my mark on the game. Before me, there wasn’t a guy like me (short but quick) drafted (to play defensive end). When I see guys now my size rushing the passer I know I left my mark.’’
Speaking of leaving their mark, Hall of Fame voter Paul Kuharsky made a strong case that there is at least one former Tennessee Titan who did the same. Kuharsky tells Talk of Fame Network that he believes strongly that center Kevin Mawae is Hall of Fame worthy. Mawae has twice been a top-10 finalist but has yet to reach Canton.
“Five different guys rushed for 1,000 yards with Kevin as the pivot,’’ Kuharsky said. “Runners had 90 100 yard games with Kevin at center. He went to eight Pro Bowls. He was an All-Decade selection.’’
In other words, he put skins on the wall and defenders on their backs.
When we learned the planned Monday Night game between the Chiefs and Rams had been pulled from Azteca Stadium in Mexico City because of the condition of the turf, Talk of Fame went to our go-to guy in Mexico when it comes to NFL matters to find out what happened.
Ulises Harada runs the biggest football website in Mexico, Primero y Diaz, and was the guy who tweeted out a picture of the scarred playing surface that went viral. Within 48 hours, the game had been pulled back to Los Angeles.
“It was a rough day in Mexico City,’’ Harada sad. “But the turf was really, really bad. They tried to patch it up but it looked awful.’’
Harada, a dyed-in-the-wool Chiefs fans, was especially peeved that what would have arguably been the most important NFL game ever played at an international venue had to be taken back to the U.S., but his real fear is that the poor conditions might result in dimming the future for NFL games in Mexico.
“How does this happen?’’ Harada said. “Everyone is wondering. It’s frustrating. It could jeopardize the NFL in Mexico.’’
In addition to dissecting pass rushing with two of the greatest rushers in NFL history and getting a bird’s eye view of the problems that cost Mexico the Chiefs-Rams game, Talk of Fame Network co-host Ron Borges also makes a spirited argument for the Hall of Fame worthiness of a forgotten 1940s All-Decade player.
Pat Harder was the first player to score over 100 points in three consecutive seasons and he did it despite playing only 12 games a year. He was the fullback in the Chicago Cardinals “Dream Backfield’’ and won three NFL championship, two with the Lions and the only one ever won by a Cardinals team.
Ron also gets on his soapbox over Panthers’ safety Eric Reid’s charge that he has been drugged tested four times since arriving in Carolina six weeks ago. Reid is suing the league, claiming he and Colin Kaepernick were blacklisted for their decision to continue taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem, and implied the idea he was “randomly’’ drug tested four times was, well, bogus.
To get Ron’s take on that and hear Miller, Freeney and the rest of our weekly show go to your local SB Nation Radio network station or download the free podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app. You can also listen to this show or any of our past shows and interviews at our website, talkoffamenetwork.com.