One week after Pat McAfee called punter Shane Lechler “a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” we have Jamaal Charles’ supporters telling us that the free-agent running back “will get in” the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Not might. Will.
Funny, but I thought the Hall’s 48 selectors made those decisions.
Wait a minute. They do.
Jamaal Charles can make a Hall-of-Fame argument. In fact, he did earlier this week when he told TMZ that “some of my numbers look way better than some people already in Canton.” And he’s right. His career rushing average of 5.4 yards-per-carry is second only to Hall-of-Famer Marion Motley.
And that’s great. But that doesn’t punch you a ticket for Canton. If it did, then tell me why Ken Riley’s 65 interceptions don’t have him in the Hall? Or why Buddy Dial’s 20.8 yards-per-reception haven't gotten him there? Or Tony Romo’s 7.9 yards-per-pass attempt? Or Clay Matthews’ 1,561 tackles?
All those numbers were “way better than some people already in Canton.” Yet they’re not there.
The problem here is that Jamaal Charles and his advocates lose sight of the bigger picture. There is more … much more … involved to a Hall-of-Fame career. For instance:
-- Where he ranks among the all-time rushing leaders. Charles is 56th.
-- Where he ranks in career rushing touchdowns. He’s tied at 97th.
-- Where he ranks in all-time scrimmage yards. He’s 102nd.
-- First-team All-Pro selections. Charles had two.
-- Durability and length of career. He had six seasons where he played 15 or more games and none where he started all 16. Moreover, he had seven seasons where he started five or fewer games, including none in his last four years.
-- Playoff performance. He participated in only two playoff games (both losses) and gained a total of 100 yards rushing while scoring once.
OK, so let’s look at each separately. While he ranks 56th in career rushing, the guy who’s 55th is Hall-of-Famer Terrell Davis -- and, let’s face it, he had only three blockbuster seasons before his career was cut short by a knee injury.
But Davis was a Super Bowl MVP, a league MVP and excelled when it counted most – in the playoffs. In eight postseason games, he ran for 100 or more yards seven times, averaged 143 yards rushing per game and 5.6 yards per carry and scored 12 times – including an NFL-record eight in the 1997 playoffs.
In short, he was one of the best playoff performers in NFL history
Now let’s look at career rushing touchdowns. Charles is 97th, or just behind Ken Willard, Tom Matte, Natrone Means, Wilbert Montgomery and Jim Nance. None is in the Hall, and none has ever been discussed. Nor has Pete Johnson, who ranks 24th … or Ottis Anderson, who’s 19th … or Corey Dillon at 18.
Then there’s Priest Holmes. He ranks 15th in career touchdowns, and you want to talk about a Kansas City Chiefs’ back that has “some numbers way better than some people already in Canton?” You’re looking at him.
Holmes twice led the league in rushing touchdowns, once setting an NFL single-season record. He was a single-season league rushing leader. He was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year. And he was a Super Bowl champion.
Granted, he wasn’t named to two All-Pro first teams like Charles. He was named to three.
Let’s move next to career yards from scrimmage. Charles is 102nd, and, OK, so what? Well, so running backs like Tiki Barber (14th), Warrick Dunn (20th), Steven Jackson (23rd) and Ricky Watters (26th) are ahead of him. In fact, they’re way ahead -- like 5,000 yards each.
But they’re not in Canton.
Now I know what you’re thinking about durability. What about Terrell Davis? Good question. His selection weakened the longevity argument and opened the door to candidates who heretofore weren’t considered because of the lengths of their careers. But what pushed his candidacy over the top was his playoff performance when he (literally) carried Denver to its first two Super Bowl wins.
He was his best when it counted most. But he was also a two-time Offensive Player of the Year, league MVP, Super Bowl MVP, NFL rushing leader and two-time league leader in rushing touchdowns. Still, it took him 11 years to be elected.
By contrast, Jamaal Charles led the league in rushing touchdowns once. Period.
Look, Jamaal Charles was a marvelous running back and, yes, he can make a Hall-of-Fame case for himself. But tell me: Would you rather have Jamaal Charles in your backfield than, say, Ricky Watters? How about Fred Taylor? Or Tiki Barber, Roger Craig, Fred Taylor, Larry Brown, Eddie George, Jamal Lewis or Ottis Anderson?
None are in Canton. And only Craig has been a finalist. In fact, Craig has been the only semifinalist.
My point is this: Jamaal Charles had an illustrious career, but so did dozens of other running backs who aren’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So don’t tell me he’s getting in when they have not. Because the line forms at the rear. And that line goes around the block.
Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF