The Pro Football Hall of Fame senior committee will meet later this month to determine its one candidate for the Class of 2019.
This summer the Talk of Fame Network conducted a series of polls of seniors deserving of that nomination in an attempt to show just how difficult the process is. We offered up 48 worthy candidates in the series of five polls and received in excess of 5,500 votes. We decided to have a run off of the winners of those polls … plus a wild-card entry to form a six-player field.
The winners were outside linebackers Maxie Baughan and Andy Russell, quarterback Roman Gabriel, offensive tackle Joe Jacoby and guard Duke Slater. The wild card we added was cornerback Pat Fischer, who received the second most votes in the five polls but lost in his poll to Gabriel. So here’s the slate. Tell us who deserves the one senior nomination for the Class of 2019:
Maxie Baughan. Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson, Tommy Nobis and Larry Morris were the NFL NFL all-decade linebackers for the 1960s. They went to a combined 12 Pro Bowls that decade. Baughan himself went to nine Pro Bowls in the 1960s – four more than any of the all-decade linebackers. But not only was he passed over as an all-decade selection, he’s been passed over by the Hall of Fame. He’s never even been a finalist. A second-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1960, Baughan became a walk-in starter at outside linebacker for an NFL championship team and one of only three rookies selected to the Pro Bowl that season. He would go to the Pro Bowl in five of his six seasons with the Eagles, then was traded to the Rams. George Allen named him as his defensive captain and Baughan would go to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons with the Rams.
Pat Fischer. Voted one of the 70 greatest Redskins and a member of the franchise’s Ring of Honor. Fischer played 17 seasons and 213 games at cornerback, which was at the record for his position at the time of his retirement. He intercepted 56 career passes, which ranks 18th all-time and ninth among pure corners. That ties him with Lem Barney, a Hall of Famer, and Charles Woodson, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer. Fischer overcame a huge obstacle – his size (5-9, 170 pounds) to go to three Pro Bowls and set an NFL record for cornerbacks with his 16 fumble recoveries. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Roman Gabriel. The NFL MVP in 1969. From 1967-1970, Gabriel quarterbacked the Los Angeles Rams to a 41-11-4 record and was voted to three Pro Bowls. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973 and led the NFL that season with 3,219 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. He was voted the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year that year and was sent to his fourth Pro Bowl. He passed for 29,444 yards and 201 touchdowns in his career and also rushed for 1,304 yards and 30 more scores. Gabriel has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Joe Jacoby. A 1980s NFL all-decade selection at offensive tackle. An undrafted college free agent, Jacoby was a walk-in starter at left tackle and became a fixture on one of the most recognizable offensive lines in NFL history, the Hogs of the Washington Redskins. Jacoby’s blocking helped the Redskins win three Super Bowls. He played left tackle in the first two and right tackle in the third and final Super Bowl in 1991. The counter trey was the signature play of the Joe Gibbs’ championship era and Jacoby was a key element, pulling from his left tackle position to make a lead block on the right side of the line. Jacoby has been a three-time Hall of Fame finalist.
Andy Russell. Russell arrived in Pittsburgh in 1963 during the pre-Super Bowl era. Translation: bad football. After a two-year stint in the military in 1964-65, Russell returned to start the final 11 seasons of his career. He was the team MVP one season (1971) and the team’s defensive MVP in two others (1968, 1970). Russell served as defensive captain of the Steelers the final 10 seasons of his career and went to the Pro Bowl the final six years of his career. He started on two Super Bowl champions.
Duke Slater. The Jackie Robinson of the NFL. He was the first African-American lineman in NFL history and played 10 seasons, earning all-pro honors six times. He missed only one game in his career – a 1924 game against the Kansas City Blues because blacks were prohibited from playing in Missouri. In 1927, when NFL owners discussed banning black players, eight of the nine African-American players disappeared from pro football. Slater was the lone exception — and he remained the league’s only African-American player from 1927-29. He became a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and was a two-time Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist.