Saturday, February 04, 2006

Greenwood Gets the Shaft Again

For the 20th straight year, Pittsburgh Steelers great L.C. Greenwood got the shaft from the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This was the 2nd straight year and the 6th overall that Greenwood was a finalist for the Hall of Fame. How Greenwood, one of the greatest defensive linemen of all time and a key member of the greatest defense and team of all time, can still not be in the Hall of Fame 25 years after his retirement is difficult to comprehend. Greenwood's career performance is definitely worthy of the Hall of Fame. During his brilliant career he was voted to the Pro Bowl 6 times, played on 4 Super Bowl championship teams, recorded 73.5 quarterback sacks (unofficially---the NFL didn't list sacks as an official statistical category until 1982), and recovered 14 fumbles. And like many of his Steeler teammates, Greenwood elevated his game to another level in the Super Bowl. His 3 batted passes and constant harassment of Minnesota QB Fran Tarkenton in Super Bowl IX helped set the stage for the Steelers' first championship. The following year, against Dallas in Super Bowl X, he sacked Cowboys' QB Roger Staubach 3 times. In 1991, Greenwood was voted to the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team.

A comparison of Greenwood's career with the careers of other defensive linemen voted to the Hall of Fame demonstrates his worthiness for enshrinement in Canton. Willie Davis (Green Bay, 1960-69) played in 5 Pro Bowls; Carl Eller (Minnesota, 1964-78) played in 6 Pro Bowls; Dan Hampton (Chicago, 1979-90) played in 4 Pro Bowls and recorded 57 sacks; and Lee Roy Selmon (Tampa Bay, 1976-84) played in 6 Pro Bowls, recorded 78.5 sacks, and recovered 10 fumbles. Greenwood's individual numbers measure up to these players', and of this group only Davis joins Greenwood as a member of multiple championship teams.

What surprised me the most about this year's election is that Dallas offensive tackle Rayfield Wright was chosen instead of Greenwood. Both men were chosen for 6 Pro Bowls, but Greenwood won 4 Super Bowls compared to Wright's 2. Wright's bio on the Hall of Fame web site gives a glowing account of Wright's performance in the 1975 playoffs, including Super Bowl X against the Steelers. The web site described Wright's play against Greenwood and Hall of Fame defensive ends Jack Youngblood and Carl Eller as "exceptional." I don't know how Youngblood and Eller did against Wright, but Greenwood recorded 3 of the Steelers' 7 sacks of Dallas QB Roger Staubach. That is hardly what I would call "exceptional play" by an offensive tackle. I'm not saying that Wright did not deserve to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He certainly is deserving of the honor, but he should NOT have been elected before L.C. Greenwood.

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