The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced its 2013 finalists, and with so many impressive names in the pool, some deserving players are guaranteed to miss the cut this time around. Even so, they won’t have nearly as much cause to complain as some of the all-time greats who have been ignored by the Hall of Fame voters year after year after year.
All five of these stars retired at least 25 years ago, yet Canton still hasn’t found time to open its doors for them:
5. Alex Karras, Detroit Lions
In the likely event that Warren Sapp finds his way into the Hall of Fame in the next few years, he’ll owe a major debt of gratitude to Alex Karras. The longtime Lion defensive tackle was one of the first interior linemen to specialize in quickness and penetration, making his living in the opponent’s backfield.
Undersized for a tackle (even in the ‘60s) at 248 lbs, Karras was a devastating pass rusher who had the bad luck to retire 15 years before sacks became a statistic. His reputation as an impact player hasn’t been entirely lost to the record books, though: he earned three first-team All-Pro selections while competing with the likes of Merlin Olsen, Henry Jordan and Bob Lilly, Hall of Famers all.
Like so many gridiron stars of his generation, Karras went into acting after retirement, meaning that most of today’s NFL fans are less likely to have seen him in a Lion uniform than as Mongo in “Blazing Saddles.”
4. Ray Guy, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
For no logical reason, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has a gargantuan blind spot when it comes to special teams. Only one full-time kicker—Kansas City’s Jan Stenerud—has ever been inducted into the Hall.
Of all the players kept out of Canton by that bizarre omission, none deserves a spot more than Ray Guy.
The namesake of college football’s award for the country’s top punter, Guy is widely considered the best ever to play the position. Seven times a Pro Bowler, he won three Super Bowl rings as a member of the Raiders.
3. Ken Riley, Cincinnati Bengals
Sometimes, the numbers speak for themselves. Cornerback Ken Riley ranks fifth in NFL history with 65 career interceptions, and all four players ahead of him on that list are already in Canton.
To put Riley’s career in some modern context, he picked off 10 more passes than Charles Woodson, and 13 more than Champ Bailey, in similar numbers of games played. He also started all 16 games as one of the few elite defenders on Cincinnati’s first AFC champs in 1981.
2. Lionel Taylor, Denver Broncos
When the old American Football League was founded in 1960, one of the ways it set itself apart from the established NFL was with an emphasis on wide-open, pass-heavy offenses. Even in the context of that league, few wide receivers could match the performance of Lionel Taylor.
The Bronco star led the AFL in receptions in five of its first six seasons of existence, topping 1,100 yards in four of those years. In 1961, he became the first player in NFL/AFL history to catch 100 passes in a season (and one of just two to reach that milestone when the schedule was only 14 games long).
1. Jim Marshall, Minnesota Vikings
A leader of the Vikings’ revered Purple People Eaters defensive line in the 1970s, end Jim Marshall is second in NFL history with 30 opposing fumbles recovered. Amazingly, that stat isn’t his best claim to a spot in Canton.
Marshall retired as the NFL’s all-time iron man, with record totals (since broken) of 270 consecutive starts and 282 consecutive games played. Those would be gaudy figures for any position, but they’re mind-boggling for a defensive lineman.
A four-time NFL/NFC champion on top of his individual accomplishments, Marshall should long since have joined linemates Alan Page and Carl Eller in the Hall of Fame.63876