10 NFL Icons Who Belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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To kickoff the 100th NFL season, the Green Bay Packers will take on the Chicago Bears at Solider Field – the league’s oldest football stadium.

The pairing of these two historic teams on this the 100th anniversary is sure to conjure up all kinds of lookbacks of former greats by the NBC broadcast team.

From George Halas and Vince Lombardi to Walter Payton and Brett Favre, the teams boast some 63 Hall of Famers combined (33 Chicago (1st), 30 GreenBay (4th)).

With that, we thought this would be a good opportunity to look at the 10 biggest Hall of Fame snubs in history, including modern-day players and stars of yesteryear.

1. Ed Too Tall Jones

Ed-Jones-Chases-Rams-Player
Ed Too Tall Jones was one of the most dominant players of his generation. Credit: Getty Images

Ed Lee “Too Tall” Jones played 15 seasons in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys. In 1979, he attempted a career in professional boxing. Jones earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors three times from 1981 to 1983…

Jones retired at the end of the 1989 season, having never missed a game, playing the most games by any Cowboys player (232) and being tied with Mark Tuinei and Bill Bates for most seasons (15)…

Jones was one of the most dominant defensive players of his era, playing in 16 playoff games and three Super Bowls. He was part of three NFC championship teams and the Super Bowl XII champion. His success batting down passes convinced the NFL to keep track of it as an official stat…

The NFL didn’t start recognizing quarterback sacks as an official stat until 1982; although the Cowboys have their own records, dating back before the 1982 season. According to the Cowboys’ stats, Jones is unofficially credited with a total of 106 quarterback sacks (third most in team history) and officially with 57.5. He is the fifth leading tackler in franchise history with 1,032.


2. Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall (70) was know for his work in the trenches. Credit: AP photos

James Lawrence Marshall played 15 seasons in the NFL. He was a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns (1960) and the Minnesota Vikings (1961–1979). At the time of his retirement, he owned the career records for most consecutive starts (270) and games played (282). The Vikings retired his No. 70.

Marshall, who played his college ball at The Ohio State University, left school before his senior year, and signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. He was then traded to the Browns in an unusual NFL-CFL trade.

Marshall played the 1960 season with the Browns before being traded to the Vikings, a new expansion team. He played for the Vikings from 1961 to 1979, finishing with a then-record 282 consecutive games (since surpassed by Jeff Feagles). He started 270 consecutive games while playing for the Vikings, an NFL record since surpassed by Brett Favre.

During his career, Marshall recovered 39 fumbles, an NFL record which still stands. He played in two Pro Bowls (1968 and 1969), and was a member of the Vikings’ famous “Purple People Eaters” (which consisted of Marshall (DE), Alan Page (DT), Gary Larsen (DT), and Carl Eller (DE)).

The Vikings credit Marshall with 127 career quarterback sacks, third most in Viking History behind Page and Eller. He is one of 11 players to have played in all four of the Vikings Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s.

He was the final player from Minnesota’s initial expansion team of 1961 to retire.


3. Steve Atwater

Steve Atwater
Safety Steve Atwater (27) of the Denver Broncos celebrates during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Jack Murphy Stadium on December 24, 1989 in San Diego, Calif. Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Stephen Dennis Atwater played 11 seasons in the NFL, 10 of those for the Denver Broncos. Atwater, a Free Safety, was known as one of the most ferocious hitters of his era. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Super Bowl champion.

Atwater teamed with strong safety Dennis Smith to form one of the best safety tandems of their generation. Both would later be inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame. During his 10-year career in Denver, Atwater started 155 games, tying him for seventh in franchise history. He also started in 14 post-season games.


4. Sterling Sharpe

Sterling Sharpe
Green Bay Packers Sterling Sharpe rushes for a touchdown vs Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI on 9/27/1992. Photo by John Biever /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Sterling Sharpe was the first round (seventh overall) draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1988. In his rookie season he started all 16 games and caught 55 passes. His sophomore season he led the league with 90 receptions, the first Packer to do so since Don Hutson in 1945, and broke Hutson’s records for receptions and receiving yards in a season.

Sharpe was known as a tough receiver with strong hands, who was willing to go over the middle to make difficult catches in traffic.

In 1992, Sharpe and then new quarterback, Brett Favre, teamed up to become one of the top passing tandems in the league. In the final game of that season he and Favre hooked up for Sharpe’s 107th reception of the season which broke the NFL’s single-season receptions record, set by Art Monk in 1984. That same season, Sharpe became one of only six players in NFL history to win the outright “Triple Crown” at the receiver position: leading the league in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and receptions.

Sharpe’s career was cut short by a neck injury suffered toward the end of the 1994 regular season, ending a career in which he was invited to the Pro Bowl five times (1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1994).


5. L. C. Greenwood

Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica hands off to Charlie Smith (23) as Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood (68) chases during the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Riverfront Stadium. The Steelers defeated the Raiders 13-7. Photo by Dick Raphael-USA TODAY Sports

L. C. Henderson Greenwood was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 in the 10th round. In 1971, he became the starting left defensive end. Henderson was one of the four members of Pittsburgh’s famed Steel Curtain (along with “Mean” Joe Green, Dwight White, and Ernie Holmes). He remained there until his retirement in 1981.

Greenwood was a 6-time Pro Bowl player and was named to NFL All-Pro teams in 1974 and 1975.

Greenwood led the Steelers six times in sacks with a career total of 73½ (sacks were an unofficial stat at the time). According to records kept by the Steelers, Greenwood’s highest single-season sack total was 11, which he attained in 1974. He further had 14 fumble recoveries in his career, including five in 1971, which tied for the NFL lead.

Henderson was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.


6. Roger Craig

Roger Craig
Roger Craig was the NFL’s top duel threat during the 49ers heyday in the 1990s. Credit: Getty Images

Roger Timothy Craig was the 49th overall selection in the 1983 NFL Draft, taken by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2nd round from Nebraska.

In his rookie year in 1983 playing under Bill Walsh and alongside Quarterback Joe Montana, Craig scored a combined 12 touchdowns rushing and receiving, as the 49ers reached the NFC Championship game. Montana, Craig and Walsh would remain together until the 1988 season. Craig first became well known in his rookie year for his distinctive high-knee running technique.

The following season, in 1984, Craig became the first in NFL history to run and receive for at least 1,000 yards in the same season. He ran for 1,050 yards on 214 carries and led the NFL with 92 catches for 1,016 yards, and scored a team high 15 touchdowns.

In 1988, Craig was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. He ran for a career-high 1,502 yards and caught an additional 76 passes for 534 yards.

In eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Craig played in 121 games and missed only seven games, five of them in his final season. Playing alongside Dwight Clark, Jerry Rice, Tom Rathman, Russ Francis and others in the 49ers diverse offense, Craig accounted for 11,506 yards from scrimmage, rushing for 7064 yards (4.2) and 50 touchdowns, and catching 508 passes for 4442 yards (8.7) and 16 touchdowns. in 16 playoff games with the 49ers, Craig had 817 yards rushing (4.0) with seven touchdowns and 63 receptions for 606 yards (9.7) and two touchdowns, as the 49ers won three Super Bowls.


7. Lester Hayes

With his unique style, Lester Hayes was one the top cornerbacks was the 1980s. Credit: AP

Lester Craig Hayes was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 1977 and played his entire 10 season career for the Black and Silver. He helped lead the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins (1980, 1983), and was a six-time All-Pro (1979-1984) and a five-time Pro Bowler (1980–1984).

He was known as one of the greatest shutdown corners in NFL history, and was commonly referred to as “Lester the Molester” because of his bump and run style. Hayes was also known for using Stickum before it was banned in 1981 in a rule bearing his name.

In 1980, Hayes led the NFL with 13 interceptions, and was named AP Defensive Player of the Year.

Hayes was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s.


8. Jim Plunkett

Jim Plunkett
Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls as a Raider and is the only two-time winning QB not in the Hall of Fame. Credit: Getty Images

A Heisman Trophy winner during his collegiate career at Stanford, Plunkett was selected by the New England Patriots as the first overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft. His tenure with the Patriots was mostly unsuccessful and led to him being signed by the San Francisco 49ers, where he played in 1976 and 1977, and then by the Oakland Raiders for 1978.

Initially serving as a backup, he became the team’s starting quarterback during the 1980 season and helped Raiders win Super Bowl XV, where he was named the game’s MVP.

In 1983, Plunkett again ascended from backup to starting quarterback to assist the Raiders in winning Super Bowl XVIII before retiring three years later. He is the only eligible quarterback with two Super Bowl wins as a starter not to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Plunkett is the only NFL Quarterback to win two Super Bowls with the same franchise in different cities: Oakland (1981) and Los Angeles (1984).


9. Issac Bruce

Issac Bruce
Issac Bruce was one of the mainstays of the high-powered Rams offenses of the late 90s and early 2000s. Credit: Getty Images

Bruce was one of the most productive receivers in NFL history, doing almost all of his damage with the Rams. He spent 14 years with the franchise, catching 942 passes for 14,109 yards and 84 touchdowns. He also added on 82 catches for 1,099 yards and seven more touchdowns in two years with the 49ers to close out his career.

In total, he ranks 13th in receptions, fifth in receiving yards, 12th in touchdown catches and 19th in yards from scrimmage (15,347). He only made four Pro Bowls and was never a first-team All-Pro, but he posted eight seasons with 1,000 yards receiving and led the NFL in that department in 1996 with 1,338 yards.

Bruce was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.


10. Don Coryell

Don Coryell
Don Coryell has been credited as the primary innovator of the modern passing game in the NFL. Credit: AP

Donald David Coryell coached in the NFL first with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973 to 1977 and then the San Diego Chargers from 1978 to 1986.

Coryell was well known for his innovations to football’s passing offense. His offense was commonly known as “Air Coryell.”


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