The Canton Worthy: Linemen
Today, I’m taking a look at the five linemen who are finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame. Among them, one is a center, two are guards, one is an offensive tackle and one is a defensive end/defensive tackle. I’ll first take a look at the three interior linemen before moving on to the lone tackle. Then I’ll wrap up with the sole defensive player.
Kevin Mawae, Center: Seattle Seahawks, 1994-1997; New York Jets, 1998-2005; Tennessee Titans, 2006-2009
Though he began his career as a guard, Mawae moved to center in 1996 and played there for the next 14 seasons. As of today, there are only 12 centers in the NFL Hall of Fame. Mawae stacks up well with all of them.
One thing that can’t be overlooked is longevity in the league. That can incredibly help a player who’s able to play at a high level for years on end, but lack thereof can also be detrimental, as I’ll get to shortly with a different player.
For Mawae, it helps.
Mawae spent 15 of his 16 years as his team’s primary starter at his position, either avoiding or playing through injuries. He made All-Pro three times with a period of nine seasons coming between his first and third selections. He was elected to his first Pro Bowl when his was 28 and his last when he was 38. In 12 seasons, he not only played in, but also started all 16 games.
Among Hall of Fame centers, only one was his team’s primary starter at his position more than Mawae–Mick Tingelhoff, who is allegedly a real person, did it 17 times. Only three centers were named to more Pro-Bowl teams than Mawae. The biggest hit against Mawae is the low number of times he made All-Pro.
However, Mawae should overcome that. From his rookie year until he hung ’em up, Mawae was a stalwart on his team’s offensive line. Not only that, he anchored the lines as a center for 14 seasons. This LSU product should become the 13th center elected to the NFL’s Hall of Fame.
Alan Faneca, Guard: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998-2007; New York Jets, 2008-2009; Arizona Cardinals, 2010
Steve Hutchinson, Guard: Seattle Seahawks, 2001-2005; Minnesota Vikings, 2006-2011; Tennessee Titans, 2012
Perhaps unfairly, Faneca and Hutchinson are squaring off against each other for a single spot in Canton. Because their careers overlapped so much, from 2001-2010, these two will be compared against each other and will most likely take away votes from one another.
And now that I’ve pointed out how unfair it is comparing these two great guards against each other, I’m going to do exactly that.
First, let’s take a look at Faneca. Another LSU product, Faneca went to the Steelers as the No. 26 pick in the 1998 draft. He immediately stepped into the fray, playing in all 16 games the following season, starting 12 of them. For the following nine seasons, Faneca helped hold down the left side of Pittsburgh’s offensive line en route to seven Pro Bowls, six All-Pro selections and a victory in Super Bowl XL. After leaving Pittsburgh, he’d make another two Pro Bowls with the Jets before retiring as a member of the Cardinals after the 2010 season.
Then there’s Hutchinson, taken with the No. 17 overall pick by the Seahawks in the 2001 draft out of Michigan. In 10 seasons, Hutchinson would start at least 12 games, going the full 16 games on eight occasions. Between his time in Seattle, Minnesota, and Tennessee, he made seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. His teams reached the Super Bowl only once, where his Seahawks lost to Faneca’s Steelers.
There are exactly 20 guards in the Hall of Fame. Only three of those 20 have made more All-Pro teams than Faneca, with only five making more Pro Bowls and a mere two having been his team’s primary starter at his position longer. For Hutchinson, five made more All-Pro teams, eight made more Pro Bowls and 12 were primary starters for a longer period of time.
This year, Faneca gets the nod. Hutchinson may in the future, but not in 2019.
Tony Boselli, Tackle: Jacksonville Jaguars, 1995-2001 & Houston Texans, 2002 (DNP)
A stalwart at left tackle for the expansion Jaguars beginning in 1995, Boselli made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1996-2000. In the middle of that run, he also made three straight All-Pro teams, from 1997-1999. Throughout his time in Jacksonville, he helped legitimize the young squad, helping the team reach the playoffs in 1996 (when they reached the AFC Championship game), 1997 and 1998.
Sadly, after playing a possible 47 out of 48 games between 1998-2000, injuries hit Boselli hard. He played in only three games in 2001. Later, the Houston Texans selected Boselli with their first pick of the expansion draft, but he never played for them, retiring after the 2002 season.
Though Boselli was dominant for a solid six seasons with Jacksonville, longevity is taken into account when being considered for the Hall of Fame. Of the 28 tackles in Canton, all of them played at least eight seasons. Of the three who played a mere eight seasons, two retired before 1930 while the other retired after the 1955 season.
While there’s no doubt that Boselli is one of the greatest Jacksonville Jaguars, he didn’t play long enough to make it in the league’s Hall of Fame.
Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle: New England Patriots, 2001-2008 & Oakland Raiders, 2009-2012
The No. 6 overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Georgia, Seymour enjoyed a very successful start to his career with the Patriots, making five straight Pro Bowls from 2002-2006 while being named to three All-Pro teams from 2003-2005. Perhaps more importantly, he won three Super Bowls during his New England tenure, capturing Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. With the Patriots, Seymour accumulated 39 sacks, 357 total tackles, 64 tackles for loss and at least 37 quarterback hits.*
*Quarterback hits is a stat that pro-football-reference began keeping during the 2006 season.
After the 2008 season, the Patriots traded Seymour to the Raiders for a future first-round draft pick (used in 2011 to take tackle Nate Solder). While in Oakland, he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2010 and 2011 before retiring after the 2012 season. In his four seasons in Oakland, Seymour collected 18.5 sacks, 139 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 42 quarterback hits. Except for 2009, Seymour spent the majority of his Raiders career as a defensive tackle.
But despite Seymour’s versatility to slide back and forth between end and tackle, he didn’t do enough to get into the Hall of Fame. He was one of the defensive stars of those early Patriots dynasty teams, and yet the Patriots continued winning after he departed. He never collected more than eight sacks in a single season, nor did he disrupt offenses enough to ever threaten to win any Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Richard Seymour was good, not great, and won’t make it into Canton.
Recap Through Two Articles
Yesterday, I took a look at head coaches Tom Flores and Don Coryell, passing on both of them. With today’s selections of Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca, I’ve elected two of a maximum of five players. Tomorrow, I’ll look at five members of the secondary before wrapping up next Monday with an article on three offensive play makers.
Of the eight remaining players, only one is a lock.