The Reluctance To Elect Special Teamers To The HOF - Featuring Brian Mitchell & Darren Sproles

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Beetlejuice

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I read a story this morning where TMZ caught up with Darren Sproles and asked him about the possibility of enshrinement in the HOF. When asked directly if he is a HOF player, he responds, "I feel like I am." Well, I feel like you are too Mr. Sproles. Likewise for Brian Mitchell.

This made me start to wonder why there is such a reluctance to put predominantly special teams players in the HOF. I mean, people use the argument that they were just good at one thing - returning kicks. Well if you apply that logic, Tom Brady is only good at one thing - throwing a football. I'm sorry Mr. Brady, you're one-dimensional so no HOF for you. Do you see how ridiculous that argument sounds when applied evenly?

There are kickers, punters, even guys who are non-players but were really good at filming that are in the HOF. You get there for being among the best at what you did. Nobody with a sound mind can make an argument that Brian Mitchell and Darren Sproles aren't among the elite of the elite as return specialists. These are the types of guys other returners aspire to be.

Brian Mitchell had 23,316 all purpose yards for his career. That's second only to Jerry Rice (23,546). Among the top 10 career leaders in all-purpose yards, four men are not in the HOF. Frank Gore (still active) and Steve Smith (not yet eligible) are both going without a doubt. That will leave 2 of the top 10 on the outside looking in. Brian Mitchell, and Darren Sproles. These men didn't just dominate the league at their position, they did it for over a decade. Yet the only accolades they receive for their accomplishments are a pat on the back, and the occasional discussion about how great they are?

Being an elite special teams player is a skill, it still takes talent, and they deserve to be rewarded just as any other player who nears or reaches the pinnacle for his position. These two men each averaged around 25 yards per return, over the course of 14 years. These are two men who as running backs averaged 5 yards per carry between them - only 10 other players in NFL history have that on their career resume, and 3 are QBS.

Brian Mitchell wasn't just the best when he played. He's still the best 17 years after retiring. Brian Mitchell is 1,291 yards ahead of the next closest player, and the next closest active player is Ted Ginn with 2,600. He will never come close. Sproles sits at 13th all time. For kick returns, Mitchell is at the top as well, with more than double the yards of the closest active player - also Ted Ginn, who is on the brink of retirement and will be 35 this coming season. Sproles is 8th all time.

I believe both of these guys played a hall of fame caliber career. Whether they will ever actually receive recognition for their accomplishments is another story altogether.
 

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Really great post. Yeah - it's hard to fathom. I think there is an inherent arrogance when it comes to voters on Pro Sports HOF selection committees. Why some clearly deserving individuals are excluded and others are not seems arbitrary and inexplicable at times. I don't think any of these voters could give a coherent answer as to why on Earth special players like Brian Mitchell may never be recognized, or why they feel minimizing a key aspect of the very sport they are seeking to promote and honor makes any sense at all. There are also a lot of political reasons why some players get in on the first ballot and others have to wait, some in vain, to be recognized. Player popularity, whether they were 'company guys', played for certain teams with powerful owners or larger fanbases. I think all of that, unfortunately, plays a part.

I really hope Mitchell gets the recognition he deserves one of these days.
 

Beetlejuice

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It's always seemed ignorant to me that they look the other way when special teams players are involved. For the most part, special teams guys don't make a big splash. I get that, but when it's a guy who was known for huge returns to the point other teams had to step up their game because they knew a win was hanging in the balance if a guy broke one, that deserves recognition. Especially after doing it year after year for so long.

Just to put it in perspective, Brian Mitchell has more career yards than Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk and Barry Sanders and nobody questions their dominance.
 

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Steve Tasker. Seven time pro-bowler. Probably should get in too.
 

MikefromOH

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it reminds me of the DH not getting in the MLB HoF. It will eventually have to happen.
 

Beetlejuice

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it reminds me of the DH not getting in the MLB HoF. It will eventually have to happen.
I immediately thought of Edgar Martinez when I read your post. It's a perfect comparison, and it too needs to be changed.
 

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Meh...Brian Mitchell doesn't fumble on that last drive against the 49ers, we likely win that game to take on the Cowturds in the NFC Championship where we would have beaten them, and won back to back Super Bowls against the Bills.

Screw Brian Mitchell! He was always a loud mouth shit talker who couldn't earn a spot on the starting roster on offense so was delegated to special teams.

Why don't special teams players get into the HoF? Because they are backup players.
 

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I never liked Mitchell’s mouth either. But that brashness is also one of the things that made him a special player (pun intended). I don’t think a players ‘personality’ should have any effect on their ‘legacy’ but it seems to at times. Look at Art Monk who should’ve been an obvious first ballot HOFer but because he kept his head down and wasn’t a vocal guy, he was snubbed. And then there are guys who are obnoxious as hell and that seems to hurt them. None of that should matter imho.

While ST’s can be a proving ground for players not good enough to supplant a starter or backup on offense or defense, there are rare players who are difference makers who are primarily STers. I think that’sthe point Beetlejuice is making.
 

Beetlejuice

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Being a loudmouth has nothing to do with someone's performance on the field. Being a nice guy doesn't get you in, and being a dick doesn't keep you out. I always hated TO as a person and thought he was one of the biggest jackasses to ever step on the field, but I also fully supported his HOF credentials because he was one of the best at his position. Just like Brian Mitchell.

Many many games have been won or lost because of a huge ST play, so to downplay it like they're nothing more than backup players is disingenuous. Backup players don't make or break a game, or alter momentum.
 

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Being a loudmouth has nothing to do with someone's performance on the field. Being a nice guy doesn't get you in, and being a dick doesn't keep you out. I always hated TO as a person and thought he was one of the biggest jackasses to ever step on the field, but I also fully supported his HOF credentials because he was one of the best at his position. Just like Brian Mitchell.

Many many games have been won or lost because of a huge ST play, so to downplay it like they're nothing more than backup players is disingenuous. Backup players don't make or break a game, or alter momentum.
No, his loud mouth is why I don't like him...the fact that he was a backup RB his whole career is why he'll never make the HoF. You can call it an outrage all you like, but Special Teams players play special teams because they just aren't good enough to start on offense or defense. That little fact alone is why they don't end up in the HoF unless it's a punter or a kicker.
 

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You can call it an outrage all you like, but Special Teams players play special teams because they just aren't good enough to start on offense or defense.
Gale Sayers would like to have a word with you.
 

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What about the guys who play offense or defense but not special teams?

I guess they aren’t good enough to play special teams :)

I'm being snarky of course, but I'm also serious. There have been some special teams players who have done things almost no other players (on offense or defense) could do. It is, by definition, a unit full of specialists. They don't get 20-40 plays to do something meaningful. They get a handful. But I think Brian is giving the opposing thought process perfectly.

If you look at Brian Mitchell's stats. You'll see that he didn't stand out in any one thing. But he was an electric player who could turn a broken play into a TD in the blink of an eye. Did you know that Mitchell has more all purpose yards than every NFL player who ever played - except one. 23, 330 yards! Only Jerry Rice had more. Mitchell only needed another 217 yards to become the all-time leader in all purpose yards gained. That is an amazing feat, maybe even more amazing because he wasn't an every down RB.

I'd say some 'special team's players were pretty ****ing special.
 
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Beetlejuice

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Somewhere Deion Sanders wants to address the claim that special teams players aren't good enough to start on offense or defense, but he's not sure whether to discuss it as a WR or DB.
 

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Not every return man can start at RB or WR. Then again, not every RB or WR can return kicks or punts. Its a specific job, requiring a specific skill set, and the very best at the job deserve some recognition.

We wouldnt keep safeties out of the HOF because your average safety couldn’t play corner. Return men should be able to get in as return men. Nobody is saying they should go in as a RB or something.
 

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Gale Sayers would like to have a word with you.
So, Gayle Sanders is now in the HoF because of his special teams play, is that what you're telling me?

Come on man, your outliers do nothing to dispel my claim.

Darren Sproles, Brian Mitchell...hell, even White Shoes Johnson never excelled where it mattered, as a starter on offense or defense.

You asked why they're not in the Hall...that is the answer. You can argue that they should be all you want. Lobby the NFL and the voters for the Hall...maybe they'll hear you and start making changes.

But you asked, that's the short, easy answer...whether you like the answer or not.
 

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Not every return man can start at RB or WR. Then again, not every RB or WR can return kicks or punts. Its a specific job, requiring a specific skill set, and the very best at the job deserve some recognition.

We wouldnt keep safeties out of the HOF because your average safety couldn’t play corner. Return men should be able to get in as return men. Nobody is saying they should go in as a RB or something.
OK, lobby the NFL and demand the change. The "logics" of it may not make sense to you, but that's the bottom line.

The question is..."Why aren't special teams aces like Darren Sproles or Brian Mitchell in the Hall of Fame?"

The answer is because they were never capable of being starters on offense or defense whether your anyone else likes the answer.
 

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So, Gayle Sanders is now in the HoF because of his special teams play, is that what you're telling me?
I never said that. But you did say that special teams players can't make it as starters on defense or offense. Gale Sayers, Deion Sanders, and Desean Jackson call your bluff. They aren't the only examples, just recent examples to show your claim holds no water.
 

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So, Gayle Sanders is now in the HoF because of his special teams play, is that what you're telling me?

Come on man, your outliers do nothing to dispel my claim.

Darren Sproles, Brian Mitchell...hell, even White Shoes Johnson never excelled where it mattered, as a starter on offense or defense.

You asked why they're not in the Hall...that is the answer. You can argue that they should be all you want. Lobby the NFL and the voters for the Hall...maybe they'll hear you and start making changes.

But you asked, that's the short, easy answer...whether you like the answer or not.
2nd most in all purpose yards in NFL history but because a lot of them were on Special Teams plays that doesn’t count? That’s just a bad take man. I don’t disagree that the vast majority of honorees should come from offensive and defensive stars. But there are exceptions. You’re being stubborn in not admitting it.
 

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OK, lobby the NFL and demand the change. The "logics" of it may not make sense to you, but that's the bottom line.

]The question is..."Why aren't special teams aces like Darren Sproles or Brian Mitchell in the Hall of Fame?"

The answer is because they were never capable of being starters on offense or defense whether your anyone else likes the answer.
Yes. That's why there's a thread about this. This thread. :)

If ST players were already in the Hall of Fame we wouldn't be talking about it.

Just to be clear, I could not care less what the NFL or the Hall of Fame does or doesn't do at this point. The whole corrupt organization and it's back-patting society can go spit for all I care. But corrupt it is. Fallible, it most definitely is. Saying 'the NFL declares it this way so it must be the correct way" carries NO weight with me, whatsoever. None. Nada. Zippo. Michael Irvin should never have sniffed the HOF before Art Monk. Joe Jacoby should be in yesterday. There are TONS of deserving players who never make it, or make it far later than they should.

Brian Mitchell may be one of those guys. I'm fine discussing his merits. He won a superbowl and broke records here. If he doesn't get in I won't lose a wink of sleep. But I think it's a worthy discussion. Special Teams players can go to the pro-bowl as Special Teamers. Clearly those positions are unique enough that those who excel at them get special recognition. It would make sense to me to give them that recognition in the Hall as well, but the NFL has never been about making sense. Especially these days.

So it will probably never happen.
 
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Elephant

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I never said that. But you did say that special teams players can't make it as starters on defense or offense. Gale Sayers, Deion Sanders, and Desean Jackson call your bluff. They aren't the only examples, just recent examples to show your claim holds no water.
Can you say straw man!?!?!
 

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