It’s hard to become a starter in college football. Kids come from all over the world, and there are only so many starting jobs on a football team. Once you’re a starter, it’s even harder to stand out enough to go pro. There are over 12,000 college football players at any given time, and every year, only 254 get drafted. Only about half of those players stick, and even smaller number become starters.
For those starters, becoming a legend is hard. You’ve gotta think, all 32 teams have 22 starters, and you’re competing against all of them to be the best at what you do, and even if you do, you don’t always get the credit you deserve.
While a large number of the league’s legends do eventually make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, there’s a depressingly large number of former icons that never get the call.
The All-Pro Football Hall of Fame Snub Team: The Offense
Quarterback- Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals
It’s wild to me that Ken Anderson isn’t in the Hall of Fame but Kurt Warner is. Anderson became Cincinnati’s starting quarterback in 1987 and didn’t give it up until 1985. He led the NFL in passing twice, won more games than he lost, was a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time second-team All-Pro, a first-team All-Pro, the recipient of the Offensive Player of the Year award, and a league MVP. It took Drew Brees in the pass-happy “don’t touch the QB” era to break his completion percentage record. And while he didn’t win, his Cincinnati Bengals did play in a Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, Kurt Warner lost his job not once, but twice, and only ever thrived in the same scheme that got Marc Bulger to the Pro Bowl, or had two studs at wide receiver. He waited eight years for Canton. Anderson retired in 1986 and hasn’t heard his name called.
Running Back- Roger Craig, San Francisco 49ers
How in the world isn’t Roger Craig in the Hall of Fame? He was the first person to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, something that only Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and first-team All-Pro Christian McCaffrey have accomplished since then. We actually wrote an article about this very subject. I don’t see how they justify putting Terrell Davis in but not Roger Craig. It’s goofy.
Wide Receiver- Cliff Branch, Los Angeles Raiders
After the euphoria of a New Year’s kiss passes on the first day of every year, my first thought is that the calendar has advanced a year, and Cliff Branch still isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We’ve written about it before, and it’s actually the most-read article on this site.
When Cliff Branch retired in 1985, he was 11th all-time in receiving yards, and 15th in touchdowns. That’s not bad, especially because everyone with more yards than Branch is in the Hall. He has more yards than four other Hall of Famers, and more touchdowns than five. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, a three-time First-Team All-Pro, and a vital part of three Raider Super Bowl victories.
Every year that goes by without Cliff Branch being enshrined is another year of lost credibility for Canton, Ohio.
Tight End- Todd Christensen. Los Angeles Raiders
When you think of great Raider tight ends, Dave Casper comes to mind. The Ghost, aside from having one of the best nicknames in history, is also one of the best tight ends in the golden age of pro football. However, he isn’t the only great Raiders tight end.
Todd Christensen had better numbers than Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Charlie Sanders, and yes, Dave Casper himself. Buried behind a legendary Raider defense, Marcus Allen, the comeback kid, Jim Plunkett, the verbose tight end has been forgotten to history, and that’s not fair.
Christensen led the NFL in receptions as a tight end, twice. He was voted to five Pro Bowls, was a four-time All-Pro, and a two-time Super Bowl champion. His absence from Canton makes no sense to me, unless perhaps, there’s something to the claim that voters hate that silver and black pedigree.
Tackle- Tony Boselli, Jacksonville Jaguars
Tony Boselli has come so close to getting enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on a number of occasions. For four straight years, he’s been a finalist, but Canton continues to elude him. “Big Bo” was the first player the Jacksonville Jaguars ever drafted, he was a three-time first-team All-Pro, and he was voted to the Pro Bowl in five consecutive seasons. It feels like the only reasons he hasn’t been enshrined are A. he played on bad teams and B. he just didn’t play for long enough.
Guard- Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh Steelers
Sadly, offensive linemen just don’t get enough respect. They do the ugly, physical work, giving the skill position players a real chance to shine, but they never get the credit that they deserve. For Alan Faneca, this proves to be the case.
Alan Faneca was a Pro Bowler in nine consecutive years, was named All-Pro on nine occasions, and was a starter on the all-decade team. He was a vital part of that Steelers Super Bowl run, and honestly, the fact that he’s had to wait this long is a surprise.
Center- Jeff Van Note, Atlanta Falcons
Jeff Van Note is one of the most curious names in NFL history. He was actually a running back and defensive end at the University of Kentucky, but when the Falcons drafted him in the 11th round, they moved him to center, where he would stay for the next 18 years, being named an all-pro twice and being named to six Pro Bowls. That kind of success and longevity despite being drafted out of position is almost unprecedented.
So why isn’t he in? Well, it’s tough enough for offensive linemen. They don’t really record stats for offensive linemen, so the only way you can really look at his production is by watching the film, and frankly, centers are hardest workers to appreciate.