The list of potential Hall of Fame members for the NFL class of 2014 has been narrowed down to 25 with the list being released just a few weeks ago. The NFL Hall of Fame selection process is a tricky thing since you have players across positions and eras, and that doesn’t even take into account non-players who are up for nomination. As a fan and student of the NFL it’s a hard thing to compare these players to narrow down the best players but for fun I wanted to try. I’ll be grading on seven categories:
– Games Played
– Career AV
– AV per Year
– Pro Bowls
– Pro Bowls per Year
– All-Pro Awards
– All-Pro Awards per Year
I’ll explain the metrics below. To do this comparison I wanted to solve the two big issues that arise from these conversations:
1. Comparing Across Positions
This is solved with Approximate Value. Now for those who don’t know Approximate Value (AV) is a metric created by Pro Football Reference to help compare players from different positions and eras. The math is more than a little tricky but let me quote it’s creators:
“AV is not meant to be a be-all end-all metric. Football stat lines just do not come close to capturing all the contributions of a player the way they do in baseball and basketball. If one player is a 16 and another is a 14, we can’t be very confident that the 16AV player actually had a better season than the 14AV player. But I am pretty confident that the collection of all players with 16AV played better, as an entire group, than the collection of all players with 14AV.”
“Essentially, AV is a substitute for — and a significant improvement upon, in my opinion — metrics like ‘number of seasons as a starter’ or ‘number of times making the pro bowl’ or the like. You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between. That is, ‘number of seasons as a starter’ is a reasonable starting point if you’re trying to measure, say, how good a particular draft class is, or what kind of player you can expect to get with the #13 pick in the draft. But obviously some starters are better than others. Starters on good teams are, as a group, better than starters on bad teams. Starting WRs who had lots of receiving yards are, as a group, better than starting WRs who did not have many receiving yards. Starters who made the pro bowl are, as a group, better than starters who didn’t, and so on. And non-starters aren’t worthless, so they get some points too.”
What AV does is create a nice broad stroke to view a player. Like Doug said, it’s usefulness increases as times passes. If you want to get into the math you are free to do so. While it is not a perfect metric, it is by far the most complete and balanced way to view players who played in different eras and at different positions. That is why this is listed as the 1st big problem with comparing potential Hall of Fame candidates.
There is a post-script, AV is an evolving metric, it recently improved it’s special teams methodology, and will likely be tweaked into the future, but large sweeping changes are not the norm, only small changes.
2. Consistent, Long Career versus Short, Exceptional Career
To look at this one I included in my table both totals for games played, Approximate Value, Pro Bowls and Pro Bowls. To off-set those which shorter careers I’ve also included a rate metric total over years played. So I take AV divided by years. This way we get to see how each player does on a per year basis. I do need to state to assist this method I didn’t just use purely “years in the league” which is susceptible to over-valuing injuries, I took total games and divided by 16 (or 14 depending on the era) that way we get relative seasons instead of just vague “years in the league.”
Again this is a flawed way to study these players, but it 100% vilifies those who say length of career shouldn’t matter, only quality of those years but it also rewards those who play at a consistently good level for years and year. Now I included an average rankings number as well, this is how each player ranked on average for each category. So there are 7 categories and there are 25 players so if a player ranked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 then their average ranking would be 4.00 or if a player was ranked 25, 1, 17, 12, 11, 19, 10 their average ranking would be 13.57. For my own benefit I created a weighted ranking system where 1 equals a full “vote.” What this means if a category has a value, or “vote,” of .50 that means it’s relatively half as valuable while 1.50 is twice as valuable. To put it simply getting 1st place in a category valued at 1.00 is going to matter more than getting 1st in a category valued at .75.
– Games Played: .75
– Career AV: 1.00
– AV per Year: 1.25
– Pro Bowls: .75
– Pro Bowls per Year: 1.00
– All-Pro Awards: 1.00
– All-Pro Awards per Year: 1.25
I don’t give each metric matching value due to me viewing them as not equal. I think an All-Pro award is more valuable than a Pro Bowl. This weighted rankings is purely my opinion.
So How Does The Table Look?
Here is a link to the table since Word Press doesn’t feel like supporting tables for it’s in browser creation tools. You are free to copy and paste into Excel and fiddle with the table as much as you want to create your own list.
Now if I had to make my pick these are the five men I’d pick:
My final cuts were DE Michael Strahan, DB Aeneas Williams, and RB Terrell Davis. My finalists are highlighted in bold on the spreadsheet. While it may seem I just took the top 4 players in the rankings, I’m actually pretty happy with that list. You are getting two of the best offensive lineman of a decade, one of the best linebackers ever, and a wide receiver who helped shape a decade and dynasty with the Colts. As for DeBartolo, I choose him out of bias, I grew up in southern Oregon and the San Fransisco 49ers were the team to be a fan of for my youth in the 1980’s and 1990’s and DeBartolo was a huge reason for that. I do think a non-player will get in again this year and while I think George Young deserves to get in as well, I broke the tie with a bit of bias, but I’d be happy with either.
To wrap up this is just one way I wanted to study this potential Hall of Fame class, it’s not perfect and it’s not meant to be set in stone, each person will have their own criteria for the Hall, I just wanted to present a tool to use and give my opinion on the topic. I’ll likely discuss this topic again as the list gets narrowed down the the eventual finalists who get to enter that coveted Hall.