The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced last week that there will be no induction ceremonies this summer due to COVID-19. Therefore, the class of 2020 will be enshrined next July alongside the 2021 class… provided, of course, the global pandemic is under control by then.
Speaking of the 2021 class, there will be a few former Vikings among the first-time eligible players following whatever we get of the 2020 season, and both are worthy of some first-ballot consideration.
When evaluating defensive ends or edge rushers for the Hall of Fame, the first stat that gets considered is sacks. Yes, All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors are reviewed and Super Bowl rings are taken into account, but you have to have the sacks. In some cases, that’s too bad – especially for those who played the game prior to 1982 when the NFL first started officially tracking sacks. And sacks as a metric is far from perfect when measuring the overall effectiveness of defensive linemen and edge rushers, but that’s an article for another time. In the media and among the fans, it’s all about sacks.
Sacks were Jared Allen’s bread and butter.
No, he wasn’t purely one-dimensional. He knocked down passes, recorded tackles for loss, had some interceptions. Heck, he even caught two touchdown passes in 2007 and served as the emergency long-snapper throughout his career.
But sacks were his forte. Few were ever better at it. Only 11 players in NFL history (since 1982) have recorded more sacks than Allen’s 136.0. Of those 11 players, eight are already in the Hall of Fame and the other three – Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs and DeMarcus Ware – will be someday.
Only Michael Strahan has recorded more sacks in a single season (22.5 in 2001), and if you remember the play on which he broke the record — with Brett Favre basically taking a dive at his feet — one might conclude Allen justifiably should share a piece of the record.
All those sacks and accompanying calf-rope celebrations when combined with five Pro Bowls and four First-Team All-Pro selections add up to a Hall of Fame resume.
One half of the Vikings’ famed “Williams Wall” alongside the run-stuffing Pat Williams, Kevin Williams was more of a playmaker from his defensive tackle position. His 63.0 career sacks might not feel too impressive at first blush when compared to Allen or some of the other edge rushers mentioned above. However, it’s a mighty number for an interior lineman. In fact, it’s more sacks than current Hall of Fame defensive tackles Cortez Kennedy (58.0) and Randy White (52.0).
However, sack totals don’t carry quite as much weight for defensive tackles when evaluating their Canton credentials as they do for ends. Fortunately for Williams, not only are his 63.0 sacks Hall-worthy, his ancillary measures should guarantee him enshrinement.
As mentioned, Williams was a playmaker. In addition to knocking down quarterbacks, his five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns are both tied for the most all-time by a defensive tackle, per Pro-Football-Reference.com. Williams was a six-time Pro Bowler and was honored as a First-Team All-Pro five times – which is more often than several Hall of Fame defensive tackles, including Warren Sapp, Mean Joe Greene and Buck Buchanan.
Speaking of PFR.com, the site has two great metrics for measuring a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. One is called Weighted Career Approximate Value (CarAV), in which Williams is tied for eighth all-time among defensive tackles with a 99 CarAV. By the way, Allen’s CarAV is also 99. The seven tackles ranked ahead of Williams in CarAV are all in the Hall of Fame, including career leader Alan Page, with a ridiculous 141 CarAV. For context, Sapp ranks second among tackles at 117.
Even more specifically, PFR.com uses a Hall of Fame Monitor Score (HOFm), which is precisely what it sounds like. The average Hall of Famer has a 100 HOFm. Williams had a 103.28 – the highest for any defensive tackle not yet in the Hall of Fame and the highest by any former Vikings player not in the Hall of Fame. By comparison, Allen’s HOFm is 67.20.
By every reasonable measure, Williams is a Hall of Famer. The question is not if, but when.
The 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class is huge, with five modern-era players – including former Viking Steve Hutchinson — and 15 Centennial members awaiting their turn next July. Given the already crowded Canton stage, will the 2021 class be limited? The voters probably wouldn’t intentionally do so, but you never know if that will play a role subconsciously when making final decisions.
Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson look like locks for the first ballot in 2021, and Calvin Johnson warrants strong consideration, too. Finalists from 2020 such as Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca, Reggie Wayne, Torry Holt, LeRoy Butler, John Lynch, Richard Seymour and Zach Thomas will be in the mix again as well.
So, where does that leave Allen and Williams?
Unfortunately, Williams will most likely need to wait for his call to the Hall. The ballot is just too crowded. He’ll probably be a finalist, though, and should his gold jacket eventually. Of the two, Allen has a better shot of making it in on the first try in 2021. He was much more of a household name than Williams – which probably counts for something – and had too many sacks to ignore. If not in Year 1, Allen will make it in Year 2.