How many Hall of Famers does a one-title team deserve?

The eyeball test tells you both John Lynch, left, and Ronde Barber, right, were Hall of Fame players, Gary Shelton writes. [Times files]
The eyeball test tells you both John Lynch, left, and Ronde Barber, right, were Hall of Fame players, Gary Shelton writes. [Times files]
Published July 24, 2014

You imagine running backs diving into the pile and never coming out. You imagine quarterbacks falling to their knees in terror. You imagine wide receivers running deep patterns and never coming back to the huddle.

Yeah, those guys must have been something to behold. You could locate their victims by the mushroom clouds.

A Hall of Famer at both defensive tackles. Two more at linebacker. Another at cornerback, and quarterback, and kicker. One at owner. One at coach. In total, that's nine Hall of Famers from the same sideline.

No, we are not talking about the old Pittsburgh Steelers. Or the San Francisco 49ers. Or the Dallas Cowboys. Or the Green Bay Packers.

No. It was the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs. You know, the team that won one Super Bowl, and it didn't even win its division on the way.

Those Chiefs. Really.

We were having a discussion the other day about the Hall of Fame, and the question was that, on average, how many players from a great team should get in. As debates go, this one is a bit of a moving target, because champions are not created equal and greatness is not always evenly divided. Even in the Hall of Fame, some immortality is better than other immortality.

So does it come down to two players per title? Maybe. Four players? Perhaps. Six players? Isn't that pushing it?

But as the great era of the Tampa Bay Bucs has become Hall of Fame eligible, it has become a legitimate question. Warren Sapp went in last year, and Derrick Brooks goes in next week. John Lynch has some support, and Ronde Barber, and Tony Dungy.

Some will tell you that is already too many players for a team that only won one championship.

Never mind that, on defense, the Bucs had one of the finest 10-year runs in the history of the game. You can measure it. Take their average defensive ranking, their points allowed, their sacks, their turnovers and their yards per play, and they compare favorably with any defense that has played the game. And maybe they would have won more Super Bowls if they weren't dragging a sad-sack of an offense around in most weeks.

Still, the argument persists. If Brooks and Sapp got into the Hall so quickly, then maybe Lynch and Barber should wait. Or not get in at all. Never mind that the eyeball test tells you both of them were Hall of Fame players.

I get it. Not everyone can be in the Hall of Fame. But if you were here, and you saw those teams, you'd certainly think more than two.

The Chiefs have nine, by far the most of any one-hit wonder in history. Nine. Nearly half (five) of their starting defense.

Now, a couple of things are possible here. One is that the Chiefs might have been the most underachieving team in the history of the NFL. In three other playoff seasons, including the '66 Super Bowl, they recorded only one other playoff victory. A defense with five HOFers should get more than that, shouldn't it?

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And the other option is that maybe the Chiefs are a tad overrated.

Hey, the Chiefs had a great year in 1969. No question. They led the AFL in rushing defense and passing defense. They gave up 65 fewer points than the second-place team in the AFL. It was a 1985 Bears kind of year, a 2000 Ravens kind of year.

In other words, no one is saying the Chiefs shouldn't have some players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maybe a lot of players. But Curley Culp and Buck Buchanan? Hank Stram and Len Dawson? Emmitt Thomas and Jan Stenerud?

Nine? Who was voting here? Ed Podolak?

Look, we all know that the Super Bowl is the quickest way to get to the Hall of Fame. You have to be awfully darn good, Dan Fouts good, to get there without it. And it stands to reason that the more times a team gets there, the more that potential voters are going to notice how many good players are on the roster.

No one should have a problem with the great Steelers having 12 representatives (including both Rooneys) in the Hall of Fame. Or the old Vince Lombardi Packers having 11.

But the nature of the voting does seem to lend itself to some oversights from time to time.

Think about it. The 49ers, who won five Super Bowls in the '80s and '90s, have seven players in the Hall of Fame from those decades. (Although Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Bill Walsh are in the debate for best ever). The Cowboys, who won three Super Bowls in four years in the '90s, have five players off that era in the Hall. The Dolphins, who went to three straight Super Bowls and won two (including an undefeated season), have seven from that era.

Of the other one-hit wonders, the '85 Bears have only four representatives in the Hall of Fame from that team. The 2000 Ravens have three. The '69 Jets have three.


I'd argue the Bucs deserve four players and a coach.

Here's the thing: If the Bucs had won a couple of more Super Bowls — What if they'd beaten the Rams in the '99 NFC title game? What if they'd earned that first-round bye in 2000? — they would all be in. If Lynch and Barber had not done anything else, they'd be in. If the offenses were even average, they'd be in.

In other words, there are nuances to the Hall of Fame. These days, it's hard to get a coach into the Hall. It has always been harder to get a safety in than most positions. Kickers are almost impossible.

It sounds simple. Does someone deserve to get into the Hall or doesn't he? But that's over-simplifying. The truth is that details count. The era counts. Teammates count. The voters count.

Evidently, it also helps to be from Kansas City.