The NFL Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor for every football player. But only a tiny minority actually make it into Canton’s hallowed halls. It’s an incredibly selective process, yet somehow there are still controversial picks. Several athletes should arguably be removed from the Hall.
Some of these were simply not good enough. Their stats are overblown or they were just famous enough at the time. Others, like O.J. Simpson, committed horrible acts outside of football. Unlike baseball, football doesn’t take this into account. Check out 30 NFL football players who arguably don’t deserve their spots in the Hall of Fame below via Stadium Talk.
30. Frank Gatski
Gatski was a long-serving center for the Cleveland Browns. But there’s a sense that his Hall of Fame induction reflected this. It feels more like a participation trophy than other NFL players of his generation. The fact was that he didn’t make his first Pro Bowl appearance until 1956. That was the tenth year of his career but only his sixth in the NFL.
However, it says a lot that he didn’t make the Hall of Fame until almost 30 years after his retirement (via New York Times). There’s no doubting his professionalism because he never missed games or practice. But the Hall of Fame is all about the quality of the player. Perhaps voters removed this from the equation when they elected him. Like it or not, they shouldn’t have done so.
Dent was a Super Bowl MVP as well as a four-time Pro Bowler. The former Bears’ defensive end had an excellent career. But fans are mixed over his Hall of Fame credentials. Some even believe that he didn’t deserve that MVP award. They claim that it could have gone to any other member of the Chicago defense. Dent holds the franchise’s single-season sack record but declined after the Super Bowl win.
Furthermore, he also showed a lack of class toward Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan at the ceremony. He blamed the former for the franchise’s inability to build a dynasty. It’s worth remembering that Dent failed to deliver in many key games throughout his career. He had a habit of disappearing in games (via L.A. Times). It also took years of nominations for him to finally receive his bust.
Owens is a divisive figure. He was undeniably elite at his peak. But his place in the Hall of Fame isn’t cut and dry. His teammates probably wish that he was removed because he was a living nightmare. His former quarterback Jeff Garcia doesn’t send Owens a Christmas card every year. He had amazing individual talent but he was amazingly selfish. Owens also was from a great role model.
Meanwhile, his career statistics are very similar to those of Ricky Watters. But Watters isn’t in the Hall of Fame because he was never as high-profile. Owens also played for six franchises but failed to make a noticeable impact for all of them (via CBS Sports). It’s not surprising he ultimately found a place in Canton. However, it’s a wonder that he didn’t burn every bridge on his way home from Ohio.
Wehrli is one of the most common picks when people talk about controversial Hall of Fame inductees. He spent his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals as an effective cornerback. The franchise rightly regards him as one of the best players they’ve had in that position. However, it’s a different story when it comes to his place in Canton (via NBC Sports).
Make no mistake, Wehrli posted decent enough numbers. He secured 40 interceptions across 14 seasons. This is strong but unexceptional over such a long period. Yes, he had multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections. But they don’t tell the full story of his career. Sometimes it feels like Canton is filling a quota when it comes to the players it inducts, and that’s the case with Wehrli.
This is a controversial pick but there’s also some logic behind it. First, let’s look at Favre’s upside. He was a three-time NFL MVP award winner and a Super Bowl champion. Meanwhile, he set numerous records and was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. Based on stats and success, he was always going to make the Hall of Fame. But many fans think he’s one of the most overrated quarterbacks of all time.
Favre has the most interceptions in NFL history with a staggering 336. Furthermore, he arguably underachieved by only winning a single ring. The QB threw games away like the Vikings’ NFC Championship defeat to the Saints. Then there are his issues off the field. In the end, the NFL didn’t charge him with sexual harassment (via ABC News) but there have been several problems.
Swann is one of several Steelers’ players who should be removed from the Hall of Fame. His numbers are unimpressive but he had some highlight-reel moments in Super Bowls. They are the main reason why he received enough votes for a place in Canton. He played in a different era but the statistics don’t support his place in the Hall.
He never hit 1,000 receiving yards but remained extremely popular. Somehow, he made it into Canton before players like Drew Pearson. Swann achieved four Pro Bowl appearances across his career. Eventually, concussions forced him out of the game. In the end, he wasn’t a major miss because his productivity had completely declined. Ultimately, he entered the Hall because he was part of a legendary dynasty (via Sportscasting).
If Hornung was a baseball player, he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is the only one of the Major League halls that consider players’ external behavior. That’s why Pete Rose will never have a place there. Hornung is lucky because Canton doesn’t have any similar restrictions. Like Rose, he also committed gambling violations.
We can take Hornung’s gambling violation and subsequent suspension out of the equation. But he still doesn’t merit a place in the Hall of Fame. Arguably, he only had two great seasons and they came in 1960 and 1961 (via AP News). Then his numbers plummeted and he lost a step. Like many players, Hornung is in the Hall because of his name rather than his overall career.
Most Packers fans agree that Nitschke is one of their greatest-ever players. They’ll say that he was a defensive stalwart and a tremendous leader. That’s all well but he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. He was part of a dynasty that won five NFL Championships as well as two Super Bowls. That’s a lot of glory but it’s important to remember that football is a team sport.
Shockingly, Nitschke only made a single Pro Bowl appearance (via The Athletic). He was a consistent linebacker but rarely a standout across the league. This is the main issue with his Canton inclusion. Would the Illinois native have stood out if he wasn’t part of a dynasty? Overall he wasn’t necessarily the best of his generation.
In 1991, Stenerud became the first pure placekicker to enter Canton’s hallowed halls. The Norwegian spent the bulk of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Then he had spells with the Packers and the Vikings. However, the question begs whether or not he deserves his place in the Hall. He won’t be removed, but did he earn this massive honor? Perhaps as a pioneer but not as a great player.
Stenerud spent 19 seasons in the NFL. But he only reached 75% accuracy in five seasons. Meanwhile, his career overall average is 66.85%. The Norwegian was a pioneer because he was a high-profile European player. But his numbers show that he wasn’t a special footballer. His longest field goal came from 55 yards so he wasn’t a record-breaker (via Sports Illustrated).
Monk’s greatest achievement was his longevity. This enabled him to inflate his statistics over the years. Fansided described him as the most ‘overrated Washington player ever.’ They’re probably right because he wasn’t as good as the franchise would have fans thinks. The three-time Pro Bowler was also a three-time Super Bowl winner.
But it’s possible to achieve great success without being truly elite. While he posted over 12,000 yards in his career he averaged just 60 receptions per season. However, just because he played for a long time doesn’t mean he was superior to rivals with shorter careers. That’s why there’s an argument that he should be removed from the Hall of Fame.
Hampton was a Super Bowl winner with the Chicago Bears. The franchise voted him as one of their 100 greatest players ever. However, according to Mark May, Hampton is one of the most overrated defensive tackles in history. Hampton made the Hall of Fame in 2002 after a glittering career. But May believed he should be removed from Canton.
One of the main reasons why he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame is because of his injuries. Hampton was a good player but missed a lot of games (via SBNation). Ditka considered him one of his most important players. Unfortunately, it’s a shame that Hampton struggled to stay fit over the years. He was elite at his peak, but it didn’t last long enough.
Only diehard Cleveland fans remember Kelly. He was a decent running back who achieved six Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl win. In 1994, he entered the Hall of Fame (via L.A. Times). That came 20 years after his final Pro Bowl appearance. However, there’s a strong argument that Kelly is one of the least-deserving Hall of Fame inductees ever.
In short, he replaced Jim Brown on what was already a great team. Nobody is blaming him for that and it’s fair to say that he was very good in his own right. But it’s reasonable to question if his performances were Canton-worthy. Many NFL fans believe that he should be removed because he didn’t deliver iconic moments like other athletes.
Dierdorf didn’t become a full-time starter until his fourth season in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Cardinals weren’t very good at this point. They went 4-9-1 for three straight years before Dierdorf broke through. The offensive tackle didn’t give up a sack through 1976 or 1977. Meanwhile, his team only gave up eight in 1975, setting a record low (via Bleacher Report).
There’s no denying that he was a very good player but some people question if he was great. They believe he should be removed from his native Canton because he never even made it to the conference championship round. Furthermore, Dierdorf didn’t enter the Hall until he was an established broadcaster. He gained even more popularity during this period.
Sanders was a seven-time Pro Bowler and made the All-Pro selection three times. On the face of it, he was one of the best tight ends of his generation. But the problem is that there weren’t a lot of great tight ends back then. NFL historians can only compare the Detroit hero to his contemporaries. However, there wasn’t a lot of talent during the era in this position.
As a result, Sanders stood out without being amazing. He only made a single postseason appearance in a miserable 5-0 defeat against the Cowboys. Furthermore, he only had more than 500 yards in a season once in his career and it was in his rookie season. Once that’s removed, Sanders’ career looks much more average than before. He was good but not magnificent (via Detroit Free Press).
Stabler is another quarterback who benefited from his team’s mystique. There’s no denying that he’s one of the Raiders’ most iconic players. But that doesn’t mean that he was a bonafide Hall of Famer. Many average players won Super Bowls because superior talent surrounded them. Also, several elite stars fell short because they were members of weak rosters.
However, Stabler was in the former. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns twice. But the four-time Pro Bowler doesn’t have the stats to back up his place in Canton. He has a quarterback rating of 75.3 which is decent but not exceptional. Meanwhile, his overall numbers correlate with the likes of Matt Hasselbeck and Jay Cutler. No wonder some people think he should be removed (via NBC Sports).
When it comes to quality on the field, there’s no denying Irvin delivered. The former Cowboys wideout spent his entire career in the NFL. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion as part of the franchise’s greatest dynasty. Meanwhile, he led the league in receiving yards in 1991. That’s all well and good, but it could also be argued that Irvin is also one of the sleaziest ex-players out there.
Irvin endured a high-profile arrest in 1996. Police picked him up as part of a prostitution sting and also discovered plates of cocaine. Since retirement, Irvin faced multiple sexual assault investigations. Furthermore, ESPN suspended him after multiple arrests related to drug use and DUIs. Some believe that Irvin’s behavior justified having him removed from Canton (via ABC News).
Tippett spent his entire career with the Patriots. The linebacker showed a lot of consistency for New England after a great college run with Iowa. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and also won the 1985 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Furthermore, he played a key role in the Patriots’ run to a Super Bowl appearance that same year (via Bleacher Report).
Many critics believe that this was also one of the worst Super Bowl contenders ever. This run was more of a freak occurrence and should be removed from consideration. Another issue with Tippett was that his best years came early. He amassed 100 sacks in 11 seasons but over 30 came in his first two years. He was less effective as the years rolled on.
Martin made the Hall of Fame in 2012. He’s a deserving member of the Jets Ring of Honor but arguably not a bonafide Canton selection. The running back was a five-time Pro Bowler so there was consistency across his career. But it’s debatable whether he was ever the best running back in the NFL across any of his seasons (via CBS Sports).
Critics believe that he should be removed because he wasn’t exceptional. They argue that he was a standout player for a garbage team. Sometimes it’s easier to look great when everybody else is trash. However, this doesn’t fully reflect their ability to compete. Martin is one of those borderline players who may not have stood out with better teammates.
It’s difficult to think of many contemporary Lions’ players who will make it to Canton. But believe it or not, they have had a few HOF’ers over the years. LeBeau entered the hallowed land in 2010. However, some critics believe that he should be removed as a player. Instead, the Hall should include him as a coach because that’s where he has excelled (via USA Today). He won two Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator.
LeBeau was a three-time Pro Bowler during his playing days with Detroit. He spent 14 seasons in the NFL with 62 career interceptions. This is an impressive number but it comes with a caveat. Opposition attackers targeted LeBeau because he was the weak link in the Lions’ backline. Other members include Dick Lane and Lem Barney as well as Yale Larney.
It’s difficult to judge Carter’s record. Maybe it’s too much to say he should be removed from the Hall of Fame. However, it’s reasonable to question his place in it. Carter was brilliant at catching touchdowns. But some argue he didn’t do much of anything else. He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns on three occasions. Meanwhile, he was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro first-teamer (via Sports Illustrated).
On the face of it, his place here may seem ludicrous. However, his playoff record was awful. Carter never played in a Super Bowl. Some of his best seasons came when he was the second-best receiver on the team. Randy Moss outshone significantly. Carter was a very good player but arguably not an elite one.
Grimm is one of the more controversial inclusions on this list. After all, he was a three-time Super Bowl champion as a player. Then the four-time Pro Bowler added another ring as a Steelers’ coach. There’s no denying that he had an outstanding start to life in the NFL. The gruff guard became an instant starter and a firm fan favorite (via Bleacher Report).
However, his productivity dropped off after 1986. He essentially became Washington’s third-best guard. Arguably, this doesn’t justify a place in the Hall of Fame. He had four outstanding seasons from 1983 to 1986. But it’s debatable whether that’s enough to earn a place in Canton. Nobody begrudges him his place but his coaching career enhanced his status.
Riggins was a tough, bulldozing back. He was a fan favorite because of his work ethic and his output. But a player shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer just because their supporters love him. There’s an argument that Riggins should be removed because he wasn’t elite. He was a one-time Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl with the Redskins. Then, in 1992, he made the Hall (via Washington Post).
There’s a strong argument that the latter affected the public’s perspective of him. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carrying and was never the best in the league during his prime. Riggins possibly belongs in the Hall of Very Good rather than Canton. Many players generate a lot of momentum because of their fame and personality. It’s safe to say that Riggins was a beneficiary of this.
Taylor was a phenomenal player and earned his place in the Hall of Fame. However, many fans and players believe that Canton should revoke his inclusion because of his disgusting actions off the field. Unfortunately, the institution’s by-laws state that external behavior doesn’t affect a player’s eligibility (via Slate). The time for change is overdue.
A convicted rapist shouldn’t be in the NFL Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter how good Taylor was because he is a sex offender. Children walk past his bust in Canton every day. This may or not seem harsh depending on your views, but Taylor made his choices. In addition, police charged him with child endangerment. The two-time Super Bowl champion isn’t easy to root for because of his life decisions.
‘Broadway Joe’ simply doesn’t have the numbers to justify his Hall of Fame bust. Yes, he out-dueled Johnny Unitas as he helped the Jets to a Super Bowl win. He also won the game’s MVP award for his actions. But it’s debatable that the defense was even more important to their win. Overall, Namath threw 173 touchdown passes with 220 interceptions (via Sportscasting).
That leaves him with an average quarterback rating of 65.5. The game has indeed evolved over the years, but Tim Couch remains ahead of him. That alone is reason enough for him to be removed from the Hall. Namath’s Super Bowl win and his personality are the main reasons why Canton enshrined him. Sometimes reputations outweigh reality.
Some of the inclusions on this list are controversial but Hayes is one of the worst Hall of Fame selections ever. Hayes is the only Olympic and Super Bowl champion ever. But this should not influence his place in Canton. The NFL Hall of Fame celebrates the greatest football players. Hayes’s exploits on the tracks aren’t relevant.
True, his first two seasons were decent. He broke the 1,000-yard barrier in consecutive years. Then, his numbers immediately dropped and Hayes never achieved 1,000 yards again (via ESPN). He was a three-time Pro Bowler as well as a two-time NFL receptions leader. Of course, he also won a Super Bowl ring in 1971. Hayes should be removed from the Hall of Fame because he wasn’t exceptional.
Bettis is one of the most divisive players on this list. Many fans support his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. However, others are adamant that he should be removed. Ultimately, it’s a question of whether he was truly great or just very good. It’s difficult to argue that he belongs in the former category because he didn’t prove it. He was an NFL Comeback Player of the Year as well as a six-time Pro Bowler.
Furthermore, he retired after a glorious Super Bowl win. But Bettis wasn’t the best running back of his generation. Nor did he post incredible seasons like Terrell Davis. ‘The Bus’ was a very popular individual with a lot of talent. It seems likely that the former affected voting. Sometimes a cult of personality is enough to seal a place in Canton (via NBC Sports).
There’s no good reason why Simpson is still in the Hall of Fame. After all, the man is one of the most notorious criminals in football. Sure, he never received a murder conviction. But the court found him responsible for two deaths. Also, he served time in jail for armed robbery and kidnapping. He was indeed a great player but his character brings football into disrepute.
Many fans wish that Simpson was removed from Canton because of his terrible deeds. On the field, he was brilliant. The 1973 NFL MVP was a five-time Pro Bowler (via Sportscasting). He also led the league in rushing touchdowns twice. But Simpson’s notorious reputation tarnishes everybody by association. It’s difficult to argue football should simply ignore when a player commits a vile act such as this.
Many believe that Allen is one of the most overrated players in the Hall of Fame. They strongly feel that he should be removed from Canton. They correctly argue that he only had one outstanding season. That came in 1985 when he ran for 1,759 yards. However, it was also the final time that he broke 1,000 yards after achieving it for three consecutive years.
Allen had outstanding longevity for a running back. He managed 16 seasons in the NFL but he was a fading force before he joined the Chiefs. His crowning achievement wasn’t the Super Bowl he won with the Raiders in 1984. No, it was his landmark record of 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards (via Fansided). But he’s still one of the most overhyped individuals ever.
It’s wild that Griese has two Super Bowl wins to his name but Dan Marino has none. In short, Griese’s pair of rings are the main reason why he’s in the Hall of Fame. There’s an argument that he should be removed because he was lucky. Quarterbacks always receive more attention than other players. It’s undeniable that Griese’s numbers were unexceptional (via Bleacher Report).
It’s highly unlikely that he’d be in Canton if he played for another franchise. Griese had a quarterback rating of 77.1. However, his pass completion rate was just 56%. Nobody is saying that he wasn’t a good player. But he wasn’t a world-beater along the lines of other past and future stars. Instead, he was lucky because he played for a great team.
Aikman is another player with a glittering resume who arguably doesn’t deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame. The former Cowboys quarterback was a three-time Super Bowl champion but that doesn’t mean he earned his place in Canton. That’s because his career stats don’t stack up. He was good but he wasn’t an outstanding QB.
He was a six-time Pro Bowler but he never made an All-Pro team (via ESPN). Meanwhile, he threw 141 interceptions and 165 touchdown passes. Many people believe that he was lucky because he was an average player in an excellent team. Dallas didn’t need an elite quarterback because the rest of their roster was so strong. In the end, Aikman’s status and team success more than his abilities earned him his jacket.