Labriola On

Labriola on L.C. deserving a bust in Canton

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • Pick a sport, any sport, and there are three words more likely to spur a discussion/argument than any others: Hall of Fame. And the variations on the debate are endless.
  • Who will be inducted? Who should be inducted? Is there an unofficial limit on the number of guys from a particular era of a particular franchise who can/should get inducted? Is it fair to impose a limit? Who already was inducted and didn't deserve to be? And if this guy is enshrined, how can that guy not be enshrined? Comparing eras, and styles of play. Individual accomplishments vs. championships won. It can be an endless argument with little or no empirical evidence available to break a tie.
  • All of this is bubbling to the surface again in light of a recent report that the Minnesota Vikings are planning a push to get defensive end Jim Marshall inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Such a move is neither unprecedented nor all that uncommon, especially when it comes to players such as Marshall, who would have to be enshrined via the Seniors Committee.
  • It's not as though Marshall is undeserving of consideration, especially in light of him owning NFL records for consecutive games played with 282 and for consecutive starts with 270. And again, Marshall was a defensive end, not a kicker, and so consecutive games played and consecutive starts are significant categories.
  • But Marshall's candidacy is an issue in this space today because if elected, he would become the third member of the Vikings' Purple People Eaters defensive line enshrined in Canton. Already in are defensive tackle Alan Page and defensive end Carl Eller.
  • That's an issue here because the most famous defensive line in NFL history, the only NFL defensive line ever featured on the cover of "Time" magazine, has just one member of its quartet enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • That would be the Steel Curtain, and the only Hall of Fame member from the group to date is Joe Greene.
  • Being that this is featured on Steelers.com, it can be expected that the Steel Curtain is considered the most famous/accomplished defensive line in NFL history, but in an effort to dull any charges of favoritism, let's liberalize the accolade and refer to the Steel Curtain as one of the three most famous/accomplished defensive lines in NFL history, with the other two being the Vikings' Purple People Eaters, and the Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foursome.
  • The Rams' defensive line was made up of David "Deacon" Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy, and Rosie Grier. Jones and Olsen both are in the Hall of Fame, and both are deserving.
  • So that means that the Fearsome Foursome has two of its members in the Hall of Fame, the Vikings' Purple Eaters have two of its members already in the Hall of Fame with a third a possibility, but the Steel Curtain has only one? How is that right/fair?
  • Allow me now to introduce readers to Talkoffamenetwork.com, which describes itself this way: "Whenever a notable player reaches or nears retirement, the first questions asked is, 'Is he a first-ballot Hall of Famer?' Well, we have the answer. That's because our weekly radio program is hosted by three long-time NFL writers: Clark Judge, Ron Borges and Rick Gosselin are three of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here's the hook: where other programs call their analysts 'insiders,' our guys ARE insiders. Because they're on the 'inside,' these guys have access to some of the biggest names in pro football. Our two-hour show puts a Hall-of-Fame perspective on players, coaches, plays, issues and stadiums from the past, present and future."
  • Recently, a Talk of Fame Network poll included Greenwood among six candidates under the category of "best defensive end not enshrined in Canton." Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things, but Greenwood pulled 65.2 percent of the total vote, with Dallas' Harvey Martin finishing a distant second.
  • One of the things working against Greenwood, and many other defensive linemen of his era, is that the NFL didn't officially recognize sacks as a statistic until 1982, which means sacks weren't an official statistic during the heyday of the 1970s Steelers. In an effort to put that era of franchise history in perspective, the Steelers combed through official play-by-play accounts of games during the 1970s in an effort to get some of those defensive accomplishments on the record.
  • At that time in NFL history, sacks might not have been a recognized statistic, but within every official play-by-play account of every NFL game, there was a category labeled, "Times thrown – yards lost attempting to pass," which is the category that eventually came to be known as sacks. And then in the individual players' statistics, instead of sacks, there was a category called, "Tackled Passer."
  • In Super Bowl IX, Greenwood was credited with three passes defensed, which meant he batted down three of Fran Tarkenton's attempts at the line of scrimmage. In Super Bowl X, Greenwood had three of the Steelers' seven sacks of Roger Staubach, and in Super Bowl XIII, he had one of the Steelers' five sacks of Staubach.
  • Greenwood finished his career with 73.5 sacks in the 132 games he played from 1972-81. He led the Steelers in sacks four times, and he finished second once. He was voted to six Pro Bowls, and was voted first-team All-Pro in both 1974 and 1975. And all of that came after being a 10th-round draft pick in 1969 from Arkansas AM&N.
  • "It seems as if he's being penalized for being part of a great team," said Talk of Fame Network's Clark Judge, "but L.C. Greenwood was a great player. He and teammates Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Joe Greene were chosen to the NFL's silver anniversary Super Bowl team, and only Greenwood isn't in Canton. Why? He was a six-time Pro Bowler, an all-decade choice, a Super Bowl champion and part of the best defense I've seen. So I really don't know why. He checked all the boxes."
  • And if not all of them, certainly more of them than Jim Marshall. Certainly enough to become the second member of the Steel Curtain enshrined in Canton.
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