I have written an article that will be published on the Seahawks Insider Blog. Like my Dale Murphy for Hall of Fame campaign in Major League Baseball, I have written about why my favorite football player of all-time, Kenny Easley, should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. I hope you enjoy:
The Seattle Seahawks have an embarrassment of riches in its secondary. The Legion of Boom not only has the best pair of safeties in the game today, but it’s quite possible Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are going to go down as the greatest safety duo in the history of the NFL.
Chancellor hits like a Mack truck and Thomas covers more ground in centerfield than one would think possible for a mere mortal. It is as if Thomas begins each play being shot out of a cannon. Can you imagine what would happen if you could take the best aspects of each player’s game and wrap them into an ultimate safety?
Card-carrying members of the 12th Man who are old enough to remember the Ground Chuck Knox years of the ‘80s won’t have to imagine what this super-safety would look like because they have already seen him in the form of Kenny Easley.
Richard Sherman, the Legion of Boom shut-down cornerback, recently completed his fourth regular season and has amassed an impressive 23 interceptions during this span. The last time an NFL player had that many interceptions over his first four years was Easley from 1981-1984. Not only could Easley hit like Chancellor, roam the back end of the secondary like Thomas, but he picked off passes like Sherman as well.
The Seahawks selected Easley out of UCLA with the fourth overall pick in 1981 draft. He was a five time Pro Bowler and was named first team All Pro four times and second team All Pro once. He was a dominant force whose career, unfortunately, ended early.
If you look at the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1980s, as was selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee, it’s quite clear that something is wrong. Easley is the only member of that squad on defense who is not in the Hall of Fame.
It makes no sense why Easley has been left out, aside from the fact that he played his career hidden away from the rest of the NFL in Southern Alaska. His career achievements match or exceed some of the players already enshrined from the all decade team (among other decades) such as former San Diego Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow and Miami Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson.
Stephenson and Winslow are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and deserving of their busts and yellow jackets. However, if they are enshrined in Canton for dominance at their position in the 1980s, then Easley should be there, too.
Easley and Stephenson both started only 87 career games, while Winslow only exceeded those totals by seven contests, as he started 94 games. Stephenson and Winslow had their careers cut short due to knee injuries, while Easley had his shortened due to a kidney ailment.
Each of these three greats was named to the Pro Bowl five times. Stephenson led the way by being named an All Pro five times, Easley earned that same recognition four times, while Winslow has three on his resume.
Easley was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the year in 1981 and was named the 1984 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He had 10 interceptions, with two being returned for touchdowns during that season. In addition to being a defensive force, he also finished fourth in the NFL by averaging 12.4 yards per punt return. It was a magical season where he was also voted team MVP during a Hall of Fame career.
Winslow was a key member in San Diego’s legendary “Air Coryell” offensive machine. He twice led the NFL in receptions and was Co-MVP in the 1981 Pro Bowl.
While a center like Stephenson could not put up impressive numbers in terms of leading the league in receptions or interceptions, he did anchor an offensive line that helped bring his team to two Super Bowls.
Easley and Winslow never played in the Super Bowl, although each had their greatest team victories at the expense of Stephenson’s Dolphins in Miami.
Everyone has seen the highlights of an exhausted Winslow being helped off the field after the “The Epic in Miami” – his 13 catch, 166 yard, and one touchdown performance. He also blocked a field goal late in the game to send the 1982 AFC divisional play-offs into overtime where his Chargers eventually prevailed.
Fewer people remember the divisional play-off game two years later, when Easley’s Seahawks went into Miami as heavy underdogs and pulled off an exciting and stunning 27-20 victory.
Easley and Winslow clearly made their teams better, yet their individual greatness could not get their teams to a Super Bowl. Winslow failed in his two attempts to reach the big game in 1981 when his top seeded Chargers lost 34-27 to the Oakland Raiders and 1982 when his team lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in “The Freezer Bowl.”
Easley lost in his lone attempt in 1984 when his team was downed by the Los Angeles Raiders who later defeated the Washington Redskins to win Super Bowl XVIII.
Although the Hall of Fame will announce its newest members on Saturday, for the sake of right and wrong, I hope the seniors committee at the Pro Football Hall of Fame will soon take a serious look at the career of Easley and base his potential induction on his achievements in next year’s election.
Stephenson and Winslow are deserving members of the Hall of Fame. People just need to realize that Easley is, too.
In addition, if Chancellor, Thomas, and Sherman keep up their incredible work, they will eventually be Hall of Famers. Each is already a Super Bowl champion looking to build their legacy even more with another win on Sunday.
Thomas is already a four time All Pro, Sherman is a three time All Pro, and Chancellor has been named a Pro Bowler three times.
Easley demonstrated greatness in the Seahawks secondary before Chancellor, Thomas, and Sherman were born. He should precede them in the Hall of Fame, too.