Would the NFL be the same today if not for Bud Adams? That's a question the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee will ponder as they consider him for enshrinement in the Class of 2011.
Adams co-founded the American Football League with the late Lamar Hunt, who was enshrined in 1972. The two recruited six more owners (or ownership groups) to compete with the NFL, a battle which ended with a merger ten years later. Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson was another of the original AFL owners (a.k.a. The Foolish Group) and was enshrined last year. The only other early AFL figure in the Hall is Al Davis, who was hired by the Raiders in 1962 as coach/GM and eventually became that franchise's owner.
A strong case can be made that Adams' contributions, while not on the same level as Hunt's, are more significant than those of Wilson or Davis.
One thing I don't believe Adams gets enough credit for, and partly because this isn't discussed very often, is his role in ensuring that New York City had a strong team during the early years of the AFL. The original AFL franchise in New York, named the Titans, had ongoing financial struggles. If the New York franchise had failed, the entire new league would have failed as well. Adams poured his own money into the rival franchise, keeping it solvent until he was able to find a more stable owner to take the team over, which was then renamed the Jets.
That wasn't his only contribution to the New York franchise. Adams traded his rights to Joe Namath in the 1965 AFL draft to the Jets, enabling them to draft him. It was another example of Adams' willingness to put the league's interests ahead of his own. A Broadway Joe in the Big Apple was a lot more important to the AFL than a Namath in Houston would have been.
Also nominated this year for HOF consideration are Eddie George, Frank Wycheck, Ray Childress and Gary Anderson.
I wrote several months ago that there were many reasons George would not be selected.
There is even less of a case for Wycheck, whose numbers don't look bad compared to the old-time HoF tight ends but not very good compared to numerous tight ends who have played since then. (I'm planning on looking more at his numbers and doing something with that in the near future.)
Childress may be less familiar to Titans fans. A defensive lineman with the Oilers from 1985-1995, Childress played defensive end for five years before moving inside to defensive tackle for the next five. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Childress was designated a first-team All-Pro only once.
Jan Stenerud is the only kicker enshrined in Canton but if a second will join him, Morten Andersen may have a slightly better chance than Gary Anderson, who came out of retirement to kick for the Titans for two seasons.
The competition for these Titans/Oilers greats will be extremely tough.
First-time eligibles for the Class of 2011 include Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Deion Sanders. All should be considered Hall of Fame locks.
Martin is fourth on the all-time career rushing list, Bettis is fifth and Faulk tenth. The versatile Faulk also ranks fourth all-time in yards from scrimmage and sixth in all-purpose yards. That trio is high among the group of players who have better credentials than George, who is only 23rd on the career rushing list.
Among the tight ends who have better credentials than Wycheck is Shannon Sharpe, who is also on this year's preliminary list of nominees.
I'd be surprised if more than one non-player is selected. Non-players besides Adams being considered this year are former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and coach Don Coryell. Former commissioners tend to be selected and if Coryell isn't deserving, they might as well close the Hall down. He meant that much to the game.
At least four but no more than seven people will be selected for enshrinement. (You may have read more about the process in the above link naming the Titans/Oilers or you can do so at this link to the HoF website.)
What do you think about the chances for Adams, George, Wycheck, Childress and Anderson? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. There is also a new poll on the Total Titans homepage asking which of these five nominees will advance the farthest in this year's selection process. Thanks in advance for voting there as well.