Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jamal and The Hall

Shortly after the news broke about the likelihood that Jamal Lewis sustained a career-ending injury last weekend, speculation began about whether he's got Hall of Fame credentials. Although this year, we've come to know him as Grumpy the Aging Tailback, Jamal Lewis has been a terrific football player over his career and there's an awful lot to like about his approach to the game. When it comes to the Hall though, my guess is that the answer is going to be "close, but no cigar."

Lewis has always been a hard nosed, old-school running back who played the game with a great deal of intensity, and he had some of the most spectacular individual performances in the history of the game. Unfortunately, I think the case for him on rushing yardage alone isn't real strong, and that's a problem, because that's the only category in which Lewis ranks among the NFL's top 25 performers all-time. He ranks 30th in rushing touchdowns, barely cracks the top 50 in yards from scrimmage, and ranks 70th in all-purpose yards.

But a bigger problem for Lewis may be the peers he's up against. He'll be considered along with guys like Edgerrin James, Ladanian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander and Fred Taylor, and that's going to be really a tough bunch to be competing with when it comes time for the voters to decide.

Those who advocate for Lewis point to the fact that he's one of only five players in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, his record shattering 295 yard performance against the Browns in 2003, and his selection as the league's MVP that same year. If you're a fan of Lewis, you might also argue that voters should factor in some of the time he lost. After a spectacular rookie season during which he rushed for over 1,300 yards and helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl, Lewis blew out his ACL and missed the entire 2001 season. (His legal problems also led to him missing four games during the 2004 season). That missed time may well have cost Lewis 1,500 yards or more, and if you add that to his total, he's over 12,000 career rushing yards and probably a shoe-in. My own guess is that this argument isn't going to count for much. The only guy whose injuries I think voters really took into account when they voted on him was Gale Sayers, and to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "Jamal, you're no Gale Sayers."

If you're a fan of more delusional arguments in favor of Jamal Lewis, you might want to check out the guy in Baltimore who points to Jamal's Christ-like humility as the quality that tips him over the edge and makes him a first ballot selection. According to this writer, the one thing that Hall of Fame voters really groove on is a humble player. Seriously? How do you suppose they feel about drug convictions?

At this point, it looks like most of Hall of Fame voters think that Lewis is a long-shot. For what it's worth, I think the bottom line on Jamal Lewis is that he will be remembered as one of the decade's great backs, but not quite a Hall of Fame caliber player. I'll tell you what though, anybody who loves to watch a guy play football the way it's supposed to be played will definitely miss Jamal Lewis.

1 comment:

Vinny said...

No chance.

There are simply too many other good backs around.