By now you've probably heard who is being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. You'll hear speeches that run into the night. You'll hear the howls of approximately 40 billion cheeseheads who've made the trek from Wisconsin. It should be a fun day -- especially if these NFL legends dive deep into their first dates, à la L.A.
While we look forward to Brett Favre's acceptance speech, what does his enshrinement -- along with those of Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Tony Dungy, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel -- mean for everybody else (i.e., future Hall classes)? Much. Below is the butterfly effect from each person's entry into the big museum in Canton, as well as one thing you must know about his career.
Let's start with the headliner ...
Brett Favre, Quarterback, Falcons/Packers/Jets/Vikings
Most important thing about Favre: Toughness.
By now, you know all the highlights of Favre's career: the three MVP awards, the multitude of passing records set -- most of them broken by the guy in the *Easy Like Peyton Mornings* commercial (not Lionel Richie) -- and the various *Favre-watches* we all don't miss. While Favre won a Super Bowl and quarterbacked for 20 years, everyone points to his 297 consecutive starts streak (321 including the playoffs). But what is the embodiment of that record?
To me, it was one game at Texas Stadium in 1994. Early in the first half, Favre managed to get himself high-lowed by Charles Haley and Tony Tolbert. As John Madden was pointing out that Favre was "picking his stuff up" off the ground, the man was actually gathering himself ... enough to throw four touchdown passes by game's end. Up until that point, Week 13 of his fourth pro season, No. 4 had trouble calming himself down during games. Something set in with Favre on that Thanksgiving Day. From there on out, the guy was on fire, streaking through the back half of the '94 season, before winning league MVP in '95, '96 and '97. Although that Pack-'Boys bout is more famous for Jason Garrett coming off the bench to lead Dallas to a Turkey Day win, it is also a sparkling exhibit of Favre's iron man M.O.
Kevin Greene, linebacker/defensive end, Rams/Steelers/Panthers/49ers
Most important thing about Greene: Production as an old man.
If you loved Third Eye Blind, "Baywatch" and Lilith Fair, man is this Class of 2016 for you. Favre, Greene and friends represent the '90s with authority. The thing about Greene, though, is that he was great for the entire decade and kept getting better -- as in, all the way until he was 37 years old. Greene owns the rare distinction of posting WAY more sacks in his 30s than he did in his 20s. In fact, 97.5 of his 160 career sacks came after he was supposed to slow down. Only Bruce Smith had more QB traps after 30. Greene racked up 12 in his final season, in 1999.
What Greene's enshrinement means for everybody else: Putting Greene in should cover all of the longstanding Hall of Fame accounting -- i.e., taking care of those guys who were finalists for years and years. This list included Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Will Shields and so on. This should mean that players like Morten Andersen and Terrell Davis, whose names have been kicked around, have at least one open slot.
Tony Dungy, head coach, Buccaneers/Colts
Most important thing about Dungy: Overall scope.
Too often, we take the micro view with coaches ... The amount of Super Bowls they won, their winning percentage and how long they were the front man for an organization. That's like forgetting Mario Lopez's time on "Saved by the Bell" -- you can't just think of him wearing sleeveless shirts on entertainment shows now. Dungy went to the postseason 11 times in his 13 seasons at the helm of the Bucs and Colts, becoming the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl (in his fifth year with Indy). But he was also an outstanding defensive coordinator for the Vikings, as well as DBs coach for the Steelers and Chiefs. Then you add on what he added to the Cover 2 defense of Bud Carson -- Dungy's coordinator while a player in Pittsburgh in the late '70s -- and you have a macro view of what a Hall of Fame career looks like.
What Dungy's enshrinement means for everybody else: In theory, Jimmy Johnson or Don Coryell should see a clear path to the bust room. The former did not have the tenure in the NFL that Dungy did, yet nearly everyone I've spoken with -- be it media member or player -- has said they would take Johnson over Dungy if they were building a team. While that point is arguable, this is not: Coryell was an innovator. You cannot tell the story of modern football without him. So I, uh, guess you know where I stand on his candidacy. Sorry not sorry.
Marvin Harrison, wide receiver, Colts
Most important thing about Harrison: Consistency.
Harrison was as consistent as any player in NFL history. While he trails Randy Moss and Terrell Owens in yardsand touchdowns, he was more reliable than both players. His career also reached a zenith that neither of those more exciting players enjoyed: He earned a Super Bowl ring and won 10-plus games in the majority of his pro seasons. What stands out the most about Harrison's time with the Colts was his run from 1999 to 2006, where he posted at least 80 catches, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns every season. Despite more recent rule changes that favor the passing game, the unstoppable Antonio Brown still hasn't caught up to Harrison's all-time best 143-catch season.
What Harrison's enshrinement means for everybody else: With Harrison finally being inducted in his third year as a finalist, the WR logjam is officially over. Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown all made it into the Hall in consecutive years, each pushing the other to wait a bit longer. Most feel Owens didn't receive enough votes due to him being a "locker-room distraction." His number probably will be called in 2017. That said, at least we don't have to hear about Receiver X and the relevance-of-his-numbers issue anymore (until Steelers fans scream and yell about Hines Ward).
Orlando Pace, offensive tackle, Rams/Bears
Most important thing about Pace: Being the best at his position among other greats.
I received zero argument from Kurt Warner at the Hall of Fame ceremonies a couple of years ago when I posed the argument that Pace might have been the most effective player at his job for the longest time on those top-flight Rams teams. Left tackle has always been an important position, but especially in the '90s, when most quarterbacks were of the strong-pocket-presence/little-scramble-ability variety. With the passing game not as opened up over the middle as it is today, QBs held the ball longer. That meant protecting the blind side was uber-important.
What Pace's enshrinement means for everybody else: The run on tackles is pretty much over. Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones and now Pace are all in, with Tony Boselli still a maybe. So we might not see another guy from this position group for some time. Guard is another deal altogether. Alan Faneca is available for induction (again) in 2017; Steve Hutchinson will be eligible in 2018. Both of those dudes could play, and should not have to wait long to make it to Canton.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr., owner, 49ers
Most important thing about DeBartolo: Flirting with the enemy.
Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was quite intrigued with Jimmy Johnson. DeBartolo is lauded for running a first-class organization that won five Super Bowl titles under his stewardship, but he also knew the "it" factor when he saw it. Coming out of the 1988 season, DeBartolo knew Bill Walsh was going to call it a day. George Seifert, Walsh's defensive coordinator, would end up being the heir apparent (reportedly because of Walsh's efforts). But don't think for a second that DeBartolo didn't kick the tires on the Miami Hurricanes head coach who had won the national championship in 1987. How would history have changed? Johnson's Cowboys bested the 49ers in the 1992 and '93 NFC Championship Games. Perhaps DeBartolo's Niners would have become the first team in the Super Bowl era to three-peat. Ah, speculation is pure joy.
What DeBartolo's enshrinement means for everybody else: In this particular case, it's difficult to say. Obviously the voters are forgiving (Terrell Owens??), as many wondered aloud how the riverboat-casino debacle that hastened his departure from the league would affect his candidacy. Frankly, the contributor category is so new that perhaps the most logical outcome is that next year's contributor will be a GM or executive, and not another owner.
Ken Stabler, quarterback, Raiders/Oilers/Saints
For Raiders fans, making sure voters don't forget the leader of their team from the '70s has been a top priority every year at this time. Stabler certainly has a résumé worthy of inclusion, even if his statistics are paltry when compared to today's standards. He was the 1974 league MVP, and he was one of only three quarterbacks during the decade to enjoy a season with a 100-plus passer rating. Stabler also authored three memorable plays that are impossible to ignore. And I am not referring to the "Holy Roller" -- just watch this video. Oh, did we mention he won a ring, as well?
What Stabler's enshrinement means for everybody else: Stabler's entry opens the door for another '70s Raider who hasn't received a heckuva lot of Hall chatter. Cliff Branch was the premier deep threat of the decade, a first-team All-Pro three consecutive years from 1974 to '76. There are many league observers who felt he had as good a career as Lynn Swann, who, of course, has a likeness already in the bust room. (And actually, some think Branch's NFL tenure was better than Swann's.) Not to mention, Branch wore a sweet number for a wide receiver. #21
Dick Stanfel, offensive guard, Lions/Redskins
Most important thing about Stanfel: Getting it right.
This pertains more to the Pro Football Hall of Fame than to Stanfel specifically, but the mere fact that the Seniors Committee culled pro football's expansive story to find a deserving offensive guard -- from 60 years ago, mind you -- is awesome. It reflects a level of attention to detail that is all too important from a sport that clearly lags behind the MLB (and maybe even the NBA) in honoring its players from decades past. Stanfel was named All-Pro five times despite only playing seven years. Quality offensive line play equals winning football games since 1920.
What Stanfel's enshrinement means for everybody else: While the team can boast a decent number of Hall of Fame players, the most underappreciated squad in pro football history is the 1950s Detroit Lions. This group won three championships during the decade, and in each title game, Detroit beat the team everyone considers the premier bunch of that time: the Browns. In fact, most people think the era's pecking order went like this: 1) Browns, 2) Colts, 3) Giants. It's sad, really. Thus, Stanfel's enshrinement doesn't ring hollow. Now maybe the head coach for most of that Lions run will earn some voter consideration. Buddy Parker might have departed the franchise awkwardly, but he was quite a leader from 1951 through '56.