Andre Reed waited nine years, but this past weekend he was finally inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His induction appears to be the last Bills Hall of Famer for the foreseeable future, and because of this I started to wonder, who is the next Buffalo Bill that will make it into the Hall of Fame?
With that question asked, I concluded the following list of potential candidates that will be, or are currently available, for selection.
Should Go In: Bill Polian, GM Buffalo Bills 1986-1993
Polian deserves to be inducted, not just for his time with the Bills, but also for his time with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. But Buffalo is where Polian began as he helped build the teams that would go on to four straight Super Bowls.
In all, Polian had a hand, or outright drafted, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, Will Wolford, Shane Conlan, Nate Odomes, Thurman Thomas, Don Beebe, Phil Hansen, and Henry Jones. That’s three Hall of Famers and six major contributors to those teams. He also had the fortitude that got the Bills involved in the Eric Dickerson three team trade that netted the Bills Cornelius Bennett.
After Buffalo, Polian was named the GM of the Carolina Panthers from 1994-1997. He built a team that went to the NFC Championship Game in their second season of existence before spending the rest of his career as GM (1997-2009) and Team President (1997-2011) of the Indianapolis Colts. While in Indy, Polian built two Colts teams that made it to the Super Bowl, and won one. He drafted Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.
With the new Hall of Fame rule change placed into effect that will allow more contributors to be elected, it appears Polian is destined for enshrinement when he becomes eligible in 2016.
He may have been in Indy longer, but he is beloved in Buffalo. For someone that was just put up on the Bills Wall of Fame in 2013, it would only seem natural that another Buffalo Bills weekend in Canton is on the horizon.
Could have a shot: Mario Williams, Defensive End 2012- Present
Williams was the first overall draft pick back in 2006 for the Houston Texans, and as such is more recognized as a Texan rather than a Bill. However, if he plays out the remainder of his contract, Williams would have split his career between the two organizations. Williams will need consistent production to potentially put himself in discussion for the Hall of Fame.
He currently stands at 76.5 sacks, and for defensive ends the 100 sack plateau is a minimum to start the discussion. Considering recent inductee Michael Strahan finished his career with 141.5 sacks and set a single season sack record, Williams will have to put up a number of double-digit sack seasons to garner the attention he needs.
At this point it appears Williams is on the career path of Charles Haley. The former San Francisco 49er and Dallas Cowboy DE has been eligible since 2004 and is still waiting to be enshrined. Haley won five championships and recorded double digit sacks six different times.
Williams, currently 29 years old, needs to put up another three to four double digit sack seasons to solidify his candidacy. A current comparable player to watch is Julius Peppers. Williams will most likely be compared to Peppers, his modern day associate, who stands at 119 sacks in 12 seasons thus far.
May have a shot: Kyle Williams Defensive Tackle 2006-Present
The defense has changed quite a bit in Williams’ eight years in Buffalo, but his excellent play has remained a constant. The three time Pro Bowler already has 26.5 sacks, six interceptions and three forced fumbles in his eight year career.
If Williams can continue for another four or five years at a high level, he may be able to reach a level that is comparable to current Hall of Famers Cortez Kennedy (58 sacks, 568 tackles, 11 forced fumbles) and Dan Hampton (57 sacks in 157 games), which would force his name into the discussion.
Williams has been dominant in his last three full seasons. During this time he has amassed 20.5 sacks and 49 tackles for loss. As he has increased his notoriety as an interior line force, Williams has garnered a second team All-Pro selection in 2010 and multiple Pro Bowl invitations.
Williams will have to watch his modern day counterpart Haloti Ngata to best compare his chances. How Williams is seen amongst his peers and coaches will be critical for when he becomes eligible after he retires. He has often been cast in the shadow of disappointing teams, but hopefully he can pull a Floyd Little. Without some late career statistical upswing, Williams looks destined for the Wall of Fame, but he stands as good of a chance as any.
Possible Senior: Ruben Brown, Offensive Guard 1995-2003
Brown has been out of football since 2008, so he is already eligible but has rarely gotten out of the opening discussion among voters. Brown played 181 games, was elected to the Pro Bowl nine times, and was on the All-Pro 2nd Team four times in his 13-year career.
Probably the biggest inhibitors to Brown’s consideration are his constituents. In fact, a better regarded, but still comparable, player such as Will Shields did not get in on his first attempt this year; which makes Brown’s chances of making the Hall very slim.
To make matters worse, there is also a log jam of receivers coming over the course of the next three years that will surely push Brown, amongst others, to the back burner.
The reality that someone with Shields’ credentials didn’t make it on their first ballot surely means that Brown best stands a chance when he becomes a senior member in 2033.
While Brown’s eight straight Pro Bowl appearances were impressive, and only beaten by three other guards (Bruce Matthews, Shields and Randall McDaniel), he is likely to fall onto the Wall of Fame.
Hall of Very Good: Darryl Talley LB 1983-1994 / Steve Tasker WR 1986-1997 / Cornelius Bennett LB 1987-1995
Tasker is considered by some as the best special teams player ever, but it has done little to improve Tasker’s chances of making it into Canton. It just took the Hall of Fame 22 years to elect its first punter; so Tasker will live on, much like Bennett and Talley, in Bills lore rather than in the Hall of Fame.
The problem with Bennett and Talley’s nominations is that though they were key contributors to the Super Bowl teams, the Selection Committee may choose not to justify their election considering Kelly, Reed, Thomas, Smith and Levy are all in currently.
It’s a case where the voters are viewing those early 1990s Bills and telling themselves that they got all of the key players in already, and thus closing a chapter in NFL history.
It’s too bad that players such as Tasker, Talley and Bennett need further contemplation, but who knows what will happen in later years.