Some teams call it a Ring of Honor, some a Ring of Fame, and others a Wall of Fame.
Regardless of what they call it, most NFL franchises have a way of honoring the most important players, coaches, and contributors in their organization’s history. Rodney Harrison considers the honor of being placed in the New England Patriots Hall of Fame more meaningful than reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Former Tampa Bay defensive back Ronde Barber feels the same way about the Buccaneers’ Ring.
Some teams, like the Cincinnati Bengals, don’t have a Ring of Honor, but most do. That doesn’t mean that all that who were enshrined deserved to be, however. Today we examine several unworthy honorees and questionable decisions.
The Arizona Cardinals are the oldest continuously run professional football team in the U.S. While their record is woeful, the Redbirds have featured some greats, including tackle Dan Dierdorf, who was enshrined in the franchise’s Ring of Honor on this date in 2006. But two of the 18 ROH inductees have no business being there. In six seasons as head coach, Jimmy Conzelman went 34-31, including an 8-22 record in the first of two three-year stints. Sure, he led the Cards to an NFL title [in 1947, making the Cardinals current 72-year championship drought the longest in North American sports], but is this truly the organization’s standard for excellence?
The New Orleans Saints got it right. Ascribing to the theory that less is more, the 53-year-old franchise has only five members – all deserving — in its Ring of Honor.
And Conzelman isn’t the only unworthy Cardinal. Halfback Marshall Goldberg was named All-Pro once in eight seasons with the Birds and scored 16 career touchdowns. Moishe’s best season came in 1941 when he rushed for 427 yards and three TDs. Goldberg was also 8-for-29 as a passer.
After going 6-10 in 1995, New York Jets owner Leon Hess fired Pete Carroll, then proclaimed, “I’m 80 years old, I want results now!” at a press conference announcing Rich Kotite, whom Hess had hand-picked as Carroll’s successor. Kotite went 4-28 in two disastrous seasons at the helm before being canned. Leon Hess, who is enshrined in the franchise’s Ring of Honor, won three division titles in 29 years as owner of the New York Jets.
Is it any wonder that the Detroit Lions are the oldest NFL franchise never to have appeared in a Super Bowl? There have not been many bright spots since the organization’s three NFL titles in the 1950s. But certainly one of them was Alex Karras. One of the most ferocious Lions of all time, Karras was named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team. Why then did it take the Motor City Kitties nearly five decades to enshrine the greatest defensive tackle ever to wear the Honolulu Blue and Silver into their Pride of the Lions?
You know who has a legitimate Ring of Honor? The Dallas Cowboys. As unlikable as the franchise is – and it tops the list of most-despised organizations in sports – Dallas has a ring with no holes.
In 2004, the Carolina Panthers inducted all personal seat license [PSL] owners into their Ring of Honor. Really? And we thought enshrining Jake Delhomme was a reach.
The Buffalo Bills have a Wall of Fame. Loaded with great players like Billy Shaw, Jim Kelly, and Bruce Smith, it also includes Phil Hansen, a defensive end who failed to make even a single Pro Bowl in his ten years as a Bill.
The Chargers, who should have never left San Diego, have a few unworthy players in their Ring of Honor. Linebacker Bob Laruba played in only two seasons – 1960 and ‘61. He was killed in an auto accident at 28, prompting his induction. Quarterback Stan Humphries played six seasons. He never completed even 60 percent of his passes or posted a QB rating above 82, and threw 73 picks in 79 career games. But Humphries led the Chargers to the only Super Bowl in franchise history, so they put him in. Lance Alworth must be cringing.
The Green Bay Packers don’t have a Ring of Honor. What they do have are names listed on the east and west facades of Lambeau Field’s bowl. The Packers don’t mess around: all 22 of the men listed are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
We love Joe DeLamielleure. The 2003 Pro Football Hall of Famer anchored the Buffalo Bills Electric Company offensive line that “turned on The Juice” in the 1970s. But Joe D – who was the AFC Arm Wrestling Champion, NFL Racquetball Champion, and finalist in the 1982 NFL Strongest Man contest only played four seasons and made one Pro Bowl as a member of the Cleveland Browns. DeLamielleure was a warrior, just not as a Brown.
In 17 seasons as owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Wayne and Delores Weaver went 138-134 and only won two division titles. The Jags have zero Hall of Famers, the worst uniform in football and are a rudderless and boring franchise. In 2012, the couple was inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars. While Delores, who has directed millions of dollars from the Jaguars Foundation toward economically and socially disadvantaged youth and families in greater Jacksonville may be worthy, Wayne is most certainly not.
In the most puzzling move of all, Colts owner Jim Irsay in 2007 led a ceremony to induct a “12th MAN” to the team’s Ring of Honor along the façade of the upper deck of the RCA Dome. That drug problem must’ve really warped Irsay’s brain. And this from an organization that gave us Johnny Unitas, John Mackey, and Peyton Manning.