Written by BobbyK
Although the season has been over for almost three weeks, there is still hope for one final victory prior to Super Bowl LI.
Tomorrow we learn if Kenny Easley, Godfather of the Legion of Boom, will become the latest Seahawks player enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
While most content on this blog is focused on what may happen in the future, today is appropriate for looking back at a Seahawks draft nearly 36 years ago.
The date was Saturday, April 28, 1981. The Seahawks had a decision to make with the fourth overall pick. The choice was between two defensive backs, Kenny Easley and Ronnie Lott.
“We went back and forth,” said former Seahawks coach Jack Patera in an interview last spring. “There wasn’t a whole lot that separated the two.”
Easley had been a four-time all-conference selection and three-time consensus All-American at UCLA. Lott was coming off a brilliant senior campaign at USC and was taken by the San Francisco 49ers four picks later.
Former safety Eugene Robinson had 57 career interceptions and his vote for best of all-time at his position was Easley and Lott. Robinson emphatically added, “No matter what era.”
The biggest criticism of Easley’s Hall of Fame candidacy is he only played seven seasons. Put into context, current Seahawks safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are seven-year veterans.
Would Chancellor or Thomas be considered for the Hall of Fame if they retired today? It’s possible for Thomas and not likely for Chancellor.
A difference in comparing seven-year careers is Easley did not need a rookie season to develop. He took the league by storm from day one and was AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year 1981 and played at a high level until his final professional game in the Pro Bowl.
Thomas started as a rookie in 2010 but didn’t become a force until his sophomore campaign.
Thomas shared a story of his rookie struggles with former Texas Longhorns teammate Kenny Vaccaro after he had been benched by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. The story was printed in The New Orleans Advocate on January 28, 2015.
“He was real down on himself and I was telling him the story of when coach [Pete] Carroll almost benched me,” Thomas said. “We played the Giants my rookie year. We got blown out and I was giving up touchdowns left and right.”
Chancellor did not start a game as a rookie while serving as backup to veteran Lawyer Milloy.
Although Thomas and Chancellor are seven year veterans, they have not dominated the way Easley did in an equal amount consecutive seasons.
Team success isn’t supposed to be Hall of Fame criteria but numbers indicate chances of being inducted are greater if players were part of championship teams. Thomas and Chancellor were part of Seattle’s only Super Bowl victory.
The flip side is neither player has won an NFL Defensive MVP Award and the Hall of Fame is supposedly about individual greatness – not team success.
Opposing offensive coordinators learned early in his rookie season they had better account for number forty-five. Similarly, Easley had to be accounted for through his final game which was a Wild Card loss to the Houston Oilers on January 3, 1988. He was only 28 years old.
While plenty of Hall of Fame players lasted 10+ seasons, many did not dominate the way Easley did in seven consecutive years.
Earl Campbell and his eight-year career is an example. By his seventh season, Campbell was a shell of his former self, merely averaging 3.2 yard per carry and rushing for only 468 yards in 14 games.
Lynn Swann played nine years but averaged less than a catch per game as a rookie in 1974 and his career concluded in 1982 with only 18 receptions and no touchdowns.
Do some players get “credit” from Hall of Fame voters for having played in the NFL even if they did not impact games early in their careers like Swann or in their twilight years such as Campbell and Swann? There is no arguing the Hall of Fame credentials of Campbell or Swann, but it isn’t correct to insinuate each were more dominant than Easley for any seven consecutive years of their careers.
Tomorrow we find out if Kenny Easley gets his overdue call into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and joins Lott in safety immortality. It would also be fitting if Thomas and Chancellor continue to play at a high level to eventually join Easley in Canton.
Although their season has been over for almost three weeks, there is still hope for one final Seahawks victory.