Two iconic figures in New York football are in the running to have their names immortalized in NFL history.
George Young, the former Giants general manager who built the team into two-time Super Bowl champions after his hiring in 1979, and Winston Hill, one of the league’s top offensive linemen who did terrific work blocking for Joe Namath, are among those being considered for Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Young and Hill are part of a contingent of former coaches, players and executives who will be selected as part of the 100-year anniversary of the NFL. A blue-ribbon committee or NFL luminaries, including Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Hall of Fame coach John Madden, Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome, and several Hall of Fame selectors, will narrow the field to 10 players, two coaches and three contributors. The voting process is separate from the annual Hall of Fame selection format, which will add five modern day players to the Hall of Fame at the annual meeting the day before Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
Young and Hill are entirely deserving of Hall of Fame recognition. It was Young who helped the team recover from its darkest days of the late 1960s and '70s by bringing in coaches Ray Perkins and then Bill Parcells and drafting cornerstone players that included Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Joe Morris, Leonard Marshall, Carl Banks and so many others who contributed to the team’s first Super Bowl victory after the 1986 season. The Giants won it again after the 1990 season, as another Young draft choice, Jeff Hostetler, replaced Simms and was part of a team that beat the two-time defending Super Bowl champion 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and then the heavily favored Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
Some of Young’s contemporaries, including Ron Wolf of the Packers, Bill Polian of the Bills and Bobby Beathard of the Redskins, are already in the Hall of Fame. It’s time Young join them.
Hill also is deserving of Hall of Fame honors. He played for the Jets from 1963 to 1976 and was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection. Namath has consistently advocated for Hill’s induction, and this may be his last best chance.
One former Jets star player who didn’t make the final cut to 20 was defensive lineman Joe Klecko, one of the most versatile performers ever. He made the Pro Bowl at three different positions and played for the New York Sack Exchange along with Marty Lyons, Abdul Salaam and Mark Gastineau. It’s too bad because Klecko also is a worthy player. His only hope now is to be nominated down the road by the Seniors Committee.
Suggs to Chiefs a great move
With rumors swirling that Terrell Suggs had forced his way into being released by the Cardinals so he could rejoin the Ravens, where he’d starred for more than a decade, the Chiefs swooped in and claimed the 37-year-old pass rusher.
Excellent move by a team that is in great position to win a Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history. Chiefs coach Andy Reid convinced Suggs that there was a good plan for him in place, and Suggs is now all in.
Chiefs first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has done terrific work in resurrecting Kansas City’s defense, and Suggs will only help. He’s no longer the every-down player he once was in Baltimore, but he might just be the NFL’s best pass rusher who can come in off the bench.
And don’t be surprised if he figures into whether the Chiefs – or the Ravens – get to the Super Bowl. After all, both teams could be headed for a matchup in the AFC Championship Game.
LaFleur is top rookie coach
You haven’t heard Matt LaFleur’s name much as a potential Coach of the Year, but the Packers’ first-year coach is certainly deserving of consideration. Taking over for Mike McCarthy this season, the former Rams’ offensive coordinator has done terrific work in getting the Packers to 11-3 and the top spot in the NFC North.
With one more win, LaFleur can join some impressive company. He can become only the 10th first-year coach in NFL history to win at least 12 games.
The others: Jim Caldwell of the Colts (14-2, 2009), George Seifert of the 49ers (14-2, 1989), Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers (13-3, 2011), Steve Mariucci of the 49ers (13-3, 1997), John Madden of the Raiders (12-1-1, 1969), Matt Nagy of the Bears (12-4, 2018), Barry Switzer of the Cowboys (12-4, 1994), Red Miller of the Broncos (12-4, 1977) and Chuck Knox of the Rams (12-2, 1973).
A tip of the cap to Harbaugh
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has produced a spectacular season and is likely a runaway choice for Most Valuable Player honors. It’s certainly a testament to Jackson, who has incredible skills as a passer as well as a runner, but he has received some excellent coaching along the way.
Don’t be surprised if Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who took over this year for Marty Mornhinweg, is considered for what should be a handful of head coach openings in the offseason. But Roman gives credit to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh for his out-of-the-box thinking in turning Jackson into an offensive weapon the likes of which we may never have seen before.
“John is the one who really orchestrated the vision for this offense and kind of set us on our way to do it and painted the perimeters and painted a picture of what he wanted it to look like and let us do our job,” said Roman, who was elevated from quarterbacks coach in the offseason. “[He is] an excellent, unbelievable leader, somebody that you really want to come to work and do a great job for.”
Greatness at the top
This is one of the most competitive years in the NFC, with four teams – New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Green Bay – sharing the best record at 11-3. How unprecedented is that? Consider: This is just the second time since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 that four NFC teams are tied with the conference’s best record with two or less weeks to play. The last time it happened was 2014, when five teams were 11-4 heading into the final week.
Six teams this season have won at least 11 games – only the second time since 1978 when six or more teams have 11 wins through 14 games. The only other time it happened was 2004.
More history for Brees?
Drew Brees had a record-setting night against the Colts on Monday, throwing four touchdown passes to break Peyton Manning’s career mark for most touchdowns. Brees is now at 541 and counting, eclipsing Manning’s total of 539.
But Brees can break another record Sunday against the Titans. If he completes his first four passes, he’ll set a record for most consecutive completions. He was 29-for-30 against the Colts, completing his last 22 passes. He needs four straight completions to get to 26, which would break a record jointly held by Nick Foles, Marcus Mariota, Philip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill.
Brees isn’t the only Saints player with an eye on the record books. His favorite receiver, Michael Thomas, needs 11 catches to surpass Marvin Harrison’s NFL single-season record of 143 receptions.
Mahomes is still the one
Patrick Mahomes won’t repeat as MVP, not with Lamar Jackson playing out of his mind for the Ravens. But Mahomes is still having a fine season after throwing 50 touchdown passes last year. He has 23 touchdown throws and just four interceptions, and has looked mostly fine since returning from a midseason knee injury.
Mahomes’ greatness may be enhanced even further in Sunday night’s game against the Bears. With two touchdown throws against the Bears, Mahomes can surpass legendary Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino as the fastest quarterback to 75 touchdown passes. It’s Mahomes’ 30th game, which would break Marino’s mark of 75 TD throws in 31 games.