LeSean McCoy and the Pro Football Hall of Fame

When asked if Kansas City Chiefs tailback LeSean McCoy was going to be a Hall of Famer, former wide receiver Nate Burleson boldly stated that the Pro Football Hall of Fame should “size his jacket up now.” Was he right? Today, we take a closer look at “Shady” McCoy’s career and whether or not he has a spot in Canton waiting for him.

LeSean McCoy and the Pro Football Hall of Fame

At a glance, here’s what we know.

McCoy has put together a pretty solid career. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler, a two-time First-Team All-Pro, nearly 15,000 all-purpose yards, and 89 total touchdowns. He led the league in rushing yards in 2013, and rushing touchdowns in 2011. On the career, he averages a very strong 4.5 yards per carry, and every single season where he started at least 14 games, he broke 1,000 yards rushing. There is absolutely no doubt that LeSean McCoy was a very good player, for a very long time.

However, is he a Hall of Famer? I’m not so sure.

All-Time Rankings

It’s my understanding that the Hall of Fame is reserved for the best of the best. Only the elite of the elite get their busts enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Players like Cliff Branch, Ken Anderson, Roger Craig, Cliff Harris, and Jim Marshall were all fantastic players, arguably very deserving players, who have yet to be enshrined in Canton. Only the best of the best of the best should be immortalized in the Hall of Fame.

Does that really sound like LeSean McCoy? He’s 22nd all-time in rushing yards, 27th all-time in rushing touchdowns, and 19th all-time in all-purpose yards. And that doesn’t sound too bad, but then you realize his 160 games are more than nine of the players who rushed for more yards in his career.

It just seems like he was decent for a very long time. He had three great seasons, but he was never the best tailback in football. His greatest ability has been availability, and he’s managed to keep on playing over the years.

Historical Impact

Everything I’ve said about LeSean McCoy is also true for Marshawn Lynch. Lynch’s numbers aren’t quite good enough either, but for many, he’s considered a very likely Hall of Famer. Why’s that? Well, because of all the big plays he made in big games.

He has two post-season runs against the New Orleans Saints that stick out, and he was the driving force behind the dominant Seahawks offenses of yesteryear. They were physical on defense with the Legion of Boom and Lynch made the offense something to fear.

Does LeSean McCoy have anything like that? Even in 2013, the best year of his career, all anyone could talk about was Nick Foles. He’s been a solid piece for a few teams, but if you take away those three years, he’s really only ever been a decent back. I can’t think of a great play he’s made that will echo throughout history like many other Hall of Fame candidates have.

The Others

There are other players, like McCoy, who had very good, if not great careers. Of the 21 players with more rushing yards, there are three eligible backs that aren’t in the Hall of Fame, and none of them played more games than McCoy has. Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor, and Edgerrin James are all eligible for Canton, with more rushing yards, and only Taylor has fewer scores.

Then you include Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson, and Frank Gore, who all have more yards and touchdowns without it being particularly close. Of the active tailbacks, McCoy is only third in rushing and fourth in touchdowns.

How do you justify putting McCoy in the Hall of Fame when Dillon, Taylor, and James aren’t? Edgerrin James had more yards and touchdowns in 12 fewer games, led the league in rushing twice, and he’s not enshrined yet.

Plus, if you’re putting McCoy in, how do you justify the absence of players like Warrick Dunn, Jamal Lewis, Eddie George, and Ricky Watters, who had similar careers? Jamal Lewis had a 2,000 yard season, helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl, and has nearly as many yards and touchdowns with 30 fewer games. How do you justify putting McCoy in when he isn’t?

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this, LeSean McCoy has been a very solid tailback. On his best day, he’s been great, on his worst, he’s been just fine. Nobody would turn down a player like LeSean McCoy. But the Pro Football Hall of Fame is reserved for the legends of the game, and I have a hard time enshrining someone who was never in the conversation for “best” at his position.

Then again, he could always have a breakout post-season and be the reason the Chiefs win the Super Bowl this year, and then we’ll have to revisit.

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