Talk of Fame Network
(Mike Kenn photos courtesy of Atlanta Falcons)
Mike Kenn is a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist for the third straight year, and I know what you're thinking.
Shame on you. Mike Kenn was one of the best and most decorated offensive tackles of the 1980s and '90s, playing 17 years with the Atlanta Falcons; making 251 starts while missing only nine games; named to five Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams and someone who had his number 78 retired by the Falcons.
But that isn’t good enough to get him to the Hall's final 15 – at least it hasn’t been since his retirement following the 1994 season – and that’s not just puzzling to some Hall-of-Fame selectors. It's puzzling to Kenn, who made his case for us on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
Our Rick Gosselin believes Kenn and other offensive linemen on the Falcons – guys like Jeff Van Note, Bill Fralic and George Kunz – were penalized by the Falcons' mediocrity, and Kenn doesn’t disagree. In his 17 years with Atlanta, the Falcons had only three winning seasons in non-strike years and won just two playoff games.
"It's kind of hypocritical to a certain degree," he said. "It’s an individual honor that takes too much team success into consideration. One of the things I tell people is that it's harder to play at a high level with an average support cast of characters than it is to play at a good or high level with a great cast of characters. Hence, if you’ve got a bunch of really good players on your team the chances of you being more successful are a lot higher than if you have average or adequate players."
Some of the Falcons' best players were on that offensive line, yet none has been named as Hall-of-Fame finalist. In fact, Kenn is the lone offensive Atlanta offensive lineman from that era to make it to the semifinals. But he hasn’t crossed over to the final 15, and we asked if there were something voters should know about him that could change that.
"There's only one other player who played against every right defensive end or every right outside linebacker who's currently in the Hall of Fame," he said. "One other left tackle, and that would be Anthony Munoz. We're the only two.
"So every right rush end and every right outside linebacker – (and) there are 12 of them – in the Hall of Fame … we're the only ones who played against all of them. Go look at the list. Unless Anthony didn’t play against Elvin Bethea."
That’s a start. But so is his ironman record, something Kenn takes so much pride in he named it as his greatest achievement in pro football.
"When you go ahead and take a look at the modern-day player," he said, "it's very rare that you're ever going to see any player at any position play that long. Most of the time it’s a quarterback.
"I started every game. I never did not start a game. In fact, I started the very first preseason game as a rookie. So all of my 251 games are 251 starts.
"Not to be boastful … but I will … but if you exclude the kickers on 'games played' or on 'games started' there are only seven players in the NFL who started more games than I did. So that’s pretty significant."