Can you be a great player on a bad football team?
If you’re an offensive player with statistics, you can. O.J. Simpson proved that. His four NFL rushing titles overwhelmed the fact that he played on teams that won only 30.3 percent of their games on his way to first ballot Hall-of-Fame election in 1985.
But if you’re a defensive player… Good luck.
The deck is stacked against defensive players from the start. There are 266 players enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Only 87 played defense. That’s a modest 32.7 percent. Of those 87 defensive players with busts, 32 of them did not win championships. And many of those players paid a penance for that lack of team success.
Steelers' cornerback Jack Butler waited 50 years for his enshrinement. Rams' linebacker Les Richter waited 46 years; Lions' cornerback Dick LeBeau 33 years, Redskins' linebacker Chris Hanburger and Falcons' defensive end Claude Humphrey 28 years apiece, 49ers' linebacker Dave Wilcox 21 years and Vikings' defensive end Carl Eller and Cardinals' cornerback Roger Wehrli 20 years apiece.
La’Roi Glover continues to pay his penance. Few defensive tackles played the game better than Glover. And few have better success stories.
Glover was a four-year starter at San Diego State but, as an undersized (6-0, 281 pounds) defensive tackle, he slid to the fifth round of the 1996 draft. He was selected by the Raiders but played sparingly as a rookie, recording only two tackles. Oakland assigned Glover to Barcelona of the World Football League that spring, and he collected 6 ½ sacks, helping the Dragons win the World Bowl.
But Glover was cut by the Raiders the following training camp. He was claimed on waivers by New Orleans and went on to become a pass-rushing dynamo, collecting 50 sacks in his five seasons with the Saints. In 2000, Glover became only the second defensive tackle ever to lead the NFL in sacks with 17. No tackle has led the league in sacks in the 16 seasons since then. Those 17 sacks also were the second-most ever by a defensive tackle, behind only the 18 of Minnesota’s Keith Millard in 1989.
“La’Roi was a great worker and a great pass rusher,” said Jim Haslett, Glover’s defensive coordinator with the Saints. “He had a great first step.”
Glover became a free agent in 2002 and signed with the Cowboys. He spent four seasons in Dallas, helping the Cowboys lead the NFL in defense in 2003. Glover went to six consecutive Pro Bowls – his final two seasons in New Orleans and all four of his seasons with the Cowboys. He also was a first-team All-Pro, twice with the Saints and twice with the Cowboys, and was voted to the NFL all-decade team for the 2000s.
Glover retired after the 2008 season and became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014. But he’s never been a finalist for Canton. He’s never even been a semifinalist. In fact, Glover wasn’t even included on the list of 94 preliminary candidates for the Class of 2017.
How can such a great player be forgotten so quickly?
Well, for starters, the voters rarely saw Glover play in January. In his 13 seasons he appeared in only three playoff games – and was on the winning side in just one of them. His three teams (also the Rams from 2006-2008) managed to win only 39.4 percent of their games (82-126). The Hall-of-Fame selection committee loves winners. Sixty-eight percent of all Hall-of-Fame enshrinees won championships.
So if you played defense and didn’t win a championship, you have two strikes against you in the Hall-of-Fame selection process. That’s a shame. La’Roi Glover believes his career deserves greater consideration.
“That’s not being braggadocious or arrogant or anything like that,” Glover told the Talk of Fame Network. “It’s based on the body of work. Thirteen NFL seasons. Played at a high level. Never missed a game. When I did start playing my second year in the league, I played 192 straight games. For the (defensive tackle) position – being able to rush the quarterback and put the quarterback on the ground, being able to put up those types of numbers…
“Then from a team standpoint, as well, effectively playing good team defense, either in New Orleans or with the Dallas Cowboys. Based on those measurements, I think I do stand right there, toe-to-toe, with some of those phenomenal players who have been blessed to have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
We agree, La’Roi.