CLASS OF 2011
Begun in 2002, the Hall of Very Good seeks to honor outstanding players and coaches who are not in the Hall of Fame.
Teams: Cincinnati Bengals
1971-86 Bio: Ken Anderson was one of the best quarterbacks of his era and one of the most accurate passers in pro football history. He was a four time passing champion, went to the Pro Bowl four times, and was the NFL Man of the Year in 1975. Anderson earned his biggest acclaim in 1981 when he was league MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-Pro. In 1982, he completed 20 passes in a row to set a new league record that stood until 2002, and also set the single season completion percentage record that would last until 2009. Anderson holds nearly every major Bengals regular season, post-season and career passing records, and his 16 seasons is the most in franchise history. In Andersons third season, just his second as a starter, he led Cincinnati to the 1975 AFC Central Division championship and a playoff berth. This was one of two division titles and four playoff appearances in his career. In 1981, Anderson led the Bengals to a franchise record 12 wins and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game. He threw two touchdowns in the 27-7 victory over San Diego in The Freezer Bowl. In Super Bowl XVI, Anderson rallied the Bengals from a 20-point deficit against San Francisco. Andersons two touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown were not enough in a 26-21 loss. Anderson was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and 1998.
Position: Wide Receiver
Teams: Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders 1972-1985
Bio: Cliff Branch is a three time Super Bowl champion. In 1974 he led the NFL in receiving yards, touchdown receptions and receiving yards per game. In 1976, he led the NFL in touchdown receptions, receiving yards per game as well as having the league's longest reception of the season, an 88 yard touchdown. He also averaged an amazing 24.2 yards per catch on the season. In 1983 he set the team record and tied the NFL record with a 99 yard touchdown reception. Branch went to four consecutive Pro Bowls (1974-1977) and was three times a consensus first team All-Pro (1974-76.) He spent his entire career with the Raiders and was a starter on all three of the franchises championship teams. In Super Bowl XV he had 5 catches for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns, while in Super Bowl XVIII he had 6 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. He was a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and 2010.
Position: Defensive Back
Teams: Green Bay Packers 1952-1959
Bio: Ball-hawking defensive back Bobby Dillon intercepted 52 passes in eight seasons with the mostly sad sack Packers of the 1950s. Extremely versatile, Dillon played all four secondary positions during his career. He was the rare cornerback who could play tight and not get beaten deep, and he accomplished all he did despite being blind in one eye. Dillon never led the NFL in interceptions but was among the leaders multiple times: 5th in 1953 with 9, 6th in 1954 with 7, 2nd in 1955 with 9, 5th in 1956 with 7, 4th in 1957 with 9 and 7th in 1958 with 6. He also had big years in interception return yards including 111 in 1954 when he was 7th; 153 in 1955 when he was 3rd; 244 and 34.9 yards per return in 1956 when he was 1st; 180 in 1957 when he was 3rd; and 134 in 1958 when he was 6th. Dillon’s career interception return average was an outstanding 18.8 and he returned five for touchdowns, which at the time was the NFL record. Since Green Bay’s defense was among the worst throughout his career, teams were generally able to find success by simply staying away from Dillon. He was either a consensus or unanimous first team all-pro four times, had a fifth season where he made the AP’s first team, was second team on another occasion and was named to four Pro Bowls. Dillon’s 52 interceptions is the most in Packers history and his rate of .55 per game is the best among players with 50 or more. He is also one of 18 players who share the record of four interceptions in a game. Dillon is a member of the Packers Hall of Fame. Dillon was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 nine years after he was elected to the Hall of Very Good.
Teams: Dallas Cowboys 1970-1979
Bio: Cliff Harris was voted first-team safety on the NFL 1970's All-Decade team. He is the only first-team defensive player on that team to not be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He spent his entire career in the 70's, playing all ten seasons of his career for the same team that signed him after he went undrafted in 1970. He played in five Super Bowls with the Cowboys, winning two championships. During his exceptional career he intercepted 29 passes and had 18 fumble recoveries. He also had six career post-season interceptions. He was a three time consensus first-team All-Pro and was named to six consecutive Pro Bowls, from 1974 through his final season in 1979, ending his career still playing at a high level. He was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, and later that year he was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Position: Wide Receiver
Teams: Los Angeles Rams 1968, Philadelphia Eagles 1969-1972, Los Angeles Rams 1973-1977, New England Patriots 1978-1981, Minnesota Vikings 1982, Seattle Seahawks 1983
Bio: After playing only two games his rookie season, Jackson was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. He promptly was selected to the Pro Bowl after racking up a league-leading 1,116 yards on 65 receptions in his sophomore season. He was traded back to the Rams in exchange for Roman Gabriel and scored a league-leading 13 touchdowns on his way to a consensus first-team all-pro selection in 1973. Jackson was in the top ten in receptions four times, the top ten in receiving yards five times and the top ten in receiving touchdowns four times. He led the league in receptions in 1972 (62); receiving yards in 1969 (1,116) and 1972 (1,048); receiving yards per game in 1969 (79.7) and 1972 (74.9); and receiving touchdowns in 1973 (13).
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers 1963-76
Bio: Andy Russell was part of what some consider the greatest linebacking corps in pro football history, playing alongside Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. Russell made the NFL All-Rookie team in 1963 and was selected to seven Pro Bowls, including six in a row. He was a consensus first team all-AFC pick three times and got All-Pro mention in several seasons. He was the Steelers MVP in 1970 and won the Whizzer White Humanitarian Award in 1973. Throughout his football career, Russell displayed his durability by never missing a game. He also showed excellent leadership skills as captain of the Missouri team in 1962, as well as captain of the Steelers from 1967 through 1976. He was a key performer during the first half of the Steelers 1970s dynasty and played on the Super Bowl champion teams of 1974 and 1975. He was inducted into the University of Missouris Hall of Fame in 1993.
Positions: Head Coach/Linebacker
Teams (Player): Cleveland Browns 1946-1949
Teams (Head Coach): Boston Patriots 1960-1961, Buffalo Bills 1962-1965, Denver Broncos 1967-1971, Buffalo Bills 1972-1976
Bio: Lou Saban was both an accomplished player in a short, four-year career and a two-time championship coach in the American Football League with the Buffalo Bills. He joined the Browns in 1946 as a center and linebacker, excelling in particular on defense. Paul Brown so respected his ability and leadership that he named Saban one of the team’s captains. Overshadowed by many bigger name teammates, Saban was nonetheless an important contributor to Cleveland’s four championships in the All-America Football Conference. Though the all-pro teams of the one-platoon era were dominated by offensive players, he was a first team all-AAFC selection in 1948 and a first teamer on both the all-AAFC teams and the combined all-AAFC/NFL teams in 1949. In their book on the AAFC, football historians Ken Crippen and Matt Reaser have Saban as deserving of one of the two linebacker spots on their all-AAFC teams in all four years as well as on their all-time all-AAFC team. Nearing 30 because of the years he spent in the military during World War 2, Saban retired after the 1949 season to pursue his passion: coaching. His long coaching career was nomadic and included many jobs in both the pros and college and the work he did with the Bills was far and away his most successful. Saban guided the Bills to a tie for first place in the East in 1963, though they lost in a playoff. Buffalo then won the AFL championship in both 1964 and 1965. Likely because of Saban’s background as a linebacker, the Bills were known for their outstanding defense. He returned to the Bills in 1972 and led them to consecutive 9-5 seasons and a playoff appearance.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Teams: Buffalo Bills 1962-1968
Bio: Tom Sestak was a 17th-round pick in the 1962 AFL draft who went on to play seven seasons for Buffalo. Over that span, he recorded 51 sacks and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He played in three AFL Championship Games, with his team winning two. Sestak was named to the All-AFL team four times and was selected to the Bills' Silver Anniversary Team in 1984. He was named to the all-time AFL team and to the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame in 1987.
Position: Tight End
Teams: Washington Redskins 1965-1977
Bio: Jerry Smiths career with the Washington Redskins has him fourth all-time in receptions (421) and sixth all-time in receiving yards (5,496) in team history. He made All-Pro twice (consensus once), all-conference twice and all-AFL/NFL once. At the time of his retirement, he was first among tight ends in career touchdowns (60), and currently ranks third. A key player in the Redskins' 1972 Super Bowl team, he was named as one of the 70 greatest Redskins by a blue-ribbon panel formed to celebrate Washingtons 70th anniversary.
*Voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after induction into the Hall of Very Good.
June 18-21, 2020
Pro Football Hall of Fame