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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bills’ Players that Deserve the Call to Canton

The Bills have many players that have garnered consideration in the past, but there are three players that should be inducted because of their importance, not only to the Bills, but also to the rest of the league.  While it is likely that only one of the players on this list will get in (without the help of the senior committee), each of these players deserves consideration, as well as recognition from fans as to how great they really were.

Andre Reed (Wide Receiver):
Of the three players in this group, Reed is the most likely to get in, and may even get in next year because of the relatively unimpressive group that will be first-time eligible.  Reed, a member of the 1990’s Bills that went to four consecutive Super Bowls, and he himself made seven consecutive Pro Bowls.  Reed was an integral part of the Bills’ K-Gun offense, which revolutionized the way that the no-huddle offense is utilized today.  Reed was one of many receiving weapons on the Bills, including Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas and James Lofton, as well as speedy receiver Don Beebe.  However, Reed was the most consistent of them all, and often made his impact felt on the field.  His greatest game may have been “The Comeback,” the 1993 AFC Championship game in which the Bills came back from a 35-3 halftime deficit to win 41-38.  In that game, without starting quarterback Jim Kelly, Reed caught eight passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns.  Reed’s all-time stats have been watered down by the evolution of the league to a pass happy league, but when Reed retired, he was third in all-time receptions, fifth in receiving yards, and sixth in touchdown receptions.  The duo of Kelly and Reed, even with all the other weapons on the Bills finished fourth all-time in quarterback-receiver tandem touchdowns.  Not only were Reed’s regular season statistics spectacular, but his playoff production might be even more impressive.  Reed totaled 85 receptions for 1,229 yards and nine touchdowns in nineteen games.   Reed was one of the greatest clutch receivers of all-time, never fearful of going into the middle of the field to make a catch, and with Jerry Rice, invented yards after catch.  Reed was never the fastest guy on the field, but was often considered the fastest receiver once the ball was in his hands, because he was quick, aggressive, and never afraid to take a hit or two to fight for the extra yards.  Though there are other strong receivers to be considered this upcoming year, like Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison, it’s about time Andre Reed was inducted into Canton.

Kent Hull (Center):
For an offensive lineman to make it into the Hall of Fame, they need to be extremely dominant and recognizable for their play.  For a center to make it into the Hall of Fame, they need to be one of the best all-time at not only protecting the quarterback, but also directing the offensive line and recognizing defensive fronts.  Including Dermontti Dawson, who was inducted last year, there have been 12 centers inducted into the Hall of Fame, and only one in the past 15 years.  However, Hull should have been inducted his first year eligible, but will probably never get the call.  Hull played 108 consecutive games for the Bills at center from 1986-1992, and played a total of 170 regular season games for the team.  As a pure lineman, Hull was able to block larger nose tackles 1-on-1, because of his size and excellent footwork, without requiring help, allowing the rest of the line to get to the second level and take out linebackers.  The Bills led the league in scoring in 1990, in rushing yards in 1991 and 1992, and finished top 10 in rushing yards from 1988-1996, all while Hull was leading the line.  Hull’s greatest asset, which no other center has been able to rival, was his level of football intelligence.  Because the Bills ran a fast paced, no-huddle offense, Hull was required to get to the ball and recognize the defensive front and scheme immediately, regardless of the amount of chaos that was going on around him.  Hull would then have to listen to Kelly’s play-call and alter the line protection in order to pick up blitzes, or take advantage of line mismatches.  More impressive, was Hull’s ability to see if and how an entire play would play out based on the formations of the defense.  Jim Kelly has often admitted that Hull used to turn around and make him change the play if he recognized that the play wouldn’t work with the defensive formation, and Kelly would listen.  If you have ever seen any highlights of Hull, the most memorable thing you will notice is his constant pointing and barking out calls, much the way Peyton Manning does today at quarterback.  Though he will probably never get the call to Canton, Hull was one of the greatest centers in football history, and without his size, strength, and intelligence, the Bills offense would never have become one of the greatest of all time.

Steve Tasker (Special Teams Player/Receiver):
There is no one who has changed football more in the last thirty years than Steve Tasker.  I understand that is a very bold statement, but Tasker single-handedly revolutionized the way that teams, coaches, the league, and even fans perceive special teams players.  The only way to really describe Tasker is a special teams playmaker; he returned kick offs and punts, blocked field goals and punts,but his most impressive and impactful play came from being a gunner, often the first guy down the field to make a tackle on punts or kick offs.  Tasker played receiver in small doses for the Bills and was successful when doing it, but his star power as a special teams player is what he will always be remembered for.  Tasker was selected to seven Pro Bowls as a receiver, though he was chosen because of his capabilities as a special teams playmaker and a return man, rather than his receiving prowess.  In 1993, Tasker was named the Pro-Bowl MVP, the only a special teams-specific player has ever been selected as the MVP.  In that game, Tasker made four tackles, forced a fumble, and blocked the NFC’s go-ahead field goal.  Tasker’s special teams stats are crazy; he recorded 204 tackles, forced 17 fumbles, and blocked seven punts and six field goals/extra points.  However, his most impressive feats will be the changes to the rules that the NFL made because of Tasker’s dominance.  The first change was the “Steve Tasker Rule,” which governs gunners on kick offs and punts.  Tasker was famous for running out of bounds to lose his blocker and then appearing back in the field of play to light up the return man.  Now, going out of bounds and reentering, without being forced out, if grounds for a fifteen-yard penalty.  In 2000, the NFL also added the position of “special teamer” to the Pro Bowl, because of Tasker’s dominance at the position.  Though Tasker may not get his call into the Hall of Fame until a senior committee elects him in, he is one of the most influential football players in the last thirty years, and should be recognized for that.

Bryan Ridall

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