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Wednesday, January 14, 2009
'90s Bills will outnumber champion Pats in Canton


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

This notion might strike you as ridiculous, but it's legit.

The Buffalo Bills, who went to four straight Super Bowls but didn't win any, probably will send four times as many players to the Pro Football Hall of Fame than the three-time champion New England Patriots will.

 
  Tom Hauck/Getty Images
  Tom Brady may be the only Hall of Famer from the Patriots' Super Bowl champion teams.

Since we're in Hall of Fame speculation season, and two players from those Buffalo teams are finalists on this year's ballot, I began to wonder: What is a reasonable number of honorees from a team that didn't win a league championship?

Already in are quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas. Defensive end Bruce Smith and receiver Andre Reed are among this year's finalists. Smith should get in on his first try. Reed likely will have to wait a few more years.

That makes at least four players from a team that didn't win a Super Bowl -- five if you count James Lofton, who played on three of Buffalo's four Super Bowl teams, but established his career with the Green Bay Packers.

And that led to another thought.

Fair or not, the three-time champion Patriots might send only one player to Canton.

Tom Brady is the only guaranteed Hall of Famer to play on all three title teams.

Perhaps cases can be made for Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour or cornerback Ty Law, but each would be a stretch. Only one kicker is in the Hall of Fame, so don't count on Adam Vinatieri making the cut.

"The Bills may have more Hall of Famers than the three-time champion Patriots," ESPN's John Clayton said. "It is what it is."

Clayton, who in 2007 was inducted into the Hall of Fame's media wing, sits on the Hall's prestigious Board of Selectors.

Clayton said running back Corey Dillon might have the stats to get in (top 17 in rushing yards and touchdowns), but Dillon played in only one of New England's Super Bowls. Clayton dismissed the idea Rodney Harrison would gain favor because only six full-time safeties have been enshrined.

Wide receiver Randy Moss and linebacker Junior Seau will make it, but they didn't play on any of New England's title squads and built the bulk of their credentials with other clubs.

"People make the argument that a player was the best at his position," Clayton said. "There are 13 positions and only five players get selected every year [not counting the two senior committee selections]. So what?

"There's so much competition for so few spaces."