NFC West: Les Richter

Richter familyAP Photo/Ron SchwaneThe bust of former Ram Les Richter is unveiled by his son, Jon, and daughter, Anne, on Saturday.
The testimonials for Marshall Faulk have flowed freely surrounding his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Les Richter's legacy is tougher to access.

Both were Rams legends, Faulk in St. Louis and Richter during the team's days in Los Angeles.

Improbable as it sounds, Richter might have been the more versatile player. He went into the Hall of Fame for his prowess as a linebacker, but he also played on the offensive line, served as the team's deep snapper and spent his first three seasons doubling as the Rams' kicker. Like Faulk, Richter transcended the traditional confines of his position.

Former Rams linebacker and NFL coach Jack Pardee summed up Richter well:
"Before Sid Gillman started throwing the football around, the NFL was all run game, and most teams played a 5-2 front. Les was one of the first true middle linebackers who could defend the run and the pass. He was an All-Pro and was the best in the business for a number of years. You talk about smart, he was the valedictorian at Cal, and calling the signals on the field and making the adjustments, that all went along with kind of establishing a new position. Les was a new breed of middle linebacker, which was part lineman and part defensive back. He could really cover, and that was the difference between him and the group in front of him."

Richter died last year. His son, Jon, accepted on his father's behalf during Hall of Fame proceedings Saturday. The Rams have posted a tribute video featuring Jon's thoughts. I recommend checking it out, along with a couple stories from the Los Angeles Times.

Quick take: Hall of Fame class of 2011

February, 5, 2011
2/05/11
7:35
PM ET
Stephen Perry Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireHall of Fame president Stephen Perry announces this year's 10 finalists for the class of 2011.
DALLAS -- Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors elected Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Richard Dent, Shannon Sharpe and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol to the class of 2011.

Les Richter and Chris Hanburger earned enshrinement as seniors candidates.

I was one of the voters. We spent more than seven hours discussing the 15 modern-era candidates and two seniors committee candidates.

Some candidates with very strong credentials missed the cut. That is not a travesty. It's the process. There were only five spots for 15 players, forcing 10 strong candidates to wait another year.

I presented the case for Cortez Kennedy. He made the final 10 for a second year in a row, keeping him firmly in the mix for the future.

With that, let's take a closer look at the candidates with ties to teams currently aligned in the NFC West:

Marshall Faulk

Position: RB

NFC West team: St. Louis Rams

The verdict: Yes

Quick take: Voters spent considerable time laying out the case for Faulk even though there seemed to be little doubt about his status as a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer. Faulk had no significant weaknesses. He could run for speed or power. He could catch the ball. He was a tenacious blocker. He could line up as a true wide receiver (former teammate D'Marco Farr told me he once saw Faulk beat a cornerback on a post route. What would a cornerback be doing covering a running back? That's the point. Faulk could do it all, and he did it all for historically great offenses that competed for championships and won one. Case closed.


Richard Dent

Position: DE

NFC West team: San Francisco 49ers

The verdict: Yes

Quick take: Dent had been a finalist seven times and among the final 10 five times. This was his time, although it's always tough to know when that time will come. Dent was a dominant pass-rusher and very strong against the run. He put up the necessary sack numbers to get voters' attention, but his status as an elite all-around end offset criticisms that he earned Pro Bowl honors only four times. Dent had 137.5 career sacks, including 34.5 sacks over a two-year period early in his career.


Deion Sanders

Position: CB

NFC West team: 49ers

The verdict: Yes

Quick take: The most dominant cover cornerback of his generation, and perhaps all time, offered more than just stellar play in the secondary. Sanders averaged more than 15 yards every time he got his hands on the football. He scored five different ways during the regular season. Sanders made his only season with the 49ers a memorable one, helping San Francisco win the Super Bowl after the 1994 season.


Les Richter

Position: LB

NFC West team: Los Angeles Rams

The verdict: Yes, as seniors candidate

Quick take: Richter went to eight consecutive Pro Bowls as a hard-hitting, allegedly dirty enforcer type beginning in 1952. He also played center and kicker. Richter passed away last summer.


Cortez Kennedy

Position: DT

NFC West team: Seattle Seahawks

The verdict: Made the final 10, but not the final five

Quick take: Kennedy has made the final 10 two years in a row. That means he commands respect in the room. Kennedy was among the players potentially losing out when selectors voted in a non-player in NFL Films founder Ed Sabol. The fact that this was Dent's year also might have had an impact on Kennedy. They played different positions on the line, but both were defensive linemen. Voters went with only one this time.


Charles Haley

Position: OLB

NFC West team: 49ers

The verdict: Did not make the final 10

Quick take: Dent was the preferred pass-rusher this year. Haley played a pivotal role in helping the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys win championships. He affected the rivalry between the teams. Haley won five Super Bowl titles while with the 49ers and Cowboys.


Jerome Bettis

Position: RB

NFC West team: Rams

The verdict: Did not make the final 10

Quick take: "The Bus" departed St. Louis following three productive seasons when the Rams traded him to Pittsburgh after using a first-round draft choice for Lawrence Phillips. Consider it one of the more ill-fated moves in Rams history. This was Bettis' first year of eligibility. His size-speed-moves ratio sets him apart from just about every back in NFL history. Faulk's enshrinement might have made it tougher to accommodate another running back, particularly with Curtis Martin also on the ballot.


Chris Doleman

Position: DE

NFC West team: 49ers

The verdict: Did not make the final 10

Quick take: Doleman enjoyed most of his success with the Minnesota Vikings, but he had 38 sacks in three seasons with the 49ers from 1996-98. Doleman had 150.5 career sacks and he had a knack for forcing fumbles. Dent was the defensive end to break through this year. Doleman was a finalist for the first time. He has a shot in the future.

Thoughts following Hall of Fame voting

February, 5, 2011
2/05/11
6:49
PM ET
DALLAS -- Pro Football Hall of Fame voting is finished for another year.

Up next: formal announcement during an NFL Network broadcast beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

Officials from the Pro Football Hall of Fame swore selectors to secrecy after we learned which candidates emerged from two rounds of reductions.

We all know which candidates survived the cut, but we do not know which ones will receive the necessary 80 percent approval on a yes-no vote (often a formality).

Marshall Faulk, Cortez Kennedy, Charles Haley, Richard Dent, Deion Sanders, Jerome Bettis, Chris Doleman and seniors candidate Les Richter were candidates with ties to teams currently aligned in the NFC West. No more than five modern candidates and two seniors candidates can qualify for enshrinement in any one year.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A quick look at the Pro Football Hall of Fame candidates with ties to teams currently aligned in the NFC West:
  • Marshall Faulk, running back. Faulk began his career with Indianapolis before becoming the NFL's offensive player of the year three times in a row for the St. Louis Rams beginning in 1999.
  • Cortez Kennedy, defensive tackle. Kennedy played each of his 11 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, earning eight Pro Bowl appearances and defensive player of the year honors.
  • Charles Haley, outside linebacker. Won five Super Bowl titles for San Francisco and Dallas, leading the 49ers in sacks for each of his first six seasons.
  • Deion Sanders, cornerback. Won a championship with the 49ers following the 1994 season and was one of the best cover corners in NFL history. Also an outstanding returner.
  • Jerome Bettis, running back. Bettis began his career with the Los Angeles Rams before earning most of his Hall credentials with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was the Rams' leading rusher from 1993-95. Ranks fifth in all-time rushing yards with 13,662.
  • Richard Dent, defensive end. Won a championship with the 49ers following the 1994 season. Had 34.5 sacks over a two-year period with Chicago in the mid-1980s.
  • Chris Doleman, defensive end. Doleman led the NFL with 21 sacks in 1989 and was the NFC's defensive player of the year in 1992. He spent the 1996 through 1998 seasons with the 49ers.
  • Les Richter, linebacker. Richter played for the Rams from 1954-62 and went to eight consecutive Pro Bowls. Never missed a game.

I'm looking forward to participating in the discussion, presenting Kennedy's case to the other selectors and voting on the candidates that seem most deserving. Should be a fun day. Results will be announced during an NFL Network show beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

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