Why Dungy believes former Bengals' star "deserves" to be in the Pro Football Hall

Photos courtesy of Cincinnati Bengals

Clark Judge

When former coach Tony Dungy years ago appeared on a Talk of Fame Network broadcast he was asked to name one player who wasn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame he'd like to see enshrined. Dungy never wavered with his answer.

“Donnie Shell,” he said.

Someone must have been listening. Because the former Pittsburgh Steelers’ safety was one of 10 seniors chosen to the Centennial Class of 2020.

I don’t know if that makes Dungy clairvoyant, but I do know it makes him a logical choice to consult again – especially as he’s the latest addition to the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s board of selectors, added to the 48-person group this summer.

So we tried him.

As was the case before, Dungy was asked which former player – someone left on the outside looking in – he’d like to see make it to the Hall. As wasn’t the case, however, he had to mull his options before responding.

“Wow,” said Dungy, “that’s a good question.”

So he paused. He thought. And then he spoke, promoting another defensive back from the same era as Shell.

“I’m going to throw this one at you,” he said on the "Eye Test for Two" podcast (https://www.spreaker.com/user/fullpresscoverage/app-recording-20201006-1506 ). “I’m going to say Ken Riley. Ken Riley played on the right corner, was an outstanding player, converted quarterback, a ton of interceptions (and) a smart guy. (Former Bengals’ teammate) Cris Collinsworth said he gave him the toughest time of anybody he played against, and Ken certainly (with) the numbers and longevity deserves to be in there.”

He’s right about that. Riley, the former Cincinnati cornerback who passed away earlier this year, had 65 career interceptions, tied for fifth on the all-time list. All four players above him are in Canton. And the guy with whom he’s tied? That would be Charles Woodson, considered a virtual lock for induction as a first-ballot choice in 2021.

Unlike Woodson, however, Riley was never a Defensive Player of the Year. Unlike Woodson, he never played on a Super Bowl champion. And, unlike Woodson, he was never a multiple Pro Bowler. In fact, he wasn’t named to a single Pro Bowl in one of the greatest mysteries ever.

One other factor: He played his entire 15-year career in Cincinnati. And while that shouldn’t make a difference, it has with the Hall. Only one player who spent the bulk of his career with the Bengals is enshrined – one – and that’s Anthony Munoz, perhaps the greatest left tackle in pro-football history.

Nevertheless, Riley could be the second. He not only was good enough to be a senior finalist for the Class of 2021; he reportedly was the runner-up to Drew Pearson as the 2021 nominee. That will strengthen his case going forward. So will the 65 interceptions. And so, in all likelihood, will the election of Woodson.

Then there’s this.

“Ken had 65 interceptions when we were throwing 18 passes a game,” said Dungy.

Comments (6)
No. 1-2
brian wolf
brian wolf

Though I would choose Parrish first, Riley seems to be gaining momentum and rightfully so ... Could he overtake Gradishar, Wistert or Branch next year ?

Gradishar is my choice but it will be an interesting vote. We all have to watch out for a dark horse like Sterling Sharpe as well ...

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

It does seem as though Riley has some momentum, but I know many think Lamar Parrish was a better player...I still think Ken Anderson is not only the best Bengal not in,but the best QB


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