(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Sam Kouvaris interview, fast-forward to 6:40 of the following attachment: Ep 37: Tony Boselli, Urban Meyer, Trevor Lawrence, and the Jags with Sam Kouvaris | Spreaker)
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in their 27th year of existence, yet they still don’t have a player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of course, that could change next year with tackle Tony Boselli, a Top-10 finalist the past five years.
And here’s hoping it does.
But let’s look beyond Boselli. Jacksonville has had other Hall-of-Fame worthy candidates, with running back Fred Taylor and wide receiver Jimmy Smith at the head of the class. Neither has been a Hall-of-Fame finalist, while Taylor has been a semifinalist twice.
So what’s the deal? We asked Hall-of-Fame voter Sam Kouvaris, the Jacksonville representative who presents Boselli to selectors, on the latest “Eye Test for Two Podcast” (fullpressradiocom).
“I think the answer is pretty simple,” he said. “Neither of them played with Peyton Manning, and they played in Jacksonville.”
Taylor had seven 1,000-yard seasons, including 1,572 in 2003 when he carried 345 times. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry for his career, had 290 receptions and produced a combined 14,079 yards rushing and receiving. He also scored 74 TDs.
Smith, meanwhile, had nine 1,000-yard seasons and twice eclipsed 110 catches, including 1999 when he led the league with 116. He never had fewer than 70 catches in nine of his last 10 seasons, missed only five games in his 11 years with Jacksonville and finished with 67 TDs.
In short, both were stars.
Fred Taylor ranks 17th among the NFL’s all-time rushers … and, OK, big deal, right? Well, yes, it is. Because everyone ahead of him who's Hall-of-Fame eligible is in Canton. Then there’s Smith, who ranks 24th in career yardage among NFL receivers, or more than Hall-of-Famers Charlie Joiner, Michael Irvin and Calvin Johnson.
Yet neither is on the Hall's radar.
“Fred Taylor played in Jacksonville,” said Kouvaris, “and, OK, compare him to Edgerrin James. I’m sorry, Fred Taylor is a better player than Edgerrin James. Bigger. Stronger. Faster. Could do more things. Statistically, stacks up against Edgerrin James. But he didn’t play with Peyton Manning. And he played in Jacksonville in relative anonymity.”
OK, we'll take the bait. Let’s compare him to James.
Like Taylor, James had seven 100-yard seasons. However, unlike Taylor he averaged 4.0 yards a carry. But … he twice led the league in rushing, had more yards rushing (12,246) and receiving (3,364) and scored more (91 TDs).
Plus, he was a four-time All-Pro, including twice as a first-team choice, and a four-time Pro Bowler. He was the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-decade.
Taylor was named to one Pro Bowl and one second-team All-Pro team. And, no, he didn't play with Manning.
Now let’s look at Smith. Unlike Taylor, he was named to five Pro Bowls and was a two-time second-team All-Pro. He had more TDs than Joiner and Irvin and more catches than Steve Largent, James Lofton, Joiner and Irvin. Plus, he was a two-time Super Bowl champion, though that happened in his first two years with Dallas when he barely played.
“Jimmy Smith has tremendous numbers,” said Kouvaris. “If jimmy Smith had played for the Giants, and Eli Manning was his quarterback he’d probably be in the room.”
But he didn’t. And he’s not.
Yet both he and Fred Taylor made an impact. Smith set an NFL record, since tied by others, with at least five catches in every game of a 16-game season (2001). Taylor set at least 42 franchise records, including 51 games with at least 100 yards rushing.
Neither has gotten more than a minimum of attention from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I’ve said this about the Hall of Fame many times,” said Kouvaris. “You can say Troy Polamalu is a Hall of Famer, and you can say, ‘Well, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.’ But if his name is Ed Smith, and he played in Jacksonville and he had short hair would he have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Probably not. But he played in Pittsburgh, and he had a persona about him the way he played.”