Ken Riley had 65 picks. So why hasn't the Hall of Fame picked him?

Ron Borges

We at the Talk of Fame Network know a Hall of Famer when we see one. What we don’t know is how someone can be fifth all-time in interceptions and not once have been so much as a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist.

So we thought we’d ask someone this week who does -- former Cincinnati Bengals’ cornerback Ken Riley.

Riley’s 65 interceptions are a number so remarkable that not only are the four players ahead of him in Canton, so are the two behind him who are Hall eligible.

So how did Ken Riley become pass interceptors’ forgotten man?

“Good question,’’ Riley told the Talk of Fame Network this week. “You can’t get upset. The only time it really bothers me is when former players and coaches ask, ‘What did you do?’

"I guess I was modest. When I finished I was fourth all-time. I’ve done everything I was supposed to do. Maybe one day.’’

Although he astonishingly never made the Pro Bowl, Riley spent 15 years as a starting cornerback, finishing his career at 36 with a flourish when he intercepted eight passes and scored two touchdowns. The fact that he never once made the Pro Bowl yet was named first or second team All-Pro four times boggles the mind.

But not Riley’s.

“I’m 71 now,’’ he said. “You get lost in the shuffle. It’s perplexing, but I’m not bitter. My record speaks for itself.’’

Also paying a visit to our studio is former Denver Broncos’ P.R. man Jim Saccomano to report on this week’s outpouring of respect and love for Pat Bowlen, the Broncos’ long-time owner who recently passed away. A public service was held Tuesday for Bowlen at Mile High Stadium, and it attracted a crowd so large, Saccomano said, that the service’s time had to be extended.

“There had to be 7,000, 8,000 people,’’ Saccomano said. “There was a serpentine line around the stadium. There was a lot of love from the fans.’’

Saccomano tells Bowlen stories that explain why Broncos fans felt that way about a guy they seldom saw and who seldom sought public recognition for his many acts of charity in the community.

“He’d say, ‘Give it to them’ when people asked for something,’’ Saccomano said. “Then he’d say, ‘And then shut up about it.’ "

Saccomano also wades in on the Hall’s policy of never giving gold jackets or Hall-of-Fame rings to the families of deceased inductees, an unpopular policy in Denver. Bowlen was alive when he was elected to the Hall in February but passed away earlier this month.

NFL historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal makes his monthly visit, this time to debate the Hall’s plan to add a special “Centennial Class’’ of inductees. It will be similar to the original Class of 1963 when the first 17 players, coaches and contributors were inducted.

Who should be in this class is already the subject of much debate, and Turney weighs in with his top selections and predictions. He also argues why no quarterback should be part of that class.

Ron Borges also vents on the Patriots’ refusal to allow front office executive Nick Caserio to move on to a promotion as general manager of the Houston Texans, and how it took filing tampering charges against the Texans -- plus invoking a hidden clause in Caserio’s contract -- to prevent it.

Our Rick Gosselin states the Hall-of-Fame case for former all-decade linebacker John Anderson, explaining why the former Green Bay Packer likely has become a victim of an obsession with edge rushers over all-around, three-down linebackers.

As Gosselin points out, Anderson is fifth all-time among outside linebackers in forced turnovers and seventh in interceptions but says his 19-½ career sacks may have been his undoing.

To hear it all tune in to your local SB Nation Radio Network station or listen to our free podcast. You can get that podcast at Apple podcasts, iTunes or the TuneIn app. Or you can go to the Talk of Fame Network website at to listen to this show and all our past episodes and interviews.

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

A very strange case indeed...

Maybe Riley didn't tackle enough. But neither did Deion Sanders. If a guy plays 15 yrs, you would think he was good to excellent. He and Lemarr Parrish, who always went to pro bowls, both have an excellent case.

So what, if QBs avoid Parrish but go after Riley, they win ? With 65 interceptions, I would say Riley won alot of those battles. John Madden of the Raiders thought that Riley's best quality at CB, was hitting the receiver just as the ball got there, breaking up the pass. Is there a definitive number on who has the most career passes defenced or broken up ?

Yes, Riley or Parrish didn't win a championship but at least Riley got to one. The Bengals had excellent years in 70, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 and 82. Those years trying to knock off Pittsburgh, have to count for something. Those years aren't possible without Riley. To my knowledge, the only pass rushers they had, was some years from Coy Bacon and Mike Reid. It's not like they had Harvey Martin or Jack Reynolds lined up year after year.

Yes, Riley may have given up some plays like all corners, especially now, do, but being the great ballhawk that he was, especially during some dead ball years, he deserves his place in the Hall, with Parrish getting consideration as well.