If consistency of play and production are hall marks of a Hall of Famer, Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier would seem to have earned a place in Canton.
Grier was one of the best and most consistent defensive tackles from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, anchoring defenses with the New York Giants that won one NFL championship in 1956 and went to five NFL title games between 1956 and 1962. That included losing the most famous game in pro football history, the 1958 game won in overtime by the Baltimore Colts.
During that time the Giants had one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses, finishing first in fewest points allowed three times (1958, 1959 and 1961), third once (1957) and fourth once (1962). He was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in July, 1963 and within a year the Giants’ defense dropped to 14th in points allowed and began a long decade of decline.
Grier, meanwhile, joined Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy to form one of the best and most famous defensive lines in pro football history – the original Fearsome Foursome. Without Grier plugging the middle it would have been far less fearsome and not much of a foursome despite the presence of future Hall-of-Famers Jones and Olson.
In those days sacks were not a thing. Well, they were a thing but not a statistical thing. But unofficial tabulators of such matters claim Grier produced 44 ½ sacks during his career, which is a sizeable number for an interior linemen in a day when teams ran the ball between 60 and 70 per cent of the time. Twenty one of those sacks came with the Rams, including seven in his final NFL season, 1966. Had an Achilles tendon tear the following year not ended his career, who knows what his final sack numbers might have been?
Grier was named to the Pro Bowl twice, in 1956 and 1960, was named first-team All-Pro once in ’56 and second-team All-Pro FIVE times (1958, ’59, ’60, ’62 an ’63). He was also a Hall-of-Fame finalist in 1973 but never again appeared on the final ballot.
Prior to 2004, there was no semi-final cutdown to 25 eligible players so he never had the opportunity to be named a finalist from a shortened list of candidates as is done today. Any way you cut it that’s a lot of accolades that have gone unnoticed and undebated by the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame selection committees over his 49 years of eligibility.
But there is another factor in Grier’s career that deserves mention. Despite playing interior defensive line for 11 seasons, Rosey Grier missed only three games due to injury, two in 1958 and one in 1962. Other than that, he was always present and had to be accounted for.
Grier started all 12 games at right defensive end his rookie season with the Giants in 1955 after being a third-round draft choice (31st overall) out of Penn State. Then he was moved inside the following summer and started every game at right defensive tackle in the Tom Landry-coached Giants’ 4-3 defense. He would remain at that position for the rest of his career, ultimately starting 141 of the 141 games in which he played and 141 of a possible 144 overall.
Consider that for a moment. From the age of 23 through the age of 34 Roosevelt Grier started every game but three on two of the best defensive fronts in pro football. He started every game as a 23-year-old rookie and every game as a 34-year-old, 11-year veteran. Never once did one of his coaches suggest that maybe it was time to try somebody younger because, well, why move out a guy opposing offensive lines couldn’t move?
Does all that qualify Roosevelt Grier for membership in the Hall of Fame. That’s for the voters to decide but it surely qualifies having his credentials debated one more time by the senior committee.