Eagles

Brett Favre, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison among 8 inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Brett Favre, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison among 8 inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

CANTON, Ohio -- They came in No. 4 jerseys and wearing cheeseheads. They chanted "Go Pack Go."

It was Lambeau Field transported to Ohio, and only one man could have caused it.

Brett Favre, welcome to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"Believe me, I am an extremely blessed man," Favre said Saturday night during an emotional speech spiced with humor and playfulness. "Play a game that I love so much for 20 years, to have all the wonderful things happen ... to share in that joy with you guys here tonight."

And when he choked up talking about his late father, Irv, and how Favre spent his career "trying to redeem myself" to make Irv proud, the crowd offered loud and comforting support.

Adding that "this is tougher than any third-and-15," he spoke of his new goal once his father died in 2003:

"I said to myself, I will make it to the Hall of Fame so I could acknowledge the fact of how important he was. I would not be here before you today without my father, there's no doubt whatsoever."

Football's most durable quarterback (a record 299 straight regular-season starts and 321 including playoffs) and one of its greatest passers, Favre was the first three-time MVP (1995-97) and an NFL champion in 1996. He played with four teams, defining toughness and fortitude, particularly in 16 seasons with the Packers, a franchise he helped revitalize.

A swashbuckler with no fear on the field -- in addition to completing 6,300 passes for 71,838 yards and 508 touchdowns, he threw an NFL-high 336 interceptions -- Favre was a three-time All-Pro and made 11 Pro Bowls. His enthusiasm and love for the game marked his career, which began in Atlanta in 1991 and ended with the Vikings in 2010. He spent 2008 with the Jets.

And he just might not be done.

"I am going to ask Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson to let me play the first series tomorrow night," Favre joked.

Joining Favre in the class of 2016 were Tony Dungy, a trail-blazing coach and Super Bowl winner; one of his stars, Marvin Harrison; Kevin Greene; Orlando Pace; Ken Stabler; Dick Stanfel; and Ed DeBartolo Jr.

The first black coach to win an NFL championship, Dungy has been and a mentor to dozens of players and fellow coaches. Instead of concentrating on his role as a pioneer, he paid homage to those before him in a poignant and sometimes enthralling speech.

"Many of them never got the chance to move up the coaching ladder like I did, but they were so important to the progress in this league," Dungy said of the 10 African-American coaches in the NFL when he broke in as a player in 1977. "They were role models and mentors for me and my generation ... without those 10 laying the groundwork, the league would not have the 200-plus minority assistant coaches it has today.

"And we would not have had Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy coaching against each other in Super Bowl 41. I feel I am representing those 10 men and all the African-American coaches who came before me in paving the way, and I thank them."

Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to the 2006 NFL title. He also has a coaching tree that has featured Mike Tomlin, Herman Edwards, Jim Caldwell, Rod Marinelli, Leslie Frazier and Lovie Smith.

A disciple of Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, for whom he played on a Super Bowl winner, Dungy went 139-69 in 13 seasons, including 85-27 with the Colts from 2002-08. Before joining Indianapolis, Dungy turned around a perennial loser in Tampa Bay, taking the Buccaneers to the 1999 NFC title game.

"I'm the 10th Steeler from Super Bowl 13 to be enshrined," he said with a chuckle, "but you could have won a lot of money if you would have said I would be one of those 10.

"Be uncommon, not just average," he added before paying tribute to former NFL coach Dennis Green, who recently passed away. "That thought has stuck with me throughout my life."

Harrison's 143 receptions in 2002 are an NFL record. He retired in 2008 with 1,102 catches, now third behind Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez. He had eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,100 yards receiving for Indianapolis. His receptions, 14,608 yards and 128 touchdowns are all Colts franchise records. He topped the 100-catch mark four straight times as Peyton Manning's prime target.

He came full circle Saturday.

"I worked extremely hard to get to this point," said the Colts' first-round draft choice in 1996. "I played my first NFL game right on this very field."

Harrison made eight Pro Bowls, was a three-time All-Pro, and missed only 18 games in 13 NFL seasons.

"He was this quiet, unassuming guy," Colts owner Jim Irsay in presenting Harrison for induction. "He was a wolf in sheep's clothing. Marvin's greatness is earned as well as natural."

Pace was the blocking cornerstone of the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf that won the 1999 NFL title. The top overall draft pick in 1997, he helped turn running back Marshall Faulk and quarterback Kurt Warner into NFL MVPs.

Like Harrison, he had memories of the Canton shrine, too, recalling visiting the hall when he was 13.

"This occasion marks the fulfilment of each and every goal I have had," Pace said of his athletic career. "This became my first goal, and here I am 27 years later standing in Canton, Ohio, accepting this incredible honor.

"My goal has always been to be the very best I can be ... not simply in football but in life. My name in the Hall of Fame will stand as a lasting reminder. When you set your goal to be the very best, there is no other path."

Always a showman who also spent some time as a professional wrestler, Greene usually found the path to quarterbacks. His 160 career sacks are third most in NFL history. In 15 pro seasons for four franchises, Greene played linebacker and defensive end with an unmitigated spirit.

"The best a football player can do is exhaust his passion, go out on his terms, and on the way having fun kicking people's butts with his brothers," Greene said.

In Greene's time with the Rams, Steelers, 49ers and Panthers he missed just a dozen games, and 10 times finished with at least 10 sacks, including 12 with Carolina at age 37.

"I am standing on the stage with the best ever," he said, Terrible Towels waving in the crowd, Steelers fans cheering when he mentioned Blitzburgh. "This is pretty cool."

Greene, whose father and brother served combat missions, drew a standing ovation from his fellow gold jackets and from the fans when he concluded by saluting the armed services.

Nicknamed "Snake" for his elusiveness on and off the field, Stabler helped the Raiders win their first Super Bowl and make it to four other conference championship games in a five-year span. One of the first great left-handed pro QBs, Stabler, who died last year, was elected by the seniors committee.

He was known for some of the biggest plays in Raiders history, including his intentional fumble forward in the closing seconds of a game against San Diego in 1978 that led to a touchdown -- the "Holy Roller" play -- and to a rule change.

He was presented via video by Hall of Fame coach John Madden.

"Whatever the thing was, that focus, concentration, competiveness, he could just step up a notch when you needed it," Madden said.

Stanfel, who died last year at age 87, also was a seniors committee selection. He helped the Detroit Lions win the NFL title in 1952 and '53. He earned All-Pro honors five times in his seven-season career, four years with Detroit and three with Washington, before retiring at 31 and going into coaching.

"I think he is the guard of the century," said his presenter, Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy.

DeBartolo's 49ers became the first franchise to win five Super Bowls. He was known as much for his compassion and care for people throughout his organization as for building a winning football team.

"I could be the only inductee of this great hall who didn't make his high school football team," he said. "To share this stage with these gentlemen is more than humbling. We may be wearing the same jackets, but they have shoes I could never fill."

The 69-year-old DeBartolo, who owned shopping malls, was embroiled in the corruption case against former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards and suspended by the NFL for the 1999 season after being found guilty of failing to report a bribe, a felony. After the suspension, DeBartolo gave control of the team to his sister.

Darren Sproles can still help Eagles as long as Doug Pederson doesn't get carried away

Darren Sproles can still help Eagles as long as Doug Pederson doesn't get carried away

You probably know the reasons why it didn’t make sense to bring Darren Sproles back like they did on Friday evening. He’s too old. The team needs to get younger. They can’t rely on him to stay healthy. 

How’s this for one reason the Eagles were right to bring him back? 

He can help. 

Yeah, I know Sproles is 36. I know he’s played just nine regular-season games in the last two years. I know he had a minor hamstring injury that turned out to be a not-so-minor hamstring injury last year. 

I also know that the Eagles are better today than they were yesterday. Because as long as Doug Pederson doesn’t get carried way, Sproles can still help the Eagles in 2019. 

That is a key point, though. During his three years as head coach, we’ve seen Pederson at times rely on Sproles a little more than he probably should. If he does that this time around, it might not help. But if the Eagles can settle Sproles into a role where he’s a punt returner and a change-of-pace guy on offense (primarily as a pass-catching threat), this can definitely work. 

Pederson loves Sproles. He hasn’t tried to hide that. At the owners meetings this offseason, when asked about Sproles and the possibility of a return for one more season, Pederson said openly, “I would love to have Darren back.” 

Now that it has happened, it’s up to Pederson to not run his favorite veteran Swiss Army knife into the ground. 

And because the Eagles will enter this season with a former Pro Bowler in Jordan Howard, a second-round pick in Miles Sanders and a Super Bowl hero in Corey Clement also on the roster, it should suppress the temptation to over-play Sproles. 

Sproles will be the Eagles’ punt returner. He can play on third downs. He can be used as a utility-type receiver hybrid on offense. 

I’m thinking somewhere in the range of 8-10 touches max per game is about right.  

Nick Foles got an overwhelming amount of credit for helping the Eagles push their way into the playoffs last season, but Sproles deserves a ton of credit, too. After many had written him off when his severe hamstring injury lingered, Sproles came back in early December and gave the Eagles a spark that helped propel them into the postseason. 

In the last five regular-season games last year, Sproles had 110 rushing yards, 138 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns. 

The Eagles were 5-1 with him in the regular season (4-1 down the stretch) in 2018 and 6-2 overall. 

And without him, they probably don’t win that Dec. 23 game at home against the Texans. In that one, Sproles became the oldest Eagle ever to have over 100 yards from scrimmage in a game. 

Sproles comes into this season just 162 all-purpose yards behind Tim Brown for fifth in NFL history. If he can stay healthy, he should have no problem easily overtaking Brown in 2019. 

And he might just help the Eagles make another run in the process. 

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More on the Eagles

Will Zach Ertz be a Hall of Famer?

Will Zach Ertz be a Hall of Famer?

Zach Ertz is the latest in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL

Friday, July 19: Fletcher Cox
Today: Zach Ertz
Sunday, July 21: DeSean Jackson
Monday, July 22: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: Has 437 catches for 4,827 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first six seasons.

Postseason numbers: Caught 31 passes for 316 yards and two TDs in six career playoff games, including the game-winning touchdown catch in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots.

Honors: Ertz made his first two Pro Bowls in 2017 and 2018.

Favorite stat: Ertz is the only player in Super Bowl history to catch a fourth-down pass on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive.

Records and rankings 

• Ertz set an NFL record in 2018 with 116 catches, breaking the mark of 110 set in 2012 by Jason Witten.

• Ertz’s 437 receptions are most in NFL history by a tight end in his first six seasons. He broke the record of 434 set from 2010 through 2016 by Jimmy Graham.

• Ertz’s 116 catches broke the Eagles single-season record of 90 set in 2007 by Brian Westbrook.

• Ertz already ranks third in Eagles history in receptions, behind only Harold Carmichael (589) and Pete Retzlaff (452).

• He doesn’t turn 29 until November, but Ertz already ranks 31st in NFL history in career receptions by a tight end. He’s only 153 out of the top 10. At his current rate — 5.8 catches per game since becoming a full-time starter in 2015 — that’s only 26 games away.

Analysis 

Maybe it’s silly to project Ertz as a Hall of Famer before his 29th birthday, but if he can stay healthy and keep stringing together the type of seasons he has been, it’s going to happen.

Since becoming a full-time starter four years ago, Ertz has averaged 86 catches, 914 yards and 5 ½ touchdowns.

If he keeps up that pace for six more years and plays until he’s 34, which most top tight ends are able to do, he’ll have 953 catches, 10,311 yards and 62 TDs after the 2024 season.

Not to mention a game-winning late fourth-quarter TD catch in a Super Bowl.

If he does that, nobody is going to keep him out of Canton.

Verdict: Will be a Hall of Famer.

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