Does Lynn Swann, Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania and retired wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, deserve to be in the pro football Hall of Fame? When hearing this question for the first time, I imagine that most fans of professional football will probably say yes. The first thing that will probably come to their minds are the endlessly repeated replays of two or three spectacular catches he made during a Super Bowl game. However, a player's worthiness for inclusion in the Hall of Fame should not be based upon two or three spectacular catches. If that was the case, then journeyman wide receiver Joe Jurevicius
would be a lock for the Hall considering his remarkable Monday Night Football reception against the Eagles three years ago. Few doubt that catch was one of the ten most spectacular of all-time, but I also seriously doubt that anyone will argue that Joe Jurevicius deserves to be included in the Hall of Fame upon his eventual retirement from the NFL. Also, in his nine years in the NFL, Jurevicius has been on three Super Bowl teams, including the championship Tampa Bay team. That total is only one short of Lynn Swann's four Super Bowls in nine years, yet once again I don't imagine that there will be a major outcry for Jurevicius to be in the Hall upon his retirement.
But this post isn't about Jurevicius. I don't think he should be in the Hall of Fame. No one thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame. This post is instead about the remarkably low career statistics of Lynn Swann, who is in the Hall of Fame. In fact, he is one of only 17 modern-era wide receivers in the pro football Hall of Fame
. that places him in some pretty elite company, despite the fact that he is not in the top fifty, or even close, in any major receiving statistic in NFL history
How low are Swann's rankings? Take a look at the wide receiver page on Pro Football Reference
and you might be surprised:
- His 5,462 receiving yards place him 149th on the all-time list, behind even six tight-ends and five running backs.
- His 51 career receiving touchdowns put him in a three-way tie for 75th all time with Tony Hill and Del Shofner.
- His 336 career receptions place him in a three-way tie for 225th on the all-time list. In fact, thirty-four running backs have more career receptions than Lynn Swann, and Dave Megget has just as many. Further, 30 tight ends have more career receptions than Lynn Swann, and Charlie Sanders has just as many.
225th, 149th, and 75th? That is good enough to place someone in the top seventeen receivers of all-time? Not even close. These statistics are not even good enough to put someone in consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Some might counter that Swann did only play for a short period of time (nine years), and the NFL has become a lot more pass-oriented since he retired. However, a look at how Swann ranked among his contemporaries
shows that his statistics were not even very good for his time period:
- Swann never finished in the top five among receptions in any of his nine seasons in the NFL, and only finished in the top ten twice. He finished seventh in 1977 and 1978.
- Swann only finished in the top five among receiving yards in the NFL once in his nine seasons, when he finished fourth in 1977. He only finished in the top ten three of his nine seasons, coming in 8th in 1975, and 7th in 1978.
- Swann only finished in the top ten among receiving touchdowns in the NFL three times in his nine seasons. He finished in a tie for sixth in 1977, came in second in 1978, and tied for first in 1975.
Even for the era in which he played and for the short length of his career, Lynn Swann's statistics are very thin. Heck, he only made the Pro Bowl three times in his nine-year career. Those were the same three seasons when some or all of his statistics nosed into the top ten in the league. This means that in reality, he only had three good seasons, but even then he was never the best receiver in the league in any of those three seasons. Three good seasons without ever being the best shouldn't get someone within a country mile of the Hall of Fame.
Yet further, for his entire career he was on the same team as Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth. In fact, the two came into the league in the same year, 1974, but Stallworth has better career statistics than Swann in every single category
. Also, Swann played his entire career with Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, who is among the top twenty all-time in every major statistical category for running backs. In other words, Swann couldn't even get free to rack up big yardage when opposing defenses had at least two other main threats to focus on.
What is the point of all this, you may ask? Why, for the love of God, is Chris Bowers writing about sports statistics on a politics blog? The point is simple. Lynn Swann is basing his campaign for Governor in Pennsylvania largely on the fact that he is in the Hall of Fame. However, the statistical record shows quite clearly that he does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. He was eventually inducted in 2001, thirteen years after he was first eligible, largely because the Hall of Fame voters, like the rest of America, had been endlessly subjected to watching replays of two or three of his most spectacular catches. Eventually, after the clarity of memory on his at slightly above average (at best) NFL career faded, the image of Swann as a spectacular receiver was built up in the collective football mind of the country by the sports media and NFL films. Even though Swann already boosts a shockingly thin resume to become Governor of the sixth largest state in the country, even that resume is thinner than it appears. He really wasn't all that great of a football player. He wasn't Jerry Rice--he wasn't even one-quarter of Jerry Rice. He wasn't Art Monk, not even close. Hell, he wasn'tChris Buford
, and let me know the next time Chris Buford is up for a Hall of Fame vote. In fact, he wasn't even close to as good as Wes Chandler
, who played at almost exactly the same time stretch as Swann, and who will never make it into the Hall.
Lynn Swann should not be in the Hall of Fame. The only reason he made it into the Hall in the first place is because of the false national consciousness about his career generated by the endless repetition of two or three catches he made. . It isn't surprising how much this is reminiscent of Republican candidates in general. Not only do they not have much in the way of policy to back up the image generated for them in the media, even their images don't have any substance to them. In much the same way that Bush never used his ranch for anything besides image, Lynn Swann's career statistics are, in the end, catastrophically average.