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Photo courtesy Dallas Morning News Dallas receiver Drew Pearson makes his controversial game-winning catch of quarterback Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary” pass in the 1975 NFL playoffs against Minnesota at Metropolitan Stadium. Pearson is considered the top Cowboys player not yet in the NFL Hall of Fame.

NFL: Who are the best not in the Hall?

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Sports Illustrated’s Boomer Esiason unveils the five most underrated players going into the 2014 NFL season.

CineSport LLC Pro Football HOF: Bottleneck frustrates worthy candidates When seven pro football greats have their legendary status verified this weekend at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, many other former stars will smile during the ceremony.

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But that smile may only be hiding a grimace on gnashing of teeth.

For each former great who is inducted, there are hundreds of their peers who believe they, too, should honored with a yellow coat and bronze bust in Canton.

And some of them are right.

The Sports Xchange polled its network of writers covering each team, asking for the most deserving eligible player from that franchise who is not yet in the Hall of Fame, not counting this weekend’s inductees — linebacker Derrick Brooks, defensive lineman Claude Humphrey, wide receiver Andre Reed, defensive back Aeneas Williams, punter Ray guy, offensive lineman Walter Jones and defensive lineman Michael Strahan.

As we sorted through the responses, there seemed to be a lot of names missing that belonged on those responses. After 22 years on the Hall of Selection Committee and now a member of the Seniors selection committee, we have heard the most deserving names many, many times. But with a maximum intake of seven a year, the waiting list grows.

While reporters for some teams admit they have no eligible, potential candidates worthy of consideration — such as veteran reporter John McClain, whose 12-year old Houston Texans have only one prospect in wide receiver Andre Johnson and he is still playing — other teams are griping about numerous players they believe are being overlooked.

Chief among them just happens to be the Oakland Raiders, whose selection committee representative is writing this with a smile that is hiding a grimace and gnashing teeth.

This selector is barraged by complaints year-round about several Raiders prospects who fans, coaches and former teammates believe are overdue. Currently at the head of the Raiders gripe list is wide receiver Tim Brown, a finalist for the last several years who certainly seems due.

With punter Ray Guy finally selected in this year’s class, the glut of overqualified Raiders still on the Seniors list includes quarterback Ken Stabler, whose play on and off the field was identical to easily-selected New York Jet and fellow Alabama good-old boy Joe Namath; wide receiver Cliff Branch, who averaged 25-yards a catch in 1976, the season the Raiders won Super Bowl XI and whose playoff receiving yards are topped only by Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin; and cornerback Lester Hayes, whose 1980 season and postseason included 18 interceptions as the Raiders became first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl, and then teamed with Michael Haynes to dominate the Washington Redskins receivers in Super Bowl XVIII.

And they are responsible for only half the Raider complaints. The loudest and most consistent are for former quarterback, assistant coach and head coach Tom Flores, and quarterback Jim Plunkett. Together they won two Super Bowls (XV and XVIII).

OK, that is admittedly opportunistic and straight forward venting of pent up frustrations in an attempt to stop gnashing of teeth.

Here is a look at the team by team nominees by TSX network writers who cover each NFL team. These nominees do not necessarily reflect the opinion of TSX’s senior football staff, but they are interesting (listed by team, alphabetically):

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Defensive back/running back Marshall Goldberg

His time with the team was interrupted by two years of service during WW II. A member of the 1947 championship team. He played both ways and had career rushing totals of 1,644 yards on 476 carries.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Linebacker Tommy Nobis, the original Falcon, has been before the committee countless times. It’s one of the stains on the football shrine in Canton.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—There isn’t a deserving and retired eligible player for the Hall of Fame from the Ravens since the induction of Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden last summer.

BUFFALO BILLS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—There has long been an argument made for Steve Tasker, who is widely considered one of the greatest special teams players of all time. However, the voters are having a difficult time trying to quantify a special teams player’s true value to the team. He has made it to the preliminary list, but has never been named a finalist and likely never will.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Kevin Greene. The former linebacker/defensive end has been close, but despite making the final 15 during the selection process the last three years, he is still on the outside looking in. Greene, who spent three of his 15 seasons with the Panthers, is the only player among the top four in all-time sacks not in the Hall of Fame.

CHICAGO BEARS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Jay Hilgenberg. A Pro Bowl center for seven straight years, he led the line that consistently opened the way for Walter Payton. During Payton’s career he never played on a team with a Pro Bowl lineman, but Hilgenberg had the longevity that left tackle Jimbo Covert lacked with 11 years in the league. He did it all as an undrafted free agent.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—It’s been more than 25 years since quarterback Ken Anderson retired, so it’s up to the Hall of Fame senior committee now. Anderson was repeatedly passed over by the voters despite numbers that stack up comparably with most HOF QBs. Anderson threw for 32,828 yards and 197 touchdowns and had a completion percentage of 59.3 and a passer rating of 81.9. He led the league in passing yards twice, passing yards per attempt twice, completion percentage three times and passer rating four times.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Clay Matthews, the original. Matthews was a first-round draft pick in 1978 and played with the Browns through 1993. He was an iron horse, played injured and holds the franchise record (232) for games played and sacks (76.5). He was a team leader and never took a day off in practice. Young players watched him and knew they could not slack off.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Drew Pearson was the man who made the No. 88 famous in Dallas before Michael Irvin and before Dez Bryant. He was the dominant receiver on the great Cowboys teams of the 70s and 80s with quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Danny White.

He was named to three Pro Bowls and was a member of the NFL all-decade team of the 1970s. He appeared in three Super Bowls. And while many say his numbers were subpar during a running era consider that his numbers are better than Steelers great Lynn Swann, who was inducted in 2001.

DENVER BRONCOS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Safety John Lynch. The four-time All-Pro provided the thunder from the secondary for the Buccaneers’ stellar defenses of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and then moved on to Denver and went to four of his nine career Pro Bowls. Lynch and Bailey made the Broncos’ secondary one of the league’s best from 2004-07.

DETROIT LIONS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—The late Alex Karras is deserving of election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and his fate will remain in the hands of the Seniors committee until he makes it. The great Lions defensive tackle from 1958 to 1970 (though he was suspended in 1963) was a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro. Karras was also named to the All-Decade team of the 1960s.

Karras died in 2012, but it’s never too late to give him a posthumous honor.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Guard Jerry Kramer. The pleas and petitions have been circulating for years, but still no bust of Kramer in the hallowed wing at Canton. It’s about the only honor that has eluded the 78-year-old. An 11-year career in Green Bay as the rock of an offensive line that led Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor through big holes yielded All-Pro recognition five times and five NFL titles. Kramer’s value on those star-laden Lombardi Era teams is embodied by his selection to the league’s All-Decade (1960s) and 50th Anniversary teams.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

— None.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Offensive tackle Tony Boselli. Boselli was the first-ever college draft choice of Jacksonville in 1995 and after seven years of playing for the Jaguars, he became the first member of the Jaguars franchise to be honored in The Pride of the Jaguars in 2006. Five times in his seven seasons with the Jaguars, Boselli was named to the Pro Bowl. He allowed only 15.5 sacks in seven seasons and was named second team on the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1990s. A shoulder injury curtailed Boselli’s career and limited him to the seven seasons with the Jaguars.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—There are several players that should be considered, but at the top of the list would be safety Johnny Robinson and wide receiver Otis Taylor. Both have received serious consideration within the seniors voting committee in recent seasons and may still breakthrough for discussion in front of the entire board of selectors. After two seasons at running back, Robinson switched to defense and was one of the AFL’s best safeties, grabbing 57 interceptions in 12 seasons playing the defense’s backline. Taylor was the best receiver in the final seasons of the AFL and after the merger with the NFL he led the combined leagues in receiving in the 1971 season. His career numbers of 410 catches for 7,306 yards pale in comparison to today’s receiving numbers, but in his era Taylor was one of the league’s best receivers.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Safety Jake Scott. A five-time All-Pro selection who earned Super Bowl VII MVP honors, Scott played for Miami (1970-76) and Washington (1977-78). Scott, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Super Bowl champion, had 49 interceptions in 126 games and was on the 1972 Perfect Season team.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Mick Tingelhoff. The center who started all four of the team’s Super Bowl appearances has been close to getting a nomination from the Hall’s Seniors Committee in recent years. Tingelhoff played 17 years and never missed a game in 240 opportunities. He also was a five-time first-team All-Pro.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Most deserving retired and eligible player:

— Receiver, kicker Gino Cappelletti was one of the true stars and best all-around player in the AFL, winning the league’s MVP award in 1964. The receiver and kicker led the AFL in scoring five times and was a five time all-star. Cappelletti was one just three players to play in every game in the AFL’s 10-year history. Cappelletti’s 1,130 points rank second in Patriots history. He was a true dual weapon who went on to coach and broadcast for the organization.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Kicker Morten Andersen. A six-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team AP All-Pro in 13 seasons with the Saints, Andersen is the NFL’s all-time leader in points (2,544), field goals (565) and games played (382). Andersen, a Hall of Fame semifinalist in his first year of eligibility in 2013 and a finalist in ‘14, is the Saints all-time scoring leader with 1,318 points.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Quarterback Phil Simms might not hold the Giants passing records any more thanks to Eli Manning, but when one considers how Simms, in his early days, often didn’t have the weapons or the protection that Manning has mostly enjoyed in his career, that makes Simms’ contributions all the more special.

NEW YORK JETS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

— None. The closest thing the Jets have to a Hall of Fame candidate among their eligible candidates is quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who ranks amongst the NFL’s all-time top 10 in passing yards, touchdowns, completions, attempts and comebacks. Of course, that’s largely a byproduct of playing 21 seasons, remarkable feat, to be sure, but one that is not Canton-worthy.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Wide receiver Tim Brown deserves to go in next year. And the seniors committee should get in three more former Raider greats — quarterback Ken Stabler, wide receiver Cliff Branch and cornerback Lester Hayes.

Brown is fifth all-time with 1,094 receptions, sixth in all-time receiving yards with 14,934 yards and tied for seventh with 100 touchdowns. A Heisman Trophy winner out of Notre Dame, Brown was the 6th player taken in 1988, Brown broke Gale Sayers’ record for most total yardage by a rookie — 2,317 yards.

From 1993 until 2002, He AVERAGED 87 catches and 1,191 yards a season.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Wide receiver Harold Carmichael. He is no longer is eligible as a modern-era candidate, but is a deserving veterans-committee candidate. Harold’s size — he was 6-foot-8 — made him a nightmare to cover. He was one of the game’s best red zone receivers during his 14 years in the league. Made four Pro Bowls. Caught 79 touchdown passes. Should be in Canton.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Most Deserving Retired and Eligible:

—Running back Jerome Bettis retired as the fifth-leading NFL rusher of all time with 13,662 yards. Playing his entire 13-year career over 250 pounds, he is by far the most productive big-back in NFL history. Late in his career, he was often used in short-yardage situations and at the goalline, which limited his yards per carry during that time and lowered his overall average to just under 4.0. He inspired the Steelers to their 2005 Super Bowl run, which they wound up winning in his hometown of Detroit. He had seasons in which he rushed for 1,431 yards, 1,665 and 1,341. While he never won an NFL rushing title, he remained consistent throughout his career and along with Franco Harris the best and most dependable backs in Pittsburgh history.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Wide receiver Henry Ellard. His final season with the Rams was the year before Isaac Bruce arrived in 1994, and Bruce began wearing his No. 80. But, it’s often forgotten the impressive numbers Ellard accumulated. His 13,777 receiving yards still rank 10th all-time even though he retired after the 1998 season. He totaled 814 catches and most impressive is that he averaged 16.9 yards per reception.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Quarterback John Hadl. Maybe Hadl’s biggest sin was playing the bulk of his career in the American Football League instead of the NFL. He’s among the former AFL stars which has seemingly been overlooked with being considered for the Hall of Fame. Hadl was a six-time All-Star and lead the league in passing three seasons. He threw for more than 3,000 yards in three seasons and eclipsed 300 yards in 16 games — those aren’t gaudy numbers now, but back when Hadl played in the 1960s there were exceptional. He finished with 2,363 completions, 33,503 passing yards and 244 passing touchdowns. He led the Chargers to their only league title — the 1963 AFL crown — and was the 1971 NFL Man of the Year.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Defensive lineman Bryant Young. He spent all 14 years of his career in San Francisco and was a solid, dependable pro and the staple of 49ers defensive lines. He never played fewer than 13 games a season and remained productive despite switching from a 4-3 interior lineman to an end in a 3-4. Young played in four Pro Bowls, was a first-team all-pro once (1996) and won a Super Bowl with the 1994 team as a rookie. He and Dana Stubblefield anchored a defensive unit that ranked sixth in scoring. But more so than the accolades, Young was one of the most respected players on the team both on and off the field.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Safety Kenny Easley maybe didn’t play long enough to make it to the Hall of Fame. But while he did play, he was about as Hall of Fame as it gets, as he was the leader of what was an underrated Seattle defense during the mid’80s when the team was a perennial playoff contender under Chuck Knox. Easley was the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1984 when he led the league with 10 interceptions. He was a Pro Bowl Starter four times in his seven-year career. But he couldn’t add to that total as injuries ended his career at the age of 28.

TAMPA BAY BUCANNEERS

Most deserving retired and eligible player:

—Safety John Lynch was among 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl player and among the hardest hitters at his position in the history of football.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—Running back Eddie George. Most feel that George’s stats of just over 10,000 yards (all-time franchise leader) are actually a little short of Hall of Fame worthiness. And while that may be true, as time goes on with the running back position being devalued, George’s career totals might look more appealing in years to come, much like Bert Blyleven’s 287 wins finally got him into Cooperstown after the pool of 300-game winners began to dry

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Most deserving retired and eligible:

—A case can certainly be made for left tackle Joe Jacoby, who was equally important to the Hogs of the 1980s as Hall of Fame left guard Russ Grimm. Feisty cornerback Pat Fischer, steady center Len Hauss and workhorse running back Larry Brown also deserve serious consideration — how is Floyd Little in Canton and he’s not?

However, the pick here is the late Jerry Smith, the tight end whose statistics measure up nicely to those of Dave Casper, Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Charlie Sanders and Jackie Smith, all fellow tight ends of his era. Smith, whose numbers were limited during the second half of his career by coach George Allen’s conservative nature, made the Modern Era Preliminary List just twice and has appeared just once the Seniors Committee Preliminary List. One can’t help but wonder if Smith’s 1986 death from AIDS has been held against him all these years.

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