By Tim Graham
When debating the merits of athletes and whether or not they belong in the Hall of Fame, a common rejoinder for the doubter is "He belongs in the Hall of Very Good."
Reggie Jackson didn't use that exact phrase, but people sure were thinking it while reading his recent comments to Sports Illustrated about Jim Rice, Kirby Puckett, Gary Carter, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Bert Blyleven being players from his era unworthy of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In football, there's a place where those not-quite legends are honored.
The Professional Football Researchers Association in 2002 started the Hall of Very Good for "outstanding players and coaches who are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
If one of their honorees ends up in Canton, then he will be decommissioned from the Hall of Very Good with an asterisk. That's happened to running back Floyd Little, receiver Bob Hayes, linebacker Chris Hanburger and St. Bonaventure defensive back Jack Butler.
Buffalo Bills head coach Lou Saban and defensive tackle Tom Sestak are in the Hall of Very Good.
Also among them are quarterbacks Ken Anderson, John Brodie and John Hadl, receivers Cliff Branch, Harold Carmichael and Harold Jackson, guard Jerry Kramer, flanker and kicker Gino Cappelletti, defensive ends Carl Eller and Jim Marshall, defensive tackle Alex Karras, linebackers Randy Gradishar and Andy Russell and head coach Don Coryell.
The PFRA recently released its finalists for this year's class. Two more Buffalo stars could get in: quarterback Jack Kemp and lineman Swede Youngstrom from the All-Americans and Bisons of the 1920s.
Other notables of this year's finalists include defensive end L.C. Greenwood, safety Kenny Easley and cornerback Lester Hayes.
Some may consider the Hall of Very Good to be a silly idea, but I think it's pretty cool. The PFRA is honoring those on the cusp while also advocating, through its research, the ones who might have been overlooked. It's fun and functional.
This year, the PFRA committee also began to advocate for the best seniors from its Hall of Very Good to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: two-way end Lavvie Dilweg, tackle Duke Slater, receiver Mac Speedie and tackle Al Wistert.