This past weekend, eight people were selected into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame. The six that were inducted as players were Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Kevin Greene, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel.
Every time I watch one of these ceremonies I can’t help but get frustrated that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. It’s well past time to put the greatest special teams player of all-time in the Hall of Fame. Why haven’t the sportswriters across America voted him into Canton yet?
First you must understand the process of how players are selected and by whom.
The Selection Process
According to ProFootballHOF.com, there is a 46 person committee in charge of voting in players. This 46 person committee is made up of a media representative from each teams home city, one member of Pro Football Writers of America and thirteen at large delegates.
The committee generally nominates four to eight people each year. Inductees need 80 percent approval from the committee which means 37 of the 46 members is the minimum. Vic Carucci is the Buffalo representative. The rest of the selection committee can be found laid out nicely in a table on ProFootballHOF.com.
Now that we have an idea of who is selecting these players let’s take a look at the case for Steve Tasker.
If you ran into Steve Tasker on the street and you didn’t know who he has, you might have a hard time believing he was a former NFL player. At 5’9″ and 183 pounds you would certainly conclude his chances of having a Hall of Fame career would be pretty small.
His path to the NFL wasn’t surrounded by hype either. He was taken in the 9th round of the 1985 draft by the Houston Oilers. He played at Northwestern University in college and not some big name school in Texas or Florida. The Bills even acquired him via waivers, not through free agency, a trade, or a draft pick.
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He carved out a niche for himself with the Bills on special teams as a “gunner”. A gunner’s job is to sprint down the field and try to be the first man to make a hit on a returner trying to catch the ball.
Despite his diminutive stature, he was feared by many and carried a reputation for being a very hard hitter which is evidenced by the many fumbles that he caused over his career. In total on special teams he had 204 tackles and seven blocked punts in 195 games according to BuffaloSportsHallOfFame.com.
On special teams he contributed as more than just an gunner, he also returned punts and kickoffs. His 20.7 yard kickoff return average in his career comes with 910 yards on 44 returns. His last three seasons with the team are when he returned punts getting 335 yards on 32 returns for a 10.5 career average.
Tasker’s career receiving stats don’t even amount to what an elite receiver would get in about 10-12 games in today’s NFL. He had 51 career receptions for 779 yards and nine touchdowns. Even though these stats don’t jump off the radar here are two numbers buried within those stats that will show you his impact.
First he had 779 yards on 51 receptions which averages out to a very good 15.3 yards per catch. Sammy Watkins career average so far is just about a yard above that to put it in context. The other number to be aware of is 9 touchdowns on just 51 receptions. That means an astonishing 17.6% of his catches went for touchdowns. He made the plays when it mattered most for the team and that’s why Marv Levy knew that Tasker was one of his best players.
As a player he had a number of accolades. He made six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1990-1995 and made seven overall in his career. In 1993 he won the MVP of the Pro Bowl and remains the only special teams player ever to do so. That was also the first year the Pro Bowl ever went to overtime.
In that game Tasker had four tackles, one forced fumble and a blocked kick which occurred with eight minutes left which was returned for a touchdown by Terry McDaniel to put the AFC up by a touchdown.
In 1995 he was voted the NFL Alumni Special Teams Player of the Year. He was on the team when they went to four straight Super Bowls from 1990-1993. He was voted by the fans to the Buffalo Bills 50th anniversary team. His contributions to the organization were recognized at the highest level when he was the 24th player to be selected for the Bills Wall of Fame in 2007.
Many Reporters Biased Against Special Teams
Special teams players rarely get the praise they deserve from the fans or sportswriters but its a huge part of the game. This is evidenced by the fact that Tasker is the only one ever to win the MVP of the Pro Bowl and that only two other predominately special teams players have made the Hall of Fame in kicker Jan Stenerud and punter Ray Guy. There are two other kickers in Canton but they played other positions as well.
NFL Network seems to concur that he should have his name etched in football immortality in Ohio. He was listed number nine on their list of best players not in the Hall of Fame. If you watch the video in that link you can see the media bias towards special teams.
The closest Tasker ever came to making it was when he was a semifinalist for the 2012 class but ultimately Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf, Curtis Martin, Chris Doleman, Dermontti Dawson and Jack Butler were selected and not Tasker.
Others Waiting Too
Tasker is just as deserving as many of those players who were recognized with the best the NFL has ever seen, because as a gunner he was the best the league has ever seen.
There are some other great players who are currently awaiting their chances to be enshrined in Canton too. They include but are not limited to Alan Faneca, Terrell Owens, Terrell Davis and LaDainian Tomlinson who will be eligible for the first time next year.
Will Tasker Ever Make the Hall?
It’s a tough question because right now offensive statistics are increasing and so more players are going to have career stats that look better than players currently in the Hall of Fame. With the obvious media bias towards non-special teams players, these guys are going to get the priority over Tasker by an overwhelming amount of the voters.
What Tasker needs is one, or a few of the voters, to stand up and pound the table making the case for him. He needs someone familiar with the effect that Steve Tasker had on the teams he played for and convince the naysayers that just because he primarily played special teams that he is still deserving of being recognized with the other legends of the league.
While it’s not his job to do it, that guy could be Vic Carucci. Who else would be better to rally the rest of the selection committee around Steve Tasker and his case to be immortalized with the best in Canton, Ohio.
It doesn’t matter who does it though, because it’s time to put Tasker in the Hall of Fame and there is no reason to wait any longer than to do it in the next class selected in 2017.
What are your thoughts Bills fans? Do you think Steve Tasker belongs in the Hall of Fame with the other greats of the NFL?