A Pro Football Hall of Famer’s prestige is often what makes up an NFL legend. Meaning a player’s legacy is often defined by election to join the ranks of the league’s best in history. This exclusive group of talented icons celebrate the careers of the privileged few. But there are quite a few unsung heroes still not in Canton, and former Los Angeles Rams center Rich Saul comes to mind as a “Hall of Fame snub.”
The Center Snub
The center position in its entirety is snubbed, not only from the Hall of Fame, but the NFL itself. To put things into perspective, there have only been a total of eight Hall of Fame centers in the modern day NFL. The last center to be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame was Mick Tingelhoff in the Class of 2015. It’s not just Saul as a player, but the center position not being as widely celebrated as it should be.
Saul possessed the accolades necessary to enter Canton, Ohio. He made six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1976-1981) and was named to five All-Pro first and second teams in his career. Saul achieved these accolades by understanding the motions of the game.
A Deeper Look
Centers possess a gift for snapping and reacting in one motion. Saul left no motion underutilized and planned on where to drive oncoming defenders immediately after snapping the football. The frustrating aspect of Saul’s game was his quick reflexes. His power often drove defenders to the turf and anyone daring enough to rush the middle was met with his fundamental blocking.
Technique is often what Saul preached, and his fellow celebrated linemen proved the importance of a cohesive offensive line. Much of the 1970s Rams success rode on the shoulder pads of the offensive line. Guys like Dennis Harrah, Tom Mack, Doug France and even Jackie Slater all benefited from Saul’s mentorship.
The real issue with Saul’s absence from the Hall of Fame stems from a stat-driven system. Offensive linemen have the challenge of not producing well-known stats. The few that are provided, such as pancakes, are more for tackles and guards. This is an era where fans gamble on the stats of players, and fantasy football generally does not factor the offensive line at all.
Stats are great and will always be apart of the game, but players like Saul will never receive the recognition they deserved. Stats don’t tell the entire story, and Saul is proof of that that. Guys like Lawrence McCutcheon and Vince Ferragamo truly benefited from his services, and it’s disappointing that the NFL has failed to recognize his efforts.
Sadly, Saul won’t ever be able to embrace his Hall of Fame moment, because he passed away from Leukemia in 2012. That doesn’t mean the NFL can’t honor him at some point. A lineman this valuable to his team and community deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.