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tk13
02-05-2005, 03:11 AM
Today's the day!....

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascitystar/sports/10821676.htm

Foes believe Thomas is Hall of Famer

Opponents say former Kansas City linebacker left his mark as one of the game's best

By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star


The overwhelming temptation is to judge candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame by their numbers.

Even by that narrow definition, former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas belongs. He had 126½ sacks, 10th best in NFL history, before his career ended with his tragic death five years ago.

That's more than all except one Hall of Famer, Lawrence Taylor. Thomas finished six sacks behind Taylor, another prodigious pass rushing linebacker.

Statistics tell only part of Thomas' story. The rest is best told by those who had to play or coach against him.

“He had such an impact on the game just by his presence on the field,” former NFL quarterback Warren Moon said. “There were only a few of those guys I played against. One was Reggie White. One was Bruce Smith. One was Lawrence Taylor. And one was Derrick Thomas. When you played against those guys, that's when your offensive-line coach really had to be on top of what he was doing.

“Then, when you look at the numbers relative to Lawrence Taylor's, it's obvious that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

Whether Thomas makes the Hall of Fame on his first try will be decided today when voters convene in Jacksonville, Fla. He is one of 15 finalists. A minimum of three, and a maximum of six will be selected.

Thomas figures to be the subject of some heated debate because his credentials are not simple to dissect. He was certainly not a complete player but one who was usually soft against the run.

Hall of Famers are supposed to play their best in big games. Thomas was benched in the biggest of his career. Coach Marty Schottenheimer was forced to remove Thomas from the 1993 AFC championship game in Buffalo when the Bills attacked Thomas relentlessly and successfully with their running game.

Yet Thomas had one tremendous, often awesome skill that made him rare. His ability to pressure the quarterback with his incredible explosion at the snap allowed Thomas to dominate games from the defensive side.

Few defensive players, Hall of Famers or not, had that kind of control.

“It was quite obvious that everything teams did against us was designed to make sure that Derrick Thomas didn't beat them,” Schottenheimer said. “I never coached a defensive player that had the kind of effect on an opponent that he did. The things people had to do to try to contain him, they show a tremendous respect in and of itself.

“I've never had a guy that opponents had to design their game plan around controlling him. I've had some great players but nobody else you could say that about.”

Teams prepare a game plan each week keeping in mind the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent in hopes of exploiting favorable matchups and eliminating unfavorable ones.

That process was complicated tremendously when teams were to face Thomas' Chiefs.

“Coaching against him, he was one of those guys who started out your game plan for you,” said Jim Hanifan, who coached the offensive lines for Washington and St. Louis during Thomas' career. “The first thing you would say is, ‘OK, how are we going to handle him?' He was that tremendous of a force. He would come off the ball just screaming and could see and feel your weakness and then exploit that.

“He was a total headache. I really dreaded those times. If you didn't have that great offensive tackle, you didn't have what you needed against him. You'd really have to scheme and make sure everything was right.”

Thomas occasionally ran across that great offensive tackle, one who could deal with his uncommon quickness. One was Willie Roaf, once with New Orleans and now with the Chiefs.

Roaf held Thomas without a sack during a 1994 game and allowed him one in a 1997 meeting. As a left tackle, Roaf usually plays against an opponent's best pass rusher.

“When you're talking about playing against the run, I'm not going to say that was his forte,” Roaf said. “But he might have been the best pass rusher to ever play the game. I played against Reggie White, Bruce Smith and guys like that. They were bigger defensive-end types, and they were a totally different style of player. They were stronger against the run. As far as pass rushers, they weren't in Derrick's category. He was the best I ever played against.

“I knew if I could get my hands on him and make sure he stayed square to the line of scrimmage, I could contain him because I'm pretty quick, too. But that was hard to do. Once he was able to get his shoulders turned, he could get around the corner faster than you'd know it. He was gone.”

When he was on, Thomas was almost unblockable. His seven-sack game in 1990 against Seattle is an NFL record. His six-sack game in 1998 against Oakland is next on the list.

“He would get on a roll and when he did, he was almost unstoppable,” said Tom Flores, who coached Seattle against the Chiefs in the early 1990s. “He just kept coming and coming. He went at a different speed than everybody else. There were very few pass-rushing linebackers in his category.

“Giving him that short corner was the worst thing you could do. If he was on the open side of the formation, you had to chip on him, slide the line that way, roll away from him. He was such a force on passing downs, and you had to acknowledge him or you were crazy.

“What we always tried to do was to make sure we'd run at him. That way, if you could get a body on him, you could handle him. We'd always try to beat him up a little bit early in the game to try to slow him down.”

Even when Thomas wasn't dominating, his mere presence hovered.

“I always had that clock in my head when I played against Derrick,” Moon said. “I knew I couldn't hold the ball for too long. He might get blocked and still run around the blocker and make the play. He was relentless. He wasn't going to give up until the ball was thrown.”

The Hall of Fame mandates a five-year waiting period from the end of a player's career to the time he can be considered a candidate for induction. This not only eliminates most emotional considerations, but also provides ample time for his accomplishments to settle over time.

The NFL has seen some impressive sack totals in the five years since Thomas' death. Michael Strahan of the Giants had a league-record 22½ in 2001. He is creeping up on Thomas on the all-time list and needs nine to pass Thomas.

Otherwise, the league is still searching for the premier pass rusher who stands out among the rest, as Thomas did. Younger players like Jevon Kearse of Philadelphia and Dwight Freeney of Indianapolis have their moments, but neither has yet shown they are quite like Thomas.

They may never get there.

“Dwight Freeney is the only guy around today with the ability to change a game from a defensive position like Derrick could,” Roaf said. “I've seen him be disruptive. But I've never seen him just take over a game like Derrick did.”

ZootedGranny
02-05-2005, 03:21 AM
“Dwight Freeney is the only guy around today with the ability to change a game from a defensive position like Derrick could,” Roaf said. “I've seen him be disruptive. But I've never seen him just take over a game like Derrick did.”

Roaf hasn't seen Freeney take over a game because he's usually busy dominating him. Ogden looked completely lost against Freeney, while Roaf has basically erased him the past 2 times we've played the Colts.

Back on topic, I really hope Derrick makes it this year, as next year is yet another tough class. Should he be voted in this year, I don't care if I have to sleep in a car, I'm going to Canton.

Fire Me Boy!
02-05-2005, 03:29 AM
Good article. I just remember the time (or times?) he called the safety in the end zone... so sweet. Like the Babe calling his homerun hit.

HemiEd
02-05-2005, 06:32 AM
Gave me Chills reading this and reliving some of those moments, nice article sure hope he makes it today.

htismaqe
02-05-2005, 06:37 AM
Here's the deal:

I agree with the people out there saying Derrick wasn't a complete LB, the people that are saying he was somewhat of a liability against the run.

BUT IS THAT THE CRITERIA?

Not in my opinion.

The is only one crtierion for being in the HoF:

Did you IMPACT the game? Did you force your opponent to account for you at all times?

That's why Derrick Thomas should be a HoF -- not tomorrow, TODAY.

JazzzLovr
02-05-2005, 07:06 AM
Should he be voted in this year, I don't care if I have to sleep in a car, I'm going to Canton.

Ditto!!!

Herzig
02-05-2005, 07:18 AM
Back on topic, I really hope Derrick makes it this year, as next year is yet another tough class. Should he be voted in this year, I don't care if I have to sleep in a car, I'm going to Canton.

I will make that trip too. Derrick was a great Chief...in fact in the 90's...he was THE Chief. He was the single most important player in helping to pull the Chiefs out of the oblivion that was the 80's.

Deberg_1990
02-05-2005, 07:47 AM
He was the single most important player in helping to pull the Chiefs out of the oblivion that was the 80's.

Exactly. You could make an argument that he was the one player who saved/rebuilt this franchise to what it is today. Another reason why he should be a HOF'er.

DTLB58
02-05-2005, 09:09 AM
I think we can break the record for most fans showing up for a players induction ceremony if D.T. gets in. It would be great to see thousands of red #58's in Canton that day. :thumb:

stevieray
02-05-2005, 09:15 AM
Should he be voted in this year, I don't care if I have to sleep in a car, I'm going to Canton.

Damn straight. I'll be there.

The Red Death
02-05-2005, 09:21 AM
I've only been to two Chiefs games in person. One was Derrick's 6-sack game against Oakland. I'm so grateful that I was able to see DT at his best before his death. Naturally, I'd love to see the NFL honor him and put him into the HOF today. But the greatest tribute the Chiefs could make to him now is to build a dominating defense for this year.

mississippichiefan
02-05-2005, 09:36 AM
I am also an Alabama fan and Derrick was just as great a force there . I still remember hoping so much that the Chiefs would draft him because I knew he would turn our defense around . I will always have great memories of him because he is the only player who was my favorite Tide player and Chief player .
He not only got sacks but caused many fumbles , I am not sure how many but they need to include those when talking of his hall of fame stats . I went to Canton this summer and will have to go back if he makes it . Go Chiefs !!!!!

Nzoner
02-05-2005, 09:48 AM
Damn straight. I'll be there.

Roadtrip!!

Nzoner
02-05-2005, 10:20 AM
Roadtrip!!

Hopefully next year.