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Why is Lynn Swann in the Hall of Fame?

April 4, 2009 - Chris Masse

I guess if you played for the Steelers in the 70s you are almost assured of being in the Hall of Fame. It sure seems that way when a player like Lynn Swann has one of those coveted busts in Canton, Ohio.

Don't get me wrong, Swann was a very good player. But this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Good. What did Swann do that warrants him earning that distinction of being labeled as one of the all-time great receivers?

Think about this: Swann never topped 1,000 yards receiving. He never even topped 900. He never had more than 61 catches in a season and topped 50 just twice. Twice! Swann's numbers are so pedestrian that he averaged 37 catches for 607 yards and six touchdowns per season. And he's in the Hall of Fame? Are you kidding me. Why don't they just let former Buccaneers legend Mark Carrier in while they are at it? Don't know who Mark Carrier was? Thanks for proving my point because he averagd 10 more catches and 123 more yards per season than Swann did.

I've heard Swann defenders like Peter King try to defend their choice by saying he was a dominant receiver in the 70s. Uh, no. If he was dominant his name would be all over the leaderboards throughout those seasons. But only twice did Swann finish among the top 10 in receptions during his career and those finishes both were seventh. He only finished among the top 10 in yards three times, only once in the top five and never higher than fourth. He also only finished among the top 10 receivers in touchdown catches twice and never higher than fifth. Wow, that's really dominant. Sigh...And Swann was so respected by his peers that he was a Pro Bowler a whopping three times. Swann played nine seasons and in four out of those nine he had fewer than 35 catches and twice he had fewer than 20. So how exactly was this guy a dominant player at his position? Answer, he wasn't.

One thing I will give Swann credit for is playing well in some big games, specifically the super bowl, something another vastly overrated receiver, Marvin Harrison, never does. Swann was Super Bowl X MVP when he caught four passes for 161 yards and clinched the game with a long touchdown reception. He was great against Dallas in the super bowl three years later, catching 7 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. A year later he had five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in a 31-19 super bowl win over the Rams.

So unlike Harrison, Swann was great in THE biggest game. However, there is a perception out there that Swann always was money in the playoffs. Not the case. In fact, those two super bowls against Dallas were the only two times in 16 playoff games that Swann topped 100 yards. In seven playoff games Swann had fewer than 50 receiving yards and only once did he have more than five catches...kind of sounds more like his regular-season production there.

Here's where Swann ranks all-time in some major receiving categories: 89th in touchdowns, 181st in receptions, 130th in yards per catch and 160th in yards per game. There's nothing Hall of Fame-worthy about that.

Granted, Swann didn't play his whole career with the sissy pass coverage rules they have today so it's not like he had a chance to have 100-catch seasons. But the bottom line is the guy wasn't even a top 10 receiver during his playing days and still couldn't crack 900 yards after the pass coverage rules were loosened in the receivers' advantage prior to the 1978 season. Peter King, among others, used to argue against Art Monk and say that wasn't a dominant receiver in his era...even though he consistently was among the top 10 in receiving categories and broke the single-season receptions record with 106 in 1984...and yet they voted for Swann. Huh? That makes no sense.

And neither does Lynn Swann being included in the Hall of Fame.




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