February 12, 2012

Kenny Easley Should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Hundreds of men have played for the Seattle Seahawks since the franchise's birth in 1976, but there are only four career Hawks who are worthy of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Two have already gotten in (Largent, Kennedy), and one will have a bust in Canton once he becomes eligible (Jones). The fourth member of this quartet may have to wait a while, but Kenny Easley is richly deserving of the immortality that comes along with a place in the Hall of Fame.

The biggest problem? Outside of the Twelve Army, Easley has already, sadly, been forgotten. When I wore his throwback jersey to a game at Indianapolis back in 2009, many drunken Fat Humps asked me "Who's Easley?" For those of you who might be too young to remember Easley, or if you just need a quick refresher on his exploits, check this out:



I was lucky enough to witness his career, and there's never been a more intimidating figure in team history (nope, not even Tez). Easley was a sure tackler, a ferocious hitter, and an elite ball-hawk. If you want the model for the upper limit of Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor's careers, it's Kenny Easley. You have to be a historic, next-level bad-ass to pose for a poster like this and NOT look ridiculous (yes, I had this on my wall growing up in the Tri-Cities):


Easley was the first defensive superstar for a Seattle team that was known (if they were known at all) for offensive fireworks and special teams trickery. The 1st-round pick was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1981, and then AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1983. Easley's career peaked in 1984, when he led a dominant Seattle defense with 10 interceptions and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In all, Easley was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was honored as a 1st-team All-Pro four times. Most importantly, he was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1980s. According to Pro Football Reference, Easley had a career similar to those of Hall of Famers Deion Sanders, Mike Haynes and Paul Krause, and future inductee Troy Polamalu.

Unfortunately, before the 1988 season Easley and the Seahawks had a spectacularly messy divorce. The team traded him to the Phoenix Cardinals for Kelly Stouffer (ugh), but the trade was voided when Easley failed a physical, which revealed he had a severely damaged kidney. Easley then sued the team, arguing that high doses of ibuprofen were responsible for his kidney damage. A financial settlement was eventually reached, but reconciliation between the Seahawks and Easley didn't come until after Paul Allen bought the team in 1997. In 2002 he was added to the Seahawks Ring of Honor, and in 2005 he raised the 12th Man Flag:



So why isn't this man in the Hall of Fame? He played in South Alaska for the Seahawks, and his 7-year career was relatively brief. There is little we can do about the first problem except hope a Seattle Super Bowl run makes Easley retroactively more appealing to Hall of Fame voters (Like what happened with Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson in 2010). Easley's brief career isn't (or at least it SHOULDN'T be) a barrier to his induction- Hall of Famers like Earl Campbell, Gayle Sayers, Dwight Stephenson, and Doak Walker also had relatively brief runs in the NFL. Easley's best chance to get in probably lies with increased success/national relevance for the Seahawks, followed by induction via the Seniors Committee (which considers players from the pre-1987 era). Given Easley's continuing health problems, hopefully this honor comes while he is still around to enjoy it.

What do you think, sirs? Do you have memories of Easley to share?

5 comments:

Jonathan Dalar said...

Agree 100%! I proudly wear my #45, and I'd put his play up against anyone's at the position. That's what the Hall of Fame is for: great players for whom the opposition feared, respected, and either game planned for or paid the consequences.

siouxwa said...

I've been beating this drum for years. Their entertaining Terrell Davis in HOF conversations but not Easley? What a load of crap!

neurocell said...

Hey, Johnny. My timing for this article couldn't have been worse. I moved to Vancouver, WA on the 10th, I've been going to a trade school for more than six hours a day, and studying about three a day since the 13th, so since I didn't have internet until today, I haven't been able to visit your always, incredible site.

I agree with most of what you say (I think that Jacob Green and Dave Brown should also be in the HoF). Only Lawrence Taylor inspired as much fear as Easley. Not more than, but only as much fear. Around 2000, I saw Mr. Ed (AKA, John Elway) answering whom was the best player that he'd ever played against. With out missing a beat, he said Easley. He was then asked the best player on offense, and he said none were better than Easley, offense or defense.

With all the crap Easley faced with the Nordstroms, my mom wrote him a letter letting him know how much our family supported him. Kenny Easley sent an autographed picture and note stating his thanks. I still have both, along with his Enforcer poster, to this day.

When Dieon Sanders won Defensive player of the year, it was a popularity contest. When Kenny Easley won, it was because everyone was afraid of what he might've done if he hadn't gotten the award.

Easley played with a dislocated shoulder AND a broken hand for most of 1984. He knocked a Denver receiver out of the game, stood over him, intimidating the hell out of him, when suddenly Easley fell to the ground in pain because he just realized that he'd re-dislocated his shoulder again. Easley missed one play.

The best example of how tough Easley was came after he retired. Paul Moyer was playing free safety('88 or '89 I think) when he took a shot to the nuts, and got back up. Moyer played the rest of the game, went to the doctor, had half of one testicle removed, 3/4 of the other removed because he'
d ruptured both of them. Moyer played the next week. When asked how he could do that, Moyer replied that he didn't want Kenny Easley to think that he was wimpy.

The MAN needs to be in the Hall of Fame.

Mr Posh said...

Love Easley. One of my all time fave Hawk players.

Please join my Facebook Group Kenny Easley for the HOF

https://www.facebook.com/groups/kennyeasleyHOF/

J Post said...

Kenny Easley is my all-time favorite UCLA Bruin player. He was incredible in college. I naturally followed him in the pros, and even though I was a Rams fan at that time, I rooted for the Seahawks. That's how much I admired Kenny Easley. Just an incredible football player, both at the collegiate and Pro levels. Kenny Easley is a Hall of Famer. Period. Hopefully, he will be inducted soon.