The NFL Network recently posted a list of the top ten players not in the Hall of Fame. Steve Tasker was listed as number 9 on the list. 2009 finalists Bob Hayes, Derrick Thomas, and Cris Carter are also on that list and Carter and possibly Thomas will be elected this year. So if the official network of the NFL thinks Tasker is worthy, how could he be left off of the list of finalists once again?
I've been posting the career accomplishments of the Buffalo Bills 2009 Hall of Fame Finalists and asking you to vote on their potential for enshrinement in 2009: Founder and Owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., receiver Andre Reed, and defensive end exemplar Bruce Smith. Does Tasker, the consensus best non-kicker Special Teams artist ever, belong in the Hall of Fame? Let's delve deeper into his candidacy even though he can't be elected this year.
When I think of Steve Tasker I think of many different things. I remember how he was kicked out of his last NFL game for bumping an official. I was at the Ralph when he went up on the Wall of Fame. I see him in commericals and on TV as a great analyst. But to me, he exemplifies what it means to be a team player. He showcases Buffalo's blue-collar mentality where hard work is rewarded.
Despite a diminutive stature by NFL standards (5'9", 183 lb), Tasker gained a reputation as one of the league's most feared hitters as he covered both punt and kickoff returns as a gunner, forcing numerous fumbles by opposing return men. Contributing to his success in breaking up kick returns was his great speed; Tasker was almost always the first player to reach the return man, gaining an advantage of several seconds for his team. He was the first player to establish himself as a major star almost exclusively through special teams play without being either a kicker or a return man. Tasker played in seven Pro Bowls (1987 and 1990-1995) as a special-teams selection and was named the game's MVP in 1993. He was a five time All-Pro selection from 1991-1995 as a special teams player. Many, including former teammate and Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly, consider him to be the greatest special teams player of all time and believe that he should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tasker's major career highlight, truly a special teamer's dream, was when Tasker earned the Dan McGuire Trophy as the 1993 Pro Bowl's most valuable player for making four tackles, forcing a fumble and blocking a field goal. His block came at a crucial point with just 8 minutes left and the game tied at 13. Los Angeles Raiders Terry McDaniel scooped up the ball and raced 28 yards to give the AFC a 20-13 lead. The AFC squad would go on to win in overtime, 23-20.
Special Teamers in the Hall of Fame
The hardest part about quantifying Tasker's candidacy is comparing him to other players. You just can't do it. He doesn't have the same number of tackles as a defensive player. He is literally in a class by himself (one of my arguments for his enshrinement). Only one purely special teams player is currently in the Hall of Fame; Norwegian placekicker Jan Stenerud. (Other kickers are in but played other positions such as QB.) Some people use the cliche that Special Teams is a third of a football game. We know Marv Levy valued it in this conversation with ESPN's Tim Graham.
"Seeing Jim and Thurman, and hopefully Bruce, Ralph and Andre and maybe more ... I think Steve Tasker is deserving, too, by the way. He's voted the best special-teams player that ever played the game, and that's one-third of the game. He should go in.
Here is what Sports Illustrated writer and Hall of Fame voter Peter King has to say about Tasker while discussing who lost out on not being named a finalist this year :
No surprise he didn't make the finals. Just sad. We have to realize sometime that special teams is a major part of the game (not a third, the way some people say, but a significant fifth), and Tasker was the best ever to play them.
They may disagree on how important special teams is but they agree on the player in question. King also says punter Ray Guy should have been on the finalist list, another special teams player of repute. Back in 2007, King was asked to pick his All-Time Dream NFL Team, position by position. He included Tasker on his team at a position called "Special Team Player". Just a spot for Tasker, that's all he wants on his team. Here's what he had to say about Tasker:
His old special-teams coach, Bruce DeHaven, once made up a tape for me to watch, with 10 plays Tasker made that either won games or turned games Buffalo's way.
As much as many of us want him in the Hall, there is obviously a faction out there that doesn’t. Take Hall of Fame writer and Hall voter John Clayton of ESPN. No seriously, take him somewhere. He says Tasker doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. "How can you put Tasker in when a guy like Derrick Thomas isn't?" Clayton asked in a conversation with ESPN.com’s AFC East blogger, Tim Graham.
I do not disagree with that question. Obviously Derrick Thomas was a dominant force in the game but wasn't Tasker equally as dominant? at his position Didn't teams have to gameplan against the Bills' special teams gunner? To use Clayton's words against himself, "People make the argument that a player was the best at his position." I measure a person's Hall worthiness by his dominance in the game, his ability compared to other people who played his position, and the amount of energy expended by other teams to stop him. You can't argue that Tasker fits that mold. Clayton may argue on his merits compared to position players but Tasker was a game changer at the highest level and should be in based on that.
What do you think? Does Steve Tasker deserve a spot in Canton? Vote in the poll now.