Ray's Replies: Does Bergey belong in HOF?

Ray's Replies: Does Bergey belong in HOF?
January 25, 2013, 9:00 am
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Q. The 1960 NFL championship game was the first game that I watched on a snowy TV in a very crowded, smoky bar in Fairmount with my grandfather and uncle. I have heard you say you were actually at the game.

I am still an Eagles fan but I must say the NFL and the Eagles have lost their luster for me. Maybe it is the players and their attitudes. Maybe it is (Jeff) Lurie. Maybe it is losing four NFC Championship games. Maybe it is all of the above. I have stopped going to the games. Things change.

I have a question for you. Does No. 66 (Bill Bergey) belong in the Hall of Fame? I know his career was short, but he did dominate the middle for the time he played here. Obviously, that would not include 1979 when he was injured and he was not the same player in ’80. What do you think?

-Mike Graveley

A. If the question is “Does Bill Bergey belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?” my answer is yes. If the question is “Will he ever be voted into the Hall?” my answer is “Doubtful.” It is unfortunate but I’m afraid it is the truth.

Bergey retired after the 1980 season -- his final game was Super Bowl XV -- so he has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for more than 20 years. He has never made it to the final ballot (15 candidates plus two seniors), which indicates he does not have a lot of support among the Hall of Fame voters.

Why? Mike says Bergey’s career was short but that’s not really true. He played 12 seasons -- five with Cincinnati, seven with the Eagles -- and that’s a pretty long career for a middle linebacker. He played as long as Mike Singletary and longer than either Jack Lambert (11 seasons) or Dick Butkus (nine).

I think the real problem was that Bergey played his best football for teams that weren’t very good. He was at his peak with the Eagles in the mid-70s (he was All-Pro four times), but his supporting cast on defense was lousy. By the time Dick Vermeil rebuilt the team, Bergey was in his 30s and playing on a bad knee. As a result, he was overlooked.

But at his best, Bergey was as good as any middle linebacker in the game. He was 6-3 and 250 pounds, but he had the quickness and agility of a much smaller man. He was a thunderous hitter, who once knocked two Pittsburgh quarterbacks (Terry Bradshaw and Terry Hanratty) out of the same game. The game was played in Pittsburgh and Bergey needed a police escort to walk to the team bus afterwards.

Dallas coach Tom Landry was not known for effusive praise but after watching Bergey record 18 tackles in one game against his team, Landry said: “It seemed like there were six of him out there.” I’m sure other coaches had the same feeling.

Harry Carson of the New York Giants was a very good linebacker but, in my opinion, Bergey was better. Carson was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. I’m not saying he does not belong -- I think he does -- but if Harry Carson is in the Hall of Fame, Bill Bergey deserves to be there, too.

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