NFL: please don’t forget Bacon and Presnell

Published 1:35 am Monday, February 4, 2013

When the NFL announced its newest Hall of Fame members on Saturday, it included two players who were considered “old timers.”

Those “old timers” were from the 1960s and 1970s era, not exactly ancient history. But when the voting process is conducted by today’s young writers and committee members, they have very little knowledge of players from time periods other than right now.

It is because of these generation gaps that players like Coy Bacon and Glenn Presnell have little chance of making the Hall of Fame.

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Bacon has impressive numbers that rival today’s players. Although quarterback sacks didn’t become an official NFL statistic until 1982, Bacon’s numbers aren’t posted with the likes of today’s defensive linemen.

But Bacon had more than 130 sacks in his career. He had what would have been an NFL record 26 sacks in 1976, but the NFL later reduced that to 21.5 sacks. Hmmm. It wasn’t important to scrutinize his sacks until the New York Jets’ Mark Gastineau set the record with 22.

And while Bacon’s sack total was shrunk by questions of “did he really wrap his arms around the quarterback and bring him down,” New York Giants’ Michael Strahan broke the NFL record when Green Bay’s Brett Favre fell down in front of him on what was going to be a possible sack.

Bacon was a three-time All-Pro. In the year he led the league in sacks, he was voted second team All-Pro by four media agencies. John Dutton of the Baltimore Colts was voted first team but only by the Associated Press. No other media agency recognized Dutton.

Even at the end of his career, Bacon set the Washington Redskins’ record with sacks in 1978 and then got 11 more two years later.

Bill “Tiger” Johnson — who died just two years ago — played in the NFL for nine years and coached another 23. He was around the league for 50 years and was well respected. He once told me that the two greatest pass rushers he ever saw were, number one, Baltimore’s Gino Marchetti, and, number two, Coy Bacon.

Former Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive lineman and current radio color analyst Dave Lapham said Bacon “was the best pass rusher I ever saw. He always gained ground…never wasted any steps. He had a very nimble body for a guy his size.”

Presnell — who grew up in Nebraska — should be in the Hall of Fame as well. At the University of Nebraska, Presnell led the nation in rushing his senior year and out-rushed Red Grange head-to-head as the Cornhuskers beat Illinois 14-0. He was named an All-American.

Presnell came to Ironton to play for the semi-pro Ironton Tanks and led the team to a pair of huge upsets in 1930 when the Tanks beat both the New York Giants and Chicago Bears of the NFL.

After the Tanks folded following the 1930 season, Presnell played for the Portsmouth Spartans from 1931-33. The team was sold and moved to Detroit where it became the Lions and Presnell played there from 1934-36.

It was Presnell who actually picked out the team colors that they still use today. But Presnell made his real name on the field on both sides of the ball. He played in an era when players went both ways.

Dutch Clark of the Lions was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he always told people that Presnell was the key player on the team and that he belonged in the Hall of Fame.

It was Presnell and Clark who led the Lions to their first NFL title in 1935. Presnell led the league in total offense in 1933 and set a league scoring record with 64 points. He was named first team All-NFL.

An outstanding kicker as well, Presnell booted a 54-yard field goal in 1934 that stood as a league record for 19 years.

These are two very deserving men. Unfortunately, they are both dead and there is no one who is around to champion their cause.

So NFL Old-Timers’ Committee, please listen and look real close at the careers of these two great players.

Their time to be recognized hasn’t finally come. It’s past due.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.