This is the second part of a four part series looking at which NFL Players should be put in the Hall of Fame.
The recent Hall of Fame log jam that has emerged in the wide receiver position over the past few years has been well publicized by football experts and pundits. Evaluating receivers’ careers in this aerial era will make for some of the toughest Hall of Fame ballots to cast. What is the difference between Tim Brown and Henry Ellard? Torry Holt and Rod Smith? The combinations and questions are endless. This is why I must go to an earlier generation to find a remarkable receiver who stood above the rest of his peers he played with yet was overlooked in Canton– a victim of the position and era he played in. No, we are not talking about every stat analyst’s darling snub and Cleveland Brown Mac Speedie. We give you another lesser known Cleveland footballer.
Jim Benton was an offensive end from 1938-1947 who played the majority of his career for the Cleveland Rams (yes, you read that correctly). His combination of speed and size (6’4″) made him a prime target for single-wing tailbacks and t-formation quarterbacks. When casual fans look at his statistics, however, they may think that Benton was just another run-of-the-mill Eddie Kennison. What one must take into effect is that Benton’s career took place during a time when the NFL was playing 10-12 game schedules and the play calling was much more run-first. He consistently finished in the top three in catches, yards, and touchdowns throughout his career. The only person from this era who put up better numbers than Jim Benton was Don Hutson. And nobody from any era put up monster games like Benton. Benton was the first receiver to post a 300 yard game, gaining 303 yards on ten catches in a 1945 Thanksgiving game against the Lions. Nobody gained that amount of yards until fellow Ram Flipper Anderson did so almost 50 years later. He also added a 200 yard game as well as a game in which he hauled in 8 consecutive pass attempts for three touchdowns. His 1945 campaign was his best season. He gained over 1000 yards in only nine games played. When Benton retired after the 1947 season, he was second in career yards to Hutson. He led the league in every offensive category at least once in his nine year career. These stats and figures present a strong case supporting Benton’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
One more thing: he left Cleveland to form a super team in Chicago with Sid Luckman in 1943. After winning the championship that year he returned to Cleveland and eventually won a championship in 1945.
Innuendos aside, give Jim Benton a bust in Canton.