Breakdowns

The Case for LeSean McCoy’s Hall of Fame Candidacy

Examining LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame Candidacy

LeSean McCoy had all of the same dreams growing up as every other football-loving kid. The difference is most of his dreams eventually became reality.

“Sometimes when I’m home relaxing and looking at my kids, it’s crazy,” said the six-time Pro Bowl running back, who announced his retirement last week after signing a one-year contract with the team that drafted him Philadelphia Eagles.

“When I was their age, I would dream about playing on TV, being on Monday Night Football, buying my mom and dad a big house and cars, winning a rushing title, signing a big deal with Nike. All of those things came true. I completed my dreams.”

Well, not quite. There’s still one childhood dream that the 33-year-old McCoy hasn’t realized yet: making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Now that he has called it quits, McCoy will become eligible for Hall consideration in 2025. Given his numbers over his 12-year career, he would seem to have an excellent shot at having a bronze bust in Canton at some point.

He is the league’s 22nd all-time leading rusher (11,102 yards)  and is 26th in yards from scrimmage (15,000). He’s tied for 37th in combined rushing and receiving touchdowns with 89.

McCoy spent six years with the Eagles. He’s the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and owns several other club records, including the single-season rushing record (1,607 in 2013 when he won the league rushing title), most yards from scrimmage in a season (2,146 in 2013) and most rushing touchdowns in a season (17 in 2011).

In one of the dumbest trades in Eagles history, Chip Kelly sent him to the Buffalo Bills after the 2014 season for linebacker Kiko Alsono and a box of crackers.

McCoy spent four years with the Bills. He had two more 1,100-yard rushing seasons, which gave him five in 10 years to go with the six Pro Bowls and two first-team All Pro selections. He spent the last two years collecting Super Bowl rings as a backup and mentor for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Bucs.

I covered McCoy during his six seasons with the Eagles. I’m also a longtime Hall of Fame selector. Talent-wise, there is no question the Harrisburg, Pa., native is Hall of Fame-worthy.

Vic Carucci has covered pro football for five decades, including McCoy’s four seasons with the Bills for the Buffalo News. He too is one of the Hall’s 48 selectors. He also thinks McCoy is Canton-worthy.

“I think he’s a Hall of Famer,” said Carucci, who co-hosts a show on SiriusXM NFL Radio and has authored 10 books on football. “I think he meets the criteria both in terms of production – the tangible numbers – and he passes the eye test.”

I saw the best of McCoy in Philadelphia. The coltish years. Age 21 to 26. The first 1,761 touches of his NFL career when his legs were fresh and he lived up to his cut-on-a-dime twitter handle.

I saw him catch 78 passes in 2010, his second pro season, the most by any NFL running back that year.

I saw him rush for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011 and lead the league with 85 rushing first downs.

I saw him lug the ball 300-plus times in back-to-back seasons for Kelly in 2013 and 2014. Put up a league-best 1,607 yards the first year and 1,319 the second before Kelly decided to get rid of him, perhaps because he thought he had squeezed the best out of him and there was nothing left.

Those back-to-back 300-carry seasons definitely took a lot out of McCoy. Probably cost him another productive year or two at the end of his career, which would have made the Hall of Fame question moot.

Still, he went up to Buffalo and had two 1,000-yard seasons in four years. Had his last great year in 2017 at the age of 29, rushing for 1,138 yards and catching 77 passes. He had 1,586 yards from scrimmage, the fifth time in his career that he had 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage.

“Although he was in the latter stages of his career when he came to Buffalo, he still was a dynamic game-changer,” Carucci said. “You still considered him, either the best player on the field or one of the best.

“For a team that, at the time, didn’t have a franchise quarterback, that had a lot of holes in other places, LeSean was the big-time element to the team.

“I think, if anything, what he did in Buffalo reinforced what he did in Philadelphia. It reinforced that he was the real deal.

“I’ve spoken to the linemen who blocked for him. People like Eric Wood and Richie Incognito. They will tell you how smart and instinctive he was. He had all of the technical qualities you need to see in a running back besides just pure running ability and the whole cut-on-a-dime thing.”

The Hall of Fame question with McCoy probably isn’t if as much as it is when. There are five players with more career rushing yards than McCoy that are not yet in the Hall of Fame – Frank Gore (3rd  with 16,000), Adrian Peterson (5th with 14,820), Corey Dillon (17th with 11,241), Steven Jackson (18th with 11,438) and Fred Taylor (20th with 11, 695).

The are five players with more career yards from scrimmage than McCoy not in Canton – Gore (4th with 19,985), Peterson (11th with 17,286), Tiki Barber (15th with 15,632), Warrick Dunn (20th with 15,306) and Jackson (23rd with 15,121).

And there are five running backs with more rushing and receiving touchdowns – Peterson (124), Shaun Alexander (112), Gore (99), Marshawn Lynch (94) and Ricky Watters (91).

The only players ahead of McCoy on all three of those lists are Gore and Peterson. The two currently aren’t on an NFL roster, but have not yet announced their retirement. They likely will become eligible for the Hall with McCoy in 2025, or, in the unlikely event they sign with someone this season, 2026.

LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame Candidacy

Both Peterson and Gore probably will be voted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, though only five modern-era players can be voted into Canton in a single year and we don’t exactly know what the landscape is going to look like at other positions in five years.

In the past, the selectors have been wary of putting multiple players at one position in the Hall in the same year.

Since 1990, 16 running backs have been voted into the Hall of Fame. Only once did two go in in the same year. That was 2017 when LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis were voted in along with quarterback Kurt Warner, defensive end Jason Taylor and kicker Morten Andersen.

In the four years since Tomlinson and Davis made the Hall, just one running back has gotten in. That was Edgerrin James in 2020. No running back even was one of the 15 modern-era finalists last year. And just two – Taylor and Ricky Watters – were even semifinalists (final 25).

In my mind, McCoy is the most Canton-deserving running back after Peterson and Gore. He was a two-time first-team All Pro, which is two more times than Gore, Dillon, Taylor and Jackson.

He was a six-time Pro Bowler. Gore, who played 16 seasons, made it five times. Dillon made it four, Jackson three and Taylor just once.

He led the league in rushing, which is something Gore, Dillon, Taylor and Jackson never did.

“History tells us he could have to wait in line behind a few others who might be seen as having more immediate Hall of Fame credentials,” Carucci said. “But I don’t think there’s any significant gap between him and the presumed backs that could go in sooner.

 “Yes, the competition at the position is intense, as it is at some other spots. And that could work against him. But in terms of his Hall qualifications, there is no doubt in my mind that LeSean’s got it; that he’s got what it takes in every way to be in Canton.”

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