Long-time, former Indianapolis Colts quarterback played his last down of football earlier this year as a member of the NFC Pro Bowl squad. One of the most iconic images was when the coaching staffs and NFL officials allowed Saturday to play one final snap with former Colts teammate and now Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. It was long whispered since then that Saturday would sign a one-day contract with Indianapolis to retire as a Colt. As of this writing, the first step in that process has finally occurred – Saturday was released by the Packers. It should only be a matter of timing now for him to re-join owner Jim Irsay to make his retirement in the Horseshoe official.
With the ending of a stellar (and somewhat unexpected – Saturday was undrafted out of North Carolina in 1998) career, now we look to his accomplishments and wonder: Is he Hall worthy? If you were to ask any Colts fan this question, the answer would seem obvious: Absolutely. But I’ll try to take that innate fan-ness out of the equation here. And by doing so, one thing is fairly obvious: Saturday as a tough road to travel if he’s going to get the Hall call.
First things first. As a position, center is one of the most difficult to get elected. Of the 280 Hall of Fame members, only 7 centers have been elected from the modern era (12 total including 2-way players pre-modern era). That means that only 2.5% of the Hall of Fame is represented by modern-era centers. Those men are (year elected): Jim Otto (1980), Jim Ringo (1981), Frank Gatski (1985), Jim Langer (1987), Mike Webster (1997), Dwight Stephenson (1998), and Dermontti Dawson (2005).
Then you get into the career achievements. These seven men averaged 7.6 Pro Bowls/AFL All-Star teams (high is Jim Otto, 13 combined), 6.4 All-Pro Teams (Ditto Otto with 13), and 1.6 championships (AFL, NFL, and/or Super Bowl – Mike Webster has the high with 4). All but two of the men were elected to their respective All-Decades Team (representing every decade from 1960 to 1990 – Frank Gatski and Jim Otto the ones without), and all but two played side-by-side – or maybe, more appropriately, butt-to-face – with a Hall of Fame quarterback.
So how does Saturday stack up against history? Well, we know he will have played with a Hall of Fame quarterback in Manning, so you can check that box off. He also helped the Colts win Super Bowl XLVI. He was elected to 6 Pro-Bowl teams, which is just one below the average. That might not hurt his chances too badly though, as 3 of the 7 previously elected centers have 6 or fewer Pro-Bowl berths. However, one black mark is the number of All-Pro teams. Saturday only has 2, far less than the average. Another issue is that Saturday was never elected to the 2000s All-Decade team – that honor went to Kevin Mawae and Olin Kreutz.
That leads us to the other issue, and probably the biggest obstacle in my opinion. Any time I write a piece on the Hall chances for a particular player, I try to stress that basing that player’s stats against another player from a different era is not as important as comparing that to his contemporaries. Kevin Mawae has 8 Pro Bowls and 8 all-Pros to his name, though he didn’t play with a HOF quarterback and never won a championship. The same goes for Kreutz – no HOF quarterback or championships, but he was named to 6 Pro Bowls and 4 All-Pros. Therefore, if I were a betting man and had to pick on center from this era to be named to the Hall, it would be Mawae, though begrudgingly.
None of this is to demean Saturday’s career or impact on the Colts success while he was on the team. He is by far one of the most respected and beloved players of the Colts Indianapolis era (and was named the 6th Greatest Indy Colt by me in the pre-season). He will almost surely be placed in the team’s Ring of Honor and may even have a shot at having his number retired.
Congratulations on a great career Jeff, and thank you for all you’ve done for this team and this community. But when it comes to your Hall potential, it doesn’t look very good. Sorry.
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