All I can say is: it’s about damn time.
Right before the coin toss in yesterday’s boring-for-58-minutes Super Bowl, the announcer in the stadium introduced the 2012 class of NFL Hall of Famers. I had no idea before this weekend that the NFL picks between 4-7 guys every year regardless. I figured it was something akin to baseball, where they could have as few as 1 or 2. Primed with that knowledge, I finally understood why this year was so important for Tez. In 2011, he was confronted with massive names like Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, and Richard Dent. These are all huge stars that NFL fans the world over know and admire! And in 2013, you’ve got guys like Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Michael Strahan, Steve McNair, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, and Morten Andersen all eligible for induction. In following years, more guys like Walter Jones and Orlando Pace figure to be first-ballot guys.
In 2012, however, the best Tez had to contend with were guys like Curtis Martin, Chris Carter (who didn’t make it, which is ridiculous), and Kevin Greene (who also didn’t make it, in spite of being 3rd on the all-time sacks list). I would argue that Cortez Kennedy is the best of the 2012 class by FAR, though I respect what Chris Doleman was able to do with the Vikings all those years.
Curtis Martin, on the other hand, shows just how low they’re placing that bar for running backs. Might it get dropped down just a tad more for Shaun Alexander?
Anyway, getting back. Right before the coin toss, they introduced the 2012 Hall of Fame class. And, far and away, Curtis Martin got the most cheers (which I guess is understandable, since he played for New England and was a member of the Jets for so many years). I was kind of put off by the tepid applause for Tez, but that just goes to show what happens when you play your entire career in Seattle. You don’t get the respect you deserve, that’s for damn sure!
He played the right defensive tackle position and was certainly the greatest who ever played. Other defensive tackles might have more sacks – which ultimately seem to be the indicator of success, which is foolish to say the least – but Cortez Kennedy was the best all-around defensive tackle ever. He’s the player younger guys should look to for how to play the position.
Granted, Tez got his sacks – 58 in an 11-year career fighting through constant double and triple teams – but he was SO much more than that. In an era where running the ball was king, Cortez Kennedy was a force to be reckoned with. Other teams had to game-plan around what Tez brought to the table in the middle of the line. They had to dedicate time and man-power towards trying to remove one single element of our defense. And even when they tried, they STILL failed!
Our Seahawks defenses his first three seasons were all in the Top 10. That is in spite of the fact that our offenses in his first three seasons were among the worst of all time. He made the Pro Bowl in every year from 1991 through 1999. He was a first-team All Pro from 1992 through 1994. AND, he was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, when he had 14 sacks and 92 tackles (while wearing the jersey number 99 in honor of his good friend and mentor Jerome Brown, who died in a car accident prior to the season).
There have been seven guys who were a defensive tackle and won the Defensive Player of the Year (the award dates back to the 1971 season). In 1999, we had Warren Sapp, who only managed 12.5 sacks and 27 tackles. In 1997, we had Dana Stubblefield, who had 15 sacks and 48 tackles. In 1989, we had Keith Millard, who had 18 sacks and an undocumented number of tackles. Prior to that, Mean Joe Greene won the award twice in the early 70s, with Alan Page winning the very first one in 1971 (during a dark period in our country’s history when they didn’t keep track of sacks or tackles as stats).
Cortez won it with 14 sacks and 92 tackles. 92! There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles in a season! It’s rare for ANY lineman to get more than 50! And Cortez had 92 in the year 1992. I don’t know if there’s anyone who is able to track this sort of thing, but I have to imagine that 92 tackles for a defensive tackle is the most ever for that position in any given season.
Kennedy averaged a little over 50 tackles per season during his career, though you could clearly see he was on a bit of a decline in the later years. Nevertheless, he was easily the most dominant interior defensive lineman of his era, and he remains the greatest I’ve ever seen at his position. There are lard-ass tackles who weigh 365 pounds and do little more than take up space. There are speed-rushing tackles with the burst to get double-digit sacks on the reg. But to be a guy like Kennedy – 6’3, 305 pounds – with the ability to do BOTH: clog the middle of the field with his considerable size & strength AND the speed to split a double-team and harass the other team’s quarterback; that takes a very special kind of athlete.
One that very-much deserves the honor bestowed upon him this weekend. Congratulations, Cortez Kennedy! You are now immortal.