Cleveland Browns: Numbers make an overwhelming case for Clay Matthews

Sep 22, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns former player Clay Matthews Jr. attends the game against the Los Angeles Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns former player Clay Matthews Jr. attends the game against the Los Angeles Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 3
Cleveland Browns
FOXBORO, MA – NOVEMBER 20: Robert Weathers #24 of the New England Patriots fights off the tackle of Clay Mathews #57 of the Cleveland Browns during an NFL football game November 20, 1983 at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Weathers played for the Patriots from 1982-86. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Career totals favor Clay Matthews, Junior Seau, LT

The career totals for the same six players are tabulated at the end of this page and ranked. Not surprising, Clay Matthews has the largest totals overall, but do not fail to be impressed by the gaudy career total tackle stats of Junior Seau and Derrick Brooks, and the ridiculous sack totals from Lawrence Taylor. There were some darn good linebackers in the NFL and these players all deserve to be in the Hall. This article is not suggesting anyone needs to be impeached.

Brooks and Seau were both astonishingly effective at accumulating tackles, although Matthews beats them in some other categories.

Matthews 69.5 career sacks are all the more impressive, recalling that he got zero credit for any sacks in the first 61 games of his career because sack records were not kept. One way to spin it is that Matthews legitimately had five times as many sacks as Brooks, who also played outside linebacker, in a comparable number of games. That is crazy, although, in the same breath, LT’s sack totals establish him as by far the most prolific sack artist among linebackers.

Overall, however, Matthews is the clear winner for career stats as shown below. If you take into account the per-game performance and the career total rankings and create a composite average of both scores, Matthews has a compelling story.

So, what is it that makes the careers of the other players more noteworthy? That is a bit of a head-scratcher, but one thing that comes to mind is that the other five players all appeared in at least one Super Bowl. Also, everyone except Brooks played for a large market team, meaning that they were seen on Monday Night football more often than Clay Matthews.

So is the Hall of Fame going to be about rewarding team success, at least as part of the criteria, and about getting media exposure? If that is the way they want it, maybe that is okay, but then say so. The numbers say that Matthews belongs right there with the other star linebackers.

It would also be fair to point out that the Hall of Fame has been criticized for putting in too many offensive players and too few outside linebackers in general. This is not just Cleveland media making that point, it is a nationwide criticism.

I don’t think there is much doubt that Mike Singletary is as good as any middle linebacker who ever played the game of football. A lot of what he did does not show up in stats but is about being smart on the field and having the drive to succeed and win.

I’m here to tell you that, at least in one fan’s opinion, Clay Matthews was just as smart and had just as much drive and determination, and did for seven additional seasons.

Presumably, we are going to agree that longevity is a legitimate trait of Hall of Fame players. It’s something that is worked for, trained for, and strived for. Ask Tom Brady about that. It doesn’t just happen randomly.

This is an integral part of athletics, and the Matthews family has been blessed with more than its share of physical gifts as well as mental toughness and training. The entire family shares a common work ethic. Famously, little brother Bruce had a 19-year career as an offensive lineman and did make the Hall of Fame, deservedly so. He even made the Pro Bowl as a 40-year-old. This cannot be a coincidence that two brothers were able to set records by playing in the NFL longer than their contemporaries.

Such amazing athletic accomplishments should be rewarded.

Let’s also talk about character, shall we? This writer does not know the Matthews family personally, but from the outside, everything that we know is that they are great family people, and they do not smoke and they do not drink, do not get in trouble, and lead stable lives as responsible citizens. In short, they represent the Shield as well as anyone ever has.

Many of the players enshrined in the NFL have had brushes with the law, have had drug and alcohol problems, and have not lived up to the responsibility of representing the League off the field. Is this what the NFL wants? The NFL has chosen some individuals that were so unstable that they were actually cut from their teams because their character was too detrimental to the organizations that they played for.

Hello, NFL, what in the world are you doing? Clay Matthews is the player you want in Canton. The numbers show that this guy belongs with LT, Junior, Mike, Derrick, and Brian. Yes, absolutely.

As far as the criteria for the Hall is concerned, the Hall does not even have a clear set of criteria for what the membership should consist of.  They establish the process and procedures very clearly, but do not tell the voters what qualities to look for in selecting players and other persons for the Hall of Fame.

Does character count? How about football smarts? Should longevity be rewarded rather than overlooked or even punished by the voters? Should it be about team players rather than selfish play?

Stat                   C Matthews   M Singletary    J Seau      D Brooks   B Urlacher   L Taylor

Games                      278  (1)         179 (6)       268 (2)        224 (3)        182 (5)        184 (4)
Tackles                   1595  (3)         885 (6)    1847 (1)     1713 (2)      1361 (4)     1089 (5)
Sacks                        69.5 (2)            19 (5)      56.5 (3)      13.5 (6)       41.5 (4)    132.5 (1)
Interceptions            26  (1)               7 (6)         18 (4)          25 (2)           22 (3)            9 (5)
Forced Fumbles       27 (2)                0 (6)         11 (4)          24 (3)           11 (4)          56 (1)
Fumble Rec               14  (3)             12 (4)         18 (1)            4 (6)            15(2)          11 (5)
Impact Plays        136.5 (2)            38 (6)      03.5 (3)     66.5 (5)        89.5 (4)    208.5 (1)

Career Avg            2.000 (1)       5.500 (6)   2.500 (2)     3.667 (4)   3.833 (5)   3.500 (3)

Av gm& career     2.667 (1)      5.417 (6)   3.000 (2)      3.667(5)    3.167 (4)   3.083 (3)

And are we going to look at the stats or just dismiss them from a guy who played 19 years?

Next. 4 free agent WRs Browns must consider in 2021 offseason. dark

If the answer is “yes” to these questions, there is zero doubt, none at all, that Clay Matthews should be in the Hall of Fame.