LeSean McCoy: Hall of Fame Candidacy

LeSean McCoy
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

LeSean “Shady” McCoy officially announced his retirement from the NFL on Thursday, retiring as a Philadelphia Eagle after signing a one-day contract with the team the next day. A versatile threat and an ever-present fixture in highlight reels, McCoy had a successful NFL career by many metrics. In addition to six Pro Bowl appearances and two First Team All-Pro selections, McCoy can lay claim to the 2013 NFL rushing title and the top rushing spot in Philadelphia Eagles franchise history. He was an elite NFL running back, a local fan favorite, and a fantasy football superstar.

Fans love to debate the Hall of Fame candidacy of recently retired fan favorites, something that was seen as recently as April following the retirement of Julian Edelman. McCoy was no exception, as debates over his credentials raged on social media in the days following his announcement.

No definitive decision will be made by anyone other than those on the official selection committee; however, reviewing McCoy’s credentials in the greater context of the Hall of Fame is still a fun exercise. “Shady” McCoy was certainly fun to watch and a phenom on the football field. Yet, did he do enough throughout his career to warrant legitimate Hall of Fame consideration?

Highlight Reel Sensation

LeSean McCoy Snow Game
Rich Schultz/GettyImages

Statistics are obviously important, but it would still be somewhat negligent to overlook the importance of a player’s emotional impact on his community, team, and the game of football at large. It is hard to overstate just how electric LeSean McCoy was on the football field. Throughout his career, he made some of the most elite athletes in the world look almost inept while trying to bring him down; time and again, he proved impossible to tackle alone in the open field. Through rain, snow, or shine, one thing remained constant: McCoy was always one play away from adding another highlight to an already impressive career highlight reel. Such dazzling displays of athleticism naturally gained attention as nonlocal games grew increasingly accessible across the nation and as more and more people tuned into SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays each week.

However, McCoy may owe most of his notoriety to the increased ease of online video sharing through social media, coupled with the ongoing boom in the popularity of fantasy football. He dominated Youtube highlight reels throughout his career, breaking defenders’ ankles to the beats of fiercely energetic songs. What’s more, he turned these jaw-dropping plays into real money for fantasy football managers everywhere; he spent a considerable portion of his career as a fantasy football superstar and earned loyalty everywhere in the process. However, while LeSean McCoy passed the eye test with flying colors, did he have enough statistical success throughout his career to carry him into Canton?

LeSean McCoy vs. The HoF: An Overarching Comparison

LeSean McCoyHoF RB Min. (post-1967)HoF RB Avg. (post-1967)
Pro Bowl Selections615.74
First Team All-Pro212.68
Rushing Attempts2,4571,6412,885.16
Rushing Yards11,1026,32312,250.68
Rushing Touchdowns734391.11
Receiving Yards3,8988063,046.05
Receiving Touchdowns16012.05
A statistical comparison of LeSean McCoy’s career versus the careers of running backs already in the NFL Hall of Fame. Qualifying data was limited to those running backs who played the entirety of their careers in the Super Bowl era, i.e. post-1967.

Many enjoyable hours could be spent watching LeSean McCoy highlights on Youtube. However, in the end, all sports fans must face one unavoidable truth: statistics continue to reign supreme in all sports-related discussions. As such, when considering whether or not LeSean McCoy is worthy of the NFL Hall of Fame, it is important to examine his career alongside the careers of the running backs who have already been deemed Hall of Fame worthy. The table above can be referenced to see how LeSean McCoy’s career stats compare to such counterparts. In an effort to somewhat account for changes in how the game is played, only players whose entire careers were played in the Super Bowl era (i.e. post-1967) were included for statistical analysis. Such parameters resulted in a pool of 19 total running backs being evaluated. All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Falling Short and Rising Above

The column directly adjacent to LeSean McCoy’s career statistics represents the minimum statistic found across all 19 eligible Hall of Fame RBs. As can be seen from the table above, McCoy sits comfortably above the minimum for all reported statistics. However, when comparing McCoy to the average of the entire post-1967 group, he does fall short in a few key categories. He is, perhaps negligibly, below the average for First Team All-Pro selections. Importantly, McCoy also falls short of the group average in every major rushing category. Impressively, he exceeds the average for all receiving metrics, which is perhaps a nod to both how the RB position has evolved over the years and McCoy’s status as a versatile threat throughout his career.

Elite Company

While LeSean McCoy did fall short of the averages for all rushing statistics, it is hard to place the blame on him. As can be noted in the table above, McCoy checked in at over 400 carries below the group average for career rushing attempts. Despite this shortage of attempts, McCoy managed to end his career as the 22nd all-time leader in rushing yards, vaulted into such elite company by an impressive 4.5 rushing yards per attempt for his career. Such a yards per attempt clip is good for 14th all-time among all players with at least 1,500 rushing attempts and places McCoy above multiple beloved Hall of Famers, such as Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, and LaDainian Tomlinson. Additionally, McCoy currently sits at 28th in all-time rushing touchdowns with 73, putting him above notable Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson, Thurman Thomas, and Terrell Davis, among others.

Again, it is important to note just how impactful LeSean McCoy was in the receiving game. He is 22nd all-time in receiving yards and 17th all-time in receiving touchdowns for the running back position. To further emphasize just how special McCoy was, he is one of only 7 players with over 11,000 rushing yards and 3,800 receiving yards in NFL history. Of this group (Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, LaDainian Tomlinson, Walter Payton, Thurman Thomas, and Frank Gore), those eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame have already received that honor, and it seems quite likely that Frank Gore will join them when eligible.

Respected by All

McCoy was voted to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2010’s, a selection notably made by a committee from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Historically, 13 of the 16 running backs selected for an all-decade team between the 1970’s and 2000’s have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. McCoy’s 3 counterparts for the 2010’s All-Decade Team (Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson) all seem likely inductees one day as well. Because he has already been honored in such elite company, it seems voters may already view McCoy as Hall of Fame material.

Furthermore, McCoy has 2 Super Bowl Rings, which puts him below only 10 running backs all-time for Super Bowl victories. While some may argue that McCoy did nothing to contribute to either victory as he did not have a rushing attempt throughout either Super Bowl run, perhaps his veteran presence played a major factor behind the scenes for both RB groups. Either way, “Shady” McCoy is a two-time Super Bowl champ, and no one can take that away from him.

The HoF Candidacy of LeSean McCoy: Looking Ahead

LeSean McCoy will be eligible for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in five years. As his eligibility nears, it will be interesting to watch his candidacy unfold. The career rushing numbers for McCoy stack up fairly well in the all-time leaderboards, thanks in large part to his elite yards per attempt number, but, in the end, it may very well be his long-time status as an elite dual threat that secures him a Gold Jacket and immortalization in Canton.

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