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Does Andrew Whitworth have a case for the Hall of Fame?

Is Andrew Whitworth a Hall of Fame player? One publication thinks it’s “likely”.

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NFL’s Hall of Fame game is just a few weeks away which will kick off the 2023 preseason. This time of year is always a time in which players are debated whether or not they should be in the Hall of Fame.

There are a lot of great players that come through the league, but not all of the players will earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. The 33rd Team put together a list of recently retired players who are “locks” to make the Hall of Fame, “potentially” make it, or will “likely” make it.

Again, the the list didn’t include active players, only recently retired. Making the list as a player who “likely” makes the Hall of Fame was recently retried Los Angeles Rams left tackle, Andrew Whitworth. Here’s what The 33rd Team’s Barry Wilner had to say about Whitworth’s case,

“Not the top tackle in the league during his 16 pro seasons, Whitworth was reliable on every snap. The anchor of O-lines in Cincinnati and Los Angeles — he won the 2021 championship with the Rams, then retired. Whitworth also won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in ‘21. Longevity and dependability at left tackle must stand for something. Something special, actually. “

Whitworth’s case for the Hall of Fame is an interesting one because he’s a player that doesn’t have the typical accolades of a Hall of Fame player. Should he be considered for the Hall of Fame or remain in the “Hall of Very Good”? Whitworth’s accolades are right on the edge with two First-team All-Pro awards, four Pro Bowls, and a Walter Peyton Man of the Year award.

With that being said, some context is definitely needed here for the lack of awards that Whitworth received in his career. Throughout his prime years, Whitworth played for a small-market team in the Cincinnati Bengals. That certainly hurt his case in the media and among fans in Pro Bowl voting as the Bengals consistently went one-and-done in the playoffs.

Whitworth made his first Pro Bowl in 2012, but as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest graded tackle, he wasn’t named first or second-team all-pro. He and Joe Thomas tied for the least amount of pressures given up with 16.

The 2014 season is where this lack of recognition because of playing for a small-market team is extremely evident. Whitworth was PFF’s top pass-blocking tackle in 2014. His eight pressures allowed in 2014 were eight fewer than any other tackle. Him not being named to the Pro Bowl or voted a first-team All-Pro during the 2014 should be a crime, but that’s exactly what happened. That season, he was the only tackle to play more than 50% of his team’s snaps and not give up a sack.

Again, he wasn’t voted to the Pro Bowl by the fans or named a First-team All-Pro by the media. While PFF isn’t the end-all, be-all, that says something. When it comes to the offensive line, reputation is very important. Up until recently, there weren’t stats like other offensive or defensive positions.

A similar thing happened in 2016. Whitworth was only PFF’s second-highest rated tackle in pass-blocking, but missed out on an All-Pro selection. His 15 pressures allowed were the fewest in the NFL.

It’s not very often that a player completely transforms an organization, let alone two. Prior to being drafted by the Bengals in 2006, Cincinnati hadn’t been to the postseason since 1990. With Whitworth, they made the postseason in six of his 11 seasons.

When Whitworth arrived in Los Angeles, he helped change the culture and is arguably one of the best free agent signings of all-time. The Rams went from instability at left tackle since Orlando Pace left and not making the postseason in over a decade to four playoff appearances in Whitworth’s five seasons. That included two Super Bowl appearances.

After winning his second First-team All-Pro selection in 2017, Whitworth led the Build Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year in 2018. However, 2018’s accomplishments went without the Pro Bowl and All-Pro awards.

In his final season, Whitworth became the first player in NFL history to start a game at left tackle at 40 years old. Jason Peters became the second with the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18 last year.

On the field, the former Rams left tackle has longevity and the ability to say that he helped transform two losing franchises as a left tackle. Off the field, Whitworth won the 2021 Walter Peyton Man of the Year award. While not an on-field award, this is still a respected award around the league. The NFL describes it as the “most prestigious accolade”.

Out of the 56 players to win the Walter Peyton Man of the Year award, 29 are in the Hall of Fame. This doesn’t include players like Drew Brees, Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning, and JJ Watt who are likely Hall of Fame players, but not eligible.

When it comes to the Hall of Fame, it’s important to differentiate between franchise great players and players who transcended the league as a whole. When it comes to Whitworth, he teeters on that line, but he does cross it. Had the Bengals made deeper runs into the postseason, he may have gotten more of the individual recognition that he deserved.

Whitworth may not be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player, but he should eventually find his way into Canton.