State Your Case: Ron McDole
Few NFL defensive ends played longer or better than Ron McDole
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has been rewarding short careers of late, issuing gold jackets to three players who played just seven seasons apiece – Tony Boselli, Terrell Davis and Kenny Easley.
But those players should be the exception rather than the rule. Longevity should remain a prerequisite in any candidacy – the ability to perform at a high level season after season well into a second decade. Jerry Rice played 20 seasons, Bruce Smith and Johnny Unitas 18 apiece, Emmitt Smith and Reggie White 15 apiece and Dick “Night Train” Lane and Deion Sanders 14 apiece. All fit in that handful of the greatest ever to play the game.
Longevity should be Ron McDole’s ticket to the Hall of Fame discussion. He played 18 seasons. Only three defensive ends in the game’s history played more than his 240 games and only six had more career starts than his 208.
And McDole played in an era when stopping the run was the foremost responsibility of those four-men defensive fronts. Pro football was dominated by running backs in the 1960s and 1970s. It was a power game with every down physically challenging defensive linemen to hold their ground. If you couldn’t stop the run, you couldn’t win. So important was run defense back then that the NFL didn’t even count nor credit sacks for the entirety of McDole’s career.
The strongside of the offensive formation historically has been the right side because it incorporated an extra blocker, the tight end. That’s where offenses of the day attacked – and McDole was in the eye of the storm at his left defensive end spot. But he acquitted himself quite well.
In McDole’s fourth season and first as a starter in 1964, his Buffalo Bills led the AFL in run defense – and won their first AFL championship. The Bills finished second in run defense in 1964 in winning their second consecutive AFL title. Buffalo led in run defense again in 1966 but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL title game. McDole was selected to the AFL All-Star Game in both 1964 and 1966 and was voted first-team all-pro in 1965.
McDole moved to Washington in 1971 where Hall-of-Fame coach George Allen was assembling his “Over the Hill” gang. McDole started the final eight seasons of his career for Washington, helping the Redskins win 66 percent of their games. They qualified for the playoffs five times with one Super Bowl appearance. Washington also finished in the Top 10 in run defense four times with McDole.
McDole intercepted 12 passes and recovered 14 fumbles in his career. He scored touchdowns on both a fumble and an interception and also recorded three safeties. At 37 years of age and in his 16th season, McDole posted a career-high 9 1/2 sacks – and finished his career with 77 ½.
After moving into the starting lineup in 1964, McDole missed only one game due to injury in his final 15 seasons. The most important part of “ability” is availability – and McDole was always there for teams that annually competed for division titles, playoffs berths and championships. Eighteen seasons, 240 games, 208 starts, 77 ½ sacks and two championship rings should qualify McDole for Hall of Fame discussion.