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.

  1. Tammy A McDole says

    His 12 interception is still a NFL record today. He is on the defense that still holds a NFL records for longest streak of not allowing a rushing TD for 17 straight games. He is in the top 5 for blocked kicks. These are stats that have been verified even during a era that did not keep stats. If you ask any offensive player who played against him they will say the same that he should be in the HOF. I ran into Rayfield Wright and he was surprised that he was NOT in! He might not have had the most sacks or win a Super Bowl however did win 2 AFL Championship and he showed up and played, never slowed down ran all over the field and never walked on or off.

    1. Steve Nichols says

      I grew up in western New York and as a long time Buffalo Bills fan at the age of eight I witnessed Ron McDole not only in person at a local charity basketball game as a big thrill to a kid, but watching him on the field take apart offenses that came his way. It was a sad day when he left and went to Washington, but as great as he was in Buffalo, he was even greater in Washington. The dancing bear was a kind man to kids and fans alike. We need more people like that in the Hall of Fame and his career speaks volumes as a 61-year-old kid at heart still I would love to see Ron McDole in the Hall of Fame.

    2. Keith Wood says

      Wouldn’t it be sad to let McDole pass as a HOF member. So much he did supporting the youth in his career. His dedication to the sport of football is apparent to number of years in the trenches!
      I had the honor a few years ago to meet Larry Czonka in Charleston, W Va. I brought up Rons name, stating he was my relation. He stated in Super Bowl 7, McDole is and always was a tough defensive end.
      I asked Ron one time if he thought he’d get to make it Canton. His response probably not, laughing saying he should have got into announcing games as a broadcaster.
      This man deserves the yellow jacket.
      And he was my hero
      Thank you

  2. Gary Shillingburg says

    Case settled IMHO Rick. Ron was the Bear no doubt about it! HOF in my fan mind.

    1. Santo Cipolla says

      If you look at Ron McDole’s stats, it makes the case for his induction into the Hall of Fame. Speaking as a life long Redskins fan, Ron played a major role on defense. His ability to stop the run and create turnovers was overlooked during the 70’s. I urge you to look at his overall stats with the Redskins and with the Bills.

      Ron McDole was a key part of the Redskins Over the Hill defense. The Redskins 1972 defense did something that no one expected. They held the Cowboys to just 3 points in the Championship game and almost beat the undefeated Dolphins in the Super Bowl. If Ron played today, his name would be as well known as the key defensive players of today. I urge you to read his autobiography and analyze his stats. Ron deserves to be in the Hall along with his teammate, Chris Hanburger.

  3. James Cirrito says

    Hi Rick, I played DE in High School and I learned then that a lot of the fame and glory went to the ball handlers. Would be great to see The Dancing Bear get some acknowledgement! Off the field he has been a wonderful supporter of the NFL, appearing at charity events and always happy to sign a book or jersey for us fans! His photo will always be on our wall at Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern in Herndon VA! Jimmy Cirrito

  4. Terry hermeling says

    Ron mcdoles record speaks for itself played 18 years at a high level never missed a game and was respected by his peers as 1 of the best to play at his position!! That in itself requires consideration for the hall of fame!

  5. Louis Carcaci says

    As a lifelong resident of WNY and a Bills fan my whole life, I feel old AFL players were not given the credit they deserve, the league was very exciting and had many true stars. Ron was a stud end for 64/65 bills d-line,played a total of18 years, including Washington,if there was a superbowl back then surely the bills would have been in it, Ron deserves to be inducted into HOF, make it right Honor the players who inspired me to be a lifelong forever 🏈

  6. Eliot Irons says

    Ron McDole has the most interceptions ever by a lineman, with 12. He is also ranked #44 on the all-time list of games played in the NFL. He has an NFL HOF nickname, “The Dancing Bear”. He played on some great defenses in the AFL with the Bills and with the Redskins. 18 years as a DL in the AFL/NFL is pretty amazing in it’s own right.
    2× AFL Champion (1964, 1965)
    5x First-team All-AFL (1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969)
    All-Time All-AFL Second Team
    70 Greatest Redskins

  7. Ron Mcdole says

    He was a great defensive end ,who could drop back into zones and cover running backs in the Lou Saban years in buffalo,,his quickness was amazing with unbelievable fast hands and quick feet,one of my biggest moments of pride was when curt gowdy described him as the best lineman against the run,in the nfl…,the run was the bread and butter of all the offenses in the sixties and seventies that should be the bell ringer that vote on the past greats that should be in the hall of fame

    1. Tammy A McDole says

      By the way this is my fathers nephew Ron’s comment, not pops 😉

  8. Tom says

    Ron McDole is way overdue in getting in the NFL Hall of Fame. Look at the statistical information provided here by Rick Gosselin as just a starting point for Ron’s career. Go back and look at some game films of the Redskins and the “Over the Hill Gang”. This was football at its finest, teamwork, solid defense and a will to win!

    If they still had guys like this playing, I would watch more NFL games!

    Ron McDole for the HOF!!

  9. Brian wolf says

    Ron McDole is similar to Ed Jones … Huge guys that were all around performers but not super quick or fast going after the QB. Both excelled against the run and setting the edge while tipping a lot of balls that were intercepted. Both have great cases but were overshadowed by teammates that got to the QB more.

  10. Moe Murphy says

    Too many legends have been overlooked or forgotten. If it weren’t for the dedication of the players of the Golden Era of the NFL who played for.the love of the game and not million dollar contracts the league would be nowhere near the success it is today and we need to honor more of the players like Ron McDole who was a daunting obstacle to quarterbacks and running backs for his entire career 👏🏻👏🏻

  11. Bryon Baber says

    The PFHOF has overlooked quite a few very deserving players,Ron McDole being one of them.Here is an opportunity to correct that and induct at least one of those deserving players.

  12. Craig Kay says

    Skins front four matched up with Dallas doomsday , Minnesota’s purple people eaters, the Denver orange crush , the rams fearsome foursome


    We got a lb in the hof – hanburger
    We got a safety — Houston
    Need a d-line – should be mcdole
    Need a corner – should be Fischer

    1. Brian wolf says

      Speaking of Biggs, yes, he may not have played up to his level of talent and needed to be motivated, which he himself admitted but he has a HOF case.
      Counting postseason, he has over 93 sacks and was very unselfish, doing many line stunts that swallowed blockers and allowed linebackers like Grantham with the Jets and Hanburger with the Redskins to make many plays, while getting pressure on the QB. He made a critical sack of Lamonica of the Raiders that stopped a crucial drive on fourth down towards the end of the game in the 1968 AFL Championship and also helped force a critical fumble to stop the Colts on their opening drive of the second half that allowed for the Jets to control the ball and take a 10-0 lead on their way to victory. Had he never played team defense while helping his linebackers, he could have easily had 115 sacks or more in his career.

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