Old School: the Hall of Fame case for Packers great Lavvie Dilweg

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 19, 2011



By Ken Crippen
 
LaVern "Lavvie" Dilweg belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dilweg was considered the best all-around end in pro football prior to Don Hutson, the man who replaced Dilweg on the Green Bay Packers when Dilweg retired. As a result of Hutson's outstanding career, Dilweg's name is all but forgotten. The problem is that Dilweg was not a flashy player. However, Dilweg's career deserves recognition.
 
He was a consistent player who could clear out blockers for his teammates or tackle any runner near him. To provide you idea of his consistency, Dilweg was named consensus all-pro for six consecutive years, with four of those years being unanimous all-pro. From 1920 through 1950, only one other player at that position was able to match that accomplishment: Don Hutson with 10. Mac Speedie had four consecutive consensus all-pro selections and Bill Hewitt had three.
 
The remainder of ends who played during that timeframe had no more than two consecutive consensus all-pro selections. None of that would make a highlight film, but players, coaches and the media of his day knew that Dilweg was the best. On the offensive side of the ball, Dilweg showed excellent blocking skills, the primary responsibility of ends at the time. He also could catch the ball, however, the passing game back then was not what it is now. Even with his excellent offensive skills, it was his defensive prowess that made him dominant. He could tackle, block and hit. Offenses feared him. His defensive teammates knew they could always count on him. He consistently performed each and every game.
 
Laverne Ralph Dilweg was born November 1, 1903 (most encyclopedias have his birthdate as January 11, but that is incorrect) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Throughout his football career, he stayed local. He played high school football at Washington High School in Milwaukee. He attended Marquette University for his undergraduate degree and for law school, leading them to a 28-4-1 record during his tenure. He was twice named to Walter Eckersall's All-America team. Eckersall was a well-respected football authority who wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Dilweg also played in the first East-West Shrine Game in 1925.
 
In 1926, the 6'3", 199-pound Dilweg joined the Milwaukee Badgers of the National Football League. He was an outstanding player on a mediocre team. The Badgers folded after the 1926 season and Dilweg signed with the Green Bay Packers, who won three championships in the eight years on what was considered the greatest team at the time. Over his nine seasons – an unusually long career at the time – Dilweg made at least one all-pro team every year except for his final season.
 
Dilweg graduated from Marquette University School of Law in 1927 and practiced law while he played for the Green Bay Packers. After his retirement from pro football in 1934, Dilweg devoted his time to his law practice. In 1942, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served one term, but continued his law career until his death on June 2, 1968 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
 
Dilweg was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-1920s team at end, along with Guy Chamberlin and George Halas. Let's compare Dilweg to the other two selections. Dilweg was consensus all-pro six times during his career, while Chamberlin was named consensus all-pro three times and Halas was never consensus all-pro. Even if the 1930s all-pro selections were removed from Dilweg's resume, he was still named consensus all-pro four times in the 1920s; more than Chamberlin and Halas combined, yet Dilweg only played the last half of the decade (four years for Dilweg, eight years for Chamberlin and nine years for Halas).
 
Now, let's expand the analysis and compare him to all pre-modern era ends in the Hall of Fame. They include: Red Badgro, Ray Flaherty, Bill Hewitt, Wayne Millner, Guy Chamberlin, George Halas and Don Hutson. Ray Flaherty was inducted more as a coach than end. Halas was inducted as a coach, owner and founder of the league, not for his play at end, however Halas did have a good career at end. Chamberlin was inducted both as a coach and end. That leaves Badgro, Hewitt, Millner and Hutson as the only players inducted strictly for their play at end, but I will still include Chamberlin and Halas in the analysis out of fairness to all sides of the argument. Keep in mind while looking at these statistics, that it was not until the late 1930s when the passing game really took off. Therefore, all players from the late 1930s and early 1940s would have benefited from increased passing attempts. Dilweg does not fall within that category.
 
Years in the League:
Don Hutson – 11 (1935-1945)
Lavvie Dilweg – 9 (1926-1934)
George Halas – 9 (1920-1928)
Bill Hewitt – 9 (1932-1943)
Guy Chamberlin – 8 (1920-1927)
Red Badgro – 7 (1927-1936)
Wayne Millner – 7 (1936-1941, 1945)
 
Receiving Touchdowns:
Don Hutson – 99
Bill Hewitt – 23
Lavvie Dilweg – 12
Wayne Millner – 12
Guy Chamberlin – 8
Red Badgro – 7
George Halas – 6
 
Total Offensive Touchdowns:
Don Hutson – 102
Bill Hewitt – 24
Lavvie Dilweg – 12
Wayne Millner – 12
Guy Chamberlin – 11
Red Badgro – 7
George Halas 7
 
Interceptions for Touchdowns:
Guy Chamberlin – 3
Lavvie Dilweg – 2
George Halas – 1
Don Hutson – 1
Red Badgro – 0
Bill Hewitt – 0
Wayne Millner – 0
 
As one can see, Dilweg ranks in the upper half of all of these statistical categories. All are in the Hall of Fame, except Dilweg. In fact, the entire All-Decade team of the 1920s is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, except for Dilweg and Hunk Anderson.
 
To further illustrate how he ranks with the predominant ends of his day, look at the following table:
 
 
Lavvie Dilweg
Wayne Millner*
Red Badgro*
Bill Hewitt*
Years Played
9
7
9
9
Consensus
All-Pro
6
0
0
5
Second Team
All-Pro
2
2
4
1
Total All-Pro
8
2
4
6
 
 
 
 
 
Championships
3
1
1
2
 
 
 
 
 
Receptions
123
124
50
103
Yards
2,069
1,578
821
1,638
Yds/Catch
16.8
12.7
16.4
15.9
Points
86
78
48
156
Interceptions
27
0
2
0
Led League
2
0
0
1
*Members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
 
Fellow historians have commented on Dilweg's abilities. Author John Maxymuk stated in his book Packers by the Numbers, "Overall, he was consistently excellent...Dilweg deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the finest end of his era by far." Legendary football historian Bob Carroll (my predecessor as executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association and co-founder of the organization) stated, "You could make the case that the stuff he did after football was a little more important in the whole scheme of things than playing end for the Green Bay Packers. And none of that changes the fact that at a particular time and place in the long history of football, nobody played end better than Dilweg."
 
The editors of Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League listed Dilweg as one of the 300 Greatest Players of All-Time, stating, "Lavern Dilweg, by nearly all contemporary accounts, was the best end in pro football almost from his first game in 1926 until his last in 1934."
 
In The Hidden Game of Football: The Next Edition, authors Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer, John Thorn and David Pietrusza developed a rating system used to rank early players based on total number of years played, number of championship seasons, and all-pro selections. Dilweg was in the first group of players, which the authors commented, "the first group represents those players who would seem to have all the necessities for Hall of Fame selection."
 
Of the three ends in the first group, Dilweg was ranked below Don Hutson and ahead of Bill Hewitt, both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame ends Guy Chamberlin, Ray Flaherty, Red Badgro, George Halas and Wayne Millner did not make the first group.
 
If the selectors use Pro Bowls/All-Pro nominations as criteria for induction into the Hall of Fame, Dilweg ranks at or better than other Hall of Fame ends. If championships are the determining factor, Dilweg played on three world championship teams. If selectors use the testimonials of the player's peers, you have the following:
 
Hall of Fame member Red Grange stated: "I have always rated Dilweg as the greatest end who ever brought me down."
 
Hall of Fame member Cal Hubbard named Dilweg as a member of his All-Time All-Star team.
 
Hall of Fame member Bronko Nagurski named Dilweg to his All-Time All-Star team.
 
Harold 'Brick' Muller: "[Dilweg was] one of the best players I ever faced on the football field."
 
Sportswriters have commented on Dilweg's abilities:
 
Jack Rudolph of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Lavvie Dilweg was one of the finest ends who ever played professional football...What made Dilweg great – a quality that can't be measured in statistics – was his steady dependability."
 
Wilfrid Smith of the Chicago Tribune: "[Dilweg] has no peer."
 
Dilweg was not a flashy player. He did not make headlines due his antics. However, he was a solid player who would consistently excel game after game. That is why he gained the respect of everyone. Players, coaches and members of the media at the time rated him as the best all-around end of his era. He was a reliable receiver and very strong on defense. If you look at statistics, he ranks with current Hall of Fame ends. If you look at intangibles (blocking, tackling, etc.), Dilweg ranks at or above current Hall of Fame ends.
 
Players who played prior to 1960 are far underrepresented in recent selections. Since 2000, 18 players have been finalists from the Senior Selection Committee. Only five of those players played prior to 1960. Now, let's take a look at those five players: Dick LeBeau (2010), Marshall Goldberg (2008), Gene Hickerson (2007), Benny Friedman (2005) and Fritz Pollard (2005). Gene Hickerson only played two years prior to 1960 and LeBeau only played one. Most historians consider the Marshall Goldberg pick a joke, so that leaves Friedman and Pollard as the only legitimate pre-1960 candidates put forth to the main selection committee in over a decade.
 
Compare that to Floyd Little (2010), Bob Hayes (2009), Claude Humphrey (2009), Emmitt Thomas (2008), Charlie Sanders (2007), Rayfield Wright (2006), Bob Brown (2004), Carl Eller (2004), Nick Buonicanti (2001), and Dave Wilcox (2000), as well as Hickerson and LeBeau as the selections post-1960 since 2000. I am not including coaches George Allen (2002), Hank Stram (2003) and John Madden (2006), but all are post 1960 candidates, as well. That means that of the 18 players selected by the Senior's committee, only two were legitimate pre-1960 players (that is 11.1% for those mathematically challenged). Even if you included Goldberg, you still only have 16.7% of the candidates coming from 40 years of NFL history, giving 83.3% to the remaining 50 years.
 
The Hall of Fame needs to re-examine pre-1960 players. Lavvie Dilweg is the most deserving of consideration from that group.
 
I will leave you with one last comment from Dan Daly in The Pro Football Chronicle, "If modern sportswriters can be entrusted to decide whom to allow into the Hall of Fame, then '20s sportswriters can too." Looking at the consensus all-pro selections of Dilweg, the sportswriters of the 1920s and 1930s have spoken.
 
Lavvie Dilweg belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
 
Team
Games
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
INT
PT
1926 Milwaukee Badgers
9*
12
221
18.4
0
2
0
1927 Green Bay Packers
10**
16
244
15.3
1
2
12
1928 Green Bay Packers
12
18
203
11.3
0
5
0
1929 Green Bay Packers
13
25
429
17.2
3
7
18
1930 Green Bay Packers
12
16
291
18.2
2
6
18
1931 Green Bay Packers
14
7
201
28.7
4
5
25
1932 Green Bay Packers
14
7
120
17.1
0
0
1
1933 Green Bay Packers
11
17
225
13.2
0
0
0
1934 Green Bay Packers
12
5
135
27
2
0
12
9 Seasons
107
123
2,069
16.8
12
27
86
*Pass receiving not complete for six games.
** Pass receiving not complete for one game.
 
Honors:
-Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame: 1967
-Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame: 1970
 
All-Pro:
-1926 (consensus): Collyer's Eye Magazine (first team), Chicago Tribune (first team), Green Bay Press-Gazette (second team)
-1927 (consensus): Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), Wilfrid Smith of Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), Leroy Andrews of Cleveland Press (first team), Ralph Scott of New York World (clever attack all-pro)
-1928 (consensus): Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), NFL Team Managers (first team), Wilfrid Smith of Chicago Tribune (first team)
-1929 (consensus): Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), Collyer's Eye Magazine (first team), Rud Rennie of New York Herald Tribune (first team), Wilfrid Smith of Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), Leroy Andrews of Cleveland Press (first team)
-1930 (consensus): Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), Players and Coaches Poll by Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), Chicago Daily Times (first team), Milwaukee Sentinal (first team), Red Grange in Collyer's Eye & The Baseball World Magazine (first team), Red Grange in the Chicago Herald-Examiner (first team), Ernie Nevers in Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team)
-1931 (consensus): Official Team (first team), United Press (first team), Red Grange for Collyer's Eye & The Baseball World Magazine (second team), Jack Reardon (game official) (first team), Curley Lambeau in Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team), New York Post (first team)
-1932: Official Team (second team), United Press (second team), Green Bay Press-Gazette (first team)
-1933: United Press (second team)

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