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BFTB Interviews Hall of Fame TE Kellen Winslow

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On Thursday, I had a chance to interview Kellen Winslow.  Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995, he is without a doubt one of the greatest players to ever play in San Diego.  Depending on who you're talking to, he's the best or 2nd best TE the Chargers have ever had.  Besides that info, and seeing a handful of highlights, I didn't know too much about Mr. Winslow.  For instance, did you know he's the Athletic Director of Central State University in Ohio?  Me neither. 

The best thing I found out about Kellen during our 15 minutes conversation is that he's got a tremendous sense of humor.  It may not come across in the text below, but most of these answers were said while he was chuckling.  He couldn't have been nicer or easier to interview.  Now, onto the Q&A......


What are your feelings heading into this week's Broncos/Chargers game?

If I remember the Broncos....they were one of the luckiest teams we ever played against, besides the Raiders.  if ever the ball was on the ground it seemed to bounce their way.  And not just a bounce and then they fall on it, it would bounce right up to them so that they could run with the ball.  It could be that they were that good at getting turnovers, I don't know.  But every time i think about a game against the Broncos I think about the ball bouncing their way.

You don't think about playing at Mile High Stadium and trying to catch your breath?

Oh, that.  (laughs)  You know, you learn to deal with that because it's about keeping yourself hydrated and taking in fluids before the game.  You learn playing there, and we played there every year, after a couple times you say "Okay, this is what I have to do." 


Who do you think is the best Tight End in the NFL Today?

Oh, wow.  Who's the best athletic Tight End or most productive?  It's hard to say who's the best based on a lot of things.  I like this kid in Tampa

The best overall though?  Really, there's no such thing.  There's no such thing as the best overall because one week a guy will have a good game based on what the defense is doing and next week another guy will, based on what the defense is doing.  When they finish with their careers, that's when you can really rank them.  I try to stay away from individual honors so much, in terms of purely stats, because you're only as good as the people around you.  I would not have had the career I had if not for playing with Dan Fouts, Russ Washington, Ed White, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, Wes Chandler, etc. because they provided the environment for me to do what I did.  And if I had not played in that organization with that coaching staff, you wouldn't be talking to Kellen Winslow about his Hall of Fame career.

Who's the best?  That's a very difficult, very subjective thing to say.  Who's the most productive?  The stats say that every year.


So if it's better to rank the TEs once their careers are over, is there somebody that you have in mind as the best TE of all time....excluding yourself?

John Mackey.  I didn't even have to hesitate, John Mackey.

Wow, not really a name I was expecting.

Well, most of the time people think about numbers.  And when you talk about a guy who was a game-changer, who was versatile.  He was a blocker.  He could've been the original H-Back, they just didn't call him that. 


Tell me what you're doing with Van Heusen and the Hall of Fame Fan's Vote.

Van Heusen has partnered with Hall of Fame Enterprises to try to get the fans more involved in the Hall of Fame voting process.  So now fans can voice their opinion, with their votes, about who they think should be eligible or should be inducted into this year's Hall of Fame class.  It's something that the Hall has taken a look at, and has realized that the fans have really been isolated from this process and have not been able to voice their opinion.  So now this gives the fans a vehicle, a format, a platform if you will, to voice their opinion.

I don't think there's any question that the players leading the vote, such as Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Cris Carter, are first-ballot Hall of Famers.  I think the great thing about the fan vote is that it can show support for some of the players that have been eligible for a few years and haven't gotten in, such as Ray Guy or other players in that same situation.  Are there any players or coaches in that situation that you think belong in the Hall of Fame?

From a player's perspective, Ray Guy.  Without a doubt.  He meets all of the criteria of being in the Hall of Fame.  Impact player, changed the game.  He changed the way you have to handle punt returns and changed the way you had to think about the game in terms of field position.  Definitely Ray Guy.

From a coach's perspective, Don Coryell.  It is such a no-brainer.  Don Coryell, again, meets the same criteria.  He changed the game of football.  He was an impact coach.  Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh...they all come off of that Don Coryell coaching tree. 


If you're looking at Don Coryell's offense, the one that you were a part of, and comparing it to the Chargers' current you think one is better than the other?

It's the same thing.  It's just different terminology, it's the same thing.  It's based on the same premise.  Spread the field, find the mismatches and take advantage of the mismatches.  Put together personnel that gives you that mismatch. 

The only difference, in our offense against the current Chargers offense, is that we didn't do as many personnel changes.  For example, in my early days with the Chargers, we would start the game with two Tight Ends, two Wide Receivers and one Running Back.  And from that personnel, we would run every formation that we wanted to without changing personnel.  We could go to three wide, we could go to single-back, we could go to two Tight Ends, we could go to a flank position where two Tight Ends are on the same side and one's off the ball. 

We just ran everything we wanted to run from that situation, which made it very difficult for defenses to say "Okay, what are they going to do now?  How do we shift personnel?"  They had to go out and draft for that very specific need of "How do you stop the San Diego Chargers?"  Most teams, when they bring in two Tight Ends you know they're going with a two Tight End formation.  When they want to switch to three wide, you would know they were going to three wide because they'd bring in another Wide Receiver.  When they want to go to an I-formation, you'd see the Fulback come in.


What do you think of Norv Turner as a Head Coach?

I like Norv, I really do.  If the job is to win the Super Bowl, and it is, I think the Chargers have the talent and the organization to get it done.  The ball just has to bounce the right way for them to get things done.  The fact that they get off to a slow start doesn't bother me at all.


What do you miss most about playing?

My teammates, without a doubt.  There's something special about being part of a team and the camaraderie that you share with them.  Without a doubt, I miss my teammates.


Should the San Diego Chargers retire #80?

(laughs) Now why would they do that?

Well, you're one of the few members of the Chargers who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1 of only 10, and that's counting Unitas, Deacon Jones and John Mackey), you're in the Chargers Hall of Fame and they retired Lance Alworth's number.  I, honestly, don't see a reason why not.

How many numbers do they have retired?

There's only two or three, it's not a lot.  (There's two, #14 and #19)

I'm going to reserve comment on that one.  They can if they want to......

I'll say it, I believe they should.

Thank you, I appreciate that