Yesterday, seven people were elected to the NFL Hall of Fame: Bill Parcells, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter, and veterans committee candidates Curley Culp and Dave Robinson. A few thoughts.
1. While I can’t speak to the veterans committee guys (more on this in a second), it’s a pretty unimpeachable class. Parcells is one of the great coaches of our time. In fact, who is the next coach likely to get in. Mike Holmgren will probably get a hearing, but I’m skeptical. I imagine Tony Dungy will get in because of who he is, even if he only won 1 Super Bowl. Definitely Bill Belichick. Ogden and Allen were dominant blockers. Warren Sapp is an all-time great.
2. This brings me to Carter. I’m glad that the long-standing wide receiver logjam was broken by electing Carter. He’s such an obvious call. It’s amazing to me that it took 6 years. The committee faced the fact that 3 similar receivers all reached eligibility at about the same, in Carter, Tim Brown, and Andre Reed. My reading of the debates is that different people were arguing for one while denigrating the other two. The reality is that they are all Hall of Famers, with Carter slightly more deserving. Quite possible this opens the door for Reed next year, since he was closer than Brown this year.
3. It’s certainly an excellent group, unlike last year, when Curtis Martin got in for reasons still mysterious to me and Chris Doleman was a fairly marginal selection as well. Both Martin and Jerome Bettis, who still awaits his likely enshrinement at some point, were basically above-average running backs who did a good job of not getting injured. Had Martin had that career in Detroit or Cleveland, I don’t think he makes it. Did anyone ever fear Curtis Martin? On the other hand, Terrell Davis remains not even close to election. Yes, he got hurt young. He also had one of the greatest 4-year stretches in the history of running backs, playing a key role in 2 Super Bowl titles. Given the reality of NFL running backs, I don’t see that a devastating knee injury should disqualify him. It certainly didn’t disqualify Gale Sayers.
4. The only real complaint I have this year is that Charles Haley continues to not be elected. There’s really only one good reason for this–Haley was a jerk to the media. Haley is one of the dominant pass rushers of my lifetime and was an absolutely vital player on several Super Bowl teams with both Dallas and San Francisco. To me, he’s the easiest call of anyone not elected. Yet I begin to wonder if he will ever be elected. That may be especially true if we are beginning to see a pass rusher logjam like the receivers, with Haley, Strahan, and Greene (who probably has the weakest candidacy of any of this year’s finalists, outside of the unelectable Art Modell) all being denied.
5. What I find interesting about the Veterans’ Committee selections is just how old the candidates remain. I’ve been watching football for about 35 years now. There’s never been a single Veterans’ Committee candidate I remember watching. That might not mean much. But I do wonder how much nostalgia is going into picking these players, many of whom played during the childhood of the current voters. It almost seems the culture of the voting now to find truly forgotten players rather than rethink the candidacy of players who played in the late 70s or early 80s. That’s fine, I’m sure a lot of these people are true greats who were underappreciated in their own time. But given how the game has changed, as well as how we measure success, it’s probably time to rethink some people. The clear starting point should be former Bengals QB Ken Anderson, whose qualifications are clear comparing him to the other quarterbacks of his era.
6. Finally, it’s worth repeating what a travesty the actual Hall of Fame building in Canton remains. It’s an embarrassment to the NFL, who should replace that thing with a palace like exists in Cooperstown. When I visited 2 years ago, the building still had exhibits talking about current Denver Broncos QB John Elway. I know the NFL owners care about nothing but profit and squeezing small amounts of money from referees in order to score points against the union, but this is ridiculous and unacceptable. It’s arguably the most disappointing museum in the United States. And look, Canton could really use the additional tourist dollars this would bring.