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NFL Hall of Fame


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.

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  • UberMitch

    Football actually lets people into its Hall of Fame? What kind of low-rent sport is this?

  • Sherm

    Strahan wasn’t just a pass rusher. He was an excellent run stopper as well. Kind of pissed that Sapp got in over him, especially after outing Shockey as the “rat” last year. If Shockey was the whistle-blower, he did the right thing. Either way, it was a real shitty thing for Sapp to do.

    • Well, Sapp is certainly not a great guy. But he was a truly dominant force.

      • Sherm

        Agreed. But so was Strahan. Just tells you a lot about football that the man has suffered no consequences for identifying a whistle blower and calling him a rat.

      • c u n d gulag

        Sapp was good, but not as dominant a force as Strahan – his cheap sack record not withstanding.

  • Admitting wide receivers is going to be the most complicated selection. The stats are inflated (relative to older players at the position) by changes to the style of offenses. I don’t consider Wes Welker a future hall of famer. I am surprised that Sapp got in before Strahan, and I agree that Haley is getting jobbed.

    • Anonymous

      If you don’t consider Welker a hall of famer, it says more about you than him. I despise the Patriots and anyone who has anything to do win them, and even I acknowledge his talent. I just want to see him in an ugly uniform with neon green high lights.

      Really, Seahawks? What were you thinking? How awesome it would be to go straight to the rave without changing after the game?

      • Rhino

        Bloody hell. The above is me

  • John Protevi

    Yes to Davis and Haley

  • Thlayli

    When I first heard “Dave Robinson”, I thought it was Johnny Robinson, who played on the other team in SB1.

    • LosGatosCA

      I’m so old one of my first football memories is the first Green Bay-Dallas NFL Championship game in Dallas. And besides Green Bay making the defensive stand at the end if the game that Dallas could not make the next year in the Ice Bowl, I remember Dave Robinson getting caught covering Bob Hayes on a deep pattern and doing a pretty good job on the play.

      Bob Hayes won the 100 meters at the Olympics earlier in his sports career.

      I’ve always thought Dave Robinson belonged in the HoF. Great player, long overdue.

      And Charles Haley. 5 time Super Bowl winner – Jerry Jones walks into the locker room after a loss during Emmit Smith hold out and a helmet (Haley’s)sails across the room and Haley says (approx) give the man his damn money and get him back on the team.

      One thing ‘sports writers’ can’t handle is focused intensity from top athletes because it exposes their stories as just so much irrelevant jibberish.

      • efgoldman

        I’m so old I remmember the Colts-Giants “greatest game ever played.” On a 19″ black and white TV.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    #6 cannot be repeated enough. The NFL is far and away the most prosperous and successful sports league in the U.S. But its official “shrine” and history museum is an aging shit-hole. Maybe we need to start an ad hoc Historians Committee for the Improvement of the Hall of Fame?

    • fuqua

      There is a very nice annex about 100 miles east.

  • Green Caboose

    I don’t like Parcells but I’m glad he got in. I was looking at the list of coaches in the HoF and it seems to me the bar has been raised quite a bit in the last 15-20 years. George Allen? Hank Stram? John Madden? I think the standard should be that you were one of the top 3-4 coaches in the league for a long time – you can’t make that case for any of those three I mentioned.

    I’m also glad that the “contributors” didn’t make it. There seems to be a significant part of the media that just loves the authority figures. The fact that Tagliabue was even considered is a great example. Forget about Modell moving the Browns, he just wasn’t that much of a contributor (in contrast to, say, Halas or Hunt or Rooney or others who made major differences).

    For the players, any of the possibilities were deserving, I’m just glad they didn’t screw up and elect only 4 instead of the maximum 5. I’m disappointed to see self-promoter Sapp (who Dr Z constantly pointed out frequently took plays off) win out over the more dominant Haley, but like Erik I’m sure that’s due to media grudges. (Hell, there were those who didn’t vote for Elway, still mad that he didn’t agree to play for the worst owner in football in 1983.)

    It appears that being a media self-promoting “character” does in fact help in these contests. I’m sure that helped Sapp and it’s probably why Greene was in the final 15. Also name recognition on successful teams helps – helping to explain why Larry Allen got in (and why he kept getting pro bowl selections long after he ceased being pro bowl caliber) while Aeneas Williams did not.

    I’m glad to see Ogden got in as well, given that he was better than Allen. But Williams did not and that’s a shame. He was a quiet star in the era when CBs started to be essential. In the early 1980s you could have smaller WRs like the “smurfs” in Washington or the Marks brothers in Miami but as the NFL began interpreting PI rules to allow more and more “incidental contact” the need for big, physical receivers became important. This is where Michael Irvin was so important (and even if he did get quite a few offensive PIs called on him he caught far more balls due to using his body to create separation). So all of the other NFC east teams went out and got the best CBs they could just to compete, with Arizona picking up Williams. Being in Arizona meant that he got very little attention from the media, but he was quietly dominant for his career.

    • “Forget about Modell moving the Browns, he just wasn’t that much of a contributor…”

      Holy fuck, did that really just happen?

    • I do agree that Aeneas Williams is a clear yes. I have to think it’s only a matter of time.

      I’m also surprised that John Lynch didn’t even make the finalist list.

    • efgoldman

      Hank Stram? John Madden? I think the standard should be that you were one of the top 3-4 coaches in the league for a long time – you can’t make that case for any of those three I mentioned.

      Ahem. From Wiikipedia:

      He is best known for his 15-year tenure with the American Football League’s Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs and the Chiefs of the NFL. Stram won three AFL Championships (more than any other coach in the league’s history) and Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs. He also coached the most victories (87), had the most post-season appearances (6) and the best post-season record in the AFL (5–1).

      (emphasis added)

      • efgoldman

        As for Madden, a .763 winning percentage over nine years makes for both longevity and excellence.

        • You were expecting better from an argument based upon a standard that would exclude Pedro from the baseball HOF?

          • efgoldman

            There is that.
            And of course George Allen should have been disqualified because of his idiot son.

          • Green Caboose

            Who suggested the same standard for baseball pitchers that I suggested for football coaches?

      • Green Caboose

        Wow 3 championships in an 8, eventually 10, team league.

        By that standard I nominate Jim Mora Sr. His team made the championship game of every season in the USFL and won all but one.

        • Jonas

          Paul Brown was way overrated. His most dominant period was in an inferior league. 4 titles in 4 years, including an undefeated season. In the NFL he only had 3 titles in the rest of his career and his winning percentage was way down.

          • LosGatosCA

            Only 3 titles the rest of his career is pretty damning.

            Only 3 titles. Hard to believe he was even considered.

          • Brown coached in 3 leagues in 4 decades 213 wins -that’s more than 2X Madden’s record.

            19-36-1 with an expansion team (Bengals) was an experience Madden never had. Brown still finished 28-14 after building the Bengals into winners.

            Madden inherited a team that had been to the second Super Bowl. Not George Siefert like but not a challenge.

            Consider Bill Walsh’s record – he didn’t reach .500 until his midway through his 2nd Super Bowl winning season. Walsh did not win 100 games as a coach and I don’t think there is anyone who thinks Madden was a better head coach than Walsh.

        • efgoldman

          Wow 3 championships in an 8, eventually 10, team league.

          Well by that standard, lets take George Mikan and the early Lakers, and Red Auerach, Cousy, Russell, etc out of the hoops HOF. And JohnWooden coached before everybody and his uncle made the tournament. And of course all the baseball players before 1947, and then before the first expansion in 1960. And of course Rocket Richard and everybody else from the six-team NHL.
          Sweet FSM, at least try to make a good argument.

  • “unelectable Art Modell”

    Truly history’s greatest monster for ripping professional football from the greatest sports fans this side of the Brooklyn Dodgers diehards. How the NFL went a dozen years without rectifying this evil will forever be a mystery.

    • c u n d gulag

      Say what you will about him, and I hate the feckin’ SOB, but moving from Cleveland to Baltimore makes some at least sense. At least for me, ’cause I’m a coastal kind of guy.

      Moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis, has to be the single dumbest feckin’ move in American sports history!

      Let me retract that.
      What feckin’ idjit would move his team from New Orleans to Utah?
      And what on gawds green earth did Utah ever have to do with “Jazz” – except probably try to prohibit it, early on. They should have been the “Ski’s,” or the “Fightin’ Mormons” – though, that might be too much like advertising for the religion.

      I’m hoping Modell never makes it in.
      I’m sure Irsay will never make it.

      • CJColucci

        So, do long-time Colts fans who want to root for their team root for the Ravens, who play in Baltimore, or the Colts, who play in Indianapolis? Do long-tme Browns fans root for the Ravens, who are the lineal organizational descendant of the Browns, or for the new Cleveland team called the Browns? And which teams own the various franchise records?

        • Sherm

          We may have to wait for the sequel to Diner to find out.

        • “And which teams own the various franchise records?”

          Um, the “new” Browns own all of the old Browns’ records, and the Colts own all of the Colts’records and history. Baltimore has only the Ravens. This is a huge point of contention, and the single biggest reason that, over a decade into the new Browns existence, it’s beyond time to stop taking Cleveland’s bitchy, self-absorbed, trashy fans’ whining seriously.

          • CJColucci


  • Alan in SF

    My God, Curtis Martin is in the HoF?

    Charles Haley and Terrell Davis, absolutely.

    Curtis Martin, really?

    Anyone taking bets on who gets in first, Eddie D or Art Modell?

    BTW, I actually know someone who went to the basketball HoF in Springfield, and from what I hear it’s worse.

    • Green Caboose

      Curtis Martin was drafted by Parcells and played for him in NE and NYJ. Which explains why the northeast-centric football media overestimated his career. But I would have thought the NFL’s system of having two reps from each NFL city on the HoF committee would have mitigated that …

      However, he’s not the first NY Jet with questionable career stats to get into the HoF….

      • gorillagogo

        This is ridiculous. Martin had 10 straight 1000 yard seasons and has the fourth most rushing yards in NFL history.

    • efgoldman

      Curtis Martin, really?

      There are lots of HOF players (all sports) who weren’t spectacular, but who amassed excellent lifetime statistics.

      He retired having amassed the fourth highest total of rushing yards in NFL history.

      14,101 yards is nothing to sneeze at, given the career of the average RB.

      • He also had (at least) ten consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career, another remarkable feat for a RB. I don’t see how Martin didn’t have a HOF-worthy, if not earth-shattering, career.

        And his acceptance speech was crazy.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Except in several of those 1,000 yard years he was a below-average runner. 1,000 yards in a 16-game schedule isn’t a serious Hall of Fame credential.

          • I just don’t have a serious problem with Halls big enough for Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.

            • Scott Lemieux

              I really hope you’re not comparing Curtis Martin, a guy who was never great and was sometimes good and sometimes well-below average in a long career, with Eddie Murray, a genuinely outstanding player in a long career. Martin is more like, I dunno, Hal Morris or Sean Casey or something.

  • JKTHs

    You mean they actually elected guys and didn’t leave ballots blank because everyone played during the Steroids Era?

    • efgoldman

      …because everyone played during the Steroids Era?

      Now eliding, apparently, into the deer-antler-velvet era.

    • wjts

      Football lacks the moral seriousness of baseball.

      • efgoldman


      • George Will agrees. And that should give you pause.

        • Thlayli

          Will did get off one of his few funny lines on the subject:

          “Football combines the two worst aspects of American life, violence and committee meetings. They beat each other up, then stand around and talk about it.”

          • Oh, like George Will really cares about violence in American society.

        • efgoldman

          George Will agrees.

          He said Nixon should go in ’74, too. Stopped clock and all that.

  • shah8

    Okay, wait. Why the hate for Warren Sapp? He’s pretty clearly the greatest pure defensive tackle of his age, and pretty obviously one of those that ranks all time. He doesn’t actually need self-promotion. Most of the other players who played some defensive takle, with John Randle’s nominal position position being DT, played all of the positions of the line, while Warren Sapp played relatively few snaps at DE. Furthermore, no coach is going to pick John Randle over Warren Sapp at DT for his all star team, and John Randle is in. Cortez Kennedy? Perhaps one will have to think about it, but guys like Kennedy, Page, Reggie White are pretty much the company Sapp is in. He’s an absolute no-brainer.

    • mpowell

      Yeah, I agree, Sapp was amazing. I don’t care if he took snaps off. If he did so, it was much more likely to be a mediated decision than that he was simply lazy. If you go 100% all day long at DT, you’re probably running at 70% by the end. Maybe he should have come off the field instead, but if Sapp is lining the offense probably double teams him, right? So even if he doesn’t go 100%, maybe he’s better than his backup for that play.

      People also get upset about NBA players not playing as hard in the regular season. This is even dumber because the calculation is a lot easier. If you are a 50 win team, giving 100% every day to get to 52 or 53 wins is almost certainly going to hurt your playoff chances so it’s just clearly the wrong way to play.

      • shah8

        Eh, I just read that Cortez Kennedy is not in already? That really sucks–he’s one of those who should be automatically in.

        • Cortez was elected last year.

        • shah8

          Nope, I see he’s in.

      • Are you implying that professionals shouldn’t be viewed as little leaguers? *gets the stake ready for the heretic*

      • And you’ll quickly notice, by the way, that that brand of kvetching always comes from people who aren’t actually invested in the team in question.

        • efgoldman

          And you’ll quickly notice, by the way, that that brand of kvetching always comes from people who aren’t actually invested in the team in question.

          Not necessarily. There was kvetching among Patriots fans when Randy Moss was here.

    • Green Caboose

      Oh, I agree Sapp belongs – as do all the *players* who got to the finals this year (Greene included, though he is the biggest stretch). But I think Haley was more dominant so though he should have been picked first.

      The other thing about Sapp – like Larry Allen – is that his performance declined a LOT in the latter half of his career. He still had a few highlight plays but was nothing like the force he was in the Dungy years at TB.

      • shah8

        Haley was not more dominant.

      • Jay B.

        The Defensive Tackle is a different position entirely from the Defensive End. Their results aren’t often seen in stats. A great DT or NT is a run-clogger and a up-the-middle pressurer, not the guy who comes screaming off the end into the QB. They are paid to occupy multiple blockers so DEs and LBs can make the plays. That’s what made Sapp so amazing. It’s VERY hard to dominate from the DT position. And he dominated. Haley and Strahan should be in too, of course, they were two of the best ever at their positions. But it’s not that surprising Sapp got in first (well, except that Haley is getting jobbed). Of course the Strahan omission kind of flies in the face of the other counter-argument on this board that NY/NE players get preferential passes into the HOF, like Curtis Martin (also note that he was very good with the Pats, but by the time he left, I think the Pats had all of four Hall of Famers or so, so I’m trying to figure out the great advantage of being a Patriot for all the Canton voters).

        • efgoldman

          Their results aren’t often seen in stats. A great DT or NT is a run-clogger and a up-the-middle pressurer…

          Which is going to be the eventual argument for Butch Wilfork, BJ Raji and Haoli Ngata.

  • Bill Murray

    The 3-4 nose tackle position was more or less invented for Curley Culp. He made the Pro Bowl a couple of times in the 4-3 but was dominate for 4-5 years at nose tackle.

    Dave Robinson was good but if he hadn’t been on the great Packers teams, no way he makes the Hall. There are at least a dozen players including several LBs that were better than Robinson — Chuck Howley, Maxie Baughan, Lee Roy Jordan and Bill Bergey to name 4 I saw play on TV

    • Funny thing about those great Packer and Steeler teams.

      They aren’t great without a lot of great players.

      • Bill Murray

        Robinson is the 11th player and sixth defender from his era’s Packers to be elected — at some point you start getting into the well known very goods rather than the greats. 3 Pro Bowls with 1 first team all pro just isn’t that impressive for current non-Hall LBs of that era

  • JRoth

    For the record, this Steelers fan feared Martin in the late ’90s. My subjective recollection is that he was the only significant (offensive) weapon on a Jets team that was otherwise an automatic win on the schedule.

    But I freely concede that A. those might have been his only really good seasons, and B. he may not actually have been as big a standout as he seemed at the time.

    On a separate note, I don’t think you can meaningfully compare HoF composition between baseball and football, since longevity factors between the two are so starkly different. Setting Murray aside, I don’t think anyone would seriously deny that there are many compilers in baseball, guys with some impressive stat totals that never were especially impressive on the field. That type is much more rare in football, not only due to injuries, but also because the physicality means that fading players are exposed much more quickly and severely. An aging slugger will find work as along as he can occasionally put one over the fence*; an aging WR is cut as soon as he’s unable to outmaneuver and outrun and outjump CBs 10 years his junior.

    All of which is to say that being able to pile up yards in the NFL is more likely to suggest underlying skills/talent than does managing an empty BA or SLG while toiling away in Pittsburgh or KC (parity plays into this as well, as does the lack of guaranteed contracts).

    *Matt Stairs, anyone?

    • Gus

      Matt Stairs was always a bargain in my fantasy league. Every year, everyone figured he was finally done, and every year, I’d get him for a dime. And he almost always hit 20+ dingers.

  • anon

    It’s ridiculous that Bettis is going to get in at some point on some wave of mush-headed sentimentality.

    Even if the metric is other RBs, Bettis was always below the top tier of his position. Once you factor in the position’s fungibility, he just disappears.

    Who knew being the arbitrary human interest story of the worst Super Bowl this century made you an all-time great? If he gets in, he owes Roethlisberger and Mike Vanderjagt a steak dinner for bailing his ass out when he tried to fumble that appearance away in the AFC championship.

    • JRoth

      So are we just going to retroactively write RBs out of the NFL entirely? Bettis’ prime was some 16 years ago, before Warner, Brady, and the ubiquity of pass-first offense. Scott has argued that Coryell presaged the post-running era, but that doesn’t actually mean that Fouts’ first snap made the position obsolete.

      I assume you also agree that Pete Rose has no place in the HoF not because of the gambling, but because all he has is a big counting stat, while his OBP was too low (95 of 333 guys with 7500 PA)?

      Actually, I have no idea what HoF case Pete Rose has that Bettis doesn’t. His career hitting, adjusted for context, looks like Gil Hodges*, and his defense was bad (and mostly at low value positions**). So he was a good-not-great player who stuck around, whereas Bettis was…?

      *wRC+ 145 out of 333 players with 7500 PA. And the numbers get worse as you raise the PA bar: he’s below the median of guys with 9000 PA, 5 slots behind Rusty Staub. Was Rusty a HoFer?

      **FanGraphs claims he was an elite LF for a couple years in the 70s, but also that he was awful or below average almost every other year of his career, so Imma stick with “bad”

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