LOS ANGELES, February 2, 2012―The NFL Pro Bowl has just been played and the Super Bowl is upon us. The day before the final NFL Sunday is Hall of Fame Saturday. Every NFL season starts in August with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Every February the inductees are announced. 44 people meet in secret and decide who gets elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and who stays out.
The original 25 names have now been whittled down to the following 17: Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Jack Butler, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Bill Parcells, Andre Reed, Willie Roaf, Will Shields, Dick Stanfel, and Aeneas Williams.
Very soon no fewer than four and no more than seven people will become the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees.
As in politics, debates about football are often about raw emotion. Statistics only tell part of the story. Championships sometimes do not even play a factor. Tangibles and intangibles are pored over until the wee hours of the morning in every sportsbar. Yet it is the chosen 44 who are the most influential people on Earth this week with the possible exception of those waiting for Punxatawney Phil to bury us in a Groundhog Day winter.
Phil has proclaimed, Favre-watch is a thing of the past, and after the Super Bowl Manning-watch will begin. If Peyton sees his shadow there will be six more months of football for him. There is no doubt Manning and Favre will be first-ballot Hall of Famers. So will Tom Brady, playing in the big game this Sunday. Eli Manning may make the Hall of Fame, with a win this Sunday bolstering his cause.
Yet that will have to wait. The inductees we have now are what is being debated, so let’s get down to business.
A pair of men failed to make the final 17, and this remains the football equivalent of an outrage.
Former Cardinals and Chargers Coach Don Coryell did not make the cut. This is insane. Coryell did not win a Super Bowl, but his offenses were among the greatest in history. The quarterback of “Air Coryell” was Dan Fouts, and he already got in. The godfather of offensive passing is the late Sid Gilman, and Gilman is in. Gilman’s two proteges were Don Coryell and former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. Davis is in. Coryell is also the mentor of Mike Martz, who was the offensive coordinator for the Rams “Greatest Show on Turf.” Coryell absolutely must get into the Hall of Fame soon.
The other glaring omission was former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. For nearly two decades until he retired in 2006, there was labor peace. Other sports had devastating strikes and lockouts. Baseball lost its 1994 World Series. Hockey lost an entire season. Basketball lost half of a season. The NFL did not miss a single game. Television revenues grew exponentially. Paul Tagliabue did inherit a fantastic league from Pete Rozelle that was clicking on all cylinders. Yet he also took a great thing and made it even better. By the time the league had a lockout in 2011, both sides were merely arguing on how to divide up riches beyond their dreams. Football is the ultimate television sport, and the television deals that made the league rich happened on his watch. He should get in soon.
Yet neither of those men will enter the hallowed Hall of Fame in 2012. Narrowing down who should from the remaining contenders is the next step. Due to a lack of information and my abilities, judgment on the two “Seniors” nominees is withheld.
Receivers: Cris Carter, Tim Brown, and Andre Reed all deserve to get in at some point. When they retired, they were 2, 3, and 4 in all the major receiving categories, with # 1 Jerry Rice already in. None of these men won a Super Bowl. Reed lost four straight while Brown lost in his only appearance. Carter came one game short twice. Yet these men all achieved their gaudy statistics after the NFL transformed from a running league to a passing league. Therefore, with everything else being equal, statistics alone should be the determinant. Brown and Reed should get in, but not until after Carter. Cris Carter gets in.
Running backs: Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis both deserve to get in, but only one should this year. When they retired, They were 4 and 5 in rushing yards. Bettis won a Super Bowl and retired on top, while Martin came one game short. These were tough runners in the tradition of Jim Brown. They were gritty, blue-collar lunch-pail guys putting on hard-hats and going to work. New York and Pittsburgh embraced their toughness and heart. The fact that they earned their rushing yards in what is now a passing league only enhances their credentials. For most of their years, Bettis played on better teams. Yet Martin still had more yards, and he should get in first. Curtis Martin gets in.
Linebackers/Defensive tackles: Unlike offensive players, there are fewer metrics to measure defenders. Sacks are one metric, but hurries, pressures, and knockdowns also matter. So do passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Interceptions cannot even be reliable because the greatest defenders are often not thrown at. Cortez Kennedy, Charles Haley, Kevin Greene, and Chris Doleman were all solid players. Kennedy played on some Seattle teams that were woeful, and when they improved, it was because of the defense. Yet Kennedy had Jacob Green and Joe Nash. Haley and Doleman were the unquestioned leaders of their defenses, while it would be debatable to make that claim with Kennedy and Greene. Kennedy and Doleman did not play in a Super Bowl, and sack-master Greene got to one and lost. Charles Haley has five Super Bowl rings. In most cases rings should not be the sole determinant, but five of them ends the conversation. When he left the 49ers for the Cowboys, it shifted the balance of power and intensified that rivalry. Charles Haley gets in.
Willie Roaf is one of the greatest offensive tackles of all time. In 13 years, nine of those with the Saints, he went to 11 Pro Bowls. When he decided to retire, Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson tried to persuade him to stay. Roaf was a fierce blocker, and protected some good quarterbacks and some less so. He never went to a Super Bowl, but he in his second year of eligibility and deserved first ballot consideration. Dermontti Dawson became the Steelers center when Hall of Famer Mike Webster retired. Dawson did go to one Super bowl, and 12 years as a center is impressive in itself. Yet Dawson played on teams that were much more talented. Willie Roaf should get in.
Cornerback Aeneas Williams was one of the greatest players on one of the worst teams. He played for the woeful Cardinals, and was a lockdown corner. In 13 years he went to eight Pro Bowls, and intercepted 55 passes. He had twelve returns for touchdowns, nine of those by interceptions. In his later years he played for the Rams and was on their 2001 team that lost in the Super Bowl. He absolutely deserves to get in.
Bill Parcells is the greatest football motivator since Vince Lombardi. “The Tuna,” as he is affectionately known, is the only guy to take five teams to the playoffs. Some coaches take over good teams and maintain them. Parcells took over losers and turned them around into winners. In his first season coaching the New York Giants, he won three games. Over eight years he would win two Super Bowls. Then with the New England Patriots, he took over a two win team and got them to a Super Bowl. He took over the 1-15 New York Jets, who had been 4-28 the previous two seasons. In their first year under him they went 9-7, and his second season saw them go 12-4 and come within one game of the Super Bowl. He then took over the Dallas Cowboys, who had gone 5-11 for three straight years before he arrived. In his first year they went 10-6, and would reach the playoffs twice in his four seasons.
Parcells was a finalist in 2001 and 2002, but he kept being denied entry because the selectors were convinced that he would not stay retired. The selectors were right. He retired from coaching and became the team President for the Miami Dolphins. In one year he improved them from 1-15 to 11-5 and a division championship. Since he has been retired from coaching for five years, his 2012 nomination is considered a first ballot entry despite his previous nominations. His former teams, the Giants and Patriots, are both playing in this year’s Super bowl. This is a “Tuna Bowl,” since both coaches Bill Bellichick and Tom Coughlin are Parcells proteges. If anybody deserves to get in, Bill Parcells does.
Edward DeBartolo Jr. was one of the greatest owners in all of professional sports. He took over a San Francisco 49ers team that had little success in the previous thirty years. His arrival in 1977 was the first step in ending the culture of losing in San Francisco. In 1979 he hired Bill Walsh. In the draft that year they selected quarterback Joe Montana. Montana and Walsh would win three Super Bowls together, and Montana would win a fourth one after Walsh retired. Both Montana and Walsh are in the Hall of Fame. With George Siefert coaching and Steve Young at quarterback, the 49ers would win their fifth Super Bowl in 15 years. Young is in the Hall of Fame.
One concern about DeBartolo is that he was forced out as the owner after he became implicated in a gambling scandal involving former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. Mr. DeBartolo was not convicted of any crimes. While gambling is perhaps the biggest sin in sports, Debartolo should not be tainted. After he sold the team to his sister and her husband, the 49ers began a downward spiral that they are only now recovering from. The 49ers won zero Super Bowls before his arrival, and zero after them. They won five with him. Former team President Carmen Policy is not in the Hall of Fame, and he also deserves consideration. Yet for now, the team owner who hired them all needs to get the credit he is due. Eddie Debartolo Jr. belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Let the debate begin!
Update: The class of 2012 is official, and naturally I was almost completely wrong. Congratulations to Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian.
Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. After years of dating liberals, he has finally seen the light and now only dates Republican Jewish women. His family is pleased over this. Republican, Jewish women, you may contact Eric above.
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