What's wrong with the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- and how to fix it
NEW ORLEANS -- The Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce its Class of 2013 this afternoon in a nationally televised program from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and it wants fans to Tweet their thoughts about the selection process, with the hashtag #PFHOF13.
Let me join the chorus who believes the process is broken.
Full disclosure: I'm one of 46 voters who will select this year's class, which can have a maximum of seven individuals. The modern-era list will be whittled from 15 to 10 to five, with each needing a minimum positive vote of 80 percent for induction. Two senior nominees will be voted on separately -- they do not take spots from the modern-era candidates -- and must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent, as well.
When the class is announced there will be as much grousing about who didn't get in as who did get in, which will come as no surprise because there are more deserving candidates than available spots. To date the Hall has been unwilling to increase the class size because, among other things, the limited spots gives it an increased air of exclusiveness.
Fine. To each its own. But if the Hall isn't willing go larger, it needs to be smarter and tweak the selection process. Take one spot from the senior nominees and use it to create a category for non-players; that way they won't have to compete against modern-era players.
Voters typically are reluctant to choose a coach or a contributor over a player, which could be daunting for Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Art Modell and Bill Parcells, non-players on this year's list of modern-era finalists. They'll be competing against Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Aeneas Williams, and first-year candidates Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan.
I've always believed two spots for seniors is too many. They had 25 years to be considered as a modern-era nominee, and if the committee didn't deem them worthy of induction for a quarter century, there had to be compelling reasons. And if they did fall through the proverbial cracks, one seniors slot would be a remedy.
Joe Horrigan, a VP with the Hall, expressed concern that if a non-player category were created and the candidate failed to receive an 80 percent vote, he or she might have a hard time being considered again. To which I say, Oh well. The person would have had at least one chance. If deserving of another, the voters would bring him or her up for consideration again.
To have coaches, executives and owners competing against players -- at a time when retiring fantasy-football era players is only going to increase the backlog of deserving candidates -- is unfair to everyone who hasn't worn shoulder pads or a helmet on an NFL field.
My issues with the selection process don't end there. I'm incredulous that there are no punters and only one kicker in the Hall of Fame; that the last true safety to be inducted was Ken Houston in 1986; that Don Coryell, the forefather of many of today's concepts, is not in the Hall and has only been a finalist once; that Charles Haley, the only player to win five Super Bowls and a two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year with 100.5 sacks, has been passed over the last eight years; that Terrell Davis, one of only seven 2,000 yard rushers and a winner of two Super Bowls and a Super Bowl MVP, is not a finalist despite owning three of the top 18 rushing performances in playoff history while no other player appears more than once on that list.
Davis surpassed 100 yards rushing in seven playoff games and averaged 142.5 yards in eight career postseason games. Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, for example, also has seven career 100-yard playoff games, but he needed 17 games to accomplish it He also averaged just 93.3 yards a game.
The knock on Davis is that a knee injury cut short his career to seven seasons and 78 games. Limited, no doubt. Yet that's 10 more games than Gale Sayers, who is in the Hall of Fame. And if you insist on telling me that Mike Shanahan consistently churned out 1,000-yard rushers with the Broncos, please tell me why none of them but Davis reached the 1,800- and 2,000-yard plateaus. It's because Davis is special.
The most perplexing issue among fans entering today's vote is why (pick a name) Brown, Carter or Reed isn't in the Hall. The simple answer: The wide receivers repeatedly have split the vote among themselves, preventing each from garnering enough votes to make the cut to five. Will that change today? I doubt it. But that's getting ahead of myself.
Instead, let's focus on the matter at hand. The Hall wants your thoughts on the selection process. Mine is that the process will never be perfect; however, creating a separate category for non-players would be a step toward making it better.