Skip to main content

For fans, Hall of Fame focus will always be on who didn't make it


INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Hall of Fame voting is announced each year, there is typically a loud and immediate uproar about the finalists who did not earn a spot in Canton. This year is no exception.

Before addressing that point, however, let me congratulate the Class of 2012: Steelers center Dermontti Dawson, Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman, Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, Jets running back Curtis Martin, Chiefs offensive tackle Willie Roaf, and senior selection Jack Butler, a cornerback with the Steelers in the 1950s.

Each is more than deserving and should relish his moment in the spotlight. Predictably, however, the gripes about who did not make the cut are threatening to drown out the applause of those who did make it.

The gist of the talk: How could Bill Parcells, a three-time Super Bowl participant and two-time winner, not make it? How could wideouts Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown not get in with their Madden-like statistics? How could Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the only single owner of five Super Bowl wins, be left out? And what about linebacker Charles Haley, the only player to win five Super Bowls and a two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year who ended his career with 100.5 sacks.

The simple answer: Easily.

There are more deserving candidates than there are available spots, which max out at five a year for modern-era nominees. I sincerely believe we voters could have presented the candidates who did NOT make the cut from 10 to five as the Class of 2012 -- Carter, Reed, Haley, Parcells, and cornerback Aenas Williams (seniors candidate Dick Stanfel also was not voted in) -- and it would've been worthy of its spot in Canton.

Another explanation for why some guys get in and others don't -- at least when non-voters believe they should get in -- is that 44 voters rarely are going to be in total agreement. There's a better chance of Republicans and Democrats agreeing on tax reform.

If you didn't like the way this year's vote went, get used to it. Things aren't going to change in future years. Consider the first-year candidates who are going to be up for consideration the next three years:

2013 -- guard Larry Allen, defensive end Michael Strahan, left tackle Jonathan Ogden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, quarterback Steve McNair, safety John Lynch, defensive tackle Bryant Young, kicker Morten Andersen.

2014 -- linebacker Derrick Brooks, wideout Marvin Harrison, coaches Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren, running back Shaun Alexander, and safety Rodney Harrison.

2015 -- left tackles Walter Jones and Orlando Pace, linebacker Junior Seau, quarterback Kurt Warner, cornerback Ty Law, , and running back Edgerrin James.

In other words, it ain't going to get any easier to get in.

Some thoughts on today's voting: It sure had the feel of a good old-fashion housecleaning. That may sound terrible, but in no way is it meant to demean the players who were selected. Each of them is most deserving. But voters were aware of what's coming down the pike, and if certain positions weren't addressed this year it would create major logjams going forward.

For instance, If Dawson and Roaf didn't get in, that would have set up a battle with Ogden and Allen next year -- with left tackles Pace and Jones coming two years behind them. If Doleman didn't get in, he would have had to compete with pass-rushers Strahan and Charles Haley in 2013. If Kennedy didn't make the cut, he would have to go head-to-head with defensive tackle Sapp next year.

To understand just what that type of backlog means, consider the wide receiver class this year. Carter, Reed and Brown were all deserving of admittance, but they likely canceled each other out because voters had different opinions on who was better. As stated earlier, there's no way of knowing the votes went because they are done by private ballot and the final count is not announced.

The situation with Parcells and DeBartolo wasn't much different. There was virtually no chance that two non-players were going to be voted in, as evidenced that Parcells and DeBartolo were debated longer than any other candidates. Parcells took up to 57 minutes, DeBartolo 42. The only other candidate discussed longer than 19 minutes was Reed -- and that was only because he was the last of the receivers presented, so voters were able to compare and contrast the players at that position.

As a rule, some voters believe a coach or contributor should never take a spot from a player. That meant the odds were against Parcells and DeBartolo before the discussions even began. There also was an East vs. West, Bad Boy vs. Death Row, Biggie Smalls vs. Tupac component to it.

Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants and lost one with the New England Patriots, was popular with eastern voters. DeBartolo, whose 49ers teams won five championships and had 16 consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins, was a favorite of voters from the West.

When Parcells survived the first cut -- and DeBartolo did not -- he seemed to have a better shot at making the final five. Why he didn't is anyone's guess. Could it have been he won two Super Bowls with Bill Belichick assisting him, but none without Belichick; and Belichick has won three Super Bowls without Parcells and on Sunday will play in his fifth title game since the two separated? Could he have been knocked down in the eyes of some voters because was negotiating for a job in Tampa while coaching the Patriots in the Super Bowl? Could it have been that some voters simply didn't like him?

The Hall precludes voters from disclosing conversations that took place during the selection process. It also strongly asks that committee members not reveal how they voted. I support the former, but disagree with the latter. As reporters, I feel we should be transparent. So let me try to walk this fine line without betraying any bylaws: I voted for four of the six inductees; the two I voted for who did NOT make it were Carter and Haley.

I'm sure many of you don't like those selections. But I'm equally certain that you'll be just as dissatisfied next year.