BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Inside the Hall of Fame deliberation room on Friday, the 47 members of the committee had two headaches plaguing Canton that could be alleviated with a productive afternoon.
After eight hours and 18 minutes, the election of both Packers guard Jerry Kramer and mercurial wide receiver Terrell Owens did the trick.
Owens, who is second only to Jerry Rice in receiving yards, eighth in receptions and third in touchdowns touched off a firestorm in 2017 when, in his second year, he was not elected to the Hall despite a stunning statistical career. His candidacy forced voters to not only consider his unbelievable on field talent, but his behavior in the locker room which, if it effects on-field play, can be a detriment.
The public perception was that a massive voting bloc existed specifically to deter Owens’s candidacy. But on Friday, the realization that his election was inevitable managed to swing the vote in his favor. Owens also benefited from a strong candidacy put forth by Randy Moss. There was almost no chance Moss could get in without Owens, who had a superior career statistically, even if Moss’s was more enjoyable aesthetically.
The election of both Moss and Owens is one of the Hall’s first pivots to the Madden Generation, a group of fans who fell in love with the sport through the popular football video game or through the playing of fantasy football. Both players we giants in that regard, with Owens posting eight seasons with double digit touchdowns in his career. Moss had nine, including the incredible 2007 season with New England, where he posted an NFL-record 23 scores.
As for Kramer, widely believed to be one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history, the 82-year-old was a perceived wrong the committee inherited. Led by legendary Dallas-area Hall of Fame voter Rick Gosselin, who, observers said, had an outstanding presentation, Kramer was able to finally make his way into the Hall. Gosselin was able to push past the 11 other committees which had previously considered his candidacy and paint the picture of a true legend—the body behind one of the most famous blocks in NFL history (ahead of Bart Starr in the Ice Bowl, 1967).
Whereas Lewis’s election felt inevitable, and Owens’s candidacy was the most gawked-at, this class presented a fascinating landscape of players across multiple generations. The election of Urlacher and Dawkins helped chisel into the massive discrepancy between offensive and defensive players that currently exists in the hall.
Cornerback Ty Law, a three-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowler who had five postseason interceptions on the stoic Peyton Manning alone, was one of the closest players who didn’t make the cut. The creation of his bust in Canton seems inevitable.
And then there was Owens. After he was left out last year, his brazen social media campaign highlighted a perceived flaw in the process. Owens claimed that all of his friends and family knew he was a Hall of Famer anyway. Earlier this week, he was quoted by USA Today calling it the “Hall of Shame.” His tune changed considerably on Friday night when the announcement was made official. He congratulated his fellow members and, in true Owens fashion, told one detractor in particular to “kick rocks.”