(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Rick Gosselin interview, click on the following attachment: Ep 67: Pro Football HOF Talk w/ Rick Gosselin | Spreaker)
There is nothing more difficult for Pro Football Hall-of-Fame voters than choosing a senior candidate each year … and I’m not talking about the 49 voters who comprise the Hall’s board of selectors. I’m talking about the nine who make up its senior committee.
Their job is to sift through dozens of qualified finalists, then choose one for induction – which they’ll do next Tuesday. And if that sounds difficult, wait until you hear our Rick Gosselin on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast (fullpressradio.com). He’s been a Hall-of-Fame voter for 26 years, is a member of the senior and contributor committees and is beyond frustrated.
“I’ve got a list,” he said, “of 108 players that I think had careers worthy of Hall-of-Fame discussion … and of the 108 we get to talk about 15 each year and pick one. Of that 108, 94 have never been finalists. (We) mention 58 all-decade players (in the senior pool); 53 have never been discussed, including four first-team all-decade players.
“There are two members of the 50th anniversary team on my list that have never been discussed. There’s a member of the 100th anniversary team on my list that has never been discussed. There are eight five-time first-team All-Pros on my list, and how impressive is that? Well, Charles Woodson was a three-time first-team All-Pro.”
Woodson was a first-ballot choice to the Hall’s Class of 2021.
I think you get the idea. Among those overlooked, Gosselin mentioned two former Rams’ stars, linebacker Maxie Baughan and defensive back Eddie Meador. Baughan went to nine Pro Bowls in the 10 years of the 1960s, more than any of the five all-decade linebackers from that era. Yet he’s never been discussed. Meador was an all-decade choice (1960s) who still holds Rams’ records for career interceptions, fumble recoveries and blocked kicks. He, too, has never been discussed as a finalist.
“It’s really frustrating to see all this talent,” said Gosselin, “and then be able to pick just one. When we get out of the meeting I feel worse for the 14 guys we didn’t pick than I do feel good for the one guy we did pick. Because those 14 …they’ve got to go back and wait another year -- and many of them are in their third, fourth or fifth decades of waiting.”
Now you know why Hall voters commonly refer to the senior pool as “the abyss.” It’s deep, it’s talented and it’s unforgiving.
Exhibit A: Former Green Bay star Jerry Kramer. The only guard chosen to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, he waited 45 years to be inducted into Canton. Exhibit B: Raiders’ punter Ray Guy. Named to the 75th and 100th anniversary teams, he waited 24 years to reach the Hall. Exhibit C: Return specialist Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. Named to the 75th and 100th anniversary teams, he’s still waiting to have his name discussed.
Yes, it’s a problem that needs to be corrected, and it’s one the Hall must address. But how? Gosselin has an idea, and here’s hoping Canton is listening.
“If I had my druthers as a way to clean it up,” he said, “I’d have three a year for the next ten years. That would put a dent in the senior pool and kinda ease up the logjam. It still wouldn’t solve all the issues because more players are going in the senior pool every year, but it would be a start.”
Correct. But don’t count on it happening. Following the 10 seniors in the Centennial Class of 2020, the Hall reduced the annual allotment to one annually from 2021-24 so it could create a separate coaches category. It’s unclear what happens in 2025, but the hope is that the Hall returns to two senior candidates per year as was the case in 2004-14.
Clearly, something must be done to correct a nagging issue. If not, an overabundance of qualified seniors disappear without gaining the recognition they deserve, and that's not just wrong.
It's a disgrace.