On Saturday night during the NFL Honors award show, the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2017 was announced and instead of celebrating the careers of seven new inductees, we are now forced to look at a system that has embarrassed itself to tremendous effect.
The 2017 HOF class includes running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis, quarterback Kurt Warner, defensive end Jason Taylor, and kicker Morten Anderson; along with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones via the Contributors Committee and safety Kenny Easley via the Seniors Committee.
Now, back in August 2016, I predicted the class to include Tomlinson and Taylor. You’d be foolish not to consider them first ballot hall-of-famers. But here is the crux of the issue, how the hell is wide receiver Terrell Owens not in?!
Before we go ahead and break down the stats (and lets make one thing crystal clear, any hall of fame consideration should be about nothing other than HARD, OBJECTIVE STATS) lets take a look at how the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee operates.
How the H.O.F Works
This group of alleged old football sages consists of 48 members, all of who work in the media. Each NFL city gets one reporter (New York and LA get two – one for each team) as a representative, with the remaining 16 spots going to current at-large reporters, including one representative from the Pro Football Writers of America and two Hall of Fame members.
Each member then pitches a player from their respective city and from there the squabbling begins. The list starts at around 100 Modern-Era nominees and over the year the Committee chips away at the list until there are just 15 nominees left, from which they make their final selection of who get inducted.
The current rules stipulate that between four and eight Modern-Era nominees go in each year. To be inducted a player, coach, contributor must receive at least 80% of the vote and, of course, the voting totals aren’t announced.
As for the subcommittees, each of these is curated by nine members plucked from the general Selection Committee. For the Seniors Committee, a player must be 25 years removed from his playing days. For Contributors, it’s just an opportunity for the big-wigs to get their fair share and are not overshadowed by the Modern-Era nominees.
Why the H.O.F. is Hot Garbage
Lets just look at the initial rule that stipulates there must be a certain number of players to go in. By forcing the Committee to hit a number of players to put in, eventually you dilute the Hall of Fame, because the Committee is forced to select nominees to hit the quota. While I believe there should be a ceiling on how big a class can be, no way should there be a floor. Even Cooperstown can get that right.
Cooperstown, let’s jump into that swamp, shall we? As we all know, the voting for the MLB Hall of Fame is notoriously pig nosed over who they let in, with the BBWA acting as “gatekeepers”. Well it’s a new day and age, jack. Starting in 2017, Cooperstown is forcing each individual ballot to be made public in a show of transparency. This is something the NFL needs to adopt, because T.O. not getting in is an insult to players, fans, and the history of the game.
Terrell Owens played for 15 seasons and at the time that Owens retired in 2010, he was fifth all-time in receptions, second all-time in receiving yards, and second all-time in touchdown receptions. And it should be noted that in 2005, he only played in seven games and still tallied 763 yards on the season.
Then, of course, there is the six Pro Bowls, five First-team All Pros, and placement on the 2000s All-Decade team (which the Hall of Fame selects). Oh yeah, and he led the NFL in touchdown receptions three times.
The only excuse the Committee can hide behind is that his off the field antics cost him. Which is a delicious argument to get into when there is this guy named O.J. Simpson, who is in the Hall of Fame, and another guy named Ray Lewis, who is up for his year on the ballot next year. I won’t dig into it that much further, but you get the picture.
And to have a player of that stature out while Terrell Davis makes his way in, simply is not just. Nothing against TD, that Broncos team of the late 90s was the first team I ever rooted for, but a player who (realistically) only played for four seasons, tremendous as they were, does not have the complete body of work to get in, comparatively.
Now Davis, who knows, maybe he could have been the greatest running back of all-time. His numbers trend that way, but having careers being cut short is nothing new, whether it be by injury or tragedy. If you vote a player in on “what could have been” then why isn’t Sterling Sharpe in the Hall of Fame? Or Tony Boselli, Greg Cook, Bo Jackson, Jerome Brown, Sean Taylor, Darryl Stingley, Ernie Davis, or Andy Katzenmoyer? The list goes on.