Once per year several prominent journalists lock themselves in a room and grind out the difficult process of choosing the next batch of Hall of Famers.
They argue, negotiate and finally compromise. Each voter represents a prominent media outlet from every city an NFL team calls home.
There are also several “at large” voters consisting of well respected amongst their peers.
Most of these journalists however, are used to covering one specific team. There is bias whether we like it or not. As a result the great debate can boil down into deal making and politicking.
“Hey if you vote for my guy this year, I’ll vote for your guy next year.”
Players and coaches on the other hand have little say. Who would know more about a player’s ability than his fellow teammates, opponents and coaches?
Recently, I found myself sitting at a table across from the great Emmitt Smith; the NFL’s all time leading rusher, enshrined just a year ago.
What did he have to say about the issue? I posed the question, and here is what Smith had to say.
Q: What players have been overlooked for induction into the Hall of Fame?
There was no hesitation in his voice. Smith answered immediately saying,
“Charles Haley is one of the first names that come up. Charles Haley changed the way the Cowboys played football in the 90’s. And the reason why I say that is because he was such a dominant force coming off the edge, where it took two and three to block him.”
“He created havoc, and when you have one player that’s able to take two or three of the opposing offense to block him, that frees up other players to become who they are, and people from a naked eye standpoint don’t see it that way.”
Smith supported his belief by pointing out how statistics don’t tell the whole story.
“All they see is someone’s stats up here and oh he’s such a great player because of his stats, but hey how did this guy get to be one on one with one of the weaker offensive lineman versus being doubled or triple teamed?”
Class of 2011 enshrinee Richard Dent agreed. During his media session, Dent touted the need for a stat depicting a player’s ability to draw a double team.
Dent also suggested an “error” being given to a wide receiver for a dropped pass, and not penalizing the Quarterback with an incompletion.
“They do it in baseball, why not the NFL” Dent said.
“Some of the greatest players get double and triple teamed and their stats may not reflect that. Those are some of the reasons why I think players should be interjected into the voting process of who comes and be a part of this elite class or elite group.”
The criteria to become a Hall of Famer has never been intricately defined.
Do the voters weigh how they feel about the athlete as a person, or only consider his accomplishments on the field?
Should both the man and the player be considered? Smith chimed in,
“I didn’t know liking him was part of the criteria. In my day I didn’t care for a lot of players that I played against because either they were that good, or I respected them that much, for creating that much havoc and I had to respect them. At the end of the day, the ‘I like you part’, that part should be on the shelf.”
Charles Haley has five Super Bowl rings, which is an NFL record. It’s hard to believe why he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame already other than his off the field behavior.
Haley was a supreme talent but a difficult teammate. For more information I suggest you read Boy’s will be Boy’s by Jeff Pearlman.
Smith brought up an unlikely player as proof that the Hall of Fame selection process needs to be revisited.
“Art Monk back in his day waited years to get to this point and so there’s a few things that can be changed. We are in changing times why not change the way we vote why not change the process.”
Smith provided his own ideas to solve the problem.
“Why not list or change the criteria it takes to become a Hall of Famer? I mean you have plenty of us that can say ok this is why this person was a Hall of Famer. Let’s just write out a list, and you can have on that list ‘I don’t like him’ (laughing). At least you know it’s on the list. And then publish it so the fans get a chance to see it because it’s part of the fans choice too as well.”