Pro Football Hall of Fame 2013: Biggest Snubs and Surprises
While congratulations and popped champagne are flowing on Saturday night for those players inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, there will be plenty more people in the coming days who express their (sometimes rightful) gripes about the selections.
That's certainly the case with every enshrinement, but the 2013 class should especially lead to some debate. There were a plethora of worthy finalists, each with a legitimate case to made for their enshrinement, which left the committee in an extremely untenable situation while making their selections.
The 2013 class is filled with some illustrious names, with CBS Sports first came through with the report that Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells and Warren Sapp made up the modern-day selections:
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013: Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson, Warren Sapp.— CBSSports.com (@CBSSports) February 2, 2013
For the most part, they did a great job. Nearly all of the 15 finalists deserve a Hall of Fame bust at some point and most will likely get in one day.
However, there were a few selections that will undoubtedly cause some head-shaking, with more deserving players being left out in the cold.
With that in mind, here is a complete look at all the biggest snubs and surprises from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013.
Snub: Andre Reed Still Left out in the Cold
Andre Reed should have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. This is his seventh time as a finalist, with each year coming and going with only bitter disappointment to show.
Reed's accomplishments are arguably as impressive as that of Cris Carter and snub Tim Brown. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro selection and was third all-time with 951 receptions when he retired. Reed was a member of the Buffalo Bills when they made four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s and ranks only behind Jerry Rice on the game's all-time receptions list.
Those are all facts that made Reed's candidacy a no-brainer years ago. Some may argue that Carter had a stronger overall resume and I'm inclined to agree. However, he has waited far less time and is only a marginally better candidate.
Unfortunately, it seems like the committee simply decided once again to leave Reed stranded at the altar.
When comparing Reed and Carter's statistics, it becomes apparent how close the two were. Both men were more dominant at their apexes and stretched their careers out long enough to have fantastic overall statistics. However, only Reed has four Super Bowl appearances. It's admittedly not the same as having a ring, but being a key player on great teams has to count for something.
It's hard to begrudge Carter being selected after being undeservedly snubbed himself a few times, but the point of having a committee is to elect the most deserving candidates. Reed is a great receiver and deserved to get in this year over his contemporary.
Surprise: Curley Culp Finally Makes HOF
After being out of the NFL for nearly three decades, even Curley Culp himself had to wonder whether he'd ever get a bust in Canton.
The former Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Oilers defensive tackle was in his final year of eligibility during this cycle, and needed something of a miracle to make it happen. He had never reached this pinnacle of the voting process prior to this year, leaving even Culp skeptical about his own chances.
Nevertheless, it seems like the committee wanted to reward Culp's grace and patience throughout the process. It also helped that Culp was a pretty darned good player back in his day.
Culp was never the best player at his position and made just one Pro Bowl with Kansas City, where he was part of their Super Bowl IV team, but it was his move to Houston that created the Hall of Fame ascent. Playing for legendary Oilers coach and defensive coordinator Bum Phillips, Culp became a menace in the middle of his 3-4 defensive set.
Excellent in both facets of the game, Culp ultimately made four Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team in seven seasons with Houston. He then retired after a short stint with the Detroit Lions with 68 sacks, a fantastic total for a player at his position.
Like some of the other selections, Culp was a surprise, but certainly not an unpleasant one.
Snub: Will Shields' Greatness Again Goes Unrecognized
In a finalist group that included no shortage of elite interior linemen, someone was bound to fall through the cracks this year. Most had pegged Will Shields as the most obvious option. He had already been through the process previously and only a small sect of Kansas City Chiefs fans were completely up-in-arms about him not being inducted.
With more decorated and flamboyant players on the docket in 2013, it's understandable that the committee to left Shields' enshrinement for another year.
But that doesn't make it the right decision. A 12-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro over 14 seasons (both one more than inductee Larry Allen) , Shields is one of the greatest players in Chiefs history, remains an admirable humanitarian and was named to the All-Decade team for the 2000's.
Like some other notable offensive linemen in the past, it's hard for some casual fans to remember Shields. He was a relatively reserved player and chose to allow his on-field excellence do most of his talking.
Remember all those years Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson were carrying your fantasy football teams? Well, it was Shields carrying those guys. One of the best run blockers in NFL history, Shields was almost impossible to get around for opposing defenders and would have been recognized as the strongest player in his era had it not been for Larry Allen.
There are a couple guys who were left out in the cold who probably have a bit of a gripe with Saturday's selections. Of those players, Shields is arguably the most credible.
Snub: Committee Continues to Ignore Charles Haley
It seems like every year fans trick themselves into thinking this will be when Charles Haley finally gets recognized. Well, the former Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers great was given an invite to the festivities only to have the rug pulled out once again.
Pundits have been pounding their desks for years about Haley's continued snubbing, so anyone who pays attention knows just how great he was. A menacing pass-rushing specialist who started as a linebacker before switching to defensive end, Haley was a contributor from the moment he set foot on an NFL field.
In his rookie season with the 49ers, Haley put up 12 sacks and set a precedent that would continue throughout much of his career. Over 14 seasons, Haley put up 100.5 sacks (27th all-time), made five Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro selection.
There were certainly a few lean years, particularly late in his San Francisco and early in his Dallas runs.
Nevertheless, Haley's biggest calling cards are his five Super Bowl rings.
Football is a team game, obviously. So Haley cannot be single-handedly credited with winning the Super Bowls and he undoubtedly was lucky to be part of two separate dynasties. It's still impossible to discount the five rings, as it is the most by any player in NFL history and he was a key contributor in helping those franchises get them.
Haley is the only man who can say he won five Super Bowls as a player. When coupled with his individual attributes, Haley is a no-brainer candidate.
To keep him out a decade-and-a-half after his playing career officially ended calls to question the competency of the selection committee.
Surprise: No "Bus" Trip to Canton for Jerome Bettis
Held out on his first two attempts, it looks as if the third time was the charm for former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. The hulking back, nicknamed "The Bus," did not even make the final 10 in 2012, but seemingly was destined to benefit from a lack of competition at his position this season.
Over an illustrious career, Bettis rushed for 13,664 yards (sixth all-time), had 94 total touchdowns (23rd all-time) and carried the ball 3,479 times (fourth all-time).
What's more, there were plenty of mitigating factors working in his favor this season. He undoubtedly has one of the strongest narratives and best stories of any 2013 candidate. Bettis retired after winning the Super Bowl, always a smart move, and also did it in his hometown of Detroit.
A near-deity in the Pittsburgh area for his gracious attitude and strong relationship with the media, Bettis is the type of player everyone on the Hall of Fame committee probably liked. While that doesn't necessarily play a factor, it could have been a nice tie-breaking asset.
Unfortunately, "The Bus" was once again parked in 2013. There are some ever-so-slight holes in his resume, like his weak yards per carry average, but Bettis is a deserving candidate who will probably get in eventually
It was just a little puzzling that Bettis wouldn't get a push this year. Other than Cris Carter, none of the offensive candidates really stood out and he was the only ball-carrier in the finalist pool. With the logjam at receiver, some expected Bettis to be the beneficiary of a surprise election.
That didn't happen on Saturday and the Steel City will have to wait at least another year before celebrating their favorite son.
Surprise: Former Packers LB Dave Robinson Gets in After 30+ Years
It's almost always hard to quibble with any of the senior candidates getting in and that's certainly the case with Dave Robinson.
A dominant outside linebacker from 1963-1972 with the Green Bay Packers, Robinson was an integral part of the team's elite defense. He was a hard-nosed run defender who came truly into his own during the mid-to-late '60s, where he made three Pro Bowls in four years from 1966-69.
What's more, he was surprisingly strong against the pass for a linebacker. Robinson had 27 career interceptions, including five in 1966, his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Robinson undoubtedly has some level of circumstance to thank for his enshrinement as well. He was a key cog on two Super Bowl champion teams with the Packers, and oftentimes shone brightest in the biggest moments.
Does Robinson get in if he played for a lesser-known franchise? That's very much up for debate. Considering it took him this long after his playing career, logical signs would point toward no being the answer.
He was never the most integral force in Green Bay's defense, but was simply a good player as part of a whole, overshadowed by greats such as fellow Packers linebacker Ray Nitschke. Despite a relatively short reign of measurable elite play, it seems Robinson's patience has finally paid off.
His candidacy didn't affect any of the modern day candidates, so it's hard to get too up-in-arms about Robinson being elected. But it was a surprise based on how he stacks up against players currently not in the Hall.
Snub: Michael Strahan Unable to Get Enshrined
When the finalists were announced, most had assumed that Michael Strahan's enshrinement was a foregone conclusion. One of the best defensive ends of his era, Strahan retired after playing 15 seasons with the New York Giants and, like Bettis, on top of the world as a Super Bowl winner.
Unfortunately, that did not carry over for the committee members on Saturday. One just has to wonder how the committee can recognizing Strahan's brilliant career.
Strahan's single-season sacks record may have come with a ton of controversy, but no one can deny his place in the record books. Nor can anyone deny his place on the all-time sacks list (fifth), his seven Pro Bowl appearances, or six All-Pro team appearances.
Trying to poke holes in Strahan's candidacy is an easy way to delve into rote superficiality. The likeliest thing that prevented Strahan from being selected were the peaks and valleys throughout his career.
He had six seasons with 10 or more sacks, including twice being the league leader. Over those six seasons, Strahan put together 97 of his 141.5 sacks. That leaves a (relatively) meager 44.5 to be spread out over the remaining nine seasons, an average of less than five sacks per season.
That would be helpful if Strahan's only ability was to rush the quarterback. He was also a smart, stalwart run defender for much of his prime before injuries ultimately forced him to pick and choose his spots.
Nevertheless, at his peak, Strahan was arguably one of the five best defensive ends in NFL history. His career may not have been the most consistent, but Strahan's penchant for the spectacular should have made him an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer.
There were plenty of viable linemen as candidates in this class, so it was likely that someone was getting snubbed. It's just more than a little unfair that the player wound up being Strahan.