With the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame voting process just days away, former NFL defensive tackle and 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Warren Sapp reiterated his thoughts about the lack of Hall worthiness of former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.
Sapp, an analyst for the NFL Network, believes that there are other candidates more worthy of pro football immortality than Strahan, who for the second year in a row is one of 15 finalists.
"When you stack it up, and he only has four straight Pro Bowls and a mythical sack record that y'all still walk around like it's something to be praised—I mean y'all have got to get off your high horse in New York and speak about the real,” Sapp told Neil Best of Newsday on Tuesday.
“And when you really measure him up, he comes up short. I thought you got into the Hall because your resume stacked up with the echoes of the game, not just the good, the great. And four straight Pro Bowls [is good], but it ain't great."
Former NFL offensive lineman Roman Oben, who played with Strahan on the Giants in 1996-1999, and with Sapp on the Bucs in 2002-2003, admits that the New York market is a big stage. He also pointed out that what a player does or doesn’t do is magnified more so in New York than in most other places.
“Let’s be honest. The New York Hype does exist,” Oben said in a phone interview. “A guy who’s a B-plus player can become an A-minus player if he does well. On the other hand, a guy who is a C player can become a F player if he doesn’t do well.”
However, Oben, who praised Sapp for being one of the best three-technique defensive tackles of his era, doesn’t agree with the Hall of Famer's opinion that Strahan’s accomplishments aren't great.
Oben believes that Sapp’s issue with Strahan originated in the 2001 season, when Strahan set a new single-season high of 22.5 sacks on a controversial play in which Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre hit the turf when he saw Strahan coming at him.
“If it’s about that one sack, then so what?” Oben said. “Take that one sack away and Strahan still has 21.5 sacks for the season, and he still finishes with 140.5 sacks for his career. Those are Hall of Fame numbers.”
“I just think there are some other things involved when he says Strahan doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame,” Oben added.
“He talks about hype and all that stuff. You don’t hype your way up to a 15-year career at left defensive end, getting all those sacks when quarterbacks see you coming, and you’re getting chips and double teams a lot of the times. That’s not a sound argument.”
Oben also noted that while there is a little validity to the argument that the environment in New York is a lot different than in most other markets, that makes what Strahan has accomplished in his career all the more impressive.
“Unless you’ve played in this environment and you’ve dealt with the scrutiny that comes from 21 million people, it’s hard to really understand. If you’re not at the top of your profession in this environment, then nobody really cares. That’s why this environment isn’t for everyone.
“When you come from a smaller community, everyone knows you and idolizes you,” he added. “In a smaller market, you think nothing of it to go to your local family restaurant after practice or a game, regardless of how you played."
"In New York it’s a totally different environment. I once gave up two sacks in a game and I didn’t leave my house for several days after that except to go to work.”
Oben concluded by saying that Strahan, whom Sapp has in the past referred to as a “media darling,” had the mindset to be successful on the New York stage which has been known to make or break players’ careers.
“I think there’s something about a great player that makes him want to shine on the biggest stage,” Oben said. “Strahan didn’t just come into New York and expect things to be given to him. He worked for them and you can’t take away what he’s accomplished."
|Warren Sapp vs. Michael Strahan: By the Numbers|
|Warren Sapp||Michael Strahan|
|Number of Years Played||13 (9 w/ TBY, 4 w/ OAK)||15 (all w/ NYG)|
|Best Single Season Sacks Total||16.5||22.5|
|No. Games Played||198||216|
|Number of Seasons w/ Double-digit Sacks||4||6|
|No. Pro Bowls||7||7|
|Source: Pro Football Reference|
For his part, Strahan, who called Sapp a “jackass” shortly after Sapp fired the first shots at his career's credibility, has since taken the high road in his responses to any of Sapp's follow up criticisms.
"I don't respond to him because the tiger does not pay attention to the opinion of a sheep," he told Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
He added, "I'm not a coward to talk to somebody else when I have somebody's number. I'm going to come to you and tell you if I have a problem, so I don't understand what this whole thing is about."
Patricia Traina is a credentialed Super Bowl XLVIII media member who regularly covers the New York Giants. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.