There are those who say Super Bowls are worth a considerable amount of weight when measuring a player's body of work. There are others who say team success doesn't belong on a player's resume and, instead, individual accomplishments belong front and center.
No matter what side of that debate you're on, it's hard to defend Charles Haley's continued absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not only is Haley a member of the 100-sack club, but he's also the only player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls.
Haley is the last key member of the glory-day 1990s Dallas Cowboys to be kept out of the Hall. Those teams, which won three titles in four years, have never received enough credit for how good they were on defense.
The Cowboys were ranked first in total defense in '92, gave up the second-lowest point total in the league in '93, ranked first overall again in '94 and gave up the third-lowest point total in '95. Haley was a Pro Bowler in two of those years and an All-Pro in 1994.
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And yet he has now had to wait a decade since retiring, including five years of eligibility in which he came close with no cigar. He's made the final list of 15 candidates every year, and he was one of the top four runners-up this year for the second time in a row.
The good news is that Michael Strahan got in this year. Strahan holds the single-season sack record and was probably more dominant than Haley, so at least Haley moves up a spot in line, so to speak. He and Kevin Greene have consistently made the final 15 in recent years but haven't been elected. Greene had 160 career sacks, which ranks third all time, but he never won a championship as a player.
If Haley doesn't make the cut again next year, I think it'll become fair to ask whether his off-the-field antics and his oft-abrasive behavior have hurt his candidacy.
Regardless, it could take some time. Haley ranks 28th on the all-time sack list with 100.5. But only two players in NFL history had more sacks than Greene. And Richard Dent was a five-time All-Pro with two rings and 37 more sacks than Haley; he had to wait eight years to be inducted. His off-the-field reputation was also better than Haley's.
“I’m sorry, but if him being rude to some writers or not being accommodating to those in the media keeps him from being in the Hall of Fame, then I really disagree with the process," said former teammate Troy Aikman this weekend, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, "because that’s not what this is about. I don’t know what happens, but I know he was largely responsible for a big amount of the success that we had during those years.”
There are plenty of non-Hall of Famers with more sacks and All-Pro honors than Haley, but few of them have more than a ring or two. Haley has one for every finger on his right hand. Not bad when combined with triple-digit sacks and 26 forced fumbles (33rd on the all-time list).
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I'm tired of quarterbacks being tattooed with win-loss records and championship tallies while every other player who contributed to those accomplishments is forced to rely solely on personal stats and records. It's a silly double standard that continues to hurt Haley's chances of being properly honored.
“I think Charles should be in,” former teammate Michael Irvin said this weekend, per Moore. “We’re willing to give Peyton Manning credit, so much credit, if he wins this game because we’re going to say he led two different teams to Super Bowl championships. He deserves the credit. But we won’t give Charles Haley any of that credit? He led two different teams to Super Bowls, but we won’t give him any kind of credit?”
At some point, you also have to ask if the Hall of Fame is too exclusive. Logjams are building in multiple spots. It doesn't seem right that guys like Haley, Dent, Strahan and Cris Carter have had to wait as long as they did/have.
Nonetheless, that isn't likely to change any time soon, so don't hold your breath for Haley.