Given their past track record, I guess there should be no surprise that the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame made some bad decisions during their annual selection meeting on Saturday.
They didn’t mess up the selection of two deserving first-ballot candidates in Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, but in my opinion the rest of their choices were seriously lacking.
In addition to Rice and Smith, the other members of the 2010 Hall of Fame Class will be Rickey Jackson, Russ Grimm, Floyd Little, Dick LeBeau, and John Randle.
Of those other five, in my opinion only Randle was the best player at his position who is not already in the Hall of Fame.
Little is among the 10 best running backs previously excluded from the HOF, but there are a plethora of more deserving players at the respective positions than Grimm, LeBeau, and Jackson.
As has become commonplace, the Hall of Fame voters overlooked some clearly deserving candidates while selecting others that most people would consider borderline.
Let’s look at the five questionable selections one at a time.
Though a solid linebacker during his career primarily with the Saints and 49ers, I have a hard time believing that Jackson is more worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame than Randy Gradishar, Chuck Howley, Sam Mills, Robert Brazile, Chris Hanburger, or a number of other talented linebackers who have not yet earned the call from the Hall.
I have basically the same opinion about Grimm that I do with Jackson. You can make a Hall of Fame case for him, but is Grimm more deserving than Jerry Kramer, Dermontti Dawson, Walt Sweeney, Bob Kuechenberg, or even his teammate, Joe Jacoby?
In my series last summer on the best players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I had Grimm as the 15th best offensive lineman not in the Hall of Fame.
I think there are better running backs not in the Hall of Fame, but as a senior’s committee nominee, I am glad that Little was finally recognized for a great career that ended 35 years ago.
When looking at the running backs, I had Little as the seventh-best not in the HOF, so he certainly has Hall of Fame credentials.
My issue with Dick LeBeau has to do as much with the process and structure of the Hall of Fame selections as it does specifically with his worthiness. According to what I have read about the rules for Hall of Fame selection, senior candidates are to be considered for their play on the field.
Performance as a coach is to be considered only after a coach retires. For that reason, I have a very difficult time with Dick LeBeau being selected to the Hall of Fame at this time.
He was a good NFL player, but he was not a Hall of Fame player on the field. He was named to only three Pro Bowls in 14 years and was never a first-team All-Pro.
If over the next few weeks he is lauded for both his work as a player and as a coach, then the Hall of Fame needs to immediately change their selection rules and, in my opinion, completely overhaul their selection committee.
Of the five selections other than Rice and Smith, I think Randle is the one where they definitely got it right. Randle was one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL for more than a decade.
He registered double-digit sack numbers nine times and 137.5 for his career. He was a Pro Bowl selection seven times and first-team All-Pro on six occasions.
Of those left out this year, I think Shannon Sharpe is the one who should be most disappointed.
He defined the tight end position during his time in the NFL and was the all-time leading receiver for tight ends at the time of his retirement. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t get in last year, but he should have gotten in during his second season of eligibility.
I am now wondering if Sharpe is not getting in because he was loud and boisterous as a player and remains the same as a broadcaster. The Hall of Fame voters often have downgraded players because of how they treated the media or their outspokenness.
Giving me particular reason to think this is that in his article prior to the selections, John Clayton said that Sharpe had only a 35 percent chance of getting into the Hall of Fame.
Considering that he set the standard for his position, I struggle to understand why a member of the committee would say someone like Sharpe would have only 35 percent chance at induction. I don’t know what it is, but there is obviously something else holding Sharpe out of the HOF.
I know that it will never happen, but in my opinion this year is another excellent example of why the selection process for the Hall of Fame needs to be radically overhauled.
It is obvious that those making the choices include personal bias in the decision making instead of simply inducting the best players.
There are literally dozens of players who had better NFL careers than several of the players who will be receiving their Hall of Fame busts in 2010.
It is time for the NFL to take a serious look at how players are selected for the Hall of Fame and make some significant changes.
Of course, considering that the NFL is currently struggling on how to divide $5 billion of annual TV revenue without having a work stoppage, I seriously doubt they will be able to reform the Hall of Fame selection process anytime soon.
Link to previous article rating the candidacy of the 2010 Hall of Fame finalists
Link to series rating the best players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
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