This article from my archives was published, in part, in a newsletter, edited by Don Small of the USMA (West Point). A discussion of some issues related to the selection process of the Hall of Fame was at the center of the discussion. Moreover, it seems only reasonable to recognized the accomplishments and gifts of great NFL players and Oakland Raiders.
A part of this article was published in 2007. A similar report was mailed by certified mail to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No record of a response was received.
Congratulations to Jerry Rice for his enshrinement. There are others, however, who deserve consideration and some type of recognition for their gift, and contribution to the Oakland Raiders and to the NFL.
A new paradigm is needed. Just as there are rigorous and sophisticated research techniques that help us seek truth, truth must also be sought when we recognize the contributions of NFL players.
The coach tells a player to go out there on the playing field and catch that ball, get a touchdown, and complete that “Hail Mary” pass. The player does it and he does it so well and so often during his career that his numbers stand out even in the 21st century.
Who was that player with intensity and player integrity—the kind of player whose results have taken many years to exceed. His name is Warren Wells.
Take a good look at the players’ averages and tell me what you see. During the first five years of Warren Wells’ career his averages were better than some of the Super Bowl 43 wide receivers.
For example, if you compare Wells (1), Fitzgerald (2), Rice (3) and Boldin (4), clearly Wells’ average exceeds the others during the first five years. Respectively, their numbers are:
In September 2002 Paul Zimmerman is quoted:
Hayes began to make his mark on the NFL as soon as he arrived: He led the league with 21.8 yards per catch in his rookie season, and he sustained that career average of 20 yards per reception, a figure few players even approach nowadays for a single season.
So coaches came up with a double zone to try to control him. A cornerback would play him tight as he came off the line—in those days defenders could do anything they wanted to a receiver, except grab and hold—and another defensive back would pick him up deep.
Or coaches would assign the deepest defensive back, usually the free safety, to make sure he stayed behind Hayes, which opened up vast areas underneath. No other player caused that kind of strategic overhaul of the defensive game.
"That alone should have earned Hayes a spot in Canton, but in 1979, two years before he became eligible for enshrinement, he was sentenced to five years in prison for selling narcotics; he was paroled after serving 10 months.
His alcohol and drug problems were a shock to those who knew him. He was a decent, forthright person with...well, major problems.
But that was enough to keep him out of Canton, even though, according to the guidelines, a candidate should be judged solely on the basis of his performance on the field.
By the 1990s he was no longer a modern Hall of Fame candidate. He had been relegated to the Seniors pool, which can yield only one candidate a year and sometimes produces none.
"The situation with Bob Hayes and the Hall of Fame is one of the most tragic stories I've ever been associated with during my time in professional football," said Tex Schramm, the Cowboys' former president and general manager.
The reality of the quote is that the HOF is to select a candidate and judge a candidate solely on the basis of his performance on the field.
So when a player delivers on the playing field, so then the HOF must deliver in accordance with the guidelines, otherwise the integrity issues arise.
For example, just as Zimmerman noted that Hayes “led the league with 21.8 yards per catch in his rookie season, the data shows that Wells was outstanding during his rookie year with Oakland, with 23.2 yards per catch.
Furthermore, the year before Wells attained this number, he was in the military in Alaska, serving his country after being drafted into the U.S. Army.
He willingly served his country although that service caused a gap in his professional football career.
Wells’ overall average exceeds Hayes. In fact, his average is well above the 2009 Super Bowl wide receivers.
Hayes and Wells had speed
If we compare Wells with Hayes, a conjecture would be that Hayes had speed and Wells had speed on the playing field.
Zimmerman said that the defensive strategy had to change to control or stop Hayes, and a reasonable conjecture is that it had to change to stop Warren Wells, too.
It’s about time we exhume the records and take a good look, rather microscopic in nature, to study the DNA of the situation. Innocent oversight is one thing; but intent to overlook excellent performance on the football field is not acceptable in the 21st century.
The power of a critical eye, and the power of the media will have to be blended to jointly reconsider the performance on the field and come into compliance with the HOF guidelines.
Career Length: An Issue or Not?
Another important point for rebuttal is career length. The argument can be discussed in the context of the average career length of an NFL player. According to research, we have: “The average career of an NFL player is 3 1/2 seasons, according to the NFLPA.”
The amazing fact about Wells’ career is that he made history during an intense five year career and his career length exceeds that of the average NFL player, and his length has qualified him for his NFL benefits, so why not give him his glory commensurate with his mark on history?
Can you imagine the depression of someone who knows that he gave his best on the football field, but was not judged for the content of his character on the field in accordance to the HOF guidelines.
Just as the Obama campaign promised change, so there must be change in how we honor those who did their best on the job, on the field, yet have been overlooked so long that some of them are finally recognized posthumously.
Hayes passed away in 2002, and seven years later, he is being honored. Wells is 66 years old, alive and well in his hometown, and he needs to be honored for his performance on the field in a game that gave him joy and a place to excel.
As a child before he was eight years old, Warren Wells and his family lived on a plantation in near Franklin, La. What great heights he attained after such an humble beginning which reminds us of the struggles for freedom, dignity, and justice for all in America.
More Examples of Errors in History
In 1999 Pope John Paul honored Galileo 359 years after his death—the Catholic church failed to recognize its error in judging Galileo and it took years to correct the flawed thinking.
Henry Flipper, the first black man to graduate West Point was overlooked and falsely accused, yet the strength and integrity of President William Jefferson Clinton addressed the errors and corrected them, thereby restoring honor to Mr. Flipper who was honored in a Presidential ceremony in the Twentieth century.
This article sets forth a proposal to set the record straight, do the research and find all of those who have been overlooked and suppressed by selective exposure. It is time for change.
For example, Henry Flipper suffered ill-judgment, but President William Jefferson Clinton erased the cloud around his honorable achievements. Research indicates,
Clearing His Name - Examples
It was the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s and a concerted effort by historians to tell the story of all Americans that brought attention to the circumstances surrounding Flippers dismissal.
The case was reviewed by the Army Board for Correction of Military records. In late 1976, the board changed Flipper's dismissal to an honorable discharge.
While acknowledging that Flipper had falsified reports and lied to his commanding officer, the board ruled that the sentence of the court and its approval by the president was "unduly harsh, and therefore unjust."
In the 1999 Executive Grant of Clemency, President Clinton granted "a full and unconditional pardon to Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper." Source: http://www.africanamericans.com/HenryFlipper.htm
There are numerous examples of “unduly harsh and unjust” acts in world history and American history. Similar oversights and injustices have impacted the lives of professional athletes, some of whom were from very modest sociocultural backgrounds before they achieved on the professional football field.
In many cases, the legal, political and media support systems were not in place to uphold and defend the good in their careers on the field, thereby leaving them to become overlooked and plagued by “hearsay” rather than by rigorous research to present the data to characterize their impact on the playing field.
A contemporary example of performance on the football field is Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl XLIII MVP, who has several off the field challenges yet we must respect his data.
During his second year in professional football his 18.1 Y/R (2007) average is outstanding, but it was exceeded by Wells in 1969.
Let’s us take a good look, and let us exercise an intense passion for truth, clearer perceptions, and let us recognize men and women for their performance on the field.
Appendix - A Student Project
Student Project for Calculus
For this project, we compared the “greatness” of two very talented football players, Jerry Rice and Warren Wells. To do this, we examined a list on rankings for several categories. We then took this information and created a graph for each player.
We decided that we could determine the area under the curve and that the player with the largest total area would be “the greatest.” To do this, we divided the graph into sections and determined the area of each section and then took the sum of the sections.
We took the first two ordered pairs, for Jerry Rice that was (5, 27) and (10,27).
We used these to find the slope:
m= (y2-y1)/(x2-x1) = (27-27)/(10-5)= 0/5= 0
We then plugged the slope and the first ordered pair into the slope-intercept formula:
To get the area under the curve, we next took the integral of the equation we just got:
∫05 y dy
The following is a list of the sets of ordered pairs we used:
The total areas we calculated were:
Jerry Rice =1177.4
Warren Wells =1047.5
Therefore, we concluded that Jerry Rice is overall the greater of these two football players.