Congrats, Hall Semifinalists, and Good Luck: You'll Need It This Year
For the 25 ex-NFL players who made the Hall of Fame semi-finals, Saturday was a day to reflect proudly on outstanding careers.
But it may be all the recognition they get until next year.
Do the math.
Of that 25, only five will make the Hall when we vote on Feb. 6. And you really can cut that number to three (THREE!!!) of 23 because two of the inductees will be Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, I've been voting since 1993 and every time that kind of nominee has come up -- Walter Payton, Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Reggie White -- the "debate" has lasted an average of 43 seconds.
The other two spots go to seniors and the nominees are Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little. They are voted on separately and need 80 percent, like everyone else. LeBeau should get in. I'm not sure about Little -- and I'm on the seniors committee that selected them.
Overall, this class is a pretty good one.
Shannon Sharpe and Cris Carter have been hanging around for a few years now and are getting close. Andre Reed and now Tim Brown further clog the receiver backlog -- I'm coming around on Reed after long talks about him with his bosses in Buffalo: Bill Polian and Marv Levy.
Then there are the guys who were in the finals for the first time last year and made a favorable impression: Dermontti Dawson, John Randle and Cortez Kennedy plus Rickey Jackson and Charles Haley, who I've wanted to talk about for a while. But Jackson and Haley (and Roger Craig, another guy I want to discuss) have about a 50-50 chance of even making it to the finals.
Then there are Paul Tagliabue and Art Modell.
I think Tagliabue should have gone in right after he retired. Others don't. They think that the current labor disagreement is his fault (it isn't), ignore the fact that he became commissioner two years after a strike and managed to keep the peace (along with the late Gene Upshaw) for two decades. Undercurrent: he could be surly to the media, something that's irrelevant to me -- plenty of Hall of Fame players were surly with the media too.
But whatever the reason, Tagliabue probably won't get in this year because of the numbers game. Same with Modell, who I've always liked a lot, but probably ruined any chance he had when he moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore. I got shouted at for 15 minutes a while back by a radio talk show host in Baltimore when I told him that on the air. Goes with the territory.
One more note.
Football is a team sport, but Hall of Fame election is for individuals. That's easy for me to say, because I'm an at-large voter -- others represent cities and have to nominate a player from the local team when he's a finalist. But most of us really don't care who someone played for, although if he was on a Super Bowl winner or five (in Haley's case) it helps. And if he played for a loser, it hurts. Although I consider it remarkable that Kennedy was the defensive player of the year in 1992 on a 2-14 Seattle team.
I know fans take it differently.
A lot believe that anyone who was outstanding for their favorite team deserves to be in the Hall. In a lot of cases that's simply not true. There's something we call "the Hall of Very Good.'' It's where they belong. Maybe we should start one -- Denver leads the league in that category and Denver fans have been complaining for years about the lack of Broncos.
One thing to remember: a modern day candidate is eligible for 25 years. So if he doesn't make it this year, he's likely to be back next year. And the year after that. Most guys who make the finals relatively early make it to the Hall eventually. It just takes patience.
In the next two-plus months, we'll hear from a lot of you about players, some of whom aren't even on the list. Most of those notes and e-mails are polite and I, for one, am happy to listen.
After Emmitt, Jerry and three others make it, we'll hear again.
Those are not so polite.