Friday, February 01, 2013

One More Thing...The Hall of Fame

You are going to hear quite a few media types using cliches today - as they are wont to do - and one will be along of lines of saying, "now that all the hype is behind us, all we have left is the football game."

And they would be forgetting one very important item that must be covered in this space.  At least, one of my favorite portions of Super Bowl week every year and something that I never get tired of discussing; Hall of Fame induction Day.

I feel like the other sports have rather random ways of announcing their hall of fame inductees and they often announce them in their offseason on a day when you aren't really thinking about that sport.  But, not my football.  Oh, no.  Football properly takes advantage of having its universe all located in the same city for the Super Bowl and makes the day before the big game the day where they ask their exclusive voters to assemble for an all-morning and much of the afternoon voting session that will end in that year's class.  They will be inducted at the dawn of the next season in Canton for the first preseason game, but the year ends as the new class is announced.  It is perfect in its symmetry if you ask me.

So, while many are typing up their game previews (I certainly feel this is the 49ers game to lose.  And it is not about Kaepernick as much as it is about the team concept is where San Francisco has consistently been the best team in football this year.  That is not to say that their QB doesn't matter, it is just that it doesn't matter AS MUCH as other teams.  They are loaded everywhere and have two more important things that teams like the Cowboys can only dream about: health and depth.  They were the single healthiest team in the league this year which only amplifies the talent discrepancies it enjoys at so many positions.  Then, in the rare cases where they did need a proper backup, they were able to use their very high draft picks to solidify their openings.  The Ravens are built much the same way, but as we did see many moons ago when the Cowboys had them beat in Baltimore, they are just not that solid on the defense as we are led to believe by the media.  They are a team that is on a very nice run and they also do have the feel as the annual "hot team in the playoffs", but I will resist the urge to fall for the Ray Lewis narrative and stick with my eyeballs and take San Francisco, 24-20.  It should be an excellent game that pretty much nobody predicted this year.  And just so you take my prediction no more seriously than you should, I had New England beating Green Bay in this game back in August when we had to file our season picks.), I will get after this year's Hall of Fame vote.

There was a time from a Cowboys perspective that Dallas was wildly under-represented in Canton.  Sure, there were some players who were in the Hall of Fame who played a small portion of their career in Dallas like Lance Alworth, Herb Adderley, Forrest Gregg, Tommy McDonald, Mike Ditka, and Jackie Smith.  But, none of those guys were guys who would be considered Cowboys by visitors of the Hall.  Jackie may have had his biggest moment with the Cowboys, but he only played one season here and had such a bigger career than that one moment in the end-zone of Super Bowl 13 would suggest.  Google him and be impressed.

But, for a team that had such a great track record of success, as of 2004, the only actual Cowboys' players who were in the Hall of Fame were: Bob Lilly (inducted in 1980), Roger Staubach (1985), Tony Dorsett (1994), Randy White (1994), and Mel Renfro (1996).

That number was nice, but frankly, when the Houston Oilers could boast a similar number, it did not seem to properly reflect the amount of winning the franchise had done over the years.  Look at Pittsburgh and Oakland - these are teams who were able to get way more players in from those dominant teams of the 1970's and 1980's.  But, the Cowboys hit a wall for almost a decade.

Then, in 2006, in Miami, the wall came tumbling down.  That year, it was Troy Aikman and Rayfield Wright.  In 2007, Michael Irvin got the call.  In 2009, Bob Hayes was honored.  In 2010, it was Emmitt Smith and in 2011, Deion Sanders was inducted.  Sanders, of course, is likely remembered more for playing with several teams, but everyone else were clear Cowboys.  So, in just a handful of years, the number of Cowboys went from 5 to 10.  Things seemed to be equalized.  The cries of the "Anti-Cowboys bias" have been quieted quite a bit.

That doesn't mean that all of the cases are closed.  There are still many around here - including me as I have written several times - who believe Drew Pearson needs to be in.  At this point, he will need to go the route of Bob Hayes with the senior committee, but I still can't believe that a guy with moments as big as his would not eventually get in.

Harvey Martin also seems like a worthy inductee and we could actually make quite a list of others while we are at it that, but there are two more who might get in tomorrow when the committee convenes for the 2013 session.

The first is one of those no-brainers who will be in either this year or next year.  He is one of those "it is simply a matter of time" guys because in the last 20 years, nobody has been a better offensive lineman than Larry Allen.  A giant human with even larger feats of strength than guys his size, Allen dominated his opponents with great ease and routine.  Having played left tackle, left guard, right guard, and right tackle, it was pretty clear that Allen could fix any positional issue the Cowboys had over his long career, and in his prime was the best of the best.

He was named to both the all-decade team of the 1990s and the all decade team of the 2000s.  At the end of his stay in Dallas he wasn't at his peak, but if you consider his 14 years as a whole, Allen is exceeded at guard only by one player - John Hannah - for All-Pro teams.  Hannah made 10, whereas Allen was on 7 which tied him with Gene Upshaw (Jim Parker had 8 as a tackle/guard).

This season, 3 offensive linemen are up for induction.  Will Shields is in his 2nd year of eligibility and has credentials that indicate his wait won't be long, too, and Jonathan Ogden is in his 1st year.  The believe is that 2 get in, so while I feel Allen is in this class, there is no predicting the voters choice.

The other Cowboys interest is for Charles Haley.  His notable talking point is that he has 5 Super Bowl victories: 23, 24, 27, 28, and 30.  That is fantastic, and he was in on at least one sack in 4 of those Super Bowls.  He also has 100.5 sacks and although 100 seems like a magic number for Hall of Fame consideration, don't be so sure.

Leslie O'Neal has 132, Simeon Rice has 122, Sean Jones 113, Greg Townsend 109, Trace Armstrong 106, and yes, even Jim Jeffcoat has 102.5.  And if you knew that Jeffcoat had more career sacks than Charles Haley, then I congratulate you.  Because that surprised me.

Now, guys like Howie Long (84) have fewer sacks than Haley and are in the Hall of Fame, but Greg Ellis also has 84, so we must assume that sack totals do not tell all.  Which likely lead us back to 7 championship games and 5 Super Bowl rings.

The other oddity of Haley's career was that on those 1992 and 1993 Cowboys teams that are considered amongst the greatest single-season teams of this lifetime, he only finished 3rd and 4th in sacks.  In 1992, Jeffcoat had 10.5, Tony Tolbert 8.5, and Haley had 6.  In 1993, Tolbert had 7.5, Jeffcoat 6, Jimmie Jones 5.5, and Haley just 4.  Those numbers are hard to process.

Now, having just viewed Super Bowl 27, I will attest to the fact that Haley was a monster that day and All-Pro tackle Will Wolford was beaten badly.  So, when the chips were down, he performed, but there are some production numbers that are problematic.

Meanwhile, for all of Howie Long's points earned as a personality who endeared himself to the public with smiles and television time, Haley will have a hill to overcome in that department as well.  As we know, the media votes, so if you spent most of your career trying to scare the media or at least be difficult, then hopefully the media is not vindictive (lol).

My best guess at the class - which means who I expect to get in, not who I believe SHOULD be voted in is likely to be: Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Art Modell, Jonathan Ogden, Dave Robinson, and Michael Strahan.

I figure that this prediction will be about as reliable as the Patriots beating the Packers on Sunday, but just know that I will be locked in on Saturday as the new class is announced.  I personally hope Charles Haley gets the call, but I assume that Strahan will vault past with his 141 sacks, New York personality, and big Super Bowl moment.  But, perhaps I am wrong.  And that doesn't even consider Bill Parcells, Warren Sapp, Tim Brown, or Andre Reed.

As you can see, there are more worthy candidates than there are spaces available.  And that won't change as a new crop is eligible every year.

I still look forward to the day where this process is fully televised, but the voters think this would irreparably damage the ability for voters to speak freely.  That may be the case, but it sure seems like transparency is one way to take away vendettas or at least make people with them be accountable.

Either way, the discussion are fun for those of us who are not hanging on every vote.  Pity the players who must, until their day arrives - if, in fact, it does.

1 comment:

James said...

Great thoughts, Bob, although I would argue against measuring a DL by the number of sacks. Sometimes great linemen don't get sacks because teams show respect by designing plays on the other side of the field from them.

But I'm surprised you didn't raise the prospect of Parcells getting voted in as a non-player. You always overrate him, so I was going to make a case against his being elevated to HOF status, and against the idea that he deserves to be called (as he often is) a "legend."

Ah well, I'll do it anyway. The standard defense of Parcells: He won two Super Bowls, and turned the Cowboys into a winning team. Here's why that is line of reasoning is in error:

1. He only won that 2nd Super Bowl because Scott Norwood missed a makeable field goal. The head coach is responsible for all that his team does, but he shouldn't be credited for the failure of a player on the other team. If Norwood does his job, then Parcells is a one-game winner, on same level as Weeb Ewbank, Brian Billick, and Barry Switzer.

1b. Even if you give him credit for 2 SB's, why does that make him a legend? Does anyone consider Tom Flores a legend? George Seifert?

2. While with the Cowboys, he managed to win exactly two games more than he lost. In 4 years, he's just two games over .500. And his post-season success is less than previous Cowboys 'legends" such as Gailey and Switzer. Under Parcells, the Cowboys missed the playoffs twice, and went 0-2 in postseason overall.

With the Jets, he did go to the AFC Championship, but the list of coaches who went that far is a long one.
That's not to say he was a failure. Parcells was good, but he wasn't great, and his accomplishments do not rise to the standard necessary to refer to him as legendary--or Hall of Famer.