Critics, including Zoneblitz.com, have been hard on the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee over the past few years for perceived shortcomings in their votes. So I think it is only fair to give them credit for the class they chose to induct in 2013.
That’s not to say I agreed with every selection they made. There were others I thought should have gotten in, but the 2013 class included no borderline candidates and nobody who wouldn’t otherwise have gotten in within another year or two had it not happened this season.
Family responsibilities kept me from watching the announcement last weekend, so this is the first chance I’ve had to truly take an in depth look at their choices. And I think it’s one of the strongest in years.
Allen and Ogden: There had been a sense from some observers that Jonathan Ogden would have to wait for a year because of how strong Larry Allen‘s case is. And it’s true – Allen was an absolute beast, starring both at left tackle and at guard for Dallas during the Jimmy Johnson-led near-dynasty years. But Ogden, if not Allen’s equal, was not far behind. Both were 11-time Pro Bowl selections. Ogden was a four-time Associated Press All-Pro first team selection, trailing Allen by two. Both of their careers warranted the first ballot selection. I would have liked to have seen Will Shields get in too, but inducting three offensive linemen in the same year is almost never going to happen. Shields made the AP team only twice, but was a 12-time Pro Bowler. His day will come, likely next year.
Cris Carter: You can argue that he was a show-boater and you can argue that the guy was a bit of a prima donna with some jackwad tendencies, but you cannot argue that he was not one of the best receivers ever. Carter got caught up for several years in the voting process with two nearly equally deserving candidates in Tim Brown and Andre Reed. You can make a case for any of the three getting enshrined first, but Carter’s big lead in touchdowns over the other two likely pushed him to the front of the line. The bigger thing is that this nomination helped break a logjam that was only going to get tighter in future years with Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Hines Ward, Terrell Owens and other receivers becoming eligible. I hope Reed and Brown both get in over the next couple years because as the game continues to evolve into more of a passing league, their numbers are going to slide down the all time lists, making it harder to remember just how good they were.
Warren Sapp: From what I have read, this was probably the selection people found most surprising. And that says something. I think I would have preferred to see Michael Strahan get inducted in his first year of eligibility than Sapp but that would have been a personality thing more than anything else. I simply like Strahan more than I like Sapp. And that’s not exactly a reason to be bitter about this selection. I definitely think Charles Haley is long overdue for induction, despite his being somewhat of a clown. Kevin Greene is another defensive linemen some thought would get his call this time around. But Sapp got the nod and, even if he wasn’t my first choice, it’s hard to build a strong case against his being deserving. Seven Pro Bowls, four AP All-Pro awards and helping bring respectability and a championship banner to the one-time laughingstock Buccaneers are worthy accomplishments. If this is the selection committee’s biggest “mistake” then they really do deserve some accolades for this class. Because if Sapp had not gotten in this year it would be hard to see him waiting more than one more at the worst.
Bill Parcells: This is another case where the nominee is eminently deserving, even if he would not have been my first choice. When there isn’t a clear difference between a coach, an executive, a contributor or a player, I prefer the tiebreaker goes to the player. So I would have preferred the call going to Haley, Aeneas Williams, Greene or Shields. But Parcells obviously deserves this honor. The luster came off a bit during his final four years coaching in Dallas, but before that he coached three Super Bowl teams, two of which won. He won 172 games throughout his career and, like Sapp, he would have been in soon even if he had not gotten into the 2013 class.
Culp and Robinson: I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on these guys, but they’ve been heavily supported by various players of their eras in media accounts. Packers Hall of Famer Willie Davis told Zoneblitz that Dave Robinson deserves to be in. He went to three Pro Bowls and had one AP honor. And Curley Culp‘s career profile included six Pro Bowl appearances and one AP award. There were seniors more supported by Zoneblitz readers and writers, but I don’t think these guys were undeserving.
So, all in all, I’d give the much maligned voting committee a thumbs up for the work it did this year. The logjam at wide receiver has at least been loosened and another potential one on the offensive line has been avoided, at least for now. There are still a few defenders who shouldn’t have to wait too much longer, but with a weaker first-year class coming in 2014, voters have put themselves in position to continue catching up on those guys in the years to come.