In recent years, I think the Hall of Fame voters have done a pretty decent job. They haven’t selected every player I would have preferred to see, but their choices have, by and large, been defensible. They’ve cleared some backlogs, notably at the WR position. And they’ve, for the most part, left off fringe borderline guys in order to get some truly qualified players enshrined.
But this 2017 class is the most disappointed I’ve been in several years. It’s not just that they didn’t follow my desired ballot. And it’s not that I think the candidates selected this year were uniformly not qualified for enshrinement in the Hall.
It’s more that this year’s entrants just feel like a collection of compromise candidates. Among my issues:
- Terrell Davis was a great RB and he may deserve to be in the Hall. But the short tenure of his career, against someone like Terrell Owens, makes Davis a questionable pick.
- Though he is one of the great kickers of all-time, Morten Andersen was on the field for, what, 10 to 12 plays per game most of the time? He belongs in the Hall as one of the League’s all-time highest scorers, but not until voters solve the safety position – which is flush with qualified candidates from first-time-eligible Brian Dawkins to multi-year candidates like Steve Atwater and John Lynch. Let’s sum it up this way: Despite the plethora of qualified candidates, the voters have now selected two special teamers in the last four years (Andersen and Ray Guy in 2014) while not adding a single one of the safeties.
- Kurt Warner was the best QB among modern-era candidates. And he had great moments and he’s a great story, but his was an up-and-down career. He’s waited a few years. But offensive linemen like Joe Jacoby are equally qualified and running out of remaining eligibility. Warner’s resume is not so overwhelming that he couldn’t wait in favor of an equal candidate with fewer years left.
- Owens could not even make it into the final five? We’re talking about a WR some believe to be the second best ever. Even now, seven years removed from the game, Owens is third in receiving TDs with 153, second in yards with 15,934 and eighth in receptions with 1,078. I get that he was a jackwagon at times, that he wasn’t always a model citizen or a great guy. And sure, some will argue that if Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Andre Reed had to wait, Owens can too. But … HE DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE FINAL 10. To me he’s the second or third strongest candidate in the final 15, but that aside, there is ZERO cogent argument for him not making the final 10.That is purely a vengeful play by writer/voters.
- It’s not getting as much attention as the Owens snub, but the enshrined seven all also will get their gold jackets before Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca, two guys who easily were nearly peerless during their playing days. Consider this: Both Mawae (eight) and Faneca (nine) played in more Pro Bowls than Davis played seasons. Faneca also had six first-team AP All Pro awards and, in his down years, added two second-team AP awards. Mawae had three firsts and four seconds.
- The non-election of Paul Tagliabue only further illustrates the folly that is alternating years between two seniors and a contributor with two contributors and a senior. I believe Tagliabue is Hall worthy for his ability to maintain labor peace for his entire tenure, after players strikes interrupted play twice in the last seven years of Pete Rozelle’s tenure. But if voters find him borderline, there are better candidates than him and, frankly, Jerry Jones, whose candidacy feels ridiculously rushed when there are guys like Bobby Beathard out there waiting. That said, there are far fewer contributors who are must-have Hall enshrinement candidates than there are senior candidates. Let’s get the Chuck Howleys and Johnny Robinsons and Jerry Kramers and others who actually helped build the game on the field in while they are, for the most part, still around and wait on forcing more questionable contributors onto the annual ballot.
- Some question how Jason Taylor got in on his first try while Michael Strahan had to wait. That I don’t have as much a problem with, as Strahan was a victim of numbers when Warren Sapp, Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen also were eligible for the first time. Not all first-time warranted candidates are going to get in right away and that class has to rank as one of the most impressive in Hall history. Jason Taylor just happened to retire in the right year.
You tell me which would be the stronger enshrinement class of 2017:
|Voters’ class||Andy’s class|
|LaDainian Tomlinson||LaDainian Tomlinson|
|Jason Taylor||Jason Taylor|
|Kurt Warner||Alan Faneca|
|Terrell Davis||Brian Dawkins|
|Morten Andersen||Kevin Mawae|
|Kenny Easley – Senior||Kenny Easley – Senior|
|Jerry Jones – Contributor||Jerry Jones – Contributor|
|Paul Tagliabue – Contributor|
The class isn’t a complete washout. Tomlinson and Taylor are greats. Warner has the support of many. I have no problem with he, Davis or Andersen getting into the Hall at some point. But to make those three round out a single class is, to me, not the way to go.
Even among the final 10, there were ways the voters could have gone that would have made this a much stronger class. Some of the guys cut in the 15 to 10 and 10 to 5 votes were a clear notch above some of the guys getting in this year. And that will have consequences for good candidates down the line.
In 2018 and probably down the line, we’ll see a strong incoming first-year class headlined by Randy Moss, another enigmatic WR with great numbers. Some voters will want to put him in right away and others will want to see him wait. That debate doesn’t even touch the growing logjam at safety (that we saw coming even a couple years ago) that will only be getting tighter and tighter.
Voters had just gotten themselves out of a similar situation that caused Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed to wait longer than any of them deserved. Apparently they did not learn their lessons.