Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Hall Of Fame Choices

As a voter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I get a chance each year to hear the pros and cons debated about each of the eligible players the day before the Super Bowl. There are 39 electors on the Hall of Fame committee, writers and broadcasters representing the 32 NFL cities, the Pro Football Writers of America and some at-large voters as well.

The debate is usually spirited, with some biases at work that still have me shaking my heard.

This year the fifteen finalists don’t include any “contributors” to the game and that seems strange. Neither Art Modell, George Young nor Ralph Wilson made it to the final ballot. All three have been there before. Which makes me belive that there might have been a coordinated effort among some of the voters to not bring any of the contributors to the committee this year.

There’s been a long standing debate regarding whether the contributors should fight for the limited number of spots available for the Hall with the players and coaches involved in the game. The total number of electees in any one year can only be six, and if you throw a contributor or two in there, all of the sudden, the players are getting squeezed out.

I agree that the contributors should have their own separate category, but the Hall’s Board of Directors doesn’t see it that way and therefore, they’ll continue to be on the general ballott. With only six eligible spots, this year is going to be tough. It’ll be an elimination ballott in my mind instead of a who’s deserving vote.

When the Seniors committee brings a player to the final 15, I think it’s amazing that somebody would vote one of those down. Two members of the Seniors committee meet with the Hall’s administration and two members of the Hall in August to go through the thousands of players who’s careers ended more than 25 years ago. They’re looking for the guys who “slipped through the cracks.”

In my 11 years on the committee, only two senior candidates, Jerry Kramer and Bob Hayes didn’t get elected. If a guy is grabbed out of that morass of players and makes it through the voting process to the final up or down, who among the committee members thinks they’re just smarter than everybody else and votes no? Not me, I can assure you.

Kramer was subjected to the “I’m not putting anymore Packers in” syndrome. Hayes’ chance was mortally wounded when a prominent writer.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

The Season

“The season?” Mike Peterson asked in response to a question about his reflections of the year. “The season was great, 12-4 but we didn’t get it done tonight. I’m not into making excuses. If I’m on the field, I’m supposed to make tackles. I didn’t. We lost.”

That was the general theme in a quiet but not somber Jaguars losing locker room after their 28-3 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots. “They’re a good team, and when you make mistakes, a good team makes you pay for it,” Rashean Mathis said in front of his locker. “We’ll learn from this.”

That’s what the entire game looked like. The Patriots looked like they knew how to play in the post-season and they were going to teach the Jaguars what it meant. New England wasn’t dominating. They controlled the field position for the entire first half, yet only lead 7-3. But they never looked out of control. When the Jaguars went three and out in the first series of the third quarter, the Patriots promptly took the ball 81 yards for a touchdown.

When the Jaguars didn’t make a crisp tackle, Ben Watson ran 67 yards for a TD. And when Byron Leftwich threw a predictable pass in the flat, Assante Samuel picked it off and ran it back for another six points.

“The difference is one or two plays,” Deon Grant said as his teammates dressed around him. “Some of the guys have been in games like this before and knew we had to play perfect football. When you don’t, you get beat.”

Nine-year veteran Terry Cousin agreed. “You want to be what the Patriots are. Efficient, in control, and mistake free. When you’re not, it’s hard to overcome turnovers. You’ve got to make those catches, convert those third downs, make those tackles and get them off the field.”

For all of the talk about Byron Leftwich’s “rust,” that’s not what got the Jaguars beat. Leftwich was indecisive and not as accurate as usual, but he was OK. It was things like Jimmy Smith’s drop on third down that forced a punt. The three missed tackles on Watson’s TD. The ball bouncing right back to the Patriots each time they fumbled it. Alvin Pearman coughing it up on a big hit, even though he had two hands around the ball.

Teams that win championship type games don’t have those things happen to them. They’re the one’s making the play, forcing the turnovers and taking advantage of it. But the Jaguars aren’t there yet. They didn’t have the maturity of the Patriots even if they could match them in talent. Taking that next step doesn’t must mean getting to the playoffs, it means playing like a team that looks like they belong there.

“It is what it is,” Jack Del Rio and other coaches are fond of saying. So the Jaguars 12-4 record during the regular season proved to be no real training ground for the post-season. It got them there, but they weren’t ready yet to be prime time players.