I’d have written this earlier but I’ve been tied up answering and deleting all of the hate email that has filled up my mailbox since the Pro Football Hall of Fame vote was announced. There are confidentiality rules that come with the honor of being one of 40 selectors on the committee so there’s only so much I can say. But I can tell you this: It was a long, sometimes contentious, very conscientious, well thought out meeting on Saturday where we reviewed the 17 finalists who had made it to the final list.
From 7:30 until 2:15 with a couple of short breaks, we met in a room at the Miami Beach Convention Center and meticulously went over the credentials, careers and achievements of all 17 eligible for discussion.
The order of discussion is rotated every year by position, so they guys who are on the table at 8AM aren’t forgotten by 2PM. The list is whittled down to 10 (11 this year because of a tie) and then down to 6 as the candidates compete against each other for one of the final six spots. Once the final six are chosen, each gets an up or down vote.
I’ve been on the committee for 12 years and have come to the conclusion that if a player makes the final six, he should get in. Some of the other members of the committee deride that attitude and one in his national column called it an “ill-advised” plea to put all six, no matter who they are, in the Hall. But I happen to agree with that philosophy now, even if I didn’t before.
Not voting for a player who gets to the final six is either an act of personal vendetta or arrogance. Especially if he’s a player recommended by the Senior Committee. If a player is brought to the full commit from the Senior meeting in August, he’s been closely inspected and more scrutinized than anybody else on the ballot.
Seniors are pulled out of the morass of hundreds of players who some how “slipped through the cracks” (some of my fellow committee members hate that expression.) But it’s true, they either got caught up in a numbers game or the social pressures of the time when they were eligible (see Bob Hayes) didn’t allow their induction. So if a guy makes it to the final six, it means that a vast majority of your fellow committee members think that he’s Hall of Fame worthy.
So you’re the only smart one among the bunch? You’re the one who’s going to keep him out although some of the top people in your profession sitting in that room, listening to the same arguments think he should get in? I have to say that it doesn’t surprise me that some of the people on the committee have that attitude because that’s how they conduct themselves on a regular basis. But I have a lot of respect for the process and if a guy gets to the final six, he’s getting my vote.
I didn’t want to vote for Michael Irvin but he made the final six so I gave him a “yes” even though in my personal “Hall” he’s not a Hall of Famer.
The reduction to 11 didn’t surprise me even though just retired Commissioner Paul Tagliabue didn’t make the first cut. We spent 57 minutes talking about Tagliabue. Some of it was heated, with his proponents pointing out the legacy he left and the growth of the league while his detractors brought up examples of just the opposite. I think Tagliabue will eventually get into the Hall. He was part numbers game part incomplete career in terms of not getting more consideration.
When the vote got down from 11 to 6, I could have easily made a case for the five who didn’t make the final cut. They all have Hall of Fame credentials. I am surprised by the lack of support for Gary Zimmerman. As his presenter pointed out, he was the only player of the 17 on the ballot to be a two-time all-decade performer in the league. The best in two different decades but not in the Hall of Fame? Could have also been a numbers game with the plethora of offensive linemen on the ballot.
Again, I was disappointed that Art Monk didn’t get to the final six. Some of his detractors in the past publicly said they were changing their vote, so I thought he might have enough support this year. But it might have been a numbers game as well. Or it could be a backlash against the non-stop email campaign from Monk’s supporters among fans who harangue me and the other voters for not having already put Monk in the Hall. I guess they’re not different than the Cowboy fans who wrote after Rayfield Wright and Troy Aikman were in the same class that I had some kind of anti-Cowboy bias.
Bob Kuchenberg belongs in the Hall, but there is a sentiment that Jim Langer and Larry Little are already in and that’s enough offensive linemen from that Dolphins team. That’s baloney; he’s a Hall of Famer.
Putting Roger Wehrli in was long overdue. As one of my fellow selectors said it was a “sophisticated pick.”
As a member of the committee, I don’t have a say in the process, but we were able to give our opinions to several of the Hall’s Board of Trustees. As a group, the selectors would like to see the initial process of paring down the list changed and we’d like to see the class bigger, especially with the addition of another Senior Candidate. Don’t be surprised if next year, the class could grow to seven.
Other than that, I can tell you it’s a serious process with a lot of work done by members of the committee. Make fun of the process, call the whole thing silly if you like but I can tell you first-hand, in that room, it’s serious business.