Hall of Fame Voting: A Process
“Amalgamation of a career”
It’s perhaps an unknown process, but it’s a process nonetheless. To get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame it ultimately takes an 80% yes vote of the selection committee on the Saturday before the Super Bowl. (This year there were 46 members. Thirty-two, one from each NFL team, and, in essence, 14 at-large voters). It’s a collection of media members from around the country with eight representatives of the staff of the PFHOF and two HOF members in the room. So it’s a small group. You can look at each of the other selectors in the eye. And the discourse is usually honest, brutally frank and often contentious. It’s the job of the representative of the corresponding team to make the case for selection to the Hall. (When a player’s career is spread over a couple of teams, both reps will speak.)
It takes most of the year to get the 15 finalists plus the senior and contributor into the room on that Saturday before the Super Bowl. As selectors we’re asked to take the original nominee list, sometimes around 100 players, and cull it down to 25. Once that’s determined, we vote again to cut the list to 15.
Committees are appointed and meet in the summer in Canton, OH to determine the Senior and Contributor candidates. They’re considered separately from what are called the “Modern day players” as they’re presented to the full Selection Committee.
So once we get into the room there are 15 players eligible for five spots. That’s the maximum number allowed to be inducted in any one year. If the Senior and Contributor are elected that would make eight total in any particular class.
So it’s a pretty tough process to get in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s why I chuckle in the weeks after the selection process is over for any particular year. The committee is roundly criticized for whom we didn’t put in the Hall. My response to that is always, “Who would you throw out of the current class to get your guy in?”
There are some years I look at the list and honestly believe each of the 15 finalists deserves to be in the Hall. But I can only vote for five. If a player gets to the “room” as one of the 15 finalists they have an 88% chance of eventually being inducted into the Hall.
So is there a formula to get in? There’s a lot of speculation about whose “year” it is to get in when the list of finalists is released. That’s a fallacy. Sometimes there’s a logjam at a position that’s eventually sorted out. Lynn Swann and John Stallworth seemed to cancel each other out until eventually they both were elected. Andre Reed, Chris Carter, Tim Brown and Art Monk all eventually got into the Hall. But in each case, they were evaluated on their own merits. Consequently they all now wear gold jackets.
No player or coach is perfect. All have their ups and downs in a career but as one selector once said it’s the “amalgamation of a career.” I go into the room each year with research behind me and listening to the presentations for the individual accomplishments as part of a team game.
“Edge” players are easy to quantify. That’s why quarterbacks, receivers, tackles, pass rushers and cornerbacks are so well represented in the Hall. Guys in the middle of the field, centers, guards, safeties are tough to quantify so personal research as well as the presentations in the room are an essential part of the process. I’ve had my mind changed several times by the presenters on the day of the meeting. The thoroughness of the presentations is inspiring.
Each year the opening statement by the President of the Hall includes the reminder that as selectors we’ll be “changing men’s lives with our actions today.” And that’s true.
Of the thousands of players who have passed through the NFL, under 300 are in the Hall of Fame.
I’m often asked if Tony Boselli will every get in the Hall of Fame. As a left tackle in the golden age of left tackles, Boselli was the best among his peers. Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden were selected to the Hall in the past couple years. Orlando Pace will get in. They all admit Boselli was at the top of their list. Nobody questions his ability or even his greatness on the field. The only negative to Tony’s candidacy is the brevity of his career. But the question is often asked: What is a short career? Boselli played in 95 games and was the dominant player in each of those. There are other players with shorter careers in the Hall and making it to the top 25 this year is the first step for Tony. It won’t surprise me if Boselli is considered in the “room” in the very near future.