It happens every year, the day before the Super Bowl. The 46-person selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame meets for around nine hours to discuss at length the candidates for that year’s class. It is my proud honor to be among those 46 experienced media members, and this was my 12th year on the committee.
It is a humbling job we all have and none of us take it lightly. We know that sitting in hotel rooms in the Super Bowl city are those that are finalists wondering about their fate and whether the Hall’s president David Baker will be knocking on their door to give them the good news. In some cases, like this year for the seniors committee candidates, it is the families that are the only ones nervous because Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel had passed away.
We know this is life-changing for those that are elected. We also realize how excruciating it is for those that don’t as they echo the usual refrain of “Wait until next year.”
Of course, there is one result that is very predictable: When it’s all said and done and the five modern-day group is on cloud nine, the barbs will begin flying with many incredulous about who didn’t make it.
The truth is, a strong case can be made for any of the 15 modern-day finalists. After all, that’s why they made it that far. And, if a totally different class had been selected, there would still be those aghast at who didn’t.
And as I always say to those that act stupefied by who wasn’t elected, “Well then, who should we take out?”
Then, there will be those that purport to give opinions as to why someone wasn’t elected, as if they can get inside the minds of all 46 voters. If I had a dollar for every person that asked me before this year’s vote what I thought would happen, I could retire. And, yes, this was a year for a slam-dunk player, quarterback Brett Favre. But, after that, all bets are off. I would always answer: I can’t really say because, even though I have been “in the room” for 12 years, I can’t predict what the other 45 will do.
One interesting note this year is that all five candidates that made the initial reduction to 10 in 2015 made it to the final 10 this year and four are now Hall of Famers this year. Favre, of course, was the fifth because he was eligible for the first time. The only one that made the final 10 last year and this year to not be chosen is quarterback Kurt Warner, which would seemingly bode well for him in 2017.
Frankly, we should all be celebrating the enshrinement of Stabler, Stanfel, contributor candidate Ed DeBartolo Jr., Favre, Tony Dungy, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison and Orlando Pace, rather than trying to figure out why Terrell Owens failed to be elected in his first year of eligibility. Hey, neither did Alan Faneca, and I haven’t heard anyone utter his name since election day.
Yet, here I am breaking my own rule, and passing along the words of Dungy who, yes, did coach Harrison with the Colts. Said Dungy, “Terrell Owens was a great receiver but I’ll say this: If I’m going for Marvin Harrison or Terrell Owens I’m taking Marvin Harrison every day of the week. Just as productive, just as hard to defend and made his teams better. There still is to me a characteristic that goes into that. I’m not taking anything away from Terrell Owens’ ability, but when you get traded or released five times in your prime and you’re a great player but teams are not re-signing you, that says something.”
Of all the cockamamie reasons for why the Panthers lost the Super Bowl to the Broncos, former Giants coach Jim Fassel came up with one that takes the proverbial cake. Fassel chalked it up to the shoes Carolina quarterback Cam Newton wore in pregame warm-ups.
Said Fassel, “All of the numbers pointed to Carolina. And when I saw Cam Newton walk out in gold shoes — ‘MVP’ — I switched my mind, essentially, right then. I said, ‘That’s not what a starting quarterback, MVP, leading his team — and I had a lot of respect for him during the season — that’s not what happens.’ You don’t do that. And I said, ‘This guy’s already become soft,’ and that’s what he was.”
One thing Fassel is overlooking is that while the numbers might have “pointed to Carolina,” two key matchups didn’t and it’s the same ones that haunted the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Patriots tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon had no answers for Broncos linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and neither did Panthers tackles Michael Oher and Mike Remmers.
That led to Newton and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being under siege all game. Take a look at these shockingly similar numbers:
Att. Comp. Pct. Yds. Att. Sacks *QH TD Int. Rating
Brady 56 27 .482 310 5.53 4/18 17 1 2 56.4
Newton 41 18 .439 265 6.46 6/64 13 0 1 55.4
*QH = Quarterback Hits
The one glaring difference is that Newton fumbled twice on sacks, one of which was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and the other led to the clinching score.
Hmmm. Has anyone gone back and checked what Brady wore in pregame warm-ups?!
No System Fit in Buffalo
For the first three years he was in Buffalo, pass rusher Mario Williams had 38 sacks. This past season, the first with Buddy Ryan’s defense, his production crashed to just five sacks and it is expected that the Bills will let him go this offseason while saving $13 million against the cap.
Williams wasn’t shy about venting during the season when he talked about not being able to “attack and get after it” in the defense. Recently, he expounded on that theme to espn.com, saying, “It’s kind of crazy when you are asked to do something that is totally different, but yet as a whole it didn’t work out defensively. But yet I’m the one whose production has fallen off? Like, that is why I’m saying, I’m prepared for anything because I know I’m going to prove a point and that is not even a question in my mind. At the end of the day, if I’m not there, I’ll show you that I’m better than what I’ve been before. Like, that’s just a chip on my shoulder regardless of whether I am there or not, because given the opportunity I’ll get back to what I was.”