Anger, outrage and disbelief the past two years accompanied news that former wide receiver Terrell Owens wasn’t elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But now that he has, here’s my question: Where’s the anger, outrage and disbelief for all the offensive linemen he and four other modern-era inductees to the Class of 2018 left behind?
There were five of offensive linemen — or one-third of the finalists — entering last weekend’s vote, yet, despite pleas to clear the traffic jam, there were none that crossed the finish line. Instead we inducted five players with a combined eight years of eligibility … or 92 years of eligibility left on the table … including three first-ballot choices.
That left four offensive linemen (a fifth, Joe Jacoby moves to the senior category) on the outside looking in, yet nobody seems all that hot and bothered about it … when, in fact, they could … or maybe should. So let’s call roll, and see who’s still waiting:
— GUARD ALAN FANECA. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro, two-time NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year, Super Bowl champion, member of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time team and first-team all-decade choice. In Faneca’s 13 NFL seasons, 10 times his offenses ranked in the Top 10, six times in the Top Five six and once at No. 1. What’s more he missed only two of 208 games in his career. You might remember him for Willie Parker’s 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL. Faneca threw the key block. This was his third year of eligibility.
— CENTER KEVIN MAWAE. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro, member of the Jets’ Ring of Honor and first-team all-decade choice. Better yet, in 13 of his 16 years he blocked for backs who gained at least 1,000 yards, twice blocked for backs who led the league in rushing and in eight of his 16 seasons played for teams that finished in the Top Five in rushing. “He could do things other centers couldn’t do,” said Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Parcells, “like pull out on sweeps and make the long reach blocks to players well on his outside.” Like Faneca, he was durable, with an unbroken streak of 177 games. This was his fourth year of eligibility.
— GUARD STEVE HUTCHINSON. I’ll cut voters some slack here. This was his first year of eligibility, and he made it to the Top 10. He joined Faneca as a first-team all-decade choice, a seven-time Pro Bowler, a seven-time All-Pro and, with Hall-of-Fame tackle Walter Jones, was part of one of the best left sides of any offensive line. Like Faneca, he was a two-time NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year award winner. In 2005, the Seahawks went to their first Super Bowl thanks to the play of league MVP Shaun Alexander, who ran for an NFL-high 1,880 yards and scored 28 times. But he never ran for more than 896 yards in any of his three seasons after Hutchinson left.
— TACKLE TONY BOSELLI. His career was cut short at 91 games, but longevity no longer seems to be a defining factor (see Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley). The first draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowler in seven seasons there, a three-time All-Pro and the first player inducted into Jacksonville’s Pride of the Jaguars, the team’s Hall of Fame. Like the others, he was an all-decade choice. “Tony was simply the best offensive tackle in the game throughout his career,” said former coach Tom Coughlin. This was his 12th year of eligibility.
Other than running back Edgerrin James and fullback Lorenzo Neal, Hutchinson, Mawae and Faneca are the only members of the 2000s’ first-team all-decade offense eligible for election to Canton … but not yet in. OK, so it happens. But this shouldn’t: The Hall admitted only one center the past 20 years (Dermontti Dawson), and that was six years ago.
So why are they waiting, while others are rushed to the front of the line? Numbers. We live in a Fantasy-Football era where numbers predominate, and if you don’t believe me you weren’t listening to the Brian Dawkins’ presentation when it was pointed out he had 17 more career forced fumbles than Ray Lewis. If nothing else caught your attention, that would.
But we have no easily understood figures — like career catches, touchdowns, interceptions or sacks — to define our offensive linemen, so they stand at the doors of Canton and wait for the call that doesn’t come for some of the most decorated individuals of their classes.
So where’s the anger, outrage and disbelief? Because I don’t see it, I don’t hear it and I don’t know why.