Dear Hall voters: Where’s the outrage for offensive linemen?


(Alan Faneca photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Mike Bailey
    February 10, 2018
    Reply

    I agree with everything in this article. These O linemen are more than deserving. But none of them deserves being in the hall more than Jerry Kramer. His athleticism and toughness lead the Packers to multiple championships. He lead sweeps for a HOF running back and protected a HOF quarterback. With Forest Gregg and Jim Ringo in the hall, I guess folks didn’t want a third Lombardi lineman in.
    But there is an O lineman going in this year, and he should’ve been in years ago. Check his pro bowls, only one other guy with that many not inducted….but who wants another Steeler linebacker in the hall?

    • February 10, 2018
      Reply

      Only took us 45 years to correct that Kramer oversight. Not sure why. But this I don’t get: One-third of the finalists are OL, and we can’t get ONE in? All of them were all-decade. Three of them were first-team all-decade. Instead we’re in a rush to anoint the latest finalist instead of telling them to wait a year or two and let us clean up the line waiting at the door. No respect for the queue.

      • bachslunch
        February 11, 2018
        Reply

        Agreed, that’s a problem. Rick’s most recent article rightly makes the point that the latest and greatest isn’t necessarily the best way to go and glad you agree.

        Question: how did the Carter/Reed/Brown WR clog finally get resolved? That was a successful approach, whatever it was. Maybe it will work here, too, though having four such folks involved makes the logistics that much tougher.

        There’s of course one advantage to the “smoke-filled room” approach and non-divulging nature of the PFHoF’s election system. Deals can potentially be struck behind the scenes to advance candidates through such logjams. You know, we agree on Faneca and Mawae advancing to the final five this year in exchange for Boselli and Hutchinson doing so next time. Not expecting any kind of acknowledgement of this idea, of course, but sometimes as they say desperate times call for desperate measures.

  2. Scott Dochterman
    February 13, 2018
    Reply

    There’s a case to be made that every modern-day player in this year’s class had greater, longer-lasting impact than any player in last year’s group. You guys have “cleaned up the queue” so many years in a row, a class like this one was bound to happen. Terrell Davis and Morten Anderson were clean-ups last year. Before them you had guys like Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Andre Reed, Cris Carter, Kevin Greene, even Will Shields a few years ago.

    As for the offensive linemen, they all should get their day but are any of them more worthy than Shields? The tackles had flaws, unlike Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Willie Roaf and Orlando Pace. Every guard seemingly has to wait except for the incomparable Larry Allen. Consider this group of O-linemen like Brown, Reed and Carter. You guys will get it sorted out as you always do.

    Don’t overreact. Take a bow. You guys elected a class filled with iconic, elite players plus finally elected Jerry Kramer. In fact, I was disappointed on your show you guys made this class seem flawed when in reality it was outstanding.

    • February 14, 2018
      Reply

      Scott, were any of them more worthy than Shields? Nope. And that’s precisely my point. Shields played 14 years, was a Pro Bowler for 12 of them, an All-Pro seven, a first-team all-decade choice and never missed a game. Ever. Yet it took him four years to get in. Why? Because he was a guard. Period. It took Jerry Kramer 45 years to get in at that position. Owens was a second-team all-decade choice, and his supporters … as well as he … were outraged that he didn’t make it his first or second year — and people seemed OK with that. Well, Faneca wasn’t second-team all-decade. Neither was Mawae. Or Hutchinson. They were all first-team all-decade choices which, by definition, makes them better at their positions than Owens was at his. Faneca has waited three years. Mawae has waited four. And Boselli 12. So how come people weren’t barking when none of them made it? And they weren’t. And the individuals themselves weren’t, either. Well, maybe they should. Because then maybe people would realize that rushing in others comes at a cost … and that cost is a group of five worthy candidates — all of whom were all-decade choices, and one of whom was in his last year as a modern-era candidate. You mentioned iconic, elite players. I see iconic, elite players among the OL. But they don’t play a Fantasy-Football position and, so, are easily ignored or pushed aside. Yeah, some will get in. Maybe all but Jacoby. I don’t know. But don’t tell me that they don’t deserve to howl as loudly … no more … than a certain WR who took a spot in front of them, then didn’t bother showing up for the Honors Show on Saturday or the on-field presentation at the Super Bowl. Because they do. Yet they won’t. So maybe someone should do it for them.

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