The Pro Football Hall of Fame rewards more than individuals. It rewards championships, too, with 68 percent of everyone enshrined in Canton having a championship ring.
And I know what you’re thinking: Well, duh. Some of the best players are on the best teams.
Except not having a ring can penalize a Hall-of-Fame worthy candidate — someone like, say, former Chiefs’ safety Deron Cherry, a 1980s’ all-decade choice who’s still waiting on a call from the Hall.
Retiring after the 1991 season, Cherry was never a modern-era finalist or semifinalist, and that’s hard to fathom — unless, of course, you figure in championships. Because he never won one. Worse, he played in only one playoff game that he did win — a 1991 defeat of the then-Los Angeles Raiders.
But that’s it. Four playoff games. One victory. And there’s little doubt that affects … and probably hurts … his Hall-of-Fame chances in the eyes of voters who view individual accomplishments through a team lens.
“Its very frustrating,” said Cherry, now a senior candidate, on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “Because I think, as a player, you go in with the mentality that you’re going to try and be the best player that you could possibly be and be the best in the league at your position … and I think I accomplished that throughout my career.
“It’s unfortunate because I think a lot of players have accomplished that. Unfortunately, some of those players never got an opportunity to play in a championship game.
“I was fortunate enough to play in (four) playoff games. In one, I helped our team to victory by picking off Todd Marinovich twice and leading us to a victory, and the next week I picked off Jim Kelly and we wound up getting beat in Buffalo.
“I can tell you this: There are a number of great players who don’t get that look just because they (voters) look at championships, and I think that is an injustice to the players who play the game the right way, do things the right way (and) accomplish things for their team to win.”
Cherry played the game the right way. He was named to six Pro Bowls, was a five-time All-Pro, had 50 career interceptions and was named to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame. But he did things the right way off the field, too — named in 1987 as recipient of the NFL’s Byron “Whizzer” White Man of the Year Award and the Chiefs’ Man of the Year.
Yet he never graduated from the Hall’s preliminary list to a modern-era semifinalist, or one of 25 candidates considered for a particular year, and that’s hard to explain to an all-decade choice.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “because football is a team sport, and you have to have not only a good defense but a good offense and special teams (you can get penalized) … and some of it is coaching, too, the style of play and the type of offense that you have (that) maybe is not conducive to winning championships.
“It’s unfortunate that people look at it that way. I think they should look at the accomplishments of the players in the era that they played in and judge them based on that.
“I mean, when you think about the years when I played and the types of caliber of quarterbacks that I played against during those careers and the running backs that were in the league during (those years) … it was pretty incredible the type of talent and the players that I went up against and performed against at a high level.”