The failure of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fourth try didn’t cause the seismic reaction of, say, Terrell Owens falling short, but it did cause ripples — with supporters uncertain what happens next.
So let’s make this simple. What happens next is nothing. You heard me. Zippety-do-dah. Tagliabue’s candidacy should be put on hold for a minimum of five years.
“I’m sick to my stomach over it,” said Hall-of-Fame general manager Bill Polian on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “and I’m sick the way it took place.”
Essentially, the way it took place was that Tagliabue’s detractors voiced concern over his handling … or mishandling, as they characterized it … of the concussion issue. Though Tagliabue expressed regret for remarks he made in 1994 when he termed it “a pack journalism issue,” calling his comments “intemperate” and “a mistake,” he did not have enough support within the room to carry 80 percent of the vote.
And that was as a contributor candidate, with Tagliabue the first of five to be denied from that category since it was created in 2015.
People outraged about HOF voting, but not about Paul. That's really crazy. Was purely and deeply focused on the game https://t.co/tI6CJCaXsL
— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) February 26, 2017
So now what? Well, as I said, now his candidacy must be put on hold for a minimum of five years. And when he returns it should be when just one contributor is proposed … not two, as happened this year when he and Dallas owner Jerry Jones were candidates. Like it or not, it’s easier to reject one of two candidates proposed by a sub-committee than it is one.
But that’s not all. He cannot return in the immediate future. I’ve heard some supporters insist that he should return as a candidate in anywhere from one to three years, but that is pure folly. Until or unless the board changes, Tagliabue’s candidacy will not … and cannot … push forward.
It doesn’t matter how many letters of support he has, nor does it matter how complete the presentation on his behalf is — and this year’s was superb. What matters is not that the narrative changes, but that the room does. And until or unless that happens, he has little or no chance … and Polian, an ardent supporter, seems to understand.
When asked how Tagliabue overcomes the concussion issue, one that is front and center in today’s NFL and that seemed to concern voters, he threw up his hands.
“He can’t,” he said, “because there’s nothing he can do about it now. To intimate that he had something to do with concussions or had something to do with the fact that people unfortunately passed away in circumstances that were only tangentially related to concussions …
” Dr. (Ann) McKee, who is the most famous person involved with concussions at Boston University, said recently, ‘We don’t know enough, and we won’t know enough know for a long time.’ To hold Tagliabue responsible for the deaths (of players) is just fiction. To intimate that he had something to do with it is pure fiction.
” The bottom line is there’s nothing he can do about that other than say, as he did prior to the election, that probably his choice of words could have been better in some circumstances. That’s all anyone can do.”
That won’t satisfy the Tagliabue camp. But the grim reality it must face is this: Four times the former commissioner has been brought in front of the board, three times as a modern-era candidate and once as a contributor. And four times he failed to cross the finish line.
Worse, his candidacy seems to have lost strength. In 2007, he was a top-five finalist but was denied when he failed to garner 80 percent of the votes. Two years later he didn’t reach the final 10.
That’s why it’s imperative that Tagliabue’s candidacy be put on hold. I don’t know that he ever gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But I do know that he can’t … and won’t … without the passage of time.