Memo to Hall: Don’t cut seniors


By Clark Judge

Hall of Fame Network

 

CANTON, Ohio — Starting with the class of 2015, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will give contributors to the NFL their own category — and that’s good. It prevents them from competing with former players for spots in Canton. But while the Hall’s intention is exemplary, its execution is not.

And that’s because it comes at the expense of seniors.

According to the amendment adopted Friday, up to two contributors will be nominated every other year through 2019, and that’s fine. What isn’t is that every other year they would take the place of a seniors’ candidate, and let me explain.

Up until now, two seniors are proposed with each class — each nominated by a separate seniors’ committee and voted on at the annual meeting of the Hall’s board of selectors prior to the Super Bowl. This year’s candidates were Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey, and both were elected. But under the new amendment, only one senior would be nominated every other year — the years that two contributors are proposed — and I know what you’re thinking: So what? Well, so there’s a bigger backlog of former players than there is of contributors.

“There are 73 all-decade selections through the 1980s not enshrined in Canton — and 60 of them have never even been discussed as finalists,” said the Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin, a member of both the Hall’s selection and seniors committee and co-host of the Talk of Fame Network. “The queue for deserving seniors is far, far deeper than the queue for deserving contributors. Reducing the numbers of seniors candidates is not the answer.”

He’s right.  Take, for example, former Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer. He’s a member of the league’s 50th anniversary team and a five-time All-Pro, yet he’s not in the Hall. Then there’s former Minnesota center Mick Tingelhoff. He was a five-time All-Pro and one of the best ever at his position. He’s not in the Hall, either. Or Kansas City safety Johnny Robinson, Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler, Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson, Rams’ safety Eddie Meador or Baltimore linebacker Mike Curtis.

There’s a glut of deserving former players waiting to get in, and the Hall’s seniors committee does what it can to accommodate them. But its hands are tied. Only two can clear the queue each year, and that makes for hard decisions.

Except those decisions just got harder.

Now, only two can clear the queue every other year, and that reduces the chances of someone like, say, a Jerry Kramer of making it to Canton in the near future. Granted, the proposal is only for five years, but, nevertheless, in three of those years there will be only one seniors candidate — and that’s not right.

Look, I like the idea of a separate category for contributors. There should be one, and the Hall should start clearing the traffic jam. But not at the expense of seniors. There are far too many former players who need to be addressed first.

Canton

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10 Comments

  1. DaveM
    August 3, 2014
    Reply

    I completely agree with Mr. Gosselin on this!!! WHY IN THE WORLD is the HOF taking a candidate spot away from the already-paltry two pitiful spots of the Seniors?! Why doesn’t the HOF take a spot away from the ridiculously-generous FIVE spots awarded to the Moderns every year??? Are you serious, HOF? We have 73 guys on a wait list who are seniors…meaning, they are elderly and may not live long enough to get to live the honor of being inducted. Not only are you thinking of taking 50% of the spots away (pitiful that they only have two to begin with), but you aren’t even looking at the obvious solution of “robbing from the rich (the Moderns) to give to the poor (the Seniors) what is rightfully theirs. I have an even better idea! Let’s induct 2 first-ballot Moderns every year and elect 5 Seniors every year until the backlog is caught up! How’s THAT for some common sense??? No wonder there are exasperated fans out there who cry “Politics!” and “All about money!” when it appears the HOF doesn’t really care about those men who helped build the NFL during the “Glory Days” into what it is today. Come on, guys! Get those Seniors in before the suffer the fates of Bob Hayes, Les Richter, Derrick Thomas, and others!!!

    • August 3, 2014
      Reply

      It makes no sense. They solved one problem by creating another. Huge seniors backlog that must be addressed.

  2. Dave Goldberg
    August 3, 2014
    Reply

    Were any voters consulted? I just retired as one after 20 years, with a dozen on the seniors committee. We discussed it generally, but I don’t think anyone, notably those of us who have been around for a while, wanted to make fewer players eligible every other year. It will just increase the backlog.

    Yes, I can think of contributors who have been overlooked or shunned (Paul Tagliabue primarily) And GMs like George Young, Bobby Beathard, Ron Wolf and Bill Polian belong _ Young has been a finalist several times. Maybe some owners like Robert Kraft (and even Jerry Jones down the line.) But no, not Eddie DeBartolo. To me, his election would sully the Hall’s reputation.

    But in any case I can think of far more players whose achievements on the field were overlooked. Or who simply got caught in a numbers game. There are some players now under consideration as modern era candidates who have been caught in the backwash and could stay there.

    To the board. Please reconsider. You know me. Get in touch and I’ll expand on this. But as a unilateral action, it stinks.

  3. DaveM
    August 4, 2014
    Reply

    Both Mr. Judge and Mr. Goldberg are spot-on. I’m just a passionate fan of the NFL in the 60’s and 70’s eras who is frustrated by the lack of urgency to get deserving men into the Hall before they are gone or unable to enjoy and bask in the honor. But, these two men are “in the know”, as well as others from the Seniors Committee such as Mr. Gosselin. For the life of me, I just don’t understand the rationale of this kind of thinking from the HOF “powers that be”. There are always many heated comments because of choices of players each year because there are so many fans and family members who want to see their deserving player enshrined. But, decisions like this one from the article just throws fuel on the fire for those who think the process is flawed to begin with. Carry the torch, gentlemen, and know you are not alone; there are many of us “out there” who support your ideas for helping the seniors get in before it’s too late for them.

  4. BHC
    August 6, 2014
    Reply

    I have thought for a while the best solution would be to add one contributor candidate along with the two senior candidates. The new process won’t help those seniors, but at least takes comparing the merits of, say, Bill Polian and Kevin Greene.

    • Rick Gosselin
      August 6, 2014
      Reply

      Agreed. I’d be in favor of an annual 5 (modern era), 2 (seniors), 1 (contributor) split of the class. Deserving seniors outnumber deserving contributors about 7-to-1.

    • August 6, 2014
      Reply

      Think that is the best solution. But the Hall has taken this step, and it can’t undo it … not for the next five years. Will lose three seniors in the process, and I’m with you. Stay with two; add one contributor. Here’s hoping that’s the solution after five-year trial.

  5. DMeador
    August 6, 2014
    Reply

    I would like to chime in with a comment or two. Admittedly, I DO have “a dog in the hunt” with regard to a Seniors candidate whom our family hopes will one day be enshrined (Eddie Meador, L.A. Rams ’59-’70), but I will strive to be unbiased in my remarks.From the outside looking in, I do think Contributors belong in the Hall for doing just that—contributing. However, the decision to accomplish their inductions by using a slot from only two available to Seniors each year is extremely questionable and will inevitably upset numerous fans of, not only those 70+ Seniors who need to be inducted, but also fans of those past eras in general. In my opinion, for whatever that is worth, I believe what makes any organization successful is the embracing of the legacies and richness of the past as well as ushering in the popular choices of the present. Such a move as the Hall is contemplating seems “out of balance”— like they are not regarding as highly the importance of those who played and accomplished much in the distant past in comparison to the players whom most current fans remember. This imbalance is likely going to send a message that may tarnish the HOF’s popularity and credibility and cause a “backlash about the backlog” that would be an unwanted effect. I hope a better plan is suggested and adopted. Good luck to you all, and please remember the many of us out there who support the Seniors.

    • August 6, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks for the note. We support the seniors, too. In fact, Rick and Ron are on the seniors committee. If you listen to this weekend’s radio show — it will be posted on our website — we address that topic with the Hall of Fame’s Joe Horrigan. We want contributors to have their own categories and think that’s a great idea — but not at the expense of seniors. Thanks again for writing.

  6. DMeador
    August 6, 2014
    Reply

    I’ll definitely be listening, Mr. Judge. I appreciate the head’s up on that. I, too, think the Contributors should have their own category, but as you said, not at the expense of the Seniors. Hopefully, Mr. Horrigan and other decision-makers will reconsider their amendment(s) as a result of your ideas, insight, feedback, and their own additional contemplation.

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