Tagliabue, Jones named HOF’s 2017 contributor candidates



(Jerry Jones photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

The NFL contributor committee on Tuesday named former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones as its nominees for the Class of 2017. Now comes the hard part.

Getting them in.

Tagliabue was a Hall-of-Fame finalist three times (2007-09), while Jones is a first-time nominee — and there’s no guarantee that both gain admission to Canton.

Of the two, Jones will be the easier sell. He was considered a leading candidate going into Tuesday’s vote. But Tagliabue? Not so much, and for this reason: His candidacy has been marked by long, impassioned and contentious discussions among Hall-of-Fame voters, who seem deeply divided on him — with the former commissioner failing to make it to Canton three times before disappearing from the Hall-of-Fame radar.

Moreover, the last two times he was a finalist — 2008-09 — he didn’t make the cut from 15 to 10.

Nevertheless, maybe this is the ticket. It was for former San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo, who also was a modern-era finalist three times before the contributor category was created in 2014. As the contributor candidate, DeBartolo was chosen as one of eight members to the Hall’s Class of 2016 … so maybe he opens the door for Tagliabue to follow.

“I’m deeply appreciative of the vote from the selection committee,” Tagliabue said shortly after he learned of his nomination.

Tagliabue’s accomplishments include growing the league, establishing overseas markets, constructing 20 new stadiums and launching historic TV deals that rank as the biggest in NFL history. What’s more, he fashioned labor agreements that became the model for future generations and kept labor peace throughout his 17 years as commissioners — a remarkable accomplishment in this era of professional sports.

So what’s the problem? He lost Los Angeles as a market. He also lost Cleveland. There was no new stadium construction in California, home to what became the three worst parks in the league. And the 2006 collective bargaining agreement that was settled at the last minute to avoid a strike was considered so bad for owners that they jumped at the first chance to opt out — a move that led to the 2011 lockout on the watch of Roger Goodell, Tagliabue’s successor.

Jones, who restored winning to the Cowboys after buying the team in 1989, was an early favorite for one of the two spots because of his success in reconstructing a storied franchise — a club that won three Super Bowls in four years in the 1990s and nine division titles under his ownership — and because of his impact on the NFL in marketing and promotion, both areas where he is a league leader.

Nevertheless, he was surprised when notified of his nomination, calling it “a wonderful feeling” and “a time-honored day in my life.”

“Oh, my God,” Jones said on a conference call with the Hall and its five-man contributor sub-committee. “Oh, man, man, man, man. Well, I forgive you all for every bad thing you’ve ever written about me. You’re going in my will.”

That drew a laugh. But Jones’ tone changed immediately.

“I’m can’t tell you how humbled and grateful I feel,” he said. I told somebody it hardly seems fair to just have the thrill and the lift that it’s been in my life to join you guys in the world of sport and to join you in the NFL. I was walk-on before I got to join you guys and join (an) NFL that lifted me beyond anything I could ever think about. Thank you. ”

To be elected, Jones and Tagliabue each must gain 80 percent of the vote of the Hall’s 48-man selection committee next February. That group will meet Feb. 4, 2017, the day before Super Bowl LI, and decide on 18 candidates — Tagliabue, Jones and senior nominee, Kenny Easley — as well as 15 modern-era finalists who have yet to be named.


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  1. Rob
    August 16, 2016

    Clark do you think both of them get elected this February? Does the concussion thing hurt Tagliabue’s candidacy? Will team record hurt after 1996 Jerry’s chances?

    • August 16, 2016

      I think the concussion thing does hurt Tagliabue’s candidacy, but Jerry’s record enhanced by marketing and promotion skills that league has embraced. He has changed the face of the NFL, whether you like it or not. So he’s a difference maker. Believe his chances are better than Tags’, but we’ll see.

  2. Rasputin
    August 16, 2016

    If you are going to pick a Dallas contributor why not Gil Brandt? Jerry Jones has presided over the most mediocre era in Cowboys history. Yeah, he’s done innovative good things from the business side, but there are negatives too.

    Paul Tagliabue presided over the onset of the parity era, which I despise, so I wouldn’t vote for him, but I figure he’ll probably get in because the NFL has increased in popularity over the decades, and some people will attribute that to him for some reason rather than the sport itself.

    Still, both are better picks than the corrupt DeBartolo. His enshrinement was an embarrassment to the HoF.

    • August 16, 2016

      Not so sure about Tagliabue. He failed in three tries, and his candidacy was highly contentious among Hall voters. Maybe things have changed since 2009 but taking that room’s temperature, I don’t think so. Brandt was … and is … a factor. I imagine he will make it sooner or later. Not sure why the rush on either of these guys today, but that’s up to the five voters in that room. Want to hear from them.

  3. Jeff
    August 16, 2016

    Gotta be honest: I dislike the idea of having special contributor nominees, especially at the expense of the senior players. I seriously hope they get rid of it in a few years. I think this particular selection is horrendous. I can kinda live with Tagliabue and expected him to be picked (I used to be more strongly in favor of him until I read League of Denial) but I think Jerry Jones is an atrocious selection…particularly given that they could’ve selected George Young, Gil Brandt, Beathard, Steve Sabol or perhaps Pat Bowlen. I find this totally puzzling.

    • August 16, 2016

      Jeff, don’t know what to say. I agree with most of what you say, though Jones was a more logical choice than Tagliabue because of the contentious divide that he creates among Hall voters. Going to be a loooooonnnnnnggggg debate.

  4. Jeff
    August 16, 2016

    Clark – I think it’s great that you take the time to reply to so many comments. I really enjoy this site and am glad I came across it! Anyway, I do concede that Jones has some strengths as a nominee…but he has some baggage too. I just think there were more deserving people. Tags has had trouble previously. I don’t think either of them will be a sure thing.

    • August 17, 2016

      Jeff, first of all, thanks for the note. Second, you’re right about Jones and the baggage. There is, for instance, the salary-cap violation that he and the Redskins were charged prior to the lockout … which makes no sense since it was an uncapped year. But the 49ers were guilty of a salary-cap infraction, too, and Eddie DeBartolo made it. You are absolutely right about other deserving candidates. I really thought Bobby Beathard would be one of the choices, and I fervently believe he should be one of the choices one day … sooner rather than later. And you’re right about neither being a sure thing. But my feeling is that Tagliabue will be a harder sell than Jones. The debates on him in the past have been long, emotional and contentious. Yes, the makeup of the room has changed since he last came up, but there are enough people in there who aren’t in his camp to make the debate interesting. With him and T.O. up, believe we should complete the discussion by March.

      • Rasputin
        August 17, 2016

        Of course DeBartolo actually broke NFL rules and was drummed out of the league for corruption in non-football matters in which he was convicted of a crime. The Cowboys and Redskins were only guilty of bucking an unspoken, illegal collusion. In that case it was the NFL, not Jerry Jones, that was corrupt. Not the same thing.

  5. bachslunch
    August 24, 2016

    There were better candidates available (Beathard, Brandt, Young, Sabol, McNally), but it beats last year’s choice. Tags is fairly acceptable, and Jones is as good as any owner option out there.

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