Time is now for Hall to reconsider election of coaches


Photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks

Hearing former general manager Bill Polian this week call for a “a fresh look at how everything is done” with the Hall-of-Fame process only renewed my interest — and Polian’s, too — in having the Hall make a significant change.

And doing it sooner rather than later.

That would be moving coaches from the modern-era group where they compete with players to the contributor category … and having assistant coaches join them. As it stands today, assistants aren’t really eligible for election … unless, of course, they’re former players, whereupon they’re judged by their resumes as players, not assistant coaches.

Case in point: Hall-of-Famer Dick LeBeau. Most believe he was elected because of his enormous work within the game as, first, a player and, then, as a coach. Wrong. He was judged on his history as a player, period. That is … and, according to the Hall’s by-laws, must be … considered apart from what he did as a coach.

But if you want to consider him on his coaching merits, go ahead. Only then that is done separately … apart from his resume as a player. Got it? Me, neither, but that’s the way it goes. There are no assistants in the Hall, and there should be.

That brings me back to what Polian said on the Talk of Fame Network’s latest broadcast, which, essentially, is that Don Coryell’s failure to get into Canton is symptomatic of a larger problem. And that problem is that coaches have a very, very difficult time competing with players for admission.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Canton is unreachable. Tony Dungy was elected a year ago, and Bill Parcells three years earlier. But it does mean the curve is steeper, much steeper, than it should be. And it also means that someone like a Coryell or Clark Shaughnessey … guys who didn’t win Super Bowls … are toast, no matter what they did.

“If we’re going to record the history of the game,” Polian said, “if we’re going to talk about excellence in the game, going to talk about people who contributed to the game, turning people down and having coaches compete with players … in effect, considering only coaches who’ve only been in the Super Bowl … it just does not tell the story of the game and reward the people who’ve contributed greatly to the game.”

I’ll second that.

Consider Tom Flores, for example. He’s a hot-button topic with Raiders’ fans, and I get it. The guy won two Super Bowls as a head coach, one as an assistant coach and one as a backup quarterback. More importantly, he was a pioneer — the first Hispanic starting quarterback and the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl.

But he can’t get a sniff … yet he has four Super Bowl rings. Bad enough that he can’t reach Canton, but what’s worse is that Flores hasn’t been a Hall-of-Fame finalist (one of 15 final candidates in a given year) or semifinalist (one of 25), either, and that makes no sense.

Coryell is a hot-button topic with Chargers’ fans, and I understand that, too. The guy resurrected two moribund franchises — the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Chargers — and put them in the playoffs. Moreover, he had an enormous impact on how the game is played offensively and defensively — with defenses forced to adjust to his innovations on offense.

“Don Coryell,” said former coach Mike Martz, “is the father of the modern passing game.”

What Don Coryell is not, however, is a Super Bowl-winning coach. In fact, his detractors not only point to his 3-6 playoff record as a reason to keep him out of Canton but to his two conference championship game appearances … and that’s fair.

Except … except George Allen is in the Hall with a 2-7 playoff record. Yes, he got to a Super Bowl, but he lost it. Allen, however, has the third-best winning percentage of all time at 71.2. Only fellow Hall-of-Famers Vince Lombardi and John Madden are ahead of him on that list. Coryell won only 56.1 percent of his games.

Still, can the absence of a championship game appearance nullify Coryell’s contributions to the game? Sorry, that one needs an explanation. And the explanation is that Coryell, Flores, Shaughnessy and too many others can’t possibly make it to Canton until or unless the process is changed, and we consider coaches apart from players.

While there is no rule in place, there is an understanding that we measure our coaches as we do our quarterbacks — with jewelry. Well, Flores won two Super Bowl rings as a head coach. So did Jimmy Johnson and George Seifert. Mike Shanahan and Tom Coughlin, too. And let’s not forget Buddy Parker. He took the Lions to three straight championship games and won two of them.

None is in Canton (though Coughlin is not yet eligible), and none is on a short list. But they might be if the Hall considered coaches apart from players.

Look, the contributor category is supposed to be for something exactly like a Coryell or a Shaughnessy, who modernized the T-formation and made multiple offensive innovations which, as with Coryell, forced defenses to adapt. Yet Clark Shaughnessy is on nobody’s radar, and that’s more than puzzling. It’s wrong.

It should be for someone like a Flores, too, a guy who broke new ground and made it possible for others to follow.

So put him … and other coaches, including assistants … in with the contributors, and let’s see what happens. As Polian rightly pointed out, the contributor category has become more like “an owner’s category,” with two of the four inductees (Eddie DeBartolo and Jerry Jones) franchise owners and Denver owner Pat Bowlen on the short list for 2018.

“I’m not against an owner’s category,” said Polian. “But how does (former Giants’ GM and league executive) George Young get in? How does (former Washington and San Diego GM) Bobby Beathard get in?  I’m a little embarrassed that I’m in there (Polian was in the first contributors class in 2015), and Paul Tagliabue and George Young and Bobby Beathard are not. There’s got to be a way to get these people in.”

So expand the category. Make coaches contributors, too, not only to give them a fairer shot but to deepen a pool that is downright dry compared to the backlog of seniors. Maybe then the individuals who contributed to the success of the sport by doing more than just wining games can … and will … be rewarded.

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Omalu: "NFL brand is bleeding ... truth will always prevail"
Next Here's what is next for Paul Tagliabue's HOF candidacy

10 Comments

  1. Martin Sexton
    February 25, 2017
    Reply

    Just goes to show that every time I think I know what’s going on, I haven’t a clue. I never gave it a thought that the coaches and players were competing for slots. That is a problem that does
    need to be rectified. The subject of Dick LaBeau brings up a subject that I have been curious about. You say that Dick was elected solely for his “playing career” and was considered totally separate from his exemplary work as a defensive coordinator. When Tom Landry was fired by Jerry Jones in 1989, he was inducted into the HOF in 1990. Was he also elected for his playing career or for his coaching career? If for his coaching, do coaches not have the five year waiting period? Trust me, I am in no way questioning Tom Landry’s qualifications. He was and is STILL on my Mount Rushmore of coaches. As I said, just curious.

  2. Sports Fan
    February 25, 2017
    Reply

    ATTN: 48 PFHOF Selectors/Voters – (Dan Fouts – James Lofton HOF Players)
    PFHOF
    NFL
    Talk Of Fame Sports Network

    GREAT Post Mr. “Here Come The” Judge! – GREAT Post!
    THANK YOU!

    Re: “Tom Flores
    AFTER T. Flores, I’d then look at all the other Coaches eligible
    T. Flores will turn 81 yrs old for the PFHOF 2018 Class
    All those other living Coaches aren’t getting any younger either
    Don’t let what happened to “Snake” & Stanfel happen to Tom Flores”
    OR ANYONE!

    Clark Judge notes:
    “HEARING … (HOF) BILL POLIAN … ‘A FRESH LOOK AT HOW EVERYTHING IS DONE’ … ONLY RENEWED MY INTEREST — AND POLIAN’S, TOO — IN HAVING THE HALL MAKE A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE

    AND DOING IT SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.

    … GOT IT? ME, NEITHER, BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT GOES …

    … CORYELL’S FAILURE TO GET INTO CANTON IS SYMPTOMATIC OF A LARGER PROBLEM. AND THAT PROBLEM IS THAT COACHES HAVE A VERY, VERY DIFFICULT TIME COMPETING WITH PLAYERS FOR ADMISSION …

    … THE CURVE IS STEEPER, MUCH STEEPER, THAN IT SHOULD BE …

    (BILL POLIAN) ‘IF WE’RE GOING TO RECORD THE HISTORY OF THE GAME, IF WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT EXCELLENCE IN THE GAME, GOING TO TALK ABOUT PEOPLE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE GAME, TURNING PEOPLE DOWN AND HAVING COACHES COMPETE WITH PLAYERS … IN EFFECT, CONSIDERING ONLY COACHES WHO’VE ONLY BEEN IN THE SUPER BOWL … IT JUST DOES NOT TELL THE STORY OF THE GAME AND REWARD THE PEOPLE WHO’VE CONTRIBUTED GREATLY TO THE GAME.’

    I’LL SECOND THAT.

    CONSIDER TOM FLORES, FOR EXAMPLE. HE’S A HOT-BUTTON TOPIC WITH RAIDERS’ FANS, AND I GET IT. THE GUY WON TWO SUPER BOWLS AS A PLAYER, ONE AS AN ASSISTANT COACH AND ONE AS A BACKUP QUARTERBACK. MORE IMPORTANTLY, HE WAS A PIONEER — THE FIRST HISPANIC STARTING QUARTERBACK AND THE FIRST MINORITY HEAD COACH TO WIN A SUPER BOWL.

    BUT HE CAN’T GET A SNIFF … YET HE HAS FOUR SUPER BOWL RINGS. BAD ENOUGH THAT HE CAN’T REACH CANTON, BUT WHAT’S WORSE IS THAT FLORES HASN’T BEEN A HALL-OF-FAME FINALIST (ONE OF 15 FINAL CANDIDATES IN A GIVEN YEAR) OR SEMIFINALIST (ONE OF 25), EITHER, AND THAT MAKES NO SENSE.

    AND THE EXPLANATION IS THAT CORYELL, FLORES, SHAUGHNESSY AND TOO MANY OTHERS CAN’T POSSIBLY MAKE IT TO CANTON UNTIL OR UNLESS THE PROCESS IS CHANGED, AND WE CONSIDER COACHES APART FROM PLAYERS.

    WHILE THERE IS NO RULE IN PLACE, THERE IS AN UNDERSTANDING THAT WE MEASURE OUR COACHES AS WE DO OUR QUARTERBACKS — WITH JEWELRY. WELL, FLORES WON TWO SUPER BOWL RINGS AS A HEAD COACH.

    … THE CONTRIBUTOR CATEGORY IS SUPPOSED TO BE FOR SOMETHING EXACTLY LIKE A CORYELL OR A SHAUGHNESSY …

    IT SHOULD BE FOR SOMEONE LIKE A FLORES, TOO, A GUY WHO BROKE NEW GROUND AND MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW.

    SO PUT HIM … AND OTHER COACHES, INCLUDING ASSISTANTS … IN WITH THE CONTRIBUTORS, AND LET’S SEE WHAT HAPPENS. AS POLIAN RIGHTLY POINTED OUT, THE CONTRIBUTOR CATEGORY HAS BECOME MORE LIKE ‘AN OWNER’S CATEGORY,’

    BUT IT SHOULD BE MORE … MUCH MORE … THAN THAT.

    SO MAKE IT MORE. MAKE COACHES CONTRIBUTORS, TOO, NOT ONLY TO GIVE THEM A FAIRER SHOT BUT TO DEEPEN A POOL THAT IS DOWNRIGHT DRY COMPARED TO THE BACKLOG OF SENIORS. MAYBE THEN THE INDIVIDUALS WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE SUCCESS OF THE SPORT BY DOING MORE THAN JUST WINING GAMES CAN BE AND WILL BE REWARDED.”
    =
    =
    Specifically Coaches (Although each and every category is as important):
    – The NFL, PFHOF, & its past/present Selectors/Voters have Truly…Truly done a Tremendous job thru all these many years

    – Damned if you Don’t!
    – Damed if you Do!

    – For All the complaints you’ve received, each of you also deserve High Praise!

    – I respectfully urge All of you to please get Tom Flores, who’ll turn 81yrs old for the PFHOF 2018 Class Inducted while he is ALIVE!

    – 1ST eligible 30yrs ago & has NEVER made it out of the Preliminary Ballot process which is your first “List”, first stage in the process
    
– “Never made it passed the First Preliminary Ballot process!

    – & Thus, Never made it as a Semi-Finalist OR Finalist!

    – SERIOUS OMISSION!”

    – That Speaks Volumes to the ripple affect of numerous items that need to be overhauled by the NFL & PFHOF

    – Please learn from what happened to “Snake” Stabler and Dick Stanfel and others
    – It was painful as a “Fan” to see these Inductions “After The Fact”
    & Cannot even imagine what Family/LovedOnes/Friends thought/felt!

    Twitter:
    The Great:
    Jeff Pearlman Verified account‏
    “Congrats to Hall of Fame voters for making Ken Stabler’s dream come true … after he’s dead. Simply a mean thing to do, SANS REASON.”

    “SANS REASON”….!!!!!
    =
    Re: PIONEERING BLACK QB DIES QUIETLY IN CANADA
    Great story by Ron Borges, Steve Simmons & others who wrote about the passing of The Great: Bernie Custis

    On social media a person had been writing from early Feb. 2017 Several News/Sports outlets to do a story on Mr. Custis!
    Even as of yesterday 2/24/17 he was still urging them to do a story about him, his Life … this person did not know Mr. Custis passed away on 2/23/17!
    This individual had the right idea

    I Truly Hope Mr. Custis’ Life Story is told in a book and also a movie because His Story needs to be told/heard by Everyone!

    Tom Flores is still waiting for:
    – NFL, NFL Network “A FOOTBALL LIFE” Interview

    – ESPN 30 For 30 to do at least a One (1) Hour Program

    – BRAINSTORMIN’ PRODUCTIONS Hannah Storm Interview

    – FACE TO FACE Hannah Storm Interview

    – BE HONEST Cari Champion Interview

    – REAL SPORTS Bryant Gumbel Interview

    – 60 MINUTES SPORTS Interview

    – Jeremy Schaap Interview

    – Outside The Lines Bob Ley Interview

    – Undeniable Joe Buck Interview

    – E:60 Interview

    – THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE Interview
    and Other … to name a few…

    Like Mr. Custis and the individual urging News/Sports outlets to do a story about him
    Tom Flores deserves to have his Life Story told too
    Both “TRAILBLAZERS” in their own right
    and really Hope they don’t wait until they cannot interview Tom Flores
    =
    =

    (previous Comment):
    February 15, 2017
    ZIP & Mr. Judge,
    re: “Flores not getting in PFHOF any time soon, why: 105–90 (.538)”

    – I am a Huge Hank Stram fan, he finished up with his last team at
    .250
    which is lower the T.Flores time in Seattle
    Coach Stram is in the PFHOF

    – On this Website Mr. Borges makes an Excellent
    “STATE YOUR CASE: TOM FLORES”,
    read all of that plus all the Comments to that post

    Also, listen to the Mr. Borges’ audio for his presentation too

    – Also on this Website
    FLORES ON FAILURE TO REACH CANTON: “CONFUSING & FRUSTRATING”
    read all of that plus all the Comments to that post

    – Also on this Website
    FIRST WOMAN, FIRST HISPANIC TALK COACHING & TRAILBLAZING IN NFL
    read all of that plus all the Comments to that post

    All of Tom Flores’ “Firsts” along with Everything else, Cannot & Must not be overlooked
    =
    =
    Mr. Judge
    re: “Really believe the stint in Seattle hurt him badly. NEVERTHELESS, CAN MAKE THE CASE FOR HIM.”
    Thats the Spirit!
    =
    Please “MAKE THE CASE FOR HIM”
    he’ll turn 81 for the next PFHOF 2018 Class
    thanks
    SF

  3. Sports Fan
    February 26, 2017
    Reply

    CJ
    You wrote:
    “The guy won two Super Bowls as a player, one as an assistant coach and one as a backup quarterback”

    You meant to write Head Coach in place of “player”, you might want to correct that
    =

    • February 26, 2017
      Reply

      Thx. Appreciate it.

    • February 26, 2017
      Reply

      Mean it. Good catch. Appreciate you getting it to me. Easy to overlook, but you didn’t Thanks again.

  4. bachslunch
    February 26, 2017
    Reply

    Agreed that coaches (and assistant coaches) should join the Contributors. Otherwise, this category’s options will become very sparse after getting in the GM types, Sabol, McNally, and Tagliabue. It will also free up some badly needed room among the regularly eligible players.

  5. Joseph Wright
    February 27, 2017
    Reply

    Coryell actually got the Chargers to TWO AFC Championship games: 1980 vs. the Wild-Card Raiders (Coached by Flores) and 1981 vs. the Bengals in Cincinnati in -59 degrees (wind-chill factor).

  6. March 17, 2017
    Reply

    Great argument(s)!! I still say that Howard Schnellenberger–the greatest dynasty builder the sport has ever known–being denied entry to the College Football Hall of Fame is still the greatest sports injustice of our time. This needs to be addressed by Talk of Fame radio

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.