With the upcoming Saturday announcement of the newest class of inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame coming, I decided to put together my “mock” ballot.
One of my personal restrictions is not inducting multiple players at the same position unless both players were first ballot locks. This affects my votes for Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, both of whom might be worthy in another year, but fall short of the level of greatness that Marshall Faulk displayed during his career. Part of this is due to the restriction of only seven selectees during a year.
Here’s my ballot:
Jerome Bettis: NO. Bettis was a very, very good player during his career. I’m just not sure if he was Hall of Fame great. The biggest knock for me on Bettis is that he was never in the discussion of who is the best running back in the NFL. He’s got eight 1,000+ yard seasons, but the 1,000 yard plateau became a sign of average production since the NFL expanded to a 16 game schedule in 1978. A better measure for a modern back is 1,200 yards and Bettis had four of those. In comparison, net yet eligible Corey Dillon has five of those seasons and Marshall Faulk had 4 straight seasons of 1,300+ yards. Bettis needs a year when he’s not competing with another running back and that may never happen.
Tim Brown: NO. It’s a three-way race at WR and all three are tied for 2nd. With the increased numbers in the passing game, it’s going to be really tough to separate a lot of players with worthy numbers. So this position needs to be about more than that. He made the All-Decade team but that was a dubious selection considering he was only named All-NFL during one season as a receiver. His huge numbers are a byproduct of a 16 year career in which he played in 255 games. He might get consideration in the future, but with other WR’s becoming eligible, he doubtful in my mind.
Cris Carter: NO. Carter was like Brown, but with more touchdowns and no Super Bowl appearances. But he did receive two first team All-NFL honors during his career. Carter was a player who benefited greatly from being in a passing offense that targeted Carter frequently in the 12-15 yard area to move the chains. He was productive, but until Randy Moss joined him, the Vikings offense could be schemed against when facing good teams. You can see why the Vikings never advanced to a Super Bowl when you look at Carter’s playoff numbers. His Vikings went 4-10 in the playoffs and Carter only exceeded 100 yards twice.
Dermontti Dawson: YES. Dawson was a key cog on some of the best rushing teams of the 1990′s. He was a first team All-NFL six straight seasons, 1993-1998, and was the Center on the All-Decade team. The Steelers led the NFL in rushing twice during Dawson’s career and were in the top 6 seven times.
Richard Dent: NO. Dent is worthy, but like Chris Doleman, is a victim of being up against Charles Haley. If the Bears had won more than one Super Bowl, Dent would have been in years ago even though Dent did win a second ring with the 49ers. The case against Dent really isn’t against him, except that he’s up against two worthy candidates a rush end with Haley and Doleman. Dent was a first team All-NFL once and second team twice. He’s worthy in another year.
Chris Doleman: NO. Doleman is similar to Dent in that both wreaked havoc in the NFC Central during a similar time period and both put up huge sack numbers. But remember that sacks weren’t compiled before 1982 so the statistics on that list are far from mature. Doleman was a two-time All-NFL performer, but never played in a Super Bowl. He’s a coin flip with Dent when they’re not against a sure thing.
Marshall Faulk: YES. This one’s easy. Faulk set yardage records and was the first to gain over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in four straight seasons. He won a ring in 1999 and lost the Super Bowl in 2001. Faulk also exceeded 1,200 yards rushing five times and averaged over 5 yards per carry in three straight years, 1999-2001. Faulk averaged over 108 yards from scrimmage per game for his ENTIRE career. Definitely a first ballot guy.
Charles Haley: YES. Five Super Bowl rings. He’s got more titles in the ultimate team sport than anybody in the Super Bowl era. Haley arrived in Dallas in August of 1992 and helped transform their defense from the 17th ranked defense in 1991 to the top ranked in 1992 with the Cowboys embarking on a run of 3 Super Bowl titles in 4 seasons. Haley’s ability to constantly demand double teams freed up his teammates, like Jim Jeffcoat and Leon Lett, to face single blockers and put pressure on the quarterback. His sack totals are smaller in comparison to his ballot competitors Dent and Doleman, but Haley had 4 1/2 sacks in 5 Super Bowls and played on 10 division champions. Haley matched Doleman’s two All-NFL selections and was twice named NFC Defensive Player of the Year. In football, the only stat that really matters is championships and Haley has five.
Chris Hanburger: NO. I didn’t see him play. Unfortunately for Hanburger, he is competing with a lock candidate as far as non-conventional candidates go. His career doesn’t scream “great”, but I’d be willing to revisit this in the future.
Cortez Kennedy: NO. Not this year. This is a tough year, as there are 3 candidates who should get in during their first two years of eligibility. That only leaves four more spots. Kennedy is definitely worthy, but never played on a winner. I’m actually surprised that it took a few years after his became eligible to get a look. He was first team All-NFL three straight times (1992-1994) and was named to the All-Decade team of the 1990′s. This is a tough omission.
Curtis Martin: NO. This is Martin’s first year of eligibility and he goes against Faulk. He wasn’t better than Faulk and wasn’t overwhelmingly great enough to warrant being the second running back inducted this year. Martin has seven seasons of at least 1,200 yards rushing. A mark that was indicative of his ability as much as his durability as he was consistently among the league leaders in carries. He wasn’t far behind Faulk in productivity as Martin averaged almost 104 yards from scrimmage per game. But no championships separate Martin from the elite runners in history and he didn’t have the career of a non-winner like Barry Sanders. He should get in next season going against the overrated Tiki Barber.
Andre Reed: NO. I strongly considered Reed based on his team’s success, but during an era of huge numbers, Reed’s are somewhat underwhelming. Reed’s teams did reach four consecutive Super Bowls and he helped the Bills make the playoffs nine times during his 15 seasons with them. But he only had four seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving and his playoff numbers don’t really stand out either, despite their wins.
Les Richter: NO. I love the fact that the Rams traded 11 players to get him from the Dallas Texans in 1952. But here’s another veteran’s committee guy who is up in a tough year. He would get the nod over Hanburger if Sabol wasn’t on the ballot.
Willie Roaf: YES. Three-time All-NFL performer and six-time second team All-NFL. He was also on the 1990′s All-Decade team. Roaf was a standout with the Saints for nine seasons and then paved the way for Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson in Kansas City for his final four seasons. That’s nine first or second team All-NFL selections in 13 seasons. That’s a Hall of Famer.
Ed Sabol: YES. This guy is as much of a lock in my mind as Faulk and Deion Sanders are. When talking about contributions to the game, is there anybody who changed the image of professional football in America more than Sabol and his creation, NFL Films? Everybody who loves football owes this man a debt of gratitude for introducing us to many of the visions and sounds that we would never have an opportunity to experience from our living rooms. It’s amazing that he’s not in yet, but there’s still an opportunity to reward his lifetime of dedication to the game while he’s alive.
Deion Sanders: YES. If he’s ranked 34th on the top 100 list, how can “Primetime” not be a first ballot guy? He was a two-time Super Bowl champion on teams that he might have been the biggest difference in their success. He returned nine interceptions and nine kicks for touchdowns. He was the 1994 Defensive Player of the Year. He was a six-time first team All-NFL performer. He made the second team two times. His 53 interceptions ranks 23rd all-time. Many consider him to be the best cornerback of all-time.
Shannon Sharpe: YES. Sharpe won three Super Bowls in four years with Denver and then Baltimore. He finished his career as the all-time leader in yards, receptions, and touchdowns for tight ends. Sharpe was a first team All-NFL four times as well as a member of the All-Decade team of the 1990′s. Sharpe’s overall numbers might have been even better had he been a higher draft pick and become a starter sooner. Many of today’s versatile pass-catching tight ends are modeled after Sharpe and current Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome. Sharpe definitely belongs with those two in Canton.
There’s my ballot. Fire away!
- Brian W.