This off-season is still young, but it is no stranger to some pretty big retirements. The likes of Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Julian Edelman have taken the next step in their lives, one without professional football. When big names step away from the game, we tend to look back on their careers with rose colored glasses, and inevitably, someone asks the big question. Do they belong in the Hall of Fame?
There will always be those that argue yes, regardless of the player’s qualifications. And based on some of the most recent enshrine-es, there are voters that feel the same way. But for me? I think the hallowed grounds of Canton, Ohio, become a little less prestigious every time they open the doors for the players and coaches that were closer to good than great.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Needs To Be More Exclusive
What Makes a Hall of Famer?
To me, there are a few boxes that every true Hall of Famer has to check. Firstly, they have to have the numbers. Secondly, they have to have historical impact, basically, can you tell the story of the NFL without mentioning this player? And finally, they have to have been elite. If this player wasn’t firmly in the conversation for being the best at his position, then he has no business in Canton. A true Hall of Famer should have all three of these, and here’s why.
I know that grizzled vets of the game, who wake up every morning and eat a nice bowl of glass (without any milk) say that stats don’t matter, and they’re half-right. Stats can be misleading, and rarely tell the whole story, especially in an era where they mean less and less every day. But… if you’re one of the best ever at your position, shouldn’t have the numbers? I mean, if you play a skill position, shouldn’t you have accumulated numbers that reflect your greatness at some point? If you challenged the legacies of Peyton Manning, Walter Payton, or Jerry Rice, it would be very easy for even the most casual of fans to say, “okay, but look at the numbers,” and they wouldn’t be wrong. You don’t have to retire as the league’s all-time leader at your given stat, but you should at least have something to show for your career.
Stats can be misleading, and they don’t always tell the story of someone’s impact. If someone is essential to the story of the NFL, don’t they deserve to be immortalized? Joe Namath wasn’t the best quarterback of the 60’s and 70’s, but on top of being the first guy to throw for 4,000 yards in a season and being the first AFC quarterback to win a Super Bowl, his “guarantee” is a part of the league’s history. Without Terrell Davis, John Elway retires ringless. I’m not saying we should put David Tyree in, but the greats make their presence felt in the biggest moments. I don’t care if Derek Carr retires as the league’s all-time leading passer if he never takes a snap in a game that matters.
The Best of The Best of The Best, Sir!
Calvin Johnson, in my humble opinion, is the best wide receiver I’ve ever seen. I always said he was a better athlete than Jerry Rice but a better receiver than Randy Moss. There’s never been an offense in professional football that wouldn’t have been better with Calvin Johnson. Johnson hit the wide receiver triple crown, leading the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns at least once at some point in his career. A six-time Pro Bowler and a three-time first-team All-Pro, there’s no question that Megatron was one of the best receivers in football during his time in the NFL. So while he didn’t have the career numbers, his dominance and impact on the game made him a deserving member (even if, controversially, I don’t believe he should’ve gotten in on the first ballot).
Thin the Heard
Can you honestly say Lynn Swann checks all three boxes? The guy never had a 1,000 yard season, after all. But he did make that one pretty catch that one time. Compared to Cliff Branch, does Lynn Swann belong in the Hall of Fame? The answer is no. Jan Stenerud has a great name, but was he really a great kicker? Dick LeBeau was the fourth best player in his secondary… but he was a pretty good defensive coordinator on the right team. What’s the argument for Bullet “Bob” Hayes that doesn’t sound like “free duper souls?” Art Monk played for 1,000 years and got in based on longevity and… huh… Super Bowls again.
It kinda sounds to me like winning Super Bowls in the right markets (and not being a Raider) has a bigger impact on Canton induction than what you actually do during your pro career. Funny how that works.