Saturday, February 03, 2007

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The latest election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was held today in Miami. The maximum six candidates were elected:

OG Gene Hickerson
WR Michael Irvin
OL Bruce Matthews
TE Charlie Sanders
RB Thurman Thomas
DB Roger Wehrli

Hickerson, Sanders, and Wehrli were all before my time, so I don't feel qualified to comment on them. But I remember Irvin, Matthews, and Thomas, so I'll give you my thoughts on them.

As a longtime Oilers/Titans fan, I'm pleased to see Bruce Matthews make it in in his first year on the ballot. With 14 Pro Bowl appearance to his credit, I didn't think there was much of a doubt. Sometimes when a player moves around between different positions, it's because he can't hold down a job. With Matthews, who played center, guard, and tackle throughout his 19-year career, it was a sign of his quality. He wasn't an elite-caliber left tackle, but he wasn't too shabby at it either. When the Oilers needed a center, he played center. But he deserves to be remembered most as a guard, and he was a damned good one for a damned long time. I'm happy to see him make it.

It's a damned crying shame Thurman Thomas didn't make it last year in his first year of eligibility. He was one of the most feared offensive players in the league for a number of years, was the best player on the field in Super Bowl XXV, and was one of the key players who lead that great Bills offense of the early 90's to 4 consecutive Super Bowls.

Michael Irvin, well, Michael Irvin. Wide receiver has apparently been the Hall of Fame's most contentious position lately, with first Lynn Swann and John Stallworth and more recently Art Monk creating deadlocks. Swann and Stallworth are both in now, and Monk's still out there. And now Irvin's in and Monk is out. Dr. Z's argument in favor of Swann and Stallworth, particularly Swann, was "quality over quantity." And that held true in spades for the election of Michael Irvin over Art Monk. Monk was a very good receiver for a very long time; if the Pro Football Hall of Fame shared the baseball Hall's respect for compilers, he'd have been in a long time ago. He far outstrips Irvin in "good" seasons and overall career statistics. But Monk was the guy who caught the 10 yard catch on 3&7; these guys are valuable, but is that enough? Irvin, on the other hand, was a wide receiver you feared. The real emergence of the Dallas Cowboys in my mind came when Irvin blew by the Redskins' great CB Darrell Green on a quick pass pattern and took it for a TD. Irvin's been justly criticized for being a loud and overbearing analyst, taken a lot of grief for doing galactically stupid things off the field, is still a running joke for getting away with pushing off against defenders, and had his career cut short by a terrible injury at Philadelphia in Veterans Stadium, when the classless Eagles fans initially booed him, but he was one hell of a football player.

The most notable exclusions include the aforementioned Art Monk, the great Bills WR Andre Reed, and the recently-retired ex-commish Paul Tagliabue. Reed will be an interesting person to argue about in the years to come; I think he'll end up a little bit short, just like Monk. If I were to pick a third member of that Bills offense after Thomas and Jim Kelly, it'd be Kent Hull, the great center. Tagliabue will get it for what he did from the league, so it may take a few years for it to happen. Derrick Thomas was too one-dimensional of a player from my point of view. Maybe it's time for some more offensive linemen. Michael David Smith supported Russ Grimm, and Bob Kuechenberg and Gary Zimmerman were also on the list of 17 finalists.

The NFL also announced the Hall of Fame game to be played in August induction weekend will be between the Steelers and Saints. With Matthews making it, I was hoping the Titans could make it again, as it's fifth preseason game and allows teams additional practice. But instead the Hall chose two teams without a player being inducted. Ah, well. PFT is annoyed the game will be broadcast on the NFL Network, but I actually like that because it means we might actually be treated to a broadcast of a football game instead of some announcers and network promos with a football game in the background.

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