Sunday, February 7, 2016

What Separates Players? First-Ballot HOF or Not?

By John Turney
Jerry Rice. Art credit: Merv Corning
Some football fans think a player is "A Hall of Famer or not" and that players having to wait is silly. Others, like NBC's Bob Costas, thinks that there is a difference. Several years ago I asked him if there was an "extra cachet" to any player being voted to any Hall of Fame in his first try and Mr. Costas answered quickly and affirmatively. So, there are two honest opinions that differ.

My view is when any honor is limited, as the Pro Football Hall of Fame is, to five modern-day slots there will be times when a player has to wait a year or two, unless he has that extra cachet, like Brett Favre this year. He had the kind of career that leap-fogged him over Kurt Warner, who is deserving, but had the so-called "donut hole" in the middle of what should have been his prime and has caused him to have to wait, again, likely until next year.

With some Terrell Owens fans upset today and T.O. himself feeling "disrespected" I would remind them and him this isn't about him getting in. He will, most likely next year, but it is asking a very fair question to the fans and to him. The question is: Did your career have the goods needed to jump to the head of the line, in front of Marvin Harrison? Harrison,  himself was so-called "snub" two years ago.

My contention is that sometimes a "snub" is not a snub at all. Sometimes, when you have to separate things and compare them you have to use very high standards. That is why there was a discussion "in the room" about T.O.'s drops, that he led NFL twice in that statistic. There were other things that "dinged" him as well, but nothing that will keep him out forever, just enough so that he didn't jump in front of Harrison, a great, but not perfect, candidate.

With wide receivers, there are many things to look at, i.e. hands, routes, numbers, honors, toughness, blocking, etc. Thus, in that list of things, here is one data point that shows, other than receiving statistics, why Jerry Rice was a sure-fire First-ballot Hall of Famer and the others on the list, while great, did not attract the same kind of attention as did Rice. It's the number of votes they received year-in and year-out for the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award.

The following chart shows all the wide receivers who received a vote in the AP Offensive Player Award voting since the award was created in 1972. It speaks volumes.
Chart credit: PFJ
Certainly, this is not the end-all, be-all. It's just one thing among many things that matter. If any receiver had maybe 40-50 of these votes, he could be put in the ballpark, but really, the separation is Ruthian, and illustrates why not all wide receivers with great numbers are first-ballot Hall of Famers.

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