Ray's Replies: Do TV jobs help players get in HOF?

Ray's Replies: Do TV jobs help players get in HOF?
February 5, 2013, 11:00 am
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Warren Sapp was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, while Cris Carter got in on his sixth try. (USA Today Images)

Q. I don’t get the Pro Football Hall of Fame. How does a player who was passed over for years, maybe 10 or 20 years, get voted in? Why is he suddenly more worthy? When I see Cris Carter, Warren Sapp and Bill Parcells voted in, it makes me think being a TV talking head is what puts you over the top. Is this the ESPN Hall of Fame?

Bill T.
Blackwood, N.J.

A. To answer your last point first, no, TV face time doesn’t put people in the Hall of Fame. If it did, Michael Strahan would have been voted in on Saturday. No one is more visible on TV than Strahan, who hosts a daily talk show with Kelly Ripa and appears on the FOX NFL show on weekends. He is everywhere.

I was a Hall of Fame voter for 15 years, so I’ve seen the process from the inside and while I agree it isn’t perfect, I think the voters get it right most of the time.

I couldn’t understand why Carter was rejected the last five years. I felt he deserved to be a first-ballot choice and I was disappointed when he didn’t get the votes. It took awhile but he finally got his ticket to Canton on Saturday.

It wasn’t because he appears on ESPN. It was because he caught 130 touchdown passes in the NFL. I don’t care what era you play in, that’s Hall of Fame stuff. (If Trent Dilfer gets in the Hall of Fame one of these days, I may have to reconsider my position).

Why was Carter passed over four times? I think it was because there were two other very good receivers on the ballot -- Tim Brown, the former Raider and Andre Reed of Buffalo. What happened, I believe, is the three receivers split the vote. Some guys voted for Reed, others voted for Carter, still others voted for Brown. As a result, none of them got the 80 percent of the vote needed for election. In effect, they blocked each other.

You may say, “Why couldn’t they vote for all three?” Well, they could vote for all three, but keep in mind there is a limit of five modern-era players voted in each year, so if you vote in three receivers you only have two spots left for everyone else. So as a voter these are all the things you have to consider. It is a challenging process. It isn’t as simple as just checking a box and walking away.

That is why some players fall short for awhile and then are voted in. It is not that they became, in your words, “more worthy.” Things just broke their way. There was not a logjam of candidates at their position or perhaps there wasn’t a real strong group of first-year eligibles, so their names rose on the ballot and their chances improved.

You saw it this year with Will Shields, the offensive lineman who starred for Kansas City. He was one of the 15 modern-era finalists but so were two other offensive linemen, Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, who were eligible for the first time. Allen and Ogden were slam dunks, so Shields became the third choice at that position. He didn’t survive the cut but next year it could be a different story.

I think this year the selectors felt they had to do something to break the logjam at wide receiver, so there was a surge of support for Carter, which was enough to finally get him over the hump. Now that Carter is in, it increases the chances for Brown and Reed next year. Most players who make it to the final 15 ultimately make it into the Hall. It might take awhile, maybe longer than it should, but it usually works out.

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