Pro Football Hall of Fame has been making dubious choices for years


Pro Football Hall of Fame has been making dubious choices for years

Brian Dawkins is the only player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks, 25 interceptions and 25 forced fumbles. Terrell Owens is ranked second all-time with 15,934 yards receiving and third with 153 touchdown catches. Yet both Dawkins and Owens were on the outside looking in when the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its class of 2017 on Saturday.

Who was inducted? Well, there's Terrell Davis, with all of four healthy season in the NFL. Then there's Morten Andersen, a kicker — seriously, a kicker.

It's not that Davis and Andersen don't have Hall of Fame resumes in their own right. Davis' career was cut short by injury, but rushed for over 2,000 yards in an MVP season in 1998 and helped carry the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl championships. Andersen holds the NFL records with 2,544 points scored and 382 games played. They're not entirely without merit.

Yet Davis' and Andersen's accomplishments pale in comparison to those of Dawkins and Owens. Dawkins revolutionized the safety position in the NFL and was the one constant on an Eagles defense during an era when the team went to five conference championship games and a Super Bowl. Owens is one of the most dominant, all-around wide receivers to ever play the game.

This is the part where we're supposed to say it's a no-brainer and we're shocked that the voters got this so wrong. But in all honesty, why should anybody be surprised? The selection committee has been reaching dubious conclusions for years.

In 2016, it was Tony Dungy, a head coach with a 9-10 record in the playoffs and one Super Bowl win. In 2015, it was Jerome Bettis, a running back who averaged 3.9 yards per carry over his career. 2014 was a real treat, for Eagles fans in particular, with Aeneas Williams getting in while Eric Allen goes overlooked despite a similar resume at cornerback, and Ray Guy, a punter — sure, the most famous punter of all-time, but a punter nonetheless.

What exactly is the criteria here? Because none of Davis, Dungy, Bettis or Williams were historically great players by any measure, at least not to the degree of a Dawkins or Owens. Andersen and Guy are specialists, which shouldn't necessarily preclude them, but that's two in a span of four years, the latest making it over some especially worthy candidates.

It sure seems like the criteria that matters is who can gain favor with the selection committee. That explains why Marvin Harrison was enshrined over Owens last year despite having lesser numbers at the same position.

Should Owens' behavior be a factor? Perhaps, if only because you can make the argument that his penchant for disruption negated a lot of the good he did on the field. Only at what point does his case not boil down to the simple fact that there have been few if any wide receivers in the history of the game who were better, and the proof is in the numbers?

Dawkins' snub, on the other hand, is a bit more of a mystery. He was a tremendous presence in the Eagles locker room and has a squeaky-clean reputation off the field.

Apparently, there's a feeling that John Lynch being a finalist in the same year hurt Dawkins, as the two safeties canceled each other out, creating a "logjam" at the position as one reporter referred to it. Except Dawkins was far better than Lynch — 1,131 tackles, 26 sacks, 37 interceptions and 37 forced fumbles to 1,051 tackles, 13 sacks, 26 interceptions and 16 forced fumbles. Also, there's only seven pure safeties in the Hall to begin with.

What logjam?

There's about to be a logjam at safety though, when Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu become eligible in the next few years. That's why it probably would've been a good idea to take Dawkins' seriously now rather than punt and elect a kicker who has no peers and is retired for a decade. Maybe that's not a reflection of how the process actually works, yet it's difficult to make sense of how this went down.

Maybe when Dungy or Bettis or Williams and Guy were enshrined, there wasn't really anybody else on the ballot who was beating down the door. Not the case in '17. In addition to Dawkins and Owens, some outstanding candidates were overlooked this time around, like Ty Law and Tony Boselli.

It's not getting easier for any of these guys, so when candidates with obvious holes in their resume like an extremely abbreviated career or being a kicker are chosen, you have to wonder about the thought process.

As it turns out, it's almost certainly political. We know for a fact it is with Owens. For Dawkins, it's not as clear, although you have to wonder if some of the voters view him in the same light as Lynch, Reed or Polamalu, all of whom have their Super Bowl rings, unfair though that might be.

Whatever the reasoning, the voters got this one wrong. With nine invitations to the Pro Bowl, Dawkins made the trip just one fewer time than Davis and Andersen combined. If nothing else, Owens certainly has the pair beaten in terms of the "Fame" aspect.

Apparently, the Pro Football Hall of Fame isn't about numbers or greatness or fame at all these days. Instead, it's all about the whims and preferences of the selection committee it seems.

Sixers can't replace Nerlens Noel with Emeka Okafor, Kris Humphries


Sixers can't replace Nerlens Noel with Emeka Okafor, Kris Humphries

What's better than one Okafor? Two. Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers have hired Jahlil's big brother [photo not found] Emeka Okafor to help him hold down the middle in training camp this season, along with their annoying-but-always-around next-door neighbor growing up, Kris Humphries. (Kris of course would refuse to play Super Smash Bros. with the one slightly gimpy N64 controller, so Emeka and Jahlil would have to trade off so it wouldn't be A Thing, and they always won anyway.) 

Humphries, of course, has not had a relevant NBA moment since 2012, the year he both combined with Deron Williams to torture the playoff-hopeful Sixers in a 97-90 January home loss that still gives me hives a half-decade later AND inspired one of the coldest verses in Kanye West's illustrious frostbitten catalog. That's still probably better than Emeka Okafor, who has not had an NBA moment of any kind since 2013, where a half-decent season for the Wizards ended with his aching bones being shipped as cap filler to the Suns and him essentially never being heard from again. 

To put it callously, these are no longer players of consequence. They have no meaning to this current Philadelphia 76ers roster in any practical or even symbolic capacity. They will not steal a roster spot from Richaun Holmes or Amir Johnson or little bro Jah. They are merely players who are on this team at the moment and someday very soon will no longer be. Talking about how they might fit into the Sixers' roster this season would be like talking about how that free bag of potato chips you forgot was in your bag from weeks ago is going to fit into your dinner at The Continental. 

In fact, the most relevant quality that these two tall men share in Sixers terms is that neither of them is Nerlens Noel. Remember him? He was on the 76ers for about three and a half seasons, until the Colangelim decided that he was a ticking time bomb and decided to cut both the red wire and blue wire by trading him to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew "Nah B" Bogut and a first-round pick only redeemable at out-of-state locations within the first half-hour of purchase. And as we all remember, we had to trade him because he was a restricted free agent that was Definitely Going to Demand a Max Contract in the Off-Season and he was Definitely Going to Get It and we were Definitely Not Going to Be Able to Match. 

Of course, astute NBA offseason headline watchers may also have noticed that the contract Nerlens ultimately signed was merely the qualifying offer with the Dallas Mavericks, for one year and $4 million -- or, roughly $80 million less than most assumed he was bound to get as a free agent. With The Eraser too many millions away with the Mavs to re-sign long term (and without a credible counter-offer to force their hand with), he elected to play out the the string in Big D and hope for a more resounding return next season. Turns out, the market was pretty soft for raw, defensive-minded, athletic big men with proven potential but not a long track record of on-court success. 

But there is at least one team that out there that could really still use such a player: The Philadelphia 76ers! Despite the presence of these two new bigs, and all the other dudes on our roster who have to crouch when they get on the subway, there's still nobody who can credibly anchor a defense when Joel Embiid isn't playing. And despite his many tremendous on-court skills, not playing is still what Joel Embiid does best: With the Sixers' home opener less than a month away, there's not even a timetable for JoJo playing 5-on-5, and Embiid has himself laughed off the possibility playing 82 games this season -- as if it would mark a Ripkenesque streak of endurance and perseverance. Because it would. (Bryan Colangelo says he believes Embiid will be ready for the season opener, which is better than him saying he believes he won't be, I suppose.) 

In a world where Embiid misses a bunch of games over the course of the season and can't play that many minutes even when he's active -- that's this world, btw -- it's almost invaluable to have a backup who can do a bunch of the most important things JoJo does, helps maintain roster continuity and still has the chance to unlock worlds of possibility within his own potential. Would it be worth $4 million for one year -- roughly 1/3 of what we're paying Amir Johnson, for the exact same contract length? I'd reckon. 

It may seem petty to continue beating this drum like a one-armed Keith Moon while so many other 76ers things seem to give cause for optimism -- from a reduced Sauce Castillo to Markelle Fultz living in the gym (like Worm in Rounders!) to J.J. Redick pander-trolling his way into the cholesterol-laden hearts of Philly fans worldwide. When will it be time to finally let this go? Well, when I run into Bryan Colangelo at the 76ers' championship victory parade in 2019, we can begin to have that discussion. Until then, Nerlens Noel Was Traded for a Fake Draft Pick and no Sixers moment will be sweet enough for me to get over my saltiness. 

The Giants targeted Eagles CB Jalen Mills a historic amount

The Giants targeted Eagles CB Jalen Mills a historic amount

If it felt as though Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills was involved in every other play against the Giants on Sunday, well, that’s actually not too far off.

We knew Mills saw a lot of action. He was shadowing Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for most of the afternoon, which is usually a sure sign a lot of footballs are going to come your way. One look at the box score can tell you Mills finished with a game-high 12 tackles.

That only tells part of the story. The Giants went after Mills so much, it made history.

Mills was targeted 21 times in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus — the highest number any cornerback has faced in over 10 years. PFF’s numbers only date back to 2006, but even if it’s only the most in the last decade, and not all-time, that’s still saying something in the increasingly pass-happy NFL.

To put that in perspective, Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw 47 passes total, so nearly half went to Mills’ man.

And how did Mills fare? Predictably, it was a mixed bag. Manning completed 71.4 percent of those attempts for 119 yards. Thirteen of those targets alone were for Beckham, who finished with nine receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

When you put it like that, it sounds bad. However, the Eagles — Mills included — were playing a lot of off-man coverage and conceding routes underneath. So while Mills allowed a high volume of completions, those plays only amounted to 5.7 yards per attempt.

Granted, Beckham found the end zone twice. More often than not, Mills was limiting Giants receivers to short gains. In fact, the longest completion the second-year defensive back allowed went for 14 yards, as well as only 23 total yards after the catch.

"Besides those (two touchdowns), you always want them back in the red zone," Beckham said. "Both were contested. Both were short. For the most part of the game, I think I played pretty well."

PFF described it as “death by a thousand paper cuts,” but it wasn’t Mills’ death at all. All things considered, he did pretty much what the banged-up Eagles defense needed him to do to secure a victory.