The 2011 Hall of Fame class: Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter.
The most interesting — and controversial — name on the list is probably Sabol’s. That’s because the founder of NFL Films never played a game of NFL football, and there’s a faction of voters and pundits who feel that the Hall of Fame should be reserved only for former players. But Sabol changed football. No league is covered as awesomely as the NFL, thanks mainly to Sabol’s operation. NFL Films helped expose the great sport to a baseball-obsessed country. Now, it’s the most popular sport in America. Sabol deserved this. When his enshrinement was announced, the “crowd” had a very strong reaction.
Everyone knew Faulk and Sanders were going in on the first ballot, so there are no surprises there. Dent and Sharpe were a little more surprising.
Dent, who was one of the keys to the great Bears defences in the 1980s, had been eligible for enshrinement nine years before today. The two-time All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion had 137.5 career sacks.
Sharpe, who retired as the league’s all-time yardage leader, won three Super Bowls in his 14-year career. There might have been a fear that he’d sort of get lost in the shuffle if he wasn’t inducted now. A lot of great receivers continue to wait for enshrinement.
And that’s what brings us to the rejects. Andre Reed was the best receiver on a team that went to four consecutive Super Bowls, but his numbers continue to get trumped by the wideouts of the generation that has followed his career. Tim Brown was the only player out of the Reed-Chris Carter-Brown receiving trio to win a Super Bowl ring, but neither Carter nor Brown made the first cut down to 10.
I’m particularly disappointed to see Carter getting a lack of love. Not only were Carter’s numbers far and away better than his counterparts (his 130 touchdowns blow them out of the water) but he made an unbelievable number of clutch catches over the course of his career. Carter was quality over quantity.
Senior nominees Chris Hanburger and Les Richter both made the cut. It was the second year in a row in which both final senior nominees were inducted. You get the feeling that will become commonplace. Who wants to rob some old guy in such heart-breaking fashion?