Slowly, the thick dam that was holding back some of the NFL’s best wide receivers from being enshrined in Canton is leaking. But another blockage is developing among the pass rushers.
That’s the immediate takeaway following the annoucement of the 2013 Hall of Fame class this evening in New Orleans, which came after a marathon day when the selection committee met for over 10 hours. Cris Carter finally received the respect he very much deserves, and he’ll be enshrined alongside Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, and Warren Sapp. In addition to those five, there were also two senior candidates who will be honored this summer (Curley Culp and Dave Robinson).
The problem this year with the original 15 finalists is the same as it is many years: there were five slots, and 15 deserving candidates. Some quick math on that means that 10 men who were legendary in their own way continue to wait, and then likely wait some more next year.
Among them is Michael Strahan, the single-season sacks record holder. Then there’s Charles Haley, the only player in NFL history to play on five Super-Bowl winning teams. Their continued wait is partly the result of this being the year of the offensive lineman, with Odgen (the first inductee in the Baltimore Ravens franchise history) and Allen (who played every O-line position except center) given the nod.
Kevin Greene was also excluded. Between Greene, Haley, and Strahan, a combined 402 sacks were cast aside until next year. That’s why the collective “position” of pass rusher could slowly overtake wide receiver as the position where it’s the most difficult to get a replica of your face into Canton.
And about that wide receiver problem. Carter’s induction finally comes after six years of waiting, and five times as a finalist. But Tim Brown and Andre Reed still represent a logjam that will get thicker next year with Marvin Harrison eligible. Most likely, Harrison will then begin his wait, and one or both of Reed and Brown will be honored. Brown has the stronger reéumé, as he’s fifth all time in receiving yards with 14,934, with Harrison only barely behind him (14,580), and Reed further back in 12th (13,198).
There will be fiery daggers thrown over Brown’s exclusion, and they’ll become even more forceful next year if somehow he’s dodged again. But answer me this: who, exactly, would you remove this year in favor of him?
Bill Parcells won two Super Bowls, and had a career record of 172-130-1 as a head coach. Between Ogden and Allen there are 16 All-Pro Selections, and Sapp had 96.5 career sacks even though he played on the interior of the defensive line. To put that number into even greater perspective (and to perhaps further explain why Haley was excluded), Sapp’s sack total is only 3.5 quarterback takedowns behind Haley, a defensive end/outside linebacker.
There were no wrong answers tonight, just better ones. When we look back on the 2013 Hall of Fame selections, they’ll be remembered for the solving of one problem at wide receiver, the creation of another one among the pass rushers, and Art Modell’s denial. You can sleep tonight, Cleveland.