The biggest problem with the recent “T.O. dropped too many passes” excuse for keeping him out of Canton isn’t that it’s a stupid argument (it is), it’s that it feels like a Plan B effort from Hall of Fame voters to justify the snub.
Peter King of TheMMQB.com, who supports T.O.’s case for Canton, fleshed out the drops-based case for exclusion in his weekly column. And while King reiterates his position that Owens should make it, King argues that drops are relevant to the overall case.
If so, why did it take two weeks for drops to become part of the public discussion? It seems like the voters (regardless of whether they oppose Owens) have decided to supplement the extra-statistical scuttlebutt with something rooted in objective fact, now that the threshold justification for keeping Owens out of the Hall of Fame has largely failed to resonate with fans or with media members who don’t have a Hall of Fame vote.
In a close case, drops would be highly relevant. Locker-room misbehavior would be relevant, too. In situations where the performance clearly justifies enshrinement, these paper-thin barriers become even more flimsy when they emerge as a reaction to the intense criticism arising from the omission.
When Hall of Fame quarterback and Hall of Fame voter Dan Fouts went public with his opposition to Owens, Fouts said nothing about drops. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, the first voter to reduce his opposition to writing, said not one word about drops.
Drops first fell into the discussion after the rejection of the “horrible teammate” and “teams couldn’t wait to get rid of him” narratives began to crumble. The drops-based argument should quickly crumble, too.
Again, in a close case, drops on the field and conduct from the sideline to the parking lot is relevant. In a slam-dunk situation, it’s not.
Consider Brett Favre. He’s the all-time leader in interceptions. He had a reputation for doing his own thing, ignoring the instructions of coaches and winging it. At least one of his former coaches — Jerry Glanville — surely would have some bad things to say about him. (Brad Childress and Eric Mangini might, too.) Favre was hardly a model teammate, as Jeff Pearlman’s Gunslinger demonstrates regarding Favre’s alleged treatment of Aaron Rodgers. Favre tormented the Packers with his annual will-I-or-won’t-I retirement musings, setting the stage for the arrival of Rodgers. Favre eventually retired and then unretired, creating a mess for the Packers before being traded to the Jets, where a workplace sexual harassment situation resulted in Favre being fined for lying to the league office.
Did any of that keep Favre out of Canton? Nope. Favre got in on the first ballot, without even a discussion or debate. (It literally took 30 seconds to put Favre’s case to rest.)
For Owens, the debate continues. The fact that the goalposts keep moving demonstrates how weak the case against him is.