Hall of Fame voter criticizes other voters, exposing flaws in the process

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee meets every year on the day before the Super Bowl to select that year’s class. Fifteen modern-day players are chosen as finalists, and a maximum of five can be selected. At least 10 will be voted down.

This year, one of the 10 who was voted down was Edgerrin James. One of the members of the selection committee has a problem with that, and he published a column that reveals more about the problems with the selection committee than about James’s merits as a Hall of Famer.

The voter in question is Clark Judge, and he writes that James was left out because voters “ignored” James’ accomplishments. Judge uses the word “ignored” nine times in his argument against his fellow voters. He thinks he recognizes James’ greatness and too many of his fellow voters are ignorant of that greatness.

But Judge provides no evidence that any voter “ignored” James’ accomplishments at all. It’s entirely possible that most or even all of the Hall of Fame voters actually consider James a great player who’s worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement. It’s just that they consider other candidates even more worthy.

And that’s one of the fundamental flaws with the way the Pro Football Hall of Fame selects its annual classes: It doesn’t matter if, in a given year, there are half a dozen or a dozen or two dozen worthy candidates. A maximum of five of those 15 modern-day finalists are getting in. If Judge is sure that James should have been one of those five this year, he also needs to name one of the five who got in this year who should have been left out in favor of James. Judge curiously fails to do that. Maybe he doesn’t want to anger fans of Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens or Brian Dawkins, but until he’s willing to name one of those five he’d leave out in favor of James, his insistence that James should have been voted in rings hollow.

Based on things Judge has said and written in the past, it’s likely that Judge would have chosen James over Owens. Judge has criticized Owens and defended the Hall of Fame selection committee when Owens was previously voted down. That’s fine. Judge is entitled to the opinion that James should be a Hall of Famer and Owens should not. But he should present that opinion in an intellectually honest fashion: It’s not that the voters “ignored” James’ accomplishments, it’s that voters thought other players were more accomplished. Judge was free to make his case for James at the selection committee meeting, other voters were free to make their case for Owens, and ultimately voters thought Owens was more worthy.

At least, that’s probably how it went down in the selection committee meeting. We don’t know for sure, because the bigger flaw in the process is its lack of transparency. The first rule of the Hall of Fame selection committee is, Don’t talk about what’s said in the committee room. Voters are sworn to secrecy about who said what. If you break that code of silence, you’re out of the club.

But why should that be the case? Journalists demand transparency of everyone else, so why, when journalists deliberate to make a decision, do they insist that their deliberations be shrouded in secrecy?

Because of that lack of transparency, we have no idea what the arguments were that led to James being excluded. It’s entirely possible that someone on the selection committee made a persuasive case against James, and other voters agreed with that case. Or it’s possible that everyone in the selection committee agreed that James is deserving, but when it came time to narrow down the list of 15 finalists, they decided that other candidates were more deserving.

For voters to insist on secrecy about their discussions, only to have individual voters then criticize other voters, only serves to undermine public trust in the Hall of Fame.

48 responses to “Hall of Fame voter criticizes other voters, exposing flaws in the process

  1. Not only that, the NFL could televise it, like a government hearing and create a huge event they could monetize by selling it to the networks. Roger’s missing another opportunity to cash in for the struggling owners.

  2. Last week, I posted a lengthy opinion of how I think the Hall Of Fame voting needs to be changed.
    The very first thing they need to do is take away the cap of 5 players getting in in any given year. It’s beyond stupid to keep guys who are deserving out solely because they’ve reached the limit of 5 players being voted in.

  3. it is insulting to my intelligence to sell me on james, bettis or frank gore, etc, and “ignore” corey dillon, whose production on hideous bungles teams, dwarfs all of those by comparison.

  4. Pats fans will love to know that the panel ignores things. I’m sure they’ll ignore the fact that Shady and Bilicheat cheated their way to success.

  5. The fact that Alan Faneca continues to get left out is asinine as well. Simply the greatest guard of his generation, 6 time all pro, 2 time second team all pro, 9 time pro bowler, 2 SB rings. In his 12 years he didn’t start a whole 7 games, 6 of those coming in his first 2 years. But he has two big strikes against him, he’s an interior lineman and he’s a Steeler. The current committee simply doesn’t like to induct guys of that caliber. If you’re asking me who gets left off this year to fit Faneca in, it’s Brian Urlacher – great player – but not that caliber of consistency and greatness that Faneca was.

  6. tylawspick6 says:
    February 17, 2018 at 12:55 pm
    it is insulting to my intelligence to sell me on james, bettis or frank gore, etc, and “ignore” corey dillon, whose production on hideous bungles teams, dwarfs all of those by comparison.


    not much to insult, apparently

  7. I hate arbitrary numbers. Who determined that 5, and not 6 or 7 was appropriate? Why have a certain number? If a person meets whatever criteria to be voted in, they should be voted in. Then the argument that they might deserve it but someone “deserves it more” would be a moot point. Just take the 15 finalists and vote yes or no. If 2 get voted in, or 10, so be it.

  8. Edge owes his career success to Manning, Harrison, and Wayne. He disappeared right after leaving Indy.

  9. I think a more telling question is, would the Browns want Brees at that price?

    Sure, he’s the BEST FA QB out there, but is he really a great fit for a rebuilding team that plays in cold-weather games in Nov & Dec (and possibly Jan)? We’ve all seen his road stats vs. his home stats over the past 3-4 years.

    To sum it up, I don’t think so. I don’t think Brees is interested in it, and I don’t think the Browns are really interested in it, although I fully expect them to make a big and PUBLIC offer for Brees for PR reasons, knowing all the while that they have no real intention of signing him.

    And if Brees was smart, he would openly flirt with the Browns to use the leaverage from the Browns’ offer to get max money from the Saints.

  10. They put Terrell Davis in, so might as well give all runnings backs a participation trophy, or in this case, a gold jacket.

  11. “This just in, Clark Judge, Indiana University alum and mediocre journalist, capital hand ringer, needs to give Irsay a reason to keep inviting him to his box for home games. Meanwhile in Washington he keeps the swamp plug in place as a member of the peat bog bottom boys.”

  12. What did James ever win? Ty Law should be in the HOF. Three picks of Peyton Manning in one AFCCG. A key pick of Kurt Warner in a super bowl win. Law played his best against the best in big games.

  13. Edge will get in eventually, but it’s hard to IGNORE the fact that he played for the Colts for 7 years and never went to the Super Bowl. When he left, Indy won it the very next year.

    Like I said, he’ll be in Canton eventually. He’s got the stats. But it’s not like a no-brainer to rush his election before other deserving guys. He was always 2nd or 3rd banana on a very good offense.

  14. It’s going to be like this for a lot of running backs in the next decade… Guys who put up gaudy numbers for a few years, but probably are not HOF worthy. Edgerrin James and Fred Taylor are probably the best of that group which probably includes several other backs who played during the same period of time.

    I will be a little surprised if any “new” backs get in until AP is eligible.

  15. we need to recognize that it’s not a perfect process. it never will be. but, drew pearson should be in the hof. a super bowl ring and first-team all decade, when the league favored defense.

  16. blackpool – it is absurd to bash Terrell Davis as a reason that any RB should get in.

    If all you`re googling is career regular season stats, then yeah. Not mind blowing overall. But when you consider that he had the most dominant 3 year run that almost any player has ever had, when you consider that he is far and away the absolute most dominant postseason RB of all time, when you consider that he literally carried his team to back-to-back Super Bowls, MVP, Super Bowl MVP, OPYs, First Teamer, All Decade, yeah. This isn`t reading like a HoF resume at all, is it? Yeah just stick to that career yardage as if that’s how greatness is measured.


  17. How about the players selecting their peers? Look at how political the baseball hall of fame is.

  18. It’s not about exclsion. It’s about waiting in line and you get jumped in the line every year when a better player becomes eligible.

    To this point, the NFL HOF has not been about numbers. They have gone more by whether a player was truly dominant than by stats.

    I hope they keep to that standard because there are going to be tons of WRs with big stats that should not make it just because they put up numbers.

    I’m thinking Reggie Wayne. Played a long time, was productive, but always a second target to Harrison.

    I think HInes Ward should go ahead of a guy like Wayne. Ward didn’t put up eye popping stats, but for a long time, he was a dominating player in terms of his blocking and his tough catches which affected games far more than a guy like Wayne ever did,

  19. I disagree with Judge that James should be in the HOF, but that doesn’t change the fact that the process is broken. There are too many truly great players/coaches that are still waiting while more recent but less accomplished candidates are being rubber stamped. For example, Don Coryell revolutionized the game and is still not in the hall. If the HOF isn’t about true innovators like that, what’s the point?

    As for the committee, they’re like Congress. Both would benefit greatly from the introduction of term limits. Time for some new blood in the good ole boys club.

  20. Edge was one of the greatest Cardinals of all time.

    Also greater than the Cardinals in the catholic church too, that did all that nasty stuff in Boston, obviously.

    Go Red Birds!

  21. But why should that be the case? Journalists demand transparency of everyone else, so why, when journalists deliberate to make a decision, do they insist that their deliberations be shrouded in secrecy?
    I couldn’t have said that any better myself! Well Done MDS, Well Done!

  22. I don’t really think too many people actually take the HOF seriously anymore. When my kids ask me if a guy is a HOFer, I’ll answer based on my opinion, and ignore whether or not he’s actually in the HOF. Too many voters have no idea about the sport they’re voting on.

  23. Edgerrin “no gain” James in the HOF is so wrong it’s unexplainable.

    Just say no for the love of God.

  24. If voters wanted to humble Owens and punish him for his years of antics and cancerous attitude by not letting him in as a first ballot hall of farmer, then I don’t have a problem with that. However, to say he doesn’t belong in the hall at all is just the height of delusion.

  25. I hear ya…and you’re undoubtedly, at least intellectually right. But the lack of transparency quells what would likely be endless criticism of the choices made.

  26. I went back and looked at James and Dillon’s careers. Dillon gets the edge. Factoring in that James benefited from Manning and Dillon was on a super bowl with just a short stay with Brady makes it an easy call.

    A tackle of James by Willie McGinnest on fourth down short of the goal line in an AFCCG could be the difference.

  27. The HOF voting is deeply flawed and not just by limiting to 5 players. It is more like a restaurant with a line for seating. 4 Great HOF worthy receivers in one year sorry, can’t take 4. Table for 2 table available though.

  28. You will never convince me that Terrell Owens was a better football player
    than Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca or Tony Boselli.

    Edgerrin James was a very good player. So was ‘Fast’ Willie Parker.
    Neither rise to the level of all time greats.

  29. Being popular is what it’s about.

    Owens lead his teams in receiving yards 12 times, while Moss lead his teams only 8 times in receiving yards.

    The receiver that keeps getting bypassed in this voting is Henry Ellard, the greatest LA Rams receiver. Ellard lead his teams in receiving yards 13 times in a row and he started his career as a punt returner in the dead ball error of the 1980s. When Ellard retired he was 3rd all time in receiving behind Rice.

    And while we are at it, Cliff Branch also belongs in the HOF. He was as good or better than John Stallworth. And he was a far better receiver than Lynn Swan (whose HOF cred is based on a couple of catches).

  30. no one cares about bloghalla, it’s irrelevant, and yawn…

    and trying to start a discussion about it’s “process”, presumes it still has any relevance to begin with.

    when “voters” (lol self-important much?) questioned Megatron’s merits, i…yawn…

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