The HOF selection committee wagon circling begins

Getty Images

Last year, when Jason Whitlock of took aim at the Hall of Fame selection process, he was called an “idiot” by Hall of Fame voter Len Pasquarelli.  This year, another member of the panel is taking a slightly higher, but no less specious, road when defending the 44-person Canton cabal.

Howard Balzer of the has responded to my ongoing criticism of the process by complaining that it undermines the achievements of the men who made it into the Hall of Fame.  “The shame of it is that on a day that is a crowning achievement for the greatest that have played or contributed to pro football, they are disrespected because there is too much attention paid to who didn’t get in rather than celebrating who did,” Balzer writes.

It’s the latest flimsy, superficial, and illogical effort to insulate the selection process from criticism.  Basically, Balzer is saying that we shouldn’t express disagreement with the men who were overlooked because to do so would be to demean those who got in.

But how much attention really is being paid this year to those who didn’t get in?  By holding the vote the day before the Super Bowl, the 44 have the best possible cover.  Come Monday morning, the outcome of the championship game dominates the NFL coverage.

Balzer also floats the “it was an honor just being nominated” card, arguing that designation as one of the 15 finalists should be enough.  But there’s a huge difference between knocking on the door and getting in, and Balzer and the other voters surely are smart enough to know that.

Balzer then attacks the fundamental basis for my concern — that the process shouldn’t be exclusively reserved to 44 members of the media, especially when some of them are inexperienced, unemployed, underemployed, and/or otherwise out of their element — by assuming that I’m in position to know nothing about the sausage-making process because I’m not physically in the room to watch the sausage being made.  It’s a fancy way of saying “mind your own business” and/or “get off our lawn,” all in the name of protecting the power that the members of the relatively small clique currently possess.

In Balzer’s case, the entity he represents on the panel — the Sports Xchange — holds nearly 10 percent of the votes.  In addition to Balzer, the Sports Xchange has owner Frank Cooney, Len Pasquarelli, and Ira Miller on the panel.  That gives the Sports Xchange twice the pull of ESPN (John Clayton and Mike Sando) and Sports Illustrated (Peter King and Jim Trotter).

Not bad for an outfit that most casual fans have never even heard of.

Then there’s the fact that Darin Gantt, who represents the Panthers in the room, no longer has an NFL beat.  And Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who filled Sid Hartman’s seat this year, wasn’t even covering football until September 2011.

If 440 people were voting on who gets in, and on who doesn’t, that wouldn’t be a problem.  But with only 44 votes, these glitches make the system into a potential mockery.

So here’s what needs to happen.  The Canton-area businessmen who are more concerned about throwing a week-long party every August and/or networking with the good ol’ boys need to care a little bit more about a gatekeeping function that has been left in the hands of far too few.  If they’re going to insist on one representative per team, they need to be willing to revisit on an annual basis whether the person with the vote:  (1) is actually employed by an entity that requires him or her to actively cover that team; and (2) is the best person actively covering that team to hold the vote.

But that would require actual effort.

Balzer’s effort to deflect criticism of the process serves only to reconfirm my belief that the criticism is warranted, and that change is necessary.  For example, players and coaches and people who already are in the Hall of Fame should have some say in the process.

Regardless, far more than 44 writers/broadcasters should be involved, and the members of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees should be willing to get this thing fixed.  If they don’t, no amount of wagon circling by the likes of Balzer and Pasquarelli will prevent the public from losing all faith in the process.

57 responses to “The HOF selection committee wagon circling begins

  1. Balzer is right about the celebration being tarnished, but be real about it: it’s during the inital stages of the announcement. People do NOT complain endlessly up to the induction ceremony… 99% of people will forget about whatever “travesty” may have occured last week within the next 24 hours after journalists stop talking about it.

  2. HOF lost alotta cred this time around,

    so haleys 5 rings mean nothing?

    tim brown & C.C. again?

    no parcells?

    his assistant coaches just played in the SB,

    does that mean anything?

  3. “But how much attention really is being paid this year to those who didn’t get in?”

    Too put it simply, I haven’t heard that much chatter about who made the HOF this year. Any radio talk that I do hear (which is sporadic, I’ll admit–mostly because I have a job where I can’t listen as often as I’d like), I hear more about the snubs and how “disgusting” it is that they weren’t elected.

    I really haven’t heard much about the 2nd Saints player inducted, Willie Roaf, or anything about Curtis Martin. And I honestly have no idea who else is in off the top of my head.

    The snubs however–they’ve been drilled into my head. Disgusting, right?

    There ya go Mike.

  4. Its mostly about stroking the egos of the one thats selecting. Just like any process that involves human beings it is flawed. Having only 44 voters ( most of which have an agenda ) vote on nearly that many prospects is also absurd. I think Parcells should’ve gotten in, but I dont think coaches should take up a spot that a player should get. That should be a seperate slot altogether. I dont know how you fix the process when those that run it see NOTHING wrong with it. Congrats to those that did make it in. They were all deserving.

  5. I apologize in advance to those of you who are sick of hearing this argument, but I would be in favor of shaking things up if it would help Ray Guy’s chances of making the Hall. There are zero pure punters in there. Guy was the best. If it’s a spot on the team, it should be represented in the Hall.

    If the NFL and the Hall of Fame are not willing to recognize punters for their contributions, easy solution: eliminate the role and have the kicker do both. Otherwise, give some recognition to a player like Guy. Seems to me if a punter can kick 70 yards, and another can do 45 yards, those extra 25 yards of field position are pretty valuable, no?

  6. Is being on the HOF committee like the Supreme Court where it’s a lifetime appointment? Why is King still on there? He spends 75% of his articles complaining about coffee, micro brew beers, the fluffiness of the pillow he was given for his first class flight, and the Red Sox. The remaining 25% offers no NFL insight beyond what Tebow’s jock smells like and what he thinks Favre’s post-retirement plans might be.

  7. Parcells should’ve been in easy.

    Chris Carter was better then Tim Brown who is better the Andre Reed.

    At least they got Curtis Martin over Jerome Bettis right. I love Jerome, but a HOF he is not.

  8. oh my god some of you people be cryin over this nonsense get over it man most if these comments seem to me like a bunch of whinin now move on man damn!

  9. I think its funny DeBartolo is on the ticket when the man got kicked out of the league for gambling. What did he do to deserve consideration as a contributor? Other then being liked by his players, he tarnished the league, not contributed to it.

    Oh and Anaes Williams was the best cover corner I had ever seen before Revis, how he doesn’t make it I don’t know.

  10. Sounds like SOMEONE is upset that The Bus didn’t get in.

    I do think your article makes some valid points though.

    No reason Chris Carter and Charles Haley shouldn’t be in. Cortez got in over them? Seriously?

    Would be nice if some of my Bengals got consideration. Kenny Anderson and Corey Dillon warrant consideration if you really break down their careers.

  11. It is a stupid process to be honest but to be totally honest it is to be expected. The question to be asked is A) who owns it, B) who runs it and C) is either really uniquely qualified to decide which players were the best of all time? My answer is no.

    As best I can tell the Hall would be best served if they just put all the names of all living members of the Hall in a hat and picked 44 names at random each year.

    Heck, I’d go so far as to argue that picking 44 names at random from the Canton phone book might yield a better group of electors.

  12. Keep it up, Mike. Somebody has to make these fools accountable. A lot of these guys (Peter King) are the top dogs in keeping average fans updated on all things football. And they cherish their post so you wont see the Peter King’s of the world calling for reform.

    It is pathetic that guys like Lynn Swann can bein the HoF and yet Cliff Branch goes year in and year out without being mentioned. Same with Ken Stabler. His numbers compare to those of Namath, Griese, and others. Jim Plunkett and Tom Flores hardly ever get mentioned, yet they each have two rings as a QB and head coach respectively. And Tim Brown’s numbers are one of the top all time at WR and he had bums throwing to him most of his career.

    Like I said, keep up the fight.

  13. Saturday: Parcells, two-time Super Bowl winner, denied entry to Hall of Fame.

    Monday: Quite a few stories where the writers said Coughlin is now a lock for the Hall of Fame because he is a two-time Super Bowl winner.

    Parcells is not in (yet) because of some old score-settling. I have no doubt. No other plausible explanation.

  14. The fact that the committee pulls two veterans nobody has ever heard of out of their asses every year to vote on and a player like Jerry Kramer (the ONLY player on the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team not in the Hall) does not even sniff a nomination is ludicrous.

  15. I have a long drive most Sunday’s and am forced to listen to Balzer and I’m telling you he should be nowhere near any HOF voting. My wife has forgotten more about football than he will ever know.

  16. IF the hof voters and the hof committee would address the glaring problems with the process we the fans WOULD be celebrating the men elected into the hof more. what part of that does balzer not understand?

  17. Y’all are correct when you all say Parcells should get in, just like with Cris Carter and Tim Brown.

    But the real travesty is that Don Coryell is not in the Hall of Fame. He revolutionized the game, and the quarterback he enabled (Don Fouts) is in. Why not? because he didn’t win a Super Bowl? His concepts have won at least 15 alone.

  18. In the end, it boils down to numbers, and by keeping the entry at 5 players/coaches/GM’s a year, they are always going to have people looking at why they were overlooked. Don’t blame the 44 people voting, I agreed with most of the selections. If they took in Parcells, and not Curtis Martin, then that would have been a travesty. Parcells made a lot of enemies around the NFL, so seeing him kept out is not surprising. The surprising part is that so many people think he was a lock to get in, when he failed at so many different teams.

  19. I definitely like the idea of adding more voters and making it public. There will always be controversy, but I think these are two steps that will at least help the overall accuracy.

    Also, and just my opinion, I wish TEAM titles were less of a primary consideration for HoF selection as they seem to be for some voters. This is the ultimate INDIVIDUAL award a player can receive (slightly more understandable, maybe, for QBs and coaches).

  20. Oh so Lenny’s on the committee? Only a matter of time before Todd Pinkston gets in…. but screw Parcells… he’s the reason the Pats lost to Favre in the ’96 SB, and it had nothing to do with the game….selfish SOB, hope ne never gets in…

  21. This isnt a football issue, it is a timeless issue about governance. Anytime you have a small committee deciding issues on behalf of everyone, you will have lots of problems: There will be resistance to change, greed by the few, apathy by the general public and outrage by a vocal minority. This is considered an Oligarchy. Now, some oligarchies worked, for example Sparta (Where murder, rape and a lack of anything innovative reigned supreme. The spartan government was set up to RESIST CHANGE). This is similar to what is going on at the HOF. 44 people have the power and some received this power unfairly and have created block votes within it that compromises the selections and diminishes the efficacy of the organization.

    Its my opinion, even in private business (which the NFL technically is, although it needs anti-trust status to be considered a legal private business) we should model or institutions with checks and balances. We need to limit power of these former-to-quazi-to-non athletes and make the process more fair, more democratic.

    Also, if you dont want to change it too much, do like Mike is saying (and what Julius Caesar did), get more voters (senators)…just be careful Mike, the Belzers of the world are just like the Brutus’ of Caesar’s day; they don’t want their power and status challenged.

  22. Not that my opinion matters much to you , Mike, but keep up the good work. someone has to keep bringing attention to this..again, in my opinion.. no sportswriter should have a vote.

  23. Sorry, but sports writers have NO creditablity when it comes to the HOF. Most of them never played the game. Or some have an Axe to grind or a story to put out. (Money to be made on their selection) Finding out that these writers pick who goes in, make the HOF a joke. Except for the people in the HOF, they do deserve to be in. I might question some over others but they shouldn’t be picked by some trying to get a story or make one. Should have a seperate enity picked by coaches and players(Past and present) where there is no self intrest to be bought or paid for. NO sportswriter has the creditabilty to pick, I don’t care who they are.

  24. The guys who have commented on this thread know a lot more about football than the annointed committe seems to.

  25. The day after the HOF announcements I posted a comment on the HOF inductions and the sham it has become.

    As mentioned earlier in a comments, they are like the Supreme Court. They get lifetime appointments.

    The HOF committee should be replaced every 2 years and none allowed to return to the committee for 10 years. I mean every person on the committee replaced every 2 years. No one hanging around from previous committee. Like that there are fresh faces and thoughts every 2 years.

  26. Sorry,

    I regress.

    I hadn’t read “larryravor” s comment.

    My post should read: “The guys except larry.”

  27. there are holes in your proposition as well:

    Who’s doing the evaluating each year as to whether a given person is the “the best person actively covering that team to hold the vote” (your words) for each season?

    What’s to stop that group from pressuring current or potential vote holders into electing the candidates they want?

    The best solution has to involve a lifetime measure to prevent such abuses, but there should be some sort of balance instituted as well.

    For example, something like: “a single organzation cannot hold more than 7% of the vote of the membership, otherwise membership must be revoked from the appropriate number of people until compliance with this rule is achieved. Individuals whose membership have been revoked for this purpose may become a non-voting/advisory member”.

    Also, I don’t care if a voter who covers some team last year that they represent. As long as they covered the NFL in during a time when the current HOF-eligible players played, that’s ok by me. But I agree they should be somewhat connected to the league within reason.

    For example, “if a voting member has not been actively covering the team they are representing in the last 10 years, they may become a non-voting/advisory member, and a qualified voting replacement representing the same team shall be found.”

    The reason for the 7 year policy on latter should be that it doesn’t matter whether a voting member covered the team last year or not, no one that was on that team was eligible anyway. There should be some accountability to it, but I’d rather those with votes covered the guys they’re voting on more than I care whether or not they covered the guys last year who aren’t on the ballot at all.

  28. “Sorry, but sports writers have NO creditablity when it comes to the HOF. Most of them never played the game.”

    Isn’t that like saying you can’t have an opinion on Obama because most of us haven’t been president? Many have credible understandings of the sports they cover. Some just get to be too big and become lazy.

  29. I agree that individuals who are elected in to the HOF should have a vote. The Heisman includes past winners in the vote, so why shouldn’t the HOF? Are we afraid of bias towards past teammates? Like the press aren’t biased towards those they covered?

  30. Face it, there’s no good solution since all changes to who votes and when as well as the number admitted each time will have either omissions or admissions that don’t please someone.

    I always hear about Parcell’s coaching tree as some indication that he was deserving. Well a simple search shows that out of 11 head coaches from his tree only 3 have or had any success. 8 were failures as head coaches to this point. Coaches are recycled so much that it seems ridiculous to say any head coach created good ones or bad ones alone.

    Some voters because of age only saw players from the 70’s and later, others saw player from the 50’s and later. How to compare?

    Stats lie so unless you see someone how can you vote accurately.

    Leave it alone and move on. Celebrate the ones in and hope for your favorites in the future.

  31. If sportswriters don;t vote then who votes? Sure as hell ain’t the fans. I’ve seen how that goes with all star games. That would be a nightmare.
    Players & Coaches? Most players don’t want that responsibility. Can you imagine Gruden with a vote? He would tell everyone they are a Hall of Famer and then just put himself in.

  32. Doesn’t it say “Pro Football Hall of Fame”? Why are there never any players from other “Pro” leagues inducted? Just saying-Doug Flutie – CFL, USFL, and NFL.

  33. “And Doug Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who filled Sid Hartman’s seat this year, wasn’t even covering football until September 2011.”

    You mean Dan Wiederer? Can you at least get his name right?

    And what about Sam Kouvaris, who is on the committee? He’s not even an NFL writer. He’s a sports anchor on a Jacksonville TV station. Why that seat on the committee isn’t covered by the Jaguars beat writer for the Times-Union or CBS writer Pete Prisco (former Times-Union writer and based in Jacksonville) is beyond me.

  34. This “panel” or committee” is a is not the Pro Football hall of is the Pro Football “good guys club” or pretty good players club” or “players/coaches that kissed the medias ass’ club

    How can any lunatic voter in his right mind think that Cortez Kennedy or Chris Doleman has meant more to the game of Pro Football than Chris Carter, Charles Haley or Bill Parcells….

    Too many voters are weak insecure idiots who did not like the way some of these players/coaches treated them..well..Man Up and shut up..and like someone else said….learn the game before your little club decides who gets in..totally BS

  35. @dophey28

    In what world was Tim Brown better than Andre Reed? When Reed retired he had the 3rd most receptions of all-time behind only Jerry Rice and Art Monk. Maybe you don’t remember how good he was, but that Bills offense of the 90’s revolutionized football.

    However, they should both be in ahead of Michael Irvin, which was the HOFs biggest miss.

  36. I said this on the Willie Roaf term limit post. The fact that he didn’t make it as a first year guy says all you need to say.

    The greatest Tackel in NFL history has to wait?

    Unless your a flashy stat guy like a Deion Sanders or a Marshal Faulk your not gonna make it in on the first shot.

    Let the media do it and it’s all about the stats and highlights.

    Let pleyers and coaches do it that way technique , skil, and knowledge of craft actually mean something

  37. It’s becoming apparent that many of the glaring “omissions” – Parcells, Haley and Carter to be exact – are due to personality concerns and off-the-field problems. It’s as though the voters have experienced a renaissance of thought. If we’re going off of Super Bowl wins, Pro Bowl invites and All Pro designations, Charles Haley stacks up well against Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. The Pro Football HOF voters are mirroring the voting trends and complaints spelled out by the Baseball HOF voters – that character suddenly means something. But even if there were a paradigm shift in the HOF voters, board and by-laws, any new board members or voters could cop the same attitude about a player’s personality and rap sheet. And what’s to stop a group of holier-than-thou bloggers – not Mike, Gregg & MDS but rather others I’ve read – for holding an even higher standard on personality and conduct?

  38. I’m very happy that PFT is leading the charge on this, because quite simply enough is enough.

    But, the process must start with the removal of clearly biased writers like Peter King. He openly flaunts his love of the Packers, Giants, Steelers and (especially) the Patriots.

    King’s bitter vendettas against the 1970s Raiders and Cowboys are at the root of the problem and it’s only getting worse as other writers are bringing their own personal agendas to the table.

    Reform the process now and remove King and any writer who openly campaigns for/against players.

    Make it a mix of coaches and former players and keep guys like King away from it.

  39. At a minimum, anyone in the HOF should get a vote. Or change the name to the Writers HOF and let the NFLPA start their own HOF and call it the Players HOF.

  40. Why would an athlete *really* care what 44 people who write stuff care.
    Isn’t the true reward winning championships.

    If the HOF was to really be meaning it should be voted by guys who are in the hall or actually played the game.

  41. There are lots of guys who get in that I don’t think rise to the level of All-Time Great. Some of these guys are just the latest example of having a wonderful career, usually a long career, being a good guy…..Example- When was the defining moment of Curtis Martin’s career? Emmitt-separated shoulder, over 150 yards. Gale Sayers-6TD’s in one game.John Riggins-4th and 1 in the Super Bowl. See what I mean? If you aren’t a Jet fan, you can’t name a moment like that for Martin, ditto for Vikes fans with Cris Carter.
    Another way to look at it-Was a player the best at their position during their era? barry Sanders, marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith were all better than Martin. But hey, someday McNabb WILL get in, despite being behind Brady, Manning, Farve, Rothlisberger, Warner, and Eli……Proves the point-they put people in for more reasons than just numbers, and exclude guys for reasons they shouldn’t also.

  42. I agree that the HOF selection committee but I do not think it is completely off base in its inductees. I simply go to the current crop and suggest that it is not possible to reach a consensus on who should be excluded this year in favor of Parcells, Carter, or one of the other big market favorites.

    Carter wouldn’t be such an issue if he was not working for ESPN and Parcells deserves to get in but I am happy it was not in his first year of eligibility.

    I personally think that something like the last five classes of inductees should have votes in addition to small changes to the currentl electorate.

  43. Interestingly enough, one can easily argue that the HoF voters did a good job with the modern era candidates. All five are very worthy choices. The problem with not freeing up the WR logjam is likely to cause problems if it isn’t addressed soon, but I’d be very surprised if Carter/Reed/Brown aren’t elected eventually. I’m not convinced the current system doesn’t by-and-large work at that end.

    The big problem here as far as I can see is with the Seniors. Jack Butler was very much deserving and was rightly voted in, but denying Dick Stanfel was yet another “shame on you” moment for the general voting body that also rejected Claude Humphrey a couple years ago while electing the likes of Floyd Little, Emmitt Thomas, and Dick LeBeau. For a change over the last two years, the Senior nominating committee did a good job — it was the rank-and-file electorate that screwed up here re Stanfel.

    The three things that would help the process here would be:

    –scrap the current Seniors approach. In its place, appoint a committee of football historians who research, nominate, and elect the Seniors, bypassing the current voters entirely. It’s been made abundantly clear that there’s no guarantee the current Senior nominating committee will consistently come up with good candidates, nor that the general voting group has any clue on how to evaluate the worth nominees once presented to them.

    –have a separately nominated Coach/Contributor candidate, to be voted on in thumbs up/thumbs down manner as currently happens with the Seniors. This will help ease some of the player logjams.

    –make the full voting results public. Voters should be held publicly responsible for their decisions, and bad-quality voters can be more easily screened out if they don’t shape up. A committee member who has an eccentric position (such as happened for years with John Steadman, the Baltimore rep who consistently tanked John Mackey’s candidacy until his behavior was exposed by a fellow city sportswriter and finally relented) would not be able to hide behind a cloak of secrecy. And when a voter decides to vote “no” on a good-quality Senior, they should be prepared to explain their decision.

  44. They need to let HOFers and active players vote. Remove the limit on how many can get in. Each person can select how ever many names they feel valid from a list that’s been whittled down to 15 finalist. If you get at least 75% of he voting members selecting you, then you are in. These guys in the trenches know who is worthy and who is not.

  45. Isn’t that like saying you can’t have an opinion on Obama because most of us haven’t been president? Many have credible understandings of the sports they cover. Some just get to be too big and become lazy.

    Read the whole story. Not as long as they get paid for storys would they have proper creditability. And your wrong about your analogy of Obama, its the wrong analogy because we have a vote when it comes to his contempt for the consitution.. We can replace him. We don’t have a vote when it come to the HOF.

  46. Show of hands – how many people would take Lynn Swann or John Stallworth over Cris Carter? And the two are in the HoF, yet Carter can’t get in. Makes no sense.

    Lenny Pasta got one thing right – Whitlock is an idiot. And as they say, it takes one to know one!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!