Hall of Fame voter: Michael Irvin was better than T.O.

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With at least one Hall of Fame voter who resents being questioned or criticized has decided to whine about “the Mike Florios of the world,” my official response consists of two words: Thank you. (My unofficial response contains several of the same letters and one of the same words, but it can’t be repeated on a family-friendly-sometimes website.)

The criticism of the failure to induct receiver Terrell Owens in his second year of eligibility (more specifically, the failure to even put him in the final 10 in 2017) has begun to smoke out some of the voters who resent the throwing of rocks at their ivory tower, forcing them to make public their case against T.O.

MDS crafted a masterful deconstruction of the Ron Borges get-off-my-lawn essay that exposed not only his illogical drop-based argument but also the same kind of lazy arrogance (copying and pasting quotes obtained and transcribed by others without credit) that quite possibly influences every other aspect of his work, including his work on behalf of the Hall of Fame. Indeed, it’s not the first time Borges has been caught copying and pasting without attribution. (My first and only direct communication with Borges occurred more than a decade ago, when I complained to him that multiple different PFT blurbs ended up without attribution in one of this Sunday notes columns above the vague and goofy “material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report” disclaimer.) For most journalists, getting caught in what is the ultimate evidence of lazy arrogance and a hollow work ethic would be a career killer. Somehow, Borges is both still gainfully employed and a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee.

But this blurb isn’t supposed to be about Borges (even though it is). It’s supposed to be about specific arguments made to me via email by Hall of Fame voter Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. In fairness to Gary, I’ve separately published the full, approved content of an email summarizing multiple prior messages. For now, I want to focus on the primary argument Gary made: Michael Irvin is more worthy of Canton than Terrell Owens.

“Michael Irvin didn’t get in the HOF until his third year and I could easily make a case he was a better player than T.O.,” Myers wrote. “For sure, if I had a choice of having one of them on my team, I would take Irvin. Not even close in my mind. . . . [J]ust as far as their playing ability, Irvin played on three Super Bowl championship teams. He was a leader and a winner. He had much better hands. Owens dropped an awful lot of passes. Irvin imposed his will on games while Owens was carrying a Sharpie in his sock and eating popcorn with the cheerleaders.

“I was not on the committee when Irvin was a candidate, but my guess is his off the field problems are why it took him three years to get in, although the mandate from the HOF is not to consider issues away from the field like arrests and drug use. In the case of Owens and others who were considered distractions, the locker room is considered an extension of the field.”

Irvin created at least one unprecedented distraction, at least as far as anyone in the media or general public knows. He stabbed a teammate in the neck with scissors on team property. As “horrible teammates” go, that would seem to set the bar.

As great receivers go, Owens set the bar a hell of a lot higher than Irvin. He currently sits at No. 8 on the all-time list, with 1,078 receptions. Irvin is tied for 38th, with 750.

Owens is No. 2 in receiving yards, with 15,934. Irvin sits at No. 26, behind the likes of Derrick Mason.

As to total touchdowns, T.O. is No. 5, with 156. Irvin ranks 120 spots lower, tied at 65 touchdowns with Sonny Randle, Joe Morrison, Charlie Joiner, Elroy Hirsch, Calvin Hill, Terrell Davis, Gary Clark, Billy Cannon, and Emerson Boozer.

When it comes to production over the course of a career, it’s not even a close case. It’s not even close to being a close case. And while Irvin has three Super Bowl titles, does anyone think Owens wouldn’t have at least one if he’d been the third leg of the Triplets tripod, especially with an offensive line that consistently dominated its foes?

Of course, Owens still had an opportunity to win a championship, and he did everything in his power to return from a broken leg to catch nine passes for 122 yards against the Patriots in a three-point Super Bowl XXIX loss. But Myers shrugged at that achievement.

“The Eagles won two playoff games without him to get to the Super Bowl that year and then lost the Super Bowl with him,” Myers said.

Technically, that’s correct. The Eagles did get to Jacksonville without him and they did lose there with him. But does anyone really think the Eagles lost because of him?

The more accurate view is that Owens did his job more than well enough on that day to deliver an NFL title to Philadelphia for the first time since 1960, and that not enough of those around Owens did. By nonchalantly dismissing one of the brightest moments of T.O.’s career, Myers says plenty about what the panel thinks of Owens, plenty about whether it’s inclined to induct him any time soon, and plenty about whether the whole thing needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch.

79 responses to “Hall of Fame voter: Michael Irvin was better than T.O.

  1. Irvin beter than T.O.? In the words of his old teammate, child please, lol. Next absurd thing I’m going to hear is that Troy Aikman was clearly better than Montana or Brady or something else absurd.

  2. T.O. way better than Irvin. Worked harder to stay in football shape and had more natural talent. The results are evident in the stats. It is a huge mistake that Owens is not in the Hall.

  3. Just stop with the stats. We all know T.O. has the stats. If you ask players, who they would rather have as a teammate Michael Irvin or T.O., excluding any off field antics, a majority would say Irvin. Ask Aikman, Smith…they all say he was a great teammate, worked hard in practice, and was a leader. Players don’t say the same thing about T.O., so does being a good teammate count ? Apparently it does.

  4. Its a good ol boy system. Why is Irvin even in the HOF when compared to T.O.? Good ol boy system.
    No respect for any of these clowns. Blind in one eye and cant see out the other.

  5. Owens played his butt off in the SB against the Pats….. while McNabb was coming unraveled and puking in the huddle….Owens was stepping up a SB rallying the team

  6. I’m astonished that these are the guys responsible for HOF voting.

    It seems like they carry with them grudges, baggage and in general a far too biased views of these players to objectively vote who should be in/out.

  7. You guys saying TO is better have no idea what you are talking about.

    1.) TO started playing in 96. 3 years before Irvin retires. It was a two different eras of football. TO played in more of a Passing League than Irvin.

    2.) Irvin had Emmitt Smith, you know the ALL Time Leading Rusher and the ALL Time Rushing TD Lead and the 2nd ALL time TD Leader. Of course you would think that Irvin wouldnt have the same stats…BUT

    3.) The PER GAME average of their stats is almost Identical, with the exception of TDs. (.4 per game to .7 per)

    Irvin TO
    Catch 4.7 5.1
    TD .4 .7
    Yards 74.9 72.8
    YPR 15.9 14.8

    They are the same player. That being said…TO should get in. Its the Hall of Fame….not the Hall of Stats. You cant mention the period of 95 to 2005 without mentioning TO. He is ingrained in the history of the NFL,

  8. I guess we’re doomed to reading countless articles about TO and the Hall of Fame for weeks to come. God, I hate the off season. I really hope this TO story won’t devolve into something similar to reliving the nightmare every off season regarding Favre’s retirement/non-retirement drama.

  9. I agree. Irvin and Aikman were unstoppable on that 15 yard sideline out route. Aikman would throw it 5 yards before Irvin even made his cut.

    Earlier in his career, the Playmaker was a serious deep threat. No breakaway speed but always there in the most critical situations. Owens was a beast, and deserves to be in Canton, but overall Irv was the better player IMO

  10. Lol. I’ve always thought Irvin was a weak candidate that wouldn’t have gotten in if he weren’t a part of the Cowboys mini dynasty. And let’s be honest, Irvin was a worse person than TO. Owens never got arrested and never did drugs. Always gave 110% on the field. So let’s see…better player and better person…why is Irvin better again?

  11. sidepull says:
    Feb 18, 2017 11:00 AM
    Its a good ol boy system. Why is Irvin even in the HOF when compared to T.O.? Good ol boy system.
    No respect for any of these clowns. Blind in one eye and cant see out the other.
    There is merit to your argument when you compare Irvin to Sterling Sharpe. Sharpe was a much better receiver, but Irvin was lucky enough to play on great Dallas teams and Sharpe’s career ended early due to the bad neck injury. However, Sharpe had four superlative season, just like Terrell Davis had. It looks as if players are getting big bumps for Super Bowl wins. Sharpe only played with Favre for 3 of his 7 seasons too. Sharpe was a better player and he was recognized as the second best (Rice) in his time.

  12. Integrity, accuracy and transparency – words that once defined the journalist’s profession. Arrogance, hidden agendas and exaggerated hype now describe the sportswriters of America. Many now try to be the story rather than report the facts – a gift we were given by Howard Cosell. The Hall of Fame is for those who have produced so until the process is transparent we will be unable to determine if the “secret” votes are being made within the guidelines Peter King would have us believe the voters follow. Only transparency can give the fans back the game and honor those who have given us so much.

  13. T.O. is a HOFer in my opinion, but there is something of a Don Sutton like accumulation of his stats. Stayed healthy and productive while playing a long time . Irvin left young. Also rules during his career became more and more offensive friendly.

    If I had to pick one in their prime to win a game for me and my life was on the line, I’m taking Irvin.

  14. None of what I have seen from any of the voters that have been willing to comment on the subject have made the argument that T.O. shouldn’t or won’t ever get in. But the various viewpoints they have expressed make it easy to see that in a room full of strong opinions there were enough differing points of view to set aside his induction for the time being in favor candidates there were more points of agreement on. This is what happens in committee settings. The old saying “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” comes to mind.

  15. So if I understand correctly I can say Terrance Williams is better than Julio Jones because hey whatever.

  16. Plus there is this….Michael Irvin is borderline illiterate and practically incomprehensible……TO is articulate and easy to comprehend…

  17. The Millennials in this thread think the NFL was always a pass-happy league where every offense put up 400-500yds per game. Irvin played when DB’s put two hands on you from the snap and safeties were paid to lead with the helmet.

    In the words of the immortal coach Parcells: “Sometimes you need the WR to go 9yds and stop, [he, the player] would go 12yds. This can be problematic for the QB.”

    This is why Marvin Harrison is in the HoF. This is why Michael Irvin is in the HoF. T.O. deserves to get in eventually, but let’s not pretend he’s some kind of lifelong student of the game, or craftsman. He was physically dominant for a period of time.

  18. If we’re talking strictly talent as a WR, there’s no way Michael Irvin was better than TO.
    Irvin got away with pushing off more than any WR I ever saw, too.

  19. Good god, who cares about T.O. this much? Neither he nor Randy are 1st ballot HoF’ers in my mind. They deserve to be in, but neither respected the game enough to deserve the 1st ballot honor. 1st ballot entries should be reserved for the game’s best that always gave it their all and elevated a team’s performance beyond simply on the field feats. A Hall of Famer to me, especially a 1st ballot HoF’er is a guy that overachieved, not underachieved. Moss should have obliterated the WR record book. But his attitude proved to be a detriment time and time again over the course of his career. Sheer numbers wise, both T.O. and Moss are obvious candidates. But based on what they could have been, both underachieved.

  20. TO was an A hole and took the opportunity to poke everyone he could in the eye, he was and is a crazy jerk by all appearances.
    How and who you are to other people matters. Get over it.

  21. While I think TO should be in the HOF. Comparing stats to Michael Irvin is just dumb, Irvin had to retire early because of a neck injury/narrowing of the spine. Guess Mike Florio forgets parts like that when He tries to justify His point in any argument. Also using a Dallas Cowboy as bad to justify it even more!

  22. Anyone who watched both of those guys play knows Irvin was better. He didn’t have as much talent but he was a warrior on the field who would catch every pass, block and battle to help his team win. The Playmaker was a champion.

    T.O. was blessed with more physical ability, but he was a selfish guy who didn’t put in the work on or off the field to be the best. He’ll get in eventually, I’m sure, but he’s not a first-ballot guy.

  23. Hilarity that these guys think that issues and distractions off the field don’t affect the team on the field and in the locker room.

    Also now we’re using Owens having fun on the field with sharpies and popcorn as a knock on him too. This league is becoming so uptight and rigid. No fun league at its finest.

  24. Michael Irvin was so great that opposing fans cheered when he got injured, and it wasn’t personal it just meant that now their team had a chance to win a big game against Dallas.

    They knew there was no way you beating Dallas in a big game with a healthy #88 on the field.

  25. Irvin was definitely better. There have been a considerable amount of rules changes to promote the passing game since Irvin’s era. T.O. is a great player who benefitted from those changes. He will also make the HOF eventually. I can totally understand the reasoning behind putting him on the back burner for being a locker room cancer. Waiting to get in the hall is his well deserved punishment for that. I have no problem with it whatsoever.

  26. Chris Hogan is much better than Julio Jones. How do I know? Because Chris Hogan won a championship with a hall of fame QB and Julio Jones had a chance to win one and didn’t despite huge production in the game.

    See how silly the arguement sounds when you just switch a couple of the names?

  27. I’d go with Irvin. It’s funny that the numbers that TO was always so preoccupied with aren’t helping him. He’ll eventually get in but no way he is first ballot.

  28. raiderlyfe510 says:
    Feb 18, 2017 1:18 PM
    Michael Irvin was so great that opposing fans cheered when he got injured, and it wasn’t personal it just meant that now their team had a chance to win a big game against Dallas.
    They knew there was no way you beating Dallas in a big game with a healthy #88 on the field


    Had nothing to do with being great. That had to do with him being a classless punk. No one cheered when Jerry Rice got injured.

  29. It’s a shame that Aikman and Irvin are in the HOF. Those Dallas teams were Smith running the ball behind a very good offensive line and having a very good defense. For clutch passes the TE caught quite a few.

  30. Florio for once is right: “the whole thing needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch.”

    It should be renamed. Hall of Greats fits. Fame connotes popularity and T.O. is not popular.

    There should be metrics, measures and standards for talent, production and teamwork. If being an ambassador of the game is required then have measures for character, ethics, philanthropy, community service, and citizenship as well. Make it clear what can keep a player out.

    Why not have secret ballot feedback, from players and coaches, for each team at the end of each season: at the very least on teamwork and a team first attitude. This would serve not only to make each team more cohesive but also do away with the notion that individual stats are the only measures needed to get into the Hall of Greats.

    Otherwise scrap the idea that teamwork and working together means anything for the Hall of Greats.

  31. the Irvin arguments are all extremely weak.

    the different era argument makes no sense, because there are plenty of wrs from the 80s and 90s with better stats. Andre Reed, Irving Fryar, Henry Ellard, Steve Largent, and James Lofton all came in the league years before him and have better career numbers.

    Someone said he had no help? What about the pro bowl caliber TE Jay Novacek, all-pro rb Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, or the best o-line in the NFL the first half of the 90s.

    Irvin’s 5 best years coincided with Emmitt Smith being an All-Pro rb. When Smith fell off so did Irvin. His best years were clearly a product of Smith.

    Irvin getting injured in his 12th season didn’t cut his career that much shorter than it would have been. He was already on the down side of his career and in his mid 30s, all he would have done with 2 or 3 more seasons was compile some bad stats, that wouldn’t have made him that much better anyway.

  32. Okay…. so that is your opinion… but in terms of the voting process… so what?

    T.O. was better than 99% of players to play at his position. If think Irvin was better, that is your opinion but that does not mean T.O. is not a Hall of Fame type player.

    If you vote for Owens, it does not mean they kick out Irvin nor does it signify he was better than Irvin. I’m struggling to see why this logic warrants not voting for him.

  33. Personal attacks on Garcia/Mariucci, sideline tantrum against Knapp, criticism of McNabb/Romo and other well documented antics are fair game in HOF process.

    His Super Bowl game typifies what a bad teammate he was. TO was happier to put up decent stats in a loss than to be a decoy in a win. Did Fitzgerald pat himself on the back after great Super Bowl against Steelers?
    No, he still regrets not being able to make a tackle on Harrison.

  34. Irvin was better in context of value to team in his era. While Mike is doing high level TV work, TO does any D-list reality show stuff that comes his way.

  35. Talent alone will never get anyone into the Hall of Fame. And all Owens had was talent. He is the poster boy for the diva receiver.

  36. To the HoF voter: Ha Ha Ha, you’re a bright one buddy!! Irvin stabbed a teammate in the neck, smoked crack, and complained about not getting the ball. Put TO in the Hall, he earned it…

  37. T.O. should be in the hall of fame. Way better WR than Michael ‘Mr. Offensive Pass Interference’ Irvin. Every time Irvin ran a route he commited offensive pass interference and the reason the refs didn’t call it was because Irvin played for the cowboys.

  38. That is a perfect example of “cognitive dissonance” — seeing what does not exist.

    No, Irvin was NOT better than T.O.; but, your hatred of him MAKES you think that he was.

  39. Dear NFLN. I know it’s all about the ratings but please, can’t you find two better black clowns than the Playmaker and Prime Time. Their self promotion makes your network unwatchable!

  40. With that last quote about Eagles playoff games, Myers proves he’s an idiot. Owens is the only reason that team had a shot in that Super Bowl. While the rest of the team was falling apart around him, he *willed* that team right to the brink of winning that game.

    Myers is everything that’s wrong with HOF voters. They spout tidy summaries to back up what they think they know, but they obviously never even watched what they’re responsible for voting on.

  41. sports1976 says:
    Feb 18, 2017 4:33 PM

    TO was happier to put up decent stats in a loss than to be a decoy in a win.


    Yet another guy who never actually watched the stuff he’s now talking about!

  42. I never wanted T.O on my fav team, but mostly because he was a diva receiver. But there is no doubt or question he is a sure ballot hall of famer. The arrogance of some of these writers who have votes is astounding. Especially in Borges case, who if it were up to him, the patriots would have fired Belichick and drafted david terrell over richard seymour.

    Ron borges is best known for criticizing the Patriots, plagiarism, and getting in a fight with a man in a wheel chair

  43. I don’t like Irvin or Owens, but that’s beside the point. I’ve been watching football long enough, and I know the game well enough that I don’t need to look at someone’s stats to tell me how good they were. Stats prove, without a doubt, that Emmitt Smith is the greatest running back of all times. Is he?

  44. I think you’re also being a bit facetious too Mike considering that Irvin had to retire early due to a spinal cord injury and had he not received such an injury and played as much as TO or hung on with whoever would take him like TO had to, Irwin would actually have more receiving yards and about the same amount of catches as TO ended up with. So to use TO’s stats vs Irwins you do need to prorate, etc to be fair and then Myers would actually be right.

  45. “Irvin was definitely better. There have been a considerable amount of rules changes to promote the passing game since Irvin’s era. ”

    Name them. There are a few interpretations of what is allowed, a few tweaks, but not much has changed. If anything, the pre-1972 guys should get way more credit, and is a big part of why Jim Brown really was the best.

    Here are some major changes:
    1972 NFL moved hash marks inside. This put offenses in the middle of the field and allowed them to use both sides on every play. IMHO, this is the biggest change. It also affected kicking a lot.

    1978 NFL put in the rule that you cannot hit/bump a receiver past 5 yards down field.

    1984 Defense cannot whack receivers crossing the field, even if they are within 5 yards of line of scrimmage. Before that, some were getting closelined.

    ???? Cannot find the date, but it was years ago. The NFL used to call intentional grounding no matter where the QB was. Now it’s easy for a QB to just run outside and throw it away. This makes it easy for teams to preserve drives and makes throwing more desirable even against good pass rushing teams.

    So what has really changed since Irvin played, other than drug use rules that would make him suspended in today’s NFL?

  46. Irving was known as the Push Off King, anyone old enough to have watched him play knows that. TO was a jerk, but he was a great receiver. If on and off field behavior matters then Art Monk should have been in the HOF years ahead of Irving. Monk has more receptions, more yards, more TD’s and was never in trouble off the field. Won three superbowls with three different quarterbacks. The whole HOF voting process is a joke.

  47. Yeah, TO was better than Irvin, but not my as much as a lot of people think. For the first couple years of Irvin’s career, the Cowboys were horrible, and that was during an era when it was harder for young receivers to see the field. His career was also cut short at age 33. Despite only scoring 1 TD, he went over 1000 yards in his last full season, and scored 3 in the first 3 games of 99 before getting hurt.

    91-95, Irvin was awesome. 25 years later, those numbers are still All-Pro level. Their modern-day equivalent would be the kind of seasons that Antonio Brown and Julio Jones had in 2015. Also, his career postseason, 16 games, is a 2016-17 Pro Bowl season, more than can be said about TO.

    Irvin was on a great all-around team, but he was also part of why that team was so great, and those other guys cut into his production at times. In a relatively short career, he ranks towards the top in 100-yard performances, signaling that he went off when he had to. I hate the guy, but he is HOF-worthy. As is TO.

  48. I’ll probably be censored yet again on PFT simply for expressing an opinion that doesn’t agree with the site and doesn’t have any profanity whatsoever but the “ivory tower” comment is out of line

    TO was a pain in the rump at every team he played for, he’s a non stop whiner now, and it’s about time those things should count when HOF time comes around… just because other guys were criminals or pains in the past and got in is a lame excuse… these guys set an example for our kids

    it’s time to change

  49. The fact that you guys are still going on about this all this time, weeks, later and are so borderline psychotic stalker about it is evidence enough that the voters identities and their vote should never be made public.

    I can only imagine what you would do to each and every one who ever has a criteria that differs from yours.

  50. FYI, when Irvin was finally inducted, the total number of WR in the HOF with more yards per game than the Playmaker was ONE. For example, Irvin averaged over 74 yards a game. Lynn Swann averaged 47.1.

  51. yerdumb says:
    Feb 18, 2017 11:21 AM
    you guys saying TO is better have no idea what you
    2.) Irvin had Emmitt Smith, you know the ALL Time Leading Rusher and the ALL Time Rushing TD Lead and the 2nd ALL time TD Leader. Of course you would think that Irvin wouldnt have the same stats…BUT

    Can you imagine what stats TO would have had if he ever played on a team that had a RB like Emmit Smith which forced Defenses to constantly stack the box? We would be talking about TO eclipsing or getting close to Jerry Rice numbers.

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