It is that time of year again, when some of the great players we enjoyed watching on the gridiron receive their much-deserved place in pro football immortality.
With very few exceptions, the players considered each year are all among the NFL all-time elite and worthy of Hall of Fame induction. So, to me judging whether the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee does a good job has become less about which players, coaches or contributors they select, but more about how many they allow into the Hall of Fame each year.
Though the rules say that up to seven worthy candidates can be selected into the Hall of Fame each year, between 1988 and 2009 the Hall of Fame selection committee enshrined the maximum number of candidates only twice (1990 and 2001) while on six occasions choosing only four candidates, the minimum number allowed in a year.
The thing you must understand is that it isn’t like keeping the Hall of Fame classes so small for all those years was in some way preserving the elite status of the HOF.
Between 1988 and 2009 there were a total of 113 players, coaches and executives inducted into the Hall of Fame. Only 36 (31.9%) were inducted in their first year of eligibility. That means nearly 70% of all those who were eventually inducted were passed over at least once.
What this horrific and totally unnecessary display of incompetence did was create a back-log of worthy candidates. It also meant that some players whose careers were eventually recognized as Hall of Fame worthy were deprived of that honor until either after their death or far later in their life than necessary.
While the Baseball Hall of Fame selection process has some major problems, with only a few exceptions through their veteran’s program, most of those who are going to be honored as Baseball Hall of Famers receive the recognition no more than 20 years after their retirement.
In just the last five years there have been eight Pro Football Hall of Famers inducted more than 30 years after their retirement. Heck, Jack Butler, who was inducted in 2012 and passed away in 2013, finished his playing career in 1959.
I am not at all suggesting that these players should not have been inducted into the HOF, but rather that had the Hall of Fame selection committee been doing their job more efficiently for more than two decades these players would have received that honor earlier and thus would have been able to enjoy the recognition longer.
Fortunately, beginning in 2010 the Hall of Fame committee seemed to start understanding the mess they had made and since then have done a good job starting to reduce the backlog.
In the last four HOF voting cycles the HOF class has included the maximum seven members three times and six members once. Read the rest of this entry →