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Blog Entry

Is Hall of Fame voting process a bug or feature?

Posted on: August 6, 2011 12:54 am
Edited on: August 6, 2011 12:59 am
 


Posted by Ryan Wilson

This is like trying to identify the ugliest Victoria Secret's Angel, but in the spirit of fairness (and on behalf of ugly people everywhere) we feel compelled to mention that of the four modern players to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday -- Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe -- Sharpe is probably the least attractive lingerie model of the bunch, metaphorically speaking.

That's not to say he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame one day -- he should -- just that it's all relative, in both senses of the word. First, you can make a case, without much effort, that Cris Carter or Curtis Martin would have been just as deserving had they been selected instead of Sharpe. And even Sharpe, speaking the day before his induction, admitted that his brother should've ended up in Canton before he did.

“Sterling was supposed to be in the Hall first,” Sharpe said. “I was supposed to introduce him for his speech, for his introduction and then take his bronze bust into the Hall. But now we’re going in together. I’m taking him in with me. … I’ve always wanted to be like him,” said Shannon.

Part of the issue is the fickle, sometimes secretive nature of the voting process. And barring a sudden change in course away from old-school writers debating the merits of each candidate based on things like "grit" and "gut feelings" in favor of a room filled with eggheads, mountains of data and complex algorithms accounting for variables most of us would've never even considered, it's going to be a messy affair.

If you're willing to accept the premise that it's an imperfect system but one that, in general, eventually gets it right, it makes the whole undertaking much less stressful and slightly more reasonable. (At least for the onlooker. We can't imagine what the nominees must go through, leaving the fate of their professional legacy in the hands of faceless voters.)

As for Sharpe's credentials, they're impeccable. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, four times a unanimous first-team All Pro, he started for two different Super Bowl-winning organizations, and he retired as the NFL's career leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns by a tight end (records later broken by Tony Gonzalez).

So what's the problem?

It's less a problem than a nuanced distinction that gives us pause, even if momentarily. (Not to mention our previous concerns that there were very little differences among the candidacies of Sharpe, Carter and Martin.) In February, after the 2011 Hall of Fame candidates had been announced but before the finalists had been named, ProFootballReference.com wrote about Sharpe's Hall of Fame chances.

They (like us) thought he deserved to be in Canton, but made an intriguing point: Sharpe was a tight end, but at 6-2, 225 -- and given how he was utilized (and that he wasn't considered much of a blocker) -- he was closer to a wide receiver. PFR.com contrasts Sharpe with a player critics of the HOF voting system would point to whenever they wanted to make their point in just two words: "Art Monk."

The details:

PFR lists Sharpe at 6'2, 225 and Monk at 6'3 and 210. While Sharpe looks a lot bigger, and their careers overlapped, some significant changes occurred in the NFL while these guys were playing. In Monk's breakout season, 1984, the average TE was 6'3 or 6'4 and 236 pounds. Ten years later, the average TE was 6'4 and 254 pounds. So Monk was about 25 pounds lighter than the average TE; Sharpe was a little shorter and about 30 pounds lighter than the typical tight end. In Monk's five 1,000 yard seasons, he averaged 13.8 yards per reception; the league average for yards per reception (YPR) for WRs was 15.2 in those seasons. In Sharpe's four big-yardage years he averaged 13.0 YPR while the average WR averaged 13.7 YPR. Both were dependable, reliable possession receivers and had significantly better hands than the typical tight end. Both were much better blockers than your average WR but worse blockers than the average tight end.

If Sharpe is considered as a WR, he's in trouble. He ranked in the top ten just once in receiving yards, a tenth place finish in 1993. Like Monk, he has three Super Bowl rings, but that won't be enough if people compare him to Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss.

But -- and this distinction can't be overstated -- the PFR.com post makes one final, important point: "We shouldn't just think of these guys as tight ends or wide receivers, but as football players. And unlike in baseball, your contribution to your team can't be measured by what designation they put next to your name on the team roster."

It's that consideration that makes it easier for us to reconcile Sharpe's 2011 enshrinement over other just-as-deserving candidates. Football is the ultimate team sport, and contributions irrespective of position should carry more weight than anything else. It's just that sometimes, voters reach those conclusions separately from those of us on the outside looking in. Monk is the most obvious example. He had to wait eight years to get his due, but it finally came in 2008. 

Three years later, and with nowhere near the controversy, it's Sharpe's turn and he's earned it. Sure, we could just as easily be talking about Carter or Martin here, but history suggests they'll eventually end up in Canton, too. This weekend, Shannon is the Laetitia Casta to Deion, Marshall and Richard's Marissa Miller, Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum. There are worse fates.

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Comments

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 17, 2012 1:11 pm
 

Is Hall of Fame voting process a bug or feature?



fghdfre
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 1, 2012 8:42 pm
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tomlye
Since: Nov 28, 2011
Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:11 pm
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Since: May 24, 2007
Posted on: August 6, 2011 6:29 pm
 

Is Hall of Fame voting process a bug or feature?

I agree that Shannon should be in the Hall because of how he dominated at the position.

Also he won 3 Super Bowls. 2 with Denver and 1 with Baltimore.



Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: August 6, 2011 5:49 pm
 

Is Hall of Fame voting process a bug or feature?

This is a little off tangent, but I find Laetitia Casta to be hotter than Marissa Miller, who I find to be a butterface compared to the other three. And oh yeah, Shannon Sharpe played a lot bigger than he was.



Since: Aug 23, 2010
Posted on: August 6, 2011 1:51 pm
 

Is Hall of Fame voting process a bug or feature?

The H back was created for Shannon Sharpe.  There was a new position created for him and he thrived in it.  That in itself will almost get you in the Hall Of Fame.  Add 2 Superbowl wins plus retiriing as the leading TE in the game make it a no-brainer.  I know Carter and Martin are deserving be Shannon Sharpe changed the game from the H-Back position and that is why he's going in and the others are not.  Just my opinion that's how I see it.Cool




Since: Dec 12, 2009
Posted on: August 6, 2011 2:35 am
 

Is Hall of Fame voting process a bug or feature?

...There is a simple reason why Monk had to wait 8 years.....because people who have never played sports on a pro level get to vote for these things......and that is the big problem.....

Have former players or players in the Hall vote for these things.....When they vote, it will probably be respected a hell of alot more than some geek from behind a PC ....

Take the vote away from the writers and this problem will be solved....

Former players/coaches opinions > anyone in the media.....


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