Posted by Will Brinson
Invariably, whenever there's a group of people inducted into a professional sports league's Hall of Fame, there's a group of people who got snubbed. And that's the case with the 2011 NFL Hall of Fame class.
That's not to take away from the group of men that got inducted: Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Ed Sabol, Chris Hanburger and Les Richer comprise a pretty tremendous class.
But there are still some pretty big names who didn't make the cut and probably deserved better. (Quickly: the good news is that next year's Hall class is substantially less qualified than this year, making things easier on nominees.)
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Curtis Martin, RB, NE/NYJ: Martin fell victim to the the positional abundance that Andy mentioned earlier -- he, Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk comprise a ridiculous group of running backs for one Hall class, particularly when it comes to first-time nominees.
Martin's the fourth all-time leading rusher in NFL history, ranks 12th in rushing touchdowns, third in total touches, 11th in all-purpose yards, eighth in yards from scrimmage, 19th in total touchdowns, third in rushing attempts, 11th in rushing yards per game, went to five Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro in 2004 and by all accounts is a hell of a nice guy. Maybe even too nice -- it's often believed that Martin's quiet personality cost him some fame as well as cache with non-regional voters. The good news is that he made the cut to the final 10 this year, and appears to be receiving a surprisingly strong groundswell of support from voters.
Willie Roaf, OT, NO/KC: Roaf might have been the biggest snub of the entire year, if only because he didn't make the cut from 15 to 10. It's not like he was an 11-time Pro Bowler, a six-time first-team All Pro, a three-time second-time All Pro and a member of BOTH the 1990's All-Decade Team and the 2000's All-Decade Team or anything. Oh, and that was in only 13 years, so there's that. Look, it's tough to make a cut from 15 to 10 (and even tougher from 10 to five, of course), and it's really difficult to gauge an offensive lineman's value, especially in this class. But it's just kind of tough to find a reason why Roaf wouldn't make it further.
Cris Carter, WR, MIN: You could probably make a case for including all of Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed here. They were all dominant receivers, but that turned out to be problematic, because the three candidates split the vote amongst themselves according to numerous voters.
Carter's rankings are pretty solid though: he ranks fourth in NFL history in receiving touchdowns, third in receptions, eighth in receiving yards, he made eight Pro Bowls and and was a two-time All Pro. But so are Reed's (he ranks 10th in total receptions, 11th in receiving yards and 12th in receiving TDs) and Brown's (fourth in receptions, sixth in receiving TDs, fourth in receiving yards, fifth in punt return yards and fourth in punt return yards). Setting a standard by which we can measure Hall of Fame receivers is only becoming tougher as the NFL becomes more and more tilted towards a passing league. The lack of Hall votes for these guys emphasizes that.
Jerome Bettis, RB, PIT: The Bus also falls into the positional disparity problem, because, well his stats don't lie: fifth all-time in touches, fourth all-time in rushing attempts, fifth all-time in rushing yards, 10th all-time in rushing yards, six Pro Bowls, two All Pro teams and a Super Bowl in his hometown. (Which counts for something, I think.)
But Bettis didn't even make it to the final cut, and that's a shame. Even if he's going to "get in at some point" or if he's "part of a tough RB class," he and Martin are pretty clearly two of the all-time greats when it comes to running backs in NFL history.
They just happened to be entering the Hall of Fame with a guy who was more dominant in Faulk. And even though there's no crime in getting the current class of guys in now, it's still tough to fathom how some of the guys listed above piled up the numbers they did without the recognition.
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