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."
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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Posted on: December 1, 2010 12:19 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
The Pro Football Hall of Fame this past Sunday released the names of the 26 semifinalists that could be inducted into the HOF for 2011. Most of the names you know. You’ve watched them play. You’ve watched them win. You’ve watched them etch out fantastic careers.
Last year, you knew guys like Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were going to make their way into the HOF in their first years of eligibility. These players were some of the best of all time. It was no contest.
But each year, there are certain players or coaches or executives that are left out who deserve to enter the hallowed halls of the … well … Hall. This Top Ten With a Twist isn’t about the players you know who full well will be inducted into next year’s induction class, minus Prime Time. These are the guys who might not, but who probably should be.
10. George Young, executive: I wonder if Young’s enshrinement has been held off because his skills had declined noticeably late in his career (ie. when free agency was introduced to the game in the early 1990s). But there’s no denying that Young was the NFL executive of the year five times and the teams he worked for won three conference titles and one Super Bowl title. For an executive, he was pretty damn important.
9. Jerry Kramer, OG, Packers (1958-68): While he was a very good player in his day – as the three Pro Bowls, five All-Pro selections and the oodles of championships attest – he did the world a favor when he wrote Instant Replay in 1967, giving fans an inside look at what occurs during an NFL season and at coach Vince Lombardi. No, it’s no Ball Four by Jim Bouton (that guy never could get in baseball’s HOF, by the way), but Kramer’s impact on how the fans view the game is an important piece of the NFL’s history.
8. Steve Tasker, WR/ST, Oilers (1985-86), Bills (1986-97): During his 14-year career, Tasker started a total of 15 games. He never had more than 21 catches in a season, and he caught nine touchdown passes. But the fact he’s perhaps the best special teams player ever to compete in the NFL should give him a path to the HOF. He was a 5-foot-9, 180-pound gunner, and he was fast and lethal. He went to the Pro Bowl seven times, and he was named the MVP of the Pro Bowl in 1993. He didn’t make it to the semifinals this year, but that’s not surprising. Special teamers are not given their just due (see No. 1).
7. Andre Reed, WR, Bills (1985-99), Redskins (2000): Reed has gotten caught up in the WR numbers game. He’s been eligible at the same time as Michael Irvin, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Art Monk and Cris Carter, and I can see why it’d be tough to select Reed instead of those kinds of receivers. But you have to remember that Reed ranks ninth in career receptions all time and 11th in receiving yards. At some point, he deserves to be enshrined in Canton. Don’t expect it to happen this year, though.
6. Dermontti Dawson, C, Steelers (1988-2000): Simply put, he’s one of the greatest centers of all time. He made the Pro Bowl seven-straight seasons, and with his athletic ability and his knack for getting out in open space and making key blocks for his running backs, he changed the perception of what a center should be. He’ll probably become a finalist for the second time in as many years. One of these days, he should get the welcoming phone call.
5. Cris Carter, WR, Eagles (1987-89), Vikings (1990-2001), Dolphins (2002): Much like Reed, Carter is overshadowed by other receivers. He finished his career as the No. 2 WR (behind Jerry Rice) in receptions and touchdowns. He’s been passed by Marvin Harrison on the receptions list and by Randy Moss and Terrell Owens on the touchdowns list since he retired, but at some point, Carter should be in. It’s actually a little surprising that he’s not in already.
4. Don Coryell, coach: Yes, he wasn’t the originator of today’s modern offense – that’d be a combination of Sid Gillman, Paul Brown and various others – but his Air Coryell teams in the late 1970s to mid 1980s with the Chargers helped innovate the passing game we still see today. He’s already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Now, it’s time for him to join Gillman as the only two coaches to be enshrined in the college and the pro Halls of Fame.
3. Deion Sanders, CB/PR, Falcons (1989-93), 49ers (1994), Cowboys (1995-99), Redskins (2000), Ravens (2004-05) : The reasons why are obvious. Just look at the video below. This is his first year eligible, and there’s little chance he won’t make it in immediately.
2. Ed Sabol, contributor: Enjoy watching NFL Films productions? You like watching the behind-the-scenes spots of the players woofing at each other on the sidelines and your favorite coach’s pregame and postgame speeches? If yes, you can thank Sabol, who helped found NFL Films in the mid-1960s. How differently would we view – and think about – the NFL if Sabol hadn’t been such a visionay? That’s unanswerable of course, but the fact NFL Films plays a big role in an NFL’s viewing experience makes Sabol HOF worthy.
1. Ray Guy, P, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1973-86): Simply put, Guy is the greatest punter in the history of the game. But there are no kickers enshrined in the HOF. That must mean they’re less important than anybody else, right? Well, we all know that’s not true. It’s time to get Guy into the Hall. He deserves it.
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