Home > Hall of Fame, NFL > 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Electorate: Instant Analysis

2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Electorate: Instant Analysis

The 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class isn’t going to be known as an all-time great class.  It did not elect a first ballot player, though two players who were overlooked with last year’s class will be receiving their Hall Calls rather shortly.  Which is nice.

What follows is a quick, dirty analysis of the job the Hall voters did this year.  It’s not really meant to pass judgement on the careers of some players I have little memory of.  But the Hall of Fame should have standards, and it’s those standards that will be in the crosshairs of this article.

Chris Doleman

Doleman has been eligible since 2005, and really should have been a first ballot hall of famer.  It did not help that he was a bit of a mercinary, playing for three different teams in the last five years of his career.  Of Doleman’s 150 career sacks, he didn’t quite get 100 with the Minnesota Vikings, and split 44 sacks between the 49ers and Falcons.

What often gets lost is Doleman was a long time centerpiece on some really excellent defensive units, whether those be San Francisco’s, or Atlanta’s, or Minnesota’s.  Wherever he went, great defense followed.  And that’s a better framing of his career than his 150 career sacks which by no means should be an automatic number.  Doleman was almost certainly a better player than contemporary Mark Gastineau, who may have played home games in New York.

Doleman’s career was longer, though as is the nature of pass rushing, the sack totals weren’t always consistent.  There are probably too many pass rushing ends in the hall of fame already, but that doesn’t mean that Doleman having to wait seven years to get into Canton wasn’t a huge oversight.

Willie Roaf

Willie Roaf is somewhat fortunate his credentials in a relatively short Hall of Fame career met minimum standards for a left tackle because if he had played a little longer at a declining rate, Roaf could have easily gotten backlogged with guys like Walter Jones and Orlando Pace who have changed the standards for induction as we know it for OTs.  Roaf’s career was closer to Gary Zimmerman’s than it was to Jones or Pace.  Remember that when trying to figure out why exactly Jason Whitlock accused Peter King of irritating Jason Whitlock racism or whatever that was.

Roaf had a hall of fame level career, at least by the established standards, but we should remember his election in eight years when we’re complaining about how there were too many pedestrian offensive tackles in the Hall of Fame.  Roaf’s career was anything but pedestrian, but by becoming the 26th offensive tackle in the Hall — a number that can reach 30 within four years — he is a nice reminder that the easiest way to be remembered as an all time great football player between 1952 and 2002 was to have played the selfless position of offensive tackle.

Curtis Martin

I guess what I don’t understand is who could have possibly bumped Curtis Martin from last year’s ballot.  Martin retired with 14,101 rushing yards, and it’s not like he did something like hanging on too long in order to get there.  He pretty much lit it up into his mid thirties, then left the game with his best days not all that far in the rear view mirror.  He retired with more rushing yards than all but three players in NFL history.  He played part of his career in Boston, the rest of his career in New York.  This was an easy election.

The electorate has always had high standards for running backs, or at least they did until they elected Floyd Little — who was the Terrell Davis of his day, except was not nearly as good as TD.  What’s interesting now is whether or not Tiki Barber, who had pretty much the same career as Martin, will get enough support to get in.  He played in New York, which always helps, but a lot of his career value is more hidden in terms of receiving yards than Martin, who was the more obvious pick of the two.  Tiki was eligible this season, but I have no doubt that because he unofficially un-retired before the vote, he probably hurt his hall of fame chances significantly by doing so.

Cortez Kennedy

The Hall of Fame now has two…Seahawks?!  Yes!

Cortez Kennedy was going to need a year on the ballot like this in order to get in.  John Randle getting in really helped Kennedy because Randle was a much better player.  Furthermore, Kennedy needed to get in this time around because a year from now, Warren Sapp becomes eligible and if there was any doubt about Warren Sapp’s hall of fame credentials, this election should end that.

The far more interesting case is how much this benefits Bryant Young.  Young will also be eligible next year and while he’s certainly not going to go in front of Sapp, he’s arguably has the best career of all non-Sapp eligible defensive tackles, and pretty in-arguably has the best remaining case among DTs who aren’t eligible to be elected by the veteran’s committee, this side of Warren Sapp.  Also eligible in 2013: Ted Washington.  I don’t know if anyone thinks of Ted Washington as a Hall of Famer, but his case looks a lot better with Cortez Kennedy in.

Jack Butler

Was a defensive back for the horrid Steeler teams of the fifties.  At the end of his career, he performed a minor miracle and helped the Steelers achieve winning records in back to back seasons.  As far as typically questionable veteran committee picks go, Butler is actually a departure from the norm.  He was by all accounts a really good defensive player on an awful team.  His career ended prematurely because of a knee injury, or he probably would have been elected a lot sooner.

The discussion about Butler really can’t be separated at this point from the final member of the class, so I’ll end it here and move on to…

Dermontti Dawson

Do you remember when electing lineman for the pro bowl became an exercise in taking the starter from last year, and electing him again the following year?  That trend was started by Dermontti Dawson.

That may sound harsh, but it is not intended to be.  When you speak of great interior offensive lineman of the 1990’s you can’t forget Dermontti Dawson.  But this is not as small of a group as maybe it sounds like.  Dawson is the third interior offensive lineman elected to Canton from this group.  Dawson did not get the call as quickly as either Bruce Matthews or Randall McDaniel.  The reason for this?  Matthews and McDaniel were much better players.

But the thing that really makes Al Davis turn in his grave is that one of his own players — who no one really ever made a public hall of fame case for — likely had a better career than Dermontti Dawson.  I’m talking about Steve Wisnewski.  You could make the argument either way as to who had the greater career, but as much as Davis’ rants about how ridiculous it is that Cliff Branch and Ray Guy are continually overlooked by the voters, but at least he’s not going to have to wake up tomorrow in a world where Dermontti Dawson is a Hall of Famer.

The bigger issue here is that Dawson’s election does nothing to dispel the notion that the simplest way to get elected to Canton and Hall of Fame immortality is to at some point have played football for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  This is why the discussion of Jack Butler, Hall of Famer, is unavoidable considering that 1/3 of this class played every snap in their career for the Steelers.  Furthermore, if you selected an all-NFL team from only the 1990’s, I’m pretty sure Dawson would have been at best second team.  I mean, at the risk of being crass on an analysis blog, you might want to start fitting Maurkice Pouncey for that gold jacket right now.  After all, it’s tough to find stuff in his size.

The only proposed solution I have to the inherent biases in the voting process would be to turn over the entire electorate every four to six years or so.  It’s not to slight the current electorate or to say they don’t generally take their job seriously enough (they do), but there’s no valor in having a single member of the committee vote for 18 straight years.

Other Complaints

The other issue is clearly, we have to figure out what the standards of a hall of fame receiver are.  Since the 1980’s, passing stats have exploded.  And since 2004, the voters have inducted just three receivers, somehow: Michael Irvin, Art Monk, and Jerry Rice.  Cris Carter, Andre Reed, and Tim Brown apparently do not make the cut, but thankfully we have decided that Dermontti Dawson, Floyd Little, and Charlie Sanders are all worthy of induction.  Turning over the electorate is a very simple solution and would justify a decision to be made on a guy like Cris Carter one year, and then have the complete opposite decision made the next year and put in a worthy Hall of Famer.

Overall, this was a class without a slam dunk inductee, and the electorate and veterans committee put in some of the better players in pro football history.  There’s not too much to complain about, and I’ve said my peace.  Hopefully we’ll get Sapp, Carter, Brown, and Reed in next year so we can finally move past this silly standard with wide receivers that no one can understand.

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