It's supposed to be a day of joy; a day of celebrating the storied careers of some of football's greatest players.
These days, however, for as much joy as one former player may feel, there are several players who receive nothing. Nothing but an empty feeling and a single-worded question:
It doesn't bother Tim Brown anymore, but the people around him want answers. Wide Receiver has never been a position that found very much success in getting to the Hall of Fame, but why should that be a reason to exclude someone?
Simple, the Hall of Fame is doing it wrong.
Michael Strahan was inducted to the Hall of Fame this year, and deservedly so. The difference is that Strahan waited only one year for the phone call.
Without getting into details, Strahan and Brown both have the same percentage of their main stat (sacks/yards respectively) as the all-time leader in their respective categories. Raiders fans, prior to the vote, compared Tim Brown to Marvin Harrison, another receiver who will surely find his way into the Hall of Fame eventually.
Some of the Raiders fans make great points, including this guy regarding Tim Brown's teammates:
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Clearly, Tim Brown was able to accomplish great things in spite of some lackluster friends.
But this post isn't so much about Tim Brown as it is the process. If a player deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, then saying "We can only let so many in per year" is the most illogical, counter-intuitive thing the NFL could possibly be doing. I don't need to link you Tim Brown's numbers or Cris Carter's numbers or Andre Reed's numbers to give you a feeling for how Tim Brown should be in the Hall of Fame. He should be in there! He's a top 5 all-time wide receiver! (probably)
You're telling me a top 5, or top 10, wide receiver has to wait half a decade to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame? For what reason?
"We can only let so many in per year."
Uh huh. Because that makes sense.
Here's my biggest problem with how the NFL Hall of Fame operates. You've gotta go all the way back to 2007 to find a year where the maximum allotted five modern players weren't selected to the Hall of Fame.
Think about all the great players that retired around the 2002-03 to 2009 time frame that are plenty deserving of the Hall. Tim Brown is certainly one of them. You've got players like Tomlinson and T.O., Isaac Bruce, Orlando Pace, Ray Lewis, Tony Gonzalez that'll be up for enshrinement soon, if they aren't already. (Obviously Gonzo and Lewis aren't yet). That's six players, but if they were all up for the Hall of Fame in the same year, guess what?
One of them wouldn't be getting in, thanks to the rules.
In laymen's terms, the NFL has created a logjam.
Now every HoF year comes with articles of snub after snub. Why didn't this guy get in? Why did this player get the nod over this other player?
It's simple, because the NFL, or whomever resides over the Hall of Fame, has handcuffed the voters into taking a single kitten home when the whole litter needs a family. You can't even blame the voters for leaving someone out. They've abided by the rules, which give them a maximum of five modern players. What are they supposed to do?
This is an area where I think baseball has done it correctly. Do I think everyone that votes on baseball's Hall of Fame does it correctly? No, but that's for another time. What I do like is that their ceiling is high (ten, but it's not completely rock solid, see 2006) and their process is...well, I dunno if it's fair, but it's better. Here's a list of potential Hall of Fame candidates. Pick 10, if 75% of you pick someone, he's in.
Who out there is going to say Tim Brown isn't worthy of the Hall of Fame? Anyone with a lick of sense will say he should be in.
When has baseball hit their ceiling? Going back as far as I've been alive (1988), it hasn't happened. In fact in 1988 only one player was inducted to the MLB Hall of Fame. (2006 is a special case. Doesn't count!)
Yes, baseball still has it snubs, and yes, baseball can sometimes take a few years to get a player in. However, it's not about whether or not someone is snubbed because of voters. It's about players being snubbed because there's a logjam of HoF worthy players at more important positions. How does that even make sense?
Okay, maybe the voters do have something to do with it, too.
Another fact remains that MLB rosters are literally half the size of NFL rosters, yet have twice the available Hall of Fame opening slots to avoid the exact problem the NFL is having now.
How many years will it take for the NFL to remove the logjam of players it has accrued? What if some of the aforementioned players die before their induction, all because they couldn't get in due to "We can only let so many in at a time"?
The NFL needs to take a look at how the MLB does their Hall. There should be no limit on how many players get into the Hall of Fame if they're deserving. Cry me a freaking river if you don't want to sit through 6 hours of acceptance speeches.
Then don't! What a novel concept. Stay for the speeches you want to see, leave for the ones you don't. But that or any reason the NFL could possibly come up with can't justify only allowing five modern players in a year. There will be some years where more than five are deserving. What happens when you have years that go something like this:
Year 1: 7 deserving
Year 2: 8 deserving (2 leftover, 1 new)
Year 3: 11 deserving
You see where I'm going with this? Think about current players that are going to be Hall of Famers someday. Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning. John Abraham and Roddy White are potential HoF candidates down the line. Aaron Rodgers. The list goes on and on. Those are current players.
Tim Brown has been saying "Maybe next year" for the past half decade. How long will Marvin Harrison have to wait? Terrell Owens? Hines Ward? That's just counting receivers!
All because "We can only let so many in per year."
I feel like the whole NFL system is just flawed. Former players can be on edge for weeks waiting to see if they're narrowed down to finalists and semi-finalists, etc. I love the fact that they do senior nominees. They should definitely keep that around, but as I've suggested, the logjam of modern players is going to eventually spiral out of control, if it hasn't already.
What should they do instead? I don't know if just increasing the number of available spots is the answer. Surely the NFL could not possibly sustain 10 HoF worthy players year after year. At least increase the number of modern slots to 10. Eventually, the logjam will cease and all will return to normal. Or close enough to it. It makes no sense to have a Hall of Fame when people worthy of fame can't even get into it.
I find it interesting the NFL hasn't done anything to fix this problem. Do they even know it's a problem? Do they even care?
Perhaps the better question to all this is...