Hall of Fame voting is a very secretive, selective process. There are no clear cut rules or stipulations, because what to one person constitutes excellence to another might just be the reflection of durability. There are always folks who downplay individual achievement in a team sport, and others who insist that changes in rules and improvements in technology, nutrition and medicine also should be factored in the equation when evaluating career performance.
But one thing that should always, but sometimes doesn’t, count for a lot concerns individuals who achieve goals and marks that set records or put them ahead of almost all their peers in a particular sport. When someone does that, then whether or not they were a particularly good person or positive presence behind the scenes shouldn’t be used as grounds to exclude them from a Hall of Fame.
However that definitely seems be the case with mercurial and frequently controversial former wide receiver Terrell Owens. His statistics are uniformly impressive, and no one, not even his biggest detractors say he gave less than 100% on the field, or wasn’t an exceptional player throughout his career.
Owens played 15 seasons with five teams. He ranks in the top 10 in three primary career receiving categories: second in yardage (15,934), third in receiving touchdowns (153) and eighth in receptions (1,078).
But he was once again missing when the names of seven new Hall of Fame inductees was announced this week. Making matters worse was the inclusion of two people in Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis whose careers were far shorter than Owens, and whose marks, while impressive, fall much further down the NFL list.
Warner had a three-year period of greatness from 1999-2001 with the then St. Louis Rams. He won two league MVPs during that time, plus a Super Bowl MVP in 1999 when the Rams edged the Titans. The Rams of 1999 and 2000 are still among the top 10 teams of all time in points scored during a season.
Davis helped the Denver Broncos to 45 victories from 1996-98, including two Super Bowl wins. He became the fourth runner to top the 2,000-yard mark in 1998 with 2008. But a devastating knee injury in 1999 cut his career short. He played only 17 more games before retiring in 2001, ending up playing 78 games and seven years, the same as the great Gale Sayers, whose career also was prematurely ended due to injury.
No one should denigrate or diminish what any of these men accomplished. They were excellent, and certainly don’t deserve to be penalized for things beyond their control like injuries. Both Warner and Davis were also deemed very team-friendly throughout their carreers, while Owens was a turbulent presence at numerous times for every team that employed him. Still, none of that has anything to do with whether he belongs in the Hall.
Owens tweeted that he missed this year’s cut a couple hours before Saturday night’s “NFL Honors” awards ceremony, where the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class was set to be officially announced, referring to the voting system as a “#FlawedProcess.”
It seems that in the case of both the football and baseball Halls of Fame, some electors are basing selections on personal rather than professional criteria. Because there is no way any objective person can view the career of Terrell Owens and then conclude that he doesn’t belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame if what he did on the field is the measuring stick utilized.