Former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and head coach Tony Dungy were both not elected to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 in their first years of eligibility. Derrick Brooks, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan, and Aeneas Williams were the modern era candidates elected, and Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey got in as well.
This is what you will hear from people about every single one of those players: "well deserved," or something along those lines. Of course it's well deserved - if someone makes it down to the final 15 finalists, they're probably Hall of Fame caliber. But all 15 of them don't make it in the Hall of Fame, and it is up to the voters to determine the most deserving of a group of 15 that all deserve it. And the voters failed monumentally today.
Both Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy were "deserving" - I just mentioned how everybody is. And there is no doubt in my mind that both of them will get in eventually. I wrote this past week about Dungy's case and, while I think he's surely a Hall of Famer, I'm not really surprised that he isn't a first ballot Hall of Famer. But Marvin Harrison? It's a travesty that he's not in this year.
Andre Reed made it. He's deserving, sure, but was he better than Marvin Harrison? No. Freaking. Way. Look at these stats comparing the three finalists for the Hall at the receiver position this year:
Nothing against Reed, but the only reason he's in over Harrison and Brown is because he's been waiting a while. So we're now going to make the Hall of Fame about rewarding players and making them feel good because of the past failures of the Hall of Fame voting committee? Really? That's shallow - really shallow.
The voters absolutely should get blasted for this - much more so than they will, regardless of how much they actually do. Maybe the voters went against what the voting criteria supposedly is - don't factor in off the field issues. But either way, Harrison wasn't ever charged with anything. Ever heard of innocent until proven guilty? Maybe Harrison was left out because he was never very good with the media - the very people that vote for the Hall. Maybe it was because everybody in the room got so tired of sitting in the room for 9 hours that they just threw the names in a hat and drew them out (because if any voter wants to tell me that they actually consciously left Harrison out, I'll laugh in their face while they lose all credibility in my mind). We're never going to get a perfect system, I understand that full well. But we can certainly improve on a system that is obviously very flawed. Very.
Where to begin, you might ask? Well, I say begin by demanding accountability from the voters. Right now they're all able to hide behind their tweets about it being a good "discussion" and how the candidates are all "deserving." But the Hall doesn't release the ballots, and so media members can have biases against players without having to defend them or be held responsible for them. All of these people who think they are big time because they sit in a room of people talking about football are really quite small, because they can screw up the Hall of Fame voting without their own personal reputation or credibility taking a hit. It's weak. It's not right. It needs to change.
This isn't just some writer's award about who is the NFL's best player or offensive player of the year or whatever. Those awards are for one year and, while you never like to see any award given to the 'wrong' player, it's more understandable. But this is for the Pro Football Hall of Fame - the greatest accomplishment an individual player can attain in the world of football and recognized by the league as their best players ever. It goes on their resume forever, while a rookie of the year award really doesn't have to. The gold jacket, the bronze bust in Canton, the recognition, the honor - and we let a group of unnamed, unaccountable, biased media members determine that? Really? Does anybody else see something wrong with that? The ballots for each voter should be released. They need to explain why the heck they voted the way they did. They need to be asked the tough questions. That would give an added incentive for them to put in the best candidates, not their favorites or the ones that treated them the best or whatever.
I know that not everybody deserves to be criticized (for example, not Mike Chappell, who I'm sure lobbied hard for Harrison - but again, see the media bias there, too?). But we don't know who deserves to be and who doesn't, and so as a result it is not the individual voters but the Hall of Fame itself that looks bad. The fact that one of the greatest receivers in the history of the game - arguably the second greatest - wasn't voted in today is ridiculous.
Some people will say, "oh, well Marvin Harrison will get into the Hall of Fame eventually!" Yeah, he sure will, but that doesn't make it right. The Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is a good class and are all deserving. But they're absolutely not the most-deserving five - that would include Marvin Harrison. I have nothing against any of those players. I honestly don't. But the voters? Yeah, they screwed this up big time, and the Hall of Fame's credibility should take a hit.
Please don't read this as me dissing any of the players elected. Derrick Brooks was a no-brainer to me. I'm beyond thrilled that Ray Guy finally got in. The others are certainly Hall of Famers in my book, too. But to put them in over Marvin Harrison? Remember, this isn't a question of who is deserving. When we get to the round of 15 finalists, they all are. This is about who is most deserving. And you're really going to tell me that Marvin Harrison wasn't one of the five most deserving out of those 15? That's a joke. And trust me, it's not just me, either:
Got the impression HOF selection committee determined Andre Reed had waited long enough. Marv has to wait at least another year.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) February 2, 2014
Happy for Ray Guy, the first punter inducted in the HOF. But Andre Reed getting in over Marvin Harrison is a travesty— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) February 2, 2014
Marvin Harrison should have been in.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) February 2, 2014
Andre Reed chosen over Marvin Harrison for HOF. Don't agree with that at all.— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) February 2, 2014
The case for Andre Reed over Marvin Harrison is puzzling to me…— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) February 2, 2014
Wow, Reed and not Harrison? That's patently insane. Utterly indefensible.— Nate Dunlevy (@NateDunlevy) February 2, 2014
Marvin Harrison will get in eventually. Tony Dungy will too. I thought Dungy might have to wait, but I thought Harrison should be a no-brainer (even though I knew he wasn't going to be a no-brainer). I guess I forgot to remember that it seems voters don't vote with their brains but their heart. Or something else.
Marvin Harrison not getting in the Hall of Fame this year is a travesty. There really aren't words for how terrible it is. Maybe the Hall of Fame has become much more of a "media favorites" election than any of us would like to admit.
For more on why Harrison's career on the field is absolutely worthy of the Hall of Fame, read Josh Wilson's article from earlier this week where he looks at the biggest objections to Harrison getting in the Hall of Fame.