View Full Version : Dr Z Cutting down preliminary Hall list to 25 means controversial choices

10-28-2004, 10:02 PM
My oh my where does he have DT?

Ballot business
Cutting down preliminary Hall list to 25 means controversial choices
Posted: Thursday October 28, 2004 11:58AM; Updated: Thursday October 28, 2004 11:58AM

Chris Doleman ranks fourth all-time with 150 1/2 sacks.
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

I got a phone call Tuesday night.

"This is Chris Doleman. I don't know if you remember me."

"Remember you?" And then I went into my monologue, to let him know how smart I was. Viking lineman with a linebacker's No. 56. Destroyed Bubba Paris in the 1987 divisional playoff. Caused Bill Walsh to remove Joe Montana from a game for the first time in Joe's career, which created a rift between Montana and Walsh that lasted many years.

"You're part of history," I told him. Paris had expected an outside speed rush from Doleman, whom he outweighed by about 75 pounds, but Doleman came down hard inside. Power. Knocked Paris back into Montana. Disrupted one whole side of the line, while collecting two sacks. I never knew he had that kind of power rush. But evidently he had every kind of rush invented because he ranks as the No. 4 sacker, all-time.

All this stuff seemed to embarrass him. "Joe's a real nice guy," he said. "We became pretty good friends."

OK, so what can I do for you?

It turns out that he had been left off the preliminary 89-man ballot of modern Hall of Fame candidates. How could this be? Anybody can get on there, if someone recommends him, and Sid Hartman, the selector from Minnesota, always was a demon for making sure his guys were represented. All of us assumed that Sid would handle it, so no one sought to make sure Doleman didn't get overlooked. But he had been overlooked -- in favor of much lesser people.

"This is why it hurts so much," Doleman said. "I retired a year early because I felt that I'd rather take my chances against the guys that'll be coming up now, rather than wait for the heavy hitters like Reggie White, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Thurman Thomas and Deion to come up, which I assumed would happen a year or two later."

Oh my, this is serious. Not that this class is any picnic, with Dan Marino a lock and Steve Young an almost-lock, and pass-rushers such as Charles Haley, Kevin Greene and Derrick Thomas to match sack numbers with Doleman. Of this trio, only Greene has more career sacks than Doleman's 150 1/2.

Well, the story has a happy ending. Joe Horrigan, the Hall's Vice President of Communications, sent out an addendum to the 89-man ballot, which included Doleman's name. So now the selectors can vote him into the 25-man semi-finals in November, and then the 15-man finals later in the season. Does he have one of my 25 votes at this stage? You bet. In fact I'll give you an idea of how I stand right now on the other people, although this might change before Nov. 5, when our ballots are due.

Seven are listed; Ken Anderson, Dan Marino, Jim Plunkett, Phil Simms, Ken Stabler, Doug Williams, Steve Young.

Marino and Young are chalk. I've always been an Anderson man. Loved his classic style of playing the position. Courageous, too. Played hurt many times. Undecided right now about Simms. Great competitor, fine passer. Depends on how the other positions play out.

Running Backs
Roger Craig, Gerald Riggs, Herschel Walker. All highly productive. Can I say they're really that special, at the elite level? Well, Craig would come closest, but I can't say at this point that I'm voting for any of them.

Wide Receivers

An absolute mob. No less than 11 names, all with serious enough numbers. Cliff Branch, Harold Carmichael, Mark Clayton, Isaac Curtis, Mark Duper, Henry Ellard, Michael Irvin, Louis Lipps, Art Monk, Haven Moses, Drew Pearson. The first thing you have to do, I believe, is throw out the numbers. All wideouts from now on in will have them, because that's the nature of the modern game. I think you have to consider quality over quantity. How much was this person an integral part of a team's offense, of its success? Well, Irvin was the dot on the Cowboys' exclamation point, the guy who put them over the top. Ellard was a personal favorite of mine. Highly productive, very courageous, didn't drop the ball. Really a come-through player. And I know I'm going to hear a lot of screams, but that's it, folks, for this position.

Tight Ends
Todd Christensen, Russ Francis, Brent Jones. I'll go with Christensen, an amazing reception machine for quite a few years. "A real charger," Al Davis once called him. I figured that maybe he meant that Todd sold autographs or something, but what Al meant was that he charged into a spot and took control of it.

Offensive Linemen
Fifteen blokes. Jim Covert, Ray Donaldson, Leon Gray, Russ Grimm, Jay Hilgenberg, Chris Hinton, Kent Hull, Joe Jacoby, Mike Kenn, Bob Kuechenberg, Henry Lawrence, Nate Newton, Rich Saul, Jeff Van Note, Gary Zimmerman. Now I know how coaches feel when they have to cut their roster. Picking this few is painful for me, but I just can't fill my list with guards and tackles, much as I'd like to.

You know, of course, how I feel about Kuechenberg. Upset because he hasn't been enshrined yet. I think he was the best on that Dolphin team, better than the two guys who are in the HofF. On the Redskins' Hogs, Grimm gets my vote, and in previous years I've gone for Jacoby, but I think he'll be nudged aside this year. Leon Gray and John Hannah formed one of the best sides of a line ever, and I've checked Gray's name this year. Very underrated, this ex-Patriot tackle. One to go and that's Kent Hull, an unsung hero for the Bills' Red Gun offense. He made all the line calls from his center position. Very smart. Very precise blocker. A winner.

Defensive Linemen
The strongest position on the board. Curly Culp, Fred Dean, Richard Dent, Mark Gastineau, L.C. Greenwood, Charles Haley, Claude Humphrey, Too Tall Jones, Joe Klecko, Harvey Martin, Fred Smerlas, Chris Doleman. I've ticked off six names.

Culp changed an offensive position. After he manhandled the Vikes' Mick Tingelhoff in Super Bowl IV, centers became sturdier, capable of taking on a guy playing them head up, rather than just chasing middle linebackers. Dent and Martin were rush specialists. I thought Dent was better. Humphrey, Greenwood and Doleman could play the run and the pass, and Klecko was just a magnificent all-around lineman, who could perform any skill at any position. If he makes it to the final 15, he will get a solid vote from me for enshrinement.

Matt Blair, Harry Carson, Randy Gradishar, Kevin Greene, Rickey Jackson, Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, Chris Spielman, Darryl Talley, Derrick Thomas, Andre Tippett. I'm going to have to go right down to the wire here. I'm still sorting them out. Three are definite. Carson, who's been up more times than an elevator. Matthews, who lasted something like six decades, hobbling onto the field with his cane, to thunderous applause, at age 80 or something. And Mills, a coach on the field, a brilliant little technician. The other names I'm bouncing around are Gradishar, Greene and Thomas.

Defensive Backs
Steve Atwater, Lester Hayes, Albert Lewis, Lemar Parrish, Ken Riley, Donnie Shell, Everson Walls, Roger Wehrli. This is a position for unknowns. Who can tell me what Wehrli was like? I can. Tough, tenacious, competitive, athletic. I'm voting for him. Lewis, I feel, is tops among this group. A Mike Haynes clone. Mister Smoothie. It'll be a dogfight among the rest of them.

Ray Guy and Nick Lowery. The trouble with the older kickers is that their numbers don't stand up to the modern ones. And I won't entertain an argument for any punter other than Tommy Davis, the best who ever lived -- the best that no one ever heard of.

Special Teamers
Elbert Shelley, Steve Tasker. I'm going to enjoy arguing on Tasker's behalf, if it ever comes to that. My argument ... if you're going to consider this a position, then you have to consider the player who was the all-time best at it.

Don Coryell, Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Dan Reeves. Coryell and Johnson are my guys from this list. Coryell was an innovator who left his mark on the game, and so did Johnson in a different way. He excelled as the coach-personnel man, with great skill in crafting a roster.

C.O. Brocato, Eddie DeBartolo, Pat Haggerty, Art McNally, Art Modell, Ed Sabol, Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue, Ralph Wilson, Ron Wolf, George Young. I've written many times that there should be a different entranceway for these guys. I mean it's ridiculous having a Pat Haggerty competing with a Richard Dent for space. Not that I'm in Haggerty's corner anyway. He's one of the names that made my blood boil. A veteran referee whose specialty was browbeating young writers and rookie officials. God help you if you were the pool reporter and you had to get a sensible explanation from this nasty old bird. I don't want to take this any farther, because it'll be libelous.

A lot of other names here annoyed me. Eddie D. Convicted felon. Let's enshrine him because he knew how to spend daddy's money. Tagliabue. Saying that every commissioner must be enshrined is like automatically awarding the Nobel Prize to the president of the US. I'll cut it off here. Young and Wolf are my two favorite names. The Sabols of NFL Films should get some sort of award because of the great innovative work they did and continue to do in bringing the game into so many households. There really should be another form of enshrinement. They'll get zero under the current system and it's not fair.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman covers the NFL for the magazine and SI.com. His Power Rankings, "Inside Football" column and Mailbag appear weekly on SI.com

10-28-2004, 10:05 PM

Doesn't look good...

10-28-2004, 10:08 PM

Doesn't look good...

I wasn't sure if I should have posted it there or not.

Rain Man
10-29-2004, 07:50 AM
Very interesting article. And I'm pleased that he was a supporter of Albert Lewis and Curley Culp.

The DT thing is a bit of a joke. If Clay Matthews, Sam Mills, Harry Carson, and Derrick Thomas were all available for a draft, who would you pick? Who would anybody pick? The others were all very good players, but none of them changed games like DT did.

10-29-2004, 08:05 AM
The DT thing is a bit of a joke. If Clay Matthews, Sam Mills, Harry Carson, and Derrick Thomas were all available for a draft, who would you pick? Who would anybody pick? The others were all very good players, but none of them changed games like DT did.

That is the best argument I've heard for DT. You should e-mail that to him.