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DaKCMan AP
02-02-2009, 10:27 AM
Behind the Hall of Fame Curtain
February 1, 2009 - Bob Gretz |

From Tampa, Florida

OK, the celebration has begun for Derrick Thomasí enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Saturday night around the waters of Tampa, St. Petersburg and all the way to Orlando there were many glasses raised in honor of the Chiefs linebacker finally getting his just due with a ticket to Canton. My phone rang off the hook with so many people checking in to celebrate; everyone from Carl Peterson, to Marty Schottenheimer, to Bill Cowher, to Jim Kelly and Marcus Allen.

What a day Saturday was at the Tampa Convention Center and the annual meeting of the Hall of Fameís Board of Selectors. Iím going to pull back the curtain here and give you an idea of what went down.

Now understand this: what was said in that meeting that lasted a record six hours, 45 minutes must remain confidential. Thatís a key part of the process in electing a Hall of Fame class. The only direct quotes you will find in this post are mine.

But I can give you a flavor of what happened within the meeting and any chance to reveal more about this process is good for the process. What I mean is this: there is no perfect way to select a Hall of Famer. Every major sport does things differently. I happen to think the NFL method is the best of a flawed premise.

Iím also going to reveal all of my votes. Thatís something the Hall of Fame does not do, or even keep track of. Votes are turned in on sheets of paper without names. Iíve got no problem with that, but I think itís important to let you know where I stand.

The meeting kicked off at 7:30 a.m. EST as the Hallís President Steve Perry brought things to order. There was about 20 minutes of handling business matters and also introducing some new people on the 44-member board. Retirements and illnesses had five new faces as part of the process; for this committee thatís a lot of change. This was my 14th Hall of Fame meeting and I donít remember any of the previous having that type of turnover.

Ultimately, that was factor No. 1 in helping D.T.s opportunity. Two of the members who were missing had identified themselves in previous meetings as voting no on Thomas. A player must receive 80 percent of the vote and with 44 members that means 9 negative votes can kill a candidate.

After taking care of the business, the first item was discussing the two senior candidates: former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes and former Atlanta/Philadelphia defensive end Claude Humphrey.

At the first announcement of the seniors candidates back in August, I was negative on both. Hayes was up previously as a seniors candidate in 2004. Humphrey came before the committee in 2006 in the final year of his first eligibility. An explanation: players become eligible five years after their career is over. They then have 20 years to be voted into the Hall. After 20 years pass, they then fall into the seniors group. Each year, two seniors are picked by the board of selectors to be considered for induction.

My feelings going in were that Hayes and Humphrey had recently had their time and other players who have long been forgotten should get that chance as seniors. A player like, former Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor for instance.

The discussion on Hayes was lengthy, going nearly 40 minutes. I voted yes for two reasons. The first was his impact. He caught only 371 passes in his career, which really isnít a lot based on todayís numbers; itís almost exactly one-third of the total of Cris Carter with 1,101 receptions.)

But among those catches were 71 touchdown passes. Thatís a TD catch every 5.2 catches. He averaged 19.98 yards per catch, and only one Hall of Famer was better (Paul Warfield, 20.06 yards.)

The other factor was a survey the Hall of Fame did last year with all living members of the Hall. They asked them to name the three players most deserving that are not in the Hall. Those Hall of Famers who answered the survey rated Hayes as the guy who should be with them.

So Hayes got my vote. Humphrey did not. I didnít vote for him three years earlier and while heís certainly worthy of discussion, I feel he had that moment and someone else should have been in that room.

Now, it was on to the 15 candidates and as many as five of them would get in. The system is there is discussion on all 15. Then a vote that cuts the group from 15 to 10. Thereís a brief discussion period again, and then a vote from 10 to five. Once the final five is set, then itís an individual vote, yes or no, on each of those five.

As we already know, all of the final five got enough yes votes to receive induction: Thomas, Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, Bills defensive end Bruce Smith, Pittsburgh/Baltimore safety Rod Woodson and Minnesota guard Randall McDaniel.

The 10 men who did not earn induction were: Carter, center Dermontti Dawson, defensive end Richard Dent, guard Russ Grimm, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, guard Bob Kuchenberg, defensive tackle John Randle, wide receiver Andre Reed, tight end Shannon Sharpe and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

There was more discussion on Tagliabue than any candidate, clocking in at just less than one full-hour. It was at times funny, emotional, rancorous and this year included references to Neville Chamberlain and Louis the XIV.

The fact that he keeps getting back into the finalist group (three straight years) shows the former Commissioner has support. But these discussions show there is a remarkable amount of negative feeling towards him. It comes down to this: Tagliabueís legacy has yet to be written. The labor extension agreement that he pushed through several years ago is about to blow up and ahead could be a real labor relations nightmare for the league. Thatís a big factor for me.

Thereís also a feeling among some that he was the Commissioner for 17 years, so he should receive almost automatic induction. I donít buy that either.

I did not vote for Tagliabue. I donít see the hurry. His legacy should be finalized and established before we discuss him again.

Right after the Tagliabue discussion, came Wilson. I believe that the feelings against Tagliabue helped Wilson gain induction. First, there was a very good presentation of the Bills owner and his legacy in the game. A lot of people donít know that in 1962, Wilson kept the Oakland Raiders solvent by buying a quarter of that franchise, even though it was against the AFL rules for one man to have ownership in two teams. Others have indicated there was a theme in the room to do something to celebrate the upcoming 50th season of the AFL. That was never part of the equation.

The discussion on the other 13 men ranged in length from two minutes to 20 minutes, with an average right around 15 minutes.

The vote was held to cut the group to 10. Eliminated in this vote were Dawson, Kennedy, Kuchenberg, Reed and Tagliabue. I voted for Kuchenberg and Reed.

The next vote cut five more: Carter, Dent, Grimm, Randle and Sharpe. I voted for Grimm and not McDaniel who made the final five.

I voted yes on the final five.

And thus, you have the Hall of Fame Class of 2009.

http://www.bobgretz.com/chiefs-football/behind-the-hall-of-fame-curtain.html#more-6760

StcChief
02-02-2009, 10:33 AM
breathe easy Gretz it's over. Focus on Otis Taylor for Sr. rep.

blueballs
02-02-2009, 10:34 AM
After taking in too much NFL Network over the years
I was happy for ROn Woodson
he's a class act amongst arrogance over there

Chiefnj2
02-02-2009, 10:38 AM
Interesting:

"Retirements and illnesses had five new faces as part of the process; for this committee thatís a lot of change. This was my 14th Hall of Fame meeting and I donít remember any of the previous having that type of turnover.

Ultimately, that was factor No. 1 in helping D.T.s opportunity."

The new guard liked DT a lot more than the old guys.