Sports Outside the Beltway

Hall of Fame Numbers Don’t Add UP

Rick Gosselin, himself a member of the sportswriter’s wing, believes the numbers for the Pro Football Hall of Fame just don’t add up.

Bruce Matthews became the 10th guard inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame from the game’s modern era (since 1960). I didn’t have a problem with his enshrinement.

His longevity (19 seasons), productivity (14 Pro Bowls) and versatility (five different positions) mount a powerful case for Matthews. But what I’m having a problem with is the sheer numbers.

Two of the 10 guards now in Canton – one-fifth of all the enshrined guards of the modern era – played on a Houston Oilers team that went 85-90 during the 11 years Matthews and Mike Munchak lined up together. The Oilers won only three playoff games in those 11 years.

Yet the enshrinements of Matthews and Munchak stamp them as the greatest guard tandem in the history of pro football. I don’t have an issue with either Matthews or Munchak having a bust in Canton, but I do have an issue with both of them having busts in Canton.

I feel the same way about the two Pittsburgh wide receivers, John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, in the Hall of Fame. Pick one and enshrine him in Canton. It doesn’t matter which one. Pick one – but just one. Not two.

Can anyone tell me definitively that Stallworth and Swann were better at their craft than Drew Pearson? He played during the same era and played well enough to earn all-decade honors for the 1970s. Swann also was on that all-decade team. Stallworth was not.

Yet Swann was enshrined in 2001 and Stallworth in 2002 – but 27 years after his retirement, Pearson remains a Canton afterthought. He has never even been discussed as a Hall of Fame candidate by the full selection committee.

Can anyone tell me definitively that both Matthews and Munchak were better than Russ Grimm? Or Jerry Kramer? Bob Kuechenberg? John Niland? Ed Budde? Gale Gillingham? Dick Stanfel? There are some talented guards still on the outside looking in.

Washington’s Hogs, who supplied the beef for three Super Bowl championships, don’t have a single blocker enshrined at any position.

Right now, a lot of numbers just aren’t adding up in Canton.

Good points, all. The problem, really, is that there are 45 members on an NFL roster and 32 teams. That means there are a lot of truly great players out there. Some of them will necessarily be left off.

While I don’t agree, I understand why some of the great Dallas Cowboys aren’t in the Hall and too many of the Steelers from that era are. After all, they faced off in the Super Bowl twice and the Steelers won both times. Still, that doesn’t explain the lack of representation from the Hogs or Kuchenberg’s omission, given their championship pedigree.

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