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Kafuman: Setting the record straight on Hall

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Published:   |   Updated: November 24, 2013 at 08:42 AM

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TAMPA — The Pro Football Hall of Fame has been around for 50 years, generating a half-century of second-guessing and inaccurate observations.

Assessing the best of the best can be a thankless task for voters as fans wonder why their favorite players didn't make it through the doors of Canton.

As I enter my 10th year on the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, please allow me to debunk some myths about the process:

“If you're a Hall of Famer, you're a Hall of Famer.”

I've heard this mantra for almost a decade, but it doesn't work that way.

Because a maximum of five modern-day candidates may be elected each year, 10 of the 15 finalists always walk away disappointed.

Every year, I look at the list of finalists and realize I can make a compelling case for each nominee. You don't reach that stage without a history of achievement, but you are judged within your class — and the competition changes each year.

Michael Strahan didn't make the Class of 2013 in his first year of eligibility, but that in no way means the panelists doubt Strahan belongs in the Hall.

No one should be surprised if Strahan is inducted next summer, but it's important to remember only five modern-day candidates are allowed in at a time.

Offensive linemen aren't well represented in the Hall because they lack fancy statistics.

The facts simply don't back up this assertion. During the modern era, 39 offensive linemen have entered the Hall, the most representatives of any position in that span.

Nine offensive linemen have been inducted in the past eight years, and Warren Sapp shared the stage with Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden in August. First-time eligible left tackle Walter Jones will almost certainly join his contemporaries in Canton next summer.

Quarterbacks are overly represented in the Hall.

Again, this observation doesn't ring true. Only 23 quarterbacks have been inducted during the modern era, defined as 1946 or later.

The last quarterbacks to enter the Hall are Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, both in 2006. That means seven classes have come and gone without adding a single player who mans the most important position in the sport.

The list of 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2014 was announced Wednesday, and guess what?

Not a quarterback in the group.

Before the nominees were whittled down from 126 to 25, there were six quarterbacks under consideration: Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Trent Green, Steve McNair and Phil Simms. That group combined for 15 Pro Bowl appearances, including four apiece by Bledsoe and Cunningham, yet none of those six quarterbacks survived the initial reduction.

The next man up under center likely will be Kurt Warner in 2015 or Brett Favre in 2016.

Rings rule the day.

While team success certainly provides NFL players with increased visibility on a national scale, brandishing a Super Bowl ring is hardly a Hall of Fame prerequisite.

Just ask Charles Haley.

The only man to play on five Super Bowl-winning teams, Haley has been a semifinalist nine times. He joined the latest group of 25 nominees again last week and, for each of the past four years, the former defensive end of the 49ers and Cowboys has seen his merits debated in the room as one of 15 modern-day finalists.

Still, no dice.

Hall of Fame voters don't tend to be dazzled by Super Bowl jewelry, and that's a good thing because those busts are supposed to honor individual achievement in the ultimate team sport.

Just in the past two years, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf have been fitted for gold jackets.

Not a Super Bowl ring among them.

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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