Don Coryell's passing last month left a huge hole in the collective heart of the NFL, but not merely because of the love and admiration that so many of his former players and assistant coaches had for him.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
This year's Hall of Fame class features a wide variety of all-time greats. Get to know more about all of the 2010 inductees:
A good deal of that sadness stemmed from the feeling of a missed opportunity shared by those of us who voted for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2010.
Sure, we'll all have that usual sense of pride as we watch the inductees take the stage to receive their bronze busts in Canton on Saturday night. However, for some of us, there no doubt will be regret because Coryell won't be part of the group, even posthumously. Our thoughts will include the fact that, even though one of the most innovative and influential coaches in NFL history wouldn't have been around to participate in the induction ceremony (or would have probably been too sick to do so), at least he would have had the satisfaction of knowing that he had made it ... that is, if we had done our part to give it to him.
But that's life. It won't be the first time that something similar has happened in this process, and certainly won't be the last.
Of course, his death won't change the fact that he will still have his detractors among the selectors. Last February, Coryell was among the 15 finalists who made it to the discussion table in South Florida, the morning before Super Bowl XLIV. But he didn't receive enough votes to reach the final 10 in what (beyond the selections of Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice) might have been one of the most difficult and challenging selection meetings in recent years.
As strong as the arguments were for Coryell's offensive creativity and tremendous impact on the game -- with many coaches still employing his brand of wide-open, attack-style passing -- the drawback he was ultimately unable to overcome was a lack of championships.
That could change after a year of additional reflection among the voters. And, yes, maybe there will even be a touch of guilt that influences some of them to fill out their ballots differently this time around. We're only human.
Of course, Coryell was only one of many deserving candidates who didn't make the cut for the Class of 2010. They will again receive consideration, along with others, as another list of 15 finalists is constructed for the Feb. 5 meeting.
This is going to be another extremely difficult vote because there again will be too many men worthy of induction and not enough available spots (generally, it's seven, including two from the senior category). Three players will be slam-dunk, first-ballot choices: Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, and Jerome Bettis. That leaves some intense debating to determine the others, which could be especially difficult with two seniors involved.
The following is one man's top-five list (excluding Sanders, Faulk, and Bettis) of those who should be in the Hall:
» **Dermontti Dawson**, center, Pittsburgh Steelers: Determining the worthiness of a center isn't easy; he functions as an anchor and, like his fellow offensive linemen, his success is judged as part of a group rather than what he does individually. But a number of Dawson's former teammates, coaches, opponents, and player-personnel types around the league say he was one of the greatest centers ever to play the game.
18-GAME SCHEDULE COULD BE TOUGH SELL
There is a theory floating around the league that the NFL's desire to expand the season from 16 to 18 regular-season games, while reducing the preseason to two games, will be the key to closing the massive divide in collective-bargaining talks between the league and the NFL Players Association.
It is widely presumed that if the NFL were to offer players more pay for the two additional games that count, they might be inclined to relent on other issues that currently are major stumbling blocks in negotiations.
"I can understand that the fans want to see football for another two games, but it's a beating on our body," Pollard said. "I don't want it. A lot of the players don't want it.
"If you take away two preseason games, I still (only) want to play 16. We can just start up the season faster. You look at the pounding we take with 16 ... The hits, the contact, it's insane. You're going to add two more games, and, yeah we (might) get paid for it, but at the end of the day, you're still beating your body down."
A couple of things I don't get:
» Darrelle Revis holding out from training camp. He's doing so because he wants a better deal from the New York Jets than the three-year, $45.3-million extension that fellow cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha received from the Oakland Raiders last offseason. The Jets aren't going to give him that sort of money, because as talented as Asomugha might be, the contract the Raiders gave him exceeded what the market should be for the position. Revis might be every bit as good, if not better, than Asomugha. But that doesn't mean the Jets have to or should put his pay at the same level or beyond what Asomugha is getting. Although I don't agree with coach Rex Ryan saying the Jets, minus Revis, will "have a great defense anyway," I think the unit is strong enough to allow them to stick to their guns in this standoff.
» Bills coach Chan Gailey making it mandatory for all of his offensive linemen to wear knee braces during training camp, regardless of whether they've had knee injuries. Gailey's many years in football have convinced him it is the right thing to do, and it is hard to argue against that or against the entire idea of being cautious. But the linemen find the braces uncomfortable. They feel impeded in their movement, and it raises the question of whether it is a good idea for a team that has had so many problems on its offensive line to create yet another challenge to solidify that area. Training camp is when an offensive line needs to build continuity and develop a comfort level in running plays, especially with a new scheme to learn. The braces seem like an unnecessary distraction to that process. I'm all for taking measures to making the game safer, but there are some steps that appear excessive, and this looks like one of them.
SAINTS HAVE BACKUP QB CONCERNS
Still, Patrick Ramsey, whom the Saints acquired to sit behind Drew Brees, has struggled badly through the early part of training camp. You can sense the discomfort among the coaching staff and other close observers of the team. The Saints are determined to make another Super Bowl run, and getting there means being secure with depth at all positions, but especially at quarterback.
Certainly, if Brees, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game, stays healthy all season, the Saints figure to have little to worry about. But there is more to being a No. 2 QB than taking over if anything happens to the starter.
"That backup certainly plays a role for a starting quarterback," Brees said. "He can help you with your preparation. He can be kind (of like) your eyes from the sideline. When you come off the field, it's, 'Hey, you seeing what I'm seeing? Am I missing something?' They can give you those little tidbits.
"Patrick's been around; this will be his ninth season, so he's seen a lot of football. Then there are the two young guys. For me, at this stage of the game, when they're trying to learn the offense and kind of getting comfortable with what we're seeing defensively and all those things, it's almost my opportunity to help teach them a little bit (of) our offense and what we're doing. And it kind of re-emphasizes certain points to me when I take that teaching to them, so in a way I kind of like that."