How about NFL Honors night, right?
You'll read about league MVP Cam Newton. You'll tear up listening to Comeback Player of the Year Eric Berry. Yet, we're here to honor the past ... the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2016. After writing a piece to predict (correctly) whose name would be called, it's time to take a quick glance at the Hall's eight new members, and to take a look forward to what's ahead for the biggest names in NFL history. So without further ado, here is my off-the-cuff, instant reaction to the Hall announcement Saturday night. Your thoughts are welcome ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.
1) Brett Favre heads a well-rounded group
You knew that the three-time league MVP would walk right into Canton. That said, the Hall voters got the Class of 2016 right. Brett Favre, Kevin Greene, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison and Orlando Pace are all deserving members (more on Ken Stabler, Dick Stanfel and Eddie DeBartolo Jr. below). Greene's 160 sacks represent so much of what the modern era is about: stopping the passing game before it ever gets started. Dungy was the first African-American head coach to win the Lombardi Trophy while with the Colts, and he played the role in making the Tampa Bay Buccaneers relevant again. Harrison, who caught over 1,000 balls and whose single-season receptions record (143, set in 2002) has survived Antonio Brown's charges, waited long enough. Pace was considered on par with Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones -- the antithesis to the Kevin Greenes of the world, keeping them from disrupting the air war from the left tackle position.
All were deserving, and all, outside of Favre, waited patiently. And if the former Packer great isn't the definition of first-ballot Hall of Famer, nobody is.
2) Timeout! No T.O.?
The surprise this year for most fans had to be the exclusion of Terrell Owens. Sure, wide receivers have traditionally had to wait. But this guy is second all-time in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns. You could argue that in order of importance, yards and then touchdowns should outweigh receptions. Therefore, you could sell Owens as a more viable candidate than Harrison, who trailed the former 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals wide receiver. But perhaps this was the issue with Owens: He was often a distraction to teammates, which, it could be argued, affected performance on the field. Harrison was the quiet pro, who was the most consistent receiver in the game, even if he wasn't as dynamic as Owens. My take is that all wide receivers, save for maybe Randy Moss, will have to wait in this pass-happy era, and Harrison's turn came up first.
3) Shorter careers still get short shrift
Terrell Davis was a Hall of Fame running back. I don't care if he played only seven seasons. So did Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, and Davis was more consistent. Fellow Hall of Famer Doak Walker played six, and he wasn't the feature back Davis was. One difference between those players and Davis is the fact that even the great careers were of shorter duration in the 1950s and '60s than they are now. Moreover, Sayers and Walker were quite famous in their college days. Davis was a defensive end in high school who split time at running back while at Georgia, so his entry into the NFL was less than heralded. But there is one line of thinking that is the biggest B.S. when it comes to keeping the greatest postseason running back in league history out of the Hall: the "Mike Shanahan system running back" garbage. Yes, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell saw success in Denver under Shanahan. They didn't rush for 2,000 yards. They weren't named NFL MVP. They weren't Super Bowl MVP. Davis >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> all other Shanahan RBs.
4) Half a year too late
Raiders fans had been practically screaming for Ken Stabler's inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for two decades. First Roger Staubach and Fran Tarkenton were enshrined. Then Terry Bradshaw's name was called. Bob Griese was the fourth QB from the 1970s to give an acceptance speech on the steps in front of football's ultimate museum -- 25 years ago. Stabler belonged in the discussion of the top five quarterbacks of that era, and frankly, his name didn't belong at a distant fifth among that group. Only one of those passers other than Stabler posted a 100 passer rating in a season (Staubach, in 1971). "The Snake," as he was affectionately known, won league MVP in 1974. He won the Super Bowl in 1976. Yet, unfortunately, he didn't receive enough of a push for Hall induction until he passed away last summer. Much like Bob Hayes before him, the attention paid to Stabler posthumously was too much for voters to ignore. I hope in the future we can see more men like Jack Butler (Class of 2012) receive the honor before they leave us.
Big ups to Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who changed the face and style of NFL ownership on the way to five Super Bowl wins while with the 49ers. And much praise for Dick Stanfel, as well who, like Stabler, passed away last summer, before he could get the phone call every NFL player dreams about. Enjoy it from upstairs, Mr. Stanfel.
5) Next year: a sneak peek
1) LaDainian Tomlinson
2) Terrell Owens
3) Kurt Warner
4) Brian Dawkins
5) Terrell Davis
LT will breakdance his way into the Hall. Owens' wait will be over. Warner's two MVP awards will scream for his inclusion. Dawkins, who will be eligible for the first time, was a safety. That's normally a kiss of death for making it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but unless fellow safety John Lynch beats him, the Eagles legend will cement his place in NFL history. And I think (hope), next year is the year for Terrell Davis.
Now, if I can only get Chuck Howley nominated by the Seniors Committee ...