The sports world is getting ready to celebrate another class of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees in Canton, Ohio, this weekend. But what about the retired luminaries who have yet to convince the selection committee of their worthiness -- guys like Michael Strahan, Tim Brown, Kevin Greene, Andre Reed and Aeneas Williams? Which would-be Hall of Famer most deserves a bronze bust?
I believe Paul Tagliabue should be in the Hall of Fame. He orchestrated the labor agreement that brought a salary cap to the NFL, which allowed for competitive balance and enhanced profitability among owners. The NFL netted unprecedented TV revenues under his watch, and he helped create NFL Network. Tagliabue also was involved with instituting the Rooney Rule.
Behind Tagliabue's leadership, the NFL returned to Cleveland and Houston and expanded to Charlotte and Jacksonville. Not to mention the fact that 17 new stadiums were built during his tenure -- thanks in no small part to the commish's fundraising efforts -- which halted the moving of franchises.
In my opinion, he deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame more than any of the players set for enshrinement this weekend.
Why Tim Brown isn't in Canton is beyond me. Nine Pro Bowls. A spot on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s. (How can someone be named to an All-Decade Team and not be in the Hall of Fame?) Oh, and the Oakland Raiders icon logged 1,094 receptions and 100 touchdown catches -- before the NFL was the pass-happy league it has become today. Yet, he won't be there this weekend.
Look at the quarterbacks Brown played with during his time in Oakland -- Jeff George might have been the best one. Seriously. Brown's streak of 10 straight seasons with 75-plus receptions was extremely impressive, but think of what he might have done catching passes from Joe Montana, Steve Young, Troy Aikman or any above-average quarterback.
Tom Flores represents one of the most egregious snubs. A ground-breaking hire when he was tapped to coach the Oakland Raiders in 1979, Flores went on to guide the team to two Super Bowl titles -- yes, earning one more ring than John Madden.
The most outrageous omission in 2013 was that of Jerome Bettis, whose 13 NFL seasons were a relative eternity by "big back" standards. He ranks sixth all time in career rushing yards, ahead of Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk, O.J. Simpson and, well, almost every other human being.
Like Cris Carter, who inexplicably was forced to wait until this year for his gold jacket, Bettis will eventually get in. But why the holdup? If a player is a Hall of Famer, there's no reason for the delay.