Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Smoke and mirrors

Rings don't mean what they once did.

It used to be that multiple Super Bowl rings translated into...stronger consideration for Canton. Dynasty translated into a stronger case for enshrinement.

This is how football's dynasties stack up with players that made the Hall - The Cowboys of the 1970's have close to a ten-spot's worth of HoFers, and the 1990's team had at least three (when Emmitt Smith gets inducted). The Green Bay teams of the 1960's had close to a dozen. The Dolphins, who went to three Super Bowls in the early 1970's have seven. The Steelers of the 1970's have ten, not including ownership. The 49ers of the 1980's through early 1990's have four, not including Jerry Rice, who's not yet eligible.

Even the four Super Bowl loss Bills have Jim Kelly, James Lofton, Thurman Thomas, coach Marv Levy, and Bruce Smith is considered to be a lock when he becomes eligible next year, giving those Bills five.

Why do I bring this up, one might ask.

With the Patriots on course to possibly win their fourth Super Bowl in seven years (only the Steeers of the 1970's have won as many championships in as short a period with four in six years), the talking heads will, invariably, talk about the great teams of all time. With that discussion comes the talk of Hall of Famers.

Taking off the fan hat, most pundits seem to agree that the only sure-fire candidates from the previous Super Bowl winning teams currently on the Patriots are Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (Randy Moss is pretty likely to get in). In past seasons, the only other name that came up with regularity was Adam Vinatieri.

Vinatieri was a great kicker - arguably the most clutch kicker in the game during the run of three Super Bowls in four seasons. But he suffers from being a kicker trying to work his way into a Hall that annually has a log-jam of worthy candidates due to the rules that limit how many candidates can enter in a year - which includes places taken by owners, commissioners, and other contributors who weren't necessarily on the field. Those off the field contributors often bump deserving players. It's why only one kicker has ever made it in, and why Vinatieri will have trouble getting in.

As for Moss - first, this is possibly his only season with the team. Second, there are a lot of Hall voters that will hold his time in Oakland against him - and rightfully so. He dogged it for two seasons, and that's not what great players...difference makers, do. He will get in, but he won't get a free-pass to Canton.

All of this begs a question, though. What's the standard? Is it putting up great stats? Is it coming up big in the big games?

Consider - Peyton Manning is considered a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. He should be. He has been one of the most prolific offensive forces throughout his career. Sure, he's had Hall-of-Fame caliber receivers, running backs, and linemen around him, but he has generally been less than stellar in the post-season, riding to his only Super Bowl win on the back of a resurgent defense last year.

Richard Seymour has been mentioned in the past, but his injury issues in recent seasons has seriously hurt his chances.

The Patriots have a variety of players who have come up big in the post-season, or in order to seal the team's trip to the post-season, but do not have Hall-type numbers.

At different times throughout their Super Bowl runs, the Patriots have ridden the likes of Kevin Faulk, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, and Ty Law.

Law has a legitimate shot, but could be hurt by the tail end of his career. Law was one of the best corners in the game for a stretch, but was it a long enough stretch?

Bruschi habitually has come up big at the right time, but will be hurt by the fact that few have ever considered him one of the top five inside/middle linebackers of this era - generally getting ranked behind Ray Lewis, Zach Thomas, Derrick Brooks, Brian Urlacher, and when they were at their peak in Pittsburgh, Levon Kirkland, and even Chad Brown. This is in spite of what we have seen he really means to that defense - anybody else remember what it was like when he was out because of the stroke?

Troy Brown regularly made the third-and-long conversion that kept the chains moving, recovered a blocked kick against the Steelers in a playoff game, returning it to mid-field where he lateraled the ball when about to be tackled - translating into seven more points in a close game.

Now Kevin Faulk is filling the Troy Brown roll. Coming up big when a big play is needed.

None of these players, however, are likely to make the Hall. Leaving the only long-timers as the Brady-Belichick tandem - making one think that the Patriots have won all their Super Bowls with smoke and mirrors.

On a lighter note - from my father, the Iggles fan (one that I have heard before, but am always amused by) -

Three quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, Brett Farve, and Tom Brady, go to heaven to visit God and watch the Celtics play a game. God decides who will sit next to him by asking the boys a question...

God asks Peyton Manning first: "What do you believe?" Peyton thinks long and hard, looks God in the eye, and says, "I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends. I believe in giving. I was lucky, but I always tried to do right by my fans." God can't help but see the essential goodness of Manning, and offers him a seat to his left.

Then God turns to Brett Farve and says, "What do you believe?" Brett says, "I believe passion, discipline, courage and honor are the fundamentals of life. I, too, have been lucky, but win or lose, I've always tried to be a true sportsman, both on and off the playing fields." God is greatly moved by Brett's sincere eloquence, and he offers him a seat to his right.

Finally, God turns to Tom Brady: "And you, Tom, what do you believe?" Tom replies, "I believe you're in my seat."


Suldog said...

Well, the general dearth of Patriots players in the hall to begin with makes me believe that we won't see a big bunch inducted from this crew.

the blue state blogger said...

Well, I think Rodney Harrison has a good shot.

Kevin Smith said...

Interestingly enough, I've heard everything on him from sure-fire hall candidate to borderline at best from different writers with votes.

When I publicly hear voters question credentials, I lean towards the naysayers. To this day, I don't understand the biases against Art Monk, Bob Keuchenberg, Stanley Morgan...or even Drew Bledsoe who won't get in in spite of being in the top five or six statistically in all the important categories (except for wins) for all quarterbacks who played the game. And considering that Joe Namath is in, wins can't be that big a consideration.

However, each of the three franchises he joined improved significantly over its previous season when he joined. I could go on, but my point is that the voters are capricious, and limited by the Hall's rules. Eventually, due to the backlog caused by the rules, there will be plenty of deserving candidates that don't get in because the newer candidates have better stats. It's happened to Art Monk thus far. It's going to happen to more and more candidates as this backlog lingers. And that includes people like Harrison.

Sure. Seau will get in as well - but two seasons in an 18 year career? He won't go in representing the Flying Elvii.

sugarshane024 said...

Although his tenure with New England may not be long enough to classify him with the Patriots dynasty, Junior Seau is a shoo-in for Canton. I also believe that Vinatieri gets in.

Great joke by the way!

Teresa said...

Peyton and Marvin, who you did not mention, will get in. I hope Adam does too.

While post-season is important, I think the Hall looks at whole careers. If they didn't, people like Marino or Kelly wouldn't have a shot. I would have to see a lot more of "quality" Moss than I have seen to think he is worthy.

And sometimes those rings work the other way, Michael Irvin and his crack wagon have no business in Canton IMHO. But, because of those rings...he got in. His stats aren't that great.

Oh and after that joke, I bet you still don't understand why the rest of the country thinks people from the Northeast are jerks, do you? :)

Kevin Smith said...

A. Ten to one that joke didn't originate with Patriots fans. It's not exactly one that paints Brady in a good light, in spite of the fact that there has been nothing Brady has ever said in an interview to paint him that way. That didn't come from the Northeast, and I heard the joke long before my father sent it to me. I am, however, able to laugh at the joke.

B. I mentioned that Manning has been surrounded by HoF talent in this paragraph: Consider - Peyton Manning is considered a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. He should be. He has been one of the most prolific offensive forces throughout his career. Sure, he's had Hall-of-Fame caliber receivers, running backs, and linemen around him, but he has generally been less than stellar in the post-season, riding to his only Super Bowl win on the back of a resurgent defense last year.

Manning will get in, and it's likely that Marshall Faulk, Marvin Harrison, and Tarick Glenn will get in, and Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne (if he keeps up the pace) have shots.

Vinatieri I think has a shot, but will not get in early because he's a kicker and there are so many others at "every down" sort of positions that are in the logjam I was talking about.

If Art Monk, who retired as the NFL's leading receiver has had trouble getting in, what are Vinatieri's chances?

And I agree, voters are supposed to consider the whole body of work - but there's really no reason that either Andre Tippet, Stanley Morgan, or Art Monk shouldn't already be in.

Teresa said...


I am just giving you a hard time. I giggle at those kind of jokes all of the time. It is just a sterotype. People think if you are from the midwest or the south you are a redneck...but we all aren't. I don't have any cars on blocks in my yard and I have all of my teeth!

Nothing is ever fair, is it?

Dave said...

I love that joke.

I think Adam will get in. He made too many clutch kicks to be ignored. Otherwise I think you're right.

Don't get me started on Pats players getting screwed out of the Hall. Tippet should've made it last year. And that fact Morgan hasn't even been considered is a crime. His career matches up very well with HOF residents like John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Tom Fears and Charlie Joiner.