For the record, Terrell Owens has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the last two years, and I voted for him both times. He put up prolific numbers, compiling statistics that check every Hall of Fame box. There’s only one Jerry Rice, but Owens was great.
Owens ranks second to Rice with 15,934 career receiving yards. He’s fifth in total touchdowns. Along with Rice and Randy Moss, Owens is one of only three players in NFL history with more than 130 TD catches. Owens had eight seasons of 10+ touchdown passes, nine seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards, ranks eighth all-time in receptions (1,078) and was voted first team All-Pro five times.
Despite a profoundly strong statistical resume, Owens has gone 0-for-2 in the Hall of Fame voting, a so-called snub that caused a flow of molten lava to spew from the hot-take shows that often feature celebrity buffoons screaming at each other while concocting controversies.
Even though I voted for Owens and support his case, I’m part of the group of 48 Hall of Fame selectors that declined to hoist T.O. onto our shoulders and personally carry him to Canton right away … which of course is an an unspeakably cruel and inhumane piece of evil which evidently makes me (1) an idiot; (2) a criminal; (3) a blatant T.O. hater; (4) someone who doesn’t understand football; (5) someone that is grinding a vendetta because T.O. wasn’t nice to the media; (6) someone who doesn’t appreciate receivers; (7) an obvious racist; (8) a secret member of ISIS; (9) an alt-right conservative wacko; (10) a flaming PC bro liberal nutball.
Never mind that Owens will be voted into the Hall of Fame; on this matter I have no doubt. And at the risk of setting off another round of temper tantrums, let me say this: just because T.O. didn’t get in right away, this isn’t grounds for a federal indictment, nor is it a hate crime.
The faux-angry voice boxes are correct to push for Owens’ entry into Canton, and all views are welcome but these parrots are woefully short on historical perspective, and they are pretty much clueless on how the voting process works. I really don’t want to start droning on about the Hall of Fame protocol, but as someone that’s served on the selection committee for the last 18 years, I wanted to offer these points:
* Critics conveniently forget that we have 15 finalists each year, but can only put in a maximum of five.
* Voters don’t just look at the numbers. If this was a numbers-only exercise, then the Pro Football Hall of Fame should just hire an accounting firm to do the voting.
* Testimony — for lack of a better term — is a significant part of the discussions. When we review a player, we also consider what his peers have to say about him. His coaches. His teammates. Opponents. General managers. Other Hall of Famers. And through this testimony, we hear the good and the bad.
* For instance, if you were sitting in this meeting and had to make a decision on a player, and you were told that his head coaches considered him to be a horrendous and selfish teammate, and a toxic distraction in the locker room who damaged team morale, and that his team was happy to be able to get rid of him trade even though he was a dynamic talent and producer … would you ignore all of that? If, for example, you were looking at the career of a wide receiver and you see that three contending teams declared no mas during his career-peak phase because they got burned out on his constant disruptions … is that to be ignored? I would say no. Ignoring that is just as wrong as ignoring the considerable amount of positive testimony about the same player.
* Was the player ever a league MVP? Did he help his team win a Super Bowl? Lead his team to the playoffs? How many playoff wins? What can we add to his resume that goes beyond tabulating his personal stats? These “bonus” points aren’t mandatory but do strengthen a resume.
* I am a numbers guy. I am a believer in advanced metrics, though I don’t know that my fellow voters quite understood me the other day when I started talking about Isaac Bruce’s average yards per pass route (which is one of the best of the modern era.) But numbers also have to be filtered through historical context; Owens and other wideouts played at a time when the NFL was a pass-crazy league, with rules changes making it easier than ever for quarterbacks and receivers to pitch and catch and put up unprecedented numbers through the air. With the skies opening up over NFL stadia, we saw a game-changing escalation of passing yards (and receiving yards) and airborne touchdowns. In other words, we’re talking about an epic inflation of the numbers. The statistics from the 1960s,1970s and part of the 1980s don’t compare to the bulk totals we’ve seen over the last 25 years or so.
* In a related note: has anyone protested or otherwise pulled a brain muscle over the Hall of Fame exclusions of wide receivers such as Harold Jackson and Harold Carmichael? Probably not. Jackson and Carmichael had dominant receiving stats during their careers — but their numbers seem mediocre and little when measured against today’s passing-game inflation. Which, of course, has nothing to do with the value of their actual performance during the era in which they played. And it’s completely irrelevant to the numbers that the modern WRs are accumulating today.
* As the astute John Turney pointed out at the Pro Football Journal, Jackson led NFL wideouts with catches (571), receiving yards (10,246) and was second in receiving touchdowns (75) during a 14-year peak phase from 1969 through 1982 And Carmichael led wideouts with 76 TD catches during the same time. Between 1997 and 2010 (14 seasons) Owens rolled up 1,043 receptions, 15,414 yards and 149 touchdowns. Does this mean he was vastly superior to Jackson and Carmichael? Of course not. Jackson and Carmichael played at a different time, with different rules, and with teams playing a more conservative offense that wasn’t based on throwing the ball as frequently as we see now. But as wide receivers Jackson and Carmichael were just as dominant in their day as Owens was in his day … so where is all the caterwauling and flying spittle and subtle accusations of racism over the Jackson and Carmichael “snubs” ? Others can remain willfully ignorant of history, but I’ll try to stay informed. Thanks.
* Can someone explain why Owens is 100 percent entitled to a first-ballot, or even second-ballot, selection? Since I’ve been on the committee, we’ve elected nine wide receivers. Here they are — and I’ll show you how long each of these outstanding Hall of Famers waited before winning the vote:
Marvin Harrison, third year of eligibility …
Michael Irvin, third year …
James Lofton, fifth year …
Tim Brown, sixth year …
Cris Carter, sixth year …
Art Monk, eighth year …
John Stallworth, eighth year …
Andre Reed, ninth year …
Lynn Swann, 13th year of eligibility.
All of those guys made it, and I’m happy they did. I supported all nine, and advocated for them.
* If we’re going to have Louisiana Hot-Take Sauce steaming out of our pores over the T.O. marathon waiting time — TWO WHOLE YEARS! — then where’s the shrieking over excellent wide receivers that never made it? Wideouts who never really received much of a hearing? Cliff Branch, Drew Pearson, Henry Ellard, etc. The portrayal of Owens as a victim here is silly.
Owens has been voted on twice.
Not five times, not seven times, not eight times, not 11 times, not 12 times.
Twice. He hasn’t made it yet.
I’m not sure that qualifies as a human-rights violation.
It isn’t easy to assess wide receivers; the proliferation of raw numbers has complicated the evaluations. And so many good-great receivers have been coming up for consideration it usually creates a logjam at the position, which leads (unfortunately) to a longer wait for some. But this isn’t the Pro Football Hall of Fame of Wide Receivers.
Remember, we can only vote in a max of five each year. We can’t ignore all of the other positions just because the wide receivers and their sycophants want ALL OF THE WIDEOUTS IN … AND PUT THEM IN RIGHT NOW! … at the expense of other worthy players who didn’t catch passes for a living.
During the modern era, we’ve voted in 25 wide receivers — which is right in line with the number of quarterbacks (26), running backs (26, plus six fullbacks), defensive backs (24), linebackers (27).
Despite that, a couple of years ago Cris Carter accused the voters of failing to value wide receivers.
We’re in for another logjam, with Isaac Bruce, Hines Ward and Torry Holt already eligible, Randy Moss going on the ballot for the first time next year, and talents such as Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne on the way. And then, after that, Larry Fitzgerald. And others.
I believe that Owens is a Hall of Famer — even with all the ugly baggage he piled up during his career.
I have voted for him twice.
As long as I am on the committee, I will continue to vote for him.
I understand why other voters have reservations.
Owens will get in … repeat: he will get in.
If his waiting time lasts a little longer than T.O. and his surface-of-the-sun-take sympathizers prefer, they’re entitled to be frustrated — but I’ll hold off on calling Amnesty International.
Thanks for reading …