Not to brag, but it’s a good thing that no player who spent most of his career with the Redskins is a Hall of Fame finalist this year.
That’s because for the first time since I was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee in 2005, yours truly won’t be in the room to argue the case for the former members of the burgundy and gold.
The room is a hotel conference room where the selectors will gather early this morning in Indianapolis and begin debating whether the 15 finalists and the two senior nominees deserve to be part of the Hall’s Class of 2012. The process usually takes six to seven hours, including a lunch break. I’ve been in the room when we’ve debated a single candidate for up to 45 minutes.
It’s in the room where minds are changed. I went into the room for the first time planning on voting for Ray Guy, whom I had always considered the best punter ever. I was convinced otherwise that day. The opposite happened two years ago when I changed my mind and wound up voting for Rickey Jackson after those selectors presenting his case were so persuasive.
Football, obviously, employs a vastly different system than baseball (in which the 400-plus voters cast their ballots from home) and basketball and hockey, in whose selection processes the media isn’t even involved.
Being one of just 44 people who decide whether someone will be enshrined in Canton forever is a responsibility that I take very seriously.
I’m honored to serve on the committee and I’m very proud that during the past four years, I helped elect Darrell Green, Russ Grimm, Chris Hanburger and Art Monk, ending a 15-year drought of Redskins players (coaches Joe Gibbs and George Allen were inducted during the intervening period).
I’m especially proud of the elections of Monk, whose cause I pushed so hard over the years that I finally swayed some of the negative voters, and Grimm, for whom I solicited the testimony of opponents to convince my fellow selectors that a guard who only had seven healthy years as a starter was Hall of Fame-worthy.
As luck would have it, this year is the first in more than a decade that there’s no former Redskin whom I saw play and/or covered on the ballot. Seniors Committee nominee Dick Stanfel was a Pro Bowl guard for Washington from 1956-58, but he played longer for Detroit and retired before I was born.
That takes a little of the sting out of not being at the Super Bowl for the first time in 19 years, but not much. Not that missing a week in Indianapolis in February is as sad as losing a week in New Orleans, San Diego or Tampa would be, but the Super Bowl is like an annual convention for NFL media.
The Pro Football Writers of America, on whose board I served for 12 years, the final two as its President, has its annual meeting on the Friday before the game. And in a league where each team faces a maximum of 17 of its 31 (including preseason) each year, Super Bowl week is the one time that we get to see everybody in our business.
The vast room where everyone pounds away on their laptops and schmoozes is a place I look forward to being in every year. Plus there are dinners with old friends and various parties not to mention the game itself although it will be hard for Sunday’s Giants-Patriots clash to top the one from four years ago.
But back to the other room. The only major new candidate for election to the Hall this time is former coach Bill Parcells — one of the men whose praise of Grimm to me helped put the ex-Hog over the top.
Otherwise, it what’s we selectors call a clean-up year, one in which such greats as Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown and Cris Carter have a clear shot at election without gimmies such as Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith (2010) and Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders (2011) claiming two of the three to five spots reserved for modern day nominees.
While I have discussed Martin, Bettis, Brown and Carter in previous years, I’ll still very much miss being in the room tomorrow. I hope that it’s just a one-year absence from serving as the Washington selector and that I and a Redskin whom I saw play and/or covered will be in the room next year in New Orleans.