In my 30 seasons covering pro football, I’ve found that nothing stirs the passions of fans—and plain ticks off the masses—the way Pro Football Hall of Fame voting does. During the raging Art Monk debate eight or 10 years ago (at the time, I was not in the pro-Monk camp and didn’t hide my feelings), I got off a train at Washington’s Union Station, and a redcap saw me. He sneered. He shook his head. I think if he’d been out of uniform, he would have asked me to step outside and settle the issue like men. In an airport last spring I was accosted about Charles Haley’s absence from the Hall. “What is wrong with you guys!” the fan said to me.
The 46 Hall of Fame voters are in a whittling-down phase right now. The Hall has a preliminary list of 126 modern-era candidates, and by Nov. 1 we have to vote for 25 from that group. After the list of 25 is finalized, we then vote for our top 15. The 15 finalists and the two Senior Committee nominees (punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey this year) will be debated and put up to a vote for election in New York on Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl.
So I wanted to give readers and passionate fans the chance to make the argument for their candidates. I asked for 250-word nomination essays, and you responded: We received 226 qualifying submissions for 64 of the 126 candidates from Monday through Wednesday, and the editors of The MMQB narrowed that list down to the 10 we liked best. (Well, 11, actually, and you’ll see why.) The winners weren’t necessarily the most obvious candidates or the ones the editors and I support; we chose based on the strength and the quality of the argument.
What I learned from the exercise:
You really want Terrell Davis in. He received the most nominating letters, with 18.
You’re Doug Flutie fans (11 nominations), Derrick Brooks backers (11) and Steve Sabol supporters (10).
You believe special teams should be better represented in the Hall. Morten Andersen, Steve Tasker and Brian Mitchell all had eloquent nominations.
You are quite humorous. As one of Don Coryell’s supporters wrote: “When considering someone for induction into the Hall of Fame, one needs to ask the ultimate question: Does he belong?” Well, uh, I guess we do.
This was such a fun exercise that I believe we’ll do it again next month, when the final 25 nominees come out, and we have to cut to 15. Thanks for your participation—and for contributing to a very difficult process. On the following pages are our selections for the best nominations (and we’ve sprinked in some outtakes from other essays that we particularly liked.) On the last page, you can see the breakdown of who you nominated, and how many nominations each player got.