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Time to take HOF voting out of journalists’ hands

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The Hall of Fame voters continue to get things wrong

Terrell Owens

On Saturday the NFL announced the 2017 Hall of Fame class.

It included some fantastic players, including slam dunk HOFers such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor.

It also had some good players that have been eligible for a while get voted in; Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis.

Of course, just like most years, there were some snubs, the biggest of which was Terrell Owens, for the second straight year.

Owens is an interesting case because his numbers dictate that he is unequivocally a HOF player, but his two years of being left out raise legitimate questions.

He was a player with controversy, quite literally talking his way off of at least two teams during his career. He was loud, brash, outspoken and me-first.

He gave sportswriters everywhere something to quote him with and gave many fans a villain.

Which leads to the question: why was he left out?

I don’t believe that sportswriters should be in charge of selecting who gets in and out of the HOF.

This article from Poynter Institute has a good summary of why this should be the case (mostly pertaining to the Baseball Hall of Fame voting, but the arguments remain the same for any other hall).

Many of those writers then will write about the outcome even though they helped make news by actually casting a vote.

Critics, including yours truly, will make their annual climb on their soap box proclaiming media people should get out of the voting business for awards and Hall of Fames. It is simple: An editor wouldn’t allow a court reporter to be on a jury and then write about the case, right? Isn’t this a comparable scenario?

My beef isn’t just that: that journalists report news, not create it, but also that journalists often and continually get the voting wrong.

Maybe having the football writers do the voting made sense 30 or 40 years ago before cable television was prevalent and there was a legitimate reason for those covering the games to muddle through all the players and find the best of the best.

There seems to be this idea that journalists are the best ones to be able to set aside any bias and make the best choices.

But if that were the case, wouldn’t Owens already be in? They should be more willing to put in a player that gave them so much good material to write about over the years. Owens helped raise the profile of the NFL in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s with his TD celebrations and being a villain for opponents.

Owens on the field production leaves little doubt: second all-time in receiving yards, eighth in receptions, third in TD catches and his 14.8 yards per catch is the same as Jerry Rice.

Beyond the omission of Owens there are other issues. Why couldn’t a committee of ex-players be just as good at picking? I feel like most ex-players, even with their own bias understand the player fraternity and can set aside any differences and have respect for the all-time greats.

Writers have have been slow to recognize special teams, although that is slowly changing with the selection of Morton Andersen this year and the recent election of Ray Guy.

There is always a debate about Devin Hester among writers/voters about whether he’s worthy but most players seem to believe he deserves to be in.

The longevity question seems to linger more with current voters than with ex-players. Terrell Davis has been eligible since 2005 and Easley has been up for consideration since the early ‘90s!

These players had relatively short careers, each played just seven seasons, but for that period they were spectacular. Why did it take so long?

I think that a committee of ex-players and executives could be as unbiased and as good at it as the writers currently are. I think that players generally know who is worthy and would appreciate the contributions of special teamers such as kickers and returners.

Do you think that the Hall of Fame voting process should be overhauled?