Monday, December 7, 2009
The NFL Makes Sure AFL Legacy Fades
The Pro Football Hall Of Fame voters once again that they are a suspect allotment of people who either have no clue about the game of professional football, or that they are in the pocket of the National Football League.
On November 28th, 2009, the Pro Football Hall Of Fame announced their list of the 25 finalists for induction into their halls located in Canton, Ohio.
Look at the list below, and there is the common theme that none of these men are associated with the American Football League that ran their operations from 1960 to 1970 before the NFL begrudgingly begged them to merge leagues.
Cliff Branch, WR - 1972-1985 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Tim Brown, WR/KR - 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cris Carter, WR - 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
Don Coryell, Coach - 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
Roger Craig, RB - 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
Terrell Davis, RB - 1995-2001 Denver Broncos
Dermontti Dawson, C - 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
Richard Dent, DE - 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
Chris Doleman, DE/LB - 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Greene, LB/DE - 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Russ Grimm, G - 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
Ray Guy, P - 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Charles Haley, DE/LB - 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
Lester Hayes, CB - 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Rickey Jackson, LB - 1981-1993 New Orleans Saints, 1994-95 San Francisco 49ers
Cortez Kennedy, DT - 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
Art Modell, Owner - 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens
John Randle, DT - 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
Andre Reed, WR - 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
Jerry Rice, WR - 1985-2000 San Francisco 49ers, 2001-04 Oakland Raiders, 2004 Seattle Seahawks
Shannon Sharpe, TE - 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
Emmitt Smith, RB - 1990-2002 Dallas Cowboys, 2003-04 Arizona Cardinals
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner - 1989-2006 National Football League
Steve Tasker, Special Teams/WR - 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills
Aeneas Williams, CB/S - 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
The AFL was referred to as a "mickey mouse league" for their years of existence. The players of the NFL were told by the league that AFL players were not on the same level in ability and skill. Many bought into this propaganda for years, even as the upstart league began to gain popularity and draw more fans as each year progressed.
The realization that the AFL was not inferior came upon the spotlight of national television on January 12th, 1969. The AFL champion New York Jets defeated the heavily favored NFL champion Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III. What made the story of the upset even more noteworthy was that Jets quarterback Joe Namath had famously predicted the win in the days that led up to the game.
This is the game that made the NFL panic and realize they had to merge with the AFL to keep their product on top. The AFL had already been a league that produced more excitement on offense than the NFL, and the critics who called the Jets win a fluke were dealt more reality when the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs dominated the NFL champion Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV the following year by the score of 23-7.
What has transpired since this merger has been a sort of payback by the NFL. Though the league is supposedly celebrating the AFL's 50th anniversary this season, the halls in Canton pays little tribute to the AFL to this day.
There are just 11 members of the American Football League's All-Time Team that are currently inducted, and it appears not many more will be given their respect as time passes on into the land of forgotten thought. This is what the NFL has striven for, and has seemingly accomplished.
Floyd Little, a member of the AFL Denver Broncos, is a running back who was with the team before, during, and after the merger. He retired in 1975 as the seventh leading rusher in pro football history. He had been a two-time AFL All-Star who led the league in all-purpose yards twice, and rushing yards per game once. He was also a three-time NFL Pro Bowl player who led the NFL in rushing attempts, yardage, rushing yards per game, and yards from scrimmage in the 1971 season.
Little is now an entry in the Seniors Committee alongside of current Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. LeBeau retired as a player in 1972 with 62 interceptions, which was second most in NFL history at the time. It still ranks seventh best. The former cornerback, who is called "Coach Dad" by the players he coaches, is worthy of entry as a coach, but should have been inducted as a player years ago.
The Canton classes are generally small, with typically no more than six people inducted each year since 1990. The lone exceptions are in 1990 and 2001, where seven men joined the ranks. One of the major criticisms has been these small induction classes that are chosen by voters who have little idea of how the game is played or what positions the players happened to actually compete at.
This will make Little's chances of induction even more slight. Though worthy for decades, the fact that he has had to wait this long shows the ulterior motives of the NFL and their hired voters. Little biggest chance of getting his overdue respect might be because of the AFL anniversary that is going on now. If he does get in, hopefully he will call on the voters to open the doors of Canton wider for his AFL brethren, because they were professional football players. The sign on the building in Canton clearly says Pro Football Hall Of Fame, as it does on the stationary and gift bags inside, not the NFL Hall Of Fame.
The idea of players already enshrined being part of the voting process has been bandied about for years. This is an idea that would work, because they are the people who know best who truly belongs in Canton. This is a brotherhood that will not be swayed by cash or politics like the voters are. They also know what position the players actually played, unlike the voters.
Most of the players that are in the classification of senior played in an era where telecommunications were just starting out. Many players waiting to get in are subject to voters who most likely saw them play just a handful of times throughout their entire careers. It basically comes down to a voter selecting his favorite player over a better player who is more deserving of induction. How else could one explain the 2008 induction of Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett and his four Pro Bowl honors, while fellow linebackers Maxie Baughn and Chris Hanburger are still not inducted, or even nominated, despite going to the Pro Bowl nine times in their careers.
Time passes on, and the NFL wants their fans to be quiet myrmidons who fail to see that the Pro Football Hall Of Fame has become the NFL Hall Of Fame.
For those of you who are wondering who I would like to see inducted this year, my voters ballot that does not count follows. Thinking that eight is a lucky number, and that Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith are going in, I select these fine men. Please note that the last time eight men were inducted the same year was at the 1967 ceremonies.
Don Coryell : Every offense you see run in the NFL today is a wrinkle of his genius.
Ray Guy : He changed the game completely as a punter. There should be no questions to his worth.
John Randle : 7 Pro Bowls, 6 First Team All-Pro Teams, 137.5 sacks as a defensive tackle. Easy choice.
Tim Brown : 1,094 receptions, 9 Pro Bowls, great punt returner, led NFL in the one year he returned kickoffs.
Dick LeBeau : 62 interceptions and his contributions to the game make this a certain selection.
Floyd Little : A small player, but a giant on the gridiron. He's the reason the Broncos are still in Denver.