Sunday, February 7, 2010

Canton's Voters Once Again Show They Know Nothing About Football

The Pro Football Hall Of Fame announced that seven men would be inducted into their facility, but they once again showed why the current selection process must be changed by their lack of knowledge of the game or its history.

Two players selected, Russ Grimm and Ricky Jackson, were dubious choices. Both are worthy of the selection, yet there is a long line of players more deserving. Not just players who played the same position as them, but in the overall scheme of worthiness.

Jackson was a one dimensional outside linebacker who went to the Pro Bowl six times in his career. He never was named First Team All-Pro in his career, and had just eight interceptions. Jackson was an excellent pass rusher, but that is about all he did.

Having spent 13 of his 15 seasons in New Orleans probably had a huge impact on this selection, because the Saints finally reached the Super Bowl for the first time ever this year. The other factor of the city still trying to recover from the impact of a hurricane certainly played a factor in his selection as well.

In other words, more political hogwash has plagued the halls in Canton once again.

Russ Grimm went in because the voters had yet to truly recognize the Washington Redskins famed blocking group called "The Hogs". This unit took the Redskins to four Super Bowls in 10 years, and won three. Grimm was a member of all of those teams, but he did not play in two of the victories.

Injuries had ravaged his career by his sixth year as a player. He participated in a full season just five times in his 11 year career, and was a part time starter for the last five years of his career. He went to the Pro Bowl four times, and was First Team All-Pro three times.Though he had a fine career, there are players even in his own franchise who are much more deserving.

Though there are many players who played the same position as Jackson and Grimm, with more accolades, still waiting to get into Canton, none were on the final ballot or even the initial ballot in a severely flawed selection process. Yet there was a few huge glaring omissions from the final list that these voters left out of Canton once again.

Don Coryell then retired from coaching, at the age of 62 years old, with 111 wins in 195 games overall. He is the first Coach With 100 Wins In pro And college football.

Coryell's 69 wins are the second most in Chargers history behind Hall Of Fame coach Sid Gillman, and his nine seasons with the team are also the second most behind Gillman.

Don Coryell then retired from coaching in 1986, at the age of 62 years old, with 111 wins in 195 games overall. He is the first coach With 100 Wins In pro and college football. To try and sum up this man's career or impact on football is nearly impossible. Virtually every offense today on all levels is a variation of his system.

Bill Walsh, who is a member of Canton, and Coryell also have several ties in football. Walsh used to rely on Isaac Curtis, a player Coryell coached in college, while Walsh was an assistant coach with the Bengals. Walsh also coached under Tommy Protho for one year with the San Diego Chargers, the man Coryell would replace as head coach.

While Walsh is credited with the "West Coast Offense", he started out as a student of Hall Of Fame coaches Sid Gillman, Al Davis, and Paul Brown's downfield passing philosophies.

It was Coryell who really started this offense, and refined it as each year passed during his coaching career. He turned around every team he coached from college to the pros immediately. Though most remember his days in San Diego, his time in Saint Louis also must be hailed.

He took a perennial loser, and made them a serious contender in an NFC East that was mostly dominated by the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins throughout the 1970's. He made quarterback Jim Hart a much better player and surrounded Hart with many weapons. Wide receivers Mel Gray and Pat Tilley were wide receivers who excelled along with Hall Of Fame tight end Jackie Smith in Coryell's system.

Gray holds a franchise record for having at least one catch in 121 consecutive games, and is tenth in franchise history with 351 receptions. He is fourth in Cardinals history with 45 touchdown receptions, fifth in receiving yards, and averaged an outstanding 18.9 yards per reception.

Smith is still second in career receiving yards with the team, fifth in receptions and touchdowns, and averaged an excellent 16.5 yards per catch. Tilley was a fourth-round find by Coryell in 1976, and ended up sixth in career receptions with the Cardinals, and third in receiving yards.

One other thing Coryell brought to the NFL was the use of the multi-purpose running back. Terry Metcalf was his first of many backs who did everything well. Metcalf led the NFL in total yards with 2,462 yards, which is still the best in team history.

Lionel James of the Chargers passed that total in 1985, and it is no coincidence that James was coached by Coryell in that season as well.James had 2,535 yards, a record that stood until the 2000 season and is still the third best total ever.

Coryell also resurrected the career of fullback Jim Otis. Otis joined the Cardinals in Coryell's first season after spending his first three years as a back up with the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. Coryell turned Otis into a Pro Bowl player in 1975, after gaining a career best 1,076 rushing yards.

Factor in such other weapons like Ike Harris, J.V. Cain, Wayne Morris, Steve Jones, Donny Anderson, Ahmad Rashad, and Earl Thomas, and one can see all the fantastic players Coryell used to make Saint Louis a winner.

He also worked with Jim Hanifan in making the Cardinals perhaps the best offensive line in the league during Coryell's tenure. The line consisted of Hall Of Fame tackle Dan Dierdorf and Pro Bowl players like Tom Banks, Conrad Dobler, Ernie McMillan, and Bob Young most of the time.

They gave up just 55 sacks from 1974 to 1977, including only eight in 1975. This was the fewest allowed in NFL history, until it was surpassed by the Miami Dolphins in 1988 by one.

Though the Cardinals were an explosive offense, their defense and ownership let them down. This would be a theme throughout most of Coryell's coaching career in the NFL.

In his 14 seasons as a coach, his offenses led the NFL in net yards gained per passing attempt five times. They finished in the top five of the NFL six more times.

His teams led the NFL in passing yards seven times, and none of his teams finished lower than seventh. They led the NFL in passing touchdowns three times, and finished in the top ten nine other times. His offenses also led the league in passing attempts two times, finished second five times, and was in the top ten another five times.

But Coryell also ran a balanced attack where the run was important. Twice his teams led the NFL in rushing touchdowns, and they finished in the top ten eight more times, and finished in the top five in yards per carry three times. Twice they were in the top ten in rushing attempts and yards.

His teams led the NFL in total offense yards five times, and in the top ten another six times. Twice his teams led the NFL in yardage differential, which is the number of yards they outgained their opponents that year. His teams also finished in the top ten an additional five times in this category. Coryell's teams led the league in points differential once, and finished in the top ten another six times.

When Coryell hit San Diego in 1978, the spotlight on his genius was shining. He took wide receiver John Jefferson in the first round that year and had him become the first player in NFL history to gain over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons.

He transformed Dan Fouts into a spectacular quarterback. Fouts became the second player in pro football history, and the first in NFL history, to have over 4,000 yards passing in a season. Fouts then would go on to pass for even more yards the next two seasons, and he became just the second player in NFL history to have consecutive seasons of at least 30 touchdown passes. Only six more quarterbacks have accomplished this feat since.

Besides his Chargers teams becoming the first to have three 1,000 yard receivers, their 1981 team had a 1,000 yard rusher in Chuck Muncie and two 1,000 yard receivers in Winslow and Joiner. Wes Chandler finished 43 yards short from joining them in the thousand yards club that year, which would have given them three receivers and a running back with 1,000 yards in one season. This is an accomplishment never duplicated in league history.

After his success with Metcalf, Coryell found other versatile backs to use in San Diego. Men like Muncie, James Brooks, Earnest Jackson, Gary Anderson, Mike Thomas, Lydell Mitchell, Don Woods, Clarence Williams, and the diminutive Lionel James all excelled in his offense.

While Coryell's critics wrongly point to his lack of championship wins, the stinginess of the owners he was employed by was a huge reason why his teams never went past a conference championship game.

While the frugality of Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell is legendary, the Chargers owner Eugene Klein was equally penurious. San Diego lost Jefferson and Fred Dean because of contract disputes. Dean left the Chargers mid-season in 1981 to go to the San Francisco 49ers because of this reason. Dean was a key reason the 49ers won Super Bowl XVI that year, and was named UPI Defensive Player Of The Year.

With Dean gone, it hurt the Chargers defense immensely. The Chargers had the best defensive line in the NFL up until then, featuring Dean and Pro Bowl defensive tackles Louie Kelcher and Gary "Big Hands" Johnson.

All three were drafted together in 1975, and had a strong bond that had the fans nickname them "The Bruise Brothers". All three would eventually join the 49ers and help them win a Super Bowl.

Don Coryell changed the way football was played. The now all too common sight on multiple receiver sets was first started by him, as are many versions of his offenses being run these days. They are all spawns of his genius.

The Redskins three Super Bowls winning teams and Saint Louis Rams two Super Bowl winning teams had his disciples run offenses that were invented by Coryell. His impact on the game will reverberate for generations to come.

Winslow stated it best when he said, "For Don Coryell to not be in the Hall of Fame is a lack of knowledge of the voters. That's the nicest way that I can put that. A lack of understanding of the legacy of the game."

Many Hall Of Fame players and Pro Bowlers were coached by Coryell in the NFL. The list of players inducted into Canton includes Dan Fouts, Winslow, Charlie Joiner, Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith, Fred Dean, and Roger Wehrli.

All, except Dean, called on the voters to induct Coryell in their acceptance speeches. Joe Gibbs and John Madden were disciples of his who also called for his induction in their acceptance speeches. These words from these inductees obviously have fallen on the deaf ears of the same voters who had selected them.
This is a despicable crime still perpetrated by the voters to this very day, as shown by the recent induction process. It also shows that Canton must change their induction system.

Another player who was excluded from being inducted was Ray Guy, the greatest punter in the history of football. Guy is the first punter to ever be drafted in the first round by the NFL. He went to the Pro Bowl seven times in his career, and was named First Team All-Pro three times.

At the 1976 Pro Bowl, Ray Guy became the first punter to hit the Louisiana Superdome video screen. He punted the ball over 70 yards in four of his seasons, and once booted five balls over 60 yards in one season alone. He was a versatile player who could pass the ball or run it, and he never had a punt returned for a touchdown in his career. He led the NFL in punting three times also, also kicked off for aging kicker George Blanda, a Hall of Famer, for several years.

He was an integral part of the Raiders. He also was on three Super Bowl winning teams in Oakland during his career. The highlight of his Super Bowls was in 1983. His punt in Super Bowl XVIII pinned Washington inside their 12 yard line, which led to a Raiders touchdown via a turnover the next play.

Guy is the punter on the National Football League's 75th Anniversary Team, the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team and as a member of the NFL 1970's All-Decade team.

If you saw Ray Guy, you must be scratching your head right now as to why he isn't in Canton already. His punts were legendary. Other teams would test the balls that he punted for helium, due to the heights his punts attained.

He was the first punter to be nominated for induction, but he still has not been selected. It brings into question the football knowledge of the voters. Some, who claim to be "purists", say that specialist do not belong because they only get on the field for a few plays each game.

After seeing placekicker Jan Stenerud inducted in 1991, there seemed to be a hope that the voters were finally recognizing the importance of special teams. Canton's reason for existence based upon what players do once on the field, and there is no doubt that Ray Guy helped the Raiders win many games and championships.

Being inducted will not get any easier for either Coryell or Guy as the years pass by, and there is the fear that they won't be alive to enjoy it. Coryell is approaching the age of 86, and Guy is 61 years old. Making them wait another year is a gamble and a sign of disregard and disrespect.

Rumors of getting retired players involved in the selection process, especially those already in Canton, has been circulated for years. These are the people who truly know who belong, especially considering there are countless voters not even knowing what positions many gridiron legends played.

It, as Winslow stated, truly shows a lack of knowledge of the current voters. It also shows the corrupt political process involved in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. A process that has wrongly kept Don Coryell and Ray Guy from still taking their rightful place.