Right As Ryan: Time to Reform the NFL Hall of Fame

Ryan Chae, Sports Editor

What makes an NFL Hall of Famer? Is it the Super Bowl rings? The record breaking stats? The longevity of a career? In the NFL, the process to Canton is more unclear than ever, even after this past month’s obvious enshrinement of legends like Ray Lewis and Randy Moss.

One of the names honored in early February is infamous and eccentric wide receiver Terrell Owens. Owens’ numbers said that he was a first ballot Hall of Famer, being No. 2  on the all-time receiving yards list, only behind the GOAT Jerry Rice. Yet, the former 49er was not awarded the gold jacket in his first year of eligibility.

In his second year, Owens finally got the call into the Hall, but the damage was already done. Sports writers and players alike immediately sparked outrage. How could a player as dominant as T.O. been snubbed on his first entry?

Some have argued that he wasn’t voted in the first time for being a “diva” and others say he was a “bad teammate.” Last I checked, players get in for their accolades, not on their kindness or celebrations.

If voters thought that selecting Owens for this year’s class would simmer down the criticisms against the Hall of Fame, then they’re sorely mistaken because now is  a bigger moment to question and reform the election process of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Made up of media members, the selection committee is not the right panel of judges for a hall of fame filled with players and coaches. The key word here is “players.”

Though there should be a portion of voters made up of media representatives and sports writers, it should be the players that dictate the selection process.

In the cases of players like Moss, Owens and others who have had their fair share of battles with the media, there could be a bias against during the polling process.

Ex-players and coaches are the ones who spend years with the candidates and fight the same battles, week in and week out. They’re the ones who truly understand the experiences of the players and should determine the legacy of potential hall of famers. A writer is not a better judge of a player than the men who actually tackled him.  Pencil and paper is not a proper substitute for blood, sweat or tears.

Another criticism has been the number of inductees entered per year. Currently, it stands at seven players, allowing a maximum number of two “senior” candidates and five “non-senior” candidates. With just seven players each year, worthy ex-players like Rams receiving legend Isaac Bruce and hard-hitting safety John Lynch are still unable to enter the HOF, and the limit even leads to debate over the representation of positions.

Opened 55 years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been a hallmark in the sporting world and the final stop in a player’s career. However, if change does not come to the election system, then Canton will be nothing more than just a glorified retirement home.