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How To Fix The Voting For The Pro Football Hall Of Fame

Galdi explains how a process in dire need of improvement can be made better and provides tributes to Redskins legends Joe Jacoby and Bobby Beathard

 

 

1. Let’s begin with this: Joe Jacoby doesn’t need to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in order for his greatness to be recognized. In a strange way, this whole saga has made us appreciate Jacoby’s career even more and has brought him even more attention and praise than perhaps actually getting elected years ago might have.

But none of this is the point.  Being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame matters.  “Hall-of-Famer” is a label that should have the utmost of meaning in any sport.  When people lose faith in the label or the process by which that label is arrived at, that’s when you have a problem.

I understand that I am a life-long Redskins fan and thus have a biased opinion on Jacoby.  I also understand that it has become cliché to bash hall-of-fame voting, especially as it relates to baseball.  Heck, I just last month went through a bunch of problems with the voting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Chin Music with Al Galdi.

But the fact remains that we can and should do better.  Jacoby being denied election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday (Feb. 3) in what was his final year of eligibility as a modern-era candidate was an outrage.  The whole voting process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is in dire need of improvement.  Here are a few ideas:

Get rid of the five-man max per year – This is the biggest problem to me.  There is a massive backlog that has been created by this rule.  At the annual “Selection Saturday” meeting, 15 modern-era finalists are reduced to 10 and then to five.  At that point, the five remaining nominees are voted on for membership on a yes-or-no basis.  So you can never have more than five modern-era candidates elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in a given year.  Why?  We have 32 NFL teams each with a 53-man roster.  That’s 1,696 players.  The idea that no more than five modern-era candidates can be elected in one year is absurd and is why not only Jacoby has yet to get in but also why it took Art Monk until 2008 to get in.  And why Terrell Owens, who is a slam-dunk Hall-of-Famer no matter what you think of him as a guy, didn’t get in until this year.  And why our own Brian Mitchell has never even made it as a finalist despite being second in NFL history in all-purpose yards and one of the best returners in NFL history.  The list of finalists should not be 15 for a sport with as many players as football has.  The list of finalists should be at least 30, and voters should be able to vote for at least as many as 10.  And I’m being conservative with those numbers.  It’s time to take care of this backlog.

Enough with “Selection Saturday” – As you may know, all votes for the Pro Football Hall of Fame are cast on the Saturday before the Super Bowl.  Forty-eight voters spend all day hearing presentations for the 15 modern-era finalists and then cast ballots.  This seems so tedious.  This year’s presenter for Jacoby was the voice of the Redskins, Larry Michael, who joined me on The Morning Blitz with Al Galdi on Friday (Feb. 2).  He told me that his presentation was set to go near the end of this long day.  How does that not put Jacoby at a disadvantage?  Larry put a lot of work into his presentation, which included a number of great stats and anecdotes.  But you’re crazy if you don’t think that there weren’t some voters who were fatigued (you’re not exactly dealing with a bunch of 25-year-olds) and perhaps even tuning him out.  If you want to still have presenters for these candidates, then have these presentations taped and posted online.  This way voters can watch at their leisure, and you could even make the presentations available to fans to become better educated on the history of the NFL.  And there’s no reason that all of the voting should take place in one day.  Do what the National Baseball Hall of Fame does: mail ballots out or post them online and give voters, say, two months to vote.

Expand and modernize the voting pool – 422 ballots were cast for The National Baseball Hall of Fame this year.  That’s too many.  You can’t convince me that 422 different people are doing the work necessary to cast well-researched and well-thought-out ballots.  But just 48 people comprise the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.  That’s too few voters.  A better number would be around 100.  And instead of just mostly having people who are 50 and older, how about upgrading the voting body by adding analytical guys like ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz and Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier?  No disrespect to older voters, but there are progressive ways of looking at the NFL that can make us appreciate players who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise be appreciated.  Gary Clark is an example of this.  Football Perspective had a very enlightening piece last August on how Clark was uniquely dominant in 1991.  How many voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame do you think read that?

 

2. By now you’ve probably heard and/or seen much of the evidence supporting Jacoby’s candidacy.

  • Jacoby was a starting tackle on four NFC-champion and three Super Bowl-champion Redskins teams
  • Jacoby was chosen by voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame ironically enough as a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
  • Jacoby played in a Redskins-record 21 playoff games
  • Jacoby made four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1983-86
  • The Redskins ranked fourth in total net yards of offense over Jacoby’s 13 seasons (1981-93)
  • The Redskins allowed the second-fewest number of sacks (389) over Jacoby’s 13 seasons
  • 39.8 percent of Jacoby’s career matchups came against eventual members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Randy White, Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, etc.)
  • Jacoby in his career never faced eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive ends on fewer than 20 percent of his games.  Every offensive tackle in the Pro Football Hall of Fame fell below the 20-percent mark in at least three seasons.  Walter Jones never exceeded the 20-percent mark during any season of his Hall-of-Fame career with Seattle.

Of course, maybe the best part of the Jacoby story is that he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.  The guy went undrafted in the 1981 draft and yet had the career he had.

And so I got to thinking about how Jacoby’s career compared with all offensive linemen who were drafted in the 1980s.

Pro Football Reference has a stat called Approximate Value (AV).  It is an attempt an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year (since 1950).  The methodology behind computing Approximate Values is tedious and boring; you can read it on Pro Football Reference if you like.  But just understand that Approximate Value is an advanced way of trying to quantify a player’s season into one number.  Approximate Value is far from gospel, especially in a sport like football in which stats will never tell the entire story.  But Approximate Value is something to consider, and it’s worth noting that the top five all-time leaders in Approximate Value are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Jerry Rice and Drew Brees, so the metric seems to play out at least reasonably well.

Pro Football Reference also takes Approximate Value a step further into something called Weighted Career Approximate Value (CarAV), which is computed by taking 100 percent of the AV of the player’s best season, plus 95 percent of the AV of the player’s next-best season, plus 90 percent of the player’s third-best season, etc.

Jacoby ranks in the top-10 among NFL offensive linemen who were drafted between 1980-89 in terms of Weighted Career Approximate Value:

  1. Bruce Matthews – 134 CarAV
  2. Anthony Munoz – 133 CarAv
  3. Randall McDaniel – 119 CarAV
  4. Steve Wisniewski – 103 CarAV
  5. Dermontti Dawson – 97 CarAV
  6. Lomas Brown – 95 CarAV
  7. Mike Munchak – 91 CarAV
  8. Joe Jacoby – 81.8 CarAV
  9. Bruce Armstrong – 81.65 CarAV

Even analytics agree: Joe Jacoby is worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

Washington Redskins offensive tackle Joe Jacoby takes a break during practice at Redskin Park in Chantilly, Va., Jan. 8, 1987. Jacoby will take his broken hand into action against the New York Giants and his counterpart Lawrence Taylor in East Rutherford, N.J. The game will determine the NFC champion. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

3. I do want to acknowledge and celebrate that Bobby Beathard was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday via the Contributor’s Committee. Beathard is the greatest front-office executive in Redskins history. His tenure as Redskins general manager from 1978-88 included three NFC titles, two Super Bowl championships, a 105-63 regular-season record, an 11-3 playoff record and a horde of quality draft picks.

Among the players who Beathard brought to the Redskins via drafts were Pro Football Hall of Famers Art Monk (1980, No. 18 overall), Russ Grimm (1981, No. 69 overall) and cornerback Darrell Green (1983, No. 28).  Additionally, Beathard selected fellow Redskins Ring of Fame members Monte Coleman (1979, No. 289), Dexter Manley (1981, No. 119), Charles Mann (1983, No. 84) and Mark Rypien (1986, No. 146).  And Beathard signed Jacoby as a college free agent in 1981.

And how about that Redskins 1981 draft?  This was Beathard’s greatest masterpiece: offensive lineman Mark May in the first round, Grimm in the third round, Dexter in the fifth round, receiver Charlie Brown in the eighth round, defensive tackle Darryl Grant in the ninth round and tight end Clint Didier in round no. 12.

But Beathard wasn’t just great for the Redskins.  He served as a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons before being named Director of Player Personnel for Miami Dolphins in 1972.  He also was the general manager of the San Diego Chargers from 1990-2000.  Beathard’s teams advanced to seven Super Bowls and won four.

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