Last month, regular contributor, Spheniscus and I debated the Hall of Fame merits of those who were on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.
Now that the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2016 has announced their class has done the same. We were hopeful to do this prior to the announcement of the actual inductees, but life, as it often does simply got in the way!
Saying that, we felt it was worth our time to take a look at the 2016 Nominees and debate whether they should have gotten in (or not) and look to the future of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Chairman: I am going to kick off (another very badly intended pun) with Place Kicker, Morten Andersen, who is a former New Orleans Saint, which is incidentally my favorite team. Why New Orleans? Especially for a guy who grew up in Toronto? My favorite hockey team growing up as a kid, was the Quebec Nordiques, which was my older cousin’ favorite team, as they had a player named Michel Goulet, which was the family name on my mother’s side. The Nordiques had a bunch of fleur de lis on their uniform and since that was the logo on the Saints helmet, the rest is history. After that tangent, starting this off with Andersen (who I will wager will be the only time we ever debate an athlete from Denmark), which is reminding me about the Edgar Martinez debate we just have. Designated Hitters haven’t received love from Baseball writers, and special teams players don’t receive it much from the Football writers either. The big difference is that in Baseball, I will wager that nobody ever made Martinez, or your DH, David Ortiz, feel like they aren’t a full part of the team. That is the apartheid like existence for Kickers, and even worse for Punters. I have a friend who hates Peyton Manning for the way he ran fellow Canadian (and Oakville, Ontario boy), Mike Vanderjadt out of town when he questioned Tony Dungy mellowness and Manning’s leadership. Remember that? It’s worth watching the always composed and camera ready Manning flip out. https://youtu.be/GILXUJa2l1w Was Vanderjadt an idiot? Maybe. But the disdain and emphasis on his position was evident all the way through. These are the second class citizens of the game, despite how often these are the guys who have the most pressure. This brings me to the “Great Dane”, who to the best of my knowledge has never been called an idiot by any Quarterback. In any other sport, the all-time career points leader is inducted on the first try, but in Football, the fact that Andersen made it to be a Finalist is huge. He didn’t get in this year. Do we have another Ray Guy situation brewing? Spheniscus: Well of course unless that all-time leader bet on the game. And I have to say that I am a little disappointed that you think this is the only Dane we are going to discuss. The punting career of Velje’s own Hans Neilsen should not go without notice. Even if it was only for three games with the Bears in 1982.
Morten Andersen is never getting elected via the writers. The next kicker who is going into the Hall via the writers is Adam Vinatieri. He had the moments. Two Super Bowl winning kicks and perhaps the single most difficult kick in NFL history to end the Snow Game in 2001 (known as the Tuck Rule Game in Oakland), that both closed down old Foxborough (nee Sullivan, nee Schaefer) Stadium and ushered in the Patriots’ dynasty. So if any kicker is perceived to be a Hall of Famer, it’s Vinateri.
The funny thing, of course, is that Vinatieri’s career has been better statistically in Indianapolis and Stephen Gostkowski has been statistically better than Vinatieri ever was in New England. That doesn’t make logical sense, but if you look it up, you’ll see it’s not really close on either front. And that is Andersen’s problem. Kickers are separate entities on NFL rosters. The weird guys with the one bar helmets who hang out in the corner and cost the Vikings a damn shot to beat the Seahawks. I mean seriously a freaking 22 yarder? How can you miss that that badly? Sorry, I digressed.
In baseball Hall of Fame parlance, without the moments Andersen is just a compiler. His most famous kick is the 30 yarder he missed in Week 17 of 1996 for the Falcons, which gave Jacksonville into playoffs for first time. Jacksonville would then go on to win two rounds, including giving John Elway the last playoff loss of his career (before losing to the Patriots, who gave Brett Favre the only Super Bowl win of his career).
They used to do the breakdown of who was eliminated when in the process. If they did that this year, I messed it. If he survived the first five cuts, I’ll be surprised. The fact that he was even in the Final 15 is a sign that we have a bit of a lackluster group to choose from in the first place. That he didn’t get in this year was not a surprise. Chairman: But what a magical team those ’82 Bears were! Also, I miss those one bar helmets, it gave you so much more face to view when the camera panned in on their face on a missed field goal attempt. Maybe as a Saints fan, I have watched a lot of Andersen both for my Saints and against him during his time in Atlanta. Yes, he missed that one Field Goal, but I have watched him make a lot of them, and again more than anyone else ever had, and that has to be worth something, but like you said, not this year. You aren’t wrong in saying that Vinatieri has signature moments and when you call something the “Hall of Fame”, damn, you should have done something “famous”. I am going to come back to that last statement often. I am however far more optimistic about his overall chances, though I was not surprised that he didn’t get in this year. I say this because Andersen made the list of Finalists on his second year of eligibility (this being his third) and that is promising for him. Once you reach the Finalists for consecutive years, it is rare to dip below it. Spheniscus: Tell that to Ray Guy. He made the list for how many years before he lost his eligibility and had to go the Veteran’s Committee? Now I know that punters are a several rungs even below Field Goal kickers, (with guys with clipboards, guys with binoculars, and guys with clipboards and binoculars, and the dudes who refill the Gatorade filling those intermediate rungs), but I without an actual moment, I feel that Guy’s fate is going to be the same as Andersons. If he was going to get in, this was his year. I saw this as Favre, a Colt, an offensive lineman, and two question marks. He didn’t end up being one of the question marks (those went to Tony Dungy and Kevin Greene). This was not a strong list of candidates. And he didn’t get in because he is a kicker. And holding the scoring title in the NFL is like holding the saves title before Mariano Rivera in the MLB. No one knows what the record is, so nobody cares. In fact, the only reason we care about the saves record in MLB is because Mariano holds it. And why does that matter? Because no closer in baseball history has had more moments than Mariano. Anderson has no moments. He is Lee Smith. And when it comes to the Hall of Fame, you don’t want to be Lee Smith. Chairman: I don’t think Lee Smith wants to be Lee Smith! As for Andersen not having moments, are you saying that those field goals to bring the Saints within 17 many times doesn’t count? It doesn’t? I tried. That fact will hurt him as you can argue he is just one signature kick for from the Hall. Just one. If he has that moment that people remember he might be in already. Let me ask you this. Who do you think should be the next special team inductee if not Andersen? Spheniscus: Who should be? Brian Mitchell. Second on the NFL’s all-purpose yardage list. Only person ahead of him on that list is Jerry Rice. Primarily those yards came from kick returns, so for me that makes him the next special teamer who should be in. I doubt we will ever see him in the Hall because he seems pretty unlikely to get nominated at this point. He has been eligible since 2008 and didn’t even make the 25 semifinalists list this year. Who will get in? If we are talking kickers I still think it is Vinatieri. If we are talking punters, Shane Lechler is the career punting average leader. But both of those guys are still playing. With Kick returners, it is probably Devin Hester (the only player with more special teams TDs than Mitchell). If we are talking other special teamers, well that has never happened, but for the sake of argument Steve Tasker for the retired guys and Matthew Slater for the active guys are way ahead of pretty much anyone else. My guess overall though, is Vinatieri is the next special teamer.