What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
The beauty of any list, especially in the world of sports, is that they are virtually guaranteed to start a debate. In this case, when the NFL announced the list of it’s Hall of Fame inductees for 2012, our fellow Sports Blog Movement member Mike Patton took it upon himself to take issue with the exclusion of Cris Carter.
The newest members of the NFL Hall of Fame have been selected. The newest members are RB Curtis Martin, defensive end Chris Doleman, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, offensive tackle Willie Roaf, center Dermontti Dawson, and senior selection Jack Butler. Most would not have a problem with this class at all. In fact, most would say that it’s about time that Dermontti Dawson got in and that Curtis Martin deserved it for the work that he put in, but one person is missing from this class. His name is Cris Carter.
Cris Carter was one of the best receivers of his time. He amassed 1,101 receptions and 130 touchdowns during his playing career with the Eagles, Vikings and Dolphins from 1987-2002. The numbers he put up at wide receiver were second only to Jerry Rice. But Carter was not only an excellent wide receiver; he was a consummate professional and carried himself with class. Sure, he had his moments where he angered people and ruffled a few feathers, but that is no reason for him to not be included in the Hall of Fame.
I’ve worked a lot with Mike on the Sports Blog Movement, and I respect his opinions, but I disagree with him on this point. The main assertions of Patton’ s argument break down as follows:
As I am prone to do with these breakdowns, let’s take those three points one-at-a-time.
1) “Cris Carter was one of the best receivers of his time”
Sorry, Mike, Carter was very good, but I always considered him to be over-rated. If you look at the 16 seasons of Cris Carter’s career, he’s never barely more than a role player in half of them. This means the years we should look at for Carter’s consideration are from 1993 to 1999. Granted, this is the span where he is the most impressive, racking up 8 Pro Bowl selections and two first-team All-selections. However in that time, he leads the league in receptions once, and finishes in the top 4 in 5 additional seasons. This is important to note because for all those receptions, he never ranks higher than 7th in any single season in receiving yards. He never ranks in the top 5 in receiving yards per game. At first glance, that suggests he built a career on a lot of meaningless small-yardage receptions.
So, why is this guy a three-time finalist for the Hall-of-Fame? Because he made a lot of those catches in the “red zone.” Carter led the league in receiving touchdowns three times between 1993 and 1999 and finished in the top 5 four additional times. Carter is on the Hall of Fame list because he’s one of the great “fantasy football” players of all time. For the first two-thirds of his career, you could count on Carter to be a non-factor outside the “red zone;” this is why former Philadelphia Eagle head coach said upon releasing him “all he does is catch touchdowns.” We’ll come back to this later.
For now, let’s look at the complete list of Hall of Fame Finalists. The entries in bold are the ones who were selected for induction in 2012. The finalists I would have voted for are noted in green.
This leads to another debate launched in my mind by Patton’s argument for Carter’s induction. There are three players on that list who in my view are more worthy of induction than Carter is. We can compare Carter’s career numbers to Tim Brown’s; the difference being Brown is also one of the great punt returners of all time, being 3rd in career punt return touchdowns, 4th in career punt returns, and 5th in career punt return yards.
The only reason I wouldn’t have voted for Brown is because there’s a cap (another fact we will come back to later) and there’s no way I can’t vote for Will Shields. Shields, the longtime guard for the Kansas City Chiefs, never missed a game in 14 seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl 12 times. If he doesn’t get in on the first ballot, the selection committee might as well just say guards can’t get in on their first try.
Then there’s the matter of Jerome Bettis. I will vote for a Rookie of the Year, six-time Pro-Bowl, and two-time first team All-Pro running back who had over 300 rushing attempts in a season five times, and who retired 5th all-time in career touches and career rushing yards over ANY wide receiver ANY day.
In all honesty, I will admit I have a bias against receivers. To me, they are tertiary players. What I mean by that is that for a reciever to be succesful, you need two other things. Primarily, you need an offensive line who can keep a quarterback on his feet long enough to throw the ball. Secondarily, you need a quarterback who can actually throw the ball. Without those two things, a receiver is as important as hubcaps on a tractor; there’s a reason why “fantasy football” is called “fantasy.” In other words, the rule here at Dubsism is that the farther away from the ball you are at the snap, the less crucial you are.
For even more honesty, this rule exists because one of the primary staff members here at Dubsism spent his football career as an offensive guard. Patton makes an argument that Cortez Kennedy should have been left out in favor of Carter.
If I had a choice to take anyone out of this class, I would take Cortez Kennedy…Cortez had a great career and I mean my comments as no offense to him but in my opinion, he is not one of the best defensive linemen of all time. And his greatness does not outshine the greatness that is Cris Carter. He did affect games, but did he change the way the game was played like Carter did? No. Did he give people nightmares about him? Well, I can’t lie here. Kennedy did give a few teams nightmares. But in all his glory, Kennedy was not the player that Carter was.
I will admit comparing a receiver to a defensive tackle is like comparing an apple to a Dodge pick-up truck; the stats just don’t jibe. But let me tell you this; nothing affects an offensive game plan like a defensive tackle for whom you absolutely must account because there is no one player who can neutralize him. Generally, this “must-deal-with” guy is not a defensive lineman. A perfect current example is a healthy Troy Polamalu. There’s a ton of middle linebackers fit this mold; Dick Butkus, a young Ray Lewis, or today’s Patrick Willis. Amongst the guys playing close to the line, there’s a bigger number of edge rushers in this category like Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Brooks, or for the old-school guys, Doug Atkins, than there are for the grunts in the middle of the line. There are very few defensive tackles who by themselves were such game-changers; Alex Karras, Alan Page, and more recently Warren Sapp. Cortez Kennedy was in that class as an 8-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro.
2) Cris Carter didn’t get inducted because the press didn’t like him
That is really the only conclusion I can come to from the following sentence.
I think that some of the voters are holding a grudge. And in this instance, it is clouding their judgment. There is no way that Carter should have been left out.
Obviously, I disagree with “no way Carter should have been left out.” But more importantly, this is the place to examine Carter’s legacy. Legacies are like a bathroom rug; you can launder them, but they always retain just a bit of whatever they’ve absorbed. In Carter’s case, this is where we are forced to remember Carter needing to enter the NFL via the supplemental draft as he was about to be kicked out of Ohio State for NCAA rules violations. Then as a Philadelphia Eagle, Carter was such a pain in the ass he was flat-out released after four seasons. Carter went for a few more seasons in Minnesota being a “problem child,” only softening his dislike of fans and media when he realized he was a potential Hall-of-Fame candidate and that he was going to need some public relations savvy to win that election.
That’s the key word in all of this; election…which is just a nice way of saying “popularity contest.” Never underestimate the power of popularity; it drives 90% of what happens in this country. If you’ve ever worked in a company when layoffs occurred, in every place that didn’t have a seniority-based system in place, it is not the under-performers who get shown the door first, it is the people nobody likes.
Elections work in exactly the inverse. The winners of elections are not always the most deserving; they are often the most liked. This years example is Hall-of-Fame example Curtis Martin. Martin had a great career, but it isn’t hard to figure out he will be getting a gold blazer in Canton this summer because the voters liked him more than they liked Carter, because despite what I’ve said to this point, Carter’s career was in my opinion more worthy of induction than Martin’s.
The simple fact is that popularity wins elections, legacies affect popularity, and nobody likes assholes. Even worse than an asshole is the one that kisses yours just to get a vote. But as I will demonstrate in the next section, that’s only one problem Cris Carter has.
3) The Hall-of-Fame voting process is broken
Here’s where Patton and I agree, but likely not for the same reasons.
The Hall of Fame voters need to get out of their own way…As far as the Hall of Fame process, I could not be sicker about it. This same process that made wide receiver Michael Irvin wait a few times has now made Carter wait some more. So, what I suggest is why stifle greatness? Why put a limit on the amount of people that can be elected at one time? If someone deserves to be in, then put them in. It’s just that simple to me.
All in all, there are some changes that need to be made. Maybe the fans or players need to be part of the voting process. I’m not saying that I know the answer to this issue, but for too many years people have been left out of the equation that is the Hall of Fame. And I’m tired of hearing about this happening every year. The Hall can’t get the process right, so maybe someone can step in and help them get it right by providing a better way to vote people in.
As I’ve already discussed, the current system is a simple popularity contest. Like Patton, I don’t subscribe to this theory, but it is what we have. If I had a vote, here’s what my ballot would have looked like, ranked numerically bearing in mind only the top five get inducted and without the Veteran’s committee nominees.
Patton’s thoughts on this matter tend to lie with either with who gets a vote or not having a cap on inductees. As far as who gets a vote, this becomes a tricky proposal, because one of Patton’s major problems with the current system is it’s tendency to be a popularity contest. But as I’ve already demonstrated, that is a condition inherent to all elections. Since it can’t be eliminated, the concept becomes how to mitigate it. The best way to do that is to limit the voting to those who a) know the most about who is truly a great player, and b) those who have the least interest in the petty stuff which fuels popularity problems like those Carter has. To me, that means the votes belong to the players; all current and former players who have a set amount of service time. Fans and writers are the reason Carter won’t get into Canton anytime soon; I am willing to bet the outcome would be different if this were a players-only vote.
This leaves the problem of limiting the ballot to five inductees. If I had the opportunity, I’d vote for ten nominees on that list. But the problem is that the next few years are going to have a lot of first-time eligibles, many of whom are getting in on their first ballot. This is really going to jam up Carter’s chances, because, there are a big number of of players who will carry over into these elections from previous years. The players whom I think have a better than 50/50 chance to be inducted on their first ballot are noted in bold; those who are likely to get in within five years of being eligible are noted with an asterisk.
Under the current setup, Carter’s got no chance in 2013, and almost no chance in 2015. If Carter doesn’t get in with the weak class of 2014, this sets up 2016 as the year which will prove my theory about popularity contests. Favre is a lock even though his career ended on a sour note, and if Manning retires before the new league year, he’s in right alongside Favre.
This leaves Carter in with two other guys who undoubtedly will have “popularity contest” problems; first-timers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. The debates have already started over both of them, and they both have more impressive career stats than Carter. All three leveled some major accomplishments on the field, but all three wore out their welcomes in various places and were at some point considered more trouble than they were worth. In other words, it wouldn’t be surprising if all three were inducted in 2016; it wouldn’t be surprising if none of them gets in.
What’s a solution to this mess? Patton likes fan voting, which to me will only make the “popularity” issues worse. I like players doing the voting, which will alienate the fans.
The Dubsism suggestion:
No matter what, that last point is the key. The game has changed in the past thirty years, but we are determining greatness based on some old standards. Just because Cris Carter is 4th all-time in career receptions doesn’t make him the 4th best receiver of all-time; it means he played in a era when the forward pass was used far more than in previous eras.
No matter how you construct them, elections will always have an element of “popularity” built into them. But until we re-examine what greatness really is, we are going to keep making more Cris Carters.