Fair or not, longevity counts for modern Hall nominees
Posted: Thursday July 6, 2006 12:04PM; Updated: Thursday July 6, 2006 8:22PM
Terrell Davis' productivity may be mitigated by the relatively short length of his career in the minds of some Hall of Fame voters.
Dr. Z will answer select user questions each week in his NFL mailbag.
Now that Andrew is off on his vacation to Greenland, Jimmy once again is riding herd on the swarming masses of e-mails and he reports that "90 percent are about the Hall of Fame." Which goes to show what kind of an offseason it's been, unless you count the action generated by the criminal courts.
"For every e-mail I sent you about some player who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," Jimmy said, "you can multiply it by about 10, maybe more."
Which means that there were about 30 for Terrell Davis, maybe more, and all I can do is hold my head and say to myself, "It's starting." Oh, boy, will this ever be a monumental problem. Davis is credited with seven seasons for the Broncos, but only four were productive, three of which were really sensational. No HOF guidelines on a player's longevity ever have been set. As selectors, we're free to use our judgment.
In my last column I didn't say that I was going to vote against Davis. I just said that his short career would work against him, and probably do him in, based on my reading of what the mood of the selectors will be. I didn't say I was going to vote for him, either, although right now I'm probably leaning that way. It's still thrashing around in my mental rooftops.
The three Davis e-mails that have been forwarded to me come from two serious correspondents and one jackass. Chris of Denver points out that Hall of Fame runners Gale Sayers and Ernie Nevers also had short careers. Sayers had one more productive year than Davis did, but his numbers never matched Terrell's. Maybe, though, the selectors were more romantically inclined in those days, and those will-o'-the-wisp runs of Sayers, the amazing moves he made, overshadowed mere statistics. Don't forget that he also holds the all-time record for leading kick-return average.
Nevers was different. You can't compare ancients to moderns. He only had five seasons, but he wasn't just a player, he was a player-coach, an organizer, a pioneer of pro football, a guy who gave respectability to a struggling game. You evaluate these people by a different set of standards.
Chris also mentions Doak Walker. His enshrinement, to me, was a joke. I wasn't a selector in those days. I don't know how he made it. Maybe there was some big Texas thing going at the time.
Mark of Great Falls, Mont., asks the following: Who would I rather have carrying the ball for me, Davis or Jerome Bettis or Curtis Martin, since each of the last pair seems destined for future enshrinement? Well, let's put it this way ... whose career, including the longevity, would I rather have among the three? I think Martin would be my No. 1, Davis would be No. 2, because of those three great seasons, and Bettis would be No. 3, although let's not downgrade what he meant to his team. Now I've gone and made all the Steelers fans mad, and we were getting along so well, too.