The Hall Vote: Donít Ask Me
Updated: Monday January 29, 2001 2:20 PM
Sports Illustrated's Peter King will file daily reports from Super Bowl XXXV. Check back again during halftime of the game to, in King's words, "find the good, the bad, the ugly and the latte of Super Bowl week."
TAMPA, Fla. -- I am one of the 38 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In the last 24 hours, the question I have been asked most often is something closely approximating: "What the heck happened in that meeting room Saturday morning?"
My answer: "I wish I knew."
Two fairly extraordinary things happened. Overnight, entry to the Hall has gotten easier, sort of the way the passing numbers got fatter when the pass-protection rules and coverage rules were liberalized a generation ago. And the voters chose to ignore the rules for coaches, which sent Marv Levy into Canton while turning back Bill Parcells.
One beef at a time:
For a moment, let's ignore the qualifications of Lynn Swann, Ron Yary and Jack Youngblood, though I historically have supported Youngblood while voting against Swann and Yary. Before Saturday, Swann had been voted down 14 consecutive years. Yary voted down for 14 straight years, and Youngblood voted down for 11 consecutive years. That's 39 years, collectively, that these three men had gone down. Magically, they all got in Saturday. I think that makes us look like we don't know what we're doing. Why is a man a Hall of Famer all of a sudden after he hasn't been one for 14 years? I can see one, maybe. But three? To me, it means the new members will, collectively, be an easier mark than their predecessors. We have had some changeover because of two deaths (John Steadman, as tough a gatekeeper as there is, in Baltimore and Steve Schoenfeld in Arizona) and retirements. Who am I to judge the thought process of the new guys? All I know is this was the weakest class I remember considering since joining the committee in the mid-'90s, and seven men -- the most I've seen -- got in.
As for the guys who made it, there are no bad choices. I disagree with some. Steelers president Dan Rooney called me a couple of weeks ago to politic, respectfully, for Swann, and I had to tell him I appreciated his call but would not vote for Swann. My reasons: I appreciate and value Swann's play in big games. But in the four regular seasons the Steelers won Super Bowls, Swann averaged three catches for 49.4 yards per game, with one touchdown per two games. I'm all for not being maniacal about stats, but you have to put up some numbers. The Steelers won with defense first, a running game second and a passing game third. And the franchise has 10 men in the Hall; only the Packers of the early sixties (12) have more; how many more people will we credit for being so integrally important to the Steelers' success?
Our bylaws say if a coach announces his retirement, he will be eligible for the Hall the year afterward. Simple rules. So Bill Parcells says he is retired and says he has no intentions to go back to coaching. Marv Levy tried to get back into coaching a year ago, and I hear he called Ralph Wilson two weeks ago to try to get into the running for the Buffalo job again. Parcells turned around three franchises, taking the 3-12-1 Giants of 1983 to the Super Bowl three years later, the 2-14 Patriots of 1992 to the Super Bowl four years later, and the 1-15 Jets of 1996 to the AFC Championship Game two years later. Levy took one team to the championship game, and that one team went four times, losing all four. I give tremendous merit to Buffalo going to four straight Super Bowls, and Levy deserves strong consideration for the Hall, particularly when his invaluable contributions to special-teams are taken into account.
But anyone who would make the argument that Levy is a better Hall of Fame candidate than Parcells is smoking something, and I don't mean a Cohiba. Parcells doesn't make the cut from 14 to 10.
Levy makes the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame is a great institution. I truly value my role in it.
But I will love it tomorrow. I do not like it today.
The Tampa Tribune ran a letter today blaming the media, specifically Sports Illustrated, for putting too much pressure on Tampa Bay's NFL team and ruining the Bucs' season.
"They're absolutely right," said the picker, Paul Zimmerman, who is sitting next to me right now. "I feel ashamed of myself."
Asked what he will do to make it up to Bucs fans in 2001, Zimmerman looked terribly contrite and said: "I will pick them again."
Zimmerman on Parcells: "I voted for him, and I felt ashamed of myself for doing it."
1. I think Tampa should certainly have another Super Bowl -- around about 2037, when I'm long-since retired. The traffic manager for the weekend events -- the Gasparilla pirate thing Saturday and the Super Bowl today -- ought to be drawn and quartered. Or at least forced to ride his own buses on his own ridiculously logjammed streets. Stupid idea to have that pirate festival in town the same weekend as the Super Bowl anyway; it turned a 12-minute drive from the Giants' hotel to the media headquarters downtown into a 105-minute ordeal. The 10-minute ride on the commuter buses today, even coming over at 2:30, was a 55-minute ordeal -- and then I got out and walked the last three-quarters of a mile. You give a city three years to get ready for a game, and they can't figure out the traffic. Nice job, Tampa.
3. I think the stage is set for a beautiful day and a great game. At 5 p.m., it was 69 degrees, with wispy cirrus cloud overhead and 8-mph winds. The turf looks great. The floor of a Super Bowl stadium has never looked better.
4. I think my daughter Laura and friend Perri Hillsberg have had a great time this weekend. They met Steve Young, Kurt Warner, Pat Hentgen (Laura is a big Orioles fan, and as depressed as she is over the loss of Mike Mussina, she now is excited to know the guy who will try to take his place, and a fun guy he is), Jim Fassel, Edgerrin James (they loved his teeth), and an actor named Jerry O'Connell. The last one was key. He is evidently quite a heartthrob, and Laura has been melting for quite some time.
5. I think the Giants will have the best of the crowd today, but the Ravens take the early lead in excitement. You should see Ray Lewis right now. He's cavorting around the field like a jackrabbit.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL and appears regularly on CNN/Sports Illustrated and CNN's NFL Preview.