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Eye on the Prize
Michael Silver
September 04, 1995
A mere 155 players have been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton since the first one was enshrined, in 1963, and the likely inductees among this year's stars are surprisingly few
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September 04, 1995

Eye On The Prize

A mere 155 players have been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton since the first one was enshrined, in 1963, and the likely inductees among this year's stars are surprisingly few

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The same attributes apply to Seau, whose heroic effort last January in San Diego's AFC Championship Game victory over Pittsburgh, while playing with a damaged shoulder nerve, lifted him to a new level. Still, 24 voters believe Seau is not yet ready for enshrinement. As for Sanders, his receiving only two yes votes speaks to the selectors' unease about his flashy style, his marketing himself as an expensive bauble and, above all, his reluctance to stick his nose in and make tackles. A similar charge has kept former Viking safety Paul Krause out of the Hall, even though Krause holds the NFL record for career interceptions, with 81.

THE KICKERS
Only three placekickers—Lou (the Toe) Groza, George Blanda and Jan Stenerud—have earned induction, but two of them were accomplished position players: Blanda at quarterback and Groza at tackle. The next kicker-only who could make it to Canton is Morten Andersen, who recently signed with Atlanta after 13 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. "He's the best kicker that ever lived," says Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman of Andersen. Some voters complain that many of Andersen's kicks were attempted in the calm, controlled environs of the Superdome, while other selectors simply don't like men of his trade.

EXCESS BAGGAGE

Charles Haley, the Cowboy defensive end, has four Super Bowl rings, is one of the premier sack artists of his generation and plays through pain. Yet only nine voters would support him if his nine-year career were to end today. While the voters say that the idea is to keep their debates about players between the lines on the field, Haley's notoriously surly dealings with reporters could be an issue. "Personality isn't supposed to be a factor," says Dave Goldberg of the Associated Press, "but Haley goes over the line."

There are voters who liken Haley's dilemma to that of former All-Pro Dan Dierdorf, a St. Louis Cardinal tackle for 13 seasons who, say some voters, may have lost a few votes for having irked too many people as a TV commentator. Sweet-voiced broadcaster Jack Buck is known for his persuasive presentations—"When you listen to him," says Denver Post columnist Woody Paige, "you'd vote for Jeffrey Dahmer"—but even he couldn't sway voters in Dierdorf's favor.

THE HONCHOS

Among coaches, Bill Parcells of the New England Patriots, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, and Dan Reeves of the Giants, who lost three with the Broncos, probably need to reach the Super Bowl with their new teams to join such legends as Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh in the Hall. San Francisco's George Seifert, with two Super Bowl victories and five NFC Championship Game appearances in six seasons, is the alltime leader in victory percentage (.781), but that achievement has been devalued by the fact that his predecessor, Walsh, is credited with building the 49ers into a dynasty.

Marv Levy bears the stigma of the Bills' four straight Super Bowl defeats, but he can take comfort in the knowledge that former Viking coach Bud Grant, another four-time Super Bowl loser, was enshrined in 1994. Shula, whose 338 career victories are the most in history, will be ushered into the Hall immediately, of course. But, notes Buffalo News columnist Larry Felser, "Levy is 15-6 lifetime against Shula. And that drives Shula crazy."

THE DAMNED

Some outstanding players, for a variety of often flimsy reasons, just don't make it to Canton. Lynn Swann, a balletic receiver for the Steeler dynasty of the '70s, and former Raider cornerback Lester Hayes are prime examples. Swann may suffer simply by comparison with his teammates, six of whom are already in the Hall. And Hayes may be unfairly tarnished by the cheap-shot reputation affixed to past Raider secondaries.

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