Viking quarterback Warren Moon is likely to be the next great player to miss enshrinement. He is a well-liked 17-year veteran, but in July he was charged with assaulting his wife. What impact that allegation will have on the voters six or seven years from now is unclear. What is clear is that disagreement exists over how much consideration his career in Canada should receive. Moon spent his first six seasons in the Canadian Football League, leading the Edmonton Eskimos to five Grey Cup crowns, before enjoying 10 productive years with the Houston Oilers. Some voters believe Moon's success in Canada should carry weight, while others disregard it altogether. Detractors note that Moon, despite 37,949 passing yards in 11 NFL seasons (59,177 including Canada), has never won a game beyond the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Another player who hopes non-NFL gridiron pursuits are acknowledged is 33-year-old running back Herschel Walker, who signed a three-year contract with the Giants before this season. Walker was the centerpiece of the USFL in the mid-1980s, gaining 5,562 yards in three years with the New York Generals before starring for the Cowboys. Walker, however, was traded to Minnesota for five players and a slew of draft choices in 1989 in what may have been the most lopsided swap in the history of sports, and since that time he has been more of a dependable jack-of-all-trades than a rushing king. Support for Walker is thin so far, but SI's King notes that even discarding Walker's USFL numbers, he is 19th on the NFL rushing list; 10 of those ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame, and the other eight are not yet eligible.
At first glance the '90s would appear to be a golden age of pro football. The 49ers and the Cowboys are classic powers, and all the aforementioned players are complemented by young stars like Patriot quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Indianapolis Colt running back Marshall Faulk, Dallas safety Darren Woodson and Cardinal cornerback Aeneas Williams. Still, 30 years ago, at the start of the 1965 season, NFL and AFL rosters included 63 players, coaches and owners who have been voted into the Hall.
The dominant teams of recent years will have much sparser representation in the Hall than the juggernauts of previous eras. The Packer teams that dominated the '60s sent 10 players to the Hall, while five players from the undefeated Dolphin team of 1972 are in Canton. Although individual statistics may continue to soar and records will continue to fall, that may not indicate an overall elevation of the game, especially when it comes to quarterbacks and receivers. "These guys will have numbers that a generation ago would have been mind-boggling, so they'll be very tough to judge," says Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ray Didinger. "You realize how much easier it is now to get the ball to the wideouts."
This era is rich in quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, sack specialists and defensive backs but relatively weak in offensive linemen, interior defensive linemen and linebackers. Check back in another decade and the picture will be clearer.
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