Who qualifies as a hall of famer is becoming increasingly complex in a rapidly changing NFL
The NFL Hall of Fame is a tricky business. At its core, it’s a museum full of creepy busts and preserved memorabilia. But the players whose faces those busts resemble, and who get the golden jackets, are a representation of the best that the NFL has to offer. It’s important that Hall of Fame voters are electing the best of the best into the Hall of Fame as the league continues to rapidly change.
How do we define success in the NFL? Is it as simple as winning games or being a productive player? Is it something you can quantify or something intangible, something that we have to see to understand? When you see Barry Sanders run a football or Quenton Nelson pancake a linebacker, there is no doubt they have what it takes to be a Hall of Famer. But when you see Eli Manning’s limp arm trying to throw a pass these last couple of years, it’s clear that putting him in the Hall of Fame would be a mistake.
Eli Manning does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s a great player, but the Hall of Fame is not a place for great players — if it was, then it would lose all of the prestige it currently possesses. Eli Manning played well on two championship runs, but so did the entire team. Those Giants championships were defined by extraordinary team play. The idea that those runs should be eternalized — outside of the two Lombardi trophies — by sending the quarterback to Canton is ludicrous.
We need to rethink the quarterback position as a whole in the NFL. Yes, the quarterback is the most valuable player on the field, but if we send every winning QB to the Hall of Fame, its value will plummet.
The better the performance on the field, the better the game will be — that’s obvious. But if the performance of current NFL players is higher than it was in the past, then the bar must be raised in terms of the type of career it takes to get into the Hall of Fame.
Of course, the game is better now. Players run faster, jump higher and know more about the game than ever. The bar has lifted to enter the Hall of Fame. As a result of the speed at which the game is now played, however, the modern NFL will pose major problems for Hall of Fame voters. Players are more productive than ever, which means that simply following statistics will no longer be possible.
It seems like sacks are the only statistic that indicates the ability of current NFL players. When these players are eligible, we will see too many defensive ends (who rack up sacks) voted into Canton and less defensive backs who have fewer opportunities at interceptions than ever. Interceptions are slowly disappearing from the NFL, even though pass attempts are at an all-time high. As a result of all this passing, running backs are also going extinct. So how should we evaluate the success of NFL players now? Is it as simple as counting rings?
The Hall of Fame should remain a place reserved for the most elite NFL players. We cannot let rings or the dramatic changes over the last decade in the NFL change how we view success. The players who enter the Hall of Fame should be special — they should be the ones who make us want to get up on a Sunday to watch football. And their Hall of Fame talent should be immediately recognizable when you see them play. When guys like Patrick Mahomes make ridiculous no-look throws, or Von Miller sacks the quarterback in the blink of an eye, it is obvious that these players are special and should receive a golden jacket.
Success in any sport or walk of life is not so cut and dry. No single number can perfectly describe success — not rings on a finger or passing yards in a career.
John Wooden defines success as a “peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” It’s not something material or stat-based; it’s just something you know and can see.
Success is about the difference players make on the field and in life. We should reward the players who stand out in both. Players like Walter Payton, and frequent recipients of his humanitarian award, should be rewarded for the difference they have made in their communities.
The best of the best in the NFL should not be determined solely by one’s performance on the field, but one’s performance off of it as well. If we want the Hall of Fame to be a reflection of the best the league has to offer, we need to rethink what it takes to become a Hall of Famer.
Written by: Calvin Coffee — firstname.lastname@example.org
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