Pro Football Hall Of Fame, And A Lot Of Complaining!
NEWS/REFLECTIONS December 2018:
“Instant Classics,” Pro Football Hall Of Fame, And A Lot Of Complaining!
By Dr. Ken
November 19, 2018: Los Angeles Rams 54, Kansas City Chiefs 51and hailed by every football media outlet as an “Instant Classic!” We’ll return to this.
2019 Pro Football Hall Of Fame Finalists, twenty-five excellent football players and as it has been over the past ten, fifteen years or more, all very, very good but perhaps three legitimate Hall Of Fame quality players in the group.
Pro Football Hall Of Fame tackle Arthur Donovan of the Colts
Okay, here come the cat-calls and boos: “old guy just likes his own era of football,” “he has no understanding of the modern game,” “this guy obviously did not see the statistics” with this final statement probably the key. I am admittedly old school biased and although I have a son with more than twenty years of National Football League coaching experience, eight of those seasons as an offensive coordinator or Assistant Head Coach, I am the first to admit that my experience was limited as both a player, although proud to have gone as far as the Atlantic Coast Football League, and a “lowly” high school coach. While I have “fatherly discussions” with my son the house rule has always been “no specific X’s and O’s talk and not allowed to recommend plays.” The proviso to the latter statement is “no recommendation of plays unless we run the Wishbone, which I will never do!” As a former competitive athlete in two collegiate sports, in addition to the amateur pursuits of boxing, judo, rugby, and powerlifting and with some of the above participation at a very high level, I have great respect for any athlete who competes no matter what their level of ability. I have preached that one should always respect an opponent and you always want to go against the best that is available on any day because you must respect any opponent who forces you to perform at your best. Those who are “great” or excellent should be recognized for their abilities and then putting the time and work in to develop their inherent talent. However, the standard has plummeted to an extent that a number of my ardent football associates and I, some of a younger generation or two, have given up on the Hall and given up on media reportage of the game.
Packers Hall Of Fame quarterback Bart Starr hands off to Hall Of Fame fullback Jim Taylor
When most of the selectors for various football honors have a memory bank that goes back perhaps twenty-five years at most, they just will never understand the basic facts of greatness and I am in fact taking into consideration the difference in today’s “modern game” and what was played in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Please give consideration to the following information. In 1955 the NFL consisted of twelve teams and roster limits were set at thirty-three per team, thus there were 396 professional football positions available for established professionals, seniors graduating from college ball, and those returning from military service in the Korean War. On December 26 when the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams played in the NFL Championship Game, there were twelve Pro Football Hall Of Fame players squaring off against each other.
In the bone-cold 1962 NFL Championship Game that featured the New York Giants hosting the Green Bay Packers, a game I was fortunate enough to attend [see HELMET HUThttp://www.helmethut.com/Features/Dr.Ken124.html] and [http://www.helmethut.com/Features/Dr.Ken76.html] the fans witnessed sixteen Pro Football Hall Of Fame starters beating on each other for a full sixty minutes. Jumping ahead to the more “modern era,” the Super Bowl game that followed the 1973 season featured a dozen Hall Of Famers fighting for the championship trophy. Roster limits in 1962 were thirty-six per team and in ’73 increased to forty. Thus the overall talent level was diluted with fourteen NFL and eight American Football League teams (792 roster spots) in 1962 and of course more so in ’73 as under one banner of the NFL, 1040 rostered positions were available. Although I claim Polish lineage and would be the first to complain “I thought there wouldn’t be any math” when coaches asked us to “line up six across,” it is blatantly obvious that a league that features thirty-two teams carrying forty-six active players, seven “inactive” players, and a practice squad of another ten players equates to more than 2000 NFL player opportunities. This of course is great for the players but expansion in the number of teams and roster size has severely diluted and limited the level of talent. Many in today’s games are great athletes but they are not great football players. The “Football Prayer” that coaches reminded me of in the early 1960s always comes to mind, something to be recalled and perhaps uttered to oneself when entering the field of play which requested that “This man who will play opposite me should be big, strong, fast, tough, and athletic, and love football but hate contact!” In my opinion, this very much sums up today’s game of great athletes demonstrating terrific, high level athletic ability but displaying very poor football fundamentals and a lack of cohesive team play, one of the real attractions of the game when played correctly.
Los Angeles and N.Y. Giants great defensive end Andy Robustelli in 1956 NFL Championship Game
The late Pete Brown, one of the owners and chief builders of the Cincinnati Bengals during their excellent years of play made a remark to me in 1984 that I have never forgotten and which very much sheds light on the modern game: “Guys would come to my father (the great Paul Brown) when it was time to leave the game. They knew when they just couldn’t play at the level they had established for themselves and wouldn’t want to play at a lesser level. They knew when it was time to move on to their life’s work. Now, guys love the money, love being a celebrity, love flying first class and being recognized and being brought to the front of any line. You literally have to cut the uniforms off of them to get them out of the league.”
That statement may in fact explain why the Pro Football Hall Of Fame has degenerated into, as the expression is utilized by so many, “The Hall Of Very Good.” Every nominated player was “good” and some were “great” but being great does not necessarily qualify one as a Hall Of Fame quality player. The Pro Football Hall Of Fame, any Hall Of Fame, should represent only the rarest of player greatness. As the “Instant Classic” Rams – Chiefs game referenced in the first paragraph of this article would have predicted, the statistics in that single game were as young fans say, “off the charts.” The 105 points, fourteen touchdowns, fifty-six first downs, 1001 total yards, and other gaudy related statistics made for what the media reported as one of the great games of all time. I would have thought, at least thirty years ago, that this Arena Football League-esque production would have made coaches and players with pride in their performance, ill! You would think that astute football observers would see a total breakdown of fundamentals and the true flaws in what has become a truly statistic driven game rather than the proclamation of “a great display of football.” The emphasis on statistics by modern day fans and young sports writers and broadcasters responsible for voting what are supposed to be the best-of-the-best into the Hall Of Fame, something that is supposed to be rarified company, is in fact based on statistics as much or more than anything else. Receivers with admittedly lots of receptions but who could not block, would not block, would not go over the middle for difficult receptions, who had little concept of team play while often refusing to finish patterns or plays where they were not the focal point of the offense at that moment, have recently been voted into the Hall Of Fame. “Well, yeah, look at all the passes they caught.” Try to counter that with “Look at all of the critical plays they did not make because they would not go into traffic, would not block, would not run out their patterns if not the primary receiver, and often failed to deliver in their most important games or against the best opponents.” Deaf ears and the attitude that “the game has passed you by” would be explanations of my failure to understand “the modern concepts of football” but I would take these as compliments.