NFC North: Hall of Fame

DALLAS -- The Pro Football Hall of Fame voting committee will gather here Saturday morning to determine the class of 2011. Three players with significant NFC North ties are finalists: Receiver Cris Carter, defensive end Richard Dent and defensive end Chris Doleman.

Handicapping their chances for enshrinement requires the acknowledgment that two other finalists, cornerback Deion Sanders and running back Marshall Faulk, are widely considered to be locks for election. That leaves 13 men competing for three spots, and a tremendous campaign is under way to push NFL Films founder Ed Sabol into one of those positions.

Regardless of the politics involved, let's stay in our lane (for now) and consider our neck of the woods. The announcement is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

Carter
Carter
Cris Carter
Key qualification:
When he retired after the 2002 season, he ranked second on the NFL's all-time list of receptions (1,101) and touchdowns (130).
Working against him: Receivers historically have a tougher time than at other positions. There are currently 21 receivers in the Hall of Fame, fewer than running backs (27), quarterbacks (23), offensive linemen (35) and defensive linemen (28). I refuse to believe that Carter's at-times caustic personality has impacted anyone's view of his on-field performance. But you never know for sure. Carter also will be competing with fellow receiver Tim Brown on this ballot.

Dent
Dent
Richard Dent
Key qualification: When he retired after the 1995 season, his 137.5 sacks ranked third all-time in the NFL, thanks in part to a run of five consecutive seasons with 10 or more sacks.
Working against him: There is nothing from a statistical standpoint to argue for Dent's continued exclusion. But for whatever reason, he has been passed over by other 100-sack players like Fred Dean, Bruce Smith and John Randle in recent years. This year, he is competing against two others in Doleman and Charles Haley. Sometimes players get lost in the maze. In the end, you hope that voters decide Dent has waited long enough.

Doleman
Doleman
Chris Doleman
Key qualification: You might not realize it, but Doleman's 150 career sacks rank fourth all-time in the NFL. Only Smith, Reggie White and Kevin Greene had more.
Working against him: He's competing with two other high-sack players in Dent and Haley who have more ballot tenure. Also, Greene's exclusion demonstrates that voters don't always reward sack totals in a vacuum.
As you move past Super Bowl XLIV, let’s circle back on another event that occurred in South Florida over the weekend: The election of Dick LeBeau to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

LeBeau
For coverage purposes, I considered LeBeau’s honor to be AFC North property after his long and distinguished career as a coach in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Many of you disagreed, noting LeBeau’s credentials as a cornerback in Detroit from 1959-72.

JohnWayne506th was particularly adamant. Expletives were deleted:

Come on Kevin!!! …The Lions get a HOF'er in and you just let the AFC North guy take him??? He was a DC there but he played his career here getting 62 INTS, which if I remember right was 2nd place when he retired. … This is the NFCN blog and he was an NFCN player. Now go get it back!!!

You’re right, John, LeBeau’s 62 interceptions did in fact rank second all-time in the NFL when he retired. He still ranks eighth, as you see in the chart accompanying this post. During the meat of his career, from 1960-71, no NFL player had more interceptions.

So while I make my way back to NFC North headquarters, let me know what you think: Was LeBeau a Hall of Fame player independent of his success as a coach?

In other words: Would he have made the Hall of Fame if he had never gone into coaching? Assuming Detroit readers are ready to drop their boycott, I’ll post a representative sample of your responses -- along with my own take -- later this week. Have at it.

HOF: McDaniel stunned, humbled

January, 31, 2009
1/31/09
3:54
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Randall McDaniel didn't travel to Tampa, Fla., this weekend in anticipation of Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame vote. He couldn't.

 
  Manny Rubio-US PRESSWIRE
  Randall McDaniel was voted to the Pro Bowl 12 times during his 14-season NFL career.

McDaniel works as a teaching assistant at a public elementary school in suburban Minneapolis. Friday was a school day, and so is Monday. Saturday was forecast to be a beautiful day by Minnesota standards. (It is. As I type this, it's a balmy 41 degrees outside.) That schedule made a trip halfway across the country a bit excessive by McDaniel's standards.

But that's McDaniel in a nutshell. He is one of the greatest guards in NFL history, one whose athleticism might never be exceeded. Yet he kept a low public profile as a player, rarely agreeing to interviews even as he racked up Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl, and since retirement has settled into an everyman's life as a teacher, father and citizen.

(How regular of a guy is he? As he spoke on a conference call Saturday, a phone near him -- possibly his cell -- started ringing. The ring tone? The theme from the television show "Sanford and Son.")

McDaniel knew he was a finalist but was completely convinced he would be eliminated from contention on Saturday.

"I'm still in a little bit of shock and very humbled," he said. "I never thought this would happen, for some reason."

He's got another 36 hours or so to get over it. School starts back on Monday.

Eric Allen and Qadry Ismail analyze the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

We'll have more on the NFC North's newest Hall of Fame member, Minnesota guard Randall McDaniel, a bit later. For now, let's have a few words on another snub for former Vikings receiver Cris Carter.

 
  AP Photo/Michael Conroy
  Cris Carter amassed 13,899 receiving yards during his career, but will have to wait to be enshrined in Canton.

Carter was arguably the second-best receiver of his era, after San Francisco's Jerry Rice. But for the second consecutive year, 80 percent of the Hall of Fame voters didn't agree that he deserved to be immortalized in Canton, Ohio. Why? In my somewhat educated opinion, receivers seem to have a tough time in Hall voting because of the relatively few times they touch the ball during the course of a game.

A great year for a receiver is 96 catches. That's an average of six per game over a 16-game season. Six receptions account for about 8.5 percent of an average 70-play game. That means someone else is moving the ball the other 91.5 percent of the time.

That's not the fault of the receiver, but I think it accounts for some of the reluctance among voters when it comes to Carter. Washington's Art Monk waited a long time to be enshrined, and Buffalo receiver Andre Reed was again denied entrance on Saturday.

Carter did everything he could to maximize his production as a receiver, keeping himself in excellent physical shape and playing through enough nicks and bruises to appear in 220 of a possible 224 games during his 14-year ride with the Vikings. He is the only receiver to have two consecutive 120-catch seasons. Carter was as productive and reliable as any receiver in NFL history, and eventually he will find his way to Canton. Just not this year.

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