Hall of Fame day in the NFC East


DALLAS -- I've heard former Cowboys director of scouting Larry Lacewell tell the story many times, and it never gets old. Lacewell, a former college head coach, was still relatively new to the scouting process. Someone had placed a note on his desk that a ferocious but troubled defensive end for the 49ers named Charles Haley might be available via trade.

"That note sat on my desk for a day or two and then Jerry [Jones] came walking in my office," Lacewell told me a couple of years ago. "When he saw Haley's name, he nearly dove over my desk to grab the note."

Jones knew he had the makings of a dynasty with The Triplets already in place, but there was something missing. The Cowboys pulled off that trade for Haley and he became a major contributor on a team that won the Super Bowl three of the next four seasons. Haley, who is one of 17 candidates to be voted on for the Hall of Fame today, didn't have much use for the media back then. And half the time, he wasn't particularly kind to his teammates. But he was one of the best closers in the game when it came to taking down quarterbacks. He knew he intimidated pretty much everyone in his path, but he had immense respect for Jimmy Johnson. Haley had bought his ticket out of San Francisco because of bizarre behavior. There's no telling what may have happened if players such as Ronnie Lott weren't there to hold him back when he lost his temper.

Haley has now admitted to struggling with bipolar disorder, but he appears to be as healthy and happy as ever these days. He opened up to a reporter from the Dallas Morning News last year and he's appeared on local radio in recent weeks. I think being in the Hall of Fame would mean the world to him, but it's not what defines him.

"Jerry said, 'We couldn't spell Super Bowl without Charles Haley.' I would agree with that," Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman said per ESPNDallas.com. "I don't think we do anything even close to what we accomplished without him.

"I am surprised that he has not been voted into the Hall of Fame at this time, because he was an integral part of all five of those world championships he was a part of. He wasn't just on the roster or a role player. He was a major reason why."

Haley had an impressive 100.5 sacks, but it's the five Super Bowl rings that define his playing career. Voters aren't allowed to judge players on their boorish behavior. It should come down to the impact they had on the field. Even Jerry Rice admits that San Francisco probably lost out on another Super Bowl title or two because of the Haley trade.

Jones spent some time this week talking about the huge financial commitment he made to Deion Sanders, but it was acquisition of Haley that opened the door to those three titles. Sanders is a no-brainer to be elected into the Hall today.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger. I'll be back later with some Hanburger and Sanders talk, but I wanted to focus on Haley for now.