Saturday, February 5, 2011
Updated: February 6, 9:24 AM ET
Curtis Martin denied in Hall of Fame vote
By Rich Cimini
DALLAS -- Former New York Jets great Curtis Martin was snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night in his first year of eligibility, creating a poetic possibility -- a Martin-Bill Parcells induction in 2012.
Martin will be a leading candidate next year, and Parcells -- his first NFL coach -- will be back on the ballot after a 10-year hiatus. If they both make it -- in a sense, they would be competing against each other -- it would create an unusual scene in Canton because Martin has said he would ask Parcells to be his presenter at his ceremony.
Martin tweeted his thoughts Saturday night, saying, "I want to thank every member of the voting committee for considering me as a top 10 finalist this year. I think you guys pick (sic) a great class!"
The Jets' all-time leading rusher, and No. 4 in NFL history, was hoping to make it on the first ballot. Prior to this year, only 65 of 270 Hall of Famers were enshrined on the first try. Martin made the first cut, from 15 finalists to 10, but he didn't survive the cut to five.
The inductees are Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, NFL films founder Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe. The committee elected the maximum number of modern-era candidates, with Sanders and Faulk making it in their first year.
Senior candidates Chris Hanburger and Les Richter also were inducted. The results were announced on live television by the NFL Network.
Martin was happy for the newest inductees, tweeting, "Maybe next year ... I truly believe those guys who made it deserve it. I enjoyed the process."
The 44-member committee, which met for seven hours, 27 minutes at a Dallas hotel, opted to elect only one running back -- Faulk. At least Martin got further than his other running-back competition, Jerome Bettis, who was eliminated on the first cut. Next year, former Giant Tiki Barber will be eligible for the first time.
Parcells was on the ballot in 2001 and 2002, between coaching jobs with the Jets and Dallas Cowboys, but he didn't receive enough support because voters feared he would return to coaching. And they were right. At the time, coaches were eligible as soon as they retired. Not anymore. Because of Parcells, the rule was changed. Now coaches must wait at least five years, just like players.
Parcells, who coached Martin with the Jets and New England Patriots, lobbied publicly for the player he called "Boy Wonder," claiming Martin's Hall-of-Fame credentials are "indisputable."
Martin, who played from 1995 to 2005, rushed for 14,101 yards in 11 seasons. Only Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton have produced more on the ground. Martin and Sanders are the only players in history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of their first 10 seasons.
It's an impressive résumé but some voters felt Martin wasn't spectacular -- at least not with respect to warranting a first-time induction. He averaged only 4.0 yards per carry for his career, but Martin's greatness was his consistency and durability. He and Bettis became the first top-10 rushers not to make it to Canton in their first year of eligibility.
Martin, speaking earlier in the week, said he was excited by the prospect of making it on his first try. But he also recognized there was a chance he'd get passed over.
"I'm totally prepared for that," he said. "I'm the type of guy that takes things as they come. For me, it's been an honor. I don't say this modestly or anything, but it's been such an honor for me to accomplish what I accomplished in the NFL. Nothing will take that away from me or that joy of being able to play the years I have and accomplish what I have. Nothing will take that away."
Martin would've joined Joe Namath, Don Maynard and Weeb Ewbank as the only "homegrown" Jets in Canton. Hall of Famers John Riggins, Ronnie Lott and Art Monk also played for the Jets, but they forged their identities elsewhere.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.