This question came about during the discussion around Mile High Report’s push to get Terrell Davis into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Is it guys who have long illustrious careers, or players who burst onto the scene and bring championships with them?
The NFL is all about Super Bowls, but winning a championship is the hardest thing to do. If you look at the debate around quarterbacks, it is obvious how important winning is. Dan Marino retired owning all the records, and is considered by many to be the greatest passer in NFL history. However, he falls out of favor for greatest quarterback with many historians because he never won a Super Bowl.
But the quarterback position is different. The guy who touches the ball on every play gets too much credit at times, and too much blame as well. Players like Marino and Jim Kelly may not have won a Super Bowl, but they were certainly Hall of Famers.
However, there has to be some cases that it matters. There must be situations that supersede this notion of longevity. Players who have burnt fast but hot, like Earl Campbell and Gayle Sayers, are also huge pieces of the NFL puzzle. Their contributions to the history of the league have been documented as more than enough to put them into the Hall of Fame. They never won championships, so what are the criteria, then?
Standing at the precipice of the next hall of fame class, MHR has embarked on a mission to get Terrell Davis into the hall of fame. As Ian St. Clair and I discussed on the MHR Radio podcast, his candidacy sparked the question of what is more important. There are ways to twist stats to the will of the Hall. Number of 100 yard games, or number of Super Bowls, touchdowns in a season, or 2000 yards. All of these stats can be molded and shaped to put a guy into the Hall, or keep him out.
Number of years played can be a part of the requirement, but it seems to fade as an issue for some, while being a major boost for others. The comparisons, and the debates they spark, are why sports have such enthusiasm behind them. They drive the passion of fans, who put their heart and soul into every argument.
This year, the voters will make a major statement about what they believe is most important in a candidate. If they choose not to put in Davis, they ignore championships as a deciding factor. But then how could they explain players like Sayers and Campbell? If they put in Kurt Warner, but leave Davis out, what statement in being made?
Football is a sport where no one man can truly win all on his own. Therefore, the story of the NFL must include players who have been able to have long productive careers, AND players who have come in and impacted the game in a short amount of time. Without both you have neither.
That is why Terrell Davis, like Gayle Sayers, should be in the Hall of Fame.