Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Forgotten

In a month that featured one of the best finishes in Super Bowl history, Roger Federer handed the title of best tennis player in the world over to Rafael Nadal during the Australian Open, Kobe Bryant set a record for points scored in the hallowed grounds of Madison Square Garden, and now March Madness is in full-swing. One sports story however, was put on the back-burner.

The 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced. Five players and one owner are now members of this 253-man fraternity.

There is no doubt that this year’s class is worthy of enshrinement, but the 44-person committee who votes on who gets in and who does not is forgetting about a humongous chunk of football history.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers were winning its league-leading sixth championship on Super Sunday, there was one man who was vital to the victory, who does not get the credit he deserves. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been involved in football either as a coach or player for 50 years.

LeBeau was a defensive back with the Detroit Lions for 14 seasons. During his tenure in Detroit LeBeau had to share the spotlight on defense with Hall of Famers “Night Train” Lane and Yale Lary.
When his career was all said and done LeBeau was a 3-time Pro Bowler, held the record for consecutive games played by a cornerback (171) and was tied for seventh on the all-time interceptions list with 62.
The players ahead of LeBeau on the list are Paul Krause, Emlen Tunnell, Rod Woodson, Lane and Ronnie Lott. All are Hall of Famers.
After retiring the 71-year old has spent the last 36 years coaching. During this time LeBeau has mastered the 3-4 defense and has won two Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator.

LeBeau is not the only person to feel like they are being left out of the hall. Former Cincinnati Bengal Ken Riley is fifth on the all-time interceptions list with 65.

Riley still holds numerous team records in Cincinnati, but because he was never voted to play in the Pro Bowl the committee seems to have forgotten his contribution to the league.
Former coaches Marty Schottenheimer and Dan Reeves are fifth (200) and seventh (190) on the all-time wins list respectfully.

Some people say that Schottenheimer’s teams underachieved. His teams won eight division titles and went to four AFC championship games, but Schottenheimer has never made it to the Super Bowl.
Reeves on the other hand took two teams to the Super Bowl (three times with the Broncos and once with the Falcons).

Others say poor showings by his teams in those games are what are keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. The committee seems to not even acknowledge his teams’ six division titles.
Wide receiver Henry Ellard is seventh all-time in receiving yards (13,777) and is in the top 20 in career receptions with 814. Due to the fact Ellard’s teams were not always that good, and he was in the league during the same period as wide receiver-great Jerry Rice; Ellard seems to be a forgotten diamond in the rough.

Kevin Greene is third all-time in career sacks with 160, but nobody mentions him for consideration into the Hall of Fame.
Greene was a five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996.

All of these people deserve to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. With each passing year the chances of that happening dwindles.

The 2010 class will most certainly include Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Tim Brown; thus decreasing the chances of the people mentioned that much more.

In a society that thrives on the question what have you done for me lately? These six players and coaches may not ever get his moment in the sun.

The selection committee is doing a disservice to the NFL by not giving these six people the most honored award in their profession.

It is injustice that these men are not enshrined in Canton because they are Hall of Famers in every sense of the word.