EW YORK -- N Smart NFL personnel men prioritize the positions they need to fill with great talent in order to win championships. You need a quarterback because, well, must I explain that one? You need a left tackle to protect the QB’s blind side, pass rushers to attack quarterbacks, receivers to give the passing game wings and cornerbacks to clip those wings.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame seemed to take a cue from the best personnel men Saturday as 46 selectors voted in two all-time great pass rushing defensive ends, a shutdown cornerback, a great wide receiver who played in four Super Bowls and a great left tackle.
And if that wasn’t enough, selectors also elected an outside linebacker who was arguably the most complete defensive player of his day and the man who pioneered punting.
Welcome to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, defensive end Michael Strahan, linebacker Derrick Brooks, left tackle Walter Jones, receiver Andre Reed and cornerback Aeneas Williams.
Take your place in NFL history, punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey.
So why these men and not others such as running back Jerome Bettis, defensive end and linebacker Charles Haley, guard Will Shields, linebacker Kevin Greene and receiver Marvin Harrison — all of whom made it to the final 10 but were eliminated in the cut to five?
Consider that Jones was the player former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren called the best player he ever coached. And Holmgren coached Brett Favre and Cortez Kennedy.
Consider that Strahan forced Philadelphia coach Andy Reid to often change his blocking scheme for games against the Giants. Strahan had 306 quarterback knockdowns (best in his time) and averaged more than 13 sacks per year during his prime — more than Reggie White or Bruce Smith in their best days.
“To be inducted with the class I’m inducted in, guys that I admired when I played against them, guys I admired when I watched them, even though they’re from a different era. They’re guys of high character,” Strahan said. “That’s all you can ask for, to be with a group like that, and I’m honored to be with this group.”
Consider that Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham said he stopped watching football after his retirement, but “I watched Derrick Brooks.”
That play when Brooks caught a young Michael Vick from behind in the playoffs and that interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl are etched in my memory.
Reed was a tormentor of the Dolphins. And yes, that 1990 playoff game when he forced the Dolphins to bench Louis Oliver came up in the conversation while his candidacy was debated.
But Reed’s 951 career receptions for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns proved the receiver hurt more teams than just the Dolphins.
He was the most complete cornerback of his day. He covered as well as Hall of Famers Deion Sanders or Darrell Green. And his run support from his position had no equal.
Williams had more career interceptions than Sanders or Green, and when he got in the playoffs he picked off six passes in six postseason games.
The Senior Committee inductees were vetted for years by selectors before being brought back for another round.
And although no punter was ever voted to the Hall before Saturday, the idea of voting in the punter who basically invented hang time helped Guy get in after waiting 23 years.
“Good things are worth waiting for,” Guy said. “It’s just a matter of time when it will show up. And I knew it would, sooner or later. It had to, whether it was me or somebody down the road. But sooner or later, it had to show up, because that is a part of a football game.”
Humphrey was considered a premier pass rusher of the 1970s and early ’80s. He collected 122 career sacks, although sacks were not an official NFL statistic until after he retired. NFL people of his time, including coach Dick Vermeil, compared him with Deacon Jones. He was also the reason the chip block was created.
Good enough for me.
This was my first time in the room of selectors, joining 45 esteemed media members from across the country. The only reason I was there is because former Miami Herald sports editor Edwin Pope, the longtime South Florida representative, is not attending Super Bowl 48, breaking his streak of attending every one of those games.
The selector’s room is lessened without Pope’s great institutional knowledge of the NFL and the Dolphins — not to mention his no-nonsense approach to everything. But he and the Dolphins recommended me to represent the region and the Hall graciously accepted me as alternate before making a final decision on a permanent South Florida representative next year.
As I neither yelled any obscenities, nor fell asleep, nor got into an argument with new Pro Football HOF president and CEO David Baker — an unwise move anyway since he’s a mountain of a man who made a couple of references to his 400 pounds during Saturday’s debate — I’m hopeful I’ll return to that room of selectors in the future.
Several of the finalists that didn’t make it this year will definitely be back again.