What qualifications are required in order for a player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Is it stellar play on the field? Or high character off the field? Or both? Does an inductee need to have at least one super bowl ring on his finger, or can someone get in without tasting victory on the biggest stage of professional football? Well there is actually quite a process that potential inductees go through. Let’s take a look at some examples that could shed some light on how or why certain players get in and other get the snide every year.
There are players that have been excellent on the field, but haven’t had the best off-field record, and yet they make it into the Hall of Fame without reservation. Two big names that are perfect examples are Lawrence Taylor and our own Michael Irvin. Both players were the best at their positions while playing, yet there were serious character issues that will always follow them as an aster-ix on an otherwise exceptional professional football career. Irvin has been able to put some of his demons in the past and move on, while Taylor is still paying for his to this day. What I’m getting at is both players are enshrined in the Canton and have that immortality surrounding that honor without having a squeaky-clean off-the-field record.
There are also players that have played at extremely high levels and have never won a championship in the NFL, yet they are enshrined in Canton. Players like Barry Sanders and Dan Marino are two prime examples. Each player was the best at their position during their careers and neither one was able to get over the hump and win the big one. Marino, until recently, held almost all the records a quarterback could, and his place in the hall was set long before he was eligible for consideration. And who knows what kind of records Sanders could have had, had he not retired so early.
These are all prime examples of imperfect people, on and off the field, that have made it into the Hall of Fame. So why can’t Charles Haley find his way in? We all know or have heard some of the stories of the way he acted off the field. He was odd, intimidated teammates, was reclusive at times, and otherwise a difficult player to be around if he wasn’t taking his medication. Very little of that mattered on the field. Haley was as fierce of a competitor as there ever was. He played hard on every down and never gave up a play. He was the one piece the Dallas Cowboys lacked in the early 90’s, and when he came over after the 91 season, it seemed like he was the missing piece to the super bowl puzzle. Troy Aikman even saw the impact Haley made and how important he was to success of the championship teams in the 90’s. Take a look at what he had to say.
In 1991, the Cowboys had allowed 310 points to finish 17th in the league in defense. After Haley showed up in 1992, the Cowboys were 5th in defense and allowed only 243 points for the season.The only change to the defensive starting roster was Haley. He brought a championship attitude. A guy who had two rings in San Francisco was still hungry for more. His strength and leadership made the defense dominant enough for the Cowboys to win Super Bowl XXVII. A year later they won it all again. Oh ya and if you were keeping track, two years later the Cowboys were top dog for the third time in four years.
After being an intrical part of the Cowboys championship run in the 90’s, and winning two super bowls with the 49ers prior to arriving in Dallas, Haley has accumulated five super bowl rings. How many other people have done that? Zero. This, combined with how important Haley was to the success of the Cowboys during the 90’s, is more than enough push for him to be in the hall of fame. And yet he is still on the outside looking in. I pose the question, on what grounds? Because he was disruptive? Mean? A nut-job? These things don’t sound like detriments, they sound like stellar traits needed to be one of the most feared defenders in the game. In order to play professional football, and especially defense, you have to be mean, nasty, and demented. It’s the mind set required in order to excel at inflicting pain and causing chaos. If these traits are going to continually keep Haley out of the hall, then we should probable not let anymore defensive players in ever again, because they may not show it like Haley did, but they all have it.
I’m sure Haley will eventually make it into the Hall of Fame. I don’t think he should have been passed over as many times as he has, so I’m making my case early in hopes that next year Haley can finally make his way into the Hall where he belongs.