The chances of an NFL player or head coach reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame are slim.
The odds for a “contributor” to the game like a general manager or assistant coach are even longer.
Joe Horrigan believes that will change at some point.
Horrigan, the Hall’s vice president of communications and exhibits, said Monday night that the entity’s governing body is well aware some worthy candidates are probably being denied entry because of the voting bylaws. Horrigan said the biggest hurdle to fixing the problem is finding “a way that’s best for the process without diminishing its importance or quality of the system.”
“I can’t tell you we’re real close to a solution, but as we do every year, we do discuss the possibility,” Horrigan told co-host Gil Brandt and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. ”We don’t want to have second-tier Hall of Famers in the sense someone snuck in the back door. That’s kind of the issue always.
“We continue to address it. Eventually, I think we’ll probably come up with some sort of a modification. I just don’t know what, though.”
Only two of the past 40 modern-era candidates inducted into the Hall since 2006 were classified as “contributors” – NFL Films founder Ed Sabol and Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. There was one head coach in Bill Parcells. The other 37 selections were players.
Although his nomination was predicated on coaching success, Parcells’ career scope extended into the “contributor” category much like with Class of 2006 senior-era inductee John Madden. Parcells has worked as a front-office executive and remains a television analyst, which is a role he initially began when taking a break from the coaching ranks in the early 1990s.
Two nominees who owned NFL teams – Eddie DeBartolo (San Francisco) and the late Art Modell (Baltimore/Cleveland) – were Class of 2013 finalists. Neither was elected.
“Obviously, there are more players than coaches (in the Hall) and more coaches and players than contributors,” Horrigan said. “There is no denying it is difficult when you get in a (voting) room and you’re looking at players, coaches and contributors on that final list. The most difficult thing is to find room. There are only five slots available each year for modern-era (candidates).
“There is a sentiment sometimes that the Hall of Fame is for players. We don’t really subscribe to that. We acknowledge it probably has happened where a player has knocked a contributor off the ballot simply because it’s a lot easier to look and say, ‘This player statistically did this.’ It is much more difficult to define and measure the HOF success or credentials of a contributor.”
One solution toward breaking the logjam of contributor candidates may be creating a category that is separate from the modern-era class. In 2006, the Hall introduced a senior category for two pre-1988 players or coaches annually that a selection committee believes should be worthy of reconsideration after not being elected during their initial eligibility period. If a senior finalist is denied induction again, he can no longer be considered in future voting.
Horrigan said some of the obstacles for a contributor category include “philosophical issues about whether it’s the right thing to do” and whether such a decision is even necessary.
For induction, a nominee must receive at least 80 percent of the votes from the Hall’s 46 selectors. Parcells, wide receiver Cris Carter, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, and offensive linemen Jon Ogden and Larry Allen are members of the Hall’s 2013 modern-era class. The 2013 senior selections are defensive lineman Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson.
The group will be inducted Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio as part of festivities celebrating the Hall’s 50-year anniversary. Horrigan said 110 of the 267 inductees have committed to return that weekend and will be participating in a public photo shoot Aug. 2 in front of the Hall. Horrigan believes this will be the largest assembly for a group of Hall of Fame players in any sport and has asked the Guinness Book of World Records to verify the fact.
The Hall of Fame weekend concludes Aug. 4 with the Miami Dolphins-Dallas Cowboys game that will open the NFL’s 2013 preseason schedule.
The Hall also will be unveiling massive renovations to its facility on June 1. HOF quarterback Joe Namath will participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
For more information on Hall activities, visit www.profootballhof.com.
Alex Marvez was a voter for four of the past five Hall of Fame classes.