This is already somewhat out of the news cycle, so perhaps it will largely fall on deaf ears, but as we don’t have a ton of other things to cover in great detail right now, before the Combine even happens—and as we continue to churn out a high volume of draft profiles—it wouldn’t hurt to look back a bit.
Specifically let’s take a quick look back at the Hall of Fame voting from this past round, just a few weeks ago in advance of the Super Bowl. Of the 15 finalists for modern candidates, five of them were offensive linemen, among them former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca.
None of them made the top five. Instead, we saw three first-ballot players get in, and two positions get doubled up. Both Randy Moss and Terrell Owens made it in for the wide receiver position, the former being in his first year of eligibility. Both Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, each in their first year of eligibility, were voted in as inside linebackers. Safety Brian Dawkins was the fifth member of the modern candidates.
It’s almost somewhat impressive that five offensive linemen could make the list of 15 finalists with none of them actually making it to the top five that get in. It’s statistically unlikely, and it raised a number of eyebrows. But the offensive line is not an attention-grabbing position, so it didn’t draw the sort of controversy as Owens’ failure to make the Hall of Fame the year before.
Which is why Talk of Fame writer Clark Judge is wondering where the outrage is about the offensive line being overlooked. “Where’s the anger, outrage and disbelief for all the offensive linemen [Owens] and four other modern-era inductees to the Class of 2018 left behind?”, he wrote in an article a couple of weeks ago.
Aside from Faneca, the other four offensive linemen were Kevin Mawae, Steven Hutchinson, Tony Boselli, and Joe Jacoby. The latter is no longer eligible to enter the Hall of Fame as a modern-era candidate and would have to make it as a senior candidate in the future.
He points out that all five of the linemen were all-decade representatives, with three of them on the first-team All-Decade team, those being Faneca, Hutchinson, and Mawae. Only Edgerrin James and fullback Lorenzo Neal from the 2000 All-Decade team, among those eligible, are not already in the Hall of Fame.
“So why are we waiting, while others are rushed to the front of the line?”, he asked. “Numbers. We live in a Fantasy-Football era where numbers predominate [sic], and if you don’t believe me you weren’t listening to the Brian Dawkins’ presentation when it was pointed out he had 17 more career forced fumbles than Ray Lewis. If nothing else caught your attention, that would”.
While it’s true that this is not a new problem offensive linemen are facing, it is true that numbers are becoming even more important, and are being produced at a higher and higher volume, which means that they are going to be used even more as a tool to separate the Hall of Famers from the Hall of Very Goods. And there are still no universally accepted numbers to put to linemen.