The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s contributor committee on Friday emerges with one nominee for the Class of 2018, and it’s a reasonably safe bet it won’t be Bucko Kilroy.
And that’s OK. There are plenty of worthy candidates, including former GMs Bobby Beathard and George Young, Cowboys’ personnel chief Gil Brandt and owners Robert Kraft and Pat Bowlen.
But Kilroy’s resume differs from the others in that he excelled on the field as a player as well as off the field as a scout and front-office executive. He played 13 seasons in the NFL, missing only one of 203 games because of injury, and was not only a three-time Pro Bowler but a member of the 1940s’ all-decade team.
Nice, huh? It gets better.
He then went into coaching and scouting, where he was instrumental in the drafting of Roger Staubach and was credited not only with playing a major role in the modern-day draft but in making the Super Bowl what it is today.
He would go on to become GM of the New England Patriots in the 1980s when they went to their first Super Bowl and, later, as head of the scouting department, would play a significant role in the drafting of players who led the Patriots to numerous Super Bowl wins. Kilroy not only dedicated his entire adult life to the NFL; he excelled at virtually everything he did.
Which brings me to a complaint I have with the Hall-of-Fame process. Candidates like Bucko Kilroy are only to be considered as players or as coaches or as contributors … and not as a combination of the three. So Kilroy is a Hall-of-Fame candidate either as a player or as a contributor. That he was outstanding at both shouldn’t … or can’t … matter to voters because they’re allowed to consider only one set of criteria.
So when Dick LeBeau, for instance, was a candidate in 2010 he had to be considered on his record as a player for the Detroit Lions. Forget that he devoted most of his life to the NFL and is one of the best defensive assistants in the history of the game. When he was considered by Hall-of-Fame voters, it was going to be either as a player or as a coach.
But not as both.
The same goes for John Madden. He was to be considered as a coach, period. Forget that he made enormous contributions as TV broadcaster and creator of the Madden video games. He was to be evaluated solely as a coach … though, let’s be honest: Voters had to be thinking of his post-coaching history when they voted.
And they should.
I understand it can complicate things by putting one guy in two places at the same time, but so what? If Dick LeBeau was an outstanding player AND an outstanding coach, why shouldn’t he be considered on the merits of both? And if Bucko Kilroy, say, was outstanding as a player and front-office executive, why can’t he be judged on his entire history?
Instead, we have LeBeau admitted to the Hall solely on the basis of his record as a defensive back with the Detroit Lions … which he should have been … but doesn’t his history as a coach the past 45 years strengthen that candidacy? The answer, of course, is yes. Someone who was that good at what he did for over 50 years in the NFL should be in Canton.
But that won’t help someone like Bucko Kilroy.
Maybe he gets into the Hall; maybe he doesn’t. All I know is that so often we’re told to “look at the body of work” when judging the accomplishments of individuals … except, that is, when it comes to a division of labor in the NFL. If you played, you’re judged on that alone by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you coached, you’re judged on that alone. And if you ran a team or scouted players or were an owner or personnel director, you’re judged on that alone.
But why can’t you be judged on your complete resume? Why can’t you be judged on “your body of work?” You could. And you should.