Memo to Hall: Don't cut seniors

By Clark Judge

Hall of Fame Network

CANTON, Ohio -- Starting with the class of 2015, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will give contributors to the NFL their own category -- and that's good. It prevents them from competing with former players for spots in Canton. But while the Hall's intention is exemplary, its execution is not.

And that's because it comes at the expense of seniors.

According to the amendment adopted Friday, up to two contributors will be nominated every other year through 2019, and that's fine. What isn't is that every other year they would take the place of a seniors' candidate, and let me explain.

Up until now, two seniors are proposed with each class -- each nominated by a separate seniors' committee and voted on at the annual meeting of the Hall's board of selectors prior to the Super Bowl. This year's candidates were Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey, and both were elected. But under the new amendment, only one senior would be nominated every other year -- the years that two contributors are proposed -- and I know what you're thinking: So what? Well, so there's a bigger backlog of former players than there is of contributors.

"There are 73 all-decade selections through the 1980s not enshrined in Canton -- and 60 of them have never even been discussed as finalists," said the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin, a member of both the Hall's selection and seniors committee and co-host of the Talk of Fame Network. "The queue for deserving seniors is far, far deeper than the queue for deserving contributors. Reducing the numbers of seniors candidates is not the answer."

He's right. Take, for example, former Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer. He's a member of the league's 50th anniversary team and a five-time All-Pro, yet he's not in the Hall. Then there's former Minnesota center Mick Tingelhoff. He was a five-time All-Pro and one of the best ever at his position. He's not in the Hall, either. Or Kansas City safety Johnny Robinson, Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler, Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson, Rams' safety Eddie Meador or Baltimore linebacker Mike Curtis.

There's a glut of deserving former players waiting to get in, and the Hall's seniors committee does what it can to accommodate them. But its hands are tied. Only two can clear the queue each year, and that makes for hard decisions.

Except those decisions just got harder.

Now, only two can clear the queue every other year, and that reduces the chances of someone like, say, a Jerry Kramer of making it to Canton in the near future. Granted, the proposal is only for five years, but, nevertheless, in three of those years there will be only one seniors candidate -- and that's not right.

Look, I like the idea of a separate category for contributors. There should be one, and the Hall should start clearing the traffic jam. But not at the expense of seniors. There are far too many former players who need to be addressed first.