Winners and losers from 2016 Hall of Fame vote

By Michael Dixon
Sep 14, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While we’re still a day away from crowning a champion in Super Bowl 50, one of the biggest parts of Hall of Fame weekend — the Hall of Fame class — is now official.

So, who are the biggest winners and losers of that vote?

Winner: Tony Dungy

It could certainly be said that anyone who made the Hall of Fame is a winner, but Tony Dungy really tops the list. Quite frankly, his record and historical achievement of being the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl probably makes him a Hall of Famer, just not this soon after his retirement.

As a coach, the closest comparison that Dungy draws is John Madden. Both men have fine records (139-69 for Dungy, 103-32-7 for Madden), but while each has a Super Bowl win, both men have mediocre postseason marks (9-10 for Dungy, 9-7 for Madden). In four of Dungy’s playoff defeats, his teams were kept out of the end zone. Two of those four (including a shutout) came with Peyton Manning as the quarterback.

Madden, who last coached an NFL game in 1978, was inducted to the Hall of Fame 28 years later in 2006. Dungy last coached in 2008, but only had to wait eight years to 2016. Madden was also an iconic announcers and lent his name to a hugely influential video game.

Dungy should be in the Hall of Fame at some point. This is just too soon.

Loser: Don Coryell

Dungy is too soon, especially when we consider that Don Coryell is still not in. Granted, record alone, it’s hard to be critical of Dungy’s inclusion while saying that Coryell belongs in the Hall of Fame. But record isn’t the only thing in play here.

The “Air Coryell” attack that the San Diego Chargers ran was evolutionary. Prior to that, the best NFL teams tended to be run dominant. Under Coryell, the Chargers completely changed the game. Dan Fouts set the single-season passing record in three consecutive seasons.

Now, if that offense had simply gone into obscurity after the retirement of Coryell, it would easy to just dismiss it as a “gimmick offense” and the Chargers lack of postseason success would easily exclude him from the Hall of Fame. But a quick look at Air Coryell’s Wikipedia page shows how many teams adopted it.

Four Super Bowl champs (1999 St. Louis Rams, 2006 Indianapolis Colts, 2009 New Orleans Saints, and 2012 Baltimore Ravens) and a slew of contenders have used this offense. It might be hard to include a coach that never won or even coached in a Super Bowl in the Hall of fame, but Don Coryell’s contributions to the future of the game make him deserving of the honor.

Winner: Ken Stabler

It’s hard to not look at the exclusion of Ken Stabler for all these years and not think about an East Coast bias with the voters. The Raiders relied heavily on the vertical passing game, and their quarterback was Ken Stabler. If they were a consistent cellar dweller during his career, keeping Stabler out would be easy, but they weren’t.

The Raiders played in five straight AFC Championship Games with Stabler as the quarterback, winning one Super Bowl. They were consistently one of the best teams in the NFL, and Stabler was a big reason for it.

It would have been nice if the voters could have found a way to include Stabler while he was alive, but we can’t do anything about that now. At least they finally got it right.

Loser: Terrell Owens

For his career, Marvin Harrison caught 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards (13.2 yards per reception) and 128 touchdowns. Terrell Owens caught 1,078 passes for 15,934 yards (14.8 yards per reception) and 153 touchdowns.

Harrison also caught the overwhelming majority of those passes from a sure Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning. Owens did begin his career with Steve Young but unless you’re really generous with Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo, didn’t have any other Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks throwing passes to him.

The voters can say whatever they want but really, it’s hard to see this coming down to anything other them liking Harrison more than Owens.

One thing that does need to be said. This is Harrison’s third year of eligibility, while it’s Owens’ first. That does make this decision a little more sensible, but not much. That’s the kind of leeway that should be given to someone who’s missed out on a Hall of Fame vote for years and may not make it another year. That’s not the case with Harrison.

Realistically, both men are Hall of Fame receivers. But if you’re looking at the careers of Harrison and Owens and can only vote one in the Hall of Fame, it should be Owens. He was the better, more dominant receiver.

Winner: Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

This really should have happened long ago. As a point of reference, Art Rooney was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964, well before his Pittsburgh Steelers had ever done anything meaningful on the football field. It’s true that Rooney was an early NFL pioneer, but DeBartolo oversaw an unprecedented run of success with the San Francisco 49ers.

Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have more Super Bowl wins (six) than the 49ers, who are tied with the Dallas Cowboys at five. The Steelers won their six from 1974-2008. The Cowboys won their five from 1971-1995. The 49ers five came in a much shorter window, winning their first in 1981 and their most recent in 1994. That all came with DeBartolo as the owner.

Under DeBartolo, the 49ers also transitioned nearly seamlessly from Bill Walsh to George Seifert at coach, and from Joe Montana to Steve Young at quarterback. Even with highly talented people, that’s not that easy to do, and it speaks to great ownership.

DeBartolo had his flaws, without any doubt, and those contributed to his exit from the NFL. But the on field brilliance of his teams makes him a Hall of Fame owner. It’s good to see that the voters finally got this one right.

Loser: Morten Andersen

Yet another place where the voters have dropped the ball. Jan Stenerud is the only pure placekicker in the Hall of Fame, as George Blanda and Lou Groza each played other positions.

This is a problem. The game has become far too specialized to not reward the greatest players ever at specific positions. If most kickers still played elsewhere, excluding a specialist like Morten Andersen, who was only a kicker, would make more sense. But that’s not the case, and hasn’t been for quite some time.

No kicker has made more field goals than Morten Andersen. No player has scored more points. Specialization is too much a part of the game to be stingy with these players. It’s time to start honoring the best specialists ever. Morten Andersen falls into that window.

Winner: Kevin Greene

Since sacks became an official NFL stat, only Bruce Smith and Reggie White have recorded more than Greene, who retired in 1999 with 160.

It’s a little hard to see what the voters were thinking about with Greene’s constant omissions. Prior to the 2016 vote, Greene was one of only four of the NFL’s top-10 sack leaders to not be in the Hall of Fame. The other three were Julius Peppers and Jared Allen (both active) and Jason Taylor (retired in 2011, not yet eligible). Greene has been retired since 1999.

It took too long, but it’s good to see him included.

Loser: Kurt Warner

Admittedly, Kurt Warner didn’t have a terribly long career. But given how dominant he was, it was long enough for him to be included.

Warner won two MVP awards (1999, 2001). A very solid case could be made that the Rams offense during that time was the greatest in NFL history.

Two of Warner’s Rams teams and one of his Cardinals teams reached the Super Bowl. While his record was 1-2, it’d be hard to blame Warner’s performance for that. His three Super Bowl performances are the highest three single-game yardage totals in the game’s history. All of those games were decided in the final seconds, so there were no garbage time, stat padding completions.

This would change with a Denver Broncos’ win (or even close loss) in Super Bowl 50, but no quarterback has come closer to winning a Super Bowl with two different teams as Warner. Craig Morton started for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, but lost both. Peyton Manning won with the Indianapolis Colts and started with the Broncos, but lost big. If Super Bowl XLIII was a 59 minute game, the Cardinals would have won.

Warner belongs in the Hall of Fame.