Forgotten in the Crush of Statistics

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

One of the issues I have with the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process is that not enough worthy candidates are cycled through the room for discussion.

I tell players you’re not a Hall of Fame candidate until you become a finalist -- and there are only 15 of those every year. That’s the only time the full committee of 46 selectors gathers to discuss players worthy of Canton. If you’re never a finalist, you’re never a candidate.

Thus, some very worthy candidates have fallen through the cracks. There are 71 position players eligible for enshrinement who were NFL all-decade selections but do not yet have busts in Canton. Sixty-one of that 71 have never even been discussed as finalists. It should be noted that the all-decade teams are chosen by the Hall of Fame selection committee.

It seems to me if a player is recognized as one of the best at his position during his generation, he deserves some discussion from that same committee as to where he fits in the all-time pecking order. It doesn’t necessarily mean he belongs in Canton -- but he does deserve his 10 minutes of discussion from the full committee.

Of the 61 who have never been discussed, 56 are now in the senior pool. That means their 25 years of eligibility has expired. The senior sub-committee is allowed to nominate only two candidates per year. At that rate, it would take the next 28 years just to clear the queue of those all-decade performers. So most of these players and their chances at Canton have been lost forever.

Let me give you two examples of players who, sadly, fell through the cracks -- wide receivers Gary Collins and Boyd Dowler.

Both were NFL all-decade selections for the 1960s. Dowler, in fact, was one of six wideouts chosen to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team (also selected by the Hall of Fame selection committee). He’s the only one of the six without a bust in Canton. In fact, he’s the only one of the six never discussed as a finalist. Collins has never been discussed as a finalist, either.

Dowler played 12 seasons, Collins 10. Dowler played in six NFL title games and has five championship rings. Collins played in four NFL title games and has one championship ring. He set a NFL playoff record that day with three TD catches. Collins also was one of the NFL’s elite punters during that era, leading the league with an average of 46.7 yards per kick in 1965. It took 27 years before another NFL punter could average that many yards per kick. Dowler also punted on Green Bay’s championship teams of 1961-62.

Collins scored 70 touchdowns in his 331 career catches. When he retired after the 1971 season, only four receivers in NFL history had more TD catches. He averaged a touchdown every 4.7 catches. Jerry Rice, the greatest touchdown-maker of all, averaged a TD every 7.9 catches.

Collins never led the NFL in receiving and never had a 1,000-yard season but it was a different time, a different era then. When he retired, NFL offenses were throwing the ball an average of 24 times per game. Now they are throwing it 35 times per game. There are more games and more opportunities now for catches, yards and touchdowns as well. In Collins’ final season, there was one 1,000-yard receiver in the NFL. Last season there were 24.

Collins averaged 16 yards per catch. Dowler averaged 15.3 yards. Dowler never led the league in receiving, either, nor did he have a 1,000-yard season. Their lack of statistics will make it difficult for either to be recognized in Canton because the parade into the room of the 1,000-catch receivers has already begun.

Both Collins and Dowler deserved to be discussed as Hall of Fame candidates at some point during the last four decades. The selection process failed them.

And that’s a shame.

Follow Rick Gosselin on Twitter at @RickGosselinDMN

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Gary Collins_01

Photo Courtesy of the Cleveland Browns

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