By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
When Pro Football Hall-of-Fame candidates are proposed for discussion each year, the Hall’s 46-member board of selectors are cautioned to consider the accomplishments … and behavior … of those players and coaches on the football field, and on the football field only. In other words, what happens off of it is kind of like what happens in Vegas.
It stays there.
But now we have the curious case of running back Adrian Peterson, and while he’s years away from Hall-of-Fame consideration, the question needs to be asked: Do those warnings pertain to him? I mean, there’s a year-long gap in his resume, and it’s pertinent for future selectors to ask what happened then.
But former Green Bay running back Paul Hornung missed a year, too, and, like Peterson, it was because of a suspension – only in Hornung’s case, it was for gambling. Nevertheless, he was elected into the Hall of Fame. Granted, it took him 12 times as a finalist before he crossed the finish line, but the point is: He made it.
If Adrian Peterson’s career were to end tomorrow, he’d be viewed as a potential Hall-of-Fame candidate. And that would lead to the question: Is his resume so solid that he could overcome a suspension and, like Hornung, graduate to the Hall of Fame?
The answer is yes, with the emphasis on could. That doesn't mean he makes it to Canton; it simply means that this week's travails -- at least in the eyes of most voters -- shouldn't damage his chances.
In an informal poll this week of the Hall’s selectors, virtually all said their opinions of Peterson would not change because of this week’s suspension. In effect, they indicated they could and would follow the Hall's instructions to consider a player or coach solely on his accomplishments on the field.
And Peterson’s accomplishments are considerable.
“It shouldn’t have any impact on his future candidacy,” said ESPN’s Jim Trotter. “The voting guidelines state that we are only to consider what a player did ON THE FIELD. If voters cannot follow these guidelines, they should step down and yield their spot to someone who can follow the guidelines.”
That feeling was reiterated by others, though one unnamed selector said he was conflicted; that where he thought of Peterson as an acceptable candidate before, he said, he changed his mind – and he changed it because of what happened this week and this season.
“(I know that’s) not supposed to have anything to do with induction,” he said, “but I don’t agree with that policy. I don’t think I’d vote for him.”
Said another: “I know what the guidelines say and, theoretically, that should not affect consideration. But we’re only human, and we react to what’s going on around us. I do think it will subject Peterson to even more scrutiny, no matter what transpires over the balance of his career.”
While they were the lone dissenters among a group of 12 respondents, two others admitted ambivalence toward Peterson’s candidacy. They insisted they had no trouble adhering to the Hall’s directive to focus solely on a player’s performance on the field but conceded they weren’t sure Peterson’s performance on the field was Hall-of-Fame worthy. And here's why: While he was the 2012 league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year -- a season where he ran for 2,097 yards -- he's not in the top 20 all-time leading rushers.
“Peterson would be a borderline Hall-of-Fame candidate,” one said. “Great numbers but in overall impact, how does he stack up against Jerome Bettis, say, or even Roger Craig or Terrell Davis, to name three guys in the current final 26? I think I probably would put him behind all three of them. The key for me is impact. He gained a lot of yards for bad teams. If we have seen the last of him ... which I think is unlikely … then I’d have a hard time voting for him.”
Others would not.
“No impact,” one said of this week’s news on Peterson’s Hall-of-Fame chances. I will judge Adrian Peterson by how he performed on the field. Absolutely a Hall of Famer. Not only is that per our instruction as selectors, but it is my own perspective.”