Here is my problem with electing Ray Guy to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
How can you vote to enshrine to send arguably the greatest punter of all-time to Canton, Ohio when Ken Stabler isn’t there?
Or Cliff Branch.
Or Lester Hayes.
Or Jim Plunkett.
See where I’m going with this?
It’s not that punters aren’t football players. They are, or they wouldn’t be in uniform every Sunday. It’s just that the way the voting is set up, it makes it virtually impossible to vote for a punter when position players are backlogged and waiting to get in.
You don’t have to sell me on Guy’s skills as a punter. Back in the early 1970s, my dad got the opportunity to buy two Raiders season tickets when they were tough to get. On Sept. 23, 1973, with the A’s in the postseason, the Raiders played at Cal against the Miami Dolphins, who entered with an 18-game winning streak and were coming off an unbeaten season.
The Raiders won 12-7 on four George Blanda field goals, but what I remember most of all was sitting near the top rim of Memorial Stadium and seeing punts higher than eye level.
I don’t remember what Guy’s stats were that day and it doesn’t much matter. Stats are misleading where Guy is concerned anyway. The Raiders were an elite team, so it’s not as if Guy was always punting from deep in his own territory. That his career average was 42.4 is remarkable considering the quality of teams he played on.
Colleague Bill Soliday, who saw every game Guy ever played, is famous for breaking out the stopwatch and clocking hang time. Guy still has the most hang-time of anyone he has ever clocked _ 5.3 seconds.
I talked to the late Hank Stram once for a story on Guy and while he was complimentary, he made it clear he thought his own punter, Kansas City’s Jerrell Wilson, was equal or superior.
Soliday tells me they were close, but Guy was better. I defer to Bill on all punting issues.
But let’s face it, as good as Guy was, the Raiders weren’t a great team because of their punter. To say he won them two games a year is probably excessive.
Take Guy out of the picture and Stabler goes a few yards more to pull out the game. What Guy did that day against Miami at Cal was light years behind I saw Stabler do the following season in the “Sea of Hands” game against the Dolphins in the playoffs.
(Best choice I ever made. Going into the playoffs, my dad told me I could pick which playoff game to attend, and my sister would get the other one. I took Miami, of course, because the Dolphins were the defending champions and reasoning that if the Raiders lost, I’d go to one game and she wouldn’t get any. As it turned out, I went to one of the best playoff games ever and she watched the Raiders get slammed by the Steelers the following week).
Davis made one of his most brilliant draft picks when he took Guy in the first round of the 1972 draft, because the Raiders were so loaded with talent in those days a punter was just about all they needed.
But if you asked John Madden before most any game, “You can have Stabler or Guy,” or, “Art Shell or Guy,” or “Branch or Guy,” and you know what his answer would have been.
As much as I like Stabler, Davis does more stumping for Jim Plunkett, who won two Super Bowls as opposed to one for Stabler.
The selection process simply makes it impossible to reconcile putting a punter in over either Stabler or Plunkett.
Kicker Jan Stenerud made the Hall of Fame, but it’s going to be difficult for any other specialist to sneak in. What the Hall needs is a separate process for selecting a specialist. Maybe you don’t do it every year, to keep it as exclusive as possible. Or you pick no more than one and make the mandatory percentage so high that in some years there aren’t any.
As painful as it is for Raiders fans, the specialists wing ought to have an endless loop of Adam Vinatieri’s 45-yard field goal field goal in a snowstorm.
They’ve got areas in the Hall of Fame for announcers, and, God forbid, sports writers. And a punter can’t make it?
It isn’t that Guy isn’t worthy. It’s that the system is flawed.
More Hall of Fame snap judgements:
— It’s only going to get tougher for Guy in coming years. Next year alone, Rod Woodson and Bruce Smith are virtually slam-dunk selections, and it’s hard to imagine Cris Carter not getting in.
— If Carter doesn’t make it on the first ballot, I’d be surprised if Tim Brown did when his turn comes up. There’s a feeling out there that Brown was like a high scoring guard on a bad basketball team. Somebody is going to score points, and going for 25 in a one-sided loss doesn’t make you an all-time great.
My own feeling? Brown’s early success as a return specialist will help him and he’ll be in the conversation. But if Branch isn’t in, I have hard time seeing Brown in Canton.
— Don’t even get me started on Lynn Swann, who wasn’t in Branch’s league but made it courtesy of NFL Films and his juggling mid-field Super Bowl catch against Dallas.
But it is exactly that sort of play which Brown doesn’t have on his resume _ a signature moment or game which separated him from everyone else. I’ve heard the argument from a selector or two that he is a package of statistics who never did anything truly extraordinary.
— Woodson was already going to be a Hall of Famer before he ever got to Oakland, but I’ve got no problem with featuring him in the media guide as a Raider in the Hall of Fame because he might have been the second-most important player behind Rich Gannon to the club’s last AFC championship.
Woodson’s 97-yard interception return against Denver on Gannon’s near-perfect Monday night turned the entire season around.
— Leave it to Woodson, to one of the classier guys you’ll ever meet, to add a dose of perspective to the life-and-death NFL Network coverage of the Hall selection. It’s as if those who didn’t make it were scarred forever.
“As a player, you have to take this with a grain of salt,” Woodson said. “There are worse things than not making the Hall of Fame. At the end of the day, if you have your health and your family, that’s all that matters.”
— If former Vikings guard Randall McDaniel is still hanging around with 12 Pro Bowl selections, and Miami’s Bob Kuchenberg is still waiting, don’t look for Steve Wisniewski to get much run when eligible.
As selectors are fond of saying, Wiz would fall into the category of the “Hall of Very Good,” but not necessarily the Hall of Fame.
On a Roll
Brian Roll takes over as the Raiders strength and conditioning coach for Jeff Fish, who accepted a job with the Atlanta Falcons.
His resume looks impressive enough, but can he throw a pass? Fish was threw one of the nicest balls on the team and often worked with defensive backs during training camp drills.
The Chad campaign
Disgruntled wide receiver Chad Johnson, according to Pro Football Talk.com, made a pitch on Jim Rome’s ESPN television show to be dealt to the Raiders.
Heck of a talent, but do the Raiders want to go down this road so soon after Randy Moss?
Johnson is under contract through 2010 and is scheduled to make $3 million this season, $4.5 million in 2008, $6 million through 2009 and $5 million in 2010.
Is it just me, or can’t you just see Johnson looking for bigger money before that deal is up?
Haggling with Davis in public over money is never a good idea.