July 30, 2009
One of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's mission statements reads, "To honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to professional football."
That's it. That's the entirety of that statement. It doesn't say anything about the individual having to be a player, a commissioner, a general manager, an owner or a league executive. Just someone who has made an outstanding contribution to professional football.
So why wouldn't that leave room for assistant coaches? You don't have to be the head guy to make an impact on a football game, or on the game of football.
For example, say a guy is a defensive coordinator with a team for 10 years. Say, throughout that 10 years, he's consistently produced great defenses and great defensive players. Say he's an innovator, and he comes up with schemes that no one's run before. Say he goes on to be copied by defensive coordinators around the league, and thus, changes the way defense is played in the NFL.
Contributions to professional football don't get much more outstanding than that.
A monument to head coaches and not assistant coaches is an example of what the Hall of Fame should not be. It should not be the Hall of the Really Famous. It should not be the Hall of Guys Who Have Already Received Plenty of Media Praise. Any place calling itself a "Hall of Fame" needs to dig deeper.
It should be a place to honor those who have truly had an impact on professional football, whether or not they're a household name. Maybe you don't see coordinators names in the newspaper that often. You don't see the left guard's name that often, either. That doesn't mean either one of them aren't having an impact on the game.
That's what this reminds me of. To me, that's the same as saying, "Ah, the quarterback's the most important guy on the field, so we're only enshrining quarterbacks, and everyone else can go pick their noses."
Of course, it's not the Pro Football Hall of Fame's policy to exclude assistant coaches, but that's how things have worked out. Maybe the passing of longtime Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will be the springboard to change that.
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