Grimm, Haley deserve HOF entry

The list of 131 men eligible for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame features a couple of obvious choices (wide receiver Jerry Rice(notes) and running back Emmitt Smith), some debatable players (Cris Carter and Terrell Davis) and little-known folks (the late scout Frank “Bucko” Kilroy and coach Clark Shaughnessy, the man who invented the T-formation).

But a good look at the names reveals what should be one of the toughest years ever for voters. The large group will be reduced to 25 in late November and then to 15 in January. In addition to the final 15, senior committee nominees Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little will be among the men considered for the class of 2010. Under selection bylaws, the class can be anywhere from four to seven people.

With that in mind (and given that there are a lot of tough players to consider), here’s one man’s take on who should make it to the Hall:

Jerry Rice: He’s only the greatest player, regardless of position, in the history of the game. Enough said.

Emmitt Smith: He may not be the greatest running back in NFL history, but he’s the most accomplished – the all-time leader in rushing yardage.

Dick LeBeau: His performance as a player is the only thing that’s supposed to count, but that’s ridiculous. The man who perfected the vaunted Pittsburgh 3-4 should be there either as a player or coach. Consider both and it’s a lock.

Photo There’s strong sentiment for LeBeau to be inducted into the Hall.
(Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Shannon Sharpe: Three rings with two teams, eight Pro Bowls and four All-Pro selections. This has nothing to do with his candidacy, but he remains one of the best quotes in or around the game.

Russ Grimm: The great Washington Redskins offensive lines of the 1980s have been ignored for far too long. Grimm was the best of the bunch. Charles Haley: Some say the stats don’t quite measure up and the many stories of his odd behavior tarnish his image, but the point of the game is to win titles. Haley did that five times with two organizations. The late Bill Walsh called him the best pass rusher the San Francisco 49ers had during their title days. Former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson called Haley the key acquisition to elevate the Cowboys to three titles in four years. Those are great endorsements.

Eddie DeBartolo Jr.: This is probably never going to happen, but DeBartolo deserves a spot because he helped radically change the NFL in the Super Bowl era. He made the 49ers the first five-time Super Bowl winner, hired Walsh and oversaw a team that featured Rice, Haley, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Ronnie Lott, among others.

So there are the seven in what should be one of the longest selection meetings in the history of the process. As for the rest who should make the final 15 (not including Little, who is an automatic finalist with LeBeau):

Cris Carter: Carter expected to get in two years ago. With Rice there, he’s going to have to wait again.

Andre Reed: The sad part for Reed is that his numbers will continue to fade with each passing year (Tim Brown(notes) is also on the list of eligible receivers this year).

Dermontti Dawson: The best center of his time in the NFL. A stunning and graceful athlete despite his size.

John Randle: One of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles of all time. Insanely competitive.

Jimmy Johnson: Johnson has never gotten the appreciation he deserves because he burned out of the league so quickly, but he might be the greatest talent evaluator in NFL history. He won two titles as a coach and deserves credit for the third one Dallas won after he left.

Richard Dent: In all likelihood, he’s going to get in ahead of Haley. That’s not a tragedy because Dent was a great pass rusher, but it just doesn’t seem right.

Cortez Kennedy: Probably was a better all-around player than Randle, but that was forgotten because he played his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks.

Terrell Davis: Sadly, his injury-shortened career will keep him out of the Hall for awhile, if not permanently. However, Davis helped the Denver Broncos win back-to-back titles, won an MVP, a Super Bowl MVP and the first four years of his career are the best such run by a tailback in NFL history.

QUICK SLANTS

Burden of proof: The 49ers’ filing of tampering charges against the Jets regarding No. 10 overall pick Michael Crabtree(notes) is very interesting and has a number of executives from other teams excited about the idea that New York might get hammered. However, it’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen. First, about the only way the Jets will get in trouble is if GM Mike Tannenbaum or someone else put any information about a contract offer or other such instructions in writing via email. Phone calls won’t be enough. Also, while NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders will undoubtedly be interviewed by NFL security regarding his comments about how two teams had shown interest in trading for Crabtree after the NFL draft, it’s unlikely that anything Sanders said will be corroborated. Eugene Parker, who represents Crabtree and was Sanders’ agent during the latter’s playing days, is under no requirement to talk to the NFL. Further, even if phone records show that Parker and Tannenbaum talked, it means nothing because Parker represents other players, including players on the Jets. In short, don’t expect much out of this investigation, just as nothing happened in the investigation of Washington tampering with Albert Haynesworth(notes).

Photo Pennington did not effectively point the Dolphins in the right direction in the closing minutes.
(Doug Benc/Getty)

Stupid play of the week: The Kansas City Chiefs were going to take the prize this week for how badly quarterback Matt Cassel(notes) managed the clock at the end of the first half, costing his team a shot at a field goal in what turned out to be a three-point loss to the Oakland Raiders. Then, with 3:14 remaining in the week’s final game, the Dolphins passed the Chiefs like a Ferrari vs. a Smartcar. The Dolphins completely botched a situation in which they started with 3:14 remaining on the clock, moved all of 6 yards in the first 1:14 of the drive and ended up with three desperation throws at the end by a quarterback (Chad Pennington(notes)) who doesn’t have a strong arm. Wow, that was bad.

Circumventing injury list: It’s nice that the NFL doled out fines to the Jets and former coach Eric Mangini last week. Mangini’s hell-bent desire to make a mockery of the injury report is comical. He played so many games last year to hide the fact that quarterback Brett Favre(notes) had an arm injury, but the Jets still managed to go 1-4 down the stretch. Of course, Mangini laughably tried to keep the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback under wraps heading into the opener, but the Minnesota Vikings didn’t exactly look fooled (Hey Eric, it’s about having good players and giving them a good game plan).

Still, the problems with the NFL injury report are constant. The fact that Favre claimed to be more significantly injured than revealed last year isn’t the first (nor last) time a team will keep information under wraps. Frankly, most players don’t want the information out there (until they need to use it as an excuse). A classic example is that in 1995, former Miami defensive end Trace Armstrong broke his wrist. While the training staff knew, Armstrong made it clear he was going to play and didn’t want opponents to know about the injury. Finally, the word got out and then-Dolphins coach Don Shula was asked about it. Unfortunately, Armstrong and the training staff hadn’t even told Shula about the injury and the legendary coach wasn’t thrilled.

Another classic story involving the Dolphins is when then-coach Jimmy Johnson attempted to mislead opponents in 1999 while quarterback Dan Marino was nursing a back injury. For three straight weeks, Marino would come out to practice, stretch, warm up, throw a few passes and then go back in the locker room. Yet the Dolphins kept reporting that Marino had “participated” in practice.

Top five
1. New York Giants: Who said they didn’t have good WRs?
2. New Orleans Saints: Putting up 48 points on the Philadelphia Eagles is scary.
3. New York Jets: Nobody designs blitzes better than Rex Ryan.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: Maybe they should be bumped, but they gave one away.
5. Baltimore Ravens: D hasn’t hit its stride yet, but Ray Lewis(notes) can still hit.

Bottom five
28. Cleveland Browns: Not good when you have more fines than touchdowns.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Why is anyone surprised the Bucs are this bad?
30. St. Louis Rams: There’s no way around it, Marc Bulger(notes) is terrible.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Todd Haley looked ready to go postal last Sunday.
32. Detroit Lions: They could beat Washington. If they don’t, yikes.

This and that
Congrats to Dallas owner Jerry Jones, who accomplished one of his goals by breaking the single-game attendance record Sunday as the Cowboys opened their new palace. However, Jones’ silly belief that the new stadium would somehow inspire his players obviously didn’t come to fruition. Furthermore, don’t expect the NFL to sell nearly as many of the standing room only tickets when the Super Bowl is played there in February 2011. Several people on hand said the logistics of the standing room only tickets were a nightmare.

There was a lot of babble about why they opened the season with such a poor performance in Atlanta (four turnovers). Among the questions for coach Tony Sparano last week was whether the rhythm of the offense was affected by the Wildcat plays that were run. Based on the results Monday night, the Wildcat is not the problem. The better explanation is that the Dolphins aren’t very good in domes. In four games in domes since Sparano took over in 2008, the Dolphins are 1-3. Their only victory was a narrow escape last season against the woeful St. Louis Rams. Why the bad indoor play? Two reasons. First, the Dolphins offensive line is still relatively inexperienced, particularly at working together. That means that pre-snap communication is a key and that’s hard in domes, where the noise is louder. Second, the Dolphins don’t have any big-play threats on offense (sorry, Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) isn’t there yet and probably will never reach that point). That means that they never get big plays that silence opposing fans. The good news for the Dolphins: They don’t play in a dome the rest of the season.

While much was made this week of the injuries to San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) and center Nick Hardwick(notes), the decision to put nose tackle Jamal Williams(notes) on injured reserve for the season may be the team’s biggest blow. Defensive line depth – and nose tackle, specifically – was the biggest problem for the talented Chargers going into this season, even with the trade for former Houston Texans first-round pick Travis Johnson(notes). When you run the 3-4 defense, having a great nose tackle is crucial. Couple that with the fact that defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is still learning to run the 3-4 (he was a 4-3 guy throughout his career before taking over last season) and you have a bad combination for a defense that only three years ago was one of the most feared in football.

One NFL personnel man seconded Justin Tuck’s(notes) criticism of Dallas left tackle Flozell Adams(notes), who was penalized for tripping Tuck in Sunday night’s game. Tuck ended up with a shoulder injury and accused Adams of doing it several times. Said the scout: “Adams won’t move anymore. I don’t mean that he can’t, he won’t. He’s lazy. Yeah, he’s old, but it must drive the Dallas coaches crazy the way he just refuses to hustle.”

Farewell Monte Clark, you were a great one and an original.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009