I'm officially sick of Cris Carter and the cries of injustice over his exclusion from the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fourth consecutive year. I'm tired of people ripping the Hall of Fame selection process, as faulty as it might be, because some guy who happened to score 130 touchdowns didn't get in.
Likewise, I don't want to hear about Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Eddie DeBartolo or Bill Parcells or anybody else who hasn't made it yet. Ultimately, they're all going to get in.
I'll bet anybody a 12-pack of cheap Mexican beer that every single one of those guys will make it – some day and some day probably very soon. That day just didn't happen to be earlier this month.
For all the whining, here's the flip side to the argument: Who do you exclude if you put one of those guys in? Curtis Martin? Well, his statistical career is every bit as impressive as Carter's. Then again, comparing the job of a running back who carries 300-plus times a year for a decade to a wide receiver of any kind is like comparing the role of President of the United States to a congressperson from some small city in north Florida, like Gainesville.
And I live there.
Or maybe you want to argue about center Dermontti Dawson or left tackle Willie Roaf? They each happen to be considered among the top two or three players ever at their respective positions. How about Chris Doleman or Cortez Kennedy, two of the most disruptive defensive players in the history of the game? Should one of them step aside? Of course, there's senior committee selection Jack Butler, who happened to nab 52 interceptions in his day before injuries ended his career after just nine years. Sorry, I can't really do a good endorsement on Butler.
The point is that Carter isn't necessarily better than anyone else who got in. He's also not better than the guys who got in the three previous years. Fact is, as much as I'm willing to bet he's getting in, there's an awfully good argument against Carter. It's one that was similar to one used against Art Monk, who once held the NFL record for most career receptions but had to wait for eight years to get elected.
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Like Monk, Carter may never have been the best receiver on his own team in a given year. That may seem ludicrous, but look up the numbers and talk to people who played and coached against Minnesota from 1993 to 2000. Those eight seasons are the heart of Carter's career, when he posted eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, including back-to-back years with 122 receptions (1994, '95).
For four of the first five years of that run, Carter had Jake Reed on the other side, a guy who had at least 1,000 yards each season as well and averaged 16 yards a catch. For the next three years of that run, Carter had Randy Moss, who also had more than 1,000 yards each season and is the greatest deep threat in the history of the game (not greatest receiver, but greatest deep threat). Through it all, either Reed or Moss led the Vikings in receiving yards in every season from 1996 through 2001.
"Carter belongs [in the Hall], but he was never a guy who scared you. Never," an NFC defensive coordinator said this week. "When you drew up the game plan, it was make sure you deal with Reed or [later] make sure you deal with Moss. Those were the guys who killed you. Carter got a lot of numbers because he was single-covered most of the time."
This is to say nothing of the fact that Carter was a nonentity when it came to the playoffs. On that scale, he is the antithesis of Haley, who deserves to be in the Hall on his five rings alone.
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Over the course of Carter's career, his teams went 4-10 in the playoffs with zero Super Bowl appearances. In two NFC championship games, Carter was essentially invisible, grabbing a total of nine passes for 91 yards and zero touchdowns.
At the biggest moments, Carter was the smallest. There are no great performances like Jerry Rice in the Super Bowl. No memorable moments like Lynn Swann's Super Bowl catches. Carter didn't change the game in any significant way.
On top of that, he's one of the most arrogant human beings you will encounter. He talks down to everyone, including his cohorts at ESPN. It's not just reporters who he literally looks down his nose at, it's fellow players. There's a great story out there about Carter pulling his "I played the game” maneuver on an agent one time while a former teammate of Carter's stood by.
After Carter walked away, the former teammate walked up to the agent and said, "I know how you feel, half the guys in the locker room wanted to kick his ass.”
Still, Carter deserves to be in the Hall. Someday. Carter, who had drug problems early in his career, doesn't deserve to be judged on his off-field issues any more than Lawrence Taylor deserved to be judged on his non-football transgressions. Taylor was still a first-ballot Hall of Famer because he was one of the greatest to ever play.
The real issue is not that somebody got snubbed; there's just a backlog of good players. This year's ballot was particularly difficult for voters because there were no slam-dunk candidates, like Deion Sanders or Marshall Faulk the previous year.
The fact is, every year you get some hue and cry about the process being bad. Yes, the system the Hall currently employs, which features a 44-member panel of media types, is problematic. As hard as many of those people work (almost every voter I know spends hours talking to former players, coaches and executives about the candidates every year), there's politics which is accentuated by the small size of participants.
That said, the results wouldn't be a whole lot different if there were 440 voters. Even in that system there are limits to the number of people who can get in during a given year, just as baseball and basketball have caps for their respective halls. The only advantage to having more voters is that the process becomes more anonymous because each voter is less powerful.
Still, that doesn't mean Carter or anybody else snubbed would have gotten in this year since the maximum of non-senior committee candidates allowed (five) was reached. Unless you want to start inducting 10 people a year – which would totally devalue the Hall of Fame – somebody with a really good case is going to get excluded every year. It's the natural way the system works.
Live with it.
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Carter will be a Hall of Famer one day. It's going to happen. I guarantee it and, as of now, I don't even vote for the Hall.
But like so many others in the history of the game, including contemporaries like Haley, Reed and DeBartolo, Carter will have to wait his turn.
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