The author of “America’s Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys,” Jeff also writes a new column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. For subscription information, please click here.
- There is really no more research, compiling of numbers and ranting and raving left in me in regards to Charles Haley’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Have to guess more than 10,000 words worth have been written by me the last five years and at some point and time, it just becomes one of those defeated battles of life. Took him five years to even become a finalist, this being the fourth straight go-around of him advancing to the final 15. There seems to be little momentum, though, and it would be stunning beyond words if Haley was elected on Super Bowl Eve.
- My greatest frustration is the double standard being used against Haley. Including the playoffs, his teams were 137-42-1, and he’s the only player in the history of the league to have won five Super Bowls. More impressively, he accomplished the latter feat on Jan. 28, 1996, more than 17 years ago. As in, he could be the only player with five for a long, long time. Am pretty sure the only player to have won even four since is kicker Adam Vinitieri, who many think is headed to Canton himself.
- Why are the legacies of quarterbacks defined by Super Bowls and their winning percentage? Why are Fred Biletnikoff, Bob Hayes, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Michael Irvin, Paul Warfield and Art Monk in the Hall of Fame yet Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Andre Reed, Irvin Fryar and Harold Carmichael aren’t? The second group clearly has better numbers. The reason is the jewelry.
- So why isn’t Haley defined by his winning? His teams won 76.5 percent of the time they took the field. Know how many quarterbacks in the history of the league have a higher mark? One, Tom Brady at 76.9, including the playoffs. As in only one in the 93-year history of the National Football League and that’s by a mere tenth of a percentage point. If Brady loses the opener next season, Haley would pass him.
- This is really not enjoyable to write. Each sentence becomes more difficult because it’s so blatantly obviously that Haley should already be in the Hall of Fame. One could argue quite intellectually that he was the most accomplished winner in the history of the sport. What makes a defensive leader, his teams’ premier pass rusher for a decade, any less worthy of praise/credit for winning than a quarterback? What did Joe Montana and Troy Aikman do for their teams’ defenses? Nothing. So if they receive all this credit for winning as quarterbacks, why isn’t there a defensive player who receives similar credit?
- Admittedly, Haley was a different kind of leader. He changed the attitude, on and off the field, of his defensive teammates. But Irvin was a different kind of leader, too, not in that same way, but Irvin certainly wasn’t, say, a Roger Staubach. It’s not a coincidence that Haley showed up before the 1992 regular-season opener and the Cowboys won back-to-back Super Bowls. He was the final piece, a point that Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson and countless teammates have made again and again.
- Some other numbers to consider, compiled a few years back after yet another election day without Haley’s bust being given the green light:
- During his first 10 seasons in the league, from 1986-95, only one player registered more tackles, sacks and forced fumbles than Haley and that was Chris Doleman, who, oh yeah, was inducted to the Hall of Fame last year. And deservedly so. However, his teams’ career winning percentage was 58.7 (142-100), including 10-9 in the playoffs without a Super Bowl.
- Before Doleman, pass-rushers Andre Tippett, Rickey Jackson and Richard Dent were enshrined with one Super Bowl combined between them. Again, not saying any of these selections were wrong, just that Haley should have been before them.
- In the playoffs, with Haley on the field, his teams went 17-4 (81.0 percent). That is staggering. The best among quarterbacks to have started more than 10 games is Terry Bradshaw at 14-5 (73.7 percent), followed by Aikman at 11-4 (73.3 percent).
- In many ways, Bradshaw is the perfect example of why Haley should have been the easiest of selections. One of the two quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls, Bradshaw’s legacy is defined by his winning. And that’s fine, not arguing against that. Just want to point out a few quick tidbits: Bradshaw’s record as a starter, including the postseason, was 121-56, which is a 68.4 winning percentage, about eight points behind Haley.
- Also, Bradshaw’s numbers are mediocre at best, a 51.9 completion percentage, 212 touchdown passes, 210 interceptions, a 70.9 rating. Yes, yes, was a different era for quarterbacks, but Staubach’s numbers across the board were 57.0, 153, 109 and 83.4, respectively. The two had comparable rushing numbers. So it’s not like Bradshaw was even an elite quarterback of his generation. He was just a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
- Let’s be crystal clear, am perfectly OK with Bradshaw being in the Hall, but Haley was better at his position than Bradshaw was. So what’s the deal? What’s the difference? Really need some of the voters to explain this to me.
- For what it’s worth, my five votes on this ballot would be Haley, Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Bill Parcells and Tim Brown. Would be fine with Jonathan Ogden, too. He should get in this year or next.
- Allen is a lock. Absolute lock. Considered by many the best offensive lineman of the last 20 years. The Parcells situation is puzzling. He’s 11th on the all-time list with 172 wins, won two Super Bowls and is the only coach to bring four different teams to the playoffs, turning around franchise after franchise. Ready for this: The combined records of the four teams he coached the season before his arrival was 13-44. Parcells’ career mark, including the postseason, was 183-138. He took over four crappy teams, earned nine playoff berths, won two Super Bowls with the Giants and took the Patriots to the big game as well. Just not sure what the deal is here.
- Actually talked with Brown not long ago about an array of topics (no, Bill Callahan was not among them) and he’s incredibly frustrated with the Hall of Fame process, and should be. Brown is fifth in the history of the league in all-purpose yards, behind just Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell (a long-time return specialist), Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith. So among position players (Mitchell only started 16 games in his NFL career), it’s Rice, Payton, Smith and Brown followed by Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders, Herschel Walker, Marcus Allen and Curtis Martin.
- Also, there’s this: The only two receivers who rank among the top-5 in career receptions and yards are Rice and Brown. That’s it. That’s the list.
- One final thought on Haley. Was talking with him a few years back about the Hall of Fame, and after 10 minutes or so of back-and-forth, he said, paraphrasing here to avoid certain language, “You don’t think it’s because I wasn’t on the best of terms with the media, do you?” Told him no, that wasn’t the case, and my opinion hasn’t changed, but honestly, this just doesn’t make sense to me. Running out of ways to explain it. As Ronnie Lott has often said the last 10 years, “There isn’t a Pro Football Hall of Fame without Charles Haley. There just isn’t.”
Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.