Offseason | 2022

Spagnola: Don't Worry, Ware's Hall Time Will Come


FRISCO, Texas – That was a dirty trick the Pro Football Hall of Fame pulled on me Thursday night on the NFL Honors show.

On you, too, I'd imagine.

After waiting more than an hour, the two-hour show from Los Angeles finally got around to introducing the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022, one certainly including Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware, a seven-time Pro Bowler during his nine years with the Cowboys, two more times during his three years with Denver, where he won a Super Bowl, and becoming a two-time NFL sack leader, member of the 2000 NFL All-Decade Team, five-time All-Pro and Cowboys all-time sack leader with 117, plus another 21.5 with the Broncos, the 138.5 career sacks ranking ninth in the NFL.

Pretty hefty credentials, right?

So, the presentation began.

Green Bay Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre presenting Packers defensive back Leroy Butler.

San Francisco Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young presenting Niners defensive lineman Bryant Young.

New Orleans Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson presenting Saints linebacker Sam Mills.

Then, after seniors selection Cliff Branch was introduced by Derrick Brooks, here comes New England Hall of Fame defensive back Ty Law to present Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

Sense a pattern here? The first four modern day candidates selected to the Class of 2022 are introduced by Hall of Fame members from that organization.

And now comes Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith to the stage. Well, there it is, Emmitt will be introducing one DeMarcus Ware as the next Hall of Fame inductee, the 21st in Cowboys franchise history.

And Emmitt with a big smile begins, "His name is synonymous with integrity," and so on my big legal pad I write down next to the sixth selection of the night "DeMarcus Ware." Of course, Ware, right?

But then Emmitt goes, "The first on-field official to be inducted, Art McNally."

Say what? Art McNally? Did the NFL pull a beauty pageant faux pas, giving Emmitt the wrong information? Come on, McNally – and by the way, well-deserved from the contributor category – didn't just come out of Emmitt's mouth did it?

Was waiting for "gotcha" to be superimposed on the screen with my jaw having dropped down to nearly my chest.

Nope, no Ware. And when Rams' Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner presented their Super Bowl-winning head coach Dick Vermeil, that meant six of the eight inductees were announced by Hall of Famers from that team's organization, the only other exception being Bruce Smith announcing Jacksonville's Tony Boselli since he became the first Jaguars player selected into the Hall.

That also meant for the first time since 2012, no first-year eligible Hall of Fame candidate was selected.

Sense a pattern there, too.

Here is another factor why the well-deserving Ware did not receive 80 percent of the votes from the board of selectors at some point during the virtual Jan. 18 meeting process while whitling down the final 15 players discussed to 10 and then to a final five confirmation:

Appears those selectors, who don't vote in blocks, none of this Democrat or Republican business, decided this was a good time for a little cleanup business, voting for candidates who were running out of the 20-year modern-day time slot before going into the seniors pool. And when they arrive there, guys get caught in a huge backlog.

Check this out:

The late Sam Mills was in his 20th-year of eligibility and third finalist appearance.

Butler was in his 16th year of eligibility and was a third-time finalist, though come on, another safety ahead of Darren Woodson and defensive back ahead of Everson Walls.

Boselli, too, was running out of time, this being his 16th year of eligibility and sixth time as a finalist.

Young, proudly from my Bloom Township High School in Chicago Heights, Ill., (sorry, couldn't help myself), was in his 10th year of eligibility and a second-year finalist.

And then there is Seymour, this being the fourth time he's been a finalist in his fifth year of eligibility.

So, being a veteran of these Hall of Fame proceeding, having sifted through the Cowboys heartbreaking initial rejections of Bob Hayes, Cliff Harris, Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson, I do have some insight into the thinking of these selectors. They are mighty protective of that first-time eligible selection, one of them once pointing out to me after Irvin's initial snub that they didn't want to put Irvin on the same excellence plane as first-time eligible Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.

And as we know, all four of the aforementioned Cowboys players were eventually voted into Canton. Just took some time.

Plus, sometimes this works against the Cowboys, too. From 2013 when Larry Allen was inducted through 2021 when Pearson's time finally came, seven members of the Cowboys organization in those nine years have entered the Hall. Not their fault the Cowboys have so many deserving candidates. But sometimes I think many of the voters think enough is enough for the time being.

That's why Ware, along with you guys, should not be butt-hurt by his rejection. By golly, Ware's credentials will eventually get him in. A no brainer.

Or as his former Denver teammate and current Rams defensive end Von Miller said this Super Bowl week, "I really hope DeMarcus is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's definitely deserving. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It would be an honor and a privilege to go to his (enshrinement) party and live it up and go to his reunion and see all the people that had success playing with DeMarcus and all the people that helped DeMarcus be successful in his career.

"It'd be amazing. He's definitely deserving of it. I love the guy."

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with being a second-ballot Hall of Famer. Or third. Once you're in, you're in, and they do not put an asterisk on your bust for not being a first-ballot selection. Your bust is your bust.

Funny thing about Ware's career: As a 2005 first-round pick at No. 11, Ware was playing just his second NFL preseason game at Seattle. And remember, this is a guy who grew up in Auburn, Ala., but only tiny Troy State, at the time a former Division II school until 2001, offering him a scholarship to play football. The football team rose into more prominence in 2004, Ware's final season, when the first-year Sun Belt Conference member defeated, uh, 17th-ranked Missouri in a nationally-televised (ESPN2) Thursday night game, 24-17, much to my chagrin.

Again, this was a preseason game, but in that game, Ware finished with three tackles, one sack-fumble-recovered fumble, another forced fumble and one interception while playing outside linebacker/defensive end in Bill Parcells' newly-installed 3-4 defense.

After the game, with media breathlessly asking him questions about Ware, Parcells famously said, "Let's not put him in Canton just yet."

That was 22 years and 138.5 NFL sacks, nine Pro Bowls, a 2000 All-Decade selection and a Super Bowl ring ago.

Hopefully the Hall of Fame selection committee doesn't overlook the "just yet" rejoinder of what Bill had to say. It's now time to open those doors to Canton, don't you agree Bill?

And as they say in sports, there's always next year.

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