The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced it's reduction vote in which they reduced the number of Hall of Fame finalists from 25 down to 15. And while Jerry Rice and Tim Brown made the cut, among the 10 players cut from the list, there are some notable Raiders.
Namely Ray Guy, Lester Hayes and Ciff Branch.
These players didn't make the list of finalists despite overwhelming fan support that they be inducted.
This year, for the first time ever, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been asking fans to voice their choice for whom they think should be included into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2010.
After the first cut-down and more than 220,000 votes, the Van Heusen Fan's Choice Top 25 list included 14 candidates who also appeared on the official Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee list,5 of whom were former Raiders.
But apparently, this was just a coincidence. Because despite Ray Guy being the #1 vote getter over the likes of Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, he was not a finalist...again. Also making the top ten was Jim Plunkett who didn't even make the list of 25 semi-finalists despite being the #3 highest vote getter. Lester Hayes came in at #5 just below Jerry Rice and he didn't make the cut either. Finishing off the top 10 was Tom Flores at #7, Cliff Branch at #8 and Todd Christensen at #9.
So much for the committee actually listening to the fans.
There are some serious problems with the Hall of Fame system when the best pure punter of all time repeatedly gets denied for the hall of fame despite being eligible every year for the last 20 plus years. As long as punter is a position in the game of Pro Football, those that play the position should be just as worthy of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is a mockery to not only not have the man who transformed the position of punter in the NFL in the hall of fame, but it is a pure insult for him not to even make the list of finalists.
And what about Cliff Branch? His numbers are better than quite a few other Hall of Famers that played during his generation. He has comparable numbers to John Stallworth and far superior numbers to Lynn Swann, both of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Branch was also on three Super Bowl winning teams. He was a four time Pro Bowler and his three times as a first team All-Pro is more than Swann and Stallworth combined. He set a standard for this Raiders franchise that has never been equaled since. Not even once. Since he retired after the '85 season, Al Davis and the Raiders have spent 25 years trying to replace him and have failed every time.
Lester Hayes was part of the most fearsome corner tandem in the NFL while with the Raiders. He and Michael Haynes set their own standard for dominance and were the original lock down corners. Yet, despite his battery mate Haynes having his day in Canton, Hayes has been turned away every season just as Guy and Branch have.
Then add Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett, and Todd Christensen, who didn't make the list of 25 semi finalists and you have completed the travesty. Flores and Plunkett teamed up as coach and quarterback to win two superbowls. Plunkett remains the ONLY quarterback to have started for two Super Bowl winning teams and not be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Todd Christensen was also on those teams. And interesting fact is that Shannon Sharpe made the list of finalists this year in his first year of eligibility. Sharpe had three 1000 yard seasons in 14 years as a player in the NFL. Do you know how many Christensen had in nine seasons with the Raiders? THREE. And yet Sharpe is a first year finalist and Christensen didn't evenmake it as a semi-finalist. Go figure.
Then there is the fact that Ken Stabler was mysteriously not even on the list of those eiligible to be semifinalists. How does that happen? There are many who think that Stabler is the most deserving of all the Raider candidates. TFDS held a vote last season to find out who the Raider Nation thought most deserving of enshrinement and it was a dead heat between Stabler and Guy until Stabler had his DUI charge. Could that DUI from last year be the reason he was excluded this season? It is possible. But it sounds more like an excuse for the committee to shut him out completely. He should have been inducted years ago. He was an All-Pro, Super Bowl winning quarterback as well as a four time Pro Bowler. His teams rivaled the best teams of all time and any player from his generation will tell you that they would put him against anyone in the two minute drill.
The problem with Tim Brown and Jerry Rice being the lone former Raiders among the semi-finalists is that the committee is unlikely to induct both of them. They are both on their first ballot and both receivers played on the same team at the same time. Rice is widely considered the greatest receiver if not the greatest player in NFL history. Add in the all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, in his first year of eligibility and Brown's chances get even slimmer. Tim Brown will get in eventually but the odds are not in his favor in this class.
So it looks like Jerry Rice is the only former Raider that will be enshrined this year. And even he is really more of a 49er after having played nearly his entire career for San Francisco. He certainly earned his trip to Canton as a 49er. His years in Oakland, helping the Raiders to a Super Bowl, were just icing on that cake.
Out of these 15 finalists, it will come down to likely between 4 and 5 from the list for induction into the Hall of Fame.
The Class of 2010 will be determined at the Selection Committee's annual meeting on Saturday, February 6, in South Florida the day before Super Bowl XLIV. The election results will be announced at 5 p.m. ET during a one-hour NFL Network special, live from the Super Bowl media headquarters.
You can still vote for your favorite players at www.fanschoice.com. All you can do now is send a message. Not that they will get that message or even care what it says.