Seven men were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. Next year sports an impressive batch of men appearing on the ballot for the first time including Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Willie Roaf, Jerome Bettis, and our own Curtis Martin.
By any logical measure, Martin should be a lock to make it on the first ballot. He is the fourth leading rusher of all-time. Only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and
Jim Brown Barry Sanders rank above him. He ran for 1,000 yards in 10 straight seasons. He led the league in rushing at age 31, an age long after most backs have been put out to pasture.
The problem is we are dealing with football Hall of Fame voters, not logical people. I am concerned Curtis' consistent excellence might be held against him. He didn't self promote. He didn't cause problems with his teammates or generate headlines for the wrong reasons. He didn't have blazing speed or overwhelming power. Even though he put up a good chunk of his impressive numbers while playing through significant injuries, he never made a big deal about it. His unrivaled locker room leadership never got much publicity because he was quiet. I think there are writers out there who will hold these things against him. What players actually accomplish doesn't matter as much as their ridiculous made up criteria like looking flashy.
I think of Art Monk, a similar player. It took forever Monk to get into the Hall of Fame. The guy only had more receptions than anybody in the history of the league when he retired. Unlike Martin, he also played an integral role on three Super Bowl winners. It still took him years to get in because some writers weren't impressed by his consistent excellence.
Add in the fact there are two other backs on the ballot next year, Faulk and Bettis. Even if all three guys are deserving of making it, some writers will ridiculously claim that three guys at the same position shouldn't make it in at once. Faulk was part of the Greatest Show on Turf. While it's difficult to see where Bettis was better than Martin, he was a media magnet during his career with an affable personality, opposed to Martin whose quiet dignity led him to do all of his talking on the field, which will likely lead to an induction. He also had more of a signature battering ram style of play.
I fear we are looking at an injustice. Curtis Martin is a first ballot Hall of Famer by any legitimate measure on and off the field. I hope the writers see it that way too.