After Kurt Warner announced his retirement Friday, the fun began.
You know, the Hall of Fame debate that never ends.
Not whether Kurt Warner has the credentials to be a Hall of Famer -- that's another kettle of kettles entirely -- but whether he's got the juice in the room to march through the first time.
The door to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, you see, is opened, or more often closed, by a group of 44 media folks, who are limited in the number of people they can induct and by a voting percentage every bit as high as the Baseball Hall of Fame's.
Add to that a presentation by one of those committee members that can either float or sink a candidate's boat, and you can get a better sense of why a "slam-dunk" Hall of Famer typically isn't.
Call it the Bob Brown Principle.
Brown was the dominant offensive lineman for an entire decade, in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Oakland, and when we say "the" dominant offensive lineman, we mean the standard setter for those who came after. He was on the NFL's 1960s all-decade team, a six-time Pro Bowl pick and five-time All-Pro. He had credentials for a quick confirmation he hasn't even used yet.
He waited 26 years.
|If even Brett Favre will undergo Hall scrutiny, what can we say about Kurt Warner? (Getty Images)|
Here's a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, courtesy the Hall of Fame committee-room speech for Walter Payton from Cooper Rollow of the Chicago Tribune:
That was it. No discussion needed. The tactic was used more recently by Ira Miller of the San Francisco Chronicle for Joe Montana, and will almost surely be employed next Saturday by Nancy Gay of AOL/Fanhouse for Jerry Rice.
Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, is in play for induction or rejection. And yes, that includes Kurt Warner.
Even assuming Peyton Manning is a slam-dunk first-year inductee is dangerous because, as obvious as Manning seems, his career isn't over yet, and something crummy could happen. Even Brett Favre's name will undergo at least some discussion five years after he retires in 2022 because almost nobody gets Walter Paytoned.
Is there a sliding scale? Yes. Is there an enormous backlog of candidates? Oh yes. Is there stupidity or spite? Not very much, even slightly less than you would think. The strength of the Hall of Fame committee is that everyone's in the room to ask and answer questions, and candidacies can take flight in five hours, like Roger Wehrli's in 2007.
The weakness is that the room is way too small. Nine people can stop someone in his tracks, either with a well-researched rebuttal or, more often, support for another finalist. The second weakness is that there is no transparency in the voting, a problem with all Halls of Fame that creates distrust in the process because nobody can explain why a seemingly sure-fire winner ends up not winning.
|More Warner links|
Morgan: Warner leaves Cardinals grounded
I mean, you saw how well Roberto Alomar played, right? A sure thing who wasn't.
Which brings us back to Kurt Warner. Not his résumé, again, but his power in the room. Warner has done enough for inclusion. So have a lot of other players who aren't in. That's the Bob Brown Principle again, only some guys never get kissed at all.
Does this mean he won't get in with the 2015 class? No. but he isn't a slam-dunk unless Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, or whoever is the Cardinals' or Rams' rep in the room makes more of a case than "Ladies and gentlemen, Kurt Warner." And the rule of thumb is, the more you have to talk, the more convincing you feel you have to do, which means the less convincing you will be.
So there's all you need to know on Kurt Warner, Hall of Famer. Not that you want to know it, or that it helps you defend your position on him, but understanding the system ought to help at least a little.
It certainly helped Bob Brown. Eventually.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.