The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee met for nearly eight hours in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Saturday to vote on the Class of 2018.
The last two players discussed took up the longest portion of the debate: Randy Moss (34 minutes, 45 seconds) and Terrell Owens (45:15).
In the end, Moss and Owens were elected, along with Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Brian Dawkins, seniors nominees Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer, and contributor Bobby Beathard.
The process, especially as it relates to Owens, is the subject of this week’s 49ers Insider Podcast.
“In my almost three decades of being in the room, this may have been the best meeting I sat through, and not just based upon the results of the vote,” said Joe Horrigan, the executive director of the Hall of Fame.
“The process by which this class was determined was, to me, the most level-headed, prepared group of men and women that came in with precise and accurate information.
“It was, ‘Here are the facts; let’s talk about them; let’s be civil; and let’s be correct, and let’s consider from beyond our own perspectives.’ This was something that was informative to me, where some perspectives from people of a younger age, in one instance, to people who’ve had similar life experiences so we can get a better insight into some of the issues that come up.”
Terez Paylor, 34, of the Kansas City Star is one voter who expressed a unique perspective on the podcast.
“For me, and for some of the other guys of my generation, no matter what you say about Terrell Owens and Randy Moss and what came with them off the field, as far as baggage, I can tell you for an entire generation, you can’t write the history of the game without those guys,” Paylor said. “Those guys were electric and they brought so many eyeballs to the sport. . . . They made football fans out of a lot of people, including me.
“What matters is that this is a performance league. And they were both great. They were great football players, and you can’t say they weren’t. By every measure, they were great professional football players.”
Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network expressed a different opinion of Owens. Judge covered the 49ers for the San Jose Mercury News at the beginning of Owens' career. He brought up the following criteria for selection from the Hall of Fame’s bylaws:
“The only criteria for election into the Hall of Fame are a nominee’s achievements and contributions (positive or negative) as a player, a coach or a contributor. . . “
Judge acknowledged Owens’ productivity, but added, “There’s more to the story than that.”
Judge cited former NFL general managers Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, the first individuals to be selected to the Hall of Fame in the contributors category, as saying they did not believe Owens should be in the Hall of Fame because of his negative intangible impacts on the teams for which he played.
The 49ers traded Owens at the peak of his career; the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys released him in turbulent times. Owens concluded his NFL career with one-year stints in Buffalo and Cincinnati.
“If you got fired from five different positions at work, would we put you in the Hall of Fame?” Judge asked.