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Pro Football Hall of Fame has been making dubious choices for years

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Pro Football Hall of Fame has been making dubious choices for years

Brian Dawkins is the only player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks, 25 interceptions and 25 forced fumbles. Terrell Owens is ranked second all-time with 15,934 yards receiving and third with 153 touchdown catches. Yet both Dawkins and Owens were on the outside looking in when the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its class of 2017 on Saturday.

Who was inducted? Well, there's Terrell Davis, with all of four healthy season in the NFL. Then there's Morten Andersen, a kicker — seriously, a kicker.

It's not that Davis and Andersen don't have Hall of Fame resumes in their own right. Davis' career was cut short by injury, but rushed for over 2,000 yards in an MVP season in 1998 and helped carry the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl championships. Andersen holds the NFL records with 2,544 points scored and 382 games played. They're not entirely without merit.

Yet Davis' and Andersen's accomplishments pale in comparison to those of Dawkins and Owens. Dawkins revolutionized the safety position in the NFL and was the one constant on an Eagles defense during an era when the team went to five conference championship games and a Super Bowl. Owens is one of the most dominant, all-around wide receivers to ever play the game.

This is the part where we're supposed to say it's a no-brainer and we're shocked that the voters got this so wrong. But in all honesty, why should anybody be surprised? The selection committee has been reaching dubious conclusions for years.

In 2016, it was Tony Dungy, a head coach with a 9-10 record in the playoffs and one Super Bowl win. In 2015, it was Jerome Bettis, a running back who averaged 3.9 yards per carry over his career. 2014 was a real treat, for Eagles fans in particular, with Aeneas Williams getting in while Eric Allen goes overlooked despite a similar resume at cornerback, and Ray Guy, a punter — sure, the most famous punter of all-time, but a punter nonetheless.

What exactly is the criteria here? Because none of Davis, Dungy, Bettis or Williams were historically great players by any measure, at least not to the degree of a Dawkins or Owens. Andersen and Guy are specialists, which shouldn't necessarily preclude them, but that's two in a span of four years, the latest making it over some especially worthy candidates.

It sure seems like the criteria that matters is who can gain favor with the selection committee. That explains why Marvin Harrison was enshrined over Owens last year despite having lesser numbers at the same position.

Should Owens' behavior be a factor? Perhaps, if only because you can make the argument that his penchant for disruption negated a lot of the good he did on the field. Only at what point does his case not boil down to the simple fact that there have been few if any wide receivers in the history of the game who were better, and the proof is in the numbers?

Dawkins' snub, on the other hand, is a bit more of a mystery. He was a tremendous presence in the Eagles locker room and has a squeaky-clean reputation off the field.

Apparently, there's a feeling that John Lynch being a finalist in the same year hurt Dawkins, as the two safeties canceled each other out, creating a "logjam" at the position as one reporter referred to it. Except Dawkins was far better than Lynch — 1,131 tackles, 26 sacks, 37 interceptions and 37 forced fumbles to 1,051 tackles, 13 sacks, 26 interceptions and 16 forced fumbles. Also, there's only seven pure safeties in the Hall to begin with.

What logjam?

There's about to be a logjam at safety though, when Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu become eligible in the next few years. That's why it probably would've been a good idea to take Dawkins' seriously now rather than punt and elect a kicker who has no peers and is retired for a decade. Maybe that's not a reflection of how the process actually works, yet it's difficult to make sense of how this went down.

Maybe when Dungy or Bettis or Williams and Guy were enshrined, there wasn't really anybody else on the ballot who was beating down the door. Not the case in '17. In addition to Dawkins and Owens, some outstanding candidates were overlooked this time around, like Ty Law and Tony Boselli.

It's not getting easier for any of these guys, so when candidates with obvious holes in their resume like an extremely abbreviated career or being a kicker are chosen, you have to wonder about the thought process.

As it turns out, it's almost certainly political. We know for a fact it is with Owens. For Dawkins, it's not as clear, although you have to wonder if some of the voters view him in the same light as Lynch, Reed or Polamalu, all of whom have their Super Bowl rings, unfair though that might be.

Whatever the reasoning, the voters got this one wrong. With nine invitations to the Pro Bowl, Dawkins made the trip just one fewer time than Davis and Andersen combined. If nothing else, Owens certainly has the pair beaten in terms of the "Fame" aspect.

Apparently, the Pro Football Hall of Fame isn't about numbers or greatness or fame at all these days. Instead, it's all about the whims and preferences of the selection committee it seems.

Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

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Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

Jerry Jones, the NFL's most outspoken troll, just wants to watch the world burn.

After weeks of talk and escalation, the Cowboys' owner is ready to go to war with Roger Goodell and the league's other owners over Ezekiel Elliott's suspension.

According to an ESPN report, Jones threatened the commissioner on a conference call after Elliott's suspension was announced, saying, "I'm gonna come after you with everything I have. If you think (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I'm going to do."

For weeks now, Jones has tried to disrupt talks of a contract extension for Goodell, promoted objectively bad pizza in the name of football, and landed himself in hot water with the other owners. So much so that there has reportedly been talk about removing Jones as the Cowboys' owner.

It's hard to pick a side here. Jones — the long-lost twin of Emperor Palpatine — and Goodell — a man with rulings more inconsistent than Pete Morelli. You don't really want to root for either of them, but it is fun to think about the extremely unlikely chance that Jones loses the Cowboys. 

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

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Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared this first meeting between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was shaping up to be a battle for NFC East supremacy. Now that we’re here, the Cowboys are just trying to save their season, and the Eagles just want to take care of business against an inferior opponent.

That’s not a stretch. Are the Cowboys a good team? Well, they’re not bad, at least based on their 5-4 record. They certainly would be a lot better were it not for injuries and suspensions. But as the team is currently constructed right now, Dallas is not on the Eagles’ level.

Name one thing the Cowboys do better than the Eagles in 2017? That’s going to be a struggle, because aside from maybe punting, or maybe having a marginally superior pass rush, or maybe running the football before Ezekiel Elliott was sent packing, there’s really nowhere Dallas possesses an edge at this point.

Doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t pose a threat to the Eagles or even win on Sunday night. It’s simply a difficult scenario to envision when we break down the matchup on paper.

QUARTERBACKS

We’re probably going to be having this debate for many years. One-and-a-half seasons certainly isn’t enough to settle it. That being said, there’s no question who’s playing better right now, as in ‘17. Carson Wentz might be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player through 10 weeks. Wentz has thrown for more yards (2,262 to 1,994), a higher yards per attempt (7.8 to 6.9), and found the end zone with greater frequency (23 to 21) – including rushing touchdowns – compared to Dak Prescott. The Eagles’ signal caller also has just one more turnover (7 to 6) and 26 fewer yards rushing (211 to 237). Ultimately, the stats are all pretty close, but Wentz also has the more important number over Prescott right now: Wins, eight to five.

Slight advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

It’s safe to say that any combination of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith (not to be confused with Broncos great Rod Smith) is a massive drop-off from Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys simply can’t replace the explosive element Elliott brought to their offense, not with this collection of has-beens and one nobody, anyway. Not one of those ball carriers has the pure ability of a Jay Ajayi at this stage of their careers, and the Eagles wouldn’t swap LeGarrette Blount or Corey Clement with Dallas, either. Fun fact about the Cowboys backfield: The unit’s leading receiver is Smith with 38 yards.

Clear advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz is leads both teams with 43 receptions, 528 yards receiving and six touchdowns, and he even missed the Eagles’ last game. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are second and fourth, respectively, with 500 and 428 yards receiving, and tied for second with five touchdowns each. The Cowboys’ top receivers haven’t been as effective at getting down the field or in the red zone, though it’s a deep group. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are essentially possession receivers at this point, and even speedy Terrance Newman is averaging a career-worst 11.8 yards per catch. Dallas’ best deep threat has been Brice Butler this season with 10 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Otherwise, the vertical game has been nonexistent.

Advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINE

In retrospect, the Cowboys’ issues this season were easy to see coming. The retirement of right tackle Doug Free started a game of musical chairs up front, while the departure of guard Ronald Leary in free agency hurt the unit’s depth. Going from guard to tackle has been an adjustment for La’el Collins, and whether at left guard or left tackle, Chaz Green has been an abject failure. Dallas needs Tyron Smith healthy and covering Prescott’s blind side for this to even have a prayer of working. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ O-line keeps on ticking despite losing Jason Peters, which is a credit to Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s development. Peters or no, this continues to look like the best unit in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINE AND LINEBACKERS

The Eagles may have the best front four in the NFL, or one of them at least, but don’t discount the Cowboys here. Dallas is tied for fifth with 29 sacks, and Demarcus Lawrence leads the league with 11.5. The defense isn’t great against the run – 4.3 yards per carry allowed is tied for 23rd – but Lawrence, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford can all get after the quarterback. Of course, it’s not as if the Eagles aren’t scary rushing the passer, with just four fewer sacks, plus Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company boast the No. 1 run defense as well. Even if the lines are considered even, there’s going to be some separation at linebacker, as the Cowboys are without the heart soul of their defense, Sean Lee (hamstring).

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Despite a solid pass rush, teams have thrown on the Cowboys’ secondary. In terms of opponents’ quarterback rating, Dallas ranks 23rd (96.4). It’s a young backfield, with rookies Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie – the latter returning from a hamstring injury – in outsized roles. The Eagles are young at corner themselves, with Ronald Darby finally back from an ankle and rejoining Jalen Mills, but have seasoned safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod over the top. The unit will give up some ground, coming in at 26th in terms of yards per game (249.4), yet is ninth in quarterback efficiency (81.2). Teams throw against this group because they have to, not because they want to.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

At one point, Dan Bailey may have been the best kicker in the league, but he’s coming off his worst season as a pro and is now sidelined by a groin injury. That was the Cowboys’ primary strength on special teams. Now unreliable Mike Nugent is handling the kicking duties. Dallas punter Chris Jones has been pretty good at pinning opponents deep, which is nice, because he’s getting a lot more opportunities this year. The Eagles routinely grade among the top units in all phases, and will get the nod over most opponents, even if there is a Pro Bowl kicker.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING

Jason Garrett is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. He doesn’t call the plays. He doesn’t run the defense. Heck, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably decides when to call a timeout or throw the challenge flag. Yet, Garrett has hardware saying he’s the best. To his credit, there is a good staff in place around him, particularly defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But as of now, Doug Pederson is well on his way to winning Coach of the Year in ’17, and will do it while actually running a team, nor are there any weak links on his staff. With an unconvincing 62-49 record, including playoffs, we’ll go ahead and chalk up Garrett’s 2016 campaign as an anomaly.

Advantage: Eagles

OVERALL

The Cowboys went 13-3 in the regular season in ‘16 on the strength of a dominant offensive line, punishing ground attack and well-coached defense. While the latter is still in place, even that aspect of the equation benefitted from ball-control offense. But Dallas’ line is an injury away from being in shambles, and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion is suspended. That leaves a young quarterback with aging weapons and adequate protection at best, and a defense that can rush the quarterback but does little else. Meanwhile, the Eagles have the best record in the league right now at 8-1, and they were firing on all cylinders heading into their bye. This is a week-to-week sport, so everything can change in the blink of an eye on Sunday night. Going in, however, there’s no denying which side is superior.

Distinct advantage: Eagles