Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


Pro Football Hall of Fame: How Eddie DeBartolo made it and Terrell Owens didn’t

Feb 7, 2016 at 9:26 AM2


On the eve of Super Bowl 50, a 46-person selection committee sat in a room and debated until the final roster of that year's Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees is determined. It happens every year. The committee itself consists of a media representative from each pro football city, one representative of the Pro Football Writers of America and 13 at-large delegates.

For most, the closed door process is unknown. Selections are typically made over others without an explanation of the reasoning. That leaves some fans scratching their heads in confusion as to why a representative from their favorite team was left out in favor of other – sometimes less worthy in their eyes – candidates.

The final decisions may not always be the most popular. While some are chosen quickly, like first-time candidate Brett Favre, who's debate lasted a mere six seconds, the debates for others are often much more involved and lengthy.

This year, legendary former San Francisco 49ers owner and Bay Area icon, Eddie DeBartolo, made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his fourth try as a finalist. It was a great win for 49ers fans who, like DeBartolo, have waited a long time to see him finally get in. He was beloved by his players as well, who he treated like royalty as he spared no expense during each of his years of trying to build championship teams.

After purchasing the team in 1977, DeBartolo helped the 49ers to five Super Bowl championships and 16 consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins during his 23 years as owner. However, it may have been the circumstances surrounding his perceived ousting as the 49ers' owner that contributed most to his wait.

Controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens, who spent time with the 49ers from 1996 until 2003, was also a finalist. On the field, he seemingly did everything he needed to do in order to cement his place in Canton on his first year of eligibility. However, once the voting was tallied, he was left on the outside looking in.

The six-time Pro Bowler and five-time first team All-Star has 1,078 career receptions for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns. He ranks sixth all-time in receptions, and is second only to Jerry Rice in all-time receiving yards. He also ranks third in all-time receiving touchdowns.

How did someone with such an impressive football resume not make the final cut? While his exclusion may not be entirely surprising to you, the reasoning may be.

On Saturday, Clark Judge of CBS wrote a fantastic article for the Talk of Fame Network titled An insider's look at how the Hall's Class of 2016 was decided. As many know, Judge spent time covering the 49ers before he became a national writer.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Judge's insider's look that focus on DeBartolo and Owens. Oddly, the discussions for the pair were the two longest debates of the day by the selection committee.

Eddie DeBartolo
Debate time: 50 min, 33 sec
Longest debate of the day

When Eddie DeBartolo stopped by Yahoo Sports Radio the other night to sit with Rick, Ron and me on the Talk of Fame Network, he got a rock-star reception. Escorted by police, he was greeted by dozens of fans chanting his name and asking for autographs. DeBartolo is one of the Bay Area's most popular figures, the man who took the 49ers out of the gutter and put them on top of the NFL – with the club winning five Super Bowls in 14 seasons. While his candidacy elicited the longest discussion, it didn't include contentious debate. In fact, if there were a surprise it's not that he was elected; it's that there was virtually no debate. Speakers were as eloquent as they were supportive, proof that the room hadn't forgotten DeBartolo's impact on the game.

Terrell Owens
Debate time: 43 min, 15 sec
Second longest debate of the day

No surprise here. With Terrell Owens on the ballot, you're not only asked to bring your popcorn; you're told to bring your flak jacket, too. There were bound to be grenades lobbed by both sides, and there were. His supporters argue that Owens has Hall-of-Fame numbers, and they're right. But there's another number they don't mention, and it's one that must have swayed voters. It's zero. That's the number of teams that wanted to keep this guy at the top of his career. Yeah, I know, he showed remarkable courage … not to mention ability … with his Super Bowl XXXIX performance for Philadelphia. But by the middle of the following season he'd become so intolerable that the Eagles kicked him to the curb … and what's new? Over his last six-and-a-half seasons, he played with four teams. "The Hall of Fame ought to be for people who make their teams better," Polian said on the Talk of Fame Network, "not for those who disrupt them and make them worse." The board agreed.

Below, you can read the entire article, which goes over the debate and reasoning for each inductee as well as those that missed out this year. It is an interesting read for any fan.

The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


2 Comments

  • PSX1
    Team's could not wait to get rid of Owens. That says a lot. The stats may be there but his value to NFL teams was not. DeBartolo on the other hand took a sad franchise and made them into football royalty.
    Feb 11, 2016 at 11:23 PM
    0
  • MichaelG
    TO had his issues, but his stats should speak for themselves. Harrison over TO? C'mon NFL.
    Feb 11, 2016 at 4:44 PM
    0

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