Like many who live in this region and follow the Steelers, I am surprised that Jerome Bettis has been passed over four times by the Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Once, twice, considering the competition, yes. But years three and four are hard to understand. However, these things happen, and more on that later.
What I truly do not understand, what has me totally flummoxed and what has me far more annoyed than the temporary setback for Bettis is the decision of the panel to induct punter Ray Guy into the Hall of Fame. That is an absolute joke.
Some people believe punters don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. They have a point. But if a punter were to be inducted for the first time, why would the selectors possibly take one who is not close to being the best.
On the all-time list of career punting averages, Guy is -- are you ready for this? -- 89th. He trails, among others, these former Steelers: Harry Newsome 86; Bobby Joe Green 83; (my favorite) Josh Miller 62; (my second favorite) Zoltan Mesko 41; Pat Brady 28.
If this year is a trend, Pitt can look forward to another Pro Football Hall of Famer: Andy Lee, still active, is 8th.
Guy wasn’t even the best punter of his era. In his 14-year career (1973-86), Guy led the NFL three times, 1974, 1975 and 1977. Jerrel Wilson, whose career was from 1963-78, led the NFL five times. Wilson also finished with a higher career average than Guy.
When Shane Lechler, still active, becomes eligible, how could the voters possibly reject him? He’s led the lead five times and is second, as opposed to Guy’s 89th, on the all-time list for career average.
Shame, shame, shame on the selectors for yielding to pressure and enshrining the undeserving Ray Guy. He might be the best-known punter in NFL history, but he wasn’t close to being the best.
There is much historical precedent for overlooking high-statistic players such as Bettis.
• When wide receiver Art Monk retired in 1995, he was first in NFL history in receptions and third in yards. He was elected until his eighth year of eligibility.
• When wide receiver Cris Carter retired in 2002, he was second in receptions and fourth in yards. He was elected in 2013.
There’s no explaining why some players take longer than others but it is not personal. Bettis does not take it as such and neither should his fans or fans of the Steelers.
There is no Steelers bias or Bettis bias among voters. It’s unlikely that any other franchise can make this statement: Of the 46 selectors, six have covered the Steelers. They are Ed Bouchette, Vito Stellino, Ira Miller, Len Pasquarelli, Jeff Legwold and John Clayton. Bettis was and is very popular with the media. There is nothing personal involved in his snubs.
Nor is there an anti-Steelers bias, as many suggest. It is possible when the 1970s Steelers came of age for Hall of Fame voting, there might have been some concern about too many players from the franchise being enshrined in a short period of time. But that window ended a long time ago. The mere fact three Steelers -- Rod Woodson, Jack Butler and Dermontti Dawson -- were elected within the space of four years between 2009 thru 2012 strongly would indicate there is not a Steelers bias.
Bettis’ time will come, but he might have to wait as long as Monk and Carter.
This year he was the only running back under consideration. Next year, Edgerrin James will be eligible. James has fewer rushing yards than Bettis, but more total years -- 15,610-15,111. Additionally, linebacker Junior Seau, offensive tackle Orlando Pace and wide receiver Isaac Bruce, seventh all-time in receptions and fourth in yardage, become eligible.
And please stop with the nonsense that Bettis was the "best big back" of all-time. Attempting to create categories within the running back category to enhance Bettis only serve to detract from his credentials. No one ever called Barry Sanders the best small back in NFL history. He was enshrined on what he did, not on what his size was. The same applies to Bettis. His time will come.