An Hall of Fame Debate

This one was started by bored TJ, as you can see. Although, it’s not a bad thought and Armando has some things to say about the one Mister Heinz Ward. Also, you can see from this that there is such a thing as ESPN overdosing. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. C’mon people think. Mike and Mike in moderation. It’s a simple mnemonic. Also, if you have an opinion on this or any issue we raise here or on the BangCast hit us up at interrobangsports@gmail.com. We’ll post the best responses or insults or work them into the show. 

TJ:
Okay, so I’ve been watching WAAAAAY too much SportsCenter and Mike and Mike recently and they have been talking about Hines Ward possibly (probably?) retiring after the Super Bowl if Pittsburgh wins. Truthfully, I think the odds are pretty good that he does, but what if they don’t (God forbid). Will his Hall of Fame chances drop if he doesn’t get a third ring? Is he guaranteed a spot even if he gets #3?

I already have my opinion, but because I may be biased, I wanted your responses before I chime in. You can read a little of my opinion here:http://tiny-url.org/7tS2M1. Yeah, that’s right. I just referenced our blog in an email debate that will later end up on the blog. Damn, I’m good.

Armando:
I think Ward is one of the best WRs in the game currently, but I don’t think he’s HoF material, even with another SB win.  There are only 21 WRs in the HoF in the modern era, and almost all of them have legendary names: Biletnikoff, Art Monk, Stallworth, Lynn Swann, etc.  The most recent, Irvin and Rice, were clearly the best WRs of the 90s.  Who would you say are the best 2-3 WRs of the 2000s?  Moss?  Ochocinco?  TO?  I don’t think it’s nearly that clear-cut, and even if I would put anyone distinctly in that list, I still wouldn’t say that they even hold a candle to Irvin or Rice.  Another 3-4 solid years and I would say yes, but not now.

And that has nothing to do with Steeler spite; in fact, I think continuing at the level that he’s at, Troy Polamalu is a lock if he gets in another good 3 seasons.  Ditto for Rothelisberger, but he would probably need another 5-6 yrs. to get there.

TJ:
See, I agree with the Ben Roethlisberger number although if he wins #3 this year he’s a lock. However, without the rings he would need the longevity to make his stats comparable. But that’s where I differ on the issue of Hines Ward.

Where you mention Stallworth and Swann (two Steelers legends), I look at how Ward has surpassed them in every statistical category and has a SB MVP (like Stallworth). He has more receptions and TDs than Art Monk, and his 186 game streak with a reception is 3rd all-time.The only thing keeping him from being a first ballot pick in my mind is that Cris Carter isn’t in yet (probably this year), so it looks like voters are calculating inflation in the passing game and holding it against WRs.

But I think Super Bowl rings and winning do an awful lot to make up for statistical short comings (see Bradshaw, Swann, Stallworth, Montana). Whereas Carter doesn’t have a ring, Ward will have 3 if our premise holds true (assuming that he won’t retire if they lose).

Then I move on to historical significance. Again, in an era where a lot of WRs put up big numbers, Ward put himself in the conversation with consistency (186 straight games with a catch) and his blocking. I truly believe that when anyone discusses the evolution of football (from the leather helmet days of yore to the flag football days that are inevitable around 2020) that Hines Ward is an important figure. He has the Hines Ward rule, once again making it hard to discuss the past decade of football without including him in the discussion.

It’s the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Players Who Are Statistically Superior to Their Contemporaries/Ancestors

Armando:
Once again, Signore, I totally agree with you… which is why I don’t know why we don’t see eye-to-eye.

It indeed is the Hall of FAME, and that “fame” is something that Ward is sorely missing.  Yeah, he’s got rings, but even if you optimistically look ahead and assume he’ll get 4 rings, that places him with such vaunted Steeler names as Gerry Mullins, Jon Kolb, and Steve Furness (RIP), players that certainly Ward is more valuable than, but not players that anyone (besides old school Steeler fans as yourself) have ever heard of.
Those players were all relevant 30-40 years ago, I know, but I don’t think Ward is terribly relevant even today.  If you asked some random fan to name 5 current Steelers, they would probably go, in order:
– Big Ben
– Troy Polamalu
– James Harrison
– Rashad Mendenhall (typo was intended, remember this is asking a “fan”, not us who are clearly superior)
– Uhhh… Matt Wallace is the fast one, right?  That dude is fuckin’ FAST!!  Did you hear he ran like a 2.4 40?  You can’t defend that shit.
If you asked the same question to the same person, only turn back the clock 10 yrs. ago, you would certainly get something like
– The Bus!!
– Slash
– Did Joey Porter play that year?
– That one dude with the crazy hair, Whomatafala-Matafala or whatever
– Damn I’m fresh out
The point is that, regardless of how consistent Hines has been, he’s almost been TOO consistent.  It would have served him better to have one or two fabulous seasons and follow it up with a total stinker (cough Randy Moss cough) instead of clocking a solid, yet unmemorable, performance year after year.  If you look at Stallworth and Swann, you think of the word “legend” – I’m actually glad you said it because it helps to drive my point home.  Stallworth may be on the bubble there depending on who you ask, but you couldn’t mention Swann to even a non-Steelers fan without eliciting the “legendary” tag.  But what makes a legend?  A rhetorical question, I know, and one that differs from person to person.  But the fact remains that the majority of people would not consider Hines Ward a legend, not now, and not in 10 years, as it stands with his current track.
So he doesn’t have that star quality, he doesn’t have a breakneck season, and he’s never been one of the more memorable players on any of his squads.  So why would he get into the HoF?  I agree with you that he is the caliber of player that SHOULD adorn the walls of the hall (which are totally-totally-tall by the way), but I’m not nearly as convinced that he ever WILL.
TJ:
It is kind of ridiculous that we are looking at roughly the same criteria but viewing it differently.

I may be letting my bias as a fan get in the way, but I would say that Hines Ward is on of the four most recognizable names on the Steelers. When they won SB XLV (his MVP), I would have put him second only to Jerome Bettis. Now, he falls behind Big Ben and Troy Polamalu for sure, and probably James Harrison. However, I still think his name carries more recognition than Mendenhall as this was really Rashard’s coming out party.

As for ten years ago, Ward was just breaking onto the scene (drafted in 1998). 2001 was the first of 4 consecutive 1,000yd seasons and 4 Pro Bowls (the one All-Star game this side of the NHL where a selection is relevant – although not recently with the game being played without SB players). So, yeah, a decade ago he may not have been well known. But nine years ago he was definitely on the map.

I guess I look at it as him being the best WR in Pittsburgh history, and breaking the team records of two HoFers. He has caught as many passes as Randy Moss (and they were drafted in the same year), and his 83TD are in the top 20 all-time. His best season was better than either Swann or Stallworth (Swann never had a 1,000yd season and Stallworth never caught 100 passes).

You may be right about his star power and his “legendary” status may be questionable, but I believe that a Super Bowl MVP gives him lasting recognition. Not that everyone remembers every SB MVP (*cough* Santonio Holmes *cough*), but that combining one with a borderline-great career makes someone memorable enough for the Hall. And maybe I’m giving too much credit to the HoF voters, but I would like to believe that they are more than just “casual fans” who wouldn’t recognize greatness anywhere outside their favorite team.

Again, though, if it wasn’t debatable we wouldn’t be having this discussion. 

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