As most of you know by now, retired St. Louis Rams receiver Torry Holt came up short in the voting for the 2022 entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The news was disappointing but not surprising.
I have a notes and thoughts:
1) We must begin with Dick Vermeil. He made it! The coach of the 1999 “Greatest Show” Rams was all smiles Thursday night when introduced as a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2022. The only coach to lead a St. Louis NFL team to a Super Bowl championship is 85 but forever young. To those that know him and love him, it warms our hearts to see him so happy, see him so excited about entering the Hall of Fame to take his place among the league’s legendary coaches. Vermeil became an instant legend in St. Louis by taking the 1999 Rams all the way – to a parade on Market Street – after a 4-12 season in 1998.
Vermeil, 85, is cherished in three cities: Philadelphia, St. Louis and Kansas City. His reconstruction jobs in Philly and St. Louis were miraculous, and he finished his career by making the Chiefs better at a time when the team needed a football leader to boost the franchise. When a great coach also happens to be a great person, you know he’s extra special. And that’s why so many people love DV in Philadelphia, Missouri, and in his home base of Napa Valley in California. I’m sure his old gang at UCLA is thrilled, and the same goes for members of the old Los Angeles Rams who had a young Vermeil as their special teams coach in the 1970s.
“Dick Vermeil believed in me at a time when I was an unknown and in need of an opportunity to show what I could do,” Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said. “He took a chance on me. And his confidence in me gave me more confidence in myself. That was one of Coach’s greatest attributes. He could always see the best in his players even if they didn’t see the best in themselves. He’s done so much for all of us. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”
Said Ron Jaworski, Vermeil’s starting quarterback for the Philadelphia team that won the 1980 NFC Championship before losing to the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl: “He was a compassionate, caring coach who, to this day, has a bond with his former players. He cared about people. A lot of coaches in today’s NFL use players as disposable products. Coach cared. When players left the game, he reached out and showed that he cared about the players as people. That’s special. Dick was a special coach, and he’s a special man and there are a lot of people happy that he has been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Added Bill Bergey, DV’s Pro Bowl middle linebacker in Philly: “I always say that I wish I could be more like Dick Vermeil, because he did everything the right way. I can honestly say that, to this day, he is one of my best friends. You don’t hear that about many coaches.”
2) The most discouraging aspect of Holt’s rejection was his early elimination. He didn’t make the cut from 15 finalists down to 10. He was a third-time finalist and still hasn’t made it past the first reduction and into the final group of five.
3) There were three wide receivers among the 15 finalists, and I thought one would make it to Canton. That wasn’t the case. Reggie Wayne and Holt didn’t survive the cut to 10. Andre Johnson, a first-time eligible, made it to the list of 10 on the first round of balloting but didn’t reach the final five. Frankly, the voting decisions to push Johnson ahead of Holt and Wayne was ludicrous. But this has been a recent trend – voters going ga-ga over players that appear on the ballot for the first time. More on that in a bit.
4) This is a potentially troubling development for Holt’s candidacy. By declining to approve of at least one wide receiver, voters did nothing to ease the logjam at the position. And next year we may see Johnson, Wayne and Holt cancel each other out again as voters fail to coalesce behind one of the candidates to get the wide receiver line moving. This could be as frustrating as the Andre Reed, Cris Carter and Tim Brown logjam that kept all three Hall Of Fame caliber receivers waiting too long. All three were very deserving of induction. All three made it. But only because the committee took a pragmatic approach to move them through, one each year, instead of keeping them waiting by splitting the votes.
5) Had Wayne or Johnson gotten voted in, Holt would have been one step closer. But if anything, Holt went backwards. I say that after looking ahead to 2023. Here’s the issue: the ballot will be loaded with strong first-time eligibles who will garner lots of support. And two of them – offensive tackle Joe Thomas and cornerback Darrelle Revis – will be voted into the Hall in their first time up. The word “lock” is overused … but Thomas and Revis are locks for 2023.
Only five modern-era finalists can be voted in each year, so we can do the math: Five minus two (Thomas, Revis) leaves three spots left. The holdovers from this year’s ballot will face longer odds because of the math.
6) Warner, however, remains firm in his belief that Holt will join him in the Hall of Fame. “He’s a lock to get in,” Warmer told TMZ Sports. “Yes. Just a matter of time. Unfortunately, as I know well, it takes a little bit of time sometimes. We’re in his corner and we do whatever we can ’cause his time is coming. I do believe that (he’ll make it next year).”
7) Coach Vermeil is the fifth member of the 1999 “Greatest Show” Rams to get the call to Canton, joining Marshall Faulk, Warner, Orlando Pace and Isaac Bruce. Cornerback Aeneas Williams is also in the Hall of Fame, and he played a huge role in the success of the 2001 NFC Champion Rams. But he was still an Arizona Cardinal in 1999 when the Rams won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
8) Here’s the updated list of St. Louis-based NFL players that made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Vermeil, Warner, Bruce, Pace, Faulk, Williams, Roger Wehrli, Jackie Smith, Dan Dierdorf and Larry Wilson. That’s 10. And if you ask me that’s a lot to be proud of. The two St. Louis NFL teams (Cardinals and Rams) had 49 total seasons in our town. Those 49 teams had only 16 winning seasons and made it to the playoffs only eight times. And to have 10 Hall of Famers? That’s outstanding. Hopefully Holt will make it 11 soon.
9) The group of five modern-era selections was unusual for two reasons: it featured four defensive players for the first time in the history of the Hall of Fame voting. They were: defensive lineman Richard Seymour, defensive tackle Bryant Young, safety LeRoy Butler and the late linebacker Sam Mills. The fifth was offensive tackle Tony Boselli.) Second, there were no first-ballot selections. That’s rare. According to Hall of Fame selection committee member Clark Judge, that hasn’t happened since 2012 – and this is only the second time it’s happened over the last 26 years.
10) I was stunned by the snub of first-ballot heavyweight DeMarcus Ware. I don’t know what else the dude was supposed to do to impress voters. In a fantastic career that featured nine years in Dallas and three in Denver, Ware was a seven-time All-Pro selection, a nine-time Pro Bowl pick, an All-Decade choice, a Super Bowl champion, and ranks ninth in NFL history with 138 and ½ sacks. I assume that Ware will make it next year – and if so, that won’t help Torry Holt.
Thanks for reading …
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