The results of the 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame voting will be announced Thursday night. I’d very much love to be wrong about this, but I’m afraid the wait will continue for Torry Holt.
As one of the leading stars and most prolific producers of the “Greatest Show On Turf” St. Louis Rams, and because of his awards and statistical dominance among NFL wide receivers over 10 seasons, Holt belongs in Canton. He’s been eligible for induction for eight years. This year he made the list of Hall of Fame finalists for the third time. Obviously Holt has strong support from voters, but not enough to get him through.
There are six reasons for that.
Their names are Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Aeneas Williams and Dick Vermeil.
Five are in the Hall of Fame. Vermeil will become the sixth on Thursday night; he’s this year’s nominee in the coaching category and is certain to be voted in. Warner, Faulk, Pace and Bruce starred on the 1999 Super Bowl champions. After an illustrious career with Arizona, Williams later played a leading role in reviving the Rams defense and was a standout for the 2001 NFC champions. Vermeil coached the ‘99 Rams to a highly improbable Super Bowl title, then briefly retired before resuming as head coach of the KC Chiefs.
From 1999 through 2001 the Rams went 37-11 in the regular season and had the NFL’s best winning percentage at .771. Over the three seasons they averaged 32.6 points per game and scored 301 points more than any other team. Their 195 offensive touchdowns were 46 more than anybody. Their 14,248 passing yards were 1,911 more yards than the second-highest team. Their 116 TD passes were 28 more than the next team in the rankings.
The 1999-2001 Rams made the playoffs in all three seasons, won two NFC championships, and went 1-1 in the Super Bowl.
Holt had a lot to do with the success.
He is also a victim of that success.
Let me explain. With so many Rams from that extraordinary three-year run already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Holt hasn’t been able to get past the velvet rope. I’ve warned you about this for a few years, and the problem still exists.
Is Holt worthy for induction? Sure. But some voters – enough to keep Holt waiting – have concluded that the STL Rams have enough Hall of Famers for a team that won only one Super Bowl. And while Holt will eventually have his day on stage for the induction ceremony, he’s been put on hold while the voters wave alternative candidates through.
(This was a weird time in the Hall of Fame voting. The voters have already made their choices – a couple of weeks ago. But the results have been kept secret until Thursday night’s “NFL Honors” television show. The outcome isn’t entirely secret; the candidates already know if they made it or not and promised to keep it quiet. This is what happens when the NFL decides to turn over everything to its TV partners. The way the voting was handled this season is an absolute embarrassment. Now, back to our column on Mr. Holt … )
One issue is the logjam at wide receiver, a historically persistent challenge that caused me many headaches when I was a voter. Holt is one three receivers among the 15 finalists this year, along with Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson. Wayne, like Holt, is a third-time finalist. This is Johnson’s first year as a finalist, and that put him at a disadvantage,
As for Holt, here’s how I would describe the general attitude among voters that didn’t vote for Holt all the way through the cutdown from 15 finalists, to 10, and to 5 in the balloting process. (If a player is among the final five, then he must win 80 percent of the vote in a straight up-or-down decision on each of the five.)
We’ve been generous with the St. Louis Rams. For a team that captured only one Super Bowl title, they’re heavily represented in Canton already. We like Holt, and he’ll get there, but if his waiting period stretches out, it isn’t a crime. Unfortunately, this happens a lot with wide receivers.
This is so true. Here are a bunch of examples that show how long wide receivers have waited because of extreme logjams.
— Lynn Swann made it on his 14th time as a finalist.
— Andre Reed, Art Monk and John Stallworth each made it in their eighth time as a finalist. About Monk: he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in catches and was a vital part of multiple Super Bowl winners in Washington.
— Cris Carter got there in his sixth time as a finalist.
— Tim Brown: sixth time as a finalist, then in.
— Fred Biletnikoff was a fifth-time finalist when elected.
— Charlie Joiner was a fifth-time finalist when elected. And he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and games.
— Heck, it took Marvin Harrison three times as a finalist to make it.
— And Isaac Bruce was a fourth-time finalist when Canton welcomed him in.
The point is, they all were elected.
That’s the part that the angry people forget or ignore.
With the proliferation of passing stats during this explosive era of passing the football, wide receivers and tight ends are rolling up massive numbers in catches, yards and touchdowns. You can’t just keep putting two or three receivers each year; other positions are important and have impeccable candidates who must be accounted for.
Holt’s wait is growing longer and it makes sense to move him through. And once Holt is in, it theoretically opens a space for other excellent candidates that are also waiting. But if Wayne goes in this time, Holt moves closer. That’s my hope.
(Then again, Bill Polian and Tony Dungy were members of the selection committee for 2022, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think this gave Wayne a slight advantage … because of the Indianapolis Colts connection. But Wayne had a stellar career, and if Polian and Dungy supported him over the other receivers, they don’t have to apologize for it. There was no “fix” in the voting. Just a difference of opinion, and I’ve been part of dozens of those during the Hall of Fame process.)
I understand the thinking and the challenge of trying to get this right, and it isn’t as easy as many on the outside believe. I was on the Hall of Fame selection committee for nearly 20 years, and the voting decisions can be excruciating.
Of the 15 finalists each year, a maximum of five can be voted in. That means 67 percent of the finalists are left out each year. And with all of those who come close but don’t make it, their supporters condemn the voters as corrupt, stupid, biased, lazy, etc.
Just because your favorite player/candidate doesn’t make it, it doesn’t mean the voters are evil. There were times when I literally felt ill when cutting the finalist list from 15 to 10 and then to 5. When it got to 10 it was especially brutal, knowing that the five I didn’t vote for were just as good – in many cases – as the five names I checked on my ballot.
Holt has been tremendously graceful about the situation, and I hope the voters take note of that.
This may not ease pro–Holt frustration, but the St. Louis Rams will be honored by the Hall of Fame again, with Vermeil officially taking his place among the great coaches in NFL history. DV’s Hall of Fame resume included his work in Philadelphia and Kansas City, so it isn’t a STL-only thing. But that doesn’t matter; he’ll always occupy a dear place in the hearts of St. Louis Rams fans who loved the 1999 team and all of the thrills they provided.
As we close, here are 11 reminders of Holt’s greatness:
1) Voted onto the 2000s All-Decade team along with Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens. He was the only NFL receiver during the decade to have two 1,600-yard seasons. Holt’s first came with Warner at QB. His second was with Marc Bulger playing much of the season at quarterback.
2) Holt’s catches (868) and yards (12,594) in the aughts are the most of any receiver ever in any decade.
3) Holt was selected for the Pro Bowl in seven of his 10 seasons with the Rams. (He played his final season in Jacksonville on a bad knee that prematurely ended his career.) Holt twice earned All-Pro honors.
4) As Howard Balzer pointed out in his Holt Hall of Fame presentation during the selection meeting, Holt’s explosiveness resulted in 329 plays (35.8 percent of his total catches) of 16 or more yards. Only three wide receivers have done better than that over the last 30 seasons.
5) Holt had the most receiving yards (6,784) by an NFL player in a player’s first five seasons.
6) Holt was the youngest player in league history to reach 10,000 and 11,000 career receiving yards.
7) The bum knee slowed him some later on, but after his10 seasons as a Ram Torry ranked No. 1 in NFL history with an average of 80.1 receiving yards per game – and was 11th all-time in receptions, and 14th in receiving yards. Even now Holt’s average of 77.4 yards per game ranks eighth best in league history.
8) Holt had been the only player in NFL history to have at least 1,300 receiving yards in six straight seasons until Julio Jones came along to match that in 2019.
9) In the postseason Holtz had 47 catches for 630 yards and an important first-half touchdown to give the Rams a 16-6 lead over Tennessee in Super Bowl 34.
10) From Howard Balzer: In the first nine seasons of their respective careers, Holt had more receptions than Calvin Johnson by 74, Andre Johnson by 99 and Reggie Wayne by 129 … and 245 more yards than Calvin Johnson, nearly 2500 more than Wayne and 3,708 more than Andre Johnson … and eight more touchdowns than Wayne, 10 more than Andre Johnson and only 12 fewer than Calvin Johnson.
11) Was Holt a No. 1 receiver? Well … as Balzer points out: in their last five seasons together, which began in 2003 when Bruce was 31 years old, Holt averaged 100 receptions, 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to Bruce’s averages of 65 catches, 926 yards and four scores.
If it doesn’t happen for you tonight — your day is coming, Torry Holt.
Hang in there.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
Stats cultivated from Football Reference.
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