McDaniel Misses H.O.F. Cut

The Hall of Fame is the pre-eminent individual honor any player can achieve. Short of that, being selected to the Pro Bowl by one's peers is the best measuring stick of playing-day dominance. Randall McDaniel has embodied the characteristics that define Hall of Famers, but, perhaps because of the lack of team success, his name is not among the 17 finalists for 2007 Hall of Fame induction.

The NFL's Record and Fact Book is 784 pages long. On Page 750, the league lists the records for the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl. In the very first category, the first record listed is service (games played). One name sits atop the list – Randall McDaniel with 12 Pro Bowl games played.

While the numbers are compiled from 1971-2006 and don't include the 14 selections for Merlin Olsen or the 12 for Ken Houston, nobody in the modern era played in more Pro Bowls than McDaniel – Reggie White was selected 13 times but played in 11, Jerry Rice was selected 13 times but played in 10 and Bruce Matthews was selected 14 times but played in 10 games.

One would think that in the only honor that distinguishes individual play, that the Pro Bowl would be the benchmark for induction into the Hall of Fame. Yet, when the list of 17 finalists was announced Wednesday, McDaniel's name was conspicuously absent.

It would seem that the biggest hindrance for McDaniel wasn't that he didn't have the individual accolades to get into the Hall – clearly he did, making the Pro Bowl in his final 12 seasons of a 14-year career. It would seem that, like Vikings that have preceded him, not playing in a Super Bowl – a team achievement – is what prevented him from being on the first ballot.

Only seven offensive linemen have been elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot –- Forrest Gregg, Jim Otto, Jim Langer, Gene Upshaw, John Hannah, Anthony Munoz and Jackie Slater. What do they all have in common? They played in at least one Super Bowl. Coincidence? Don't bet on it.

Of the offensive linemen that made the cut of 17, all of them share the same history of having played in at least one Super Bowl or NFL Championship Game – Bruce Matthews, Russ Grimm, Gene Hickerson, Bob Kuechenberg and Gary Zimmerman.

While it is always stressed that football is a team game, the Pro Bowl honors individual achievements. To that end, there is little more McDaniel could have done. He began being named to the Pro Bowl in just his third year in the league – breaking through the glass ceiling that has held down so many players, especially offensive linemen, in the past. He did all he could do, but apparently because of his lack of Super Bowl appearances, it wasn't enough to make the final 17 finalists.

To say that playing on the big stage doesn't have an impact on Hall of Fame induction is ludicrous. The Steelers of the 1970s were one of the most dominant teams in the league and their players were rewarded with Hall of Fame induction. Terry Bradshaw was never viewed as a great quarterback – at least not by Pro Bowl standards, since he was selected to just three in his career. Yet he is in the Hall of Fame. Wide receiver Lynn Swann never had a 1,000-yard season and also played in just three Pro Bowls, but he too is in the Hall. To think that team success doesn't factor in is a big mistake. Clearly it does.

While this doesn't mean that McDaniel won't eventually get the call to the Hall, it is disheartening to think that, of the ultimate individual honor in a team sport, that the Vikings' inability to get to a Super Bowl would be the biggest stumbling block for McDaniel to get the recognition he so richly deserves. He couldn't have done anything more to deserve induction in his career and was acknowledged by his peers as the best guard of his era. Unfortunately, it's going to take longer than some had figured it would for McDaniel to end up in Canton. Sound familiar? If the Vikings had won a single Super Bowl in their 1970s heyday, there likely would be seven or eight Vikings players from that era in the Hall of Fame. The same apparently will happen to McDaniel. Considering that he not only was a great player but a model citizen as well, seeing players like Michael Irvin have a shot at individual immortality is even more of a slap in the face.

As expected, McDaniel took the news in stride, saying that he didn't expect to get into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility – a testament to the man and his humility. It's just unfortunate that the politics of the NFL and the seeming requirement of team success would appear to be his biggest hurdle to getting into the Hall of Fame.

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