So the New York Giants upend the Colossus that is the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years and Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are Canton-bound?Sure. But they better take a number and get in line behind Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett.Sad thing is, with the way members are voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the East Coasters will fly in well ahead of the Raiders icons, who might never get in. And that's not rightor fair.But because of the very nature of the election process, which elicits so many backroom deals -- you vote for my guy, I'll vote for yours -- that all but ensures it.
A few years back, while working at the Sacramento Bee, I did a story on the process, specifically, the part called "Getting into the room," when finalists are voted upon and the list is whittled down to a Hall of Fame class, which must be between four and seven members each and every year. But what if there are truly no worthy candidates in a specific year? Doesn't matter. There has to be a Hall of Famer. At least four of them. Each and every year.Selectors become candidates' sponsors, so to speak, pleading their respective cases to the room as to why their "guy" should have a bust in Canton.Or did you not hear Curtis Martin first thank the reporter that "presented" his case to the room minutes after the results were announced? That is essentially the process.
While working on that story for the Bee, a selector admitted he had voted for a player he did not deem all that Hall-worthy, just to get the backing of said candidate's sponsor for his own candidate.You vote for my guy, I'll vote for yours.Coughlin and Manning, who play across the river from the media capital of the world in Gotham? They won't need such help.Flores and Plunkett, who paired to win two of the first 18 Super Bowls and served as trailblazers as the first minority head coach and first Latino quarterback to win not only one Super Bowl but two? With every passing Hall of Fame election, they become whispers in time, in danger of being lost in the fog of memory.You cannot tell the entire, rich history of the NFL without mentioning what Flores and Plunkett meant to the NFL and its burgeoning fan base. No, they should not be in the Hall of Fame because they're Latinos. But being Latino only adds a certain spice to what should already be no-brainer candidacies.Plunkett is the only eligible multi-winning Super Bowl quarterback not enshrined (Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are still active). Flores actually has four rings, his other two coming as Len Dawson's backup in Super Bowl IV and as an assistant on John Madden's Super Bowl XI-winning staff.It's an annual rite in this corner to remind anyone interested of the duo's accomplishment, even to point out that stats-wise, Plunkett compares favorably to another New York idol in Joe Willie Namath. And yes, Plunkett, the ultimate Lazarus-in-the-NFL story, won twice as many titles as Namathand Brett Favre. After all, it's all about the rings, right?Flores, meanwhile, seemingly has it always held against him that Al Davis ran the ship, while John Madden receives no such criticism. He also runs into the same problems as George Seifert in that he was not as successful after leaving, Flores in Seattle, Seifert in Carolina.Of course, Raiders fans were up in arms for the third straight year this weekend when Tim Brown was a finalist but excluded from the after-party. Think how just-as-deserving Raiders afterthoughts like Cliff Branch, Ray Guy, Lester Hayes and Ken Stabler feel every year.This is not to demean the accomplishments of Coughlin and Manning. But if they are Hall of Famers after catching Flores and Plunkett in Super Bowl titles, then so, too, are Flores and Plunkett.Which, of course, goes against my very fiber as a journalist. After all, a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, right?