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Swann vs. Ozzie: Who is the REAL Hall of Famer?

The gasp we let out when ESPN announced that Lynn Swann was again bypassed for HOF induction was surpassed only by my wife's gasp when our 2-year old son rather skillfully repeated at least half of the stream of expletives that escaped my mouth upon receiving the bad news. Yikes.

For those of you who haven't heard, the HOF class of '99 consists of running back Eric Dickerson, guard Tom Mack, tight end Ozzie Newsome, guard Billy Shaw, and linebacker Lawrence Taylor (good thing they don't have to include L.T.'s police rap sheet on his HOF plaque... it'd never fit). All are deserving of the honor, with the possible exception of L.T. But unlike baseball, the Pro Football HOF doesn't have a citizenship clause, and with L.T.'s off-the-field indiscretions not part of the equation, he admittedly deserves his spot in Canton for his stellar play. Congratulations, gentlemen.

Lynn Swann was a finalist as usual, reaching the final six for the 2nd time in three seasons, but again narrowly failed to receive the 80% vote required for induction (those stat-driven rat-bastards).

One question seems relevant. Not to take away anything from Ozzie Newsome... I have the utmost respect for what he brought to the the game on & off the field and there's no doubt in my mind that he absolutely deserves enshrinement... but does ANYONE think that his level of greatness surpassed Lynn Swann's? Further proof that the HOF voters are driven by STATS, not careful consideration & common sense.

Of course, Ozzie's stats speak for themselves... very impressive, especially for a TE. But they're no more impressive than John Stallworth's. And Stallworth didn't get in. Why? Because even the idiot sportwriters that vote on this thing every year recognize the Swann was the better of the two, and how can Stallworth get in unless Swann gets in? It's ridiculous. If forced to pick between those three players, I'd take both Swann & Stallworth for my team ahead of Newsome, hands down. Newsome's election is further proof that the voting is almost entirely stats-driven. That's not my bias as a Steelers fan, either... just common sense.

Living in the heart of Browns country, I'm very well aquainted with Newsome and watched him week-in & week-out for all of his 13 years. I'd definitely categorize myself as a Newsome fan and a borderline expert on the guy. I remember well the many great plays by the "Wizard of Oz" and the incredible consecutive-game reception streak he had, and his astounding durability. But Ozzie was never the dominating offensive presence that Lynn Swann was... not even close. Few players were. If someone wants to dispute that, let them send me recounts of Ozzie's game-winning post-season heroics. Let them show me his clutch catches in crunchtime when everything was on the line. Let them show me how he lifted his entire team to a higher level when IT MATTERED. Ozzie played in 3 AFC Championship games and a total of 9 playoff games and scored just ONE TOUCHDOWN. Where was he? In only one of those games did he achieve what I'd consider a "great game" ('86 playoff vs. the Jets), and he was non-existant in all three of the AFC title games. Contrast that with Lynn Swann & John Stallworth. I'm not knocking Ozzie... he deserves to be in the HOF... I'm merely making my case that Swann & Stallworth deserve to be there, too.

And don't give me that, "Well, Swann & Stallworth played for a great team" crap... they are a large part of what MADE that team great. Let's face it... had Ozzie played for the ball-control Steelers of that era, he might've spent much of his time riding the bench (in spite of the impressive receiving statisitcs, he was FAR from the best blocking TE I've ever seen, and last time I checked, a HUGE part of a TE's job is BLOCKING, something the stats-driven HOF voters seem to be oblivious to). And he almost certainly wouldn't be going to Canton.

Swann & Stallworth deserve to be in the HOF (especially Swann). The clock is ticking... in a couple of years, Swann will fall into the "senior" category where only one candidate per year is considered, and his HOF chances will diminish substantially. The ignorance of the stats-driven sportwriters who failed to vote for Swann is disgraceful.

One final observation: The only measuring stick an IGNORANT person can use to deterimine a player's contributions is statistics. The sportswriters on the HOF panel who vote for induction have a RESPONSIBILITY to look beyond the stats (after all, in many respects on paper, Neil O'Donnell is better than Terry Bradshaw, so how much validity can really by assigned to stats?). Lynn Swann has been done a great injustice. Ignorance in this case is not an exceptable excuse.

Tim McMillen
Webmaster of McMillen & Wife

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