No matter the wait, Haley a winner

Every single aspect of Charles Haley's 13-year NFL career says he's a Hall of Fame player.

Haley, a defensive end, was a key player on two of the greatest dynasties in NFL history -- the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s.

But for the fifth consecutive year as a finalist, Haley failed to get a call welcoming him to the Hall of Fame.

One day, he'll get in.

The numbers -- five Super Bowl rings and 100.5 sacks -- demand it. We just don't know when it will happen, which is the most frustrating part for those who deem Haley worthy of the Hall of Fame.

For now, it's OK. Really.

Some things are so precious, they're worth the wait. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is one of them.

Only a few players, the best of the best, get selected the first time they're on the ballot. Everybody else waits. All you have to do is look at this year's class of inductees.

Raiders punter Ray Guy, a seven-time finalist, has been waiting since 1991. Defensive end Claude Humphrey, who spent 10 of his 13 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, has been waiting since 1986.

Receiver Andre Reed has been waiting since 2005, and cornerback Aeneas Williams has been waiting since 2009.

Do you think any of those guys is mad about the length of time it took him to get into the Hall of Fame?


They're just happy to have a roster spot on the best football team ever assembled. As my mom used to say, "It won't seem like so long once it's over."

Our own Rayfield Wright waited 22 years, and Bob Hayes' family waited 29 years to celebrate his induction.

A few years ago, New York Giants' linebacker Harry Carson got in after waiting 13 years. Actually, Carson, a six-time finalist, had waited so long that in 2004 he asked the Hall of Fame to remove him from the ballot. Two years later, he was voted in.

The reality is Haley has two choices: wait or ask off the ballot.

Patience is the obvious choice because the HOF voting process is flawed.

The Hall of Fame selection committee has only 46 voters, so personal grudges can affect the process. This is the truth, whether the committee chooses to admit it or not.

In the past, groups of voters have reportedly forged alliances and colluded to get players in or keep them out of the Hall of Fame.

Then there's the flawed presentation method. A member of the selection committee, usually the beat reporter or columnist from the player's hometown team, presents the case for each finalist to the rest of the committee.

The odds of getting in are increased if you have a well-respected, high-profile member of the committee presenting your case.

We all bring a bias into every conversation. It's absurd to think Haley's well-deserved reputation for being a jerk to the media has had absolutely no bearing on the defensive end being kept out of the Hall of Fame.

That's naive.

It's not the overriding reason, but if a few voters had an opportunity to choose between a player such as Williams -- generally regarded as a great person -- and Haley, then we know how that vote is going.

The beauty and frustration of the Hall of Fame process is that, in the end, it's a voter's subjective opinion of a player based on a litany of variables.

That said, way too much emphasis is placed on numbers. Yes, numbers have a role, but it's much more important to understand a player's impact on the game.

Even numbers are subjective. If a quarterback had a significant role in five Super Bowl wins, he's in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. The same goes for a wide receiver. Or a running back.

But defensive players often get overlooked because they don't have as many statistics to determine their worth, and defensive linemen in the modern era are judged almost exclusively on sacks.

William Fuller had more sacks than Haley. There's not a pro personnel director who would ever pick Fuller over Haley.

Talk to any offensive coordinator from the prime of Haley's career and they'll tell you he was one of the dominant players of his era. He forced offensive coordinators to account for him on every play.

He brought to the Cowboys defense a nasty demeanor that helped maximize the unit's talent, and he demanded excellence from teammates at practice and during games.

Haley wasn't friendly. For the most part, he talked to the media only after games. Unless, of course, you were doing a piece on one of his defensive line teammates, such as Leon Lett.

Then he would give you as much time as you needed.

He cussed me out once in a nearly empty locker room, prompting guard Nate Newton to implore I leave quickly before someone -- namely me -- got hurt.

But that experience never affected my thoughts on him as a player. All you have to do is remember the ferocity with which he played and listen to the endorsements he gets from Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith.

They'll all tell you he belongs in the Hall of Fame with them. They certainly don't say that about some of their other high-profile teammates who helped them win three Super Bowls in four seasons.

They stump for Haley because he was the best of the best. This isn't about honoring some average player. This is about honoring a man for what he's earned with his performance.

Haley's reward will come eventually. When it does, he won't care how long it took.

He'll just be happy to join a team that will never cut him.