The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee missed the mark once again as Browns great, Clay Matthews, Jr., failed to advance beyond the semifinal grouping of 25. It’s the third time Matthews attempt at enshrinement has met the same fate. At this point, supporters must wonder what is lacking in the translation of the message delivered by one of the greatest careers a linebacker has ever compiled.
Support for Clay’s enshrinement appeared to be gaining steam from many outside the secretive chambers of the nominating committee. Tony Grossi, who is a committee member representing Cleveland, did a great job in asking Browns Interim Head Coach Gregg Williams about Clay’s qualifications for the Hall of Fame.
“That whole family, I am just so respectful to that. Clay was a dominant player that you had to, offensively, take note of at all times, His ability to violently, and I mean violently, crush the pocket when he rushed the passer. There are some really good examples of some good cut ups of him, too, of how he was on taking the ball away in the pocket and some of the plays that he did. But then, he could play pass coverage. Did some really good things with his hand skills in pass coverage on making quarterbacks think that he was in (pass) rush, but he wasn’t, he was dropping. I really do believe that he has those types of credentials, yes.”
Clay’s brother Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews also vocalized his support for Clay. Bruce often played against Clay in the NFL, so his words aren’t just those of a brother wanting something for his family.
“He produced for 19 years and he didn’t just produce one-dimensionally as a linebacker. He still ended up with eighty-something sacks … I think he had (83-1/2 unofficially, including the four years before they became an official stat). But that only tells the story of a small part of his career.”
Others including Earnest Byner stepped forward with support, but it wasn’t enough for the committee to push Clay to compete in the final round for 2019 enshrinement.
What is the Hall of Fame looking for in a career? If you want stats, versatility and longevity all together in a great human being, look no further than Clay Matthews, Jr. Cleveland Sports Talk Writer Menachem Ickovitz stated The Hall of Fame Case for Clay Matthews in his article which included brilliant graphics prepared by Scott Mayberry.
The knocks on Clay are hardly knocks at all. Four Pro Bowls in 19 seasons may not be enough for some people but look around. Making the Pro Bowl is more like a popularity contest than a true measure of greatness. Getting to the Pro Bowl is often a rubber stamp for players once they get the proper reputation. For me, looking at Pro Bowls is an extremely lazy way to consider a player’s Hall of Fame credentials. It should be a factor, but not a measuring stick.
Not winning a title is most likely being held against Clay. Let’s see. There are 53 players on a team. A starter plays half of the plays in a game at most. How much responsibility does one player garner for not winning a title?
It’s tough to argue against any of the players who moved on to the round of 15. I won’t disparage any of them. They all had great careers. I don’t understand why you take five players in their first year of eligibility when you have players like Clay who have been trying for 18 years. It’s difficult to analyze the process due to the secretive nature of the committee. I understand why individual votes are not revealed, but why not publicize percentages like the Baseball Hall of Fame does? I have contacted committee members and they won’t give the time of day, let along suggest how to promote a deserving player.
Jennifer Matthews has led the charge in creating awareness about her dad’s qualifications. Several of us feel fortunate to be assisting her. Jennifer won’t rest until Clay finds his rightful place in Canton. 2019 will be spent reaching out to more Hall of Famers for letters of recommendation and finding new ways to get the message out.
Excluding Clay Matthews from the Hall of Fame is truly a slap in the face to the city of Cleveland and the Browns greats from Clay’s era. The fight continues.