Friday, August 04, 2006

Hooray for Harry

This weekend, former Giants' linebacker Harry Carson gets an honor he justly deserves: enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Carson was one of the two best inside linebackers of the 1980s (Mike Singletary) and the first inside linebacker from a 3-4 defense to wear the yellow jacket that inductees wear when they deliver their speeches.

The article linked in the title of this post discusses Carson the man, who grew up in the deep south, only started playing football in 9th grade, nearly lost a chance to go to college when the program he signed with couldn't afford scholarships, had his future resurrected by a high school teacher that sent his football tapes to a neighboring school, was drafted with a bit of flyer-type pick by the Giants and became the leader and most respected member of the Big Blue defenses of the 1980s.

Here's what I wrote before the Pro Football writers finally smartened up and voted him into the Hall earlier this year:

The repeated and completely unjustifiable snub of Carson by the pro football writers is one of the most narrow-minded and simply ridiculous failures by any Hall of Fame voting committee anywhere. Carson dominated his position of inside linebacker for more than a decade. He is a 9-time Pro Bowler (same as Jack Lambert, more than Jack Ham -- two Steelers in the Hall) and was the "quarterback" of the Giants' defense that finished in the top ten in total defense six times in seven years from '81-87. He was a perennial all-Pro and he is still not in the Hall of Fame despite being one of the two best non-outside linebackers of the 1980s (Mike Singletary, the middle linebacker of the Bears' top-notch defenses of the mid-80s, is the other; he's in the Hall). Maybe Carson is too intelligent, too handsome and too nice -- he never came across in interviews as a frightening, aggressive person such that one would associate him with the seek-and-destroy mindset of an inside linebacker. He is STILL a genial presence on Giants pregame and analysis shows, if less erudite than he was in the '80s thanks to the innumerable concussions that eventually led to his retirement.

The primary justification for keeping Carson out of the Hall is that the Giants only became winners when Lawrence Taylor arrived in 1981. That's stupid. Taylor transformed the game as an outside linebacker and is probably the best defensive player ever (he couldn't head-slap offensive linemen, Deacon Jones). Carson's greatness complemented LT, it did not depend upon him: Carson was an all-Pro on a terrible team while LT ravaged ACC offenses for UNC.

Lambert was the most feared inside linebacker in football in the '70s (even by his teammates), yet Ham, Mel Blount, and Mean Joe Greene are in the Hall because they all deserve to be on their own merits. Similarly, Gene Upshaw and Art Shell are both Hall of Famers because each was the best at his position when they played, they were not debited by playing alongside each other. Unlike Singletary (Dan Hampton) and Lambert (Greene), Carson did not play behind Hall of Fame quality defensive linemen. It takes a Giants fan to remember that George Martin (not the fat author), Jim Burt and Leonard Marshall were the defensive line of the '86 champions.

I stand by everything I wrote then. Willie McCovey's in the baseball Hall of Fame and he batted behind Willie Mays; Gehrig is in the Hall and he batted behind Ruth; and in football, Harry Carson will now be in the Hall after lining up with LT for years. Congratulations, Harry Carson, you deserve it.

No comments: