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Former Raiders coach Tom Flores misses cut for Hall of Fame

Updated February 2, 2019 - 8:04 pm

ATLANTA — There are times for soap box opinions, strong and passionate and full of uncompromising statements.

(You know, like when UNLV basketball gets blown out for the third straight game.)

I never found Hall of Fame announcements to warrant such response.

When you begin with a belief that the entire selection process is flawed, it’s sort of difficult to discover that high-and-mighty button to push when reacting to who gets in and who doesn’t.

Tom Flores didn’t, at least not this year, the former Raiders coach not included in the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class announced during the league’s annual Honors program Saturday night.

Four defensive backs — Ed Reed, Champ Bailey, Ty Law and seniors finalist Johnny Robinson — were selected for enshrinement. So were tight end Tony Gonzalez, center Kevin Mawae, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and longtime personnel executive Gil Brandt.

All seem deserving. Debate within the room of voters on Reed and Gonzalez should have taken the time it does to read this sentence. Some guys are that obvious.

Most finalists, though, aren’t as universally accepted as Hall of Famers when resumes begin to be compared.

Flores resides squarely in this group.

I don’t react strongly one way or the other to this stuff because I don’t believe those in the media should have a thing to do with the process. I don’t think sports writers or broadcasters should be anywhere near that room.

Maybe decades ago, when there weren’t, oh, thousands of ways to watch and evaluate the game. Not anymore, though.

Not for Halls of Fame in professional sports, not for a world that is so difficult to make and perform at an elite level over years and years.

Coaches. Players. Team executives. Folks who lined up with and against and prepared for and dealt with nominees on a daily and annual basis over their careers.

They should vote.

They should have the first and last word.

I can see the media having some say in college awards such as the Heisman Trophy, mostly because you’re talking about hundreds of teams from numerous conferences. That, and it’s well known many coaches actually have their school’s sports information director cast their votes for various Top 25 polls and other honors, so their indifference to the process makes sense that outside eyes would have a say.

Flores not close

This was the first time Flores was among 15 finalists. He and Mike Ditka remain the only two in NFL history to have won Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach. You would think that alone would have earned Flores — who has four Super Bowl rings in all, three with the Raiders — a finalist’s role before now.

It’s a subjective process. Humans decide and, because of this, personal bias will always define a level of the process. Some believe the fact that Flores was the first Latino head coach in NFL history should play a bigger part in his candidacy. Many think his years in Seattle — he went 14-34 in three seasons with the Seahawks to end his career — are a major reason he hasn’t made it.

When you limit the number of those who can be elected annually, deserving names are always going to be left out and forced to wait for their next opportunity. That’s the stage Flores remains in, reportedly having been eliminated Saturday during the first round of voting, when the list was cut from 15 to 10.

His best chance might be in the future through a senior committee recommendation.

He’s 81.

“I think the fact he was a trailblazer in regard to his heritage should be a big part of the story,” said John Tournour, better known as J.T. the Brick and a Raiders broadcaster and Fox Sports Radio host. “The impact he made on his community as coach of the Raiders — introducing the game to Latinos throughout Los Angeles who might not have otherwise been afforded the opportunity was incredible.

“He was a mentor to so many, a humanitarian. He impacted so many lives in so many different ways through the game of football. I would think it a shame if Tom Flores had to wait for the senior committee to make this happen.”

I would think it best if actual football people decided this stuff.

More Raiders: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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