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Grant Cohn: NFL's Hall of Fame voting process shrouded in secrecy

  • Tim Brown is the Raiders' franchise leader in touchdowns (99) and receiving yards (14,734). (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Six-hundred-and-eight journalists were eligible to vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Thirty-seven of them didn't vote at all.

Forty-six journalists vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That's it.

One voter represents each NFL city, and 14 voters are at-large. Once a year on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, they meet up at the Super Bowl city — this year they'll be across a river — and they vote.

They will meet Saturday in New York beginning at 7 a.m. local time.

Baseball voters do not meet up. They mail in a ballot from home.

In the 1970s and 1980s, every big newspaper and some not-so-big newspapers sent their beat writers to the Super Bowl no matter which teams were playing. It was easy for the voters to get to the Hall of Fame selection meeting. But some newspapers can't afford to send their beat writers to every single Super Bowl these days. Some football voters pay their own way to go to the meeting. That's how serious they are about their duties.

The meeting starts with presentations for the finalists.

Frank Cooney, the voter who represents Oakland, will make a presentation on Saturday for former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, explaining why he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Brown is the sixth-leading receiver of all-time, but he mostly played for bad Raiders teams and he's been turned down four times. Some people consider his stats empty, inconsequential. On a bad team someone has to put good stats, no great honor in that.

“He played for a team that was in disarray,” Cooney said over the phone, making his case for Brown. “He didn't have Terry Bradshaw throwing him the ball. He didn't play with Hall of Famers. He had 19 different quarterbacks and 10 different offensive coordinators.”

Sometimes presentations are unnecessary. Like for Joe Montana.

Ira Miller, an at-large voter, gave Montana's presentation. Miller's first line to the committee was, “Do you guys want to take a bathroom break, or do you want me to talk?”

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