Skip to main content

O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Presser takeaways, HOF talk & more

Three takeaways on the comments last week by Lions president Rod Wood, including those on Calvin Johnson, to reporters in San Francisco on Friday; a look at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016 and the voting process that put eight men in Canton, with one high-profile candidate left on the wait list and Calvin Johnson's eventual candidacy.

Also, justice delayed, but justice served for Dick Stanfel making the Hall, with a comment from one selector, and three quotes – old ones from new Hall of Famer Ken Stabler and former Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, and one from Rams running back Todd Gurley on his emotions of being handed the trophy by Barry Sanders Saturday night after being voted Offensive Rookie of the Year:

 We start with the Lions' new president:

1. Rod Wood – Calvin Johnson: Megatron's future and how the Lions have reacted since it became known that he is considering retirement was the primary topic when Wood spoke with Tim Twentyman of and beat writers from Metro Detroit's newspapers/websites covering the Super Bowl.

No comment regarding Johnson at this stage is unimportant.

One man's opinion: Wood's most important comments were to reinforce that the franchise has stayed in contact with Johnson and his agent, Bus Cook, but are giving Johnson the time and space he needs to come to grips with his future. In other words, there's no need to make a decision now, so don't press the issue.

"Nothing has changed in what we announced before," Wood said. "We're still giving him time."

2. Bob Quinn -- Calvin Johnson: One of the first questions Quinn was asked when he was introduced as the Lions' new general manager was if he planned to talk to Johnson. It was a legitimate question, and Quinn said he planned to give Johnson some time before making contact.

There have been questions since about that, and some criticism that Quinn still has not talked to Johnson. Frankly, if I were the new GM coming in from the outside my first instinct would be to head directly from the podium to Johnson's home in Atlanta and make a pitch for him to continue playing.

However, there are people in the organization who know Johnson, and who've talked to him.

That includes Wood – who said he has spoken to Johnson and exchanged texts as recently as last week -- and there have been reports that Johnson has talked to owner Martha Firestone Ford.

"I'm hoping to introduce him (Johnson) to Bob in the next week or so," Wood said last week.

My take: The Lions have not given up on Johnson returning, and there is a time and place for everything, and as of today – February 8, 2016 – there is no need to press Johnson into making a decision.

My other take: A lot of people want to speak for Calvin Johnson – how he feels, and what they'd do if they were him. Well, they aren't him.

3. Rod Wood – alternate jerseys: Wood did not rule out the Lions wearing an alternate jersey – or third jersey – next year.

"I'm not ready to announce that, but stay tuned," Wood said.

My take: it's about time. The fans like them, and I can tell you from first-hand conversations with players who asked to see pictures of the throwbacks worn in Barry Sanders' days in the 1990s,  that they like them, too.

4. Hall of Fame, Class of 2016: It's a solid class, and the maximum of five modern-era inductees filled as many spots as possible – a quarterback (Brett Favre), a wide receiver (Marvin Harrison), an offensive tackle (Orlando Pace), a pass-rusher (Kevin Greene) and a head coach (Tony Dungy).

All are eminently worthy, and only Favre and Pace were first-ballot choices.

Both senior candidates were voted in – guard Dick Stanfel, who began his career with the Lions, and quarterback Ken Stabler, whose best days (and nights, probably), were with the Raiders.

Ed DeBartolo Jr., whose 49ers teams won five Super Bowls in his tenure as owner (1977-2000), was voted in as a contributor.

There is no case that any of the eight are undeserving.

5. Hall of Fame wait list -- Terrell Owens: He was one of the 15 modern-era finalists, and he failed to make the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

My take: No surprise that Owens did not get in. It was timing, not whether Owens is worthy. Marvin Harrison was a finalist for the third time, and if a receiver was going in, it was his turn.

My only surprise with Owens was that he did not make the cut in the first reduction vote from 15 candidates to 10.

Owens is a legitimate Hall of Famer. He ranks sixth in career receptions (1,078), second in receiving yards (15,934) and third in receiving touchdowns (153).

His day is coming. It just wasn't this year.

6. Hall of Fame, future – Calvin Johnson: If he never plays another game, he won't rank in the top 20 in any of the three primary career receiving categories – yards (11,619, 27th all time), catches (731, 43rd all time) and touchdown catches (83, 22nd). Those are the standards used most often to determine Hall of Famers.

The stats test is only part of what makes a Hall of Fame player. The eye test, ability, impact and how a player is regarded by his contemporaries and predecessors cannot be discounted, and Johnson is at the top in all those categories. It might not be on the first ballot, but he'll be in Canton eventually.

7. Dick Stanfel, justice served: He made it as a senior candidate for the third time, and it was overdue. Stanfel began his career as an offensive guard with the Lions and was a five-time Pro Bowler and five times first-team All-Pro with the Lions and Washington.

My last year as a Hall of Fame selector was 2012, when Stanfel failed for the second time as a senior candidate. Without getting into the details, my feeling – shared by some others in the room – was that Stanfel was wrongfully voted down.

Chicago-based columnist Dan Pompei of Chicago, a Hall selector, wrote the following on Twitter: "Glad to finally get it right with Dick Stanfel. Many believe he was the greatest guard of his time."

8. Chuck Noll, Super Bowl perspective: Noll was head coach of the Steelers for 23 seasons (1969-91), and the Steelers won four Super Bowls in his tenure, from the 1973-79 seasons. Leading up to one of the Super Bowls Noll was asked the long-term value of winning a Super Bowl.

"Do you know what an instant antique is?" he replied. "A Super Bowl ring is an instant antique."

Don't misunderstand the sentiment. Noll loved winning and knew what it meant to the city, the franchise and its players. But his point was well taken. Winning a ring guarantees nothing for the future. That mindset is one reason the Steelers have been a stable, contending franchise for four decades.

9. Todd Gurley, reverent awe: Gurley was nearly overcome by his emotions, and he spoke haltingly when interviewed on national TV Saturday night after being voted Offensive Rookie of the Year. He got a late start to his rookie season while overcoming a knee injury that put an early end to his 2014 season at Georgia.

Gurley mention overcoming hardships, spoke about how much he appreciated winning the award, adding: "I was handed the award by Barry Sanders."

The way Gurley said the name  – "Barry Sanders" – reinforces what an iconic figure Sanders is to players past and present, and how fortunate Lions fans were to watch him play for 10 seasons.

10. Stabler being Stabler: He lived the way he played – hard – and with no apologies or apparent regrets. He played his last four seasons in New Orleans on teams that weren't very good at anything – including protecting the quarterback.

After taking a severe pounding in another loss, Stabler was asked how he felt.

"I'll sleep on my own side of the bed tonight," he said.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content