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David Elfin Discusses Presenting Russ Grimm's Hall of Fame Case

Posted by Matt Terl on February 9, 2010 – 3:31 pm

This will probably be the last Russ Grimm post for a bit, maybe until his old offensive line coach Joe Bugel presents him for enshrinement in Canton this summer. But I was curious to hear from the guy who was responsible for making Grimm’s case to the Hall of Fame committee. David Elfin was the longtime Redskins beat writer for the Washington Times until that paper stupidly folded its sports section; he’s now moved on to become the NFC East beat writer at AOL Fanhouse.

But back in February, he was in Miami covering the Super Bowl on a freelance assignment for NFLPA.com, and also to act as advocate for the Redskins’ candidates to the Hall of Fame during the voting. When I caught up with him by phone the Tuesday after the Saints won the championship, he was STILL in Miami, his return to the D.C. area blocked by canceled flights and the endless succession of snowstorms.

Elfin successfully made the case for Darrell Green and Art Monk two years back; it was (obviously) a long and difficult fight to get Monk enshrined, but at least there were available statistical milestones. My first question about this year’s vote was also the most basic: what on earth do you point to when trying to make a Hall of Fame presentation for an offensive lineman?

“Obviously it’s a lot harder for an offensive lineman,” he said. “I think football in general in harder. Baseball is such an easy sport [for determining these things]; if they had this process in baseball — and maybe this is one reason they don’t have it in baseball, because the stats speak for themselves for almost anybody.

“I mean, [baseball defensive standout] Ozzie Smith was probably a tough sell because he’s a defensive player, but most people have seen him play. If you’re trying to sell a defensive player from the ’30s, it’d probably be hard. Almost everything in baseball is quantifiable, and pretty much everything in basketball is quantifiable. Football’s a lot harder, because — forget offensive linemen for the minute; we’ll get back to them. Look at a defensive tackle? How do you measure Albert Haynesworth‘s worth if he’s not getting sacks.

“And cornerbacks: think back to the 1987 season: [Redskins cornerback] Barry Wilburn led the NFL in interceptions. Why? Because Darrell was on the other side. No one’s throwing to Darrell. I’m not knocking Barry Wilburn; he was a solid player. But he was not an elite player. So you look at career interception totals, and they can be pretty deceiving.

“Other than quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and arguably kickers, nobody else really can be judged in football on stats. But offensive line is the most difficult one, because there are no stats whatsoever. So you look at team success, you look at running game results, you look at how good the offense was, and then you gotta talk to people.

“And people say Why Russ versus Jake [offensive tackle Joe Jacoby of the Hogs]? And the arguments are, one, that Russ made four straight Pro Bowls and the All-Decade Team. I think Jake made four straight Pro Bowls but not the All-Decade team.

“Jake played a higher-profile position, no doubt, but you talk to enough people and the majority — two-thirds to three-quarters — will say if it came down to it, they would take Russ over Jake. And that was good enough for me.

“And in our case, Russ has been in the room [for Hall of Fame discussion] something like seven years in a row; Jake has never made the room to my knowledge. So there’s some judgement by people that Russ was worth for being a Hall of Fame candidate and at the moment Jake is in the Hall of the Very Good. Because he makes the original 125 person ballot along with Ken Harvey and Charles Mann and Theismann and whoever else, but he’s never made it to the final 25, even, let alone the 15.”

Believe it or not, there’s plenty more — including Elfin’s strategy, and his predictions for other Hall of Fame-worthy Redskins — after the jump. Read more »

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