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HoF continues to disrespect Clay Matthews

Cleveland linebacker once again denied his deserved place among the game’s best in Canton.

Cleveland Browns vs New York Jets Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images

Another year, another inexcusable snub for Clay Matthews by the voters at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Matthews was a semifinalist again this year for enshrinement among the game’s best in the seniors’ category, and just as they have done every year for more than two decades, the people calling the shots decided that Matthews was lacking whatever it is the voters are looking for to be a member of the Class of 2024.

It continues to be incredibly vexing as Matthews was among the best at his position during his 19-year career, which began with the Cleveland Browns in 1978 when he joined tight end Ozzie Newsome as a first-round selection by the Browns. (That draft was the polar opposite of the 2014 draft when the Browns selected quarterback Johnny Manziel and cornerback Justin Gilbert in the first round, in case you were wondering.)

Matthews was a mainstay on a Cleveland defense that helped the team reach three AFC Championship Games in the 1980s. During his 16 seasons with the Browns, Matthews posted 75 sacks - still second on the franchise’s career list and just two-and-a-half off Bill Glass’ unofficial record - 1,430 tackles, 14 interceptions and 24 forced fumbles.

He also made the Pro Bowl four times, with three consecutive trips from 1987 to 1989 as a key part of a Browns team that made the playoffs five consecutive years.

Matthews would close out his career by playing three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

Yet, it is all apparently not enough.

There are 12 players in the senior category who did advance to the finalist stage, where voters will choose a maximum of three. Among that group are two linebackers:

  • Maxie Baughan: A nine-time Pro-Bowler, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles (1960-65), the Los Angeles Rams (1966-1970) and the Washington Redskins (1974).
  • Randy Gradishar: A seven-time Pro-Bowler in 10 seasons for the Denver Broncos as a member of the Orange Crush Defense and the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 1978.

With all due respect to Baughan and Gradishar, if they are worthy of being considered as finalists then Matthews is as well.

Although the voters’ seeming bias against defensive players - especially ones who were not fortunate enough to play on a title-winning team - may be hurting both Gradishar and Matthews, as NFL writer Rick Gosselin explained in an article from earlier this year in The Denver Gazette:

“There are (371) players in the Hall of Fame, and only 34.5 percent played defense. And 75.4 percent of the players in the Hall of Fame made an all-decade team, and Gradishar didn’t. And 64.1 percent of the players won championships. Randy didn’t win a championship. So if you’re a defensive player who didn’t make all-decade and didn’t win a championship, you’re a long shot.”

On a positive note, Cleveland head coach Marty Schottenheimer did advance to the finalist stage in the Coach/Contributor category, a list that includes Tom Coughlin, Mike Holmgren, Frank “Bucko” Kilroy, Robert Kraft, Buddy Parker, Dan Reeves, Art Rooney Jr., Mike Shanahan, Clark Shaughnessy, Lloyd Wells and John Wooten.

Only one person from that list will be selected for final consideration, however, so even though he is just as deserving as Matthews, it looks like it will be a hard task for the late Schottenheimer to gain enough votes to emerge from that group.

The committee that determines the finalists in the Coach/Contributor category will meet again on August 15, while the Seniors Committee meets for its vote on August 22.