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Terrell Owens debate was longest of the day for Hall of Fame voters

I wonder what changed people’s minds in year three?

After missing out the past two years, former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens was finally voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He will be enshrined in Canton this coming August, joining a 2018 class that includes Randy Moss, Brian Dawkins, Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis, Jerry Kramer, Robert Brazile, and Bobby Beathard.

One of the interesting pieces of fall-out each year is voter Clark Judge breaking down what went down in the room. He does not say what specific people had to say, but he offers a look at the shortest and longest debates, and some of the bigger takeaways from the voting room.

In Clark’s 2018 article, we learned that TO had the longest debate of the day, getting 45 minutes and 15 seconds of discussion. A year ago, the TO discussion was third longest, lasting 32 minutes and 12 seconds. This year, TO was followed by Randy Moss (34:45), Kevin Mawae (32:05), Brian Dawkins (23:22), and Jerry Kramer (23:18).

Last year, Judge said the discussion had not changed because of TO’s off-field issues, and said the wide receiver had “an uphill climb to reach Canton.” TO did not make it through the first cut from 15 to 10 last year, which makes his surge this year a bit of a surprise. Here’s what Judge said this year

He had no momentum his first two years, but he gained plenty Saturday — with several voters who spoke out against him in 2016-17 endorsing him as a Hall-of-Famer. Reason: Where Owens’ divisive behavior kept him out the first two years, his productivity dominated Saturday’s conversation. Owens had blasted the process when he wasn’t elected, saying he didn’t give a damn about the Hall, and lobbed a grenade this week in the direction of the 49ers — insinuating he didn’t care about them, either. Ironically, it was the comments of several of those 49ers that seemed to sway some of the room. Just a guess: Owens gives a damn about the Hall now.

Peter King added his own thoughts on Monday. Moss and Owens were the last two players discussed on Saturday. King said that normally the presentations get shorter as the day wears on. And yet, the two longest debates were reserved for the end. Voters cannot talk about the specifics about what was discussed, but he offered more general thoughts.

I can say the debate on both players was spirited, respectful, smart and less angry that it was in the past. We all know Moss had issues of effort in his career. We all know Owens has been a divisive figure on several of his teams, and it’s come back to haunt him in his previous two failed tries to make it. But this year, while both men had their detractors, it was clear the greatness of them on the field won the day. I’ve always had this feeling about people we consider for the Hall who may have a bad side. We need to consider everything about players—the good, the history-making, the ugly. And taken as complete packages, there is no question in my mind that Moss and Owens should be bronzed in Canton. I favored Moss, because he’s the most explosive play-making receiver I’ve covered in my 34 seasons following the NFL. But Owens is worthy too. Odd, but worthy. I’m glad they both got in.

I’m fascinated by how things went down in the room, and what made this year different from the past two years. Did the voters who changed their mind and endorsed him this year feel like they needed to withhold their vote the past two years as some kind of lesson or something?

I wonder if having Moss on the ballot as well forced voters to think past off-field concerns. Like Owens, Moss was a clear first ballot Hall of Famer if we’re just talking numbers. However, Moss was traded around during his career and that hung over him to a certain extent. I wonder if voters realized they could not vote in without the other?