Well then, here is an injustice that is literally crying out for her considerable talents, the travesty that former New Orleans Saints linebacker extraordinaire Rickey Jackson has not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. John Deshazier has the sports story for the Times Picayune:
Another NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement weekend has passed.
Silently, again, in New Orleans for Saints fans, who by now should have celebrated the induction of former Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson to the Hall, but continue to watch the selection committee overlook “City Champ” as if Jackson never existed.
That’s not so much a slap at the credentials of the players and contributors who’ve been voted in since Jackson became eligible five years after his last season, 1995. The most recent class included former Bills defensive end Bruce Smith, former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, former Steelers defensive back Rod Woodson and former Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes. You wouldn’t win an argument in favor of any one of them being overlooked in favor of Jackson.
But certainly, you can argue that he can stand alongside them.
Somehow, the obvious perception is that Jackson was less of a player than everyone who has been selected since he became eligible. Somehow, the ultimate honor continues to elude a player whose numbers – and impact – merit inclusion.
“It’s not even a question,” said former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, who played all seven of his Saints seasons (1985-89 and 1991-92) with Jackson (1981-93). “To me, it’s not even a question.
“Rickey was the kind of player, teams were aware of him and Pat (Swilling). That year that Pat won Defensive Player of the Year, Rickey had a lot to do with that.”
Indeed, while Swilling was rolling up 17 sacks, an interception, six forced fumbles and 60 tackles in 1991, Jackson was putting up 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 59 tackles the same season.
No one blinked last year when former New England linebacker Andre Tippett was elected with numbers (100 sacks, one interception, 19 fumble recoveries and five Pro Bowls in 151 games over 11 seasons) that didn’t measure up to City Champ’s 128 sacks (10th most in league history), eight interceptions, 40 forced fumbles and 29 fumble recoveries in 227 games, with 225 starts, over 15 seasons.
True, the six-time Pro Bowler never was named Defensive Player of the Year and often, his presence was diluted – if not entirely lost in the shuffle – during the Saints’ Dome Patrol days, when he combined with Swilling, Sam Mills and Vaughan Johnson to give New Orleans the most formidable linebacker corps in the league. But he had two or three Defensive Player of the Year-caliber seasons and if anyone says he was anything less than a standout, they’re not being honest.
Undoubtedly, the fact that the Saints didn’t win a playoff game during Jackson’s 13 seasons in New Orleans doesn’t help. Playing in one of the league’s smallest market wasn’t a positive. Ultimately, Jackson had to go to San Francisco to win a Super Bowl ring.
But whatever team shortcomings the Saints experienced, no one would say Jackson was the major contributing factor.
He’s being penalized for his well-publicized child support issues, you say?
Please. The NFL Hall of Fame – heck, every hall of fame affiliated with a professional sport – is full of scamps, scoundrels, reformed (or unreformed) lawbreakers and people you wouldn’t recommend as a babysitter. Given that those failings perennially have been separated from what occurred on the field, there’s no reason to believe they now have become the standard for exclusion in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Rather, it just seems the NFL’s Hall of Fame voters have a blind spot when it comes to Jackson, that he doesn’t have a vocal enough advocate when the door closes and the debate ensues.
Instead, on Jackson’s behalf, there mostly (only?) has been silence. Which, for now, keeps Hall of Fame weekend quiet in New Orleans where he’s concerned.
Nowdy are you up for this mission?