The Patriots announced that Kevin Faulk will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Is this a Hall of Fame or a popularity contest? Kevin Faulk was a nice piece to a team that won three Super Bowls. He was a decent returner and a pretty good third down back. A Hall of Famer? Nope. Yet, as we sit here today, Faulk is going to be included into an elite group of Patriots players. In today’s post, we discuss why Faulk was chosen.
Recent inductees into the Patriots Hall of Fame include Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Drew Bledsoe, Willie McGinest, and Ty Law. All of these players, at one point in their respective careers, were considered to be elite at their position. Isn’t that what a Hall of Fame should be about? Having the elite players stand out and be recognized? All of the above players were not only considered to be elite Patriots, but they were also Pro Bowlers at one point in their career. In other words, they were elite NFL players and their recognition by the Patriots was well deserved. The Patriots got it right.
Now we come to 2016. The Patriots have a committee of voters including media, alumni, and staff who decide on the top three finalists. This year the panel picked Faulk, Raymond Clayborn, and Mike Vrabel. From there, the fans get to vote on a winner. The voting opened up on April 18th and ended on May 14th. This gave Patriots fans about a month to vote on who should be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
For starters, having the fans vote for this makes it a popularity contest. It becomes more about who people recognize than who actually deserves the award. Unfortunately, this year, it got taken a completely new level. If you look at the three players, there are two who were elite at one point in their careers in Vrabel and Clayborn. Faulk was never elite. In fact, he was only a starting player for one season in his career. He failed miserably at being an every down back and was then put in a third down back role. Granted, he was a very good third down back and a decent returner. However, the word “elite” was rarely, if ever, used with the name Kevin Faulk. Faulk gets high praise for being a key piece of a Patriots team that won three Super Bowls. In 19 career playoff games, do you know how many touchdowns he had as a running back and returner? One. One TD in 19 games. Far from elite…
On the other hand, Raymond Clayborn was an elite cornerback in his prime. He was a three time Pro Bowler. He is the Patriots career leader in interceptions with 36 (tied with Ty Law). Not only was he an elite cornerback, but do you know what else he was great at? Kick returns. He averaged 27.0 yards per return. Do you know who that’s significantly better than? Kevin Faulk. He averaged 22.6.
So, the Patriots rolled out the voting on April 18th. On April 29th, Faulk was given the opportunity to announce a Patriots draft pick. He wore a Tom Brady jersey and announced the pick as “Tom Brady and the New England Patriots select…”. As we know, there is nothing bigger in Patriots Nation than defending Tom Brady. This was the biggest story in Boston sports that night. Kevin Faulk’s name was at the forefront. Fans backed Faulk for his backing of Brady. Thus, he got votes. Not for his work on the field, but for his backing of Tom Brady. It’s all Brady, all the time in Patriots Nation and Faulk cashed in.
Kevin Faulk is in the Patriots Hall of Fame because he wore a Tom Brady jersey and supported Brady at the NFL draft. It’s as simple as that. Patriots Nation has “defended the wall” for Brady, but now it has been taken it to a new level. The shame in all of it is that a guy like Raymond Clayborn who truly deserves the honor isn’t in. Not because of his performance, but because he didn’t get the same opportunity to “defend the wall”.
Bill Parcells took the Patriots from the worst franchise in the NFL to the playoffs in two years and the Super Bowl in four years. He made a team that was ready to be moved to St. Louis relevant. He made football matter again in Boston. The Patriots probably wouldn’t be here if he didn’t turn the franchise around.
Bill Parcells is not in the Patriots Hall of Fame… Kevin Faulk is.
Can’t wait to see the candidates for next year’s voting and see what type of sideshow is on display to win the Patriots Popularity Contest.