Right now, Hines Ward’s Hall of Fame chances don’t look very good. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Ward has had several finishes as a semifinalist but eluded the final ballot, let alone elected to Canton, Ohio. But there’s at least one non-Pittsburgh based writer who believes Ward’s name should be immortalized.
Sportswriter Gary Myers joined the 93.7 The Fan’s Cook & Joe Show Friday and was asked his perspective on Ward’s candidacy. While in the minority, Myers said he votes for Ward every chance he gets.
“I’ve been voting for him probably the last three, four years,” Myers told the show. “Or however long he’s been eligible. I vote for him until he’s no longer on the ballot.”
Ward has been stuck in Hall of Fame ballot limbo since becoming eligible for it. For the last seven years, he’s been named a semifinalist, one of the final 25 names, but couldn’t crack the group into the top 15. The case against him involves a lack of gaudy numbers, playing in an older era and in run-heavy teams that didn’t have quarterback stability until 2004 (and even then, didn’t become Ben Roethlisberger/passing game-led team until several seasons later) and lacking the big downfield plays other more athletic receivers made.
But for Myers, Ward’s tangible and intangible qualities makes him deserving of a gold jacket. And if Ward ever becomes a finalist, he has Myers’ vote. And his voice.
“I would argue his case in the room if it gets that far to the final 15. I think he’s a tremendous player. Big-game player, great player on third down, great blocker. Super Bowl MVP on his resume. We’ve been arguing about or discussing Andre Johnson, Torry Holt, and Reggie Wayne as the three receivers. There’s kinda a logjam there the last few years.”
As Myers points out, Ward’s losing ground to more “modern era” receivers like Johnson while Holt had the benefit of being one leg of the Greatest Show on Turf while Wayne caught his passes from Peyton Manning. Already having lost out to names like Calvin Johnson, the longer Ward sits, the harder it’ll be for him to stand out in the crowd. Given that Johnson, Holt, and Wayne were named finalists over Ward for the 2023 class, Ward is presumably at best sitting in fourth-place. And he could get passed up by future names who become eligible and on the ballot. Myers says he’d take Ward over all of them.
“I can easily make an argument Hines Ward deserves to get in ahead of any of those three guys. And that’s how I’ve been voting. But I only have one of 50 votes.”
Often, wide receivers and offensive linemen have the longest waiting periods for enshrinement. Tim Brown, Art Monk, and Andre Reed waited over a decade before they received “the knock.” Brown’s career ended in 2004 and he wasn’t voted in until 2015. Monk spanned 1995 until 2008 while Reed was 2000 to 2014. For Ward, he retired after the 2011 season, first became eligible five years later, and remains waiting, admitting it’s been a frustrating process.
As revealed in September, Ward is again part of the 173 modern-era names on the initial 2023 ballot. The group has been chopped down to 25 semifinalists with Myers saying the list should be announced shortly before or after Thanksgiving, meaning it could come this week. Ward will have to hope he can at least remain a semifinalist. There are two first-time receivers on this year’s ballot in Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson, though Ward should have a leg up on both. But he’s likely to remain behind the rest for this year and all the others.
Though Steelers’ fans would love to see him advance, his best chance of making the Hall may come in a decade or two as part of the Senior committee. When he can be moved into a separate category and be viewed in a different light against older era players. His hard-nosed personality and playing style will be appreciated compared to the current era that’s outlawed the way Ward played. That could be his path. Frankly, it’s looking like his only one.