Charles Haley isn’t getting his hopes up. The former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist four times previously only to be denied entry into Canton.
Maybe this is his year. Then again, maybe not.
“There’s no way I’m ever losing faith,” Haley said in a phone interview. “Look, every guy who’s gotten in is worthy of getting in. I don’t believe in pulling somebody else down just to elevate myself. That’s not going to happen for me.
“I’m excited and happy for everybody who gets in. I just believe that one day they’ll look at my body of work and deem me worthy.”
During their annual meeting Saturday, 46 selectors will consider Haley and 14 other modern-era candidates, including first-year eligible nominees Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison and Walter Jones. Only a maximum of five earn election in the Class of 2014. The others are Morten Andersen, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Edward DeBartolo Jr., Kevin Greene, John Lynch, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Aeneas Williams and Michael Strahan. Ray Guy and Claude Humhrey are the veteran nominees.
Haley, whose final retirement came following the 1999 season, has been eligible for enshrinement for 10 years. In that time, he has watched seven teammates inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“I’ve said many, many times that Charles Haley should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago,” ex-Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said. “No offense to any of the players in there, but I coached and coached against a lot of the players in the Hall of Fame, and Charles Haley is better than them.”
Haley’s claim to fame is he remains the only player with five Super Bowl rings, winning two with the San Francisco 49ers and three with the Cowboys. Both teams maintain the balance of power in the NFC shifted from the 49ers to the Cowboys when San Francisco traded the troubled player to Dallas in 1992.
“We’re willing to give Peyton Manning so much credit — so much credit — if he wins this game, because we’re going to say he led two different teams to Super Bowl championships,” said Michael Irvin, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2007. “… But we won’t give Charles Haley any of that credit. He led two different teams to Super Bowls, but we won’t give him any kind of credit.
“A man that holds as many rings as digits on a hand, he should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Haley’s teams went 153-66, including 19-6 in the postseason. Only once in 12 regular seasons did his team have a losing record. That was in 1999 after he had retired and then unretired.
His teams won 10 division titles, and he played in seven NFC Championship Games. His teams missed the playoffs only twice.
“I earned every one of those rings,” said Haley, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after his retirement. “Our defense was really good with the 49ers and with the Cowboys. I think everybody looks at our offense and says, ‘Ah, you had a great offense.’ But, damn, we had a great defense, too.
“The bottom line is: You’ve got to see it, believe it and know that it happened, that I wasn’t just sitting on the bench a part of teams that won five Super Bowls. I did something to help them win those rings. I thought the Hall of Fame was about winners, about people who push themselves beyond pain and sacrifice for team.”
Haley’s defenses ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed every season except 1999, the year he unretired after two years out of the game. He had 100.5 career sacks, and his teams were 59-12 when he had at least one sack.
Maybe this is his year.
“I still believe in the system,” he said. “… One day it will happen.”
Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists
Notable: Five-time Pro Bowler ... 2-time All-Pro ... 100.5 career sacks ... Holds the NFL record of five Super Bowl victories by a player.
*Veterans committee nominee