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
Years/Teams: 1982-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-2000, 2006-07 Atlanta Falcons, 2001 New York Giants, 2002-03 Kansas City Chiefs, 2004 Minnesota Vikings
College: Michigan State
Acquired: 4th round (86th player overall) of 1982 draft by New Orleans Saints
Notable: Seven-time Pro Bowler ... 5-time All-Pro ... Made 565 career field goals in 25 seasons ... Finished with 2,544 career points.
Position: Running back
Years/Teams: 1993-95 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams; 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
College: Notre Dame
Acquired: 1st round (10th overall) of 1993 draft by Los Angeles Rams
Notable: Six-time Pro Bowler ... 2-time All-Pro ... 13,662 career rushing yards and 91 touchdowns ... 200 career receptions
Years/Teams: 1995-2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14 playing seasons)
College: Florida State
Acquired: 1st round (28th player overall) of 1995 draft by Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable: 11-time Pro Bowler ... 6-time All-Pro ... 25 career interceptions and six touchdowns ... NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2002.
Position: Wide receiver/kick returner
Years/Teams: 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
College: Notre Dame
Acquired: 1st round (6th overall) of 1988 draft by Los Angeles Raiders
Notable: Nine-time Pro Bowler ... 2-time All-Pro ... Finished career with 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns.
Edward DeBartolo Jr.
Years/Teams: 1977-2000 San Francisco 49ers
College: Notre Dame
Notable: Five Super Bowl titles ... Transformed the 49ers into one of the most dominant dynasties in NFL history.
Position: Head coach
Years/Teams: 1996-2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2002-08 Indianapolis Colts
Notable: Two-time NFL coach of the year ... first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl ... Elected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Position: Linebacker/Defensive End
Years/Teams: 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Acquired: 5th round (113th overall) of 1985 draft by Los Angeles Rams
Notable: Five-time Pro Bowler ... 2-time All-Pro ... 160 career sacks ... Twice led NFL in sacks (1994 and 1996)
Years/Teams: 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
College: Southern Mississippi
Acquired: 1st round (23rd overall) of 1973 draft by Oakland Raiders
Notable: Seven-time All-Pro ... 6-time All-Pro ... Career average of 42.4 yards ... Led NFL in 1974, 1975, 1977 … 3-time Super Bowl winner
Position: Defensive end/linebacker
Years/Teams: 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
College: James Madison
Acquired: 4th round (96th overall) of 1986 draft by San Francisco 49ers
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.
Position: Wide receiver
Years/Teams: 1996-2008 Indianapolis Colts
Acquired: 1st round (19th overall) of 1996 draft by Indianapolis Colts
Notable: Eight-time Pro Bowler ... 6-time All-Pro ... 1,102 career receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns.
Position: Defensive end
Years/Teams: 1968-1978 (1975 injured reserve) Atlanta Falcons, 1979-1981 Philadelphia Eagles
College: Tennessee State
Acquired: 1st round (3rd overall) in 1968 draft by Atlanta
Notable: Six-time Pro Bowl ... 7-time All-Pro/All-NFL… NFL Defensive rookie of the year in 1968 ...122 career sacks (became official stat after his retirement)
Years/Teams: 1997-2008 Seattle Seahawks
College: Holmes Comm. College (MS); Florida State
Acquired: 1st round (6th player overall) of 1997 draft by Seattle Seahawks
Notable: Nine-time Pro Bowler ... Six-time All-Pro ... voted to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Position: Free safety
Years/Teams: 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos
Acquired: 3rd round (82nd player overall) of 1993 draft by Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable: Nine-time Pro Bowler ... 3-time All-Pro ... 24 career interceptions ... 13 career sacks.
Position: Wide receiver
Years/Teams: 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
Acquired: 4th round (86th overall) in 1985 draft by Buffalo Bills
Notable: Seven-time Pro Bowler ... 3-time All-Pro ... 951 career receptions for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns
Years/Teams: 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs
Acquired: 3rd round (74th player overall) of 1993 draft by Kansas City Chiefs.
Notable: 12-time Pro Bowler ... 3-time All-Pro ... selected for the NFL's All-Decade Team in the 2000s.
Position: Defensive end
Years/Teams: 1993-2007 New York Giants
College: Texas Southern
Acquired: 2nd round (40th player overall) of 1993 draft by New York Giants.
Notable: Seven-time Pro Bowler ... 5-time All-Pro ... 141.5 career sacks ... holds the NFL record for most sacks in a single season with 22.5 in 2001
Years/Teams: 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
Acquired: 3rd round (59th overall) of 1991 draft by Phoenix Cardinals
Notable: Eight-time Pro Bowler ... 4-time All-Pro ... 55 career interceptions and nine touchdowns.
*Veterans committee nominee