But Michael is also a longtime Redskins executive, currently serving as the team’s chief content officer and a senior vice president. NFL team employees were once prohibited from serving on the Hall of Fame selection committee, although that rule was changed as more teams began building their own media operations and hiring established reporters.
Geoff Hobson, a former Cincinnati Enquirer writer who now works for the Bengals website, is already a member of the Hall’s selection committee. Of the 31 city-specific voters listed on the Hall’s website, 17 work for newspapers, nine for online publications, and three for TV stations, in addition to Hobson and Michael. There are also 16 at-large voting members, who work for newspapers, magazines, websites, television and radio networks and wire services. (The Washington Post does not allow its writers to vote for awards, including Hall of Fame induction.)
“Everything [in the media industry] is in flux, and finding quality candidates from every geographical region becomes more challenging every year,” said Joe Horrigan, the executive director of the Hall of Fame. “Our goal is not so much that we’re looking for the best member of the media; we’re looking for people who have media experience. In Larry’s case, he’s done both: has been a longtime Redskins employee and an outside media employee. He was a candidate we felt serves the good of the selection committee: having someone who’s informed.”
Elfin, a D.C. native who spent a quarter-century covering Washington sports and wrote five books about the Redskins, advocated for Art Monk, Darrell Green and Russ Grimm in the years when each of those former Redskins was elected to the Hall of Fame. He has presented Joe Jacoby’s case to the 48-member voting panel in recent years, even as he worked in writing jobs outside the sports sphere.
But the Hall of Fame’s bylaws indicate that when a voter stops covering pro football, the Hall can carry that person on the selection committee for up to two more years. That meant there was always a shelf life on Elfin’s tenure as one of 32 city-specific voters. To fill an opening, Hall of Fame executives select a new nominee and present that person’s name to the Board of Trustees, which can approve or disapprove. The board already approved Michael’s selection. (Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is a member of the Hall’s Board of Trustees, and also serves on the NFL’s Hall of Fame committee.)
The local representatives are most famous for presenting the case of nominees from their city, as Elfin did for Monk, Green, Grimm and Jacoby. And getting ex-players elected has been a point of emphasis for Snyder and team president Bruce Allen, who proudly pushes Redskins candidates. Michael is, of course, an unabashed supporter of the team he works for, but Horrigan said he isn’t concerned about team employees warping the voting process.
“Everyone has their biases, I can’t deny that, but in that [selection] room it becomes extremely prepared,” Horrigan said. “I have never been in a room where I thought, ‘Gee, somebody got elected because this guy is a homer.’ There’s no such thing as a homer in that room. That kind of stops by the time you get to the room. … It’s a very, very well vetted list [of finalists], and I would challenge anyone to ever point to an occasion where bias swayed the committee. It just doesn’t happen. It’s virtually impossible to do.”
Horrigan said team employees like Hobson and Michael might have even more insight into candidates, because they could “have the finger on the pulse” of what coaches and executives thought about players. In the final voting, he pointed out, Michael will still only have one vote, “he’s no more or less important than anyone else in the room,” Horrigan said. “And on many occasions, there’s no one from [a voter’s] geographic region even being considered.”
Michael’s first task on the committee could be to give Jacoby’s candidacy another try; the left tackle is again a semifinalist, and if he makes it to the next round, Michael would present his case to his fellow voters.
“I’ve known Larry for a long time,” Horrigan said, “and I respect his knowledge.”
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