Diner morning news: Put Haley in the Hall

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MIAMI -- On Saturday, the Hall of Fame committee will meet to decide who will be inducted this August in ceremonies at Canton. Some decisions are rather easy. Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith are locks, but the rest of the list has many worthy candidates. From Richard Dent to Dick LeBeau to John Randle to Dermontti Dawson to Tim Brown, each candidate has a compelling argument to enter the Hall, and the committee will have its toughest time ever making a decision.

One player I feel strongly is Hall of Fame worthy is former 49ers defensive lineman Charles Haley. Haley won five Super Bowls -- two with the 49ers and three with the Cowboys -- but beyond winning more rings than any NFL player, he was greatly responsible for the winning. He was the player who got his team over the top. He was a player who made a difference in the game, the one player opponents had to block. Dwight Freeney’s ankle has gotten a ton of attention this week because he impacts the game for the Colts, and if he doesn’t play, it will make the Colts defense vulnerable. The same could be said about Haley. His impact was tremendous. When teams faced the 49ers or Cowboys, he was the player who required a specific game plan to try and slow down his ability to rush the passer.

Haley’s impact went beyond sacks, although his totals were very impressive. He played in 169 games in his career and accumulated 100 sacks, ranking 22nd on the all-time list. But sacks are not the real story about Haley’s career. He was drafted to pressure the passer and make the ball come out quickly, creating turnovers. Sacks are great, but pressuring the passer, as Freeney does, creates turnovers and alters the game. This is where Haley excelled. He played the game hard, he played with passion and he benefited from playing for an offense that could get the lead. He was always in a pass rushing mode. He was the essential cog to winning, and he turned around the fortunes of the Cowboys. He shifted the balance of power in the NFL when he was traded from the 49ers to the Cowboys and was responsible for helping to win three rings in Dallas -- as responsible as many other great Cowboys, some already in the Hall of Fame.

Haley was the kind of player opposing offenses had to prepare specifically for and had to account for on every play. The same could be said for Richard Dent, but for me, Haley’s impact and his six Super Bowl titles make him my No. 1 candidate. He was a great player, and his great play allowed his team to achieve the ultimate goal in football, which is winning the Super Bowl. Like Fred Dean before him, the 49ers would not have been able to advance the concept of the west coast offense had they not had a dominating player rushing the passer and creating turnovers that turned a 10-point lead into a 17-point win.

This list might be the toughest list ever for the committee. So many great players, but for me, winning is key, making an impact on the game is key and being a player who shifted the balance of power is essential -- all things Haley did in his career.

South Beach Super Bowl thoughts…

1. I love that Vince Lombardi’s grandson Joe, the Saints quarterbacks coach, is in the game. Here’s a very good piece from Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.

2. I hate stories from the Super Bowl where players are being ratted out for staying out late at night. This isn’t high school, and the most important night is the night before the game. We’ll probably have a few more stories like this and all of them are really meaningless.

3. It seems more and more likely that even if Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney dresses for game, his impact would be minimal. He needs to be able to plant off his ankle with power, and with the instability of a torn ligament, it’s difficult to generate power.

4. First day of finalized practice. The game plans were done last week, and this week will be three days of fine tuning. The Saints can gain extra practice time in the red zone.

5. The sun is finally out in Miami, which is a good thing, and the weather should be nice for the game. The field is plush, but it will require the right cleats to keep players in balance.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

If Freeney is a non-factor, is the rest of the Indy defense ready to step up? Check out this article from Bleacher Report to find out.

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