NEW YORK — Peyton Manning’s legacy is a recurring theme in the buildup to this Super Bowl. If the quarterback stands victorious Sunday evening, if he helps lead his second franchise to a title …
Well, then he’ll be only three rings behind Charles Haley.
The night before Denver and Seattle take the field, the Hall of Fame will announce its class of 2014. Haley is a finalist for the fifth time.
Two of those rings came as a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. The final three came as a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.
Receiver Michael Irvin and quarterback Troy Aikman played with Haley on those Super Bowl teams. Both have busts in Canton.
They believe it’s time for Haley to join them.
“I think Charles should be in,” Irvin said. “We’re willing to give Peyton Manning credit, so much credit, if he wins this game because we’re going to say he led two different teams to Super Bowl championships. He deserves the credit.
“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?”
Haley was part of 10 division championship teams in his 12 years in the NFL. He played in six NFC Championship Games in a span of seven seasons. He was voted to the NFL Pro Bowl five times, was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year twice and finished his career with 100 1/2 sacks.
Credit isn’t the issue. No one can discredit those numbers. What Haley lacks is the historical affirmation only the Hall of Fame can provide.
Irvin is no stranger to off-the-field issues. Those didn’t prevent him from enshrinement in his third year as a finalist.
But Irvin can’t help but wonder if Haley’s well-documented troubles have worked against him in the committee’s discussions. Haley’s abusive behavior during his playing days won few friends in the media.
Aikman has the same questions.
“I don’t like the process,” said the quarterback who joined the Hall in 2006 in his first year of eligibility. “I don’t like the way that it’s done.
“I do believe he should be in the Hall of Fame. I’ve said that. I’m biased because I watched him every weekend. I’m amazed that he’s not in the Hall of Fame.
“I’m sorry, but if him being rude to some writers or not being accommodating to those in the media keeps him from being in the Hall of Fame, then I really disagree with the process, because that’s not what this is about. I don’t know what happens, but I know he was largely responsible for a big amount of the success that we had during those years.”
Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson is curious as to why Haley has yet to be enshrined.
“I’ve said many, many times that Charles Haley should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago,” Johnson said. “No offense to any of the players in there, but I coached and coached against a lot of the players that are in the Hall of Fame, and Charles Haley is better than them.
“Again, I don’t know the rhyme or reason by some of the voting.”
Aikman, Irvin and Johnson hope someone is listening to them when it comes to Haley.
“A man that holds as many rings as digits on a hand,” Irvin said, “he should be in the Hall of Fame.”