Six years. That's how long Tim Brown has been eligible for the Hall of Fame. Add on the 5-year waiting period and it's been 11 years since Brown retired from the NFL as Raiders all-time leading receiver.
Despite his fantastic NFL numbers, he has watched as several of his wide receiver colleagues have donned the yellow jacket and taken the stage in Canton ahead of him. One that has left Tim Brown a bit jade by the process, but hopeful that his time has finally come.
"When I was introduced into this process, and what a gut wrenching process it is, one of the things that I was told was basically how you come in is how you're gonna go out," Tim Brown said over conference call Friday. "And that hasn't been the case because Andre Reed came in before Cris Carter and Cris went in before Andre . . . I'm the veteran guy in the receiver group, I'm sorta hoping that I'll get a little bit more play and more favor this time when it comes to this deal."
"Certainly the logjam (of wide receivers) is not the same. Obviously Marvin Harrison is (a finalist) and that's one guy, not two guys. At one point it was four guys even though we knew Jerry (Rice) was a foregone conclusion. So, certainly it makes it a lot better. . . Now if they decide they're going to go with a receiver, at least there's two guys and not three, you know."
This concept that the voting committee only seems to want to put one wide receiver in at a time is a bit strange. While Tim Brown said he agrees it is a frustrating idea, he understands that's just how it goes.
The other concept that has frustrated Brown throughout this process is the idea that there is a set number of inductees the committee will not surpass.
"Yeah, the problem is for some reason they got this thing limited to five people, seven counting the veteran committee," said Brown. "I would have thought by now because of the influx of guys who are eligible that they would have extended that number up to seven guys plus the two or maybe a total of ten guys to go in. I understand there's the exclusivity deal you want everybody to feel completely. That must be something that the voters think about because as a player, you could care less how many guys go in there with you, you wanna be in. So obviously that's how we feel but at the same time there's nothing that can be done about the process or will be done about the process so it is what it is and you just have to live through it."
Living through the process is not easy for any of these Hall of Fame hopefuls. For some, like Brown, the process drags on. Brown said he is asked all the time if the lengthy process will make his induction that much sweeter. A question which he says "absolutely not."
"Once you're in, you're in. All the glory that comes with that, come with that," said Brown. "But in the six years I've been up, I've lost my dad in that time, lost a great friend in Chester McGlockton, who was my best friend in the world, and Mr (Al) Davis just passed away. Those are three people that I won't get an opportunity to get to shake their hand and get congratulations from them with Chester hitting me on the back of the head saying ‘boy, I can't believe they put your sorry butt in the Hall of Fame.' Those are things that I don't get the opportunity to enjoy. So from that standpoint, you can't get those moments back. Will it be sweeter than it would have been? Absolutely not. I've said that since the day I lost those guys that not having those guys around is going to make this process a little bit, even once you get in, it's going to make it bittersweet."
This is the same sentiment Ray Guy had when he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame last year by the Senior committee. Ray Guy waited 23 years to get the call and during that time he saw a great many friends and family pass away who never got to see him finally receive his induction into those hallowed halls.
There is another aspect Tim Brown shares with Guy - special teams. There has long been a disrespect for the work of Special Teamers among Hall of Fame voters. Tim Brown was a big time return man before he became a Hall of Fame caliber receiver. He made his first Pro Bowl as a returner.
You would think his numbers as a return man would set him apart from other receivers. In Brown's experience, that hasn't been the case.
"I know one year I told Frank Cooney, the guy that represents me to make that the emphasis of his conversations but it didn't seem as if people wanted to hear that," Brown continued. "that's the thing that I've been telling people even before this process came about because you couldn't look at me as just being a receiver because I had to do more on the football field than just play receiver."
Since the special teams angle hasn't worked for Brown, he hopes the ‘who did I have throwing me the ball?' angle would work. It's what Tim Brown said he would want his legacy to be.
"I think people are going to try to figure out how I got done what I got done with the group I had around me," he said. "So for me one of the things that I was proud of was no matter who the quarterback was, who the GM was, who the offensive coordinator was, I was able to go out and put up numbers. That's the one thing that I'm super proud of and the one thing that I think sets me apart from anybody that's out there.
"The one question someone asked me ‘if you were in the room, what would you ask the (Hall of Fame) voters?' I would ask them one question; you name one other receiver that was willing to trade positions with Tim Brown. You name one guy that would have said ‘yeah, I'll give up Peyton Manning. I'll give up (Joe) Montana, (Steve) Young'. Jerry (Rice) and I have had this conversation for years. Michael Irvin and I had that conversation for years. I used to ask him all the time at the Pro Bowl ‘you wanna switch with me, come on, switch with me', but he would never take me up on that offer.
"I probably did it the hard way. I could have left and gone and actually did sign a contract with the Broncos way back in ‘94 but the Raiders brought me back and I decided I was going to be a lifetime Raiders. Maybe that's going to be my downfall in this deal. I should have left and went to some team with some great quarterback and put some numbers up. But I'm happy I stayed where I was and did what I did."
As much as most Raiders fans have been campaigning for Tim Brown to get in the Hall of Fame for six years now, the voices among those who may hold sway are getting louder. Hall of Famers like Jerry Rice and Andre Reed have both said recently that Tim Brown is the man they feel is most deserving of enshrinement in this year's class.
You may think this would mean something, but according to Brown, the committee is more inclined to listen to a player who had to face him on another team. Fellow receivers giving their endorsement or former teammates - of which Jerry Rice is both - doesn't carry a great deal of weight with voters.
Even still, it's hard to deny it is Tim Brown's time. He's waited through the process, watched his colleagues get their busts and give their induction speech. It's time.