Art McNally is set to become the first NFL official in the Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame coach John Madden always believed that statues of football greats in Canton would talk to each other every night once the building was empty.

If those busts ever wanted to play an actual game of football, they now have all the necessary characters.

Art McNally, the former official who helped modernize the practice while overseeing operations from the league office, will become the first on-field official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

“It was a long time coming,” said Dean Blandino, one of McNally’s successors as acting head of the NFL. “I know the caretaker community has been waiting for this for a long time. … When you think about the decisions that influence a sport and help make decisions, it is the players, the coaches and the officials. . I think we have a full in-game team now.”

While baseball, basketball, and hockey have inducted several officials into their Halls of Fame, the NFL did not until now.

There couldn’t have been a more fitting choice for the honor than McNally, whose fingerprints are still how the game is today.

After a nine-year career on the field, McNally took over the department in 1968 and remained involved until retiring in 2015.

“He really pulled it all together. He took it from a business to a profession and set the stage for everything that came after that,” said former NFL referee Ed Hochuli.

“It’s obviously been a long time that no one from the caretaker side has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. There have been some incredible officials along the way who could make a great argument that they should be in the Hall of Fame. But No officer would disagree that Art McNeely must be the man if there is only one or if there is one first.”

McNally, 97, began acting informally when he called the Games while serving in the Marines in World War II. According to son-in-law Brian O’Hara, he called over 3,000 games in football, basketball, and baseball, putting them all on the books.

Before moving to the NFL league office in 1968, McNally often conducted high school, college, and professional games on the same weekend.

“He was natural in it,” O’Hara said. “His life from being a teacher to being like a rule follower because he follows the rules. … the biggest thing was that he had fun making it fair. All he wanted to do was be fair and fix it. I think that’s what he liked about umpiring.”

O’Hara said McNally never thought the day would come when he would make it into the Hall of Fame because officers are usually only seen when they miss a call.

But McNally didn’t shy away from investigations as he always had a listed phone number and would often complain to fans suffering from various teams that he would listen as long as they remained citizens.

O’Hara said that McNally also struck up a relationship with McNally, a disgruntled Bears fan, once after suddenly visiting his barbershop in Chicago and receiving fan tickets to the Super Bowl.

McNally’s biggest impact was how the NFL under his supervision evaluated and trained officers in a system that is mostly in place today.

Under his supervision, the NFL standardized how officials in their position operate in a game and what they called for greater consistency in the game.

He used film all 22 games to teach officers and grade their performance, to use film to teach and evaluate officers. He used weekly training videos and rules quizzes to help improve caretakers across the league.

“He was brand new,” said Blandino. “It was kind of cutting edge. People weren’t doing it. Art came in and understood that it was something that was needed and laid the foundation and that is the foundation on which we still stand today in the caretaker world. Every There is an evaluation system in every league in every game at the level and it all goes back to the art.”

McNally also helped implement the NFL’s first use of instant replay in the 1980s, and the 1986 season saw a Super Bowl first job as a replay official.

That version of replays was abolished in 1991 but McNally provided guidance to his successors when replays returned in 1999 as he was firm in his belief that the league would need any tool to help the authorities make the right call. should be used.

“You want to fix it,” Hochuli said. “Art was the definition of that. If you look up the definition of integrity in the dictionary and there is a picture of art.”

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