As you surely already know, the New England Patriots have announced that quarterback Drew Bledsoe and center Jon Morris will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame on September 17. With those two additions, what players are next for enshrinement?
First a look at the current rules regarding induction into the Pats Hall of Fame. A nominee must be out of football for at least four years for consideration. A 21-person panel of media, alumni and staff debate the merits of various players and coaches, eventually whittling the choices down to three people. There is also a 10-person Senior Selection committee of veteran media and staff that considers candidates that have been retired for at least 25 years. They get to name one person to the Hall every five years (Jon Morris was their choice this year) as well as name one of the three finalists each year. Once those three are determined a month-long online fan vote is held to determine who gets into the Hall.
2012: Troy Brown will be voted in. Bledsoe just got in with the highest percentage of votes ever; I’ll be surprised if Brown does not surpass that mark. The only other question will be who the two other nominees will be. Will the veteran’s committee nominate Houston Antwine once again, or will they spare him another loss and name Julius Adams or Russ Francis instead?
2013: There will be some intrigue in the voting two years from now. Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and Rodney Harrison will all be eligible for the first time; I would think the honor will go to Bruschi. If the current setup continues with one finalist being a veteran, who misses making it to the final voting – Willie or Rodney?
2014: This should be one of the closest votes ever; my guess is that McGinest gets in since he was drafted by the Pats and spent more time in Foxborough, even though Harrison remains more in the public eye with his gig on Sunday Night Football.
2015: Harrison of course, right? Perhaps, but consider this: the Patriots just drafted two running backs and Kevin Faulk is not only coming off a serious injury, but he turns 35 in a few weeks and plays a position that few continue to be effective at over the age of 29. If he does not make the team this year he becomes eligible for the team’s Hall at this point.
2016: At this point it’s difficult to figure out who might make the Hall because we don’t know how long each player will keep playing. Aside from Harrison and Faulk, others that might be eligible at this point include Mike Vrabel and Ty Law. Lawyer Milloy and Ted Johnson could get enough consideration to get as far as the final three voting. One veteran gets in this year; presumably the veteran’s committee names Houston Antwine.
2017: Somebody from the above group could get the vote – or perhaps a player like Adam Vinatieri may be eligible.
2018: Assuming he plays for three more years, Matt Light could be eligible at this point.
2019: At some point in the vicinity of this year Richard Seymour will become eligible for enshrinement.
2020: If Vince Wilfork plays for five more years he would be eligible at this point.
2021: Time for another player from the veteran’s committee in addition to the regular vote. My best guesses for the old timer would be Julius Adams, Russ Francis, Raymond Clayborn and Mike Holovak. Does Tom Brady keep playing football long enough to not be eligible at this point? Does Bill Belichick keep coaching beyond 2017?
So with all that in mind, over the next ten years Pats fans can expect to see Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Kevin Faulk, Adam Vinatieri, Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork enter the team’s Hall of Fame. Mike Vrabel and Matt Light are very strong possibilities during that time period too; the only thing potentially keeping them out within that time is if Tom Brady and/or Bill Belichick retire within the next six years. Houston Antwine and Julius Adams are the most likely to make it in as veterans. That leaves Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Ted Johnson, Raymond Clayborn, Mike Holovak and others on the outside looking in. Did I miss anybody?
The Patriots are the only team in the NFL that allows for its fans to determine who gets into their team’s Hall of Fame. Robert Kraft should be applauded for including the fans in this exercise – but is it really the best way to determine who gets in?
It is going to be natural for fans to remember, and vote for whomever is clearest in their memories. Many fans are not old enough to have ever seen players from fifteen, twenty or more years ago. What percentage of those that do vote will do any research into those older players, to deem whether or not they are more worthy of their vote than a recent retiree? Let’s face it, that number is going to extremely small – if not zero.
Aside from not being ‘out of sight out of mind’ older players face another bias. More than once I have seen fans say that if a certain older player was really hall-worthy then he would already be in. Aside from being a shallow excuse to not consider a player, it just doesn’t measure up to the facts. The current setup of putting in one player per year just started four years ago. The Hall was not formed until twenty years ago, in the franchise’s 31st year of existence. After placing several players in the Hall immediately after formation there was a twelve-year period in which only two players were added.
Why Houston Antwine was not named to the Hall back in 1993 is baffling, but apparently because he was not some people seem to believe that is some sort of proof that he’s not worthy. Nothing against Bob Dee, Jim Lee Hunt and Babe Parilli, but Antwine was more deserving than any of those three from the class of ’93. Only one Patriot is on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Time AFL team: Houston Antwine. In addition Antwine is the only one from that group that is on the Patriots 50th Anniversary Team – and yet the others are in the team’s Hall of Fame but he is not? Whether that was simply an oversight, office politics, or something else is open to speculation. However, there is no question that he is more worthy of that designation than others that have already gained entry – and he has no chance of getting in via a fan vote due to his age.
Perhaps the roles in the current selection process should be reversed. Let the fans have a month-long vote, just like now. Then take the top two vote getters, plus a third nominee from the senior committee, and let the current panel hash it out amongst themselves which of those three gets induction on a yearly basis. Otherwise every player that gets in (with the exception of the two per decade that the senior committee gets to name) is going to be a very recently retired player for a very long time to come.
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