The 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be announced Saturday, and it is full of difficult choices. Here is a list of the fifteen nominees:
Larry Allen, G, Cowboys, 49ers: NFL all-decade team for the 1990s and 2000s; 11 Pro Bowls; first team All-NFC six times; lead blocker for two players that hold franchise rushing records, Emmitt Smith and Frank Gore; first-year nominee.
Jerome Bettis, RB, Steelers, Rams: Pro Bowl six times; first team All Pro twice, second team once; sixth all-time leading rusher; eight 1,000+ yard seasons rushing.
Tim Brown, WR, Raiders, Bucs: Pro Bowl nine times; fifth all-time in receptions and yards; at time of retirement his 14,934 receiving yards were second most in NFL history, his 1,094 receptions were third, 100 touchdown receptions were third, and 19,682 combined net yards were fifth.
Cris Carter, WR, Vikings, Eagles, Dolphins: eight straight 1,000 yard seasons; caught 70+ passes ten times; All-Decade team, 1990s; eight Pro Bowls; 42 100-yard receiving games; 130 career touchdowns and 1,101 career receptions both ranked second all time when he retired.
Ed DeBartolo, owner, 49ers: won five Super Bowl championships; while owner from 1977-2000 his team averaged 13 wins per season, made 16 playoff appearances, won 13 division titles, and played in ten conference championship games.
Kevin Greene, LB, Steelers, Panthers, Rams, 49ers: 160 career sacks, third most in NFL history; back to back seasons with 16.5 sacks; ten seasons with double digit sacks; five Pro Bowls; All-Decade team of the 1990s.
Charles Haley, LB, Cowboys, 49ers — Only player to play on five winning Super Bowl teams; led 49ers in sacks in each of first six seasons; Jimmy Johnson felt he was the “missing element” so he traded for him – and the Cowboys won three of the next four championships; two time Defensive Player of the Year; All Pro twice; five Pro Bowls; 100.5 career sacks; six years with double-digit sacks.
Art Modell, owner, Browns/Ravens — Owned team for 43 years; NFL President from 1967-69; negotiated major network contracts as chairman of the NFL’s Broadcast Committee, 1962-93; two championships: Browns in 1964 and Ravens in 2000-01.
Jonathan Ogden, T, Ravens: 11 Pro Bowls; first-team All Pro six times; All-Decade team of the 2000s; Offensive Lineman of the Year, 2000; first-year nominee.
Bill Parcells, HC, Giants, Pats, Jets, Cowboys: two-time Coach of the Year; two-time Super Bowl winner; three Super Bowl appearances; only coach to take four different teams to the playoffs; 172 regular season victories, plus 11 post-season wins.
Andre Reed, WR, Bills, Redskins: 951 career receptions were 3rd most at time of his retirement; 13,198 career receiving yards; 13 seasons with 50+ receptions, 2nd most in NFL history; seven Pro Bowls.
Warren Sapp, DT, Bucs, Raiders: 96.5 career sacks – as a defensive tackle; All-Decade team of the 1990s and 2000s; All Pro four straight times; seven Pro Bowls; first-year nominee.
Will Shields, G, Chiefs: 12 straight Pro Bowls; first team All Pro three times; second team All Pro four times; All-Decade team of the 2000s; never missed a game in 14 years, starting all but his first one.
Michael Strahan, DE, Giants: 141.5 career sacks; seven Pro Bowls; single-season record for sacks (22.5); double-digit sack totals six times; NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2001; All-Decade team of the 2000s; first-year nominee.
Aeneas Williams, CB/S, Cardinals, Rams: eight Pro Bowls; five or more picks six times; 55 interceptions, nine touchdowns.
How in the world does someone only pick five from that group? No matter who you pick, there will be at least a couple of very worthy candidates that were left out. Perhaps the best way is to start by eliminating a few names.
Aeneas Williams: great player, but not dominant enough to get in when he’s up against this group.
Art Modell: regardless of what he may have done in the way of early television contracts, you can’t easily dismiss his handling of moving the Browns, or his meddlesome ways as an owner; this is a person that fired both Paul Brown and Bill Belichick! How did those decisions work out?
Tim Brown: while his career rankings are impressive, he was never the predominant player at his position. He finished better than 7th in receptions just twice in his career, better than 5th in receiving yards twice, and was never better than 7th in receiving touchdowns in any single season.
Andre Reed: A tip of the hat for longevity – he was a starter at age 35 – but he was even less dominant than Brown. Reed was never better than 5th in receiving yards or receiving touchdowns, and was better than 5th in receptions just once in any single season in his career.
Jerome Bettis: Despite being known as the goal line back he finished in the top five in rushing touchdowns just once, and was better than 9th in the league in rushing yards only three times. Despite being a cult figure by a vocal Steeler fan base, I would have to leave him aside this year.
That brings it down to ten, which is a bit more manageable: Allen, Carter, DeBartolo, Greene, Haley, Ogden, Parcells, Sapp, Shields and Strahan.
With such strong competition I believe DeBartolo – though very worthy – will be eliminated due to the fallout from his having to sell the team.
Warren Sapp deserves to go in for his play, but some negative feelings towards him based on his surliness, plus his mediocre play in Oakland will force him to wait.
Will Shields is hurt by situations beyond his control: he played his entire career in a small market, and his team never won a Super Bowl. It’s not right that those team championships weigh so heavily on an individual award, but that seems to be the case with NFL voters.
There will be a strong push for Bill Parcells, especially from those in New York who place him on a pedestal. His ability to work the media will serve him well, but he is not deserving – at least not in comparison to the others on this list. Why does he get credit for doing what he did in multiple places? That tells me he bailed out as soon as he knew the team was headed south, to boost his own legacy. Hopefully there will be enough voters that can see through him, and do the right thing by voting a more deserving player in.
Cris Carter is another who will have a strong push, primarily due to his being on television. While his career stats are gaudy, consider this: he never finished better than 7th in receiving yards in his career, and was better than 4th in the league in receptions only twice. I have a feeling he’ll make it this year, but there are others more deserving.
My choices: Jonathan Ogden, Charles Haley, Kevin Greene, Warren Sapp, Ed DeBartolo; Will Shields and Larry Allen would be my first two alternate choices.
Who I think will go in: Michael Strahan, Bill Parcells, Cris Carter, Ogden, Haley.
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