Hall-of-Fame Class of 2017: Andersen in, Tagliabue out


Photo courtesy of kansas City Chiefs

HOUSTON — Talk about the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. Morten Andersen is in the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s Class 2017, and Paul Tagliabue is not.

Honest.

Yes, Andersen becomes only the second pure kicker in 54 years to again admission to the Hall, while Tagliabue – the commissioner who presided over 17 years of labor peace and who made a late push for Canton – was rejected for the fourth, and perhaps, last time.

Andersen joins running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Terrell Davis and defensive end Jason Taylor as members of the Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2017, with senior nominee Kenny Easley and contributor candidate Jerry Jones completing the cast.

Tagliabue won’t be with them, and that’s a blow to his supporters. His candidacy seemed to gain traction late in the week, but, apparently, it didn’t gain enough … which begs the question: Will he ever be put in front of the board again?

I don’t know, either, but what I do know is that the board of selectors gained more traction with the addition of Hall-of-Famers Dan Fouts and James Lofton – each of whom were vocal in the near nine-hour meeting and who added invaluable insight to the candidates.

If you missed it, don’t worry. We have the game summary.

THE CINCH

The Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson was the easy choice. The league’s fifth all-time leading rusher, he was a virtual cinch from the moment he became eligible. In his first appearance as a selector, presenter Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune didn’t have to convince anyone of Tomlinson’s worth. His speech was short, and so was the debate. Now there are two L.T.s in Canton.

THE CINCH, PART DEUX

Quarterback Kurt Warner. He was expected to make it in his third try as a finalist, and he did. As one selector said, he’s “a Hall-of-Fame story,” one of the most unique in modern NFL history, and voters lapped it up. They should. Warner not only was a two-time league MVP, Super Bowl winner and Super Bowl MVP, but he did the improbable: Raise the Titanic twice, first with the Rams and, later, with the Cardinals – putting both in Super Bowls. Neither has been back since he left.

BIG WINNER

Short careers. Once, they were a concern of voters. Not anymore. Davis and Easley made it despite playing seven seasons – careers that were short enough for voters to freeze them out. Offensive lineman Tony Boselli was a third candidate who had a relatively brief career, cut short (as was the case with Easley and Davis) by injuries, and he made it to the Top Ten in his first try as a finalist. That’s encouraging. Apparently, longevity doesn’t matter to voters as much as it once seemed.

BIGGER WINNER

The NFL Network. Tomlinson, Warner and Davis are all analysts. Davis becomes just the fifth Bronco to reach the Hall, and it’s about time. Denver has been to three more Super Bowls (8) than it has Hall-of-Fame inductees (5).

BIGGEST WINNER

Safeties and kickers. We had our first pure safety in 36 years and our first kicker (and only the second overall) since Jan Stenerud was inducted in 1991. Maybe life is fair.

GRIDLOCK

It happened at two positions – offensive line and safety. There were four offensive linemen in this class, and there was concern they could cancel each other out. And that’s precisely what happened. First-time finalists Kevin Mawae and Tony Boselli jumped the queue by moving ahead of Alan Faneca and Joe Jacoby, both of whom were second-year finalists. But their candidacies died there. Now let’s see what happens a year from now. The consensus seems to be that all are Hall-of-Fame worthy, and that’s great. Except something has to give. All-decade guard Steve Hutchinson joins the list in 2018.

As for the safeties, John Lynch and Brian Dawkins also ran into each other. Both made it to the Top 10, but Lynch was there a year ago and should have moved forward to the Final Five. He did not. He has one year to make another push. Otherwise, he competes with Dawkins and Ed Reed, who joins the lineup in 2019, and with Troy Polamalu one year later.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Andersen. For only the second time in the history of the Hall … and for the first time in 54 years … it admitted a pure kicker, and hallelujah. As an all-decade choice twice, Andersen was the most qualified candidate in this year’s class. He not only is the career scoring leader in the NFL; he’s the career scoring leader for two teams – New Orleans and Atlanta. Colts’ kicker Adam Vinatieri called Andersen’s selection a “no-brainer,” and he’s right. He had longevity (he played for 25 years, or until he was 47). He was productive (no one has more field goals). And he changed the game, a strong-legged kicker who convinced coaches to try field goals of 50 yards or more (he hit an NFL-record three in one game). But he never made it into the Top 10 in first three tries as a finalist, and, considering the quality of the upcoming classes, this was probably his last shot at Canton. Andersen’s choice is a boost for special teamers everywhere and Vinatieri in particular. He’s the second chosen in three years, and while that isn’t exactly a landslide consider this: Before him and punter Ray Guy, there was one chosen in the first 50 years – Stenerud.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Paul Tagliabue. The former NFL commissioner was shot down for the fourth time, and he was dismissed after the day’s longest and most passionate debate. The vote was expected to be a photo-finish, and, as the week wore on, it appeared he might make it. But he didn’t, and if there’s something that sabotaged his candidacy it was concussions. Voters weren’t convinced he did enough to address an issue that is the hot-button of the sport today, and so he became the first contributor candidate to be rejected since the category was opened in 2015. Now the question: Was that Tagliabue’s last crack at Canton? Unlike his previous three tries, he wasn’t competing against players and coaches. This time he was one of two contributor candidates, requiring only 80 percent of support from the room. Jerry Jones, the other contributor, got it. Tagliabue did not.

IT’S A YOUNG MAN’S GAME

There were seven first-time finalists in this year’s class, and six of them finished among the Top 10. Only wide receiver Isaac Bruce missed the call.

THE MAGIC OF A POSITION

One defensive player made it, and, no surprise, that one was defensive end Jason Taylor. Taylor was the only pass rusher in this class, and that was of enormous help to the first-year finalist. Reason: The Hall has inducted pass rushers 10 of the past 11 years. Taylor had the numbers – he ranks seventh on the all-time sack list – but to go to the head of the class in his first year was a surprise. Remember, it took Kevin Greene, who ranks third in career sacks, 12 years of eligibility to make it to Canton.

THE BREAKTHROUGH

No longer is Kenny Houston the last pure Hall-of-Fame safety to play. Now that distinction belongs to senior nominee Kenny Easley. The Hall hadn’t recognized a pure safety since 1998 when the league’s all-time leading interceptor, Paul Krause, was inducted. But Krause had to wait 14 years. That made Houston, who retired after the 1980 season, the last Hall-of-Famer to play the position … that is, until now. Easley was an easy choice, especially after more than one selector walked out comments comparing him to Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott. The knock was supposed to be longevity. Easley played only seven seasons and had never been a finalist. But voters didn’t care, with the debate one of the day’s briefest.

FIVE LONGEST DEBATES

1:00:55 – Paul Tagliabue

33:35 – Jerry Jones

32:24 – Terrell Owens

29:53 – Don Coryell

28:04 – Kevin Mawae

FIVE SHORTEST DEBATES

5:26 – Alan Faneca

5:48 – LaDainian Tomlinson

7:54 – Isaac Bruce

10:30 – Jason Taylor

11:53 – Ty Law

FIRST CUT: THEN THERE WERE 10

Here are the first cuts, with voters going from 15 modern-era candidates to 10:

Wide receiver Terrell Owens. The debate wasn’t different from a year ago, and here’s why: Nothing has changed. Owens still has the numbers and still has the reputation. The debate was passionate on both sides of the aisle, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that, as happened a year ago when he was a first-year finalist, his candidacy would be put on call-waiting. Owens can complain … and he and his supporters have … but he has an uphill climb to reach Canton.

Don Coryell. This was his last best shot, and he didn’t make it as far as a year ago when he reached the top 10. Ouch. Now stop if you heard this before: His 3-6 playoff record and failure to reach a Super Bowl sabotaged him. It did the previous three times he was a finalist, too. His only chance, it now appears, is as a contributor … provided, of course, the league makes coaches contributor candidates in the future. For the moment, a contributor is defined as anyone who is not a coach or player, and there are no plans to change that.

Guard Alan Faneca. The all-decade choice will get in the Hall one day. The only question is: When? It won’t be this year, and no surprise there. It typically takes voters years to act on guards, with Will Shields – a no-brainer who went to 12 Pro Bowls in 14 years and never missed a game – waiting four.

Tackle Joe Jacoby. This was a surprise. A year ago, he reached the top 10 in his first shot as a finalist … in his 18th year of eligibility, no less. So he was a favorite to push for the Final Five. Instead, he went in the other direction, and now … well, now he almost certainly will be sent to the senior committee in a year, where his chances of reaching Canton are put on life support.

Wide receiver Isaac Bruce. This is a tough one. He is Hall-of-Fame worthy, and he was the most dangerous receiver on the Greatest Show on Turf. He was also the anti-Owens, a team player who was a team leader. But he wasn’t an all-decade choice, while teammate Torry Holt was, and, yes, that could be an issue. Nevertheless, he’s in the room, and that’s a start. But let’s see if he stays there with Randy Moss joining the queue in 2018.

SECOND CUT: GETTING DOWN TO 5

And here are the second round of casualties, with voters trimming the 10 modern-era candidates to five:

Safety Brian Dawkins. There was sentiment in the room to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but it didn’t happen … and no sweat. Hearing what voters had to say about the all-decade choice, it’s apparent he makes it sooner rather than later.

Tackle Tony Boselli. Another solid showing by a first-year finalist, especially considering the longevity concerns about Boselli’s career. But, remember, longevity wasn’t an issue Saturday. Boselli caught late momentum during Super Bowl week, and the smart money is on him making it to Canton soon.

Safety John Lynch. He didn’t move from his Top 10 spot a year ago, and it’s hard to know where he finished. Voters never are informed of poll numbers. It’s also hard to now what that finish means for him. What we do know is that the arrival of Dawkins hurt his candidacy, splitting the safety votes, and one of them better move this time next year. Otherwise, they compete with Ed Reed, and good luck.

Cornerback Ty Law. A first-time finalist, he made a strong showing, and this just in: He may have this position to himself a year from now — which would enhance his chances. His arrival in the Top Ten signaled that voters recognize there was more than just Tom Brady to the Patriots’ early Super Bowl winners.

Center Kevin Mawae. An all-decade center, Mawae is the fourth first-time finalist among finishers from spots 6-through-10. Support was strong for him, with voters leaving the room convinced that he, too, will reach Canton sooner rather than later.

WHAT’S NEXT: THE CLASS OF 2018

Now comes the tsunami of talent. In next year’s class we have … drum roll, please … Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Ronde Barber and Steve Hutchinson. All of them were all-decade choices, and all could be first-year finalists. But why stop there? James Farrior, Jeff Saturday, Matt Birk and Richard Seymour are included, too, with Seymour another all-decade choice. Maybe now you understand why it was so important for longshots to make their moves Saturday.

… AND THE CLASS OF 2019

The hits keep on coming. Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed and Champ Bailey are the big names, and tell me: Which of them doesn’t make it in on the first ballot? Someone? Anyone?

… AND 2020

Look out. Troy Polamalu, Reggie Wayne and Patrick Willis are next.

… AND 2021

Ay-yay-yay. We have Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Jared Allen and Marshawn Lynch on the way. Check, please.

Previous Handicapping the finalists for the Hall’s Class of 2017
Next Judgements: Nobody does it better than Tom Terrific

17 Comments

  1. Justin
    February 4, 2017
    Reply

    Clark:

    Thank you for the run down. I good class, but I’m very disappointed for Joe Jacoby. As a Redskins fan, I always thought he was the best of the Hogs. He still has one more year of eligibility, but taking a step back and being passed by Boselli and Mawae would seem to end his chances. On the other hand, I am both disappointed and heartened for Dawkins. I thought he should have been a first ballot hall of famer, but at least he made the top ten. Hopefully he gets in next year so Ed Reed has clear sailing for the year after (no offense to Lynch, Atwater, and other safeties, but Reed is the clearly the best safety of the last 20 years, if not ever).

    Given how well the first time finalists did, do you believe there was some sort of voter fatigue over existing candidates? This year’s vote is a clear departure from precedent and, one could argue, a repudiation of last year’s voting. Not only did the voters not call up the previous year’s top ten, but it actually dropped most of the top ten behind both the newly elected and another group of potential candidates.

  2. bachslunch
    February 4, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, thanks for the analysis — well presented. Agreed that Jacoby’s regression out of the top 10 with one eligible year left does not bode well for him. And if Coryell can’t get elected now (and also regressed out of the top 10), his chances look slim also. Really sorry to see Tagliabue not get in, as that wasted a Contributor slot that furthermore could have been used on a deserving Senior. Also surprised to see Taylor as first ballot (though he’s very worthy); no doubt the lack of LB/DL competition helped him. But regardless, congratulations to Jones, Easley, Andersen, Davis, Tomlinson, Taylor, and Warner. All are highly deserving.

  3. Rob
    February 4, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, I appreciate your explanation. I have a few questions. Since Randy Moss will now be on the ballot he will get the same treatment from the voters like TO has? Do you think the Hall of Fame will make all votes public? Who does the room favor more between Dawkins and Lynch? Vice versa between Boselli and Mawae?

    • February 4, 2017
      Reply

      Have no idea about Moss until hear the arguments. I do not believe Hall will make votes public in near future but not opposed. Really dont know who room favors with Lynch and Dawkins. Never know the final vote numbers. Lot of support for each. Thought one might get through to final five. Same goes with Boselli and Mawae. Both had momentum, but cant tell which had more. Sorry cant be more specific, but when we vote we never see the numbers. Just know who made the cut to 10 and 5.

  4. Rasputin
    February 5, 2017
    Reply

    Thanks for the transparency (though it’d more transparent if you said how you voted for each guy : )). Longevity has been dismissed as an important factor, and that’s too bad because it represents a sharp break from what the HoF has been before, undermining what it means to be a “hall of famer”. I wouldn’t have included Davis, but this does make Sterling Sharpe’s omission from Canton even more glaring. He merited induction even back when longevity still mattered.
    I’m glad Tagliabue didn’t get in. I hate parity and, less important, I didn’t like that stupid PR stunt of pretending the new Cleveland Browns are the same as the old. Sorry, Cleveland fans, but the reality is your current Browns are an expansion team. The team of Paul, Otto, Jim, Bernie, and Ozzie is now in Baltimore. Ozzie is still its GM. An artificial pronouncement by the commissioner doesn’t change that. It sucks for Cleveland (and Houston, San Diego, St. Louis, and lots of other cities), but that’s the price we pay for this fan stuff to mean anything. We have to recognize that teams have an organic existence that connects one year to the next and extends through history. Otherwise you’re just cheering for laundry, because that’s all a “team” would be, and there would be no point to it.

    As for Jerry Jones….I’m as strong a Cowboys fan as there is walking the planet and yet I derive no satisfaction from this. I don’t oppose it. His induction is legitimate. But there are so many more deserving Cowboys still waiting for their call.

  5. bachslunch
    February 5, 2017
    Reply

    Am thinking both the Contributor and Senior categories are having problems. Getting the best candidates before the voters seems to be an issue, the presentations don’t appear to be swaying enough voters often enough (which to be fair may not be the fault of the presenters), and it seems far too easy for a small group of voters to block candidates. A radical approach would be to have the committee compositions changed so that they’re made up of hard-core NFL historians and have them direct-elect the final nominees, bypassing the regular voters. Failing that, a less radical approach would be to have the two current committees present a vetted slate of 10 Senior nominees and 5 Contributor nominees (add coaches to this category to make it more competitive), present the two slates to the voters who rank the nominees numerically from best to worst, and elect the 2 top ranking Seniors and 1 top ranking Contributor regardless of the percentage they get. Wasting three nomination slots in a nine-year period really shouldn’t been seen as acceptable, regardless.

  6. bachslunch
    February 5, 2017
    Reply

    Regarding 2018, things seem pretty much in turmoil given yesterday. Agreed that Seymour, Moss, Barber, Urlacher, Lewis, and Hutchinson will probably get in the HoF someday, but this strikes me as reminiscent of 2015, when despite the fact that all of Seau, Warner, Pace, Bruce, Holt, and Law became eligible, the only real first ballot guy was Seau. Of the 2018 folks listed above, Lewis and maybe Moss look like the only real first ballot types, though several may be first year finalists (only Seau, Warner, and Pace were first time finalists from 2015). Am thinking Lewis could well be the only first ballot guy, which leaves as many as four holdovers with a chance. No idea how the logjams will play out, but we might see at least one OL (Mawae?) and one safety (Dawkins?) make it in, perhaps more than one of each. In fact, 2019 may clog things up worse since Bailey, Gonzalez, and Reed are all legitimate first ballot types. 2020 doesn’t have much 1st ballot fodder beyond maybe Polamalu. 2021 has two likelies in Manning and Woodson. The big problem will be the sheer number of second tier folks, and who manages to get through over the next few years.

    • February 5, 2017
      Reply

      Assessment right on, though will be a push for Urlacher, too. Hey, havent heard from anyone on new site. You like it? Overhauled it here at Super Bowl and believe its better. Much better. Youve been a loyal follower. What do you think?

      • Rasputin
        February 5, 2017
        Reply

        I like that our posts can have spaces now and the box seems more user friendly. Though my email did receive a batch of a few dozen Talk of Fame notifications that appeared to be Latin around the time of the upgrade (maybe a one time thing), and right now it says I’m replying to “David Jenkis”, so maybe a few minor things to work out. But yeah, I like it.

        • February 6, 2017
          Reply

          Good. Any ideas you have please pass along. Will mention this to our website guy.

      • bachslunch
        February 5, 2017
        Reply

        Thanks for the positive feedback. Mostly an improvement re the website: white background and larger print are easier for reading, being able to do paragraphs is helpful. Haven’t been able to find a spot saying “recent posts” anywhere, which would be helpful — maybe I missed it.

        • February 6, 2017
          Reply

          keep scrolling down. thx. always good to hear from you.

  7. David Jenkis
    February 5, 2017
    Reply

    Your writeup certainly implies that you are among those who will not allow T.O. his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. When the voters give a pass to so many (not looking to sling mud at any player), the majority of your bar Owens because of his attitude towards the media? Never arrested, suspended, charged or iimplicated — yet he’s not worthy? BULL

    • February 6, 2017
      Reply

      Never suspended? Au contraire. Suspended twice by his own team (SF, Phla)… with Andy Reid sitting him down for the last half of a season. Reason: Disruptive to his own team. Bill Parcells didnt show up when he was introduced in Dallas. Reason: Didnt want him. And never spoke to him while there. When Jason Garrett took over Cowboys told Jerry Jones he wanted Owens gone. Reason: Disruptive to his own team. One coach tried to cut him at mid-season. The guy who drafted him said he would never put him in the Hall. HOF GM Bill Polian said of Owens … The HOF ought to be for those who make their teams better not those who are disruptive and make their teams worse. This has nothing to do with his attitude toward the media. It has to do with his behavior within his team, with five of them kicking him to the curb. Makes for a great HOF introduction: And SF did not want him … so it traded him to Philadelphia … where he was suspended and then cut … and on to Dallas, where they didnt win a playoff game with him and the coaches didnt want him … to … There were seven all-decade players not chosen this time, yet all we do is end up talking about one. This one. What happened to the six others? Its always T.O., and maybe, just maybe, instead of shooting the messenger he should own up to responsibility for his actions.

  8. Rob
    February 6, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, Who could see you coming out of the Senior Pool for 2018?

    • February 7, 2017
      Reply

      Rob, so many candidates for two spots. Brazile could be one. Johnny Robinson. Mike Curtis. kramer long overdue. Would love to see Drew Pearson come out. Same with Al Wistert. Anyway, probably better suited to ask Rick and Ron. Theyre on subcommittee.

  9. March 19, 2017
    Reply

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?
    http://healthclue.eu

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