HOF Class of 2018: Youth served as Owens, Moss, Lewis elected


Randy Moss photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Yes, as a matter of fact, the latest is the greatest.

That’s the message the Pro Football Hall of Fame sent Saturday as it elected five modern-era candidates with a combined … combined … eight years of eligibility, with Terrell Owens — yes, T.O. — the senior member at three.

Owens, who failed to make the Top 10 in his first two years, was elected with first-year finalist Randy Moss, second-year finalist Brian Dawkins, first-year finalist Ray Lewis and first-year finalist Brian Urlacher.

In addition, Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile were elected as senior candidates, and former GM Bobby Beathard was the contributor enshrinee. Beathard becomes the fifth contributor to be elected in the four years of that category.

But back to the modern-era choices. An extraordinary class? You bet. Not only was it the youngest in recent memory, but it included two positions with two players each at those positions. I know, that happened a year ago with running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis, but it hadn’t occurred before at one position — other than quarterback — since 1983.

Anything else? Plenty. So let’s get started.

THE LOCK

LB RAY LEWIS. Like LaDainian Tomlinson last year, Brett Favre the year before and Junior Seau in 2015, he was the obvious choice. So there was little debate, with Lewis the shortest of all modern-era discussions at 6:04.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

WR TERRELL OWENS. He had no momentum his first two years, but he gained plenty Saturday — with several voters who spoke out against him in 2016-17 endorsing him as a Hall-of-Famer.  Reason: Where Owens’ divisive behavior kept him out the first two years, his productivity dominated Saturday’s conversation. Owens had blasted the process when he wasn’t elected, saying he didn’t give a damn about the Hall, and lobbed a grenade this week in the direction of the 49ers — insinuating he didn’t care about them, either. Ironically, it was the comments of several of those 49ers that seemed to sway some of the room. Just a guess: Owens gives a damn about the Hall now.

Bingo.

MILD SURPRISE

LB BRIAN URLACHER. That he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer is no surprise. That he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the same year as Ray Lewis is. Lewis was the one sure thing in this class. Urlacher might have been a sure thing in any other year, but, with five offensive linemen — or one-third of the class — up this time around, the thought was that voters might make him wait a year and look to clear the queues elsewhere. Didn’t happen. The presentation for Urlacher was strong and so was the support. So he and Lewis continue to be joined at the hip as first-team all-decade choices, former Defensive Players of the Year, multiple Pro Bowl and All-Pro choices and now … Hall of Famers.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

T JOE JACOBY and CB EVERSON WALLS. Both were in their last years of modern-era eligibility, with Jacoby a three-time finalist and Walls in his first … and last … run as one (he’s in his 20th year). Jacoby was an all-decade choice. Walls was not. Jacoby was a three-time Super Bowl champion. Walls won one. Both were difference makers, with Jacoby such a key part of the Redskins’ “counter trey” that former GM Charley Casserly said, given the choice, he’d take him over Russ Grimm. Grimm is the Redskins’ Hall-of-Fame guard who, along with Jacoby, keyed the counter trey from the left side of the line. Walls was the only cornerback to lead the league three times in interceptions and ranked fifth for pure cornerbacks in career picks (57). But that didn’t resonate with voters in a class that failed to recognize anyone with over three years of eligibility. Now, both candidacies are moved to the senior category, where too many qualified players are either forgotten or ignored … or both.

BIGGEST DISAPOINTMENT, PART DEUX

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN. There were five in this year’s class, which meant that voters had convictions about all five. So why is that a problem? Because all five could cancel each other out … and they did. I know, four of the five graduated to the Top 10, but so what? They cannibalized each other … and this was after voters expressed an interest in trying to break up the logjam. The biggest winners were guards Steve Hutchinson and Alan Faneca. Both made it to the Top 10 for the first time, though it’s Hutchinson’s first year of eligibility. But it’s Faneca’s third, and he hadn’t made it past the first cut the previous two years. With tackle Tony Boselli and center Kevin Mawae in the Top 10 for the second straight year, you have to believe one … or both … is a favorite for 2019. Only one problem: Look at the Class of 2019 (see below).

MOST POPULAR CHOICE

G JERRY KRAMER. That’s based on the volume of emails, texts and tweets we received over the past few years. The only member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team excluded from Canton, Kramer made it in his 11th try as a finalist — and his second as a senior candidate. That makes him the 13th member (including coach Vince Lombardi) of the 1960s’ Packers to reach Canton, and it’s about time. This was Kramer’s 45th year of eligibility.

MOST POPULAR CHOICE II

WR RANDY MOSS. He made a name for himself in Minnesota, so what better place to become the first first-ballot wide receiver since Jerry Rice? Moss could have been a controversial candidate — especially with his “I-play-when-I-want-to-play” comment –but, as with Owens, productivity carried the room,. There was also a feeling that if one wideout would make it, it would be Moss … mostly because he was a first-team all-decade choice and Owens was not. But one wideout didn’t make it. Two did.

THE HISTORY MAKER

S BRIAN DAWKINS. Prior to his election, the last modern-era pure safety to play … and be elected to the Hall … was Kenny Houston. He retired after the 1980 season. I know, Paul Krause was elected in 1998, but he retired before Houston (1979). And Kenny Easley was elected last year … as a senior candidate. So, congratulations, Brian Dawkins. You just broke a drought of nearly 40 years. And you did it with your former team (and the organization you now work for) in the Super Bowl. Could be a big weekend.

FIVE SHORTEST DEBATES

LB ROBERT BRAZILE — 5:47

LB RAY LEWIS — 6:04

G ALAN FANECA — 8:45

RB EDGERRIN JAMES — 11:56

G STEVE HUTCHINSON — 12:02

FIVE LONGEST DEBATES

WR TERRELL OWENS — 45:15

WR RANDY MOSS — 34:45

C KEVIN MAWAE — 32:05

S BRIAN DAWKINS — 23:22

G JERRY KRAMER — 23:18

CUTTING TO FIVE

(OUT: Tony Boselli, Kevin Mawae, Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson, Ty Law)

T TONY BOSELLI. As a returning top-10 finalist he had momentum. But he got caught in a traffic jam of offensive linemen, with each canceling the other out.

C KEVIN MAWAE. See Tony Boselli.

G ALAN FANECA. Good news, he made it past the first cut for the first time in three years. Bad news: He’s still on the outside looking in … as a first-time all-decade choice, nine-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro and a guy who missed only two games in his NFL career. Just a hunch, but Hutchinson cost him votes.

G STEVE HUTCHINSON. He makes it as a Top-10 guy in his first year of eligibility, which is good. But he’s competing with Faneca for a spot at a position voters haven’t really embraced. The evidence: It took them 45 years to induct Kramer, and he was the only member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team not in Canton — a team, by the way, voted on by Hall-of-Fame voters. We don’t make ’em up.

CB TY LAW. This was supposed to be the year he was elected, with Law a Top-10 finalist a year ago. But he got sidetracked by the linebackers and wide receivers. Truth be told: He probably was sidetracked by his position, too. Only seven pure cornerbacks have been finalists the past 20 years. By contrast, there have been 13 wide receivers during that time.

CUTTING TO TEN

(OUT: Isaac Bruce, Joe Jacoby, Edgerrin James, John Lynch, Everson Walls)

WR ISAAC BRUCE. He’s a victim of the Randy Moss-Terrell Owens traffic. Until or unless they’re out of his way he’s going to have trouble moving forward. This is the second straight year he failed to make the cut to 10.

T JOE JACOBY. This was his last chance as a modern-era candidate, and his chances were slim — mostly because his candidacy lost momentum last year when he moved from the Top 10 in 2016 to failing to make the cut to 10 in 2017.

RB EDGERRIN JAMES.  He was a finalist in 2016 but didn’t make the first cut to 10. Then he failed to become a finalist in 2o17. So when he returned in 2018, the expectations weren’t high.

S JOHN LYNCH. This was a surprise. He was a top-10 finalist the past two years and has been a finalist the past five. But his candidacy moved backward, which isn’t good. But this is worse: Safety Ed Reed is in next year’s class.

CB EVERSON WALLS. The odds of him making it were long. After all, this was his first year as a finalist  in his last — or 20th — year of eligibility.

LOOKING TO 2019

Safety Ed Reed is in next year’s class, and you can pencil him in as the dead-bolt cinch. But he’s not alone. Tight end Tony Gonzalez and cornerback Champ Bailey are in the Class of 2019, too, and, yeah, there have been too few corners to make it lately and tight ends historically have to wait. But Saturday proved that might not matter. They’re might be three first-ballot Hall of Famers a year from now.

 

 

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22 Comments

  1. Rasputin
    February 3, 2018
    Reply

    Will you three be revealing how y’all personally voted?

    • Rasputin
      February 5, 2018
      Reply

      Is that a no?

      • February 5, 2018
        Reply

        A no to what?

        • Rasputin
          February 5, 2018
          Reply

          I appreciate the transparency you’ve provided here, but will you reveal how you personally voted instead of just the aggregate results?

          • bachslunch
            February 5, 2018

            Rasputin, I think the voters are limited regarding what they’re allowed to divulge from the selection meeting. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if how they voted is on that list. Could be wrong, though.

          • February 5, 2018

            Think we’re allowed to, but I choose not to. I choose not to reveal my vote in governmental elections, too. Believe, however, from some of things you’ve read or heard me say whom I favor or don’t.

          • Rasputin
            February 6, 2018

            But would you like Congressmen keeping secret how they voted on bills? Secret ballots make sense for the general population, but those with the privilege of being HoF selectors, most of whom officially “represent” cities, are more analogous to legislators than regular citizens. I don’t see any good coming from keeping selectors’ votes secrets. How often have you or others said “I don’t know why” this or that person isn’t in the HoF? Publicizing how each selector votes would be a big step in the direction of knowing that. The more transparency for fans the better.

          • February 6, 2018

            I understand your point, but Congressmen are elected by their constituents. So they’re responsible to them. I was named to the board … as were others … by the Hall. So I am responsible to my conscience, and if the Hall believes that I am acting irresponsibly or Unethically it will have me removed. Probably doesn’t satisfy you, but that’s how I feel. Thanks for asking.

  2. Rob
    February 3, 2018
    Reply

    Hey Clark, What do you think is more likely for 2019 2 Olineman getting or 2 CB’s (Bailey and Law) getting in? I think it’s disgraceful that people who were outraged at TO not getting in 2016 and 2017 won’t do the same for the modern offensive lineman.

    • February 3, 2018
      Reply

      You have a point. I don’t see anyone getting bent out of shape because three FIRST TEAM all-decade OL weren’t elected. And I don’t see anyone complaining that we’ve only had one center elected in the past 20 years … and that was six years ago. It’s all about who makes the noise, and WRs are more interesting to some people than OL. Will Shields had a bulletproof resume, with 12 Pro Bowls, seven All-Pro teams and no games missed in 14 years. Yet it took him four tries before he made it.Nobody made a stink about it, including Will Shields. I don’t know what to tell you about next year after what we just went through. My guess is that all three first-year guys with glitz — Bailey, Gonzalez and Reed – make it, than I’d say Boselli and Mawae or Law. But that’s just a guess. People in that room talked about clearing the logjam at OL and we did nothing about it … except bounce Jacoby.

  3. Justin
    February 3, 2018
    Reply

    Clark: Anything further you can add on Jacoby. As a Redskins fan, I’m obviously disappointed by his omission. It is really the end of the Gibbs era. Jacoby was the last of those great teams to have a modern era chance. I suppose he could be a senior candidate some day, but I rather doubt it. If anything, maybe Clark deserves a look since 80s WR are severely under-represented in the hall (only 5 HOF WR were playing in 83-84 and only 7 in 85-87). For comparison’s sake, there were 9 HOF WR playing in 1965 (in a run first and run second league) and there are already 8 WRs from 1998. Regardless, I feel like today is the end of the Redskins’ glory years.

    As always, thanks for the insights.

    • February 3, 2018
      Reply

      You are right. It is end of an era. Thought he had a shot. He didn’t. I know that now. When he lost momentum a year ago it was a sign that he had his best shot … and it was over. Not sure why. But there were voters who just didn’t think he was HOF worthy. Boselli had passed him last year and that was that. He was going to stay ahead because people think he’s the better player. Now Jacoby’s chances of making it as a senior are slim, at best. Way too much competition. People will say he had three tries and voters cooled on him. So why bring him back?

  4. bachslunch
    February 3, 2018
    Reply

    Clark, great analysis as always and thanks for the insights.

    First, congratulations to the folks who got in. All are very deserving, and for Jerry Kramer a long time coming. Glad they did right by him, Brazile, and Beathard.

    The balloting dynamic was interesting. For one, neither Jacoby nor Walls apparently had a chance, being among the first cuts. And it’s interesting that the former regressed after his initial year as finalist. Looks like the voters drew a line in the sand here — which pretty much ends hope for folks like Lomas Brown, Mike Kenn, and Chris Hinton. In fact, Jacoby was the only o-lineman who didn’t progress to the next round.

    As you mentioned, the other four o-linemen pushed into the top 10, but blocked each other after that. It’ll be interesting to see how they break that logjam up.

    There were actually two mini-logjams in Owens/Moss and Lewis/Urlacher and the solution here was apparently to push all four of them through into t(e final five and elect them. Whatever gets the job done, it’s fine by me. That will probably take some of the pressure off guys like Bruce, Holt, and Ward, though they may not see results right away.

    The only single player to break out of a logjam was Dawkins from the DB group.

    • February 4, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks for the note. You’re right about the OL. What frosts me is that it became a WR narrative … mostly because one had complained and whined so much that he had people pushing the board hard … and, in my opinion, it had an impact. But where’s the outrage for these OL who were more decorated than Owens? They were first team all-decade he was not. They were named to more All-Pro teams. Faneca won a Super Bowl. Owens did not. I fear we’re becoming a Fantasy Football Hall of Fame, catering to guys with numbers only … and OL don’t have numbers.

      • bachslunch
        February 4, 2018
        Reply

        Clark, agreed that if all the TO whining is what pushed him over the top, that’s not a good thing. Though with those career numbers he was going to get In eventually anyway. It may actually be a blessing that he’s finally off the table, and making him wait a couple years at least sent the right message.

        Hopefully now they’ll be able to focus more on a solution to the OL blockade, though with three good first time candidates in Gonzalez, Reed, and Bailey that might be hard to pull off. 2020 may be the year for them with only Troy Polamalu as a viable first ballot candidate (just don’t see that for guys like Patrick Willis, Reggie Wayne, John Abraham, or Lance Briggs) — who knows, there might be enough room to push all four of Hutchinson, Faneca, Mawae, and Boselli in at once (not counting on that one, though).

        • February 4, 2018
          Reply

          We put in three first-year eligible this year. We have Reed, Gonzalez and Bailey up next year … and I’ve already heard some people referring to them as first-ballot HOFers. One of these days people are going to realize that we can wait on some to get others in. We just lost two of them in Jacoby and Walls. And we have a logjam at OL we were supposed to clean up. We didn’t. So is it next year? The year after that? When?

  5. James Daugherty
    February 4, 2018
    Reply

    No way Brian Dawkins should have got into the HOF before Steve Atwater period. But at least a pure safety finally made it.

    • Andy
      February 4, 2018
      Reply

      Atwater???? Lol He is even worse of a choice. Leroy Butker before both …

  6. Andy
    February 4, 2018
    Reply

    Where in the heck is Leroy Butler. Put him in my gosh!!
    Please

  7. Evan
    February 5, 2018
    Reply

    Boselli gets in before Faneca or even Jacoby? That’s as ridiculous as Kramer having to wait 45 yrs, and it taking over 27 min to discuss getting him in. Give me a break.

  8. Sam Goldenberg
    February 11, 2018
    Reply

    Great job as always Clark.

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