Your scorecard to the 15 finalists for the HOF’s Class of 2017


Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Chargers

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 finalists features seven candidates who never made it this far  – including first-year eligibles Brian Dawkins, Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson. Add Tony Boselli, Isaac Bruce, Ty Law and Kevin Mawae to the uninitiated – with the list cut to five on Feb. 4, the day before Super Bowl LI – and you have nearly half a class of modern-era finalists that never have been discussed.

But those candidates have speed bumps to overcome, including holdovers Kurt Warner, Joe Jacoby, Don Coryell, John Lynch and Terrell Davis – all top-10 finalists a year ago. And that’s where this gets tricky. Having a place in line often counts for something, and sometimes it counts for a lot.

So who has the inside track? Well, keep reading … because that’s why we’re here.

THE FAVORITES

kurtwarnertwoTomlinson is the surest thing in this group. He’s the fifth-leading rusher of all time and a guy who absolutely dominated at his position – with five Pro Bowl selections, six All-Pro nominations, an MVP award and all-decade acclaim. But Warner is in the rear-view mirror. He’s been a top-10 finalist for the first two years of his eligibility and raised the Titanic twice — first, with the woebegone St. Louis Rams; then with the downtrodden Arizona Cardinals, putting both in Super Bowls and winning one with the Rams. Granted, there’s a hole in the middle of his career, but there’s also a compelling argument to make this the year to push him through.

(Kurt Warner photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)

THE OUTSIDE FAVORITE

That would be Jacoby, and for two reasons: 1) He not only broke through as a first-time finalist in 2016 in his 18th year of eligibility, but he made it to the top 10. That was a surprise and it’s a promising sign. But then 2) he’s running out of eligibility, and voters may figure it’s now or never … with now holding the early lead. Hall-of-Fame voters love tackles, particularly left tackles, and Jacoby is next in line here.

THE BREAKTHROUGH

tony-boselli-offensive-lineman_pg_600A year ago, former tackle Tony Boselli finally made it as a semifinalist for the first time. Now he’s one of the top 15, and while his chances to make it to the top in his first year as a finalists aren’t promising, it’s a relief to have him in the room. Reason: People need to hear his case. Boselli might have had a relatively short career, but while he played he was one of the best anywhere – with five Pro Bowl nominations and three All-Pro choices in seven NFL seasons. Boselli is one of three candidates with short careers — with Terrell Davis and senior candidate Kenny Easley the others. That may be a signal that voters are willing to be more lenient when it comes to questions of longevity. If so, that could help not only Boselli, but Davis. And Easley? Just a hunch, but I think he has the easiest path to Canton of these three, with the former Seattle star going in next summer.

(Tony Boselli photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars)

CLOSEST COMPETITION AT ONE POSITION

It’s probably at safety where John Lynch, who broke through to the top 10 a year ago, faces Dawkins. There are voters who believe strongly in respecting the queue – that is, deferring to those first in line – unless there’s a superior choice that just joined the party. Well, Dawkins might be that guy. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro and an all-decade choice — and I mention that last accolade because Lynch was not. That’s going to make his bid difficult, but, remember: It’s going to be difficult for any safety to make it. The Hall has a blind spot at the position, with only seven pure safeties inducted and Ken Houston the last to play. He retired after the 1980 season.

CLOSEST COMPETITION, PART II

faneca2-jpegThis isn’t exactly at one position, but it is at one area – the inside of the offensive line, where guard Alan Faneca and Mawae are Hall-of-Fame worthy. Faneca is a returning finalist who didn’t graduate to the top 10 a year ago. Mawae, who played center, is a first-time finalist. Both are all-decade choices and are deep in NFL decorations. Faneca was a nine-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro. Mawae was an eight-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro. The Hall has been tough on centers and guards, with guard Will Shields – a guy named to 12 Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro teams in 14 years and who never missed a game — waiting four years before he was inducted. Faneca and Mawae will get into the Hall, but it may be later rather than sooner.

(Alan Faneca photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

THE T.O. QUESTION

Here we go again. Owens has the numbers to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but, as one of his former offensive coordinators said, “If the Hall if about being a teammate, he’s the last guy I’d put in.” And there are enough people on the board of selectors – at least there were a year ago – to make Owens wait. His candidacy consumed 50 minutes of debate in 2016 before one voter mercifully called an end to it, saying T.O. wasn’t going to get in; so let’s move on. And we did. I don’t know that anyone changed his vote in the 12 months that passed, so I don’t see his candidacy advancing. As Hall-of-Fame GM Bill Polian told the Talk of Fame Network a year ago, “The Hall of Fame ought to be for people who make their teams better; not who disrupted their teams and made them worse.”

THE DESIGNATED PASS RUSHER

jasontaylor7-jpegThe board loves pass rushers, inducting at least one (if you consider defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a pass rusher for his position) in the past nine years and two each in 2014 (Michael Strahan and Claude Humphrey) and 2009 (Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas). Jason Taylor is the only pass rusher among the finalists, so you have to like his chances., except … except, remember this: It took Kevin Greene 12 years to get in, and he’s third on the career sacks’ list, behind only Bruce Smith and Reggie White. The board isn’t committed to naming a pass rusher, and my feeling is that, as a first-time finalist, Taylor will wait … though not for long.

(Jason Taylor photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins)

THE LONGSHOTS

I’ll make them Morten Andersen, Ty Law, Don Coryell and Isaac Bruce … but with this caveat: There is room for a wild card this year, and I believe there will be one. I also believe it could come from this list. Law and Bruce are first-time finalists, so their chances of going immediately to the top are slim. But Andersen is the league’s career scoring leader, and tell me what other major pro sports Hall of Fame doesn’t include its all-time leading scorer. You can’t. That will help his cause, though he hasn’t made it past the top 15 in any of his three years as a finalist. Then there’s Coryell, and he continues to defy the odds. He was a top-10 finalist in 2016 for the first time, and he’s back again this year. That tells me two things: 1) He has a substantial support group and 2) that group is not giving up. Stay tuned.

THE LEFT OUTS

A year ago, safety Steve Atwater made his first trip to the finals, as did running back Edgerrin James. Today, both are off the ballot, and don’t ask me why. With Atwater, the fear is that his candidacy wont be revived until he’s eligible as a senior, and that’s the Island of Forgotten Players — one that is very, very tough to get off. With James, he has plenty of time left to reach the Hall and could — and maybe should — return a year from now with L.T. off the ballot. But going backward is not a good sign. For some reason, his candidacy just lost momentum.

THE 15 FINALISTS FOR THE CLASS OF 2017

QB (1) – Kurt Warner.
RB (2) – Terrell Davis, LaDainian Tomlinson.
WR (2) – Isaac Bruce, Terrell Owens.
OL (4) – Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca, Joe Jacoby, Kevin Mawae.
DL (1) – Jason Taylor.
CB (1) – Ty Law.
S (2) – John Lynch, Brian Dawkins.
PK (1) – Morten Andersen.
COACH (1) – Don Coryell.

 

 

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16 Comments

  1. Justin
    January 3, 2017
    Reply

    This is a great list of finalists. Very happy to see Boselli and Law breakthrough. Also happy to see Dawkins as a very well deserved first ballot finalist. Not happy Atwater took a step back, but at least the committee seems to acknowledge that Dawkins was the better player. My one minor gripe would be Bruce over Holt. I believe both are worthy, but Holt’s peak was significantly better than Bruce’s even if Bruce has better career numbers. Overall, the committee did a great job. I’ll be pulling for Jacoby, Tomlinson, Davis, Dawkins, and Law, but I’ll sure they won’t all make it.

    • January 4, 2017
      Reply

      Davis going to be interesting candidate. Great career while it lasted … but it didnt last long. Thats the knock. Good to see new names in here. Very glad to see Boselli make it. Just want to hear his case argued. Same with Law. Dawkins vs. Lynch will be interesting. Lynch been knocking on door but believe large number of people in that room think Dawkins the better player.

  2. January 3, 2017
    Reply

    Encouraging to read comments about Coryell. Travesty he’s not in. Fouts threw for 4,000 yards in 79 before rules changed to favor pass. He and Namath only ones from that era. Number of players with Chargers and Cardinals that made Pro Bowl only years played for Coryell is staggering.

    List at end of this story

    pro-football-hall-of-fame-voters-freeze-out-coryell

  3. Jeff
    January 3, 2017
    Reply

    I like the group, but am also surprised that James and Atwater aren’t included (unpleasantly so with Atwater- I think he deserves it). My sentimental pick is Jacoby. Is there a chance, though, that Jacoby and Boselli pull votes from each other and neither gets in? I’d hate to see Jacoby fall into Senior oblivion. I guess Hines Ward goes right into the wide receiver logjam…Assuming Clark’s “respect the queue” point holds up and there’s potential for a surprise, I’ll predict Tomlinson, Warner, Davis, Lynch and Coryell.

    • January 4, 2017
      Reply

      Disappointed Atwater not in, too. That is probably it for him. Too bad. Deserving. And now his candidacy will wind up with the senior committee and maybe, just maybe, die there. Hope not. Great player.

  4. Rob
    January 4, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, why doesnt Jimmmy Johnson not get more support for the Hall of Fame? Who do you think is the wild card of these finalists?

    • January 4, 2017
      Reply

      Didnt have enough years of greatness. After Dallas he goes to Miami and does … what? … with Dan Marino? Nothing. Didnt even win a division there. So he has three really good years with Dallas, two outstanding ones where he won Super Bowls, and then … nothing. Was 36-28 in Miami and 0-3 in playoffs. That ends the conversation.

    • January 4, 2017
      Reply

      Forgot to answer wild card. Not sure. Hope it is someone like Morten Andersen, all time leading scorer. Could be a Mawae. Or Faneca. Somebody will sneak in there.

  5. James
    January 5, 2017
    Reply

    Very , Very Unhappy Atwater missed the final 15 , You conducted a poll last Feb. of The Best Safety not in the HOF and Atwater beat Lynch and Easley in a LANDSLIDE (Look it Up), Dawkins was not on the List because he was not HOF Eligible yet. (If they let the Fans , Coaches and Players pick the HOF , Atwater would have gotten in LONG , LONG Ago. There is not 1 player of the 15 Finalist more deserving of the HOF than Atwater Period!!!! Probably one of the 2 most feared players of his Generation (He brought the Thunder and the Lightning) , You cannot talk about the NFL in the 90’s without Atwater’s name being mentioned Period. Broncos have been to 8 SB’S and not 1 Defensive Player is in the HOF. It makes me wonder how long can this HOF Charade continue. Players that don’t get in the HOF due to Biases against certain Teams by the 46 HOF voting committee.(If that was not true – The Broncos would have more than 4 players in the HOF) What makes me sick is T.O. will probably get in HOF soon.

    • January 5, 2017
      Reply

      James, you and me both. Atwater a great safety and someone who deserves more attention than hes gotten. My fear: We wont see him again with modern-era finalists; then he has to fight way to top of senior pile.

  6. bachslunch
    January 5, 2017
    Reply

    My guess for cutdowns:

    1st cuts: Law, Bruce, Boselli, Taylor, Mawae
    2nd cuts: Dawkins, Owens, Coryell, Anderson, Faneca
    Final 5: Davis, Tomlinson, Lynch, Jacoby, Warner (all elected, along with Senior and Contributor candidates)

    Davis is the one least sure of, might be Coryell, Anderson, or Owens in that order descending.

    • January 5, 2017
      Reply

      Your guess as good as any. Problem Lynch has is twofold: Dawkins a better candidate and S not a position we warm up to. Problem for Davis, of course, is longevity. Hope someone from Denver gets in. Franchise has more Super Bowl appearances than HOFers.

  7. bachslunch
    January 5, 2017
    Reply

    Damn shame about Atwater not making the cut this time — was hoping he’d sneak through. He’s eligible until ca. 2022, but that’s cutting it close assuming Lynch, Dawkins, Reed, and Polamalu go in ahead of him. Agreed he’s likely to run out of time. Also can assume that’s it for Joey Browner, Roger Craig, Mike Kenn, and Karl Mecklenburg, all of whom are out of time or nearly so.

  8. bachslunch
    January 6, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, you may be right about Dawkins vs. Lynch. The only question I have is whether the voters will see Dawkins as deserving of 1st ballot recognition (they probably will with Ed Reed, but not sure about Dawkins). If so, Dawkins will likely make it in. But if they see both as “in the queue” like the WRs of recent, Lynch probably makes it. Good question, actually.

    • January 6, 2017
      Reply

      My question about him, too. Why there is an opening this year for wild card or two. But he might be one of those who goes to the top. Not sure.

  9. bachslunch
    January 8, 2017
    Reply

    Just rechecked Atwater’s career and he retired in 1999. So this means he has seven more eligible years instead of the five I originally thought. That’s still cutting it close given four other safeties ahead of him, but not quite as bad. Here’s hoping he can manage a last minute run in like Joe Jacoby or Roger Wehrli.

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