This list gets whittled down to 15 finalists on January 7, 2010, and the final names will be announced on February 6, the day before Super Bowl XLIV. Current rules stipulate that no more than five current nominees can be enshrined, and that number can go up to seven if both Senior nominees are selected. In my view, LeBeau, Jerry Rice(notes), Emmitt Smith, Cris Carter, Charles Haley, and Shannon Sharpe will make it, though I wouldn't be surprised if a deserving player gets booted by Art Modell or Paul Tagliabue.
In a word, duh. Smith is the NFL's all-time rushing leader and Rice is the NFL's all-time everything leader. Rice is also the second-best football player I've ever seen (Walter Payton is still #1). Plus, Emmitt's intermeduction speech will be exterifically nortable in its excubulelce.
Cris Carter, WR - 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins; Charles Haley, DE/LB - 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys; Art Modell, Owner - 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens; Shannon Sharpe, TE - 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens; Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner - 1989-2006 National Football League
Carter should have made it in last year, and even with Rice going in and Sharpe pressing his case, a preponderance of pass-catchers won't get in his way. Excluding the guy who's third all-time in receptions, seventh all-time in receiving yards, and fourth in receiving touchdowns would be embarrassing at this point. Haley's key role in five Super Bowl championships should put him over the top. Clevelanders will be too busy trying to rescue their team from Eric Mangini to be overly offended by Modell's inclusion, and Modell was a key figure in the television and revenue sharing concerns that gave the NFL enough juice to get through the 1960s. Sharpe is the best and most productive eligible tight end, and Tagliabue is the kind of safe legacy pick that makes the voters very happy.
On the Precipice
Tim Brown(notes), WR/KR - 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Don Coryell, Coach - 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers; Terrell Davis, RB - 1995-2001 Denver Broncos; Richard Dent, DE - 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles; Andre Reed, WR - 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins; Aeneas Williams, CB/S - 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
Brown and Reed are just in a bad year crowded with receivers, but they'll get in soon. Coryell is one of the greatest offensive minds in NFL history, but LeBeau will catch all the coaching love this year. Other concerns here include longevity (Davis) and awareness (Williams -- he's good enough to get in, but he spent too many years with the Cardinals). The calls for Dent's induction will grow in momentum over time.
Close, but No Cigar
Cliff Branch, WR - 1972-1985 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders; Roger Craig, RB - 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings; Dermontti Dawson, C - 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers; Chris Doleman, DE/LB - 1985 1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers; Kevin Greene, LB/DE - 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers; Russ Grimm, G - 1981-1991 Washington Redskins; Ray Guy, P - 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders; Lester Hayes, CB - 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders; Rickey Jackson, LB - 1981-1993 New Orleans Saints, 1994-95 San Francisco 49ers; Cortez Kennedy, DT - 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks; John Randle, DT - 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle; Seahawks; Steve Tasker, Special Teams/WR - 1985-86 Houston Oilers,1986-1997 Buffalo Bills
I'm more bullish on Branch, Doleman, Greene, and Kennedy than the other guys here. Branch was the primary target for Ken Stabler and Jim Plunkett during most of the Raiders' glory years, but he's a third-tier guy this year. Doleman was like Forrest Gump in reverse -- he played exceedingly well on a bunch of great teams that either couldn't get over the hump, or didn't do so before or after he got there. Greene's sack totals are as crazy as he is -- 160.0 over his career, which puts him third behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White (Doleman is fourth with 150.5), but I don't know if the voters have caught up to excessive sack numbers just yet. Kennedy was virtually unblockable for a decade on some really crappy, uninteresting Seahawks teams. Had he played for Mike Holmgren instead of Tom Flores and Dennis Erickson, this wouldn't even be open for debate.
Thoughts? Agreements? Contradictions? Anyone who didn't make the list that should have? If you want to get involved, go to fanschoice.com and cast your vote.
- Emmitt Smith
- San Francisco 49ers
- Denver Broncos
- Charles Haley
- Minnesota Vikings
- Shannon Sharpe
- Dick LeBeau