Aside from the crushingly obvious selections of Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice(notes), the 2010 Hall of Fame class provides some interesting discussion points. The NFL announced the preliminary class of 103 players, 10 coaches and 18 contributors today, and that will be narrowed down to 25 semifinalists on November 27, and those 25 will be whittled to 17 finalists on February 6, 2010, the day before the Super Bowl. In discussing certain names, I'm going to assume, dear readers, that we're all on the same page re: Cris Carter and Shannon Sharpe - those guys should be in. End of story. Next! Who else belongs in the final discussion? I'll just go with five guys whose further exclusion would offend me.
CB/Coach Dick LeBeau: You're not supposed to mix contributions as a player with contributions as a coach or executive, which has always seemed strange to me. But in LeBeau, you've got a cornerback who is still tied for seventh all-time in interceptions with 62. Then, he invents the zone blitz and coaches dominant defenses for the Steelers in two eras with completely different personnel. At 72, he's still got a fastball most coaches would die for. Outside of Rice and Smith, the biggest no-brainer on the list.
QB Ken Anderson: Was thought of as a dink-and-dunk guy through his 15-year career because of his association with Bill Walsh, but Anderson led the NFL in Yards per Attempt in 1974 and 1975, and paced the league in Quarterback Rating four times. I have a feeling that the pre-Montana bias against efficient quarterbacks will keep him out forever, but it was just his bad luck to do his work when the world worshipped Bradshaw and Namath. Had he started a decade later, he'd probably be in already.
DT Cortez Kennedy: A homer pick from Pacific Northwest Boy? Not really. In 1992, Kennedy was named the Defensive Player of the Year, despite the fact that the Seahawks went 2-14 and featured an offense that should have been abolished. When you make eight Pro Bowls in post-Knox, pre-Holmgren Seattle, you are doing something right. Regarded by most of his peers as unblockable at his peak.
CB Aeneas Williams: Another eight-time Pro Bowler who toiled away in "Bolivian" for years. The difference was that Williams got a reprieve with the Rams from 2001 through 2004, so he got a taste of winning. He was as good as there was in the 1990s, and he shouldn't be penalized because Adam Vinatieri(notes) kicked that field goal. Would a ring help his case?
LB Rickey Jackson: The most talented of the Saints' ungodly "Dome Patrol" linebacker corps of the 1980s (the late Sam Mills, another guy with a legit case, was the leader). In their "Top 10" series, the NFL Network voted that group the best of all time. Jackson currently ranks 10th all-time in sacks and 20th in games started. Not many remember the 'backers that helped the Saints turn around a losing history, but Jackson should make the cut.
Those are my five. Feel free to reply with "You bonehead, what about _________________???" in the comments.