When the list of 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 was announced Friday, five of the candidates were coaches or contributors who had significant impact on the sport, but whose comparison to on-field players is awkward at best.
This is an annual dilemma faced by the 44-person committee that ultimately selects the enshrinees the day before the Super Bowl.
The strong list of worthy non-players this year includes Chargers coach Don (Air) Coryell; former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.; former Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell; well-traveled coach Bill Parcells; controversial ex-commissioner Paul Tagliabue; and team/league executive George Young.
The contributions from all of these men came over decades and their impact on the game was often far more significant -- and even historic -- than that of most of the players. But in the process of trimming the list again and again, these great men often suffer unfair comparisons to the relatively fleeting, however memorable, on-field accomplishments of athletes.
It is a situation that is unfair for all. The contributors, the athletes and the selectors are asked to make this apples-to-oranges comparison.
Recent history has shown that, when pitted against players in the voting procedure, it is difficult for non-athletes to be selected. To make it even more challenging, their chances are further diminished when there are so many on the list, which dilutes the non-player voting pool.
It has often been suggested, usually by the selectors, that contributors, especially those who were not coaches, be considered in a separate category. So far, the Hall has not made a move in that direction.
This year's semifinalists also include six first-year eligible candidates and two special teamers.
Newcomers are guard/tackle Larry Allen (1994-2007, Cowboys, 49ers), kicker Morten Andersen (1982-2004, Saints, Falcons, Giants, Chiefs, Vikings), safety John Lynch (1993-2007, Buccaneers, Broncos), offensive tackle Johathan Ogden (1996-2007, Ravens), defensive tackle Warren Sapp (1995-2004, Buccaneers, Raiders) and defensive end Michael Strahan (1993-2007, Giants).
The list of 27 will be reduced to 15 modern-era finalists in January, by another mail ballot from the 44 selectors. Two senior nominees were announced in August -- defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson -- will complete the roster of 17 finalists, from which the Class of 2013 will be selected Feb. 2 in New Orleans, the day before the Super Bowl.
Ten of the 25 were among the finalists discussed in the room before the last Super Bowl. Three of those are wide receivers -- Tim Brown (1988-2004, Raiders, Buccaneers); Cris Carter (1987-2004), Eagles, Vikings, Dolphins); and Andre Reed (1985-2000, Bills, Redskins). While independently each is considered a worthy candidate, their collective presence splits the vote, resulting in all of them being denied for several years.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame's ground rules stipulate that between four and seven new members will be selected each year. No more than five modern-era nominees can be elected in a given year and a class of six or seven enshrinees can only be achieved if one or both senior nominees are elected.
The complete list of modern-era semifinalists:
-- Larry Allen, G/T -- 1994-2007, Cowboys, 49ers.
-- Morten Andersen, K -- 1982-94, Saints, Falcons, Giants, Chiefs, Vikings.
-- Steve Atwater, S -- 1989-99, Broncos, Jets.
-- Jerome Bettis, RB -- 1993-2005, Rams, Steelers.
-- Tim Brown, WR/KR -- 1988-2004, Raiders, Buccaneers.
-- Cris Carter, WR -- 1987-2002, Eagles, Vikings, Dolphins.
-- Don Coryell, Coach -- 1973-1986, Cardinals, Chargers.
-- Roger Craig, RB -- 1983-1993, 49ers, Raiders, Vikings.
-- Terrell Davis, RB -- 1995-2001, Broncos.
-- Edward DeBartolo Jr. owner -- 1977-2000, 49ers.
-- Kevin Greene, LB/DE -- 1985-1997, Rams, Steelers, Panthers, 49ers.
-- Charles Haley, DE/LB -- 1986-1996, 49ers, Cowboys.
-- Joe Jacoby, OT -- 1981-93, Redskins.
-- Albert Lewis, CB -- 1983-93, Chiefs, Raiders.
-- John Lynch, SF -- 1993-2007, Buccaneers, Broncos.
-- Karl Mecklenburgh, LB -- 1983-94, Broncos.
-- Art Modell, owner -- 1961-2011, Browns, Ravens.
-- Jonathan Ogden, OT -- 1996-2007, Ravens.
-- Bill Parcells, coach -- 1983-2006, Giants, Patriots, Jets, Cowboys.
-- Andre Reed, WR -- 1985-200, Bills, Redskins.
-- Warren Sapp, DT -- 1995-2007, Buccaneers, Raiders.
-- Will Shields, 1993-2006, Chiefs.
-- Michael Strahan, DE -- 1993-2007, Giants.
-- Paul Tagliabue, commissioner, 1989-2006, NFL.
-- Steve Tasker, ST/WR -- 1985-1997, Oilers, Bills.
-- Aeneas Williams, CB/S -- 1991-2004, Cardinals, Rams.
-- George Young, contributor -- 1968-2001, Colts, Dolphins, Giants, NFL.