LOS ANGELES. On Sunday, Super Bowl (53) LIII in Atlanta will conclude by crowning the champion of the 2018 National Football League season. The winning team will lay claim to having the best football players on the field last fall. One day earlier, on Saturday, several retired NFL players and contributors will join the greatest team ever for all eternity. For that’s the day they’ll join the roster of all-time greats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF) in Canton, Ohio.
Forty-six sportswriters will meet in a secret location in New York metropolitan. In the football equivalent of an underground bunker, vigorous debates will take place. Some of them will see their shadows on Groundhog Day. But at the conclusion of their deliberations, America will have seven or eight new Hall of Fame nominees.
The forty-six voting sportswriters began with a list of 100 names. They later chopped it down to 25. Recently, they whittled it down to 15 finalists plus two senior nominees and one contributor nominee.
About CDN’s 2019 List of likely Football Hall of Fame inductees. Including those who must wait.
Lists of any kind are always controversial because, in the end, they are subjective. Once again, some individuals who absolutely deserve to be in the HOF immediately continue to be shunned. The separate categories for contributors allows more nominees to get in. However, coaches still remain in the same category as players.
Currently, the Pro Football Hall of Fame designates no category at all for assistant coaches. This must change in future years. Also, it is ludicrous that former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former San Diego Chargers coach Don “Air” Coryell are still waiting to get into the Hall of Fame. This year, Tagliabue did not even make the final cut.
Most of the current 18 remaining Hall of Fame nominees genuinely deserve to get in. But the real issue becomes who deserves to get in right now. Every year produces one or two no-brainers. One good past example: the time when Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Ray Lewis were nominated. Those discussions probably took 60 seconds.
Without further ado, here is CDN’s list of the 18 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists and what we think should happen this year.
Tony Gonzalez, TE. 1997-2008 Kansas City Chiefs; 2009-2013 Atlanta Falcons.
Gonzalez is one of the best tight ends of all time. He never went to a Super Bowl and only won one playoff game in his entire career. Nevertheless, he was the man to look for whenever a key third down catch was needed. Gonzalez enters the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Isaac Bruce, WR. 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams; 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers.
Bruce was the lead receiver on the “Greatest Show on Turf.” An ordained minister, “The Minister” even returned a kickoff for a touchdown. His quarterback Kurt Warner is in. Running back Marshall Faulk is in. Left tackle Orlando Pace is in. It is long past time for the top receiver on a team that scored at will to get in to the HOF. His time is now.
John Lynch, FS.. 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004-07 Denver Broncos.
Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks are in. Now the third member of the 2002 Buccaneers defensive triumvirate gets in. He stands as the hard-hitting safety that all teams running the Tampa 2 defensive scheme try to emulate. He’s waited long enough. His wait is over.
Ed Reed, FS. 2002-2012 Baltimore Ravens; 2013 New York Jets; 2013 Houston Texans.
Ray Lewis was the most famous member of the vaunted Baltimore defense. But Reed was the player coaches feared most. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady spent hours devising schemes just to see if they could manipulate Reed out of position. On many occasions, their efforts failed. Reed was one of the greatest ballhawks of all time. Like Lewis, Reed deserves to go in to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Don Coryell, Coach. 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals; 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers.
One of the worst injustices in sports needs to be corrected. Now. No, Coryell did not get to a Super Bowl. All he did was take the philosophy that Sid Gilman passed down to him and Al Davis and employ it to revolutionize the passing game. Gilman did not set up the pass to set then up the run. He set up the pass to set up more passes.
Coryell was likewise willing to throw all the time. Only his rival Davis and the bitter Cincinnati cold kept the Chargers out of the Super Bowl in 1980 and 1981, respectively. Coryell also unleashed Jim Hart when he coached the Cardinals, long before letting Dan Fouts throw everywhere. Lastly, Coryell passed the Gilman philosophy down to Mike Martz, who did win it all as the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams’ offensive coordinator. Enough. Coryell must get in to the Football Hall of Fame right now.
Steve Atwater, S. 1989-1998 Denver Broncos; 1999 New York Jets.
Atwater was one of the most feared safeties of all time. The only thing keeping him out of the Hall is the limit on the number of players allowed in every year. Lynch gets in before Atwater because Lynch was more vital to his team winning it all, while Atwaters’s Broncos won games on offense. Atwater will get in soon, but not yet.
Champ Bailey, CB. 1999-2003 Washington Redskins; 2004-2013 Denver Broncos.
Bailey is the other player who absolutely deserves to get in very soon but will be crowded out this year. Bailey was a true shutdown corner who got to the Super Bowl in his final season, but saw his team get shellacked. This is is his first year of eligibility. He could get in to the Hall next year.
Edgerrin James, RB. 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts; 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals; 2009 Seattle Seahawks.
Along with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, James was part of the Colts triplets that put up gaudy numbers of yards and points for several seasons. There are two legitimate criticisms of James. He repeatedly disappeared during playoff games. More importantly, after he was traded away to the Cardinals, the Colts subsequently won the Super Bowl immediately. Without him. Peyton Manning could win with any running back. James waits.
Ty Law, CB. 1995-2004 New England Patriots; 2005, 2008 New York Jets; 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs; 2009 Denver Broncos.
Law is that rare case of an underrated nominee. Tom Brady fans may not like to hear it, but it was Law and not Brady who deserved to be the MVP when the 2001 Patriots won their first Super Bowl. The case against Law is that the 2004 Patriots team won it all with Law on the bench injured. They did not miss a beat after he was released. Law is worthy of HOF consideration at some point. But he was one piece of a dynasty that had so many other parts.
Tony Boselli, T. 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars; 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve).
This is another case of what might have been. Boselli was dominant when healthy, but injuries cut short his career after only seven years. He never got the chance to be a Walter Jones or Jonathan Ogden. Boselli deserves consideration at some point but should wait for now.
Steve Hutchinson, G. 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks; 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings; 2012 Tennessee Titans.
Hutchinson was a good player who played for some nondescript teams. However, when it was time to dole out value money, Seattle paid tackle Walter Jones and let Hutchinson go. Hutchinson could be a guy who belongs in the Hall of the Very Good, but perhaps not the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Alan Faneca, G. 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers; 2008-09 New York Jets; 2010 Arizona Cardinals.
Faneca was a named a first-team All-Pro six times, but this is his fourth year of eligibility. He will get in to the Football Hall of Fame at some point. But for now, will have to wait. The Steelers won the Super Bowl the year after he was traded to the Jets. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a tough hombre.
Kevin Mawae, C/G. 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks; 1998-2005 New York Jets; 2006-09 Tennessee Titans.
Mawae absolutely deserves some credit for helping pave the way for the Jets Curtis Martin running his way into Canton. Mawae blocked for four different quarterbacks with Gang Green alone. He made eight Pro Bowls in 16 seasons. But there is a backlog of guards. Will Shields got in and Alan Faneca is still waiting. Mawae will also have to wait.
Richard Seymour, DE/DT. 2001-08 New England Patriots; 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders.
Seymour won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, but he is another example of the trains rolling after he left. The Patriots defense was the weak link that kept them from winning a Super Bowl from 2005 through 2008. Seymour did nothing with the Raiders, although many players suffered in Oakland during those lean years. Seymour waits.
Tom Flores, Coach. 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders; 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks.
Flores is the only head coach with two Super Bowl wins who is not already in the Football Hall of Fame. Even though Flores beat Coryell en route to his first Super Bowl win, Coryell still deserves it more. Flores inherited a great team from John Madden. Flores failed miserably in Seattle. Coryell succeeded in both his coaching stops by turning losers into winners. Flores deserves serious consideration, and he was far more than merely a caretaker of great players. Coaching the various crazies on the Raiders required a steady hand, and he was that. He just has to wait until Coryell gets in first.
And now, here are the Pro Football Hall of Fame contributor finalists:
Pat Bowlen. (Owner, 1984-Present, Denver Broncos).
Bowlen took over a franchise that had known mostly losing for nearly 25 years and turned them into winners and perennial contenders. He won John Elway’s trust, convincing him to choose football over baseball. Except for the disastrous two-year Josh McDaniels experiment, Bowlen has been a very patient owner who has made savvy hiring decisions. Bringing back Elway as team president was the key to getting Peyton Manning and the team’s third Super Bowl victory. The Broncos have reached the Super Bowl seven times under Bowlen, more than any owner outside of New England. Bowlen gets in.
Gil Brandt. (Vice President of Player Personnel, 1960-1988 Dallas Cowboys; Contributor, 1995-present, at NFL.com).
Gil Brandt is Mr. Football. While most people think of the pre-Jones Cowboys as Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and Tex Schramm, Gil Brandt was a vital cog in the Dallas machine. Since leaving the Cowboys, he has been matched by few in his ability to break down lists of prospective players. His knowledge, wisdom and acumen are worthy of enshrinement in the Football Hall of Fame. Selecting the players who went to five Super Bowls with two victories seals the deal. He gets the gold jacket.
Senior Finalist. Johnny Robinson. (Safety, 1960-1971 Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs).
The Texans/Chiefs won games with a methodical offense and a ferocious defense. When the Texans won the American Football League Championship in 1962, they knocked off the two-time defending champion Houston Oilers.
When the Texans moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs, they won the AFL Championship in 1966 and they knocked off the two-time defending champion Buffalo Bills. While they lost to Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I, they won another AFL Championship in 1969 by shocking the heavily favored Raiders in Oakland. They then belted the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Most of those big victories came from a defense that tallied large numbers of interceptions. Robinson was an important cog in that shutdown defense. He gets in.
— Headline image: Old entrance to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
(Via Wikipedia entry on the HOF, GNU license 1.2)