Yesterday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame released a list of 126 players, coaches, and contributors eligible for election, which will be announced at the Super Bowl in February.
The list is appropriately impressive, and the selection committee will have a difficult time whittling the field down to 15 finalists.
By my estimate, there are 25-30 players on this list that rise above the crowd. There may be some construction permits filed at the Canton municipality!
From my perspective here are the top first-year eligible players:
All three should have no trouble getting elected on their first try and may have quite a few other players joining them, and possibly some coaches. Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren, and John Gruden are first-time eligible coaches along with Dan Reeves, Bill Cowher, Chuck Knox, Marty Schottenheimer, and Jimmy 'Helmet Hair' Johnson.
Here are some of the key holdover players on the slate:
|Eric Allen||Teddy Bruschi||Eddie George||John Lynch||Will Shields|
|Morten Andersen||Leroy Butler||Kevin Greene||Karl Mecklenberg||Jimmy Smith|
|Steve Atwater||Robert Craft||Charles Haley||Steve McNair||Rod Smith|
|Jerome Bettis||Roger Craig||Rodney Harrison||Nate Newton||Michael Strahan|
|Drew Bledsoe||Randall Cunningham||Ed 'Too Tall' Jones||André Reed||Paul Tagliabue|
|Tony Boselli||Terrell Davis||Jerry Jones||Steve Sabol||Darryl Talley|
|Lomas Brown||Doug Flutie||Jim Lachey||Sterling Sharpe||Zach Thomas|
|Tim Brown||Herschel Walker|
Wow! And the selection committee is supposed to only choose 15 candidates out of that group as finalists? Good luck!
Being a selector is not an enviable position. What I do like, though, is how this process works, and Cooperstown should take notes.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee is made up of a writer from each NFL city and 13 at-large experts like John Clayton, Peter King, and Clark Judge, to name a few. These men then gather 'round and brain dump their knowledge of each player, coming to a consensus on the players to be honored.
This is opposed to the way the Baseball Hall of Fame handles their voting process. Ballots are mailed out to every member of the Baseball Writers Association of America who has logged ten years as a member. Then, those ballots are returned by mail, and the announcement is made by the Hall's president on a Tuesday in January when everybody is still hung over from New Year’s Eve, and baseball is the furthest thing from their mind!
Some writers don’t even bother sending in their ballot; some writers send in a blank ballot because they feel no one is qualified, which is completely laughable; and other writers vote for players like Aaron Sele, Jay Bell, and Jim Deshaies. Like those players are worthy of first-ballot election? Writers voting for these players should not only have their voting privilege revoked but taken to the town square in Cooperstown to be tarred and feathered!
I well understand baseball's off-season publicity calendar -- MVPs named, Cy Youngs named, Rookies of the Year named, etc -- and that this process is a part of it. But my opinion is that the game is at its peak popularity during summer and the perfect opportunity to announce its Hall of Fame class would be the Wednesday after the All-Star game when there is literally nothing going on in the baseball world except the Florida Gulf Coast league All-Star game.
Then, the induction ceremony could take place in October on an off day from the World Series. How cool would Cooperstown look in late autumn with the leaves turning and the hummingbird-sized mosquitoes hibernating for the winter, compared to late July when it’s 102º with 99% humidity and those skeeters are in full force!
This just proves to me that football gets it right and remains the most popular sport in America!