Saturday, November 23, 2013

Breaking Down the Semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerome Bettis made a career out of running over people, but can he break through and make the Hall of Fame on his 4th try?
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has released its list of the 25 men that have qualified as semifinalists for induction.

Among them are 20 players, three coaches, a former executive and a now disgraced owner. So, let's take a look at each semifinalist (and one notable omission) to gauge their chances of making it.

The Snub

Art Modell (Owner, Browns/Ravens 61-04)

I mean, he was a jerk by all accounts, and people from Cleveland will never let you forget how he ruined their lives, but he was one of the guys that made the league what it is today. You can't even give him a token semifinalist spot?

The Locks

Tony Dungy (Coach, Buccaneers 96-01, Colts 02-08), Jimmy Johnson (Coach, Cowboys 89-93, Dolphins 96-99)

These two Super Bowl winning coaches are pretty much the only sure things at this point.  Dungy made the Buccaneers relevant and, though it was Jon Gruden that ultimately led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in 2002-03, it was Dungy's famed "Tampa 2" that got them there.

Dungy would win a Super Bowl of his own with Peyton Manning and the Colts after the 2006 season. Plus, he's just a super great guy that everyone seems to love. Good luck not voting him in.

Johnson is a great case of "what could have been," but he was still pretty darn fantastic. Johnson rebuilt the Cowboys from laughingstock to back-to-back Super Bowl champs and team of the 90s. Only an inability to get along with owner Jerry Jones kept Johnson from building, potentially, the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

Again, he could have been even better, but his resume speaks for itself.

Deserve to Get In, but We'll See

Jerome Bettis (Halfback, Rams 93-95, Steelers 96-05), Derrick Brooks (Linebacker, Buccaneers, 95-08), Tim Brown (Receiver, Raiders 88-03, Buccaneers 04), Andre Reed (Receiver, Bills 85-99, Redskins 00), Don Coryell (Coach, Cardinals 73-77, Chargers 78-86)

When he retired, Bettis was the NFL's 5th all time leading rusher, and he did it while playing a totally different style than the other great backs of his generation and battling injuries. If Curtis Martin gets in simply for never getting hurt and never totally sucking, Bettis should be in. Brooks was the best outside linebacker of his generation, and seems to be the last of the "flat coverage, crash against the run" OLB breed. He wasn't the pass rusher modern guys at his position are now, but what he did, he did better than almost anybody in history.

At this point, what do you have to do as a receiver to get in? Reed and Brown, unfortunately for them, played in the era of Jerry Rice, where everybody else's numbers are dwarfed in comparison. Still, both were great for an extended period of time, and Reed helped lead the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls. Hard to keep them both out forever.

If you're looking for a guy that may have revolutionized offense on the same scale as Bill Walsh, the only guy that can come close is Don Coryell. His "Air Coryell" attack with the San Diego Chargers in the 80s legitimized airing the ball out as an effective offense, and made Dan Fouts a star. He never won a title with it, but the aforementioned Johnson employed offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who used Coryell's offense to turn Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin into an unstoppable connection with quick slants and skinny posts.

Don't Deserve to Get in Yet, but Might

Michael Strahan (Defensive End, Giants 93-07), Terrell Davis (Halfback, Broncos 95-01), Walter Jones (Offensive Tackle, Seahawks 97-08), Paul Tagliabue (NFL Commssioner, 89-06)

All these guys deserve to get in eventually (Except for Davis), but with Brooks, Bettis, Brown, Reed and Coryell all waiting, and only five modern day slots, their turns should come a little later. Still, the massive celebrity and personality of Strahan, plus his ownership of the single-season sack record might get him in. I wouldn't have too much of a beef with that, but still, the guys mentioned above were every bit as great, and have been waiting longer.

Then you have Davis, the biggest enigma on the ballot. His prime was incredibly short, but he was dominant, racking up a 2,000 yard season and winning two Super Bowls as the engine that drove the late-90s Broncos. If you don't value longevity, and instead want to see a guy that was amazing at his best, you could easily vote in Davis. I wouldn't, but I can certainly see the argument for it.

Jones was a flat-out beast for the Seahawks, and will most certainly get in. As for Tagliabue, it's pretty much assumed that a long-serving commissioner will get in. He'll get his turn eventually, but it shouldn't be this year.

Great, but Won't Get in Due to Image

Eddie DeBartolo (Owner, 49ers 77-00), Marvin Harrison (Receiver, Colts 96-08), Charles Haley (Defensive End, 49ers 86-91 & 99, Cowboys 92-96)

A disgraced owner, a suspected murderer and crazy man that was obsessed with his genitals and those of his teammates. Yeah, no way any of these dudes get in.

Great, but Not Quite There

Roger Craig (Halfback, 49ers 83-90, Raiders 91, Vikings 92-93) Kevin Greene (Linebacker, Rams 85-92, Steelers 93-95, Panthers 96 & 98-99, 49ers 97), Joe Jacoby (Offensive Tackle, Redskins 81-93), Will Shields (Guard, Chiefs 93-06), Steve Wisniewski (Guard, Raiders 89-01), George Young (Executive, Colts 68-74, Dolphins 75-78, Giants 79-97, NFL 98-01), Morten Anderson (Saints 82-94, Falcons 95-00 & 06-07, Giants 01, Chiefs 02-03, Vikings 04) Karl Mecklenberg (Lineabcker, Broncos 83-94), Aeneas Williams (Defensive Back, Cardinals 91-00, Rams 01-04)

All were great players, and Craig somewhat led the way to the modern running back, with his phenomenal running and pass catching ability. Greene too led a revolution at his position. He wasn't the first or best pass rush outside linebacker (Both of those would be LT), but he does have more sacks than any OLB in NFL history. Jacoby was a great in-line blocking tackle on the "Hogs" Washington Redskins lines in the 80s, but he had more high-profile linemates like Russ Grimm, plus the game's shift toward pass protection OTs has hurt his case.

Shields is one of those candidates that might get better with time. 14 years of standout play for the Chiefs, leading the way for several different "pretty good" running backs to have amazing years is something that may jump out to us more when his career is a little further in the rear view mirror.

Wisniewski is kind of like Jacoby in the sense that he's an old-school lineman that, if he was gonna get in, it probably would have happened by now. Young helped build great teams with Don Shula in Baltimore and Miami, then helped Bill Pacrells build a winner in New York. Still, he always worked in the shadow of more prominent figures, and that includes his stint in the league's front office from 98-2001 under Tagliabue.

Morten Anderson was a great kicker and was around forever. Still, it's gonna take a lean year for him to get in. Mecklenberg was a tackling machine, and is one of the more underrated linebackers in NFL history. He will continue to be underrated by not getting in. Finally, Williams is a guy that could get in. He was phenomenal as a corner before transitioning to safety late in his career and finally getting to play on good teams with St. Louis.

Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

Steve Atwater (Safety, Broncos 89-98, Jets 99), John Lynch (Safety, Buccaneers 93-03, Broncos 04-07)

I just… I just… I mean, both of these guys were solid parts of great defenses, but no.


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