Taking It to the House’s Editor Lloyd Vance tries to predict who will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009. The announcement will be made Saturday in Tampa.
Super Bowl XLIII is right around the corner as the Steelers and Cardinals are ready to do battle. But one of the bigger events of Super Bowl week is almost upon us, as the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009 will be announced on Saturday, January 31st. Being a historian of the game, I absolutely love the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions each July, but each year when the classes are announced at the Super Bowl the controversy soon follows.
No matter the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s fraternity will grow beyond it’s current 247 members as at least four and up to six worthy players will be selected to the PHOF from list of 17 finalists.
The finalists include:
WR Cris Carter – 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
Center Dermontti Dawson – 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
DE Richard Dent – 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
G Russ Grimm – 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
WR Bob Hayes – 1965-1974 Dallas Cowboys, 1975 San Francisco 49ers
DE Claude Humphrey – 1968-1978 Atlanta Falcons, 1979-1981 Philadelphia Eagles
DT Cortez Kennedy – 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
G Bob Kuechenberg – 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins
G Randall McDaniel – 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-01 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DT John Randle – 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
WR Andre Reed – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
TE Shannon Sharpe – 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
DE Bruce Smith – Defensive End – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000-03 Washington Redskins
Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue – 1989-2006
LB Derrick Thomas – 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs
Team Founder/Owner Ralph Wilson – 1960-Present Buffalo Bills
CB/S Rod Woodson – 1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders
Alright here is my best guess at predicting whom will join the greatest sports fraternity of them all in my opinion. To me all of the candidates are worthy and I believe that there even might be a couple of other guys missing from the list — checkout my Top 10 list of players deserving to be in the Hall of Fame for some of the players that I felt should be in Canton. It will be interesting to see whom my fellow PFWA members vote-in when they get in the room.
1. Shannon Sharpe – This is a no-brainer as this former lanky too slow receiver from Savannah State, who became one of the greatest tight ends ever, deserves to get into the Hall of Fame. I know the loquacious Sharpe, who now works as a CBS analyst, can plead his own case for the Hall. But his resume really speaks volumes with his 815 career receptions for 10,060 receiving yards and 62 touchdowns, which all were NFL career records for tight ends at the time of his retirement 5 years ago. The man longer known simply as Sterling’s little brother had a career that included 8 Pro Bowls, 3 Super Bowls rings (two Broncos and one with the Ravens) and 5 selections All-Pro. Move over Mike Ditka and John Mackey as a new tight end joins your ranks.
2. “Bullet” Bob Hayes – The veterans committee got this pick right as a player that revolutionized the game in terms of speed gets into the Hall of Fame. Hayes was an amazing receiver that brought world-class speed to the NFL (Gold Medalist in 100 meters and 4X100 relay in 1964). Hayes won a ring with the Cowboys in 1971 and had 7,414 receiving yards with an amazing average of 20 yards per catch in an era when running the football was the focal point. Anyone questioning Hayes’ merit should look at his 73 career touchdowns, which are ahead of both current Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Art Monk. This 3-time Pro Bowler and 2-time first-team All-Pro should have gotten a while ago, but he will get his due in July. Unfortunately if he is selected it will be posthumously as the Cowboys legend passed away in 2002 at the age of 59.
3. Bruce Smith – This one is a no-brainer as Smith left the game as the NFL’s all-time sack leader in 2003 with 200 career sacks. The only player that I believe was more dominant than this former first overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft was the late Reggie White. Smith was a two-way end who could turn a game by stuffing the run as well as getting after the quarterback. The former Virginia Tech star terrorized opposing quarterbacks for 19 years and he almost single-handedly carried the Bills defense to four Super Bowls. Smith has the amazing streak of 10 or more sacks in an NFL record 13 seasons. Two times the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1996, selected to 11 Pro Bowls, and 8 times first team All-Pro… get ready for another one of Marv Levy’s Bills to get in Canton.
4. Cris Carter – Are you kidding from last year when the man that ran the prettiest routes and had the stickiest hands in the ’90s didn’t get into the Hall of Fame. Well in 2009, the doors in Canton, Ohio will open for one of my favorite players from Buddy Ryan’s Eagles. Carter left the game in 2002 with 1101 catches, 13899 yards, and 130 in a career that spanned 16 years. The now ESPN analyst is too humble to toot his own horn, but the man known for “just” catching touchdowns in Philly was an artist especially on third down and in the red zone for the Eagles, Vikings, and Dolphins. Carter was physical and could make any catch low or high for the many quarterbacks that he played with including Hall of Famer Warren Moon. With one of his pupils Larry Fitzgerald (former Vikings bellboy) playing in Super Bowl XLIII, it will be fitting that the Hall opens its doors to this 8-time Pro Bowler and 2-time first-team All-Pro player.
5. Rod Woodson – Sometimes defensive backs have difficulty kicking in the doors to the Hall of Fame, just ask Class of 2007 inductee Roger Wehrli who got in after years of trying. But I have a feeling that the player, who was once described as, “The Greatest Athlete in the NFL” will get into the Hall of Fame. Woodson left the game in 2003 after 17 years with 71 career interceptions (ranks 3rd All-Time) and 17 returns for touchdowns (kickoffs, punt, interception, and fumbles) including an NFL record 12 interceptions returns for scores. The former first round pick by the Steelers in 1987 out of Purdue was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s plus he was the NFL’s Defensive player of the year in 1993. Woodson made to 3 Super Bowls (one each with the Steelers, Ravens, and Raiders) winning with the Ravens hard-hitting defense in Super Bowl XXXV as safety. Like follow Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, Woodson was able to transition from a young fast corner to a smart veteran free safety. With Steelers Black-and-Gold nation in the house at Super XLIII, the Hall of Fame should open the doors to this 11-time Pro Bowler and 6-time first-team All-Pro selection.
6. Claude Humphrey – There is a saying in the media, “Don’t Mess With the Veteran’s Committee”. So if any year deserves a sixth candidate to enter the Hall of Fame then it is this year as two worthy men were sent forward for voting by the committee. Many people may not remember Humphrey as a player, but he was a dominating defensive force from the great Tennessee State teams of John Merritt from the late 1960’s. Humphrey was a cat-quick defensive end that was equally stout against the run and pass. Selected in the first round of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Falcons, Humphrey for years toiled for a defensive unit that did not get enough recognition around the NFL in my opinion. Humphrey started out his career strong winning the 1968 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and continued his excellence for over 13 years being selected to the Pro Bowl six times and being picked first-team All-Pro twice. I remember him coming to my hometown Eagles in 1979 to solidify the Dick Vermeil’s defensive line and even at the age of 35, he helped the Eagles reach their first Super Bowl in 1980. I am not sure the number of sacks that this legend put up, but who cares as he was a spectacular two-way end that deserves his spot in Canton.
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)