2011 Finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Announced

All-World cornerback Deion “Prime Time” Sanders was recently named one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2011 Class.  And I am sure the talkative former cover corner will not need any football writers to plead his case for him

The 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2011 class were announced this week including first-timers CB Deion “Prime Time” Sanders, RB Marshall Faulk, RB Jerome Bettis, RB Curtis Martin and dominating former Saints Pro Bowl offensive tackle Willie Roaf. 

Besides the first timers, the majority of the 15-person finalist list is filled with players returning for another shot at being enshrined in Canton, Ohio.  Among the returning players that are hoping that “This will finally be their year” are pass catchers Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Shannon Sharpe.

The 15 modern-era finalists, along with the two senior nominees that were announced in August 2010 (former NFL linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter) will be considered for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the PHOF’s 44-member Selection Committee – made mostly of PFWA members — meet in Dallas on Feb. 5, the day before Super Bowl XLV.

Remember, there is a maximum of seven people that can be inducted each year including five of the 15 modern-era finalists on the ballot, so some hard decisions are sure to follow.  To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent (35 votes). And I fully expect the selection committee to use at least six spots from the 17 candidates including at least one of the two senior committee choices.  In my opinion, you might as well send gold jackets for sizing to Sanders, Faulk and Roaf.

The 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame 17 finalists (15 Modern-Era and two Senior Nominees*) with their positions, teams, and years include:           

  • Jerome Bettis – Running Back – 1993-1995 LA/STL Rams, 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Tim Brown – Wide Receiver/Kick Returner – 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Cris Carter – Wide Receiver – 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
  • Dermonti Dawson – Center – 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Richard Dent – Defensive End – 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
  • Chris Doleman Defensive End – 1985-1993 & 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-1995 Atlanta Falcons, 1997-1998 San Francisco 49ers,
  • Marshall Faulk – Running Back – 1994-1998 Indianapolis Colts, 1999-2005 St. Louis Rams
  • Charles Haley – Defensive End/Linebacker – 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
  • *Chris Hanburger Linebacker – 1965-1978 Washington Redskins
  • Cortez Kennedy – Defensive Tackle – 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
  • Curtis Martin Running Back – 1995-1997 New England Patriots, 1998 – 2005 New York Jets
  • Andre Reed – Wide Receiver – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
  • *Les Richter Kicker, Middle Guard, Middle Linebacker —  1954-1962 LA Rams
  • Willie Roaf – Offensive Tackle – 1993–2005 New Orleans Saints
  • Ed Sabol He would go in as a “contributor”.  The patriarch of venerable organization, NFL Films, has been associated with the league since filming Super Bowl I back in 1966
  • Deion Sanders – Cornerback, Return man, Wide Receiver –  1989-1993 Atlanta Falcons, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1995-1999 Dallas Cowboys, 2000 Washington Redskins, 2004-2005 Baltimore Ravens
  • Shannon Sharpe – Tight End – 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens

During the week leading up to Super Bowl XLV, I will post my best guess as to who will be selected for enshrinement in July.  Though I am pretty sure of a couple of names, I will reserve the right to wait until early February for my final predictions. 

Fans are also invited to voice their choice for the PHOF in Van Heusen’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Fan’s Choice at www.fanschoice.com.  But remember… fan votes only will matter to the contest’s sponsors as the 44-member committee have the only say.

Also checkout my Top 10 list of players deserving to be in the Hall of Fame.

 

 

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)

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Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 announced

Legendary receiver Jerry Rice headlines the 7-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010

Somehow I never totally get my predictions for the Hall of Fame voting right, but at least I got 4 out of the 7 inductees right.  It is hard to believe for the 3rd year in a row receiver Cris Carter did not  get in and he was joined for the second year in a row by tight end Shannon Sharpe.

However the 44-member pro football writers panel did put together one pretty good class including first-ballot players Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice plus the two Senior Committee candidates.  Anyway, when I return to Canton, Ohio this July there will be one great class waiting to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010 is listed below:

OG Russ Grimm – Washington Redskins (1981-91)

LB/DE Rickey Jackson – New Orleans Saints (1981-93), San Francisco 49ers (1994-95)

CB Dick LeBeau* – Detroit Lions (1959-72)

RB Floyd Little* – Denver Broncos (1967-75)

DT John Randle – Minnesota Vikings (1990-2000), Seattle Seahawks (2001-03)

WR Jerry Rice – San Francisco 49ers (1985-2000), Oakland Raiders (2001-04),Seattle Seahawks (2004)

RB Emmitt Smith – Dallas Cowboys (1990-2002), Arizona Cardinals (2003-04)

 

 

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)

Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 Predictions

Taking It to the House’s Editor Lloyd Vance believes that Shannon Sharpe will be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010.  The announcement will be made Saturday in South Florida.

Super Bowl XLIV is right around the corner as the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints 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 2010 will be announced on Saturday, February 6th.  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 its current 253 members as at least four and up to six worthy candidates will be selected to the PHOF from list of 17 finalists.

The 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame 17 finalists (15 Modern-Era and two Senior Nominees*) with their positions, teams, and years include:           

  • Tim Brown – Wide Receiver/Kick Returner – 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Cris Carter – Wide Receiver – 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
  • Don Coryell – Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
  • Roger Craig – Running Back – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
  • Dermonti Dawson – Center – 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Richard Dent – Defensive End – 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
  • Russ Grimm – Guard 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
  • Charles Haley – Defensive End/Linebacker – 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
  • Rickey Jackson – Linebacker – 1981-1993 New Orleans Saints, 1994-95 San Francisco 49ers
  • Cortez Kennedy – Defensive Tackle – 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
  • Dick LeBeau* – Cornerback – 1959-1972 Detroit Lions
  • Floyd Little* – Running Back – 1967-1975 Denver Broncos
  • John Randle – Defensive Tackle – 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
  • Andre Reed – Wide Receiver – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
  • Jerry Rice – Wide Receiver – 1985-2000 San Francisco 49ers, 2001-04 Oakland Raiders, 2004 Seattle Seahawks
  • Shannon Sharpe – Tight End – 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
  • Emmitt Smith – Running Back – 1990-2002 Dallas Cowboys, 2003-04 Arizona Cardinals

Alright here is my best guess at predicting who will join the greatest sports fraternity of them all in my opinion.  To me all of the candidates are worthy and I also believe that there will definitely be several guys that won’t get the call on Saturday — checkout my Top 10 list of players deserving to be in the Hall of Fame for some other candidates 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.  I have been told by past voters, it can get very heated in the room as pro football writers from around the country usually are extremely passionate regarding players that they have covered.  To be elected by the 44-member Selection Committee, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent.

1. Jerry Rice – In this year’s class, there are clearly two no-brainers.  I believe that Rice and Emmitt Smith will join the current group of 63 first- ballot Hall of Famers.  Probably the greatest receiver to ever play in the NFL and arguably the greatest football player of all-time.  Rice during his 20-year career set numerous records including most receiving yards (22895), most receptions (1549), and most receiving touchdowns (197).  The man they called “Gold Fingers” rose from tiny Mississippi Valley State University to being the most accomplished receiver in NFL history.  Rice may have not had blazing stopwatch speed, but he ran routes with precision and knew how to get separation when it mattered most.  Rice already helped to place his former Niners’ quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young in the Hall of Fame and now it is his turn.  A two-time NFL offensive player of the year (1987 and 1993), Super Bowl MVP (1988), 13-time Pro Bowler and 10-time First-Team All-Pro.

2. Emmitt Smith – When Jerry Rice and Smith both left football after the 2004 season, everyone knew these two all-time NFL record holders would go into Canton together as first ballot guys.  Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher (18,355 yards) and has scored the most rushing touchdowns (164) in league history.  Over a 15-year career, Smith was the engine that powered the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the ‘90s.  Sure other running backs may have been bigger or had more speed or moves, but the former Florida All-American reached the mountain top of runners by “determination”.  Smith running beyond great O-linemen like Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski, Eric Williams, and Ray Donaldson always was able to run to daylight and kept the chains moving until taking it to the house.  Played for the Cowboys over 13 decorated years before ending his career with the Arizona Cardinals.  There was only one season where Smith didn’t reach 930 rushing yards in a season during his career.  NFL Rookie of the Year (1990), NFL MVP (1993), Super Bowl MVP (1993), 8-time Pro Bowler and 4-time First-Team All-Pro.

3. Shannon Sharpe – I thought last year that this one was a no-brainer, but I think 2010 is the year Sharpe gets in.  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 6 years ago. The man, who once stood in older brother Sterling’s shadow, simply put was one of the greatest pass catching tight ends ever.  The former best field-stretching tight end of 90’s 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.

4. Cris Carter – Are you kidding me from the last two years 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 2010, 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 touchdowns 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 downs 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.  It seems about time that Canton opens its doors to this 8-time Pro Bowler and 2-time first-team All-Pro player.

5. John Randle – With so many slam dunk type candidates for the 2010 class, some may overlook a player like Randle.  But I believe this undersized defensive tackle and former undrafted free agent from Texas A&M – Kingsville deserves to join football’s most elite fraternity.  Randle along with former Vikings teammate Chris Doleman were the cornerstone of one of the NFL’s toughest pass rushing front fours in the 1990’s.  This former 7-time Pro Bowl player and 6-time All Pro was not the biggest defensive tackle at 6’1, 290 pounds but he had an innate ability to beat larger offensive linemen off the snap and get to the quarterback.  Randle finished with 137.5 sacks in 219 games played.    As a high-motor player, Randle was an intense competitor who was known to paint his face and bark at the opposition.  Also this former Vikings stalwart over 11 years was a very good run stopper.  Over an 11-year period from 1991 to 2001, Randle averaged double-digit sacks with a high of 15.5 to lead the NFL in 1997. 

6. Dick LeBeau – There is a saying in the media, “Don’t Mess with the Seniors’ Committee”.  So if any year deserves a sixth candidate to enter the Hall of Fame, then it is this year as two worthy men (LeBeau and Floyd Little) were sent forward for voting by the committee.  Many may know LeBeau as the Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator of the current Pittsburgh Steelers. But there was a time from 1959 to 1972 that he was one of the fiercest cornerbacks in the NFL for the Detroit Lions.  During his heyday in the 1960’s playing for some very good Lions teams, LeBeau was a tough tackler against the run and also provided very good coverage.  Finished with 62 career interceptions (currently ranked 8th All-time) with a high of 9 interceptions in 1970.  A three-time Pro Bowl player with 11 seasons of 4 interceptions or more.  Much like 2006 inductee John Madden, if LeBeau is inducted it would probably be considered a lifetime award since most voters cannot forget his great work over the years as an assistant coach too.  Remember 2009 HOF inductee Rod Woodson lobbying for his former coach during his speech.

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)

Finalists for Pro Football Hall of Fame 2010 Election Announced

Former Saints and Niners Pass Rusher Rickey Jackson was named as one of 17 finalists for the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame’s election

Three first-year eligible players, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice (all-time receiving yards record holder) and Emmitt Smith (all-time rushing yards record holder), were among the 15 modern-era finalists announced last week.

Joining the three first-year eligible players, are 11 other modern-era players and a longtime head coach.  The 15 modern-era finalists, along with the two senior nominees announced in August 2009 (former Detroit Lions cornerback Dick LeBeau and former Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little). The 17 candidates will be considered for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the Hall’s 44-member Selection Committee – made mostly of PFWA members — meets in South Florida on Saturday, February 6, 2010.

To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent. And I fully expect the selection committee to use all six spots that they are allowed to fill each year from the 17 candidates including at least one of the two senior committee choices.  Also, for the first time fans are invited to vote for their choice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Van Heusen Pro Football Hall of Fame Fan’s Choice at www.fanschoice.com but their votes only will matter to the sponsors of the contest.

The 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame 17 finalists (15 Modern-Era and two Senior Nominees*) with their positions, teams, and years include:           

  • Tim Brown – Wide Receiver/Kick Returner – 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Cris Carter – Wide Receiver – 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
  • Don Coryell – Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
  • Roger Craig – Running Back – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
  • Dermonti Dawson – Center – 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Richard Dent – Defensive End – 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
  • Russ Grimm – Guard 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
  • Charles Haley – Defensive End/Linebacker – 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
  • Rickey Jackson – Linebacker – 1981-1993 New Orleans Saints, 1994-95 San Francisco 49ers
  • Cortez Kennedy – Defensive Tackle – 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
  • Dick LeBeau* – Cornerback – 1959-1972 Detroit Lions
  • Floyd Little* – Running Back – 1967-1975 Denver Broncos
  • John Randle – Defensive Tackle – 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
  • Andre Reed – Wide Receiver – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
  • Jerry Rice – Wide Receiver – 1985-2000 San Francisco 49ers, 2001-04 Oakland Raiders, 2004 Seattle Seahawks
  • Shannon Sharpe – Tight End – 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
  • Emmitt Smith – Running Back – 1990-2002 Dallas Cowboys, 2003-04 Arizona Cardinals

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, I will post my best guess as to who will be selected for enshrinement in July.  Though I am pretty sure of a couple of names, I will reserve the right to wait until early February to predict. 

You can also checkout my Top 10 list of players deserving to be in the Hall of Fame.

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)

The Hall of Fame welcomes the man that brought pure speed to the NFL

bob-hayes

NFL “speed” trailblazer Bullet Bob Hayes will finally get his due as he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend

The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions that are held every year in Canton, OH are special for a number of reasons.   Each year the small-town in middle America welcomes the National Football League’s best,  making “The Place Where Football Legends Come to Rest” feel alive.  Of course every year ‘s induction class is special and this year’s group is no different with names like Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Derrick Thomas, Randall McDaniel and Ralph Wilson Jr.  However the crown jewel of this year’s Hall of Fame induction class, in my opinion,  will be a player who truly revolutionalized the game of football forever. 

 Ever wonder why football announcers are always enamored with talking about “World Class Speed” and NFL scouts are just as obsessed each year about potential draft picks forty-yard dash times at the NFL Combine.  The NFL’s obsession with speed has gotten so crazy over the years that teams were reportedly contacting current Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt about football, even though the Jamaican had never played the game.  The NFL’s “need for speed” can be directly attributed to an athlete named Robert Lee Hayes, who was affectionately known as “Bullet Bob” during his heyday with the Dallas Cowboys from 1965 to 1974.  “This guy revolutionized the passing game and forced them to come up with the zone defense, just like Wilt Chamberlain forced them to change certain rules in basketball,” Hall of Fame defensive back and former teammate Herb Adderley said. 

Hayes arrived on the pro football scene in 1965 and was already a worldwide star after achieving Olympic glory at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.  The “World’s Fastest Man” won gold medals in the 100 meters and 4×100 meter relay at those games – got his title after running an amazing 8.6 second relay split in a come from behind relay victory. His combination of size (5’11, 185) and speed were what attracted the Dallas Cowboys’ braintrust led by scout Gil Brandt to draft Hayes in the 7th round of the 1964 NFL Draft.  However the difference between Hayes and most “track” guys that attempted to play football was that he had no fear of contact and didn’t try to avoid being hit.  The Bullet had been a star running back at HBCU powerhouse Florida A&M while learning under legendary head coach Jake Gaither that physicality was part of the game of football and that he needed to harness his speed within the game. 

In his rookie season of 1965, the NFL was forever changed as Hayes piled up stats of 46 receptions for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns to lead the Cowboys in those categories while only playing in 13 games.  In just his second regular season game, he gave the Redskins and the NFL a glimpse of the future of the fledgling league. He only touched the football twice in that game, however both times he found the end zone including a 45-yard touchdown catch  and an 11-yard touchdown run as Dallas won easily 27-7.  Hayes followed up his outstanding rookie campaign by setting career-highs of 64 receptions for 1232 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1966.  Though he played on a team geared mostly toward running the ball, Hayes went on to post six seasons of at least 800 receiving yards and went over 10 TDs in a season five times over an 11-year career

The three-time Pro Bowl player made the long bomb a staple in Tom Landry’s offense — of his 71 career touchdown receptions were 50 yards or longer — causing other teams to start looking for their own game-breaker (see the Oakland Raiders) plus causing headaches on the defensive side of the ball. Hayes didn’t just run a “nine” or fly route down the field every snap, but he also went inside in high traffic if needed. In addition to receiving, Hayes also returned punts for the Cowboys and was the NFL’s leading punt returner in 1968 with 20.8 yards per return average and two touchdowns, including a 90-yarder against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame safety and contemporary Larry Wilson paid Hayes a compliment by saying, “The difference between Hayes and other track men was that he used his speed in a ‘football sense’, than just trying to run as fast as possible”. 

During the 1970 season, Hayes put up amazing numbers of 34 catches for 889 yards and 10 TDs in leading the Cowboys to Super Bowl V against the Colts — lost 16-13 on Jim O’Brien’s famous game-winning field goal.  His yards per catch that season were an unthinkable 26.2 yards leading the NFL in that category – which should probably be renamed after him.  The next season in 1971, his last great NFL season, Hayes along with quarterback Roger Staubach and others willed the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl where they defeated the Miami Dolphins by a score of 24-3.  In the game, Hayes only had two receptions for 23 yards and one punt return for minus one yard.  But it was the consistent threat of his speed and his ability to run by the Dolphins’ secondary that kept them on their heels the entire game.  At age 29, Hayes led the Cowboys and the NFL with a scary 24 yards per catch average.

 In total, Hayes would play 10 years for the Cowboys before finishing with one non-descript season for the San Francisco 49ers, retiring at age 33.  Hayes was named first or second team All-NFL four times and led the Cowboys in receptions three times.  The Jacksonville, Florida native had 71 career receiving touchdowns (still a Cowboys record), which places him ahead of hall of famers Michael Irvin and Art Monk. Finished with career numbers of 371 receptions, 7414 yards, and an eye-popping 20 yard per catch average with a long of 95 yards. Hayes was enshrined in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2001 and Bullet Bob is still the only man to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring.

Unfortunately on September 18, 2002, Hayes died in his hometown Jacksonville of kidney failure at age 59, after battling prostate cancer and liver ailments.  At the time of his death, it was feared by many that the man that brought true “world class speed” to the NFL might never get his just due of Hall of Fame enshrinement.  For years several voters danced around the issue of Hayes and substance abuse, which occurred after his playing days and also caused a brief prison stay.  Hayes non-selection year after year caused some voting pro football writers to question the whole selection process and in fact Sports Illustrated Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman resigned in 2004 from the selection committee after efforts to enshrine the Bullet had failed again.

Finally the prayers of Hayes’ many supporters were answered when the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s senior committee voted him into football’s highest fraternity in January 2009. It took 29 years after the Bullet first became eligible and seven years after his death, which is a travesty in my book.  But the moment of Hayes induction in Canton will surely be a thrilling one and  you know his former quarterback and fellow Hall of Famer Staubach will do him proud when he presents his former deep-threat for induction. After American football pioneer Jim Thorpe, Hayes will be the second Olympic gold medalist to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. 

Former NFL head coach Mike Ditka, who played with Hayes, said of his former teammate, “I know one thing and I played with him, he changed the game”.  Ditka added, “He made defenses and defensive coordinators work hard to figure out what you had to do to stop him”.

 

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)

Top 10 Players Deserving to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

In the coming years former NFL greats like Marshall Faulk, Jonathan Ogden, and Deion Sanders will be surefire candidates to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  So with inductions in Canton, OH ready to take center stage this week, I thought now was a good time to list some players/contributors who are not in the Hall of Fame but deserve to be enshrined.

TE Shannon Sharpe – This should have been a no-brainer last year.  Sharpe went from a former lanky too slow receiver at Savannah State to being one of the greatest tight ends ever.  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.  Should join Charlie Sanders, Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow, and John Mackey in the Hall of Fame’s Tight Ends Wing.

WR Cris Carter – Are you kidding me the last two years!! How could the man that ran the prettiest routes and had the stickiest hands in the ’90s not get into the Hall of Fame.  Hopefully in 2010 the voters will come to their senses and 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 ballboy) starring now in the NFL, it is only fitting that the Hall opens its doors to this 8-time Pro Bowler and 2-time first-team All-Pro player.

DE Claude Humphrey – 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.

QB Randall Cunningham – A three time MVP and a four-time Pro Bowler, who is also the NFL’s career rushing leader for quarterbacks (4,928 yards).  Passed for almost 30,000 yards and was considered the NFL’s ultimate weapon in the 90’s.  Almost led the Vikings to the Super Bowl in 1998 – lost in NFC Championship game to the Atlanta Falcons – and helped his team set a then NFL-record 556 points in one season. Played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens.

RB Terrell Davis – T.D’s career was cut short by injuries, but who was better than him during his brief career that produced two Super Bowl titles and a 2,000-yard season. Was a 3-time Pro Bowler and 4-time All-Pro selection in his too quick seven-year career.  Finished with 7,607 yards.  Played for the Denver Broncos after being drafted in the 6th Rd in 1995.

DE L.C Greenwood – Another cornerstone of the Steel Curtain (Dwight White, Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes, and Greenwood).  The gold-shoed pass rusher produced six Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pro honors, and four rings.  Greenwood needs to join Joe Greene in the Hall as one of pro football’s greatest D-lines needs to be better represented.  13-year veteran that only played for the Steelers.

Punter Ray Guy – Should be the Hall’s first punter as I say no one had better hang time than this Raiders great.  He was great athlete with a crazy strong leg.  7-time Pro Bowler and 9-time All-Pro player that averaged 42.4 yards per punt with a long of 77 yards.  Former 1st Rd pick out of Southern Mississippi played for the Raiders in 14-year career that saw him win three Super Bowls.

DB Johnny Sample – This smooth corner from Maryland – Eastern Shore paved the way for today’s tough flamboyant cover corners.  Sample was “Deion Sanders” back in the 50’s and 60’s, backing up his bravado with sticky coverage.  This 11-year veteran played and won in the 1958 NFL Championship, which many call “The Greatest Game Ever” (Played for the Colts in the win over the Giants) and Super Bowl III, which is said to be “The Greatest Upset Ever” (Played for the NY Jets in the win over the Colts).  Some say it was Sample that helped Joe Namath make the prediction heard around the world.  Had 41 INT’s in his career.

CB Lester Hayes – Mr. “Stick Um” from the Raiders glory teams of the 1980’s was unbelievable at taking away teams receivers.  With his partner Mike Haynes already in, Lester needs to be in.  Did I mention that he made five Pro Bowls and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1980.  Played 10 years for the Raiders producing 5 Pro Bowls and 1 All-Pro selection with 39 career interceptions.

RB / KR Herschel Walker – Everyone remembers the infamous trade from Dallas to Minnesota. But this guy was one the best all-around players in the NFL.  This 12-year NFL veteran amassed 5,000 return yards and 13,000 yards from scrimmage.  Plus let’s not forget his 3-year career in the USFL for the NJ Generals, where the former University of Georgia Heisman Trophy winner produced a pro football single season rushing record 2,411 yards in 1985 and had a 5,562 total rushing yards.  Played for the NJ Generals (USFL), Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.

Best of the Rest:

Oakland Raiders QB Jim Plunkett, SF 49ers RB Roger Craig, Philadelphia Eagles CB Eric Allen, Dallas Cowboys DE Charles Haley, Giants QB Phil Simms, Green Bay Packers OG Jerry Kramer, Denver Broncos LB Tom Jackson, Steelers center Dermontti Dawson, Redskins KR Brian Mitchell, Saints LB Sam Mills, Broncos LB Randy Gradishar, Patriots DL Jimmy Lee “Earthquake” Hunt, Rams RB Kenny Washington (NFL re-integration pioneer), and Rams TE Woody Stroud (NFL re-integration pioneer).  Non-Playing Contributors: former NFL assistant and head coach Buddy Ryan, NFL Films pioneers Ed and Steve Sabol, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell

 

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)

Hall of Fame Class of 2009 to be Announced

 

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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)