As expected, three slam dunk, first-year eligible candidates --cornerback Champ Bailey, tight end Tony Gonzalez and safety Ed Reed - are among the 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2019.
But the most timely, yet long overdue, name on this list is that of Tom Flores, who quarterbacked the first play in Raiders franchise history (1960). He is a semifinalist as a coach, one who earned three Super Bowl championships with the team, first as an assistant in SB XI and two as head coach in SBs XV and XVIII.
In perspective, these were extraordinary accomplishments for the son of itinerant laborers who fled Mexico -- and the lethal raids of infamous bandit Pancho Villa -- in the middle of the night on a railroad handcar.
Considering the current political and social atmosphere, it is especially meaningful at this time that Flores, the NFL's first Hispanic head coach, make this step toward the Hall of Fame for his long and fully committed devotion to pro football, as a player, coach, team executive and radio/television analyst.
"I have tears in my eyes," Flores told us by phone today when informed he was a semifinalist. "Football doesn't owe me anything. I owe football. I am humbled and honored to be considered at this level."
Another first-time semifinalist is linebacker Zach Thomas.
All other individuals on the 2019 list were semifinalist in previous years.
The year-round selection process aligns with the Pro Football Hall of Fame's important Mission "Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve its History, Promote its Values and Celebrate Excellence EVERYWHERE."
The list of semifinalists was reduced from an initial group of 103 nominees announced in September. The next step in the selection process comes on Thursday, Jan. 3 when the semifinalists are trimmed to 15 Modern-Era Finalists.
That list increases to 18 finalists with the inclusion of the nominees from the Hall of Fame's Contributors and Seniors Committees. The 2019 Contributor Finalists are Pat Bowlen (Owner - 1984-Present Denver Broncos) and Gil Brandt (Vice President of Player Personnel - 1960-1988 Dallas Cowboys; Contributor - 1995-present NFL.com). The Senior Finalist is Johnny Robinson (S - 1960-1971 Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs).
Bowlen, Brandt and Robinson will be voted on separately. Like all other finalists, they each must receive 80 percent yes votes from the full selection committee "Selection Saturday" at the annual selection meeting on Feb. 2, 2019 in Atlanta, Ga., the day before Super Bowl LIII.
Rules indicate that between four and eight new members will be selected each year. No more than five Modern-Era Finalists can be elected in a given year. Therefore, a class of six, seven, or eight can only be achieved if one or more of the Contributor and Senior Finalists are elected.
Following is a list of 2019 Modern-Era semifinalists, alphabetical by last name, including positions, years and teams. Also listed are the number of times and years the candidate was a semifinalist since this reduction vote was added to the Selection Committee Bylaws in 2004.
It includes 13 defensive players, nine offensive players and three coaches.
--Steve Atwater, S - 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets ( 8 times as a Semifinalist: 2012-19)
--Champ Bailey, CB - 1999-2003 Washington Redskins, 2004-2013 Denver Broncos | (First times as a Semifinalist: 2019)
--Ronde Barber, CB/S - 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (2 times as a Semifinalist: 2018-19)
--Tony Boselli, T - 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (4 times as a Semifinalist: 2016-19)
--Isaac Bruce, WR - 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (5 times as a Semifinalist: 2015-19)
--LeRoy Butler, S - 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (2 times as a Semifinalist: 2018-19)
-Don Coryell, Coach - 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers | (11 times as a Semifinalist: 2005, 2010-19)
--Alan Faneca, G - 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals (4 Times as a Semifinalist: 2016-19)
--Tom Flores, Coach - 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks (First time as a Semifinalist: 2019)
--Tony Gonzalez, TE - 1997-2008 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009-2013 Atlanta Falcons (First time as a Semifinalist: 2019)
--Torry Holt, WR - 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars (5 times as a Semifinalist: 2015-19)
--Steve Hutchinson, G - 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans (2 times as a Semifinalist: 2018-19)
--Edgerrin James, RB - 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks (5 times as a Semifinalist: 2015-19)
--Jimmy Johnson, Coach - 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (6 times as a Semifinalist: 2014-19)
--Ty Law, CB - 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos (5 times as a Semifinalist: 2015-19)
--John Lynch, FS - 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos (7 times as a Semifinalist: 2013-19)
--Clay Matthews, LB - 1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons (3 times as a Semifinalist: 2012, 2017, 2019)
--Kevin Mawae, C/G - 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans (5 times as a Semifinalist: 2015-19)
--Karl Mecklenburg, LB - 1983-1994 Denver Broncos (8 times as a Semifinalist: 2012-19)
--Sam Mills, LB - 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers (2 times as a Semifinalist: 2016, 2019)
--Ed Reed, FS - 2002-2012 Baltimore Ravens, 2013 New York Jets, 2013 Houston Texans (First time as a Semifinalist: 2019)
--Richard Seymour, DE/DT - 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders (2 times as a Semifinalist: 2018-2019)
--Zach Thomas, LB - 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys (First time as a Semifinalist: 2019)
--Hines Ward, WR - 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers (3 times as a Semifinalist: 2017-19)
--Darren Woodson, S - 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys | (3 times as a Semifinalist: 2015, 2017, 2019)
--Frank Cooney, publisher of The Sports Xchange, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee and the Seniors Selection Committee. He covered Tom Flores as an assistant and head coach with the Raiders and co-authored Flores' Autobiography, "Fire in the Iceman."