(Brett Favre photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
(Kevin Greene photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
The list of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2016 is out, and it's easy to navigate. In fact, it's so easy you can make the cut to the five modern-era gold jackets now.
So let's start.
Quarterback Brett Favre, one of three-first year candidates (Terrell Owens and Alan Faneca are the others), is the one slam dunk in here. Then, the next logical guy is linebacker Kevin Greene. He was this close a year ago, and you have to believe this is his time -- partly because his 160 sacks are third most in NFL history and mostly because he’s waited long enough.
Then there’s offensive lineman Orlando Pace and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, both of whom lost in photo finishes a year ago but who join Greene at the head of the line outside Canton now. They won Super Bowl rings. They were all-decade choices. And each is considered one of the best at his position.
So then what? Well, then we have the wild card for that fifth spot … and it could be Kurt Warner … it could be Tony Dungy … or it could be Morten Andersen or John Lynch. You make the call.
Q: Well, yeah. Be honest: What are Warner’s chances?
A: They’re probably diminished because of Favre. That doesn’t mean selectors wouldn’t elect two quarterbacks. But they may be reluctant because of Favre. The last time two quarterbacks went in at the same time was 2005 when Steve Young and Dan Marino were elected, and maybe selectors see him as someone who could head next year’s class. Bottom line: I think he makes it sooner or later … with later the leader in the clubhouse.
Q: What makes you think Greene’s chances are so favorable when he’s failed four times as a finalist?
A: Because, as we said, he’s deserving and he’s waited long enough. The board demonstrated this year that it’s receptive to clearing queues of deserving candidates outside Canton. Tim Brown was a six-time finalist. So was Charles Haley. Jerome Bettis was a five-time finalist, while Will Shields made the cut to 15 four times. Greene missed only because he was a victim of numbers. Since 2000, there have been 15 edge rushers elected to the Hall of Fame – tops of any position or skill set. There has been an edge pass rusher elected in 12 of the 16 classes since 2000, including at least one in four of the last five years. Greene is the only edge rusher among the 25 semifinalists. That bodes well for him.
Q: Will Harrison feel heat from Terrell Owens?
A: He should. But he was another close call last year, and while he’s not waited nearly as long as a Tim Brown (Harrison is a two-time finalist), I think there’s a feeling in the room that Owens doesn’t jump the line -- and that line begins with Harrison.
Q: So what about Owens?
A: Ah, yes … Terrell Owens. He will be the most contentious candidate in that room. You either love him or loathe him. There is no in-between. And the room will be divided. All it takes are nine nays, and the guy is doomed. T.O. is on the bubble, and, yes, I know all about his numbers and where they place him in history. But I also know about this number – zero. That’s the number of teams that wanted to keep him at the top of his career.
Q: Does Andersen have a chance?
A: He should. He’s the all-time leading scorer in football. So what? Well, so the all-time leading scorer in the NBA is in the Hall. So is the all-time leading scorer in major-league baseball. And the NHL. Plus, we have the all-time leading passer in Canton. And the all-time leading rusher. And receiver. I think you get the idea. The Hall’s board in 2014 admitted only the second specialist ever when it elected punter Ray Guy, and that’s a start. Maybe, just maybe, its members are more receptive to the position than they have been.
Q: Who's a semifinalist who could sneak into the Final 15?
Sentimentalists will pull for linebacker Sam Mills, and it's easy to see why: Small man with a king-sized heart. But, realistically, I'd say it's someone like a Steve Atwater ... or Ty Law ... or maybe, just maybe, Tony Boselli or Joe Jacoby. Mills and Boselli are semifinalists for the first time, and hallelujah. They deserve it. Boselli, Jacoby, Atwater and Law are all-decade choices, with Law, Jacoby and Atwater winning Super Bowls. You'd like to see one of these guys get in the room to be discussed ... then stay in the room until they kick down the door to the Hall.
2016 PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME SEMIFINALISTS
(Kurt Warner photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)
QB (2) – Brett Favre, Kurt Warner.
RB (3) -- Roger Craig, Terrell Davis, Edgerrin James.
WR (4) – Isaac Bruce, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Terrell Owens.
OL (6) – Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca, Joe Jacoby, Mike Kenn, Kevin Mawae, Orlando Pace.
LB (3) – Kevin Greene, Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills.
CB (1) – Ty Law
S (2) – Steve Atwater, John Lynch,
PK (1) – Morten Andersen
COACHES (3) – Don Coryell, Tony Dungy, Jimmy Johnson.