By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Alan Faneca wasn’t just an accomplished NFL guard. He was so accomplished that, according to his former coach, Bill Cowher, he "redefined the position" with an uncanny ability to block anywhere, anytime – even when it called for blocking in space.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro. He won a Super Bowl and the prestigious NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year. Twice. He was named to the Pittsburgh Steelers' 75th anniversary team and is a member of the 2000s' all-decade team.
So why isn’t he in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Patience, people. It will happen.
The guy is one of 26 semifinalists for the Class of 2017 and is a favorite to make the list of 15 finalists announced next month. He made it last year in his first year of eligibility, so the smart money is on his return.
And if doesn’t make it into the Hall in 2017? No problem. He'll continue to return until he gets in. Guaranteed.
If there is a problem with Alan Faneca, it's not with his accomplishments or his ability. It's with his position, and you’ve heard this before. He played guard, and that’s a position the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame's board of selectors doesn’t appreciate, is reluctant to reward or just plain doesn’t understand.
I'm not sure which.
All I know is that it took Will Shields – one of the game's greatest guards ever – four tries before he reached Canton, and tell me where his resume was short. It wasn’t. He played 14 seasons. He reached the Pro Bowl in 12 of them and the All-Pro team in seven. And he never, ever, missed a game.
So what was the knock? Guard, that’s what. Former Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer was named to the league's 50th anniversary team, yet he's still waiting to get in. That makes no sense, but then you see this: Among the 44 modern-era offensive linemen in Canton there are only 12 pure guards – with Shields, elected in 2015, the latest.
Faneca should be the next, but the only question is: When? He wasn't among the final 10 a year ago, so he might be at least a year away. History tells us that candidates don’t become serious candidates until they move from the list of 15 to 10. And Alan Faneca is not there.
Not yet at least.
But it's not just the position he plays that might conspire against him … at least, for the short term. It might be a team he played for – the Pittsburgh Steelers – and let me explain. There could be … and let me emphasize, could be … a Steelers' fatigue among voters, with the Steelers third among all teams in Hall-of-Fame inductees whose major contributions were with one club.
Kevin Greene went in last year. Jerome Bettis made it the year before. Jack Butler and Dermontti Dawson were 2012 inductees. I think you get the idea. I'm not saying that is a reason. I'm just saying it's possible.
In the end, of course, Alan Faneca will be admitted because he deserves to be admitted. He has the resume. He has the ring. He has the all-decade selection. The only thing missing from this picture is a gold jacket.
And that will happen … hopefully, sooner rather than later.
(Alan Faneca photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers)