State Your Case: Why Steve Hutchinson belongs in Canton

Why Hall-of-Fame semifinalist belongs in Canton ... hopefully, sooner rather than later.

According to Pro Football Reference, there are only 12 modern-era offensive linemen named first-team All-Pro five times. Nine of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The other three are Cleveland's Joe Thomas, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson.

Faneca is a two-time finalist for the Hall and will make it some day ... hopefully, sooner rather than later. But Hutchinson is one of 27 semifinalists (including Faneca) for the Hall's Class of 2018, and he's there in his first year of eligibility.

That's the good news. The bad is that he gets in line behind Faneca at a position that, historically, demands patience from its candidates.

I'm talking about guard, where Will Shields -- a 12-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro -- waited four years before Canton opened the doors to him and where former Lions' great Dick Stanfel -- the team's MVP in its 1953 championship season -- had to have his case brought back three times by the senior committee before the board voted him in.

Don't ask me why. Voters just seem to have trouble warming up to guards.

Yet Hutchinson was one of the best to play the position, and that's a pretty good place to start when pushing a Hall-of-Fame candidate. He was a seven-time All-Pro, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a first-team selection on the all-decade team of the 2000s. What he wasn't was a Super Bowl champion, though he appeared in Super Bowl XL as the starting left guard for Seattle.

Those were the days when he was paired with Hall-of-Fame tackle Walter Jones in one of the best left sides of any offensive line anywhere. And those were the days when Shaun Alexander produced five consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons -- including a league-best 1,880 yards in 2005 -- and 87 touchdowns in five years, including what was then an NFL-record 27 rushing touchdowns in 2005.

That was the year Alexander was the league MVP, and the Seahawks won the NFC championship.

A year later, Hutchinson was gone-- having left as a free agent for Minnesota -- and so was Alexander's productivity. He never again ran for 1,000 yards and, with Hutchinson missing, scored only 12 times (11 rushing) in three injury-plagued seasons.

Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe not. All I know is that Steve Hutchinson was around for Shaun Alexander's best years, and he was around for almost all of Adrian Peterson's best seasons in Minnesota. Plus, the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl when he was there, and the Vikings were one Brett Favre interception from going when he was there, too.

Steve Hutchinson was so accomplished he was signed to what was then the biggest contract ever for an NFL guard. He was decorated, with as many All-Pro nominations as Shields. He was durable, going seven straight seasons without missing a start. And he was clean, once going 44 consecutive games without have a penalty called on him accepted.

"I see him as a Hall of Famer," said NFL historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal. "His All-Pros put him in the upper half of the 'honors test,' and as far as run blocking he was at the top."

I see him as a Hall of Famer, too. I just don't know when. I suspect it will be after Faneca, but that begs the question: When is he enshrined? He hasn't been a Top-10 choice in his two years as a finalist. Yet Faneca and Hutchinson were the first-team all-decade choices for the 2000s. Larry Allen and Shields were the second-teamers, and both are in the Hall.

Alan Faneca is Canton worthy. So is Steve Hutchinson. Let's not wait years before putting both these guys in the Hall.

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