By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
One look at the list of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2017, and you get it. The field is so wide open that a wild card is liable to sneak in.
I'm talking about someone we didn’t expect; someone who wasn’t on anyone's radar but made a last-minute rush to capture the flag. Someone like ... well, someone like Morten Andersen.
Yes, the former kicker who labored 25 years for a litany of teams, was a two-time all-decade choice and holds a passel of league records, including most games played, most field goals and most game-winning field goals.
But Morten Andersen was more than a talented guy who set a lot of records. He's the NFL's all-time scoring leader … and has been the past nine years, or since his retirement.
And that’s where the Morten Andersen conversation begins.
Name me one other pro sports Hall of Fame that doesn’t include its career scoring leader. You can't because there is none. But there is in Canton, and now is the time to make a change.
Look, I think we all agree that LaDainian Tomlinson is going into the Hall this year as a first-ballot choice. And we probably agree that the time is right for former quarterback Kurt Warner, who made the cut from 15 to 10 in his first two years of eligibility.
But then the field is unchartered, which means there are three spots too tough to call. Just a hunch, but based on the move former tackle Joe Jacoby made last year -- when, in his 18th year of eligibility, he went from his first appearance as a finalist to the Top 10 -- I'd make him an early favorite.
But then what? Well, then the field is wide open. And that’s where Morten Andersen comes in.
This is his fourth consecutive year as a finalist, and he hasn’t made it to the Top 10 his previous three tries. So that makes him a longshot. But there were queues to clear in past years, and, for the most part, they have been.
That makes the timing right.
And so does this: The Class of 2018 is top-heavy with stars like Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Jeff Saturday, Ronde Barber, Steve Hutchinson, Richard Seymour and Ray Lewis. So this is the time to make a bold move...and I don't mean by the candidates only.
I mean by voters, too.
With a tidal wave of new talent on its way next year, there is virtually no way a kicker is going to survive. In all likelihood, Andersen's candidacy would wither and die, not to be revived -- if it is at all -- by the senior committee years from now.
And that would be a shame. Nope, now is the time to do something and not only because the time is right but because the candidate is.
I don’t care that Andersen ranks 51st in career field-goal accuracy. Heck, the only kicker in Canton, Jan Stenerud, ranks 100th. I don't care that he spent a great part of his career indoors, either. Most people agree that Colts' kicker Adam Vinatieri will reach the Hall some day, and he spent over half his career in a dome. I don't even care that the Hall is blind to specialists, inducting only two -- Stenerud and punter Ray Guy -- in 53 years.
Nope, what I care about is that Morten Andersen was so good that he wasn’t chosen to one all-decade team. He was chosen to two. More than that, he changed the position. His leg was so strong that he gave coaches the confidence to try field goals of 50 or more yards – with Andersen hitting three in a 1995 game, an NFL record that since has been tied but never eclipsed.
He was named to seven Pro Bowl teams and was a six-time All-Pro. He once nailed a 60-yard field goal, which tied for the second longest in NFL history at the time, and he was so accurate he was nicknamed "Mr. Automatic." He still holds the scoring record for two franchises, New Orleans and Atlanta, and he was never better than his last season when he converted 25 of 28 field-goal attempts ... when he was 47.
Bottom line: Morten Andersen is worthy, and he belongs. He was the best at his position ... for two decades ... and he changed that position. Nobody played in more games. Nobody made more field goals. And he set a scoring record that hasn’t been beaten.
Now, more than ever, the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame board of selectors has the perfect opportunity to reward him for his excellence. So do it.
(Morten Andersen photos courtesy of Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints)