By Sal Capaccio
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce it’s 2012 class Saturday. There are 15 modern-era finalists, including former Buffalo Bills WR Andre Reed, and two senior nominee finalists.
Hall rules stipulate no more than five modern-era nominees can be enshrined in a given year. I’m sure senior nominees Dick Stanfel and Jack Butler were terrific players and good luck to them Saturday, but Since I’m a “modern-era NFL watcher and fan,” I’m only going to concentrate on the modern-era finalists for this post and give you the five players I would select from this year’s group. Below that I’ve listed the remaining ten players separated into two groups, my “Next Five In,” and “Last Five In” from this year’s list of finalists. The players on each list are in o particular order:
My Five for this year’s Hall:
- Andre Reed (WR, Bills and Redskins): OK. Let’s get it out of the way early. Yes, I’m admittedly biased towards Reed because he’s a former Bill. But he deserves his spot in Canton. I could list the many, many reasons Reed should get the call this year, but I’ll defer to this piece written by WGR's Extra Point co-host and The Buffalo News columnist Tim Graham before last year’s vote. It’s a terrific read and lays out a great case for #83.
- Curtis Martin (RB, Patriots and Jets): Quick. Tell me where Curtis Martin ranks in all-time NFL rushing yards. Time’s up. He’s 4th! Behind only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders. Many would probably never have guessed Martin was that high on the list. He’s one of the most underrated and under-appreciated players of all-time. Martin had ten straight 1,000-yard seasons. He’s also 8th in yards from scrimmage and 12th in all-time rushing TDs. Every single running back in the top sixteen in all-time rushing yards who is Hall eligible is in already. This is Martin’s second year of eligibility.
- Charles Haley (DE/LB, 49ers and Cowboys): I’ve always said not winning Super Bowls should not hurt your case to make it into the Hall of Fame (although it often has and does, see: “Super Bowl Bills players”), but winning them should help your case. Haley won FIVE Super Bowls with two different teams and he was a big part of all of those teams. Haley’s case is similar to Reeds in that it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about what he meant to his teams and their accomplishments. His numbers were good. He posted 100.5 sacks in the regular season and added another 11 sacks in 21 playoff games. But if you ever saw Charles Haley play you knew he was simply a difference-maker on those championship teams. And he was versatile. Haley played DE in 4-3 sets and OLB in the 3-4. He was good against the run and obviously as a pass rusher. He never came off the field. This is Haley’s eighth year of eligibility. He shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
- Dermontti Dawson (C, Steelers): I’m not quite sure why Dawson isn’t already in the Hall of Fame. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play a very important and demanding position in the NFL. Bills fans will attest to just how important the Center position is after seeing Kent Hull anchor the line for the Super Bowl teams and watching what happened after Eric Wood got injured this past season. Dawson redefined the position. Most of the centers who came before him were known for their brute strength to take on bigger, more physical defensive linemen. Dawson was one of the first (if not the first) Center to pull and lead sweeps because he was so quick and athletic. How respected was he by his peers? Dawson was elected to seven Pro Bowls, chosen first-team All-Pro six times, and was even chosen as the 1st Team Center for the NFL's Team of the Decade for the 1990s. Like Reed, this is Dawson’s seventh year of eligibility.
- Will Shields (G, Chiefs): This is Shields’ first-year of eligibility, so I’m making him a first-ballot player. Shields started 223 straight games (all with Kansas City) and was elected to 12 Pro Bowls, which is an incredible number for anyone at any position. He was First-Team All-Pro twice and was selected as the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2003. While Shields was starting at Guard for those Chiefs teams, seven out of his fourteen seasons they were a top-10 offense in yards gained. Twice they led the league. They were also in the top-10 in points scored eight times and led the league twice in that category, as well. Since Shields retired in 2006, KC’s offensive ranking in yards gained has been: 31st, 24th, 25th, 12th, and 27th. Guards don’t have individual stats. But Shields’ impact on his team, organization, and league has should put him in the Hall on the first try.
My “Next Five In:”
- Tim Brown (WR/KR, Raiders, Buccaneers)
- Cris Carter (WR, Eagles, Vikings, Dolphins)
- Jerome Bettis (RB, Rams, Steelers)
- Willie Roaf (OT, Saints, Chiefs)
- Cortez Kennedy (DT, Seahawks)
My “Last Five In:”
- Edward DeBartolo, Jr (Former Owner, 49ers)
- Bill Parcells (Former Head Coach, Giants, Patriots, Jets, Cowboys)
- Kevin Greene (LB/DE, Rams, Steelers, Panthers, 49ers)
- Chris Doleman (DE/LB, Vikings, Falcons, 49ers)
- Aeneas Williams (CB/S, Cardinals, Rams)
Also, tune in to Sports Talk Saturday this week from 11-2pm to make your case.