On Super Bowl, Sunday the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame(HOF) class was announced. When considering whether or not an inductee is worthy of the selection I judge them based on if they meet one of two criteria. Where they among the best at their position for the majority of their career and/or did they create a fundamental change to how the game was played?
First Ballot Guys
First ballot HOFers are the 1%. These are the guys that are so good they’ve been fast-tracked into the hall after their careers have ended. It’s sort of like the fast pass at Disney World. Yea the regular experience is magical but with a little bit extra you don’t have to wait in line.
Moss is 100% worthy of the first ballot consideration. Moss’ career has been on a collision course with the hall since 1998 when he set the record for the most touchdown receptions as a rookie with 17. Moss would go on to haul in 1,200+ yards in each of his first 6 seasons (also an NFL record). He set the single-season receiving TD record in 2007 when he hooked up with Tom Brady 23 times for the Patriots. On the list of all-time receiving touchdowns, Moss ranks second with 157 only behind Jerry Rice. His ability to go up and get 50/50 balls revolutionized the vertical passing game in the NFL.
I’m not questioning Urlacher’s credentials as a HOF candidate, however, I’m not sure that he is a first ballot guy. As a player, Urlacher was arguably the best middle linebacker in the NFL for the majority of his 12-year career. He was a defensive rookie of the year in 2000 and in 2005 he was named the defensive player of the year. Although Urlacher played at a high level his numbers don’t necessarily pop off the page. His 1,353 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, and 12 forced fumbles helped Urlacher reach the Pro Bowl 8 times and obtain All-Pro honors 5 times. Urlacher as a top player in the league was as reliable as Old Faithful, but, although he was a great player I don’t think that he should be a first ballot HOFer.
Lewis is another sure-fire HOFer. It would be disrespectful to the position if he did not get in on his first year of eligibility. In his 17 seasons in the NFL Lewis was consistently the best player at the middle linebacker position. Among his career highlights, Lewis was a 13 time Pro Bowler, 10-time All-Pro (7 first team selections), and Super Bowl MVP. He was the leader of a record-setting Raven’s defense in 2000 that allowed the fewest points in a 16 game season (165) and fewest rushing yards (970). From 1998-2000 (51 consecutive games) the Ravens did not allow a 100-yard rusher. Lewis changed the middle linebacker position, although undersized his ability to fly around the field like a missile showed that speed was just as effective as size stuffing the run. Lewis deserves first ballot status because his name has become synonymous with the position.
The Other Guys
More Specifically the other modern era guys. These are the guys that were put on the waitlist after their first year of eligibility but didn’t have to wait the 25 years it takes to be voted in by the Senior Committee.
In all honesty, Terrell Owens should have been inducted in 2016 as a first ballot HOFer. Owens is one of the greatest all-around receivers ever, and his statistic proves it. He ended his career with 1,078 receptions, 15,934 yards, and touchdowns. Owens trail only Jerry Rice in yards and trails Rice and Randy Moss in touchdown receptions. The only reason that Owens wasn’t already in the hall was that of the politics of the HOF voters. His combination of size, speed, and strength made him deadly on the field.
Dawkins was a mainstay in the Eagles defense for well over a decade. In coordinator Jim Johnson’s defense Dawkins pioneered a changed to the role of the Free Saftey. Dawkins played around the line of scrimmage as well as playing center field. Dawkins multifaceted role helped him make 9 Pro Bowls, 6 All-Pro teams (5 first team nominations) and set several NFL records. He was the first player in the NFL to record a sack, an interception, forced fumble, and touchdown reception in a single game, the first player to record at least 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles in a career, his 36 forced fumbles are the most by a safety in NFL history, and he’s the first player in NFL history with 25+ interceptions (37), forced fumbles (36) and sacks (26).
Every year a special HOF committee votes on 2 players that ended their careers more than 25 years ago. Admittedly these guys were well before my time so I can’t really make a case for or against them. But, they put their time in waiting and they don’t affect the modern era guys so I’m sure they deserve it.
Kramer played right guard on the offensive line for the Lombardi Packers. He was an integral component of the famous “Packer Sweep” which helped the team win 5 straight NFL Championships in a row and the first 2 Super Bowls in NFL history. Kramer was a 3 time Pro Bowler and 6-time All-Pro (5 first team selections).
Brazile played linebacker for the Houston Oilers from 1975-1984. Brazile helped pave the way for the greats like Lawrence Taylor as a blitzing outside linebacker in Houstons 3-4 defense. Nicknamed “Dr. Doom” Brazile is a 7 time Pro Bowler, 6-time All-Pro (5 first team selections), and with 1,281 tackles he has the second most in Houston Oiler/Tennessee Titans history. Brazile was also the 1975 defensive player of the year.
Bobby Beathard is making the HOF as a contributor to the game. Beathard was a General Manager in the league for 21 seasons. He is a four-time Super Bowl champion (VII, VIII, XVII, and XXII). He won 2 Super Bowls with the Dolphins as Director of Player Personnel and 2 as General Manager of the Redskins. He notably drafted HOFers Art Monk, Russ Grimm, and Darrell Green.