Predicting the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class
Predicting the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014
Perhaps the most difficult decision in sports comes each February, when NFL media members come together to vote on the year's Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class. Only seven players per season are permitted to enter the Hall, and two spots are reserved specifically for players who have been retired for many years. In a sport that relies on contributions from so many different players, only the most elite of the true greats even have a chance to make their way in.
The 2014 induction class presents a great opportunity for several players who have been snubs in recent years to make their way in. The only people who are eligible for the first time with a realistic chance to get in are former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Walter Jones, Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, and Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison. Seeing as Dungy only has one Super Bowl victory to his name and Harrison's production doesn't quite match several receivers who have been snubbed recently, it seems that even those two are unlikely to be inducted this year.
On the flip side, this year could be the best shot that some of these players are going to get to make it into the Hall. Next season, legendary players such as Ty Law, Kurt Warner, Junior Seau, Orlando Pace, and Isaac Bruce will all be eligible for consideration, and at least a few of them are bound to make it in on the first ballot. Here are the five players who have the best chance to be inducted into the Hall of Fame for next year's class.
Walter Jones, OT, Seattle Seahawks
Jones is one of the greatest offensive tackles of all-time, and he is the most logical first-ballot Hall of Famer this year. First of all, Jones was unbelievably durable, having played and started in 180 games from 1997 until 2008. Jones, selected with the sixth overall pick in 1997 out of Florida State, was also one of the best pass blockers ever. He blocked for more than 5,500 pass attempts during his career but only gave up 23 sacks. He was very disciplined as well, only having been penalized for holding nine times in his entire career. Jones played on the 2005 NFC champion Seahawks, and he played in nine Pro Bowls. He is by all means deserving of receiving a bust next year.
Michael Strahan, DE, New York Giants
Strahan was considered to be the biggest snub among the players who were eligible for enshrinement in 2013. Though it is highly disputed, Strahan still holds the record for most sacks in a season with 22.5, and he played on two Super Bowl teams during his 15-year NFL career. He played his entire career with the New York Giants and is their all-time leader in sacks with 141.5, a total that is good for fifth all-time in the NFL since the league began recording the statistic in 1982. Strahan was one of the best pass rushers of his generation, and he deserves to be rewarded for his fantastic play after waiting it out last season.
Tim Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tim Brown was revolutionary in the NFL, paving the way for today's modern day all-around weapons like DeSean Jackson. During his heyday, the 6-foot, 195-pound Notre Dame graduate was a spectacular receiver and returner. Over his 17-year career, Brown made nine Pro Bowls. He is fifth all-time on the NFL leaderboard for both receptions and receiving yards with 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards. He was also an elite kick and punt returner, and is fifth all-time in all-purpose yards. He led the NFL in kick return yardage in 1988 and in punt return yardage in 1994. Even with all this production, however, Brown has been passed up four times in his bid to enter the Hall. He has more career receiving yards than any player not in the Hall of Fame, so now is the time for Brown to be inducted before players such as Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and Isaac Bruce begin to make their way onto the ballot.
Derrick Brooks, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brooks is without question one of the greatest 4-3 outside linebackers in NFL history and is deserving of entering the Hall on his first ballot. Pro Football Reference ranks Brooks as the 14th-most valuable player in NFL history. He never missed a game during his 14-year career and was selected for the Pro Bowl in 11 of those years. He was the key piece in the creation of Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin's famous “Tampa 2” defense, and he went on to be a member of the Buccaneers' 2002 Super Bowl championship squad. He has six career defensive touchdowns, which is tied for the most ever by a linebacker. In addition, Brooks was always considered to be one of the nicest and most friendly players in the NFL, and won the 2000 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and 2004 Bart Starr Award for his work in the community. Brooks' dedication and success make him a great candidate for the 2014 Hall of Fame class.
Kevin Greene, DE/OLB, LA Rams, SF, PIT, CAR
Though many consider Lawrence Taylor to be the greatest pass rushing outside linebacker of all-time, Kevin Greene is ahead of him on the NFL's career sacks list. While Greene has been out of the NFL since 1999, he has only been on the Hall of Fame finalist list for the past two seasons. In an era where running backs generally were the focal points of offenses, Greene's production probably was not as appreciated as it should have been, but the five-time Pro Bowler, who led the NFL in sacks during both the 1994 and 1996 seasons, certainly deserves to be in the Hall. Among the ten players with the most recorded sacks in NFL history, only Greene, Michael Strahan, and Leslie O'Neal are not in the Hall of Fame. As the owner of 160 sacks, it's time for Greene to be enshrined.