Since February when Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the debate over its 2014 class has been lively. Several notable players were left on the outside looking in last year and are favorites for consideration again in 2014. When evaluating the careers of the best of the best it is inevitable that accomplished all stars such as Andre Reed, Jerome Bettis, and Michael Strahan are hit with the reality that “there’s always next year.”
With regards to our home division, Andre Reed has been a finalist since 2007. But getting into Canton this year will be no easier now that former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison becoming eligible, and Raiders/Bucs WR Tim Brown is considered an early favorite. Since first ballot inductees aren’t normally WR’s, history suggests even Harrison is a longshot for the 2014 class (Jerry Rice is the only first ballot WR to be inducted since 2000).
But enough of Andre Reed who is perhaps the greatest WR in the history of the game. Let’s look at the first year eligible Hall of Fame nominees from the AFCE, and their chances at being remembered forever:
QB Trent Green. 1997-98 Washington Redskins; 1999-2000, 2001-06 Kansas City Chiefs, 2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 St. Louis Rams.
Trent Green may be best known for his recovery from serious knee injuries to play 11 seasons in the NFL, three of which he passed for more than 4,000 yards. Trent made the Pro Bowl twice, led the Chiefs to a 13-3 record and the AFC West Division title in 2003. Trent Green is a longshot to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame and will not be making it in 2014. Green started 5 games in Miami with a record of 0-5, threw 141 times for 987yds, 5 tds, 7 ints and I don’t know why he’s here.
LB Tedy Bruschi – 1996-2008 New England Patriots
Tedy Bruschi led the Patriots defense for throughout his 13-season, 189-game career. Bruschi was voted to one Pro Bowl and tallied 30.5 sacks with 12 interceptions. While the proverbial underdog won over the hearts of millions by battling back from surgery to repair a hole in his own, his place on eight division title teams and three Super Bowl championship teams guarantees a spot on the Foxboro wall.
LB Willie McGinest 1994-2005 New England Patriots, 2006-08 Cleveland Browns
This former first rounder tallied 86 sacks in 212-game career that spanned 15 seasons. McGinest was selected to two Pro Bowls while playing with the Patriots on six divisional championship teams and three Super Bowl teams. His 86 sacks, 5 interceptions, 582 tackles, and playoff highlights cast a shadow over teammate Tedy Bruschi and will certainly give him recognition in Foxboro and perhaps semi finalist status for the NFL HOF.
LB Zach Thomas – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys
Thomas earned first-team All-Pro five times, second-team All-Pro twice and was elected to seven Pro Bowls. While Pro Bowls and Championships don’t always tell the full story, Thomas topped 100 tackles in each of first 11 seasons, recorded 17 interceptions, 20.5 sacks, and 1106 tackles during his 184-game career. Zach Thomas is a stone cold lock to be a semi finalist, a favorite to make the finalist list, and has the best chance and credentials of any of the first year eligible AFCE members to make it into Canton.
S Rodney Harrison — 1994-2002 San Diego Chargers, 2003-08 New England Patriots
Harrison spent the majority of his career with the lightning bolts, but was a force during his time in Foxboro. Harrison retired as the league’s all-time leader in sacks for a defensive back (30.5), and caught 34 interceptions over 15 seasons. Harrison was a part of six division, four conference, and two Super Bowl championship teams. His 34 picks compliment his 53 pass defenses, 15 forced fumbles, and 919 tackles. Harrison is considered a longshot to make it into the HOF.
CB Sam Madison – 1997-2005 Miami Dolphins, 2006-08 New York Giants
Madison was selected to four Pro Bowls, three All-AFC teams, and two All-Pro selections throughout his 12-year career. He is perhaps best known for terrorizing his opponents over a three year period in which he caught an unprecedented 20 interceptions (98-00). Madison posted 38 int’s, 81 pass defenses, 10 forced fumbles and 378 tackles. Madison is another longshot to make it into Canton.
CB Patrick Surtain – 1998-2004 Miami Dolphins, 2005-08 Kansas City Chiefs
The talented Surtain tallied 37 picks, 79 pass defenses, 429 tackles, and played both corners during his 11-season career. Surtain made All-Pro status in 02 and 03 and made it to three straight Pro Bowls. Longshot.
In the last article we looked at the first year eligible candidates: Trent Green, Shaun Alexander, Warrick Dunn, Willie Anderson, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Zach Thomas, Rodney Harrison, Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, Marvin Harrison, Walter Jones, Derrick Brooks and coaches Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden. Greg Rosenthal wrote that of the first year guys, he only expects Marvin Harrison, Walter Jones, Derrick Brooks and Tony Dungy to get in eventually and anyone else would be surprising. I expect all four to be finalists for the 2014 HOF, but only Jones and Brooks to get the nod. And while I feel confident that Bills WR Andre Reed and Dolphins LB Zach Thomas will be finalists, it’s hard to see how either makes it to Canton before the following all time greats:
LB Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995-2008)
WR Tim Brown, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1988-2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)
OT Walter Jones, Seattle Seahawks (1997-2008)
RB Jerome Bettis, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams (1993-1995), Pittsburgh Steelers (1996-2005)
DE Michael Strayhan, New York Giants, (1993-2007)