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2014 Hall of Fame Candidates

Tonight, the newest members of the Class of 2014 will be announced. Here are the 15 finalists:

Rushing Receiving
Rk Name Pos From To AP1 PB St CarAV G Att Yds TD Lng Rec Yds TD Lng
1 Derrick Brooks LB 1995 2008 5 11 14 140 224
2 Marvin Harrison WR 1996 2008 3 8 12 124 190 10 28 0 15 1102 14580 128 80
3 Michael Strahan DE 1993 2007 4 7 14 121 216
4 Will Shields G 1993 2006 2 12 14 113 224 1 4 0 4
5 Aeneas Williams DB 1991 2004 3 8 13 106 211
6 Tim Brown WR 1988 2004 0 9 13 104 255 50 190 1 19 1094 14934 100 80
7 Andre Reed WR 1985 2000 0 7 14 98 234 75 500 1 46 951 13198 87 83
8 Walter Jones T 1997 2008 4 9 12 96 180
9 Kevin Greene LB 1985 1999 2 5 11 94 228
10 John Lynch DB 1993 2007 2 9 13 88 224 1 40 0 40
11 Charles Haley DE 1986 1999 2 5 8 84 169
12 Jerome Bettis RB 1993 2005 2 6 12 79 192 3479 13662 91 71 200 1449 3 34
13 Morten Andersen K 1982 2007 3 7 24 51 382
14 Edward Debartolo, Jr. Owner
15 Tony Dungy coach

The Hall of Fame voters will select up to five of these candidates, although rest assured we won’t have a class with fewer than five selections anytime soon. In addition, the two Seniors Committee choices – Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey – will each receive an up or down vote. Today, I’m going to look at whom I would select (and *not* the players I think will be selected) for induction in 2014.

Derrick Brooks is a Hall of Fame lock. Brooks and Junior Seau were two of the best linebackers of the past 20 years, and by far the best non-pass rushing outside linebackers of their eras.1 Since the merger, the only outside linebackers with more first-team All-Pro selections than Brooks are Seau (with 6), Jack Ham (6), and Lawrence Taylor (8). Brooks should join Warren Sapp as first-ballot Hall of Famers from those great Tampa Bay defenses.

An easy choice for the Hall.

An easy choice for the Hall.

Marvin Harrison is another obvious pick, as I explained a couple of weeks ago. He is the second-most statistically dominant wide receiver since Don Hutson. The Hall of Fame threshold is much lower than “being as good as Jerry Rice” so Harrison should be a first-ballot choice.

Michael Strahan should have been selected last year; I would have chosen him over Sapp. After Bruce Smith and Reggie White, Strahan can hold up against any other post-merger defensive end. The former Giant was a strongside end who was outstanding against the run and a terror to opposing quarterbacks. He was a much more complete player than many sack specialists, yet still wound up as the all-time single-season record holder (however tainted that mark may be).

Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace battled for about a decade for the title of best left tackle. Honestly, I’m not sure where I’d rank those three, but Jones is an obvious choice for first-ballot enshrinement.

Will Shields made twelve Pro Bowls. Incredibly, this is Shields’ third year as a finalist. He made twelve Pro Bowls. I didn’t understand it when he wasn’t selected in 2012 or 2013, but I have to assume that there are no more roadblocks to induction. He made twelve Pro Bowls, three more than any player eligible but not yet in Canton.

Those five would form my Class of 2014. Aeneas Williams is a Hall of Famer in my book, as his resume compares favorably to other cornerbacks. Unfortunately for him, there are too many worthy candidates this year, but I would have him in Canton eventually.

A few years ago, Tim Brown had my vote over both Cris Carter and Andre Reed. I’m glad Carter was selected, believe Brown to be very deserving, and think Reed has the least compelling case. Brown should get into Canton, but I would have him join Williams in the “wait until next year line.” I wouldn’t argue vehemently against Reed, but I think he’s a borderline candidate. Another factor working against Reed is that he caught 71% of his receiving yards from a Hall of Fame quarterback in Jim Kelly, a luxury not afforded to Brown (who caught 32% of his yards from Rich Gannon, 26% from Jeff Hostetler, and 12% from Jeff George).

Kevin Greene falls into the same category as Williams and Brown for me: a deserving choice, but not this year. He was a one-dimensional player (unlike Strahan), which should — and I believe has — hurt his case. But he’s also the third best pass rusher of the last 30 years, and that alone is enough to warrant induction down the road.

In the Hall of Very Good Mustaches

In the Hall of Very Good Mustaches.

Like most of us, I struggle with how to view non-players. I am more impressed by Tony Dungy’s ability to continue to string together 12-win seasons than I am by anything else about his resume: because of that fact, he ranked 3rd among all coaches over the last 80 years in what’s known as the Dungy Index. He did have playoff struggles, as he ranked slightly below average in the Schottenheimer Index. To me, Dungy hasn’t separated himself enough from coaches like Cowher or Holmgren (or, down the line, Shanahan or Coughlin) to be a first-ballot choice.

It’s even harder to evaluate Eddie DeBartolo. You either say yes because of 16 playoff appearances in 23 years as an owner and an incredible five Super Bowl rings, or you say no because you don’t like owners or you don’t like DeBartolo. With him, I think the analysis is that simple.

Reed is joined by Jerome Bettis in my “on the fence” tier. There was a good discussion of Bettis’ candidacy in the comments to this post. Five years ago, I ranked Bettis 29th on my list of the most dominant running backs ever. Dominance isn’t everything, of course, and Bettis has a better case than some of the running backs ahead of him on that list. But I’d still prefer seeing Terrell Davis ahead of him, and I think players like Priest Holmes, Tiki Barber, Shaun Alexander, and Brian Westbrook (among others) were arguably better in their primes and will be unlikely to ever sniff the Hall.

Bettis wasn’t much of a receiver, he wasn’t explosive, and he didn’t even score as often as you’d think. Bettis is viewed in the best light — by far — by looking only at rushng yards. But even then, he ranked in the top 8 in rushing yards in just three different seasons. And for new readers, when I ranked Bettis 29th, my method excluded yards per carry from the conversation, which is the most common anti-Bettis argument.

I also see a bottom three among this year’s candidates, players who I simply don’t think have done enough to warrant induction into the Hall. Whereas I could see myself saying yes to the other 12 under the right circumstances, I’m against the candidacies of John Lynch, Charles Haley, and Morten Andersen. I’ll be posting a revised list of the greatest kickers ever this offseason, but Andersen was simply not as good as Nick Lowery. Until Lowery is in, Andersen should be off the ballot.

Haley and Lynch have only slightly more compelling cases. Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, but four of those came in Denver, and at least the last two were complete reputation picks. He was a first-team All-Pro choice in only two years, and will not be remembered as a historically great safety. You don’t need to be Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed to make it to Canton, but I’d put Lynch in a big tier with players like Brian Dawkins, Carnell Lake, Steve Atwater, LeRoy Butler, Rodney Harrison, and Darren Sharper. Lynch was a great player — not being Hall of Fame-worthy is hardly a knock — but in my view, his play wasn’t historically great for a long-enough period of time.

As for Haley, the #RINGZ argument doesn’t move the needle for me. Haley was not as good of a pass-rusher as Greene — in fact, he ranked only 31st on my list of the best pass rushers since 1982. Unless you want to make the argument that Haley was also dominant in run defense and in coverage, you wind up falling back on the championships. The perfect response to that is Fuzzy Thurston, who has six #RINGZ and is not in the Hall.

To recap, I would select Brooks, Harrison, Strahan, Jones, and Shields.
The three most-deserving after them would be Brown, Williams, and Greene. I’m punting on what to do with Dungy and DeBartolo, at least for 2014. Bettis and Reed are borderline cases, and I’d affirmatively say no to Haley, Lynch, and Andersen.

As for the two Seniors selections? I agree with Jason Lisk that Guy would be a fine choice, and I’d select him just so we can stop hearing about his case. Humphrey is trying to pull a Bob Hayes, who was a Seniors choice in 2004 and not selected, but then chosen his second time around in 2009. The other Seniors candidate that year was Humphrey; since then, Dick Stanfel is the only Seniors choice not to be inducted. I don’t have much of an opinion on Humphrey. He was a first-team All-NFL selection by at least one major organization from ’71 to ’74 (and also in ’77) but played most of his career in overlooked Atlanta. He’s already in the Hall of Very Good — and I haven’t a clue as to whether that will be as far as his case goes.

Humphrey was one of just two Pro Bowlers on the Gritz Blitz 1977 Falcons, one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. Unofficially, he recorded 97 sacks with Atlanta (including 15 in 1976) and 27.5 more with the Eagles (with 14.5 in 1980). Those are pretty excellent numbers, but he also played in an era overflowing with great defensive linemen. I named Humphrey a second-team defensive end on my All-Decade team of the ’70s: the first-teamers (Jack Youngblood, Carl Eller) are already in, while my other second-team choice (L.C. Greenwood) remains outside of Canton. On the actual All-Decade team, Youngblood and Eller were the first-team choices, and Harvey Martin joined Greenwood as a second-team selection. There must have been a significant push by several voters to re-reselect Humphrey just five years after he was turned away, so my guess is that he’s going to be elected.

  1. The next best guys are probably players like Lance Briggs and Takeo Spikes, who are at least a couple of tiers behind Brooks and Seau. []
  • Claude Humphrey was just a product of Marion Campbell! 😉
    Seriously, though, Humphrey seems to have been THE lynchpin to Campbell’s Atlanta defenses (The amount of attention he received compared to the rest of the successful defense, the way the defense sort of fell apart without him in ’75, and the way people at the time seem to have felt about it all lead me to that conclusion.). Those were some quite good defenses that didn’t have much else, so it’s sort of a matter of apportioning credit between just how good the one star (Humphrey) was and how good a schemer Campbell was. If you lean more toward the former, it makes Humphrey look more like a Hall of Famer. For my part, I feel like he probably wasn’t quite that level, but was probably close.

    I still find it ridiculous that Jerome Bettis is even garnering consideration.

  • Kibbles

    If Jerome Bettis makes it into the HoF, my heart will cry tears of despair.

  • JWL

    I had gone with the same five.

  • Phil

    Sorry…can’t be taken seriously saying that Reed is least compelling case of the WRs….as far as Harrison…Rice, Largent, Warfield, Berry, and Alworth were only 1st ballot WRs ever…no way is Harrison on that level….he wasn’t even the best of his era

  • Phil

    My selections for the modern era candidates
    Andre Reed
    Aeneas Williams
    Derrick Brooks
    Walter Jones
    Michael Strahan

  • Kibbles

    Reed is BY FAR the least compelling case among the WRs. The guy was a zero-time All Pro, although he did make the second team… twice. He doesn’t have the overwhelming statistical profile of the other guys, either. He spent most of his career catching passes from a HoF QB against defenses softened up by a HoF RB.

    And before anyone points out Tim Brown’s lack of All Pros, too, I’ll go ahead and point out that the Hall of Fame voted on the All-Decade team of the ’90s, and Tim Brown was on it while Andre Reed was not. So the HoF already did a head to head comparison and decided that Brown was the better/more worthy WR. Add in the fact that Brown played with a revolving door of journeyman QBs and the fact that Brown did a lot more outside of the ’90s, and Brown is pretty clearly the more deserving WR.

    Saying that Harrison wasn’t the best WR of his generation is pointless when you’re advocating for Reed, who wasn’t one of the top 5 WRs of his (Rice, Carter, Brown, Sterling, Irvin). Harrison/Moss/Owens was at least a consensus top 3 with fans on all sides of the debate. A large number of people believe Harrison was the best WR of the late ’90s to mid ’00s. There’s not a person on the planet who’d say the same of Reed and the late ’80s to mid ’90s. I wonder how many would even put him in the top 3.

    This whole “first ballot” idea is dumb. Either a guys is a hall of famer or he isn’t. If he’s the most deserving guy not in yet, then elect him, regardless of ballot count. Harrison won’t be any more deserving if you make him wait a year. I don’t think Andre Reed would be a joke if he made the Hall of Fame- he’s no Charlie Joiner, for sure- but I think he’s a weak candidate who should wait until the stronger candidates are all in, first. And since the restricted election process means we’ll never have a shortage of strong candidates, that unfortunately means Reed will likely miss out on the Hall unless it expands and starts electing more than 5 a year (which it should).

    • Billy Buffalo

      Well, that’s really funny, you spent all that time to write a novel about not letting Reed in and guess what HE DID !!!!
      Please next year do a longer one for Special Teams great Steve Tasker who revolutionized the position.

    • Richie

      > This whole “first ballot” idea is dumb. Either a guys is a hall of famer or he isn’t. If he’s the most deserving guy not in yet, then elect him, regardless of ballot count.

      Here, here!

      (or is it: hear, hear!)

    • Richie

      > unless it expands and starts electing more than 5 a year (which it should).

      I always wonder: if we elect 5 per year, that means (in theory) that each NFL draft should have about 5 HOF-caliber players in it (at least if the backlog of worthy candidates was eliminated).

      There have been 21 actual drafts with 5 or more HOFers in them:
      1967 – 10
      1948 – 8
      1964 – 8
      1946 – 7
      1952 – 7
      1957 – 7
      1961 – 7
      1968 – 7
      1920 – 6
      1958 – 6
      1963 – 6
      1965 – 6
      1969 – 6
      1981 – 6
      1983 – 6
      1985 – 6
      1950 – 5
      1953 – 5
      1956 – 5
      1974 – 5
      1976 – 5

      Here’s the top 10 seasons that had future HOFers playing in them:
      1971 – 64 future HOFers
      1972 – 62
      1969 – 61
      1970 – 60
      1967 – 59
      1968 – 59
      1973 – 59
      1974 – 58
      1965 – 56
      1966 – 55

      Pretty interesting to think that are roughly 50 players in the NFL right now who will eventually be HOFers.

  • Neil Paine

    I wouldn’t argue vehemently against Reed

    I would!

  • – WR Marvin Harrison
    – OT Walter Jones
    – LB Derrick Brooks
    – OG Will Shields
    – Owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

    Here is my reasoning. (http://nfltables.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/nfl-hall-of-fame-class-of-2014/)

    I choose DeBartolo over Strahan but if I had to make an actual prediction, instead of just who I though should get in, I’d pick Strahan. Most HoF classes usually have some drama but this class has 4 locks, the only question will be for the last spot, and even that isn’t too complicated.

  • Tim Truemper

    Off topic from the HOF discussion but thought I would mention that Football Perspective (and Football Outsiders) were mentioned on National Public Radio evening news program (“All Things Considered”). Thought that was pretty cool and good recognition of the work Chase, et.al have done.

    On the HOF selection, Claude Humphrey is a HOF’er. Regardless of reputation ranking, film review shows he was as good as Eller, Martin, Greenwood, Youngblood.

    Insofar as Bettis and others not as deserving but still maybe getting the votes to get in, I think its the “Legends” factor of selection (see Paul Hornung). They had a high celebrity status as players and played on winning teams, thus inflating the subjective assessment of their career greatness. They seem to have a high profile nickname too.

  • Bizarre that Andre Reed ended up being the WR to get in. I would like to hear the HOF voters explain why they decided that he is more deserving than not just Tim Brown but also Marvin Harrison.

    • Yeah, that’s a massive head-scratcher to me. It’s like they went out of their way to pick the LEAST deserving of the WR candidates.

      • I figured I would be happy as long as Dungy and Bettis didn’t get in, but part of why I thought that is that I considered it next to impossible that Reed would.

        They must have just taken the WR who had been waiting the longest, without regard to how they stack up against one another, right?

        • Neil Paine

          Sad as it is to say, I think that’s actually a big part of it… Reed retired before Brown or Harrison, so they just pushed those other 2 back a year (or more).

          I also think this played a big role:


          There’s no arguing Reed’s playoff production wasn’t superior to Harrison’s and Brown’s, and I bet that weighed heavily on voters’ minds. But from Chase’s work with Leverage Index, we know Kelly’s production cratered the bigger the game — Reed has to share some blame in that as well, since what that really says is, “the Buffalo passing offense, with a HoF QB (and now a HoF WR), played worse in more important games.”

          • bengt

            Funny coincidence: When I started to get into Football on the Internet, one of the first articles I remember said exactly this: Andre Reed retired now maybe because he wanted to avoid a wide receiver and nineties Bills logjam for the HoF.

    • JeremyDe

      Bizarre isn’t the word. Preposterous would be more apt. Or possibly inconceivable (said in Wallace Shawn’s voice).

      Shattenjager, I doubt they’ll explain, but it should be an open voting. If you are saying someone is a) one of the greatest of all-time b) important to telling the story of football -or- c) changed the game in the way that requires them being remembered, then you would think a statement of their reasoning, or a compelling argument, by voters wouldn’t be unreasonable.

      Of course, I also think the March Madness selection committee should explain their choices too, so my viewpoint may be a little off on the matter.

  • JWL

    Billy Buffalo,

    Tasker revolutionized nothing.

    The guy played special teams because he wasn’t good enough of a wide receiver. Okay, he blocked a few kicks. Well, let’s put Albert Lewis in then. Lewis blocked about 9 kicks in his career. How many did Tasker block? Probably not more than Lewis. Lewis was a regular on defense whereas Tasker was a bit player on offense.

    As far as kickoff and punt coverage, okay, Tasker made somd tackles and saved the Bills five or 10 yards here and there. He deserves enshrinement for that? Nah.

  • Rod

    Dungy was able to win a Super Bowl with that choke artist that is Peyton Manning, along with a top 10 winning percentage I think he’ll get in sooner or later.

  • Rod

    As far as Bettis goes what makes him HOF worthy? Is it just being 6th in rushing – at less than 4ypc? If they’re giving out HOF statues just based on longevity then why isn’t Testaverde getting consideration (9th in passing yards, 8th in TDs). In fact Warrick Dunn has more rushing/receiving yards than Bettis had in his career — why isn’t he under consideration for being 17th in yards from scrimmage (Bettis is 20th).

  • Tim Truemper

    Hi Chase http://www.npr.org/2014/01/31/269529710/fans-hoping-for-a-snowy-super-bowl-will-be-disappointed

    Thought this had gotten to you sooner. At 1:30 is the brief mention of FB, Grantland and Football outsiders.